As Leinster prepare today to attempt to break new ground by beating Saracens in Newcastle to win the Heineken Champions Cup for a fifth time it becomes ever more difficult to overstate the achievements of Irish rugby in the professional era.

On an island where the most casual of approaches to rugby in the amateur era was reflected in the modesty of its achievements in bringing through a handful of top quality individuals, but winning just a solitary Grand Slam in 1948 in 90 years of Five Nations competition, the silverware has piled up in the last 20 years. Since Ulster took advantage of the English boycott to win the Heineken Cup in 1999, on a day that contributed to the healing process associated with that year’s Good Friday Agreement, as red hand bedecked supporters marched through the streets of Dublin to witness their team’s triumph at Lansdowne Road, it is their neighbours in the south who have driven the success. Leinster and Munster have appeared in eight finals between them in the past 20 years, winning six titles between them since Munster made the breakthrough at the third attempt in 2006, while Leinster’s 100 per cent success rate in finals includes winning an all-Irish final against Ulster seven years ago and victory in the Challenge Cup after their rare failure to reach the knockout stages in the Champions Cup six years ago.

That, in turn, has generated the belief that has seen Ireland treble its haul of Grand Slams, while accruing four Six Nations Championship titles in the past decade. Most telling of all has been the consistency of performance reflected in Munster contesting a record 17 Champions Cup quarter-finals Munster, Leinster reaching that stage 14 times, and Ulster matching the combined total of Scottish appearances.

As partners in the project that started as the Celtic League and has evolved into the Pro14, the Scottish rugby community should feel it has contributed to this in some way, offering an opportunity to feel some warmth from reflected glory. Instead, from too many, there is a strange resentment of Irish success which can only partly be explained by the shift in the balance of rugby power between the two rugby nations. Since clear parallels could be drawn between the way the two similarly sized countries were set-up to that point, districts matching up closely to provinces in terms of profile: Edinburgh and Leinster, the South and Munster, Glasgow and Ulster, North & Midlands and Connacht, Ireland’s success has only amplified Scotland’s failure to respond to the challenge of the professional era.

It may even go deeper than that, as an increasingly confident Irish nation, led by politicians who have shown the capacity to see the bigger picture that is represented by being part of the European project, has also increasingly made its mark in other sporting areas. In what is considered to be Scotland’s national sport, Irish footballers on either side of the border have reached World Cup and European Championships during Scotland’s barren era; its football managers have become increasingly influential, not least in Scotland; its golfers have shown those from the Home of Golf how it is done, the all-Ireland development system generating nine Major wins since Paul Lawrie claimed Scotland’s last; and even in cricket Ireland has achieved the Test status that Scotland craves.

That success in a country that has cast aside the Celtic cringe which long afflicted the colonised, might make those in the rugby community who used their profiles to campaign against Scottish independence - many of them motivated by misplaced gratitude for their selection for British & Irish Lions tours - contemplate the correlation with Ireland’s cultural confidence that has grown within a European framework. Instead, the discomfort felt by the more small-minded, means that instead of learning from Ireland and Irish rugby, Scotland and Scottish sport continues to lag behind.

Win, lose or draw, then, Leinster’s latest involvement in European club rugby’s showpiece occasion should inspire everyone involved in rugby in the Celtic countries. In Jonny Sexton, world rugby’s player of the year in 2018, they are captained by a man who has no need, or inclination to kowtow to anyone from rugby’s traditional powers and his men are only too happy to follow that lead.Those who understand all the elements that contribute to what is required to challenge the best at the highest level, will consequently only wish them well as they seek to defy the odds once again against the champions of the world’s best resourced rugby nation.