Grand Slam Day

Posted: March 21, 2009 in Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland, Ireland Rugby Team, Rugby, Sport, Sports, Thoughts

The day all of Ireland has been waiting for has arrived. In about ten minutes Irish rugby’s Golden Generation kick off their attempt to cement a place in history and become the second Irish team to complete a Grand Slam in the Five/Six Nations Championship, the first since 1948, by beating Wales. If they do beat Wales, or even lose by less than 13 points, they will win the Championship since 1985, the earliest one I have a decent memory of. I remember fondly Trevor Ringland’s late winning try against Scotland; I didn’t see the 15-15 draw against France but read that it was a brutally physical contest; I watched Ringland chasing Michael Bradley’s precision crossfield kick to the corner to get the ball down a millisecond before a Welsh defender and Keith Crossan scampering over the try-line to seal our first win at Cardiff Arms Park in over 20 years; and of course the finale against the Old Enemy, England, at Lansdowne Road: I missed the first-half as I was en-route to visit cousins and didn’t see Brendan Mullin’s chargedown, leading to his own try. Just after I started watching Keith Underwood went over in the corner to give England the lead and put them in pole position. A Michael Kiernan penalty brought us level before the pivotal moment. Ireland had a line-out in the English half and captain Ciaran Fitzgerald turned to his tired players and screamed “COME ON, WHERE’S YOUR F**KING PRIDE?”. The giant Donal Lenihan claimed the lineout and charged into the English “22”. From the resultant ruck, Michael Bradley whipped a pass to Kiernan, who set himself before kicking a beautiful drop goal, clinching the championship and sending Lansdowne Road wild with joy.

So here we are 24 years later. As I said earlier, this is Ireland’s Golden Generation, the best rugby team we have ever had. However, in spite of a number of near-misses (and three very creditable Triple Crowns), they have they have not won a championship. A number of this team are in the twilight of their careers so this may be their last chance at glory. In this endeavour, the mental attitude of the team is paramount, as I believe beating Wales is well within their playing abilities, however sometimes they tend to let nerves get to them and this could be their downfall. When I think of what’s required today from the Irish team in terms of that attitude I think back to the 2002 football World Cup game against Cameroon and what Mick McCarthy wrote on a board after a jittery first-half performance: “NO REGRETS”. The team must not be afraid to perform to their best by the enormity of the occasion and must leave everything on the pitch because this is their time.



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