Thursday, February 11, 2010

Six Nations 2010: Ireland recall victory over Scotland that set the ball rolling

Heaven knows what the so-called Celtic Tiger era was all about, but nothing seemed to epitomise those frantic, party-hearty, naughty, boom years more than Ireland's amazing 27-25 win at the Stade de France 10 years ago.
On a bright Sunday afternoon in March Ireland, without a victory in Paris in 28 years, conjured rugby from the gods. Brian O'Driscoll scored three tries in 80 minutes, which equalled Ireland's total in Paris for the previous 20 years, and David Humphreys, who had missed a kick to win the corresponding game at Lansdowne Road the previous year, nervelessly smacked over the winning penalty three minutes from time.

For Ireland – the sporting nation and the country itself – it was a high point after years in the doldrums and as the new millennium dawned, all dreams now seemed permissible. Much of that has dissolved before our eyes and the economy is in tatters again, but for Irish rugby it really was the beginning of something good, one of the few enduring legacies of the Celtic Tiger.

Admittedly it has not always been the smoothest of paths. Rather typically, at the time, Ireland slipped to a disappointing home defeat against Wales just two weeks after that glorious day in Paris, showing an inconsistency they have had to battle against, and further down the line the 2007 World Cup debacle remains as inexplicable as ever. But that win in Paris undoubtedly provided the emotional juice and inspiration for just about everything good that followed.

"I was just a young kid that day wearing a jersey about four sizes too big for me. I looked faintly ridiculous," recalls O'Driscoll. "I was pretty naive in many ways but that was a really good thing because I had no preset idea as to how big the occasion would be and how big the win was. That came home when you saw all the emotion on the faces of our older players.

"It was another important rugby match at a big venue but there was no baggage or fear as far as I was concerned. It changed my life though. The day we got back I went to a schools cup final in Dublin and got absolutely mobbed for an hour or so by kids wanting autographs, which was entirely new to me. Something very big had clearly happened. It was a huge boost for Irish rugby."

O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara and John Hayes remain in the Ireland team from that day, 90+ cap veterans who have fulfilled most of their rugby dreams, although they have yet to win in Paris again, something which is high on their personal agendas on Saturday.

Others, such as Peter Clohessy and Mick Galwey, were experiencing something very special after long years at the coalface while Keith Wood, who had just started his second term as Ireland captain that season, was inspired enough to defy serious groin and shoulder injuries for another three years until the 2003 World Cup.

Ireland V Scotland Hospitality

Six Nations Hospitality

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