Irish eyes are smiling after sporting successes
NOT SINCE the days of Big Jack have Ireland garnered such success over the auld enemy England.
We plundered Cheltenham, enjoying a record number of winners, recently embarrassed them at cricket and on Saturday capped it all off with a brilliant Grand Slam-busting performance at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland needed no more motivation than the opportunity to derail England’s sweet chariot and Martin Johnson’s men were well and truly sent packing with their tail between their legs.
In hindsight it wasn’t a huge surprise, given that Ireland had won six of their last seven matches against England before Saturday’s encounter, and Declan Kidney’s men were always going to be up for this one and were determined to end a stuttering campaign with a morale-boosting win.
Of course, plenty will focus on the what might have beens - if only we had taken that late try-scoring chance against France, if the referee hadn’t made a balls of it against Wales or if we had converted a lastgasp scoring chance in Cardiff.
With a bit more composure we could well have been celebrating a Grand Slam ourselves rather than wrecking the dreams of others but there’s no point in looking back on a missed opportunity, it’s best to gaze forward to a decent World Cup showing - let’s face it, it can’t get any worse than the last one.
As for Cheltenham, Irish trainers had a week to remember, amassing a mighty 13 winners at the showpiece festival. The highlights for this writer were the classy ‘Hurricane Fly’ coming up the hill in front in the Champion Hurdle, ‘Sizing Europe’ jumping his competitors into submission in the Champion Chase, and the unbridled joy on Paul Nolan’s face as ‘Noble Prince’ ended his long Cheltenham drought since ‘Dabiroun’ won the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle in 2005 when winning the Jewson on Thursday.
Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll goes past Nick Easter to score a try.