Paul O’Connell celebrates a try on his Ireland debut against Wales in the  2002 Six Nations. Photograph: INPHO/Allsport 3:42

February 3rd, 2002. Laid out after attempting to tackle Welsh secondrow Craig Quinnell, a red-haired man in a navy scrum cap lies prone atop the blue (...)

Putting it on the line: Ireland’s Keith Wood powers over for a  try against England in their 2001 Six Nations match. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

It’s the big one, simple as. Ireland against England has a resonance, a sense of history and occasion which surpasses all other Irish fixtures. Be it (...)

Paddy ‘Rala’ O’Reilly celebrates with the Ireland rugby team on there way back to Dublin after winning the Six Nations last season. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Paddy O’Reilly, or ‘Rala’ as the Irish rugby team calls him, has been Ireland’s bagman for the last 20 years and ‘Baggage Master’, an uppity title (...)

THE BEST The Bloodied Field by Michael Foley (O’Brien Press, €16.99) A sports book, a history book, a thriller. Like a quietly determined geek wit(...)

Dejected John Langford (left) and  Peter Clohessy at the end of the 2000 Heineken Cup final against Northampton. Defeat hurt Munster, naturally, but arguably gave them the hunger to keep coming back until they won the competition, in 2006 and 2008.  Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Inpho

It’s hard not to feel a little poignant about the closing stages of the last Heineken Cup as we know it. The competition has been especially b(...)

Ulster’sTommy Bowe: “Everybody told me with your groin you can come back and hurt it and then you’re out for the season. But I knew there was still a huge amount of the current season and obviously it’s now Saracens.” Photograph: Inpho

JOHNNY WATTERSON Tommy Bowe. People love for what he’s not. He’s not fire and ice, a sm(...)

Ireland’s Mike McCarthy and Mike Ross make one of the home side’s 163 tackles against Samoa last week.  The visitors made 90 tackles. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

If all you saw from the Ireland-Samoa game last weekend was the tackle count, you’d have had a hard job guessing the scoreline. As Joe Schmidt pointed(...)

Ronan O’Gara and his wife Jessica  in Cork last night for the testimonial dinner.  Photograph: Brian McEvoy

  Former Munster, Ireland and Lions outhalf Ronan O’Gara last night said he was thrilled to be honoured in his home town when 900 gu(...)

British and Irish Lions Tommy Bowe tackles  Australia’s  Joe Tomane during the second Test. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

He won’t like the description, but aside from recovering from a broken hand Tommy Bowe is also becoming something of an old hand at this big-game lark(...)

Lions supporters cheer during the first Test. The atmosphere throughout the game was like a carnival . Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

On a Lions Tour, it’s not just about the players on the field. It’s about the big crowd of eejits that follow the team around, people from all four co(...)