It’s just a bit Irish to think we win or lose just because we’re Irish
Jonny Sexton missed that penalty, because he felt unworthy of entering the third-eye realm of rugby consciousness that beating New Zealand represents. He didn’t BELIEVE. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
I’m Irish. And that’s fine: happy to be so, in fact. Proud? Sure, why not? Just as a Spaniard is as proud of Spain, or an American of the US, or a Lao of Laos. And while not claiming any kind of singularity, like most people, hopefully, fingers-crossed, the accident of the particular rock I got dropped on isn’t the most notable thing about me.
That’s not to say nationality is irrelevant to identity, just that people’s ideas of it differ. Admittedly that’s a concept we have a history of struggling with here, mainly because too many people spend too much time insisting the most important thing about them is their own version of Irishness. In real life, the story is always individual.
Sport, though, sells the illusion of the collective, and if it’s Irish sport that seems to mean any amount of hopelessly generalised, furrow-browed presumption can be passed off as valid criticism instead of getting filed under cod-psychological balls at the Central Library of Californian chance-your-arm bullshit.
Apologies about that California stereotype, but the Golden State is big enough to take it, and since this space panders to caricature more than most, then yay for stereotyping.
Right now in Adelaide, for instance, the cricket media is readying vivid pictures of the second Ashes test that will often revolve around cartoon representations of ocker Aussie galah-dom and uptight, chinless poms; foul-mouthed, schooner-swilling diggers with the IQ of a wheelbarrow beating the snot out of stiff-upper-lipped Nigels.
And it’s great fun, because everyone’s in on the game, and only the most witless can take it seriously. No doubt some indignation will be built up over a few players effing and blinding and throwing a few shapes but no one’s ever mistaken an Ashes crease for a finishing school. And it was noticeable how concern for Jonathan Trott and his all-too-real struggle with depression transcended any stereotypical divisions when it became public.
Nothing so serious surrounds the continuing post-mortem on that match between Ireland and the All-Blacks which is maybe a contributory factor towards the ongoing cudding on why Ireland lost.
The entirely reasonable conclusion that Ireland lost because New Zealand were better has been mostly drowned in a vat of colon-scouring self-absorption that boils down to Ireland losing because, well, they’re Ireland. End of.
Now no one appreciates the demands of filling space and air-time more than yours truly. But the game and its aftermath has become a new high-water line of faux-profound codology. Not even Saipan resulted in such a depth of colonoscopic introspection about why we as a race are supposedly doomed to a fate of moral victories and glorious defeats.
Never mind that that is news to Rory McIlroy, Katie Taylor and any other number of elite star Irish performers on the world scene. Of course they’re in individual sports but even in terms of team sports, no one has ever mistaken Roy Keane or Brian O’Driscoll for feeble-minded waifs unwilling and unable to bend events to their own will. But you’d be hard-pressed to recognise that from some of the national self-flagellation on the back of the All Blacks defeat.