Richie the real McCaw at rugby but hardly the real McCoy at hurling
Brogan’s Dubs dazzle All Blacks with sliotar science and round ball erudition
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw tries his hand at hurling with Dublin’s Bernard Brogan during the AIG-hosted Dublin GAA and New Zealand All Blacks’ Unique Skills Challenge at Westmanstown Sports and Conference Centre in Clonsilla, Co Dublin. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Richie McCaw sounded awfully like Brian Cody last night. Turns out Cody’s mantra about any hurling county being capable of beating another on any given day came to fruition this summer.
Seeing it happen in a rugby context on Sunday is highly unlikely. The current All Blacks are nothing like the wearied Kilkenny we witnessed in 2013.
The seemingly unbeatable rugby team met the seemingly unbeatable Dublin footballers with the freezing backdrop of Westmanstown sports centre (some capital hurlers, like Johnny McCaffrey, also pitched up).
It was all down to AIG. The American International Group have invested heavily in the All Black brand and not so heavily but just as prominently in Dublin GAA.
The combination of three sports resulted in a contrived skills session with sliotars and balls of the round and oval kind.
What did we learn? Not much. McCaw can hurl a little, so can Bernard Brogan and Owen Franks too, while Stephen Cluxton can kick a ball of any shape or size anywhere he wants to. Not that he will be boasting about it afterwards.
“They’re lads you’d be looking up to the whole time on TV,” said McCaffrey of McCaw et al, not Cluxton et al.
“Every game they go out it’s high pressure games and they seem to deal with it so well. They’re so used to it. You’d be hoping to take something from the experience, I suppose.”
Cian O’Sullivan looked a little ropey with the rugby ball despite being educated in Blackrock College.
“I played rugby back in school but I’m rusty enough now,” said O’Sullivan, who shrugged off a question about winning an All Star at centre back despite only showing up there for 35 minutes to mind Colm Cooper in the All-Ireland semi-final.
“I got a phone call the other day to say we were doing this event and I was pretty giddy and excited about it. These are some of the top sports men in the world and to get an opportunity to meet them was fantastic.
“We got to swap jerseys which was brilliant.”
And the game on Sunday?
“It will be interesting to see how we get on. Hopefully they go easy on us.”
The usual question, when sports overlap, followed. Can “amateurs” learn anything from elite, professional sportsmen?
“In the last couple of years our strength and conditioning coaches are involved with Leinster, our nutritionist is involved with Leinster, so the rugby set up does complement what we’re trying to do in strength and conditioning to a certain degree, and the nutrition and all of that.
“We are miles behind them, obviously, they are at it 24/7 but we have been able to learn things and add to our game.
“The commitment to Gaelic football is getting stronger and stronger, as is the demand on the players. To be able to brush shoulders with these boys is a great opportunity for us.”
O’Sullivan swapped jerseys with McCaw.
The great man, well into double figures for grin-and-bear-it functions since arriving in the Northern Hemisphere earlier this month, should be mentally drained but worryingly for Ireland, he is fresh out of a six- month sabbatical. That was badly needed to allow him recover from a litany of injuries, including a gammy foot after the removal of a steel pin that he had to carry through through the entire 2011 world cup.
“Yeah, I missed a couple of games through injury as well (since returning). This is only my eighth Test of the year, so I’m fresh, yeah.”
We then sort of asked McCaw if there was any chance of New Zealand taking up O’Sullivan’s plea and going easy on Ireland.
“The Irish team have good rugby players. There isn’t much between the top teams, there really isn’t, as you saw when the pressure came on in that second Test last year.
“The Irish played particularly well and we made mistakes so, jeez, it can change pretty quickly.
“We understand that going into this game. If don’t get it spot on and open the door we know the Irish are good enough to take those chances. We can’t give them the freedom to play.”
Imagine the words with a Kilkenny accent and it was a pure Codyism. Only problem is Cody was talking that way back in 2008.