Snapshots of the day Ireland’s women beat New Zealand
A lot of work and emotion went into the IRB Womens’ Rugby World Cup victory
Ireland’s Nora Stapleton, Ashleigh Baxter and Niamh Briggs celebrate at the final whistle following the victory over New Zealand at the FFR headquarters in Marcoussis. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The Ireland team face the Haka. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland’s Alison Miller scores her side’s second try against New Zealand. Photoghraph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The Ireland players celebrate after the game. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The day begins at different times for everyone and for some, like Ireland’s video analyst Lenny Browne, it never ends at all. For most it became a day that could go on forever.
The 11th arrondissement pre-gameFor the reporter, it begins with an Irish breakfast in Patrick’s Le Ballon Vert. It was supposed to end there too. It didn’t but this story will.
Over an hour later, after two trains and a bus to reach Marcoussis, on entering the leafy, manicured headquarters of French rugby a distinct London accent is trying to gain entry.
No more tickets for public sale, Monsieur. The 5,000 capacity seems ridiculous with six matches rolled out over eight hours across three pitches.
The man’s shoulders sag. He tries the next gate. Same result. The sun was beating down. He had the look of someone who had travelled an awfully long way for nothing. The French, he muttered in resignation. Turns out the reporter had a spare ticket as Donal, the barman in Patrick’s, couldn’t leave his post.
“You here to see England play Spain then?”
“No, my daughter Hannah is in the Ireland squad.”
Hannah Casey from Saracens!
John Casey works in films. Construction. Needs that new Bond film to commence. Like many living off the UK film industry.
We gain entry.
“Let me buy you a beer, mate.”
“Can’t. Working all day. Well, typing all day. Maybe back in Paris later. There’s a decent Irish pub in the 11th arrondissement . . .”
Lenny never sleepsLenny Browne used to be a bookbinder. Like his father’s father’s father before him. Browne’s bookbinders in Cork.
Before that, straight out of school in 1988, he became a deck officer in the Merchant Navy. So long ago he doesn’t think about it anymore. But it shaped him, changed his perception about life in general. At sea you learn to deal with isolation. You learn to live with yourself.
Makes him perfectly suited to his current profession.
Late Tuesday night, as some management deservedly enjoyed each other’s company after this historic victory (the girls didn’t drink at all), Lenny could be found in the team room at his multiple screens preparing the debrief footage for the morning meeting. Inpho photographer Dan Sheridan, embedded with Ireland, was the same. Their chosen professions, which really chose them, are for the owls of the human race.
“I could hear them both going to bed but Lenny was back there when I went down,” said Lynne Cantwell. “I can never sleep after games.”
“Neither can I,” added Fiona Coghlan.
Thinking about the game too much?
“Yeah,” said Coghlan. “You go back over it again and again. I can never sleep.”
For Lenny, Kazakhstan was already on his mind and on his screens.
Earlier that day, about an hour before kick-off, Lenny leaves “Lansdowne Road” - the team room (the training pitch is “Ashbourne” and “Enfield” is their accommodation) to stroll the few yards to the main stand and calmly wait for “the game of chess” to unfold.
“Goose (head coach Philip Doyle) is down on the pitch but when the game starts he is up with me. We have a few feeds then I give him specific information that he takes down at half-time. Some of it’s subjective, some of it is objective so you are able to say, very briefly, this is the story of the game.
“I have no doubt New Zealand did the same because they changed after half-time.”
Before the girls even leave the field afterwards, Lenny is already in the team room.
“I don’t need to be going onto the pitch celebrating.”
Highlighting the flaws instead?
“There is more emphasis on the positive. You would almost go three to one, positive to negative. So you are going, ‘Look ladies, what do you think of that decision?’
“You open end it.”