Time to give George the hook as he gets the mood wrong on a gut-wrenching day for Ireland
Pulsating games and occasions like this are among the the reasons we love sport
New Zealand’s Aaron Smith reacts as the scrum packs down. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images
No words. Oh, go on then.
One of those days when, for the first 82-ish minutes of the spectacle you pity the poor blighters who don’t be loving sport, but for the remaining handful of seconds of the ding-dong you’re left concluding they’re blessed, out walking their dogs and poop-scooping and oblivious to all the ecstasy/gloom while the rest of us despairingly gnaw our remote controls.
“Gutwrenching,” as Keith Wood described it, looking for all the world like a man whose guts had, actually, been wrenched, even John Inverdale and Clive Woodward appearing like their innards had been extracted, the atmosphere in the BBC studio at full-time funereal.
“It’s great to see you show such emotion, Clive, on behalf of Ireland, I like that,” Keith grinned, O’Woodward heartily saluting our boys’ efforts, “Ireland showed the world you can beat this team”.
Well . . .
O’Woodward’s emotions were, funnily enough, in striking contrast to the Hook man over on RTÉ, the fella once again demonstrating the art of failing to capture the mood, sticking his size 16s up the backsides of the Irish team, confusing his refusal to be a fan with a microphone with the occasional need to give, you know, credit where it’s due. Tom McGurk almost had to waterboard the man to get a begrudging ‘they did well . . . ish’.
“Ireland cannot win this match,” he’d said before the contest commenced, and, for once, few of us could dissent, but when he started rambling at half-time about lucky generals and the lads getting the breaks and the whistles and the intercepts going their way and yada yada, you could only chuck your eyes heavenwards and thank the very same heavens for the BBC. Tiresome, like.
“The supreme optimist sitting beside me said after 19 minutes, Ireland have scored 19 points, I wonder can they score 80,” said Inverdale, looking in Keith’s direction, O’Woodward saying of his newly adopted country: “It’s why we love sport, we were pumping the air, they were magnificent.”
Frightening the bejayus
They were too. But McGurk hadn’t exactly filled us with hope pre-match, frightening the bejayus out of us.
“Only so often in a generation do the sporting Gods appear . . . that unforgettable divinity of the athletic and the aesthetic . . . Jesse Owens, Pele, Muhammed Ali, Georgie Best, Jack Nicklaus, Diego Maradona . . . Brazil 1970, Spain in ’08, the Wales rugby team of the 1970s . . . closer to home, the sporting gods living next door, Christy Ring, Mick O’Dwyer, Jack Kyle, DJ, Chippy, Arkle, Keano, Michael Gibson, Tony McCoy, legendary teams like Kerry and Kilkenny. Our memories of them age like fine wines, today we salute perhaps the greatest rugby team ever, if not the greatest team of all time.”
Confession: Googled to see if Arkle was a lady, on the off chance Tom had included a single she in his pantheon. A gelding.
“That’s okay, then,” Sonia O’Sullivan, Katie Taylor, Fionnuala Britton, Briege Corkery, Derval O’Rourke, Angela Downey et al might have said.
No matter, plus ca change . . . and all that. Mind you, Brent Pope later mentioned Sonia in his list of Irish sporting legends who were/are allergic to moral victories, as if we didn’t love the fella enough. He should give Tom a copy of ‘The Second Sex for Christmas.
Hope? Divil a bit.
“If we stand off them we will get murdered,” warned Conor O’Shea, the gist of the chat whether or not our boys could avoid humiliation.
“Sport is sport because special things can happen,” said Conor, but even if he didn’t believe in miracles, doubting we’d witness anything remotely special, the best we could hope for a spirited mauling.
Spirited? God, yeah.
A mauling. Nope.
But when Donal Lenihan reckoned the lads were “getting closer to immortality” late on in the second half you feared it was a fate-tempting George Hamilton-esque moment, and so, gutwrenchingly, it proved.
“Who writes this stuff,” asked Ryle Nugent as we waited for that try verdict.
“Forward! Forward,” howled Lansdowne.
“Nigel, you made award the try,” said the telly judge man, and all you could hope was that Santa won’t come down his chimney this Christmas.
And the retaken conversion? Kill us, why don’t you.
Epically fabulous, all the same.
“One of the most pulsating games of rugby union we’ll ever have the privilege of watching,” said Eddie Butler, Brian Moore agreeing, while noting:
“New Zealand? What can you say? Winners.”
Yeah, yeah, they are. Sport is sport because special things can happen. And, on Sunday, they almost did.
Hats off for the effort, we’ll remember it for a year or, well, a hundred.