Tired and emotional, and we're not talking about the O'Driscolls
It was a great day for fatherhood, but not quite so good for Irish rugby
The day began so happily too, with the birth of a little BODess, although you’d hazard a guess that the reaction of 98ish per cent of RTÉ viewers to the news was: “Aw, that’s just lovely, hearty congratulations and . . . hold on: he is still playing, isn’t he?”
Over on the BBC much the same percentage might well have been hoping the fella was too emotionally and physically drained to take to the field, but Declan Kidney informed them that, yes, most certainly, Brian O’Driscoll would be playing.
A happy occasion, then. Eating and napping well too, in fine fettle (Daddy O’Driscoll, not the baby), Kidney said. “He’d a bit of business to look after, busy day, but he’s in good form – it’s just an unusual way to get in good form, isn’t it?”
Well, yes, it was and, as Paul O’Connell told Clare McNamara over on RTÉ, there’d be a whole heap of business to look after from this day forth.
“That’ll soften his cough,” he grinned.
Up in the air
The one surprise, perhaps, was that the baby hadn’t been named Zebo, in honour of that flicky-backheeldy-uppie-in-the-air thingie, which, disappointingly, the Simon man confessed to Keith Wood wasn’t entirely intentional.
Wood: “You didn’t really mean it, did you?”
Zebo: “No, not really, no.”
He did, though, add that “I just said I’d swing a leg and luckily enough it came off”, which is the equivalent of, say, Maradona admitting that he just had a go at beating half the English team before rounding on Peter Shilton to score that goal – “and luckily enough it came off”.
No luck about it, at all, then. And when the BBC showed us a bunch of kids attempting a Zebo, you realised just how tricky it is, especially after one of them nearly knocked himself out when the ball smashed in to his face.
Any way, ’twas a pleasant chat with the player who, Wood noted, hadn’t the most Irish of names. “It’s a bit of a rare name down in Cork, all right,” said Simon. “You wouldn’t see too many fellas walking down the street called Zebo.”
Back on RTÉ, it was prediction time.
George: “I don’t like this stadium, I don’t think it’s a fortress. I think the pitch will cut up. I think we’ll be in trouble in the scrum . . .”
Brent Pope: “Oh Jesus. Positive then?”
Hook: “I think it’ll be a terrible hard day, but, like all good Catholics: I believe. And I believe this team in green will win.”
Brent: “Oh no.”
That was us banjaxed, then.
And so it proved.
Six points down at half-time, Zebo and Jonathan Sexton hobbling off, we’ve had better days. A little skirmish too, in the middle of it all, prompting an unimpressed Brian Moore, to whom the Battle of Stalingrad was probably ‘handbags’, to urge everyone to “kick off” and get stuck in, or “let go of each other”. In the end, they took the latter advice, which was probably for the best.
“It’s grunt and grind stuff, it’s like we’ve wound the clock back 40 years,” said John Inverdale, oldies Wood, Jeremy Guscott and Jonathan Davies purring simultaneously.
And so it continued. Apart from the brief 6-6 rally with an extra man that had us all hoping.
‘Gladiators playing chess’
“It was like gladiators playing chess,” said Guscott, which left Davies looking confused, having never heard Garry Kasparov once declare “at my signal, unleash hell”, before checkmating an opponent.
Back to RTÉ and an emotional Hook was howling “I’m not emotional!!!”, before politely asking Tom McGurk to “PLAY IT! PLAY IT! PLAY IT! PLAY IT!” after they’d failed to agree on how much trouble Cian Healy might be in after a, well, alleged stamp. (Oddly, Hook might have been right on this one).
As Tweet-master Colm Tobin put it, “Could we put George Hook into Nama? Just for an hour, until he calms down?”