Waiting for Triple Crown glory at Beckett’s in New York

It was a ‘no drama’ Irish performance. At half-time, people felt it was all over but my Irish heart wasn’t buying it

Jacob Stockdale of Ireland on his way to touching down his side’s third try during Saturday’s Six Nations match  at Twickenham Stadium. Photograph:  Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Jacob Stockdale of Ireland on his way to touching down his side’s third try during Saturday’s Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

 

We had a plan. We would go deep into enemy territory early on Saturday, take up prime real estate at the bar, The Red Lion on Bleecker Street, as English a pub as you will find in Manhattan. An island of green cocking a snook at a throng of burly English bravado on St Patrick’s Day. High stakes. Would you like schadenfreude or bitter tears with your drinks, lads?

It might make a good story – but it was not to be. One of our number, Aisling, who I think must be the type to be at an airport three hours before a flight, scoped it out. The vibe was off. The Red Lion was chosen because it was where a gang of them had watched the Grand Slam victory in 2009. Walking into that bar wearing a green jersey immediately felt wrong. Surly English fans sat around, no banter. It was quiet, too quiet. Change of plan – down to Beckett’s on Stone Street.

Stone Street is around the corner from Wall Street, and Beckett’s was thronged with Irish rugby fans and St Patrick’s Day revellers. The game kicked off at 10.45am our time.

It was a very strange experience. An Irish team in Twickenham, poised, in control. When the scores came they seemed inevitable. The TMO calls could have gone either way but not today. There was never a feeling that the result was in doubt.

Bitter tears yet

Looking around at the confident buoyant crowd I wondered at what Irish rugby has achieved in recent years. There are many great players from years gone by who never won a Grand Slam or a Triple Crown and now look at us. You wait 60 years and two come along at once.

At half-time, people felt it was all over, but my Irish heart wasn’t buying it. There could be bitter tears yet. My head said otherwise. Our defence never looked vulnerable, even out wide as it had against Scotland. England didn’t seem to be able to muscle their way into the game as they had in the past. Our pack chastened them. I cried out when Ireland kicked away possession, but they did it in the knowledge that they would outplay England at the breakdown and get it back.

Anti-climactic

This was a “no drama” Irish performance. It looked at times like a training match. The end when it came was anti-climactic. A consolation try and failed conversion.

Beckett’s proprietor Ronan Downes cracked open champagne. There was talk of the World Cup in Japan, of great days ahead. I walked uptown after the game relishing the victory through the tourists on Wall Street and paused by the sculpture of the little girl facing down the bull at the bottom of Broadway. We used to be that little girl, it suited us. This team, though? Not the bull – they are too controlled and clinical for that. I think of a dazzling school of fish, or a murmuration of starlings, alive to the forces around them, graceful, powerful, unpredictable, unified.

Great days ahead indeed.