Saturday’s sporting menu was a lengthy one, kind of like a 35-course tasting menu, but if you opted for Ireland v Scotland for your hors d’oeuvre, followed by the Ryder Cup as your amuse-bouche, you’d have skipped all remaining courses, the heartburn leaving you with no appetite at all.
Just about the only tasty morsel all day was Shane Lowry’s air-thumping victory-strut after that putt on the 18th, the photo doing the rounds of his da jigging and reeling behind him, like he’d just watched Séamus Darby pump the ball past Charlie Nelligan, now 100-1 on to win pic of the year. Magic.
But, not to be partisan about it, our boys took a helluva beating over in Wisconsin, trailing 11-5 by the end of Saturday, meaning they needed a miracle of a magnitude that would put the turning of water in to wine in the ha'penny place.
"We're almost out the door," admitted Paul McGinley, but Sky's Ewen Murray refused to chuck in his European towel. "Until it's over," he insisted, "there IS hope". By then, though, his Ryder Cup Brunch colleagues had already turned their attention to the 2023 competition in Italy, having given up on 2021 as a bad job. Who should be Europe's Ryder Cup captain in 2023, they asked. Lee Westwood led the poll with 37 per cent, when you'd guess Westwood, after the week he endured, would prefer to eat crocodile testicles on I'm A Celebrity than take on the role.
Sunday’s singles started well enough, hope was briefly inserted in European hearts, but by eight in the evening the scoreboard resembled the Red Sea, even the mighty Jon Rahm down by four.
Cataclysmic full stop
This was putting a rather cataclysmic full stop on a weekend that would have made any heart burn, as Fiona Coghlan’s did at the conclusion of the Irish women’s World Cup qualifier defeat by Scotland over in Parma.
Thirty seconds to go and Ireland were on their way to a relatively comfy looking last phase of qualifying, leading Scotland 18-13 and all but securing the runners-up spot in the tournament. That alone, mind, would have been nothing to write home about, the team having headed to Parma as favourites. And then Scotland scored a try to level the game and Sarah Law somehow converted it when the weight of the world and its mother was on her shoulders. “Scotland have dug it out, Ireland bow out,” said our commentator Des Curran. Lights out.
Coghlan, co-commentating on RTÉ, was distraught. When she captained Ireland to their first ever Six Nations title in 2013 and led them to the semi-finals of the World Cup the following year, beating, of all people, New Zealand to get there, the future for the women's game in Ireland looked beautifully bright. And now this.
"I'm devastated for Irish rugby, for those players," she said, her emotion at the sight of inconsolable warriors like Lindsay Peat, Claire Molloy and Sene Naoupu making it a hard listen. "The 2017 World Cup was a low point," she said, "we've reached even lower now."
Former Ireland (and Scotland) coach Philip Doyle, along with former international Louise Galvin, were no less downcast back in the studio, both agreeing now wasn’t the time for a postmortem. “We’ll wait for another day,” said Doyle, who was coach in the brightest of times. His anger was palpable, mind, feeling like the promise of those days had been laid to waste.
Refreshingly, though, Doyle, Galvin and Coghlan levelled a heap of their questions about this calamity at the team’s error-strewn performances, their line-outs, on the whole, abysmal, their handling errors shambolic, their game ‘management’ largely non-existent. Spain, Italy and Scotland don’t have mountains of funding thrown at them either, and had similarly limited game time in preparation for this tournament, so it was good to hear an honest appraisal of Ireland’s very awful displays, rather than – hashtag – putting it all down to the powers-that-be’s disinterest in women’s rugby.
Cruel, though. “I just want to give this minute to Claire Molloy and thank her very much for her service to the jersey, she’s been outstanding the whole way through,” said a clearly emotional Doyle.
Irish women’s rugby on the floor. The only way is up.