Ireland team celebrate our finest Grand Slam
Snow and a cancelled homecoming party fail to dampen the spirits of the Irish squad
It was a St Patrick’s Day of days and surely the finest of Ireland’s three Grand Slams. Though it may have snowed on the Irish squad’s planned homecoming party at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, and so forced its cancellation, nothing could have dampened the spirits of the team.
“Yesterday evening the mood was a little bit subdued, we were just on a little bit of a come down after all the adrenaline, but today is really brilliant,” Rob Kearney said, at a celebration in Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel.
The team had just completed a third Six Nations title in five years, and Ireland’s third Grand Slam in history, by dint of a 24-15 win over England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Better coached, better selected and better in virtually all aspects of the game against the back-to-back champions of the previous two years, the team took Ireland’s biggest win over England in Twickenham since 1964. Furthermore, it was only the third time in history that Ireland beat France in Paris and England in London in the same campaign, and so it can rightly be considered the pick of the three Slams.
This 12th successive win in 12 months also cemented their status as the second best team in the world behind New Zealand. They are now, currently, second favourites to win the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Many of this group of players are now the most garlanded and high-achieving in the history of Irish rugby.
For example, Johnny Sexton has been the key man in three Six Nations titles with Ireland, as well as three Heineken Cups, a Pro12 title and Challenge Cup with Leinster, not to mention two unbeaten test series with the British and Irish Lions.
‘Celebrations were brilliant’
From that wondrous 41-phase drop goal, which snatched a win from the jaws of defeat against France on the opening weekend in Paris to the famous day in London, this Grand Slam has to be seen as the highlight of a multidecorated career so far.
But speaking after Saturday’s game in Twickenham, Sexton admitted: “It hasn’t settled in. The celebrations were brilliant, celebrating with your family, they were all in the corner there. There was a big Irish contingent over. Celebrating with the lads for the last hour, they are the moments that you treasure; the moments that make the bad times worthwhile and all the sacrifices worthwhile.”
His coach for all those successes with Leinster and latterly Ireland, the New Zealander Joe Schmidt, said after Saturday’s grand finale: “This is massive and it’s massive for the group of players that we’ve got. I’d have to say I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be involved in some great management groups and some great coaching groups and even more so the players themselves.”
“No matter what you try to do as a coach, you can’t create courage. You can try to add to character or build on character but there’s got to be the character there to start with and they definitely demonstrated that.”
Following the game, Peter O’Mahony sought out long-time Ireland fan Jennifer Malone, a regular out at the Carton House training sessions, and posed for a photograph with Malone holding the Six Nations trophy. He also presented her with his medal.