Shane Horgan finds his inner Met Éireann with yellow warning
Bobble hats off, Fiona, Goose and Sophie for a proper analysis of women’s rugby
Even Johnny Sexton was smiling at the final whistle, a measure of just how good a day it had been. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/ PA Wire
Now we’re whistling. Crisis over. After an abundance of fretting about it being 2007 all over again, come full-time on Sunday Joe Molloy wanted to know if we’d actually been transported back to 2018. Even Johnny Sexton was smiling at the final whistle, a measure of just how good a day it had been.
Granted, those two late French tries took a little bit of the gloss off the day, and rendered useless that Googling of WhenDidTheFrenchLastFailToScoreAgainstUs.com (1928) and goalkeeper Jordan Larmour left spittin’ about the sloppy surrendering of a clean sheet.
But, as they say in the game, if you’d been offered 26-14 beforehand, would you have taken it? Come on now, the offering hand would have needed to be reattached to its arm.
Not least because the day had started a little worryingly, Joe telling us that Rob Kearney’s miserly young cow (tight calf) had ruled him out of the game, resulting in Larmour having to don the number 15 shirt.
If that wasn’t going to be challenging enough, the stadium then experienced roughly three seasons in about two minutes, the place sun-baked when the coverage kicked off, then rocked to its foundations by the squalls, then nigh on submerged by the rain, then almost disappearing from view in the midst of a blizzard, during which the pitchside David Wallace heroically tried to natter with Joe about the contest ahead, before being lavished with sunshine again.
Shane Horgan, then, was surely the day’s MVP, the fella in the middle of answering Joe’s query about how tricky it might be for Larmour in light of the brutal windy, snowy, rainy conditions, when Joe declared: “I’m looking over your shoulder, it’s sunny again!”
So Shane had to speedily switch tack and talk about how Larmour, and his opposite number Thomas Ramos, would cope with nigh on perfect conditions. It was one of those days, when you wouldn’t know whether to wear a bikini or thermals when walking the dog.
Pre-match confidence levels? Shane found his inner Met Éireann, issuing a yellow warning, ie: “Be aware: the conditions do not pose an immediate threat, but you could be exposed to risk by the nature of your activity.” So, if Ireland didn’t get a good start the French could cause them some serious bother, maybe even some structural damage.
And he had to wait a whole two minutes and 21 seconds before Rory Best allayed his fears and secured the roof with that try, and there on in it was a breeze.
And while the Virgin Media lads reckoned Ireland should have well and truly blown France away, they were content enough.
Which couldn’t be said for the RTÉ panel on Saturday evening after the women’s 47-17 mullering by France at Donnybrook, a result that left Ireland fourth in the table going in to their final game away to Wales, a placing that would be their lowest in a decade should they fail to leapfrog Italy next Sunday.
Daire O’Brien tried to be kind, citing the contrast between the player pool and funding Ireland enjoys compared with England and France in particular, but Fiona Steed was having none of it, pointing out that this semi-professional business our bunch are up against is “only a recent development”, so its benefits can’t have kicked in just yet. No excuses, then.
“If you look at the way France played, they ran at spaces, they off-loaded the ball – we ran at people, we created a slow ruck, and then we ran at more people. We didn’t actually have the tactics to beat them. We didn’t play smart rugby.”
An exasperated Philip “Goose” Doyle, who led Ireland to the Grand Slam in 2013 and that victory over New Zealand at the 2014 World Cup, concurred. If he wasn’t wearing a bobble hat in an attempt to counter the elements, he’d have tried to remove the hairs from his head strand by strand.
Regarding a couple of those seven French tries . . .“there’s no excuse, it’s sacrilege for that to happen, especially at international level” . . . France had 14 players on the park and they had an overlap on the blind, that’s just not good enough”.
But they’re building? “But when does the building stage stop,” asked Sophie Spence.
Cripes, how refreshing is it to hear a women’s game actually being analysed, rather than “sure gawd love us, they gave it their best”?
Bobble hats off, Fiona, Goose and Sophie.