TV View: We were All Black and blue from pinching ourselves
NBC and rugby are hardly a marriage made in heaven – but who really cares now
Ireland players celebrate beating the All Blacks. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images
You’d imagine that 111 years of hurt would be enough to stop anyone dreaming. And with the All Blacks going in with a WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW record, the chances of an Irish victory seemed as likely as, say, Hillary taking Wyoming. Eir Sport did their very best to make us believe, opening with a montage of inspirational presidential quotes (and one from Richard Nixon too), but then they put the hashtag #MissionImpossible on screen, which hinted at a certain lack of positivity on their part.
But our presenter Connor Morris worked hard at persuading us that the mission was accomplishable because if the Cubs could win the World Series then literally anything was possible. And in Joe Schmidt, Neil Francis pointed out, “we have our own Theo Epstein”, him being the president of the Cubs. He did, however, add that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had been asked earlier in the week if there was a seamless link between the baseballing exploits of Chicago’s finest and the dreams of the Irish rugby team, and that the fella was probably still laughing.
But you take hope where you can find it. “Is féidir linn,” said Connor, which was nice, before wondering aloud if Ireland had a “Trump” card up their sleeves, which almost had you turning over to Strictly Come Dancing.
Over to Soldier Field. Ireland’s Call.
Now, text messages can’t, of course, be taken as scientific polling, but the verdict went roughly 50:50, from “wtf, it’s like two cats ****ing” to “OMG, that’s so plaintive and gorgeous”. This couch went more down the amorous feline route, but in light of what followed, Michael D should issue a presidential decree ordering that a fiddly version of Ireland’s Call be performed before every game we play from this day forth. The impact it had on the All Blacks may be unquantifiable, but it’s bound to have been big, it making the Haka seem as menacing as Daniel O’Donnell doing the cha-cha-chá.
Michael D’s second decree, incidentally, should probably be that NBC never do the camera work on rugby matches again.
It was, need it be said, a crying shame that the game wasn’t available on terrestrial telly, it proving to be highly historic, but if it’s any consolation to those who didn’t see it live, Eir Sport subscribers missed a good chunk of it too, thanks to NBC’s inability to spot the ball. Scrums seemed to flummox them most, the camera often remaining focused on the set-piece waiting for the ball to emerge, five-ish seconds after it had been whooshed out to the wing.
Then, there were moments when it appeared that the action was being filmed on a phone in a gale force wind, like all those little clips we create ourselves, which had the effect of leaving you feeling quite sea sick. And quite often when we urgently needed to see a replay we were shown a man dressed as a Leprechaun in the crowd.
It was a testing experience, then, but what made up for it a bit was that Ireland were so spectacular you’d have been all black and blue from pinching yourself.
And it did too. Deficit reduced to four points with 15 minutes to play and you sensed the mother of all Devon Loch-ish Irish sporting history experiences.
But. No one put it better, really, than Rory McIlroy on the tweet machine: “Xjdjdosjnajshehebdbshsjdhchxnslapehdvzjsjdjskwkdhsjsks!!!!!!!!!- !!!!!!!!!!”
Ecstasy back in the studio? Not quite, leaving us pining for, say, Conor O’Shea who would have had to be peeled off the ceiling. Neil reached for his inner George Hook with his opening remarks, the gist being that the All Blacks were muck.
He did allow himself a small smile to mark the occasion, which was nice, although, ironically enough, it was Pat Lam who best captured the mood beyond the studio with a stirring tribute to Irish rugby. And all concerned doffed their caps to Joe, making you half wish they’d hired Hook for the day to ask him if he’d like to retract that statement about Joe being “the worst coach/ selector in Irish rugby history”.
The moral of the story? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try and try again. As Tricky Dicky put it, “only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain”. #MissionAccomplished.