TV View: Ireland keep hearts in the oven and heads in the fridge
Parisian farce sees kick off in Dublin delayed but win more than worth the wait
Joe Schmidt saw his side produce a performance which was worth waiting for against England in Dublin. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
To allow England, if we can paraphrase here, win one Grand Slam in Dublin at the conclusion of our national Top O’ The Mornin’ week would have been regarded as a misfortune. Two? Carelessness. Three? Cataclysmic. The task, then, of rescuing the nation’s self-esteem fell to Joe Schmidt’s lads after our Under-20s and women were put to the sword by the invaders, their combined squads and backroom staff, incidentally, leaving divil a free hotel bed in the capital for visiting cheerleaders.
After getting a right mauling for their rather emotive intro to our Six Nations tussle in Cardiff, when they told us our souls would be tested and the like when it was only a game of rugby, RTE played it more modestly this time around, simply showing us Ginger McLoughlin carrying the ball the length of Twickenham and over the try line with 15 Sasanachs on his back, just to stir our juices.
It worked a treat, as it always does, but as Eddie O’Sullivan told us later in the evening, it’s not enough to have “fire in the belly” - “heart in the oven, head in the fridge”. Not actually cryogenically frozen, just cool. Still, this being England, the oven was turned up to 220°C (gas mark 9).
But first we had to sit through 80 minutes of France v Wales.
Plus, you know, just the 19 minutes and 55 seconds of stoppage time.
By which point President Michael D had long since said hello to the teams back in Dublin and taken his seat.
Panic began to set in a bit, and at a time when Ryle Nugent is being accused of wallpapering RTE’s sporting schedule with rugby you began to think The Secrets of the Irish Landscape over on RTE1 would be zapped so that both channels could show us live Six Nations. It was with some relief, then, that our Paris commentator Hugh Cahill reassured us: “Ireland v England will NOT kick off until this match is over.”
So, ref Wayne Barnes carried on awarding France scrums on the Welsh line and chatting with the officials about injured fellas being substituted when they weren’t injured at all, and on it went.
The only blessing, really, was that we missed Ireland’s Call, although your ovened heart had to go out to Eddie, Shane Horgan and Brent Pope who had probably spent all week doing their homework so they could analyse stuff for us pre-match, only for there to be no pre-match at all.
“The surge of readiness has dissipated,” said Ryle, possibly in reference to both teams, Eddie, Shane and Brent.
Over on ITV there was Brian O’Driscoll in his green jacket, looking like he’d just returned triumphant from Augusta, by now the fella thinking he’d have time for 18 holes at the rate they were going in Paris.
But, at last, we were off.
And it went rather well.
“We’ve had 40 minutes of sledging, fist-pumping, clearing out like savages, Jonny Sexton playing like a man possessed,” said Daire O’Brien at the break, during which the panel was worryingly upbeat, because we know what upbeatness does to our prospects: it usually leaves them in smithereens.
Daire urged caution but the lads were having none of it. “I think England are looking in the mirror and wondering what’s looking back at them,” said Eddie.
“A team unbeaten in 18 matches,” Daire didn’t say, but he was thinking it.
But the collective heads largely remained refrigerated for the remainder of the game and this set of Sasanachs were driven from the land Grand Slam-less. “Every boxer has a plan until he gets a box in the mouth,” Eddie purred.
Back on ITV, O’Driscoll’s grin had much the same width of the Grand Canyon, although he was kind enough not to remind Clive ‘Sir’ Woodward about that column of his (‘England Will Slam Ireland’). He saluted the 2017 Six Nations, though, conceding the rugby wasn’t always the best, but it was pleasingly competitive. “It goes to show, everyone can beat everyone,” he said, “…....except for Italy”. Aw.
Eddie Jones was disappointingly gracious - “They were superb, hats off to Ireland - it was their day today, 100 per cent congratulations” - while Joe Schmidt, in light of a little bit of questioning of his governorship, heroically resisted quoting Donald Trump’s favourite Irish-ish proverb when he met up with Clare McNamara for a chat:
“Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue, but never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.”
May the Grand Slam-busting road rise with him.