Banagher College student Dylan Flannery imagines Irish Rugby’s finest hour………
The Fighting Irish Conquer the World!
Ireland was very much the underdog going into the game against the mighty Trojans that are New Zealand. I spoke with Joe Schmidt and Paul O’Connell before the big game. I was expecting nerves from the two lads but in return I got a sense of pure tenacity in O’Connell’s voice, he was ready to take a stand against the brute power that the All Blacks possessed.
Schmidt spoke about weak points in the All Black’s defence that Ireland, with the support of Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe, could exploit. It was game day, location; Perth, Australia. 40,000 Irish fans echoed across the stadium, all there to support their men. The fields of Athenry bellowed from the heart and soul of every man, women and child at the match and at home.
The ruthless roar that rang around this great stadium when our men sprinted out onto the field would have woken the dead! Ireland’s Call was belted out across the stadium, the atmosphere was electrifying! It sent chills down my spine!
As the All Blacks gathered for the Haka, the Irish linked together shoulder to shoulder like a great wall. It was kick off. Dan Carter dropped the ball and kicked it down the field only to be caught by Simon Zebo who shot down the pitch like a bullet from a gun. This was Ireland’s best passage of play. New Zealand got in for two early trys which stunned the lads. Half time came with a score of New Zealand 13, Ireland 3. The lads just weren’t on form!
The Irish fans seemed down hearted. The lads arose from the tunnel led by O’Connell with a ferocious look in their eyes. A moment of utter brilliance from Kearney earned Ireland their first try with a conversion from Sexton; 13-10, Game on!
Ireland fell asleep and Robert Umanga ran over the line for an All Black try in the 76th minute, penalty Ireland. Without hesitation Sexton makes it 18-13. O’Connell, all 6ft 7 weighing 21st arose plucking the ball from the sky, a quick offload out to Zebo who flew down the pitch only to be met by Tony Shaw in a crunching tackle. The ball recovered by Sexton who, lobbing the defence, pin pointed a pass into Bowe’s basket like hands. Try Ireland! 18-18, the stadium was electric. A simple conversion for Sexton, the world waited with all eyes on Sexton. There was complete silence in the stadium as Sexton went through his routine; you could hear a pin drop! 4 million Irish hearts stopped and watched on as Johnny Sexton, Ireland’s young number 10 stepped back two and a half steps, spun right, took three steps back and gazed at the posts 30 metres from goal. The clock turned red signalling time was up, last play!
Sexton wiped the sweat from his brow and began his run up. With a ferocious kick of the ball Sexton sent the ball on its way. As the ball left Sexton’s boot he fell to his knees with a ferocious roar, it had gone over. The Irish fans in the crowd detonated with joy. Ireland were World Cup champions of 2015.
The touching moment that stood out to me was Brian O’Driscoll taking to the pitch to congratulate Paul O’Connell. They hugged in the centre of the pitch; a tear fell from the face of the mighty Paul O’Connell, not a tear of sorrow but a tear of utter elation. O’Driscoll and O’Connell, comrades on and off the field, lifted the Cup awarded to them. Utter jubilation swept the country as the lads raised the Cup.
In the late great words of Bobby Sands;
They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who refuses to be broken.