A View From Below

Sporting debate and opinion

Ireland fulfill promise to end 61 year heartache for Grand Slam

The RBS Six Nations 2009 was all about the Irish as coach Declan Kidney, in charge of the team for less than a year, led his team to their first Grand Slam since 1948.
Ireland’s win over France on the opening day set them up to repeat the feat of Jack Kyle & co, a heavy win over Italy in Rome, victory against England at Croke Park and the defeat of Scotland at Murrayfield meaning they had to beat Wales in Cardiff to complete the clean sweep. With one swoop of fly-half Ronan O’Gara’s boot seconds before full-time, Ireland captured the Grand Slam that had eluded them for 61 years, dethroning Wales 17-15 in the process.

Declan Kidney takes all the plaudits for his management of the team, combining the forward steel of the Irish pack and the attacking flair of the backs to create a squad capable of achieving such heights.
As Kidney was keen to stress post-match, the foundations for Ireland’s victory had been layed down in previous years. The efforts of former coach Eddie O’Sullivan was touched upon and the hard work of senior members of the Ireland squad who had come so close but never succeeded in winning the Six Nations were cited as causes of the the recent success. In seasons gone by, Ireland have always had world-class players, Keith Wood, John Hayes, Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell to name but a few, but the squad never seemed strong enough to sustain a title challenge. In March 2007, the IRFU attempted to bridge the gap that young players coming into the side had to cross by creating a “High Performance Select Group,” and it paid off in this years Six Nations, with Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Tommy Bowe, all members of the group, helping to contribute the results Ireland have been promising for so long.

Shamrock supporters are sure to remember the key moments from this years tournament that led to the trophy being paraded around Dublin this month. Brian O’Driscoll’s mesmorising run against France that re-announced his credentials as one of the world’s best players, the sidestep and turn of pace from number 8 Jamie Heaslip in the same game, Peter Stringer’s darting break against Scotland, Paul O’Connells line-out dominance over Wales and Tommy Bowe’s catch and score under the posts in that final game are just some of the finer moments of Ireland’s campaign. Four tries O’Driscoll and forward leader Paul O’Connell were the oustanding performers in a Irish team full of talent.

It was not by any means plain sailing for the Ireland team, and they endured some nerve racking moments on their way to success. Ronan O’Gara’s shaky performance against England almost let the Red and Whites seize victory in what turned out to be a one point win at Croke Park, the narrow win over Scotland seemed in doubt until the second half and Stephen Jones’ drop goal looked to have snatched the Grand Slam from under Irish noses in the final game.
However, whilst their competitors endured up and down tournaments, with England first aggrivating and then excelling, France being defined by inconsistency and Wales not living up to expectations, the time was right for Ireland to come good.

Warren Gatland’s cry of bad feeling between Wales and Ireland only served to add to O’Driscoll’s charges, and two tries to none in Irish favour is evidence that they deserved the victory. Ireland will hope their new success can springboard them on to further achievements.


March 26, 2009 - Posted by | Rugby Union

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