Mar 192009
The Welsh Dragon
Image via Wikipedia

Granddad is ready to disown his granddaughters.

He loves them dearly, of course, but some things are enough to push even the most doting of grandparents over the edge. And one of those things, is rugby!

Next weekend is crunch time for Ireland’s national rugby squad. With four wins under their belt, on Saturday Declan Kidney’s men face reigning champions Wales in Cardiff in the deciding match of the RBS Six Nations 2009, hoping to claim not just the title, but their first Grand Slam since 1948. All that stands in their way is fifteen Welshmen and the legendary Cardiff crowd. And therein lies the rub; Wales in Cardiff is the Irish team’s toughest fixture of this year’s Six Nations campaign, and you can guarantee the Dragons will come out fighting.

If they’re on form the Welsh have the potential to turn the Irish dream into a red, white and green nightmare!

This is being billed as one of Ireland’s biggest rugby matches in recent memory, but the expectation transcends even that. Set against the backdrop of the country’s economic woes many are billing the resurrection of the nation’s rugby team under Declan Kidney as a beacon of light amidst the gloom: a sentinel of hope that could buoy the flagging spirits not just of rugby fans, but of a nation desperately in need of some good news.

But what has all that got to do with Granddad disowning the girls?

I’m not a big sports fan. I don’t follow the soccer, and I’m not too bothered about watching sports on the telly. But Rugby’s the exception — especially the international game.

Come Six Nations time my wife, who has no interest in sport at all, becomes a rugby widow as I ensconce myself in the living room (or, occasionally down the pub) to watch the drama unfold. The girls occasionally watch with me, and pick up on my enthusiasm, shouting with gusto for my team.

And there’s the problem. Most of the time I’m cheering Ireland all the way, but come Saturday I won’t be shouting for the boys in green at all. I’ll be joining my fellow Welshmen in cheering The Dragons to the dramatic 13 point victory that will clinch the 6 Nations title. And the girls know it!

So when Granddad asked his “100% Made in Ireland” granddaughters who they’d be shouting for come Saturday it presented a bit of a quandry. They looked at him, then looked at me, then looked at him again! It was a tough call:: they were torn between loyalty to their nation and loyalty to their Dad. In the end the little one came to her conclusion first. “Wales!” she shouted at the top of her lungs, much to my delight, Granddad’s chagrin and Mum’s dismay. One of the twins followed suit, and the other, perhaps wisely, chose to reserve judgement.

So, we have a divided household — but only as far as the rugby’s concerned. I’m looking forward to a great match on Saturday, whoever wins… and it really is too close to call. On their day either team could clinch it. If I had to predict the outcome I’d put my money on Wales to win, scuppering Ireland’s Grand Slam dreams, but not by the 13 points they need to claim the title. Ireland will win the Six Nation’s championship this year, but the Grand Slam will remain an elusive dream. Game on!

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