Mar 192009
The Welsh Dragon
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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? Continue reading »

Mar 082008

And just when I thought the afternoon couldn’t get any better, Scotland go and beat England at Murrayfield. What a sublime afternoon of rugby.

Not sublime rugby, you understand. It wasn’t pretty, by any stretch of the imagination. It was neither flowing nor exciting, it wasn’t inspiring or innovative — but the result, and the joy on the faces of the Scots crowd as the final whistle sounded said it all.

There’s something about facing that white jersey, and the pompous self-assured arrogance that it seems to represent that galvanises the opposition, particularly those of a Celtic persuasion, to dig deep and raise their game. That’s certainly what happened this afternoon, and the English simply had no answer for Scottish passion, determination and drive.

No tries — but the Scots controlled the ball at the breakdown, ran through the phases, and when the inevitable penalties came the stalwart Chris Paterson was there to hammer the nails into England’s six nations coffin. It will be small consolation to the English camp that Johnny Wilkinson’s became the highest ever scoring player in Rugby Union history during the course of the match. England didn’t just loose, they were resolutely beaten by a spirited Scottish team that simply hadn’t read the form-sheet.

All that’s left is for Ireland to stuff the English next weekend and we’ll have a Celtic hat-trick against the old enemy. Let’s hope Eddie O’Sullivan can do something right for once. Come on Ireland!

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Mar 082008

Wales did the business again at Croke Park today — a victory I savoured more than most as a Welshman living in the Emerald Isle.

I love Ireland, and can’t think of anywhere better to live than West Cork — but when the rugby’s on all bet’s are off! I may have an Irish wife, Irish daughters, live and work in Ireland, and root for Ireland when they’re playing anybody else… but when it comes to rugby you can take the Welshman out of Wales but…. well, you know the rest.

Ireland started brightly, but for most of the game there was really only one team  in it. The score line never really reflected the run of play, with the Welsh missing a number of chances that should have put them out of sight by mid-way through the second half, despite being down to 14 men for a full 20 minutes.

It’s back to the drawing board for Ireland, and Eddie O’Sullivan, who really doesn’t seem to have any answers. Maybe it’s time for him to stand aside. Considering this is supposed to be the best Irish side for generations it’s looking pretty desperate.

The triple crown, of course, is a bonus… the big result for Wales was beating the English right at the start of the Six Nations campaign.

You know the drill… as long as we beat the English… cue Stereophonics:

Roll on the French next weekend, and our Grand Slam! Well, would you bet against the boys in red?

Oct 042007

Published in the WOW! supplement of the Evening Echo 03/10/2007

It had been a crushing weekend of armchair rugby. First Wales crashed out of the Rugby World Cup in spectacular fashion against Fiji, in what has to be the shock result of the tournament; then Ireland fall to Argentina’s mighty Pumas.

Eddie O’Sullivan’s men in green had disappointed at every stage of the competition leading up to Sunday’s cliff-hanger. Yet no matter how unlikely it seemed, you always believed, somewhere in your gut, that the boys would come good on the big stage. At crunch time, surely, O’Driscoll would perform, O’Gara’s kicking would suddenly click, and O’Connell and Co. would win the line-out’s, scrums, rucks and mauls, giving Ireland a platform from which to launch a spectacular recovery.

It wasn’t to be. The team that went into the competition as Ireland’s best ever World Cup contenders was heading home.

My wife, although disappointed at Ireland’s defeat, was smiling. Why? Because, she surmised, with Ireland and Wales both out of the competition she could reclaim her husband, the girls would have a father again and our weekends could return to normal. Er… wrong!

Continue reading »