Dream Team

What were you doing at 7p.m on Saturday 17thNovember? Ask any Irish person and they’ll tell you that they were watching Ireland beat the All Blacks. But maybe don’t ask them too loud, especially not first thing the next morning.

Sessioning spilled over into the small wee hours, everyone toasting Joe Schmidt from the highways of Faranfore to the byways of Gweedore. There were more glasses raised to him last night than for any manager in the history of Irish sport. Jack Charlton and Kevin Heffernan certainly earned their fair share of toasts, but the genius gent that is Joe Schmidt deserves any accolades he gets.

The local in Kingscourt was no exception. Men women and children (yes, I have reached the age where the current crop of youth all look terribly young) were gathered in the Block Malone’s to watch the game. Women sipped gin and eyed up Rob Kearney. I sipped Coors Light and did the same. The Irish boys were up for it from the start. From one to fifteen, they put in an immense shift and had the Kiws under pressure. Peter O’Mahony made a great case for beatification.

When Sexton took his kicks, the pub fell silent, observing the hush of the Aviva. When Stockdale made it over the line, the place erupted. There was an outbreak of hugging. Seeing O’Mahony, Kearney, Best and Furlong leave the field peaked the nerves. More Coors Light was knocked back. In the final ten, New Zealand found form and looked threatening. Ireland held tight. When the ref blew it up, there was more hugging.

The island swayed to the rhythm of four million dancing fans. It was an unforgettable performance from a world-class Irish team. Beating the All Blacks in two of the last three tests is a decent record. Hopes are justifiably high with the Six Nations around the corner and the World Cup just beyond it. Joe Schmidt and his backroom team were rightly toasted last night. And this morning, I offer up my hangover to him.