The young daughter of a very good friend - his name is John Kelly and her name is Lucy - has an infatuation with the R word that is on the top of every lip this side of the Big Apple, but it's not the R word as the rest of us know it. While the rest of us are weighed down with the recession, Lucy prefers to call it the reception which, if you think about it, isn't such a bad alternative. In Lucy's world, at least, the recession doesn't exist, which is more than can be said for an institution as sacred as Irish sport. On Saturday many of us still brave enough to venture out into the open world without the fear of it crashing down around us gathered in Croke Park for an international rugby occasion. And what an occasion it was as a rejuvenated Brian O'Driscoll and a reborn Gordon D'Arcy scored tries as their Ireland team beat the French for the first time in eight games, World Cup and championship, spread out over six years. The stadium, soon to lose its status as a soccer and rugby venue when the FAI and the IRFU move back to Lansdowne Road, visibly rocked with emotion as man of the match Jamie Heaslip and company scored a win that was a deserved as it was welcome. Leaving Croker late on Saturday night, it was obvious that the national spirits, and certainly the spirits of those still within the vicinity of the North Dublin venue, had been lifted dramatically by events on a football field. The recession - or the reception depending on what you want to call it - was forgotten about for even a few short hours as Ireland and the Irish radiated in the warmth of a very special win and the promise of a Six Nations Grand Slam bid to come. By Monday morning many of those who know sweet FA about sport - Gerry Ryan and his likes in other words - were waxing lyrically about the rugby team and talking about the positivity that swept through the land after that 30-21 win. Gerry and his cohorts had a point. There was a feelgood factor about this victory that severely diminished the doom and gloom that has afflicted the country in recent weeks, and they were only stating the obvious by pointing it out. Unfortunately their words served only to heighten the expectations following another Irish team in a separate corner of North Dublin as Giovanni Trapattoni's soccer team prepared for their World Cup qualifier against Georgia on the same Croke Park pitch on Wednesday night. Naturally enough more than one commentator expressed the wish that the soccer team also do their bit for national morale as they trained in Malahide ahead of the game that could put them level on points with Italy at the top of the Group Eight table. Now you will likely know the result of the game by the time you read this, and I am not one to pretend that I can tell the future, so I won't tempt fate. What I can tell you is that both Giovanni Trapattoni and his captain Robbie Keane were asked if they too can lift national spirits in these times of recession and reception. Both admitted that they knew exactly where the question was coming from, Robbie even acknowledging that the rugby team had done everyone a favor with their win on Saturday, and he would be delighted to do the same when his turn came around on Wednesday night. Robbie, to be fair, even managed to confirm that he is well aware of the financial burden placed on those who have to do real work for a living just days after he pocketed another small fortune for moving clubs, this time from Liverpool back to Tottenham. Like his rugby counterpart Brian O'Driscoll, Robbie also knows well that a new burden rests on his shoulders in these troubled times. He may have been stretching it a little when he attempted to boost morale by claiming that this team has a great chance of qualifying automatically for the World Cup finals - I'm not so sure myself - but at least Robbie knows the power of his sport and its new responsibilities in a world dominated by that cursed reception. If Robbie can work the oracle between now and November and get us to the World Cup finals, and if Brian O'Driscoll can captain Ireland to a first Grand Slam in over 60 years by the end of March, then life will be a little easier for the living in this wonderful little country of ours. It's a lot to ask of our sportsmen, but right now our bankers and our government have let us down badly so we need someone to turn to in our hour of need. The rugby team did their bit on Saturday and it's over to the soccer team now. I can only wish them well - God knows we need them to do what Jack Charlton's team did in the past and deliver us back onto a world stage. After all, Italia '90 and USA '94 did kick start the last Celtic Tiger!
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