The Inside Fileby Cillian Ó Conchúir
- ‘Final the only thing in our minds’ – Durcan
- McCarthy sees 4 minutes as Ireland make hard work of Macedonia
- Ireland Class leaves England's Grand Slam in Ruins as 24-8 defeat flatters Johnson
- Heaslip still holds faith in Irish system
- Gallant Ireland fall to defiant French
Many look to the scoring prowess of Colm McFadden, Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty. Others point to the trojan work done in midfield by Neil Gallagher and Rory Kavanagh. And few games pass by without the mention of Donegal’s tenacious defensive backs. But the shot stopper would have it no other way as his self-deprecating nature is matched only by his sense of humour.
“You do thrive on those situations,” says Durcan of his save from Martin Penrose in the 74th minute, “but at the same time I would be happier if I didn’t have to do it. I suppose a lot of the boys would argue I don’t work that hard. They say I don’t work too hard all the time in training. I think it is a running joke.
Ireland drew level at the top of Group B with Slovakia and Russia with a 2-1 win against Macedonia at Lansdowne Road. In a frantic opening, it took a minute 22, seconds for Aidan McGeady get Ireland off to the perfect start. Kevin Doyle nodded the ball down to himself after a high ball and laid the ball off to McGeady to the left of the D. The Spartak winger flicked the ball inside and fired the ball into the corner past the helpless Edin Nuredinoski, who got a hand to it but could not keep it out.
On six minutes after Ireland were in a familiar position again, this time on the right side with Damien Duff cutting inside and firing at Nuredinoski, who gathered the ball at the second attempt. It would be a similar story throughout the half as the Macedonian number 1 failed to gather a number of shots at the first attempt. And to Ireland's credit, they didn't sit back on and continued with an attacking mentality. Ten minutes in Nuredinoski was called into action again. This time McGeady played the ball wide to Kevin Kilbane who whipped in a cross for Doyle, whose header had the keeper scrambling to push the ball behind as Robbie Keane rushed in at the back post.
If there was a negative for Trappatoni it came when when Doyle went down and signaled straight away . The Wolves attacker seemed to and was replaced by .
Ireland left England's Grand Slam hopes in tatters when Martin Johnson's side were on the wrong side of a 24-8 hiding at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. For Declan Kidney, it is the prefect end to a somewhat disappointing Six Nations Championship and now looks to August when they take on Scotland, England and France twice before they begin their World Cup campaign against Eddie O' Sullivan and the United States in September.
English Indiscipline six minutes in set Ireland on their way with a Jonathan Sexton penalty. The referee adjudging the England to be offside and Sexton made no mistake to give Ireland a 3-0 lead. There was no sign of the shaky kicking that saw Sexton miss a penalty late in the game against Wales last week and Sexton added a second penalty 10 metres inside the left hand touchline, just outside the English 22 to edge Ireland to a 6-0 margin after 13 minutes.
On 20 minutes it looked as if Brian O'Driscol had crossed over and in doing so become the tournaments all time highest try scorer, with 25 tries but the touch judge said the pass that sent him clear was forward. The referee called play back however for an English infringement and Sexton made it 3/3 to send Ireland into a 9-0 lead.
An unimpressed Jamie Heaslip cut a dejected figure after France went toe-to-toe with France yesterday. He gave a candid response to the agaonising defeat which ended Ireland's championship hopes before it built up speed. "They won. They are still on course to win a Grand Slam. We can't. But I think if anyone is looking at that video we have exposed a lot. You guys have them all hyped up thinking that they are the dog's b*****ks. Well I don't think they are. We have exposed a lot of holes and I think England can definitely cause them a lot of problems."
While Ireland were clinical in breaching the French defense, they conceded nine penalties, seven of which where within kicking distance for Morgan Parra and later Dimitri Yachvili when he was introduced. "Penalties, turn overs," commented Heaslip, "two tries ahead and their still in the game. They get a try and they're ahead. We get a try and they're still ahead. You We played some very good rugby and there are lot of positives. We created chances and caused problems with the ball. A lot of positives, but the negatives are that when you score three tries to one you usually win the game."
Ireland will hope to have Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris fully fit for the trip to Scotland and with Rob Kearney also to return in the coming months, Heaslip believes they will bounce back.
"You have got loads of lads still injured and they are just biting at the bit trying to get back - just like myself. It was a novelty feeling a bit of pain this weekend. I have been sitting around watching games which I am not good at and it was good to get out there and I am sure from talking to Fez (Stephen Ferris), Tommy (Bowe) and some of the other guys, everyone just wants to get out and play.
"Nobody likes sitting on the couch watching games. It is not the easiest thing to get back in the squad. There is a lot of competition there and lads pushing for places and that is what we want, in the year that we have to rely on a squad. The way rugby is you have to rely on the squad. Going forward we have a very strong squad."
While defeat to a French team whose performance was rated 4/10 by their coach Marc Lièvremont could draw some disenchanement, Heaslip has no fears for Ireland going forward. "My own personal belief in the team is that there is no lack of belief, no lack of confidence. We have an exceptionally good group of players here in Ireland. One of the main reasons of me staying around is I think we are on the verge of doing something great.
"We're playing some unbelievable rugby. At times, we give teams easy opportunities to take scores and that can be frustrating and we have to marshal ourselves. Our defense and attack take care of themselves."
It may have been a fine performance in outscoring the French by three tries to one, but despite the what ifs, France still won while playing very poorly. Ireland played some brilliant rugby, but failed. If only Gordan D'Arcy hadn't allowed Aurelien Rougerie steamroll him following the French scrum in the run up to Maxime Medard's try? If only Sean Cronin hadn't knocked on with minutes remaining? If only Jonathan Sexton had kicked the second conversion to stretch Ireland's lead before half time?
Declan Kidney mentioned France's Top 14 professional teams, compared to Ireland's four, in the run up to the defeat. It may be a question about how far this team can go. There is no doubting their ability in the Autumn internationals against the Tri Nations sides (New Zealand and South Africa) and France, but the fact remains. Ireland still lost. Heaslip and Kidney both rejected any thought of casting the type of rugby that they are playing aside. That is good for the entertainment value of Irish games - everyone wants to see running rugby. However, they have to learn to win ugly against big teams, if that is what is called for.
Heaslip still believes in the type of rugby Kidney has brought to the team.
France secured their second win of the RBS Six Nations championship with a 22-25 victory as Lansdowne Road saw a pulsating return to Six Nations rugby. While the victory keeps Marc Lièvremont's Grand Slam ambitions alive, Ireland now look towards the Triple Crown with trips to Edinburgh and Cardiff to come.
Despite an incredible start from Ireland which saw them camped inside the French 22 for most of the opening 10 minutes, From the very first contact, Ireland were in control as French lock, Julian Pierre was pushed into touch after he gathered the kick off.
Ireland inched closer to the French line, first stretching the ball wide right and when it came back wide left Gordan D'Arcy passed to Luke Fitzgerald who touched down in the corner, but the touch judge deemed the pass forward.
A first-half of pure class contrasted heavily with an uneventful second half as Ireland brought the Autumn internationals to a close as Ireland defeated Argentina 29-9 at the Aviva, Dublin. Captain Brian O'Driscoll admitted during the week that "all previous games (against Argentina) tended not to be things of beauty", but early on it looked as if todays game may have been the exception to the rule.
After the game Ireland coach Declan Kidney told of his concern for O'Driscoll who had gone for an X-ray with a possible crack in his jaw. "If its just a crack he might avoid surgery and a plate," said Kindey afterwards of his captain, who tried to play through the injury before the med said he needed to come off. The win brought Ireland's record to won two, lost two for the series, and looking back Kidney sees the positives of the last month.
"One of our goals in this month was obviously to win ever match - we didn't. We came up short in two so we have to take a serious look at that. Another was to build a squad and we have been doing that. Today was a good sign for us because you can build all you like at training but they need to go out and prove it to themselves that they can win a tough game.
"Rory Best is going for an operation on his cheekbone on Monday," said Irish Coach Declan Kidney. "Brian (O'Driscol) has gone for an Xray on his shoulder, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald will have knee scans tomorrow. I wouldn't like to pre-empt any medical opinion - I would just be guessing. And Gordan D'Arcy and Tommy Bowe have tight calves, but we would be hoping they will recover in time (for next week against Argentina)."
It may have taken the arrival of the All Blacks but finally the Aviva got an atmosphere worthy of an international fixture, and despite what the scoreline 38-18 suggests, the Irish players responded heroically as the injury list suggests.
From the first whistle, Ireland and New Zealand played the kind of attacking rugby that was well worth the entrance fee. Dan Carter (on 6, 15 and 29 minutes) and Jonathan Sexton (on 10 and 25 minutes) traded penalties but the Irish defense otherwise held firm.
It has not been a particularly great week for Ireland or TIF. As the International Monetary Fund moved a step closer to becoming the Irish Monetary Fund and TIF found out that 5am does exist, Ireland barely got out of neutral in their final international game of ‘10 against Norway.
Spare a thought for young Seamus Coleman. The 22 year-old full-back come winger has become a key fixture for Everton in the Premiership but sat out Ireland’s midweek defeat. Even a cameraman at the Aviva got in on the action, zooming in on the young Donegal man, as a nation willed Giovanni Trapattoni to bring him on.
As the Aviva’s screens showed a rather cheerless Seamus Coleman on the bench, the blog thought how it would feel to be “the brightest young talent” and called up for a game that “didn’t mean anything” (Kevin Doyle), to sit in the rain for the best part of 90 minutes. Although not a situation that happened often during TIF’s illustrious youth football career, a situation the blog imagines would leave it feeling less than chirpy nonetheless.
After a Jonah Lomu inspired comeback guided the All Blacks to its 13th victory over Ireland in November 2001, then New Zealand coach John Mitchell commented: “That was a great stepping stone in a lot of the boys’ careers.”
Mitchell’s “boys” (New Zealand had 11 debutants between the first two tests of the 2001 Tour against Ireland A and Ireland) came from 21-7 down to dash Ireland’s hopes of a first win. One of the two debutants that started against Ireland that day was Richie McCaw.
Now as captain, he faces another milestone in his career against Ireland as he, along with Mils Muliaina, will become the most capped All Black players of all time with 93 test caps on Saturday.