|Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara
Brian O’Driscoll and the Leinster-based players were met by some fans as they arrived back in the capital, but nothing like the tens of thousands who would have greeted them had their New Zealand odyssey extended beyond last Saturday’s quarterfinal.
Ronan O’Gara led the Munster players through the arrivals gate at Cork Airport and immediately told the fans present that he has no intention of turning his back on his country just yet.
That’s the good news because this Ireland team needs to have one more crack at the Grand Slam before the golden generation hang up their boots.
The usual suspects turned on the Irish team after Saturday’s below par defeat to the Welsh in the last eight of the Rugby World Cup and rightly so, as it happened.
The discipline and commitment that was evident through the pool win over Australia, Ireland’s crowning moment in New Zealand not that we knew it at the time, was nowhere to be seen on Saturday.
An error ridden performance got what it deserved against a side coached by Warren Gatland, a man who knows Ireland and the Irish inside out in rugby terms.
The scoreline read just 22-10 in Wales’ favor but the margin of error was far greater as far as the beaten team was concerned.
They are home now to lick their wounds while the soccer team get another shot at European Championship glory in the November playoffs.
The closest thing to the European Championships in rugby is the Six Nations, the annual northern hemisphere tournament that kicks off in February.
O’Driscoll and O’Gara hinted they will be around for that tournament when they returned home on Tuesday but they have yet to confirm it.
They should stick around. It would be wrong if Dricco’s last act as Irish captain was to thank the waiting fans at Dublin Airport when he arrived home ahead of schedule from his final World Cup.
Like O’Gara, O’Driscoll deserves to bow out of international rugby as a winner and what better way to do that than to give the Six Nations and the Grand Slam one last shot next spring. That’s the way he should exit the world stage, not via the arrivals hall in Dublin Airport.
HERO OF THE WEEK
THE decision to play Simon Cox in place of the injured Robbie Keane -- and not Shane Long -- was castigated in all the usual critical corners, but not for the first time Ireland’s best known pundits were left with egg on their faces. Cox was the best of a bad lot as far as Ireland were concerned on Tuesday night and ended up with the Man of the Match champagne after the flat 2-1 win over Armenia. Guess that justified his selection so.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
SPANISH referee Eduardo Gonzales won’t be going to Armenia on his holidays any day soon. Just as Ireland were robbed by an idiotic refereeing decision in Paris two years ago, so the Armenians had a real cause for complaint in Dublin on Tuesday night. Their keeper Berezovsky didn’t handle Simon Cox’s shot when he left his box in the 26th minute at the Aviva Stadium, but Gonzales decided he did. The red card that followed didn’t do the visitors any favors but, as we discovered in Paris, indignation is a lovely street.