What could be possibly worse as the coach or captain of the English rugby team than seeing your Slam chasing team humiliated from start to finish in a new stadium where the home side had never won a competitive match in before?
Will I tell you what would be the final insult if your name is Martin Johnson or Toby Flood or Chris Ashton, and you’ve just lost the clean sweep against the Irish of all people?
It’s easy -- imagine the ignominy if a video commissioned by your uniform sponsor Nike to celebrate your Grand Slam win was leaked across the Internet just as you’re rubbing the salt from your Dublin 4 wounds.
Now that’s kicking a man in the YouTube when he’s down!
So is the fact that the newspapers and the social networks got hold of the story that red faced Nike officials had to cancel celebratory adverts planned to run on massive video billboards all across the U.K. as soon as the final whistle had sounded in Dublin just before seven o’clock on Saturday night.
Fairly damaging too is the confirmation that Nike had 5,000 England t-shirts with the words Grand Slam Champions 2011 ready to go on sale after the final seconds of the hoped-for Paddy bashing in the new Lansdowne Road.
And England coach Martin Johnson, the red carpet captain in 2003 if you remember, wonders why he gets such a hard time every time he comes to Dublin for what is only a game of rugby.
Let me tell you a little story about Martin Johnson on Saturday.
Midway through the second half of this epic game, the giant television screens at the Aviva Stadium flashed up an image of Martin in the stands, the England coach looking hot and bothered as the Grand Slam dream slipped ever further from his grasp.
The Irish crowd didn’t smile or laugh, as well they might have. Instead they just waved Martin and England and the Grand Slam goodbye. Thousands of them waved. And they enjoyed it.
It was one of two iconic moments in that second half on Saturday that will live long in the memory.
The second came not long after Ronan O’Gara had replaced man of the match Jonathon Sexton in the pivotal out-half position.
The delirious crowd rose to acclaim Sexton as he left the pitch. Criticized in so many quarters after the Scotland and Wales games, in particular, he had been a shock choice for many when Declan Kidney named the team earlier in the week.
Kidney, despite the abuse he takes from the television pundits on RTE, clearly knew what he was doing because Sexton was immense on Saturday and deserved every accolade he received as he left the pitch with 10 minutes remaining.
O’Gara, to be fair, received a hero’s welcome as well, not least because many of us were confused when he was taken off so early against the Welsh and left off from the start against England.
The Munster man has never let his province or his country down in the past, and he wasn’t going to start on this occasion. If anything, he was sent in to seal the deal against the oldest enemy of all as far as Irish sport is concerned -- and that he did but not with any scoring boot as is his norm.
Instead, Ronan took a leaf out of the Steve Collins book and ruffled a few English feathers at a time when it looked like they just might get back into a game that had previously been beyond them.
Rog was barely on the pitch when he got stuck into Chris Ashton right on the touchline, and handbags flew all over the place.
It was the final reminder for England that they were on their knees, the knock-out blow to their Grand Slam hopes, and it worked. They never got off the canvas after that, and O’Gara knew they wouldn’t.
As he left the scene of the crime he winked at Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll, and that iconic wink said it all.
England were done and dusted and the Aviva celebrated for real -- unlike the Nike advert filmed, would you believe, a month ago in advance of an anticipated English Slam!
So before we leave the subject of Six Nations rugby for the year, let’s get back to that embarrassing video and let you know that it features real live England players celebrating the Grand Slam. Yes, you read that right.
On the video, freely available on YouTube if you have the time or the inclination, you will see the likes of Ben Foden celebrating the fact that he has just won the Grand Slam in Dublin.
In this instance, fact is clearly stranger than fiction.
England did win the Championship in Dublin on Saturday, but they didn’t win the match or the Grand Slam.
And guess what? We will never, ever, ever let them or Nike forget it, even if their Rugby Union have apologized for it and admitted their embarrassment at the leak.
Why won’t we let them forget? Because we’re Irish, that’s why!
SOCCER: Anthony Stokes could do with having a word with his father. Just last week John ended up in the courts here at home for flying a banner barring the Queen from his Dublin pub. Then on Monday he was quoted in a Scottish paper saying that Anthony wanted out of Celtic after being left on the bench for the League Cup final defeat to Rangers, quotes he has since denied.
Considering young Stokes has already had suspect devices mailed to his Glasgow home from Northern Ireland, it might be best if his dad kept a low profile for a while.
SOCCER: Giovanni Trapattoni confirmed in Malahide on Tuesday evening that James McCarthy will play some part of Saturday’s European Championship qualifier against Macedonia, probably as a sub. At least that will bring an end to the ridiculous stories about McCarthy turning his back on Ireland and reverting to Scotland, the land of his birth, for his international football. His family is Irish and he wants to be Irish, which should be good enough for the rest of us.
SOCCER: What do you think impresses Jose Mourinho if you’re a striker on loan from Manchester City looking to make the move a permanent one in the summer? Goals perhaps? Assists? No -- haircuts.
Emmanuel Adebayor has had his long hair cut short in the hope that it will help seal the deal to become a Real player full-time at the end of the season. I kid you not.
RACING: Technically England won the Horse Racing Slam on Friday when Cheltenham came to a close after an incredible week and they had 14 winners against our 13, but who cares? The Irish left the Cotswolds with the biggest number of winners ever and it was a sweet, sweet taste of things to come on the rugby field against England some 24 hours later.
SOCCER: Talk about tempting fate -- Spurs striker Jermain Defoe is currently on 99 goals for Spurs and wasted several chances in last weekend’s scoreless draw at home to West Ham. The fact that he was wearing a t-shirt underneath his jersey with the slogan “100 Goals” emblazoned on it may not have helped. That’s nearly as embarrassing as English rugby’s Grand Slam video.
CRICKET: Ireland’s cricketers came home from the World Cup on Monday, and a few people met them at the airport after they rounded off their campaign with a win over Holland in India. Had they come home the day after beating England then thousands would have been waiting at Dublin’s new Terminal 2. We should never forget that win. Just like the rugby.
HEROES OF THE WEEK
IT was Martin Johnson who led the English snub of our President Mary McAleese when our neighbors came here for the Grand Slam decider of 2003. Thus it was quite fitting that Johnson was the English coach on Saturday when Declan Kidney’s 22 green clad heroes smashed England’s Slam bid into the same red carpet Johnson had insulted all those years ago. Ireland were brilliant on Saturday. A win against England, in any sport, is brilliant on any occasion.
IDIOTS OF THE WEEK
THE marketing people at Nike should be sacked -- lock, stock and barrel. Not alone did they commission an English Grand Slam celebratory video before the event, they let it out to the YouTube market even when the team had lost. We’ll allow them the t-shirt mistake because they wouldn’t be the first team in that boat, but the video now spreading its way across the Internet really is a joke.