Friday, March 20, 2009


Who will it be?

Just over 24 hours to go and the butterflies in the anxious stomachs of the Irish players must be morphing into rampaging elephants. A Grand Slam is on the cards and a deprived and frustrated Ireland waits in agonizing expectation. Win, and the party will last a lifetime. Lose and the pain will last equally as long and this “Golden Generation’ of players will fragment and go their separate ways with another “what if?” ringing in their ears.

Call me old fashioned but the Grand Slam is the ultimate Northern Hemisphere prize and the only one you’re remembered for. Triple Crowns and Championship titles are nice but it’s the big GS every player dreams of, and I really hope the Irish boys can do it on Saturday.

This isn’t a wish fuelled by any anti Welsh sentiment, merely a desire to see a great bunch of players finally fulfill their potential and grasp the prize their talents and characters deserve. Let me just re cap a few of the great names for you and as you read through them be honest with yourselves; would you deny them their great day? O’Driscoll, O’Connell, Stringer, Murphy, Leamy, O’Gara, D’Arcy, Hayes, Horan. I thought not.

It’s far too easy in this modern age of contracts, spin and citings to forget the romance of this amazing game, and what is rugby if it is stripped of its tradition? It becomes a collection of statistics on a piece of paper, hence my lack of enthusiasm for the final table standings. I realize you need to present a trophy to someone come the end of the show but unless it’s received as Grand Slam winners the shine isn’t quite as bright.

Heaven knows Ireland have come close in their quest for top spot; their best chance being two years ago when, having the French exactly where they wanted them with minutes to go at Croke Park, they threw it all away, and that was on the first day!

Every player will have relived those moments, and a million others I’m sure, but now they must mobilize their aching bodies for one final push; a gargantuan challenge against a highly motivated Welsh team.

I won’t bother going into team tactics and predictions and I’m not even going to mention the other matches (ok, so I just did), I’m going to leave you with this one mental image and hope that it stirs the same traditional and feel good emotions within you as it does in me; Brian O’Driscoll, Grand Slam Captain 2009. He deserves it; they all do. Good luck Ireland.

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