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Thursday 2 October 2014

Hijinks and high-fives at Six Nations reception

Published 27/03/2014 | 02:30

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26 March 2014; Brian O'Driscoll, right, arrives at Farmleigh House with team-mates Jack McGrath, left, and Ian Madigan before a Government reception to formally honour the Ireland rugby squad in recognition of their achievement in winning the Six Nations Championship. Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Brian O'Driscoll, right, arrives at Farmleigh House with team-mates Jack McGrath, left, and Ian Madigan
Rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll (right) shares a joke with team mates at Farmleigh for a State reception honouring their Six Nations win. Photo: Mark Condren

IF THE country is still on a high after the Six Nations win, check out the players – who were as giddy as a bunch of schoolboys on tour during an official reception held in their honour.

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State functions at Farmleigh often have the reputation of being stuffy – but the Irish rugby team helped to blast that particular perception out of the water. And their hijinks were contagious – Leo Varadkar cut loose to crack a joke about Gordon D'Arcy's beard. He had the grace to laugh shamefacedly as president of the IRFU, Pat Fitzgerald, expressed his thanks for the "history lesson" contained in the minister's speech about the various buildings of note situated close to Farmleigh.

Mr Fitzgerald said the Six Nations had been a great 'bookend' to Brian O'Driscoll's career and said he looked forward to the player's new role as the latest freeman of Dublin and "grazing his sheep" on St Stephen's Green.

You got the impression that for the team, it was a bit like being in Mass and getting a fit of the giggles, lined up on stage in their formal grey suits, as they tried desperately not to catch one another's eye.

A dry and fusty affair this certainly was not.

Many of the team hadn't seen one another since their last euphoric encounter at the Stade de France – and with so much to catch up on, there was a lot of laughter and high fives in the elegant orangerie of Farmleigh as they gathered before the official reception.

The only ones missing were Jamie Heaslip and Dave Kearney. Cian Healy was one of the few who brought a 'plus one', arriving with partner Holly Carpenter.

O'Driscoll looked relaxed – and perhaps more than a little wistful – as he chatted with his old teammates, enjoying the camaraderie.

First he signed a jersey for little Mossy Malony (6), from Castleknock, off school early for this very special treat. Esctatic afterwards, Mossy explained how BOD, who is his favourite player, had told him to "have fun".

Then Mossy went off to meet his "second favourite" Cian Healy. "He's absolutely delighted – he lives for rugby," explained his mother Brigid afterwards.

Captain Paul O'Connell later admitted that having spent so much time at camp together, it was now very hard to get back to thinking in terms of provincial rivalry, with the Leinster-Munster clash this weekend in the Aviva.

Of their Six Nations win, he said: "The reaction to the team was great – and when we came back into Dublin Airport, that was another incredible day. The guys are really enjoying it."

Michael Ring, Minister of State at the Department of Sport and Tourism, told the players that he "never saw so many people having near- heart attacks" as they watched the game unfold in Paris.

Irish Independent

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