Monday 5 December 2016

Treble delight in a weekend of Irish glory

Rugby team win as Boys in Green secure huge victory; McGregor makes history with UFC title triumph

Published 14/11/2016 | 02:30

James McClean celebrates scoring the only goal of the game against Austria in Vienna. Photo: John Walton/PA Wire
James McClean celebrates scoring the only goal of the game against Austria in Vienna. Photo: John Walton/PA Wire

The Irish painted the sporting world green over a fantastic weekend for our athletes in rugby, football and the UFC.

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From New York to Vienna and Dublin, the Green Army was out in force - and Ireland's unstoppable sportsmen gave the fans a lot to cheer for.

Joe Schmidt's selection of a burgeoning Ireland rugby squad overcame Canada by 52-21 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

On the back of a historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago the previous week, the team underwhelmed for most of the first half, but went on to convincingly beat a spirited Canadian side.

It was an entirely different starting 15 to those credited with the outstanding performance in Chicago.

Schmidt described the performance against Canada as "good and bad", but the home fans who gathered in the stadium got what they came for, even if Ireland were always expected to come away victorious.

Luke Marshall is tackled by Canada’s Connor Braid at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Luke Marshall is tackled by Canada’s Connor Braid at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

It was a different story for the football team, who were considered underdogs against Austria in their World Cup 2018 qualifying game in Vienna.

Many pundits said they would haven been happy with a draw, but the 5,000 fans who travelled to the Austrian capital wrapped in green were hoping for better.

A James McClean strike in the 48th minute was to prove the only goal of the game, giving the Boys in Green a massive boost in their chances of reaching the finals in Russia.

Ireland now sit top of the Group D table going into the new year, with 10 points after four games. An impressive haul at this stage of qualifying.

Conor McGregor with the UFC featherweight and lightweight belts. Photo by Adam Hunger/Sportsfile
Conor McGregor with the UFC featherweight and lightweight belts. Photo by Adam Hunger/Sportsfile

Manager Martin O'Neill tried to calm expectations in the wake of the victory.

"I'm genuinely pleased we won the game, really pleased to have 10 points from four matches, but it's still a million miles away (to qualification)," he said.

But that didn't stop the fans from singing about how the team were going to top the group.

Members of the Green Army returned home from Vienna last night - hoarse, bleary-eyed and a little worse for wear.

"It was a great trip. We got a police escort from the pub to the ground," Shane Halpin (22), from Killiney, said as he returned home.

In New York, the famous Madison Square Garden venue was heaving with thousands of Irish who made the journey to see Conor 'the Notorious' McGregor, fight for the UFC lightweight belt against Eddie Alvarez.

It was the first ever UFC event to be staged in New York, which had banned the sport for 20 years.

McGregor did the Irish proud as he made history to become the first fighter to hold two belts in different UFC weight divisions at the same time.

Irish Independent

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