Tuesday 25 April 2017

Bealham learning to shine in the bright lights

Bealham “I think the sun was blinding me. I couldn’t really see so I was squinting a little bit.” Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Bealham “I think the sun was blinding me. I couldn’t really see so I was squinting a little bit.” Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ireland could never be accused of letting one second of their Chicago moment pass them by. Or, indeed, becoming blinkered by the sudden glare of the marauding spotlight.

Victory, finally and belatedly, would not otherwise have become theirs to snatch in such a stunning fashion.

Except, maybe, if you were Finlay Bealham. For he did, fleetingly, allow his concentration to pause for an instant.

He did, temporarily, allow himself to be blinded by the dazzling flame of the occasion.

And it was during the haka.

Seven years ago he had faced it for the first and only time in the green and gold of the Australian schoolboys' international side; he vowed then to really savour it had he the chance to ever do so again.

Little did he think then he would do so on American soil. Or in an Irish jersey. Or have no real idea of why he would react as he did, with a death stare that prompted immediate hilarity back in his homeland.

Guffaws

"A few lads and people from home were sending me pictures," he guffaws cheerily. "I think the sun was blinding me. I couldn't really see so I was squinting a little bit."

It was the rarest of slip-ups.

Ireland's response to the haka lay in the initiation of a wonderfully touching tribute to Anthony Foley which had involved careful choreography.

Though deeply personal, its genesis is still another indication of the remarkably precise attention to detail which accompanies every single aspect of an Irish international's existence.

"I'm not sure where it started but on Thursday they brought it up that we were going to pay tribute to Axel," reveals the Connacht prop.

"That was a really big moment for me, really touching and it meant a lot to all the lads. Hopefully, he was watching down on Saturday with a lot of pride.

"We walked through it after the captain's run on Friday and we all had our little positions, they had it down on a piece of paper.

"Everyone knew where they had to be so there wasn't too much confusion.

"And it just topped it off that so many played so well."

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