Friday 20 October 2017

Beating Kiwis more unlikely than Tipperary Tim

Sean Diffley

Declan Kidney, in his public proclamations, is not noted for profundity but he stepped out of that pose for what I believe was for the first time after Ireland's horrific 60-0 humiliation in Hamilton last Saturday.

He didn't reach Churchillian heights of 'some chicken, some neck' but, for once, he hit the nail on the head. The New Zealanders, he told the TV camera, "could field four teams of equal merit."

And it wasn't expressed as an excuse, but rather to articulate the reality.

New Zealand's population is four and a half million, and most of them are obsessed with rugby.

There are 26 regions -- akin, if you like, to our 32 counties. Each of the regions operate like our Gaelic football county teams and, like the counties here, those regions have scores, maybe hundreds, of parish clubs in every inch of the two islands

Rugby here is, at best, the third in line, well behind Gaelic football and soccer. For Ireland, beating New Zealand must be as uncertain as were the Ryan brothers, Mike and Jack, the rugby internationals from Rockwell, at Aintree in 1928 when the unfancied Tipperary Tim won the Grand National at odds of 100/1.

And his triumphant rider was -- I've looked it up -- a Mr WP Dutton. No, I'd never heard of him either.

Now, heave a collective sigh as we unfold the doleful tale, something not often blazoned in our headlines.

We have produced many gifted and successful players down the years, but the basic and uncomfortable truth is that we seldom mange to produce an an effective XV.

As Kidney pointed out, the Kiwis could produce four equally effective teams. We cannot.

And the other countries across channel have superior records in the Triple Crown -- England have 12 Grand Slams to our two, with Wales on 11 and Scotland on three.

The number of famous Irish players, honoured throughout the rugby world who have never won a Triple Crown, let alone a Grand Slam, is extraordinary.

They include Willie John McBride, Mike Gibson, Tom Kiernan, Fergus Slattery, Tony O'Reilly, Barry McGann, Ronnie Dawson, Mick English and Eric Elwood.

And, if we delve even further in the record books, the same applies to such luminaries as Eugene Davy, Larry McMahon and Mark Sugden of an earlier generation.

Irish Independent

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