Drico has last laugh as jersey gets airing
Published 16/09/2009 | 00:00
AS anyone who has been to primary school would testify, the giggles, once they start, can be impossible to stop.
That was certainly the case for Paul O'Connell yesterday at the launch of Ireland's new international jersey designed by new kit sponsors Puma.
The potential for cringe was immediately apparent when two 'bongo' drummers emerged to take up position at the front of the stage (surely bodhran players would have been more appropriate?) and nine Irish rugby 'models' emerged bashfully to a bizarre jungle beat.
Mirth was being manfully contained until O'Connell was called forward to answer questions. There was a muttered comment from one of the lads behind and he was off. The interviewer did his best but every question was greeted by spasms of O'Connell laughter, much to the consternation of the various PR choreographers present.
Still, Puma should not worry about their investment not being taken seriously. It all created a relaxed atmosphere -- "Well Paul, spirits certainly appear to be high in the camp" -- and the jersey is a decent effort.
It's a simple affair, returning to the traditional colour of the late 1980s, and one that should please supporters rather more than the last, rather hectic, version.
For the record, the Puma jersey is 'Power Green' (which, apparently, "symbolises the country of Ireland"), comes with a "revolutionary double layer construction" for "rapid evaporation" and has 'pumaflex' stretch panels for greater freedom -- rumours that the jersey can also play the spoons and sing 'Spancil Hill' could not be confirmed.
Looking back, when the last Irish jersey was launched in the run-up to the World Cup in 2007, there was a definite sense of the 'Emperor's new clothes' about it. Under Eddie O'Sullivan, Ireland managed victories only over Italy, Namibia, Geogia and Scotland in their new, hi-tech tops.
When Declan Kidney inherited that jersey and its tenants last year, he cut his cloth to measure and what once was regarded as an unlucky charm -- similar to Manchester United's infamous grey strip from the 1990s -- quickly became the garb of champions with Ireland winning nine of their last 10 internationals, picking up a Grand Slam along the way.
The freshly attired Ireland squad were in camp for the past two days and it is obvious thoughts have already turned to the World Cup in 2011 but, first up, there is the visit of Australia and South Africa to Croke Park in November.
The meeting with the recently crowned Tri-Nations champions, the world's top-ranked team, is understandably the big box office draw and, having tasted the power of the Springboks up close during the Lions' series defeat, star centre Brian O'Driscoll is relishing the prospect.
"You want to pit yourself against the best," said O'Driscoll. "It's up to you guys to build up the whole north versus south, Tri-Nations champions versus Grand Slam winners. They are playing really smart rugby, not making a huge amount of mistakes and when other teams make mistakes, they are punishing them."
After his post-Lions break, O'Driscoll is due to return for Leinster next week and admits he is "itching" to get back on the pitch.
"I'm really looking forward to it. Pre-season is hard going. It just becomes tiresome. You get sick of being in the gym and not actually playing games at weekends, anyone that's still in pre-season is itching to get going."
And a final word on O'Connell and the giggles?
"Once you get in those fits it's hard to stop. He's half-way there from the reddener point of view anyway with the colour of his head."