Blood, sweat and tears of joy for BOD's brave Irish warriors
Golden generation in a nail biting finale as O'Driscoll ends Irish career on high
Published 16/03/2014 | 02:30
In recent times, Irish fans have all too often had to endure plenty of terror, and the road to this championship win has no doubt been long and hard.
For such an array of talent in this generation of players, the single solitary title in 2009 represented a sorry return.
Victory is won not in miles but in inches – and Ireland yesterday battled hard all over the pitch.
A marvellous second-half display showed that the cruel curse of inconsistency that has so often blighted this Irish team had been banished.
Joe Schmidt's men showed the steely nerve required to win a championship.
Donal Lenihan said it right – a lot of Irish blood has been shed in Paris over the years. There was more yesterday as Devin Toner nursed a suspected broken nose within minutes of the kick-off and Johnny Sexton knocked out cold with ten minutes to go.
But 6-0 down, after 21 minutes, Ireland showed their brilliant attacking menace with Johnny Sexton going over, only to miss an relatively easy conversion. A second converted try within minutes allowed us to believe.
The occasion, if it needed it, was made all the more special, given it was a certain number 13's final outing in the colour green.
That stunning hat-trick Brian O'Driscoll scored in the same ground 14 years ago, which announced his arrival on the international rugby scene, was much spoken about before kick off.
He may not have delivered such a blistering performance for his swansong, but BOD certainly played his part. O'Driscoll's parents Frank and Ger looked calm and collected as they arrived at the stadium and proudly looked on as their son threw his body on the line one more time for Joe Schmidt's squad.
"It's another emotional day after the Aviva last week, which was very special," the 34-year-old's wife Amy Huberman said. "I am incredibly proud of Brian and all that he has achieved on the pitch playing for Ireland."
The actress, who travelled without baby daughter Sadie, flew directly from the UK and landed in Saint Denis on the outskirts of the capital just in time for lift-off.
Her fellow wives and girlfriends lunched in the city centre and joined the throngs in the makeshift Irish village.
"A beer to calm the nerves is the best way," Gordon D'Arcy's wife Aoife Cogan said before taking her seat in the stands.
The glamorous troupe stood out from the crowd and it was only Peter O'Mahony's other half of four years Jessica Moloney who donned a jersey.
Jonathan Sexton's pregnant wife Laura took her seat early.
Hayley Ryan, girlfriend of Dave Kearney, noted how thrilled she was to see the winger complete his debut season for Ireland, while Mary Scott and Holly Carpenter said they were looking forward to congratulating the team at the official dinner later on, which took place in the grounds.
"It's amazing for Brian and Amy to get to mark the end of his career here, it's so special for them," said model Carpenter.
That the game was the final game of three on the day, and the final game of the entire championship only added to the drama.
As the new Six Nations champions celebrated in front of their supporters, there was no doubt the day belonged to O'Driscoll and Ireland.
An emotional Brian O'Driscoll said: "I was in tears earlier when Joe (Schmidt) gave the team talk. I'm sure there'll be tears later. It was magnificent and it will probably only sink in tomorrow."
He said he was "so delighted" to go out on a high.
"Two man of the match medals in six weeks seems farcical," he joked.
"I should have retired ages ago."
Paul O'Connell was almost lost for words as he paid tribute to his retiring team-mate after the final whistle blew.
"It will never be the same again," he said simply as the curtain came down on one of the most momentous matches in Irish rugby to date.
Then we watched as the man of the moment, the man of the decade, led his troops on a victory lap in front of the delirious Irish fans in the stadium.
A kiss from his wife, an embrace from Ronan O'Gara, and a jig on his way to the podium, the father-of-one gave the ultimate farewell.