Wednesday 21 February 2018

Deafening roar and a heroes' welcome for our champions

Brian O'Driscoll with supporters as the Ireland team arrive at Dublin Airport
Brian O'Driscoll with supporters as the Ireland team arrive at Dublin Airport
Brian O'Driscoll poses for a selfie with Jack and Megan O'Donnell, from Co. Meath
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell and head coach Joe Schmidt with the 6 nations trophy as the Ireland team arrive at Dublin Airport
Paul O'Connell with the 6 nations trophy as the Ireland team arrive at Dublin Airport
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates as the Ireland team arrive at Dublin Airport
Paul OConnell with the Six Nations trophy, poses for photo with fans. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt poses for a photo with Ireland fan Liz Keenan, from Cooley, Co. Louth, and her son Oisin, 4 months.
Rob Kearney with fans Ben Purcell and Charlie O’Reilly.

Cormac Murphy

It wasn't just about the silverware, not this time.

When Brian O'Driscoll and the rest of Ireland's conquering heroes finally arrived in Dublin Airport with the Six Nations cup, the roar was deafening.

Led by captain Paul O'Connell, the team's appearance in Terminal 2 sent more than 1,000 fans into delirium.

The atmosphere had been building for well over an hour, until a stage was reached when cheers greeted everyone who walked through the arrivals gate. By the time O'Connell emerged carrying the Six Nations trophy, the joy could not be contained.

The flight had been delayed following Saturday's 22-20 triumph over France in Paris but it was worth the wait.

For head coach Joe Schmidt, it was a case of a job well done. But for 35-year-old O'Driscoll, it was a "fairy tale" finish to his 15 years in the green jersey.

"Fairy tales do happen. Sometimes fairy tales happen because you get a bit lucky but I think the harder he (O'Driscoll) worked the luckier he got," Schmidt said.

What words did he have for Brian afterwards? "I said 'thanks mate' – that's as special as it gets probably," he said.

Saturday's game against France was the last time O'Driscoll would don the Irish jersey and the tense finish before they were crowned winners means the game will go down in history.

O'Connell added: "It's great to be back with the trophy. There was about five or 10 minutes there towards the end of the game where I didn't think we'd be coming back with it.

"I didn't think we'd have waited as long after 2009 (when Ireland won the Grand Slam). I thought we would have kicked on.

"It's a great feeling and an incredible reception here from the supporters today as well. It's brilliant."

The Munster player didn't have anything to drink on Saturday night, though a "few of the younger boys did. I'll hopefully have a few today. My wife and kid are coming up to Dublin tonight so we're looking forward to celebrating with them," O'Connell said.

A lot of great players have retired in recent years but none in the manner of O'Driscoll.


"Not many of them would have been able to write a script like this, to finish like this, to finish winning away in Paris and winning a championship as well. They're both quite rare things to happen so it's a brilliant way for him to finish," O'Connell said.

Hooker Rory Best admitted the final moments seemed to take forever. "The last 90 seconds felt like about 40 minutes.

"I don't know what it was like for people watching at home, but sitting on the bench it was incredibly nerve-racking. They had to dig deep and it was great to get the win," he said.

And the celebrations?

"I think we'll put the maximum maybe two beers and that's all we're having," said Best, smiling broadly.

Gordon D'Arcy arrived back beard-less but O'Connell insisted he hadn't wielded the clippers.

"I was there beside it but I didn't get involved. I let them at it. I think he's going to grow it back. I think he was happy enough with it," the giant lock said.

With the players not arriving out until about 3.30pm, about 45 minutes late, the green-clad army created their own amusement.

First up was a rendition of 'Ireland's Call', followed by 'Fields of Athenry' and then 'Molly Malone'.

But it was nothing compared to the rapturous reception when the team eventually appeared.

Irish Independent

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