Tuesday 23 July 2019

Ordinary men, an extraordinary team

GLORY: Johnny Sexton celebrates with team mates at the end of the Six Nations match between England and Ireland at Twickenham. Photo: Gerry Mooney
GLORY: Johnny Sexton celebrates with team mates at the end of the Six Nations match between England and Ireland at Twickenham. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Rory Tevlin in Twickenham and Wayne O'Connor

The Irish rugby team brought glory home on the national feast day with a Grand Slam victory that displayed all the great qualities of our people: wit, grit, tenacity and astonishing bravery.

With everything on the line, Joe Schmidt's warriors put England to the sword in stunning fashion.

Irish fans descended on Twickenham from early yesterday and there was a sense that the stars had aligned.

As our national day was celebrated around the world, all eyes turned to London at 2.45pm.

Tries from Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Jacob Stockdale gave Ireland a monumental 24-15 victory.

Winning the Grand Slam on St Patrick's Day, in the home of English rugby - well, that's a bit special.

In Arctic-like temperatures Ireland brought a ferocity that England could not match.

The chariot was dismantled and left burned out on the road to Richmond.

The English support began to filter out of Twickenham with 10 minutes left.

Gracious in defeat, they knew it was to be Ireland's day.

There were heroes everywhere but Tadhg Furlong shook the stadium with some of his hits.

His 'man of the match' performance will be celebrated in Wexford for years to come.

For one day London was ours and afterwards an emotional Joe Schmidt paid tribute to his team.

"We had Christy Moore in on Monday and he was fantastic," he said.

"He sang Ordinary Man at one stage and they are ordinary men, who are an extraordinary team who deliver exceptional deeds."

Schmidt paid a special tribute to his captain Rory Best and talisman Jonathan Sexton.

"He [Best] has led incredibly well and Sexton has got the Grand Slam he has been craving."

Schmidt also paid a special tribute to the young guns who, with an average age of 22.4, suggest Ireland can plan for a bright future.

"For young guys, and the backline at the end there you had Joey Carbery, to Jordan Larmour, to Garry Ringrose with Kieran Marmion and Jacob Stockdale on the wings. They will learn from the experience and I think they found it pretty tough going towards the end there but they didn't give it up easily."

President Michael D Higgins also paid tribute.

"Their example of what is possible when talent, skill, commitment and hard work combine with creativity and flair will inspire countless young people to take up sport and seek to challenge themselves," he said.

Rory Best said: "Words can't describe how delighted we are.

The Ireland Team Home Coming will take place in the Aviva Stadium today at 4.30pm.

Free tickets are available through ticketmaster.ie on a first-come-first-served basis.

TV3 will broadcast a special programme celebrating the Grand Slam at 4pm.

Sunday Independent

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