Thursday 21 November 2019

Billy Keane: Nobody wants to read about rugby when we lose . . . but here goes

I couldn't watch the post-match on the television. I'm pretty certain Ronan O'Gara was criticised for a wayward kick. Ireland had enough chances to win this one by 20 points, yet Scotland fluked it. We must take it out on someone. Our loved ones have suffered enough.

Will the organisers of yesterday's car rally, held somewhere in the midlands, please inform their competitors we drive on the left here in Ireland. Some of the drivers scared the life out of Mass-goers, walkers, runners, cyclists, blue tits and me.

A strange thought went through my head after the near-death experience. It must have been the shock. Is Sunday morning sex a thing of the past?

Half the country seems to be out walking, cycling or running. The only leg over is when a lad gets up on his new bike. I think there's some sort of a tax rebate if you buy a bike. Probably comes from the Greens' time in government, when they were keeping an eagle eye on the economy. The reality is it's a stealth tax on Sunday morning lie-ins/love-ins.

I wouldn't mind but up until the meeting with the mad drivers, it was a lovely spring morning. The fields of Kilkenny and Laois lost their winter anaemia. These fertile lands were as green as the Irish jerseys. But for Ireland it was winter. Ah, but that's an awful cliche of a line. The line is so bad, I'm not going to delete it – as a warning to journalism students and editors. For Ireland it was winter. It's true though.

But let us go back to the rally drivers just for a minute before we get into the match analysis.

The rally drivers wear these big helmets and have all kinds of steel bars fitted in case they tumble over or hit someone head on, but we have no such protection. Then there was a young lad who wasn't even in the rally, and he was swerving all over the place in a car that must have been at least twice his age. Some expert told me they do that to warm up the tyres. What is it will all that "vroom, vroomin" anyway? Sunday driving is for old ladies who take the car for its weekly outing to Mass and the paper shop.

There was a flattened hedgehog on the motorway near the Rathdowney exit. I can't say for certain it was the rally drivers who dunnit, but definitely the swerving boy racer had the same hairstyle.

I suppose we better get to the match. I always find when Ireland lose nobody really wants to read about the game anyway. I've never heard of anyone framing the letter saying they failed all their exams.

There's a load of notes here but I'd rather face into the Dail reports. We'll do a quick summary.

Donnacha Ryan was our best player and Peter O'Mahony wasn't far behind him. Ulster's Luke Marshall burst through brilliantly and so, too, did Keith Earls. There are stronger daisy chains than the Scottish midfield defence but, alas, we couldn't finish our line breaks with a try.

Young Paddy Jackson didn't play too badly. He missed a few kicks, but two of those were from difficult angles and he hit the post with one. Whatever way you look at the game, Scotland still won. But we were missing half our team.

Before I forget.The mad young driver had an earring in his nose. So there. If his mother doesn't recognise him after that description, I'd be shocked. She should take the keys off him until he's 35 and make him soften his own Liga.

In spite of several attempts to put me in the ditch, I made it home from the magic, medieval city of Kilkenny in time for one of Brenda Sexton's birthday parties. Brenda is Jonathan Sexton's Nana and he's mad about her.

Not that I asked, but Brenda gives her age as "in my 70s" – but even allowing for the fact she gave herself well-deserved remission for good behaviour, the lady looks remarkably well.

Brenda felt for Paddy Jackson. Some Nana's grandson. "Oh God", she said, "I hope he doesn't miss it. For himself." I think what Brenda meant was she was hoping Paddy would get the kick, not just for the scoreboard, but also for his confidence. A mercenary Nana would have wished the ball wide. Paddy is playing in the same position as her injured grandson, but Brenda remembers the days when Jonathan was trying to make a name for himself and there were those who were cruel in their criticism of a young player. Just because a kid makes a living from a game doesn't make him a man. That takes time and we must be patient with the new players.

Then, when Ronan O'Gara came on and Ireland were only a point down Brenda said a sort of prayer for ROG. "Ronan might get a drop-goal, with the help of God."

Ronan didn't manage the winner this time. But he is still the man who scored the decisive drop-goal when Ireland finally captured the Grand Slam back in 2009 for the first time in 60 years. And he always will be.

Irish Independent

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