Friday 24 November 2017

Sinead Kissane: 2013 wasn't all black for Irish sport, but that day in the Aviva really was

Brian O'Driscoll reacts to the TMO of the final New Zealand try that lost the game
Brian O'Driscoll reacts to the TMO of the final New Zealand try that lost the game

Roald Dahl's 'Tales of the Unexpected' was first published in 1979. The year Brian O'Driscoll was born. The Ireland star had his own tales of the unexpected from 2013. January was a starting point; he unexpectedly lost the Ireland captaincy. A month later delivered a high point. He got a surprise phone-call from his wife the morning of Ireland's 6 Nations game against England; his first baby was on the way.

A low point? The title of one of Dahl's Tales is 'Neck'. Some would say Warren Gatland had plenty of that when he blindsided everyone by dropping O'Driscoll from the Lions team to play Australia in the final Test. O'Driscoll said he was so shocked he never asked if he was on the bench. "A kick in the guts" is how he succinctly put it. Another player who got a surprise tap on the shoulder from his manager this year was Clare's Shane O'Donnell. Different news. Stunning outcome. A few hours before the All Ireland Hurling Final replay, O'Donnell was informed by his manager Davy Fitz that he was starting the final. You know how this played out. Three goals. The Liam MacCarthy Cup. Garda escorts. 'The Late Late Show'. Stardom. It was a perfect sub-plot in a summer of hurling the likes of which no one saw coming.

In Gaelic football it wasn't just the action that was breathtaking. But the reaction. Like Joe Brolly's infamous outburst. The RTE pundit was apoplectic in studio after Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh rugby-tackled Monaghan's Conor McManus during their All Ireland Football quarter-final. Brolly's stinging attack went personal with his "you can forget about Sean Cavanagh as far as he's a man" comment. He later apologised to Cavanagh. But you have to admire Brolly for standing up for the spirit in which the game should be played.

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