Friday 15 November 2019

History beckons but taunts us too

Cian Healy and the Ireland team will remember the pain of losing to Wales in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup
Cian Healy and the Ireland team will remember the pain of losing to Wales in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup

Ger Gilroy

The tears of Ian Madigan, the ankle-breaking swerve of Robbie Henshaw, the beastly power of Iain Henderson, the grimace and squeal of pain on Paulie's face.

The endless shots of Irish fans going crazy in the stands and the weird addition of being able to badly lip-read Joe Schmidt's communiqués to whoever he's talking to are some of the images we'll never lose from Ireland-France.

Unfortunately, as we learned from the football last weekend, if the result isn't backed up, the significance is stripped away and the memories will become disassociated, individual moments. We have to win and we're not as nervous about this Argentina game as we should be.

As I write this, Ireland are five-point favourites for a game that will see them with a massively reshuffled pack and, potentially, a couple of backs missing too. It's an odd situation that Argentina aren't getting credit for their resurgence over the last 18 months.

It's made all the more odd by this weird generational hoodoo we've had come the quarter-finals, and our history with Argentina. I mean give us a full team and we'll pound them for sure but strip us of our five key starters and we're still supposed to win by five points?


That's a lot to expect from our squad but expectation is now second nature to this team - that's what this team have created. That they found a way to dominate the game as their comrades fell speaks to a steel that gives us hope. We do like to make things hard for ourselves though, don't we?

The reasons for optimism won't go away even though there's an eerie similarity to 2011. Maybe the existence of those 2011 ghosts are ok though, maybe the fact that so many bodies around remember the pain of losing to a Wales team who played better in that game but weren't actually empirically a better team can inspire this group to write their own history. Again.

This World Cup has been brilliant, and tonight we hope to do it justice with our full on love-in for the tournament past and present, live from a packed 3Arena. We're kicking off with the favourite World Cup memories of Brian O'Driscoll, Keith Wood, Stephen Ferris and Eddie O'Sullivan. We might just talk about Will Genia and Ferris because sometimes the old ones are the best.

Of course we're asking Felipe Contepomi to reveal some Argentine state secrets and, just to tease us, Tim Horan will tell us what it's actually like to win the bloody thing - twice. We've some more mayhem planned, I've no doubt it will degenerate into warm chaos. A little of bit chaos raining down on Argentina on Sunday wouldn't go amiss either. Enjoy the show tonight folks, we will.

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