Wednesday 13 December 2017

'We now hold a 100pc record against the All Blacks here in Chicago'

Craig Gilroy, Cian Healy, Jared Payne and Donnacha Ryan celebrate victory over the All Blacks in Chicago. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Craig Gilroy, Cian Healy, Jared Payne and Donnacha Ryan celebrate victory over the All Blacks in Chicago. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ann Logue

At the 1945 World Series in Chicago, William Sianis, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, brought his pet goat to see the game.

Security would not allow the animal to stay in, and Sianis placed a curse on the Chicago Cubs.

For years, the Chicago Cubs had a series of unlikely losses, and fans tried increasingly desperate and different rituals to break the curse.

Last week, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years.

Then, it seemed that the magic that broke the curse extended to Ireland, as they beat the All Blacks for the first time in 111 years.

On Sunday, Ireland fans took advantage of sunny, 21C weather to recover from the night's revelries, see the team off, and take in some Chicago sights.

The Intercontinental hotel on Michigan Avenue was a home-from-home for many Irish fans.

First line of business for many yesterday was breakfast. Walt Fyda, an American-born rugby fan, and friends Jeffrey Howard and Patrick Thornton, originally from Co Clare and now of Boston, were waiting for Zia's Lago Vista restaurant to open.

"We were here for the parade and went down to the game yesterday. I had a good feeling about it," Mr Thornton said.

"It was the first match since (Munster coach Anthony) Foley passed away."

Vincent and Nicki Holohan of Dublin were out seeing the sights.

"It's been an unbelievable week," Mr Holohan said.

"We thought every last player on the Irish team was heroic," he added.

The team were getting ready to leave from the Trump International Hotel and Towers, and a miniature green army were there to see them off.

Tara Spain from Limerick and Colette Fleming, a Galway native based in the UK, were sporting team colours in the hotel lobby. Colette had lined up a ticket to the match only a week ago but was so glad she made the trip.

"I would travel anywhere for the Ireland team," she said.

She was staying for a chance to see the players, and her friend was leaving for Mass at Holy Name Cathedral.

"We'll need a credit card for all the candles we'll need to light," she said.

Bernadette and Paddy Shanahan of Dublin booked a room at the Trump hotel because they heard the team would be there. Ms Shanahan said that the most memorable thing was the walk to the hotel after the game.

"There was a river of green shirts, singing, all the way back from the stadium."

Mr Shanahan said that the game was magical.

"It's almost like there was an invisible hand that came down and said, this is going to be their day. We now have a 100pc record against the All Blacks here in Chicago," he said.

Outside, Danny, Joe, and Mark O'Hare of County Down, and their friend Jim Thompson who moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin from Down, had their picture taken with Jamie Heaslip.

"It's a day we'll remember for the rest of our lives," Mr Thompson said.

Reba Rowe of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Sinead Butler, of Vancouver by way of Limerick, were on their way to breakfast when they joined the crowd waiting for the team. After breakfast, they were going to visit Wrigley Field, where the Chicago Cubs play. "They waited 108 years. We waited 111 years," Ms Butler said.

At the Chicago River were Fergus Conlon, of Ballinamore in Leitrim, and Padraig Howard, John Cahill, and Paudie Daly, all of Kerry.

"Two victories in one week, the Cubbies and the Paddies," Conlon said. Their play for yesterday was recovery.

The Emerald Loop Club was serving a breakfast buffet for those fans in need of something healthy after a long night.

Sitting at the bar were John Farley, originally of Cork and now of Boston, Cyril Kavanaugh of Kildare and now of Boston, and Chris Hein of Chicago. Saturday's game was the first they had seen live.

"It was unbelievable," Mr Farley said. "That's the only word."

"I'm more of a baseball fan than a rugby fan," Mr Hein said. "This is one of the best weekends ever."

Conor and Owen Fitzgerald of Waterford were finishing up breakfast and trying to take on the day.

"The game was the best one was ever," Conor Fitzgerald said. "I really can't talk today."

Philip Walsh and Cyril O'Donnell of Dungarvan, Waterford, were shopping on State Street. They had been to the Disney Store and Gap and were on their way to Macy's.

"We're picking up brownie points back home," Mr O'Donnell said. Both men were moved by the significance of the 40-29 final score.

"We had Foley on our backs," Walsh said.

And many felt that the late great number eight was watching their backs, as well.

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