Tuesday 23 January 2018

Don't risk the family metal gambling on 'dead certs'

Sean Diffley

As we have constantly warned from this lectern, there is no such thing in sport as a 'dead cert'.

The evidence to support this was clear as the mud at Cheltenham and Croke Park last weekend. We were assured that you could safely put the family metal on Dunguib, Kauto Star, Ireland for the Triple Crown and France, dubbed the best rugby side in Europe by a long, unwinding boulevard.

Dead Certs? Dunguib lost in the long grass and Kauto seemed unaware of expectations. France, lucky France, did manage to eke out a win by a short head against the worst English beefsteak. But at least the monsieurs saved the concept of dead certainty from being a 100pc wash-out.

And what about that demolished triple crown at Croker?

After an aspirin and a short lie down, we'll come back to that. First, a bit of breaking news as that repetitious TV channel regularly pronounces. Connacht, who take on Leinster at the RDS today, were first allowed a representation on the IRFU committee 139 years ago. And the breaking news, after all those years, reveals that Connacht's first representatives were the Reverend George Baile, Richard Biggs and surprise, surprise, none other than Sligo-born JJ McCarthy, who was the highly entertaining and controversial chronicler of the early days of Irish rugby.

Jacques, or Jakes as he was more familiarly known, reported on the very first match between Ireland and Scotland, which took place in Belfast in 1877, six years after Jacques had become a Connacht rep on the IRFU committee.

"To relate our experience with the Thistle," wrote Jacques, "would be to tell one continuous tale of woe; but the superiority of Scotland is solely attributable to the tremendous strength of her forwards. They are also very rough.

"Our first match was played during the height of the dispute between Leinster and Ulster with the result that Ulster had 13 men on the team and the two that Leinster sent up might have been much better at home."

Jakes had a sour impression of Belfast, where Ireland, at last, had a win over Scotland in 1881. In his irreverent way, he describes the occasion, "when by some as yet unexplained miracle, the amphibious inhabitants of Northern Athens were favoured with a fairly fine day and the Ormeau grounds were packed with the largest assembly of spectators that ever passed the gates."

Ireland snatched a drop goal with five minutes remaining and, as Jakes relates: "The spell of sorrow was broken. We returned to Dublin by the 5.0 train, supremely happy."

Last Saturday's joust at Croke Park was the 126th between Ireland and Scotland and I'm a trifle surprised that Declan Kidney escaped all censure despite picking the wrong out-half and not using his bench well. Why was Leo Cullen not introduced to salvage the line-outs?

If Eddie 0'Sullivan had been coach, imagine the string of abuse.

Irish Independent

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