Thursday 23 November 2017

If Munster can beat Kiwis, so can Ireland

Sean Diffley

This constantly referring to the record of Ireland never beating New Zealand is, I believe, just another indication of the national tendency of viewing situations as a glass half-empty rather than half-full, or preferring the keen of ochone and the dark clouds instead of the blue sky.

None of us were around when the Maoris murdered us all in 1905. I've witnessed a fair few encounters with the All Blacks in recent years and there were a few times the Kiwis barely saved their unbeaten record. In fact, but for the flip of a coin, the Irish should have won three times.

And it is a fact that the so-called mighty All Blacks have won the World Cup only twice and were steeped to win both -- on home soil.

I was there for the first World Cup back in 1987 when France beat Australia in an epic semi-final. A week later, the exhausted French were beaten in the final, with New Zealand progressing from a weakish pool consisting of Italy, Argentina and Fiji.

Then, in last year's event, a French team saddled with an eccentric coach should have overcome the All Blacks, but for the additional burden of a home-town referee.

Now that the northern hemisphere has embraced the professional game, the gospel that says the game south of the equator is supreme should be rejected as an age-old myth.

Ireland's problem will not be a difference in skill levels, but with fitness after a long, hard season and the absence of players such as Stephen Ferris, Tommy Bowe, and Paul O'Connell.

ALBATROSS

But let's not afflict ourselves with that albatross of a historical list of defeats. It's today that concerns us and the signs are that the Irish have adapted to the professional game more successfully than most. The exploits of the four provinces have sent a message far and wide that Ireland are no longer to be trifled with. The old amateur days of a couple of half-hour training sessions a week are long gone.

As for that notorious record, the fact is that Ireland should have won at Lansdowne Road in 1963 and 1974 and in Dunedin in 1992.

Ireland led 5-3 at Lansdowne in 1936 from a try by the Clontarf wing Johnny Fortune, converted by Tom Kiernan to a try (three points in those days) for New Zealand.

Then, as the crowd were praying and imploring the referee to blow the final whistle, instead he penalised an Irish scrum at halfway at the left touchline. Full-back Don Clarke kicked a massive penalty to win 6-5.

In 1973 came the famous Tom Grace try to level the scores 10-10 and from the right touchline, Barry McGann's attempted conversion was inches wide, so the All Blacks escaped with a draw.

In 1992 in Dunedin, the Irish had a match-winning opportunity when there was a gaping hole for a try to win the game, but the pass to wing Ronnie Carey was untakeable.

Blazes, Munster beat them, why can't the rest of us?

Irish Independent

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