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Gone are the days when Ireland were grist to the NZ mill. They want to make a mark and Maori will be a good measure

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Joe McCarthy and Ryan Baird during Ireland’s training session at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland yesterday. Picture by Brendan Moran

Joe McCarthy and Ryan Baird during Ireland’s training session at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland yesterday. Picture by Brendan Moran

Joe McCarthy and Ryan Baird during Ireland’s training session at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland yesterday. Picture by Brendan Moran

“The one thing that will always live in my mind was after that game — we’d played well and were beaten only by 30 points. And we were going home on the bus afterwards and we were laughing and joking and singing. And Brian stood up. ‘For f**k sake you’re a national side, development or not, and you’re after being beaten by 30 points, and you’re f*****g happy? You should be quiet as mice, going home to your room and nobody coming out until we go training.’ That summed it up. This was professional rugby.”

The Brian concerned was Brian Ashton, coach of Ireland from 1997-98. The man reliving the post-match bus journey was Alan McGrath, a young Shannon centre whose AIL form had earned him a place on the development tour to New Zealand and Samoa. The game in question, where Ireland had kept the losing margin to almost 30 points, was against the Maori in the Showgrounds in Palmerston North in June 1997.


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