Saturday 16 November 2019

Sean Diffley : Ireland should look to Bronze Age for best way forward

Sean Diffley

Once upon a time, in the Bronze Age, our island was run by warring Celts. They dwelt in the forests and were, pre-history assures us, smallish men, but remarkably fast.

There was Coillte MacRonain, who was the quickest of the speedy Fianna, faster, apparently, than even Usain Bolt. By all accounts, he was certainly not the sort you'd be comfortable welcoming in a clearing on a dark night.

And what, you may wonder, has this to do with sport – and rugby in particular? Well, we are the 'victims' of our Celtic statures. Our race is generally small and lacks the massive physiques of such as the South Africans and, after that memorable epistle at Twickenham last Saturday, the bulk of the English at present. And, of course, the chastened New Zealanders.

So, is there a case for calling on our coaching class to introduce a policy of producing Celtic-style teams, fast and furious and, like our warring ancestors, out-perform our large, labouring opponents.

We certainly have plenty of the skill factor, and the smaller in stature can often surprise.

Remember Fionn MacCumhaill, who wasn't particularly big but was still capable of throwing a large piece of land into the sea and creating the Isle of Man... or so they tell us.

The reality is, after watching England and the All Blacks, we will never beat them unless we adopt a clever ploy, a David versus Goliath strategy.

It is true that we Irish have a poor record in producing sprinters, but our rugby history reveals that we have had the services of impressive speedsters down the years – Simon Geoghegan, Tony O'Reilly, the O'Flanagan brothers, Moss Finn, Fergus Slattery, Jim McCarthy...

There are plenty of fast movers in the present professional team and seeking to match the big guys will never be a paying option.

I'm a bit surprised at a lot of the media reaction to England's performance against the All Blacks.

I would rank the England display as the best I've ever seen from them and a performance that, if repeated (big question) would make them favourites for a Grand Slam.

The All Blacks, losing 15-0 at half-time, showed their world champion quality by scoring two unstoppable tries to make it 15-14, but England's response ranks them as a top-quality side.

They had been unimpressive in their earlier games, but claimed that they would get it right in the end. Most of us curled our lips at that, typical England arrogance, but after last Saturday we had to swallow our words.

England come to Lansdowne Road in February and will have only a first-round game with coachless Scotland behind them.

They are famously strong in the back-row trio and their irrepressible centre, Manu Tuilagi, who ran through Dan Carter in one memorable incident, will undoubtedly put it up to our boys.

Ireland to outrun them in the Aviva? That would be memorable.

Irish Independent

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