Friday 23 March 2018

Banishing the Cardiff blues

In the 1970s, Ireland could not buy a win in Wales but, since 1985, they have enjoyed a remarkable, logic-defying record ofsuccess in Cardiff, writes Hugh Farrelly

Paul O'Connell celebrates at the end of Ireland's victory against Wales which secured the Grand Slam in 2009.
Paul O'Connell celebrates at the end of Ireland's victory against Wales which secured the Grand Slam in 2009.
The 1985 team link arms before the national anthem which set the tone for a memorable day in Cardiff.

Hugh Farrelly

Between 1967 and 1985, trips to Cardiff were associated with pain and, frequently, humiliation.

Those were halcyon days for Welsh rugby, the time of Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Mervyn Davies, Phil Bennett, John Dawes and a host of other supreme talents, combining to make Wales one of the most feared sides in the world game and the backbone of the successful Lions tours of 1971 and 1974.

Ireland lost eight times in succession, a run of defeats that spanned entire international careers, with great players like Willie Duggan and Fergus Slattery never experiencing what it was like to win in Cardiff.

Then, suddenly, the fixture was flipped on its back. Under the ebullient guidance of Mick Doyle, Ireland travelled to Cardiff in March 1985 and, adhering to Doyle's 'give it a lash' mantra, secured a thrilling and unexpected victory. It was a day of special memories.

It may be commonplace now but when Ireland captain Ciaran Fitzgerald gave the signal to link arms during the anthems, he was breaking new ground while creating a famous image in the process.

Helped by Wales full-back Mark Wyatt having an off-day with the boot, Ireland blitzed the home side with their fast, loose approach, with wingers Keith Crossan and Trevor Ringland crossing for tries and Mick Kiernan kicking the rest of the points in what ended up as a relatively comfortable 21-9 victory.

It set the tone for the next quarter of a century as the Irish embarked on a logic-defying run of results that, between '85 and 2009, saw Ireland experience a solitary defeat in Cardiff to go with their 10 wins and a draw (they even won in Wembley when the match was switched there in 1999).

Even during Irish rugby's nadir in the 1990s, trips to Cardiff provided shafts of light to penetrate the gloom while, their 2005 defeat aside, it has also proved a place of fond memories since the national side turned the corner at the start of the last decade.

Ireland's Cardiff Run

Mar 16, 1985

Wales 9 Ireland 21

The second leg of the Triple Crown run when, thriving on the quick ball provided by their forwards, the Ireland back-line stunned a talented Welsh unit containing the likes of Terry Holmes, Gareth Davies, Mark Ring and Bob Ackerman. Keith Crossan scooting through the heart of the Welsh defence to score the decisive try was the stand-out moment.

IRELAND -- H MacNeill; T Ringland, B Mullin, M Kiernan, K Crossan; P Dean, M Bradley; P Orr, C Fitzgerald (Capt), J McCoy; D Lenihan, W Anderson; P Matthews, N Carr, B Spillane.

Apr 4, 1987

Wales 11 Ireland 15

Doyle was still sticking loyally to his Triple Crown team, although Ciaran Fitzgerald had moved on to be replaced by Donal Lenihan as captain. Wales had the giant John Devereux at centre and a new star winger in Ieuan Evans, but superb scores from Paul Deans and Brendan Mullins were enough to secure a narrow victory.

IRELAND -- H MacNeill; T Ringland, B Mullin, M Kiernan, K Crossan; P Dean, M Bradley; P Orr, H Harbison, D Fitzgerald; D Lenihan (Capt), W Anderson; P Matthews, N Carr, B Spillane.

Feb 4, 1989

Wales 13 Ireland 19

Another cracking contest, which produced one of Ireland's most famous tries. Bleddyn Bowen breaks blind and tries to kick ahead only to be blocked by Ireland No 8 Noel Mannion, who gathers and sets off on a lung-bursting 65-metre charge for the right-hand corner. Wonderful.

IRELAND -- F Dunlea; M Kiernan, B Mullin, D Irwin, K Crossan; P Dean, F Aherne; T Clancy, S Smith, J McCoy; D Lenihan, W Anderson; P Matthews (capt), P O'Hara, N Mannion.

Feb 16, 1991

Wales 21 Ireland 21

The season of Brian Smith and Simon Geoghegan. Ireland's 'where'd he go' Aussie out-half preferred the running game and he had plenty of eager runners outside him, led by Geoghegan who embarrassed Steve Ford for a clinical score in 'Mannion's corner'.

Ireland scored four tries to two, their other touchdowns coming from Jim Staples, Brendan Mullin and Dolphins's Jack Clarke, but Phil Thorburn's kicking earned Wales a draw.

IRELAND -- J Staples; S Geoghegan, B Mullin, D Curtis, J Clarke; B Smith, R Saunders (Capt); J Fitzgerald, S Smith, D Fitzgerald; M Galwey, B Rigney; P Matthews, G Hamilton, B Robinson.

Mar 6, 1993

Wales 14 Ireland 19

Ireland were on a losing run of 11 matches and travelled to Wales with low expectations and a new out-half in Eric Elwood. The young Connacht man had a stormer, tormenting the Welsh with his kicking game and, with Brian Robinson powering over for a crucial try, the Irish snuck home to spark a flood of tears from their usually stoic loose-head Nick Popplewell.

IRELAND -- C Clarke; R Wallace, V Cunningham, P Danaher, S Geoghegan; E Elwood, M Bradley (capt); N Popplewell, T Kingston, P Clohessy; P Johns, M Galwey; P O'Hara, D McBride, B Robinson.

Mar 18, 1995

Wales 12 Ireland 16

Not a vintage match between two less-than-vintage teams. Ireland had replacement out-half Paul Burke to thank for their tense victory, the former England underage player kicking two penalties, a drop goal and converting Brendan Mullin's try to Neil Jenkins' four penalties.

IRELAND -- J Staples; R Wallace, B Mullin, P Danaher, S Geoghegan; E Elwood, N Hogan; N Popplewell, T Kingston, P Clohessy; D Tweed, G Fulcher; A Foley, E Halvey P Johns.

Feb 1, 1997

Wales 25 Ireland 26

Ireland were mired in the Brian Ashton era but once again Cardiff provided a miracle cure, with Denis Hickie scorching over (in Mannion's corner again) on his debut and fellow tyros Jonny Bell and Eric Miller also touching down.

IRELAND -- J Staples; D Hickie, M Field, J Bell, D Crotty; E Elwood, N Hogan; N Popplewell, R Nesdale, P Wallace; P Johns, J Davidson; D Corkery, D McBride, E Miller.

October 13, 2001

Wales 6 Ireland 36

The delayed 'foot and mouth' season when, after messing up selection for the trip to Murrayfield, Eddie O'Sullivan's side unleashed their frustration on the hapless Welsh. David Wallace was outstanding but it was the backs -- Shane Horgan, Hickie and Brian O'Driscoll -- who got the tries while David Humphreys kicked 19 points.

IRELAND -- G Dempsey; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, K Maggs, D Hickie; D Humphreys, P Stringer; P Clohessy, K Wood (Capt), J Hayes; M Galwey, M O'Kelly; E Miller, D Wallace, A Foley.

Mar 22, 2003

Wales 24 Ireland 25

Another Ronan O'Gara special. All the talk in the build-up was of the impending Grand Slam clash with England in Dublin and what was billed as a routine victory in Cardiff came close to disaster. Even with two tries from Keith Gleeson, Ireland were incredibly flat and it was left to O'Gara to come off the bench and drop a 40-metre goal.

IRELAND -- G Murphy; J Bishop, B O'Driscoll (Capt), K Maggs, D Hickie; D Humphreys, P Stringer; M Horan, S Byrne, J Hayes; L Cullen, M O'Kelly; A Quinlan, K Gleeson, A Foley.

Feb 4, 2007

Wales 9 Ireland 19

Revenge for the 2005 defeat as Ireland cruised to a comfortable three-try win (Rory Best, O'Driscoll, O'Gara) with Welsh attacks easily contained and the home side restricted to three Stephen Jones penalties.

IRELAND -- G Dempsey; A Trimble, B O'Driscoll (Capt), G D'Arcy; D Hickie; R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan, R Best, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; S Easterby, D Wallace, D Leamy.

Mar 21, 2009

Wales 15 Ireland 17

Immortalised as the day Ireland finally ended their 61-year Grand Slam agony. An afternoon of incredible drama, O'Driscoll and Tommy Bowe got the tries and O'Gara the crucial drop-goal before Stephen Jones came within inches of spoiling the party. He missed and Cardiff's special place in Irish rugby hearts was forever secured.

IRELAND -- R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; S Ferris, D Wallace, J Heaslip.

Irish Independent

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