Thursday 17 October 2019

The best of the season

2 February 2013; Cian Healy, Ireland, goes over for his side's second try, despite the tackle of Mike Phillips, Wales. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Wales v Ireland, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2013; Cian Healy, Ireland, goes over for his side's second try, despite the tackle of Mike Phillips, Wales. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Wales v Ireland, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
26 February 2011; Ireland coach Philip Doyle. Women's Six Nations Rugby Championship, Scotland v Ireland, Lasswade, Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
16 April 2013; Connacht's Kieran Marmion in action during squad training ahead of their side's Celtic League 2012/13, Round 21, game against Ulster on Friday. Connacht Rugby Squad Training, Sportsground, Galway. Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Nobody was exempt from pockets of poor form in a season of wildly inconsistent displays from both the provincial and international sides, but the development of Murray (right) into a player of true international stature was marked, particularly in the stirring display against France in Dublin.

Nobody was exempt from pockets of poor form in a season of wildly inconsistent displays from both the provincial and international sides, but the development of Murray (right) into a player of true international stature was marked, particularly in the stirring display against France in Dublin.

It will be fascinating to see if his experience on the Lions tour will accelerate that rate of improvement as he seeks to establish himself as a leader under newly appointed coach, Joe Schmidt.

Newcomer of the season

Kieran Marmion

This scrum-half (right) was not even mapped at the start of the year and now he is being touted for a pivotal role on the forthcoming tour to North America, with calls for him to leapfrog Ulster's luckless Paul Marshall in the absence of both Murray and Eoin Reddan.

The Welsh-born scrum-half benefited from one of Declan Kidney's enlightened policies of recruiting fringe players into the international training camp, with Marmion pitching up in February to get a first feel of Team Ireland. It shouldn't be his last.

Coach of the season

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

Phillip Doyle

Schmidt and Ulster coach Mark Anscombe may yet collect silverware, but, on the international front at least, there was no disputing the most stellar achievement in the sport.

Doyle (above) led the Ireland women's team to a historic first ever Grand Slam, culminating in a typically gritty 6-3 victory in the Milan muck just 24 hours after the bedraggled senior men were humiliated and chased out of Rome.

Try of the season

Cian Healy v Wales

Probably the only time in history that a front-row forward flopping down from a yard or so out gained so many plaudits. But how can one forget the preceding oasis of brilliance in the Cardiff sunshine that offered supporters such hope of good times to come?

The Simon Zebo flick remains the nonpareil back-garden trick for sports-mad kids and, whether it was Rory Best's avaricious chargedown or Peter O'Mahony's Fofana-esque basketball offload, this was the briefest glimpse of what this Ireland team were capable.

What a pity it was all too brief.

Tackle of the season

BRIAN O'DRISCOLL

Any number of hits from Brian O'Driscoll would suffice.

Our favourite comes from the period when Ireland were somehow stemming a Welsh tide in that remarkable game of two halves in Cardiff.

His smashing hit on Ian Evans still sends shivers down the spine months later – and the Welsh second-row is probably still feeling the effects to this day.

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