My formative rugby years were in the 1970s watching on a black and white TV screen with my Dad. Why do we support the Men in Green is asked my Dad: they always lose? Well my father and I still support the men in green. He taught me to do so as his mother had taught him and we have had a great couple of decades. But it is over. The good times have officially ended and we return to what I consider normality. That is to say a battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
This season has been terrible. For the first 45 minutes against Wales we looked like world beaters. Since then it has been just dreadful. Frankly the Irish ladies team (who, I think, won their grand slam) have played with more passion and discipline and – at times – skill.
It is the end of an era. Not once have I had a chance to call Aunt Valerie (an Ulster woman) to share joy in a way that she cannot with her husband Uncle Chris, as Ireland have triumphed. Calls to my father have been sad as we wonder if those glory years – a twenty year period when Ireland were not good but great as opposed to the normal fare of brave also rans – are just over.
I am not even sure that I would describe Ireland as brave these days. Back in the 70s we would pray for the rain to poor down on Landsdowne Road. Keep it tight in the forwards and fight with passion, pray and hope. The late Moss Keane, Fergus Slattery, those were the days. In defeat those Ireland teams were brave.
And now? That the manager Declan Kidney has to go is without doubt. This has been the worst six nations in living memory and losing to both Scotland and Italy (though both sides are greatly improved) is shameful. And Brian O’Driscoll has now played his last game for Ireland. Injuries have taken their toll on his body and if he joins or even leads the Lions this summer I think sentiment will have won over reason. It should not have ended this way for a great servant of Irish rugby and, by all accounts, a good man.
I am told that there are a lot of good young players coming through. I hope so but the Irish side as it stands is quite simply not very good. It is poor. And it is not brave or disciplined either.
But as my father always says, at least Olivia will be happy. Wales have triumphed once again and my daughter’s mother (big nose) will have been screaming with joy. Deservedly so. And at least the swagger and arrogance that accompanies English rugby when it is on a roll has been destroyed today. The proud and boastful chariots have crashed. This is not chippy anti English sentiment just a comment about a certain aspect of English rugby.
But this is no consolation. For most of my adult life I have got a glimpse of what it must be like to support Chelski on their day. That is to say Ireland won games, won titles and we not only deserved to win but expected to win and to win by playing great rugby. But that era has been drawing to a close for a couple of seasons now. And now supporting Ireland is like supporting West Ham. I will never support anyone else but each season starts with a low expectation which the team I support with a passion will be almost certain to deliver on.