We all let ourselves down last week.
Ireland’s inept performance saw them become the victims of a legitimate giant-killing at the Rugby World Cup.
Japan were excellent, no doubt about it and fully deserving of their victory. However, for the second-placed team in the world to lose to a second-tier nation is totally and wholly unacceptable.
We in the media didn’t help the situation because when it comes to Irish rugby, we flip-flop more than Shane Ross on the FAI.
Last year, Ireland were real contenders for this World Cup after taking on all comers and winning, including a famous victory over New Zealand in Dublin.
Eight weeks later, we were back in the doldrums following a deflating defeat to England.
The mood got bleaker and bleaker until we hit rock bottom with another defeat to the old enemy, this time by 42-points. Just weeks out from the World Cup and we were living in fear.
Back-to-back wins over Wales followed by a strong showing against Scotland and all of a sudden the narrative strayed once more. To our complete ignorance, Japan barely figured last week as talk centred on Ireland’s impending showdown with South Africa and our quarter-final hoodoo.
The way in which we allow ourselves to blow this team up is ridiculous and akin to English soccer fans and their delusional behaviour towards the national team. At least they’ve actually won a World Cup.
While it may be the greatest Irish rugby side of all time, and the first time we stand a legitimate chance of winning honours on the world stage, let’s not get carried away. It’s desperate watching the narrative chop and change with each passing result.
I suppose that’s how it works? Classic Irishness. Take small successes and blow them out of proportion until we come crashing back down to earth again.
We aren’t the only ones who let ourselves down though.
Those begrudging this Irish side and taking joy in their World Cup defeat have to be among the saddest in the country.
Why take joy in seeing the country falter on a global scale?
The issue is obviously one of class and how many feel that rugby doesn’t represent their version of Ireland. The reactionary response, therefore, becomes one of instant hate.
Having followed women’s rugby at club level over recent seasons, the journey throughout Leinster has debunked many of the theories surrounding rugby’s elitist culture.
Rugby exists far beyond the confines of Dublin 4 and that should be recognised. Go to Barnhall, Mullingar, Navan, Athy and Arklow and tell all those good genuine rugby people that they and their sport is a reflection of Ireland’s elite.
To put an entire sport and its members under the one umbrella is abhorrently wrong. There is a class issue within rugby, but there’s also one within the GAA and the FAI has shown that soccer is culpable also. However, it’s never used as a stick to beat the sport with.
At the end of the day, that’s all it is, sport. We’re a country famous for getting behind our athletes yet the one mainstream sport we stand a chance in divides the nation more than Conor McGregor.
In a perfect world, sports and politics shouldn’t mix but we don’t live in that utopian society. Unfortunately, societal and economic factors are always going to ensure that a portion of the population view rugby as the exact opposite of what they’re telling us. A team of us.
However, in these uncertain times of such political unrest, we shouldn’t allow sport to be the enemy but rather the answer. The north is a perfect example of how rugby can become a beacon of hope for a peaceful future.
This column previously told the story of how Lurgan RFC, home to Jacob Stockdale, is using the sport as a tool to unite a town notorious for tragic tales deriding from division.
This is why we should be getting behind an Irish side who genuinely have hope. Arguments of class, while relevant, shouldn’t detract from the event and should never be used as a crutch to hope that a group of Irish men or women fail on the global stage.
It’s all a bit sad really. Trying to live in modern Ireland is tough enough. Trying to make sense of the world at present becomes a natural depressant. Why can’t we try and take sport for what it is? Escapism.
A chance to try and park our problems for a few hours and support each other’s achievements.
Everything, it seems, is political.
In the grand scheme of things, Saturday’s loss doesn’t change much.
The likelihood is that Joe Schmidt’s men will still fall at the quarter-final stage. The begrudgers will come out of the woodwork. And once more they’ll be slating an Irish side who’ve brought unprecedented joy to many corners of the country.
By the time 2023 rolls around us, the media, will still be talking them up as potential world-beaters and the same begrudgers will be praying for their downfall.
It’s all one big vicious cycle and unfortunately, it’s a reflection of society.