In a memorable weekend for sport on these shores, Joe Schmidt’s Ireland sealed the 6 Nations grand slam with victory in Twickenham. Meanwhile, at Croke Park, Na Piarsaigh and Cuala served up a cracker in bleak conditions.
As for the biggest talking points in Irish sport right now, there is really only one place to start…
Only one winner in the the battle of Schmidt and Jones
After 73 minutes at Twickenham on Saturday last, a message flashed along the new digital advertising hoardings. ‘JOIN THE ENGLISH RUGBY CLUB FOR FREE.’ Price drop?
While the intention certainly was not to emphasise the home sides falling rugby stock, it added irony, as well as insult to injury. Ireland had stormed the London fortress, and quite simply blew the bemused hosts away.
The so called ‘Clash of the Titans’ never materialised, as Joe Schmidt’s green warriors took their game to a whole new level. This was the battle of two teams heading in the opposite direction. Ireland had hero’s all over the pitch. The match was encapsulated by Sean Cronin’s try saving tackle on Mike Brown.
This was the performance England should have delivered in Dublin last year, yet just like on that occasion, they were outhought and outfought, and out coached by Ireland.
If a you compiled a league table of the last six rounds of the Six Nations, England would be where they stand right now, occupying second last place, ahead of the mighty Italy.
It will remain one of the mysteries of life, how such a limited side racked up a near world record amount of wins. The circus created by their coach Eddie Jones in recent weeks has not helped, but it’s hard to get away from the notion, that the wheel has come full circle since the last World Cup.
England and their clueless coach are back to square one, while it’s onwards and upwards for ever improving Ireland.
Cuala and Na Piarsaigh deliver in the ‘Toughest’ Club Hurling Final ever.
Siberian conditions in Croke Park, but an All Ireland Club hurling final to warm the heart. The battle of the two former champions lived up to its billing, as holders Cuala conjured up a rescue act, even the great Houdini would have been proud of. Even with the mercurial Con O’Callaghan unable to escape the shackles of a rugged Limerick rearguard, somehow the Dublin side dodged the bullet not once, but twice.
Na Piarsaigh had kicked for home in the final five minutes of an adsorbing affair. It looked like they had both hands on the Andy Merrigan Cup, when they went three up as the game entered it’s dying moments. Matty Kenny men don’t die easily however, and to their eternal credit they forced a replay. They don’t call this championship the ‘Toughest for nothing, this was hell for leather, with two great teams slugging it out. Whoever wins the next day will have certainly earned that toughest of all accolades.
Derek McGrath the biggest loser in 1A game of chance.
Balance. A sporting buzzword for the generation. Waterford were relegated because of a lack of it, as they straddled the fine line between experimentation and getting results. A late surge which yielded two wins, was ultimately not enough for the 2017 All-Ireland finalists.
McGrath elected to make no substitutions in their opening round against Wexford. While he frequently protested that he was not being flippant, the ‘Deise’ basically used that match as a training spin. To then make double digit changes for the trip to Tipperary was to say the least, at the opposite end of the spectrum. Waterford seemed to caught between two stools in this campaign, neither half in nor half out. They paid a heavy price as Cork located their inner ‘Corkness,’ to condemn McGrath and company, to hurlings version of the Twilight Zone, Division 1B.
As All Ireland champions Galway and also Limerick can attest, it could be a long stay for the Deise. At the end of the day, McGrath knows it will be all forgotten, if they can win the Holy Grail in August. Trouble is if they keep hurling like this, they won’t make it out of Munster.