As the build up to Sunday’s big game against the old enemy continues we take a look at some of Ireland’s most memorable home wins against England.
There is a bias towards more recent encounters, with 1875-1984 not featuring. Anyone out there whose memory stretches back further may be able to enlighten us as to any glaring omissions.
5. 1985 – Ireland 13-10 England
This was rugby from a different era, Ireland wore cotton-green jerseys with no sponsors, players were of a normal size as opposed to the gym-forged giants prancing around the park today.
It was the last game of the season and Ireland were going for a Triple Crown having already accounted for Scotland and Wales in spectacular fashion, thanks to Mick Doyle’s running rugby philosophy. They took an early lead when a young, and incredibly pacy Brendan Mullin charged down the English full back’s clearance.
However, kicks by Rob Andrew and a Rory Underwood try brought England back into contention. As the game moved into the final quarter the tension was unbearable, the sides were deadlocked at ten points each and it seemed as though Ireland’s Triple Crown dream was fading.
Then up steps inspirational captain Ciaran Fitzgerald to rouse his troops with the now famous exhortation “where’s your fucking pride” quote…not quite Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday, but it had the desired effect.
Ireland launched a frenzied assault on the English line and came through thanks to a late Michael Kiernan drop goal.
4. 1993 – Ireland 17-3 England
This was the era when Geoff Cook managed a dominant England team and Will Carling was his trusted lieutenant on the pitch, it was a side that featured a whole host of villains that had tormented the Gaels over the years, Brian Moore and Tony Underwood chief among them.
This formidable force ruled the northern hemisphere in the early ’90s, the glory days of Welsh rugby were long gone, Scotland and Ireland were light years behind and the sublimely talented but woefully indisciplined French could not cope with the ruthless Anglo-Saxon efficiency.
It was against this backdrop that the 8/1 on favourites and a seemingly invincible England marched onto Lansdowne Road, expecting to put an abject Ireland to the sword as soon as the customary early Irish storm subsided, usually in these days it took about 20 minutes.
However, this time the tempest raged for the full 80 minutes as David beat the living crap out of Goliath from the first minute to the last. An absolutely epic performance was capped when Mick Galwey, then a young warrior, trundled over in the corner.
It was the kind of game that the ‘rugby was better in the old days’ brigade would cherish. Mick Doyle the TV pundit of the day described the occasion as an 80-minute orgasm, if such a thing were possible it would surely take a long recovery time before such heights were to be repeated, and so it proved to be the case as this victory was a rare highlight in a dismal decade for Irish rugby.
3. 2001 – Ireland 20-14 England
This game was played in October after the championship had been postponed due to the foot and mouth outbreak. Ireland had won their opening two games before resuming in the autumn.
A dismal display against the Scots put paid to Irish hopes of a grand slam, and England were on hand to finally close the deal after last day reversals to Scotland and Wales in the previous two years denied them the honour.
Again arrogance was their undoing however, they were woefully ill-prepared for the onslaught, not bothering to change the line out calls, which the Irish knew from the Summer Lions tour of Australia. A magnificent performance had the Saxon foe on the back foot, Kieth Wood crashed over for a try thanks to a nifty bit of obstruction by Eric Millar.
England came into the game towards the end as the Irish seemed to wilt, Dan Luger was running in a try when Peter stringer produced a tap tackle out of nowhere and Ireland held out. The championship however was England’s, on points difference, but the funny thing was the vanquished English side was forced to accept the trophy on the pitch to the derision of the home fans.
2. 2007 – Ireland 43-13 England
This one had the whole hand of history buzz around it; God Save The Queen was sung at Croke Park for the first time and all that stuff.
Emotion was running high, the iconic image of John Hayes welling up during Amhrán na bhFiann lives long in the memory, the solemn respect shown to the British national anthem from the Croke Park crowd was a credit.
When it came to the actual rugby though, Ireland showed absolutely no respect to the shambolic English, racking up a record score against the hapless visitors. This victory had a different feel from the others in that Ireland started as favourites and won with contemptuous ease.
Isaac Boss’ try in the last minute epitomised the entire game. During a ponderous English back row move the substitute scrum half intercepted a wayward pass and coasted over the line with a big fat grin on his face, payback for all the heavy defeats shipped by the Irish over the years.
1. 2011 – Ireland 24-8 England
This was England’s first visit to the redeveloped Lansdowne Road now branded the Aviva Stadium and the Irish extended them a warm welcome. The men in green utterly subdued the old enemy with massive 80 minutes and spoiled their Grand Slam party.
It was pantomime villain Martin Johnson’s first visit back to D4 since his unsavory antics in 2003 when he disrespected the Irish President in the pre-match formalities. On this day his team were absolutely destroyed, the 24-8 scoreline scarcely did justice to the Irish dominance.
England did however win the championship and were presented with their trophy in a hotel room later on, the kind of place you would end up for an offsite work meeting on cost savings, a fitting location for the humbled English.
A few days later it emerged that England’s kit manufacturers, Nike, had shot a commercial celebrating their grand slam victory as a stepping stone to World Cup glory, the story only added to the highly satisfying national schadenfreude.
Dan O’Mahony, Pundit Arena