Nostalgia alert! Calm your Six Nations excitement and hysteria with 15 of the best memories Ireland have provided us with.
The 16th instalment of rugby’s greatest tournament kicks off on Friday night and since the inclusion of the Italians, Ireland’s rugby fortunes have drastically changed from the dark days of the nineties when the men in green could not buy a win to 15 seasons of epic wins and priceless memories. But which are the best?
15. Ronan O’Gara gives Ireland a half century v Wales, 2002
Ireland had not defeated the Welsh at Lansdowne Road since 1996, but on the opening championship day in 2002 that unwanted record was emphatically put to bed as the home side put Wales to the sword. Six tries were plundered in the facile win, with O’Gara’s try pushing the score board past fifty.
14. Geordan Murphy conquers Edinburgh v Scotland, 2003
Murrayfield was never a happy hunting ground for the men in green and two years previous a dreadful performance in the Scottish capital cost Ireland a Grand slam. However, mistakes were learned and after a horrendously shaky start Ireland powered away to a 36-6 victory. Murphy’s try clinched the result for Ireland as he nabbed the ball from the ruck, booted it forward and dived over for the score and a first Irish win in Edinburgh since 1985.
13. Gordon D’arcy glides to the Triple Crown v Scotland, 2004
Not since 1985 had an Irish rugby team achieved the mythical Triple Crown but the last game of the 2004 championship saw Ireland end that 19 year wait to conquer Wales, England and Scotland in the same season. With scores at 30-16 and less than ten minutes to go, Ireland were nearly there but the Wexford man made the result certain. He received the ball in midfield and with nothing on he went on an adventure. D’arcy found Murphy who passed back and the Leinster man crossed the line to cap a brilliant tournament for himself and a Triple Crown for Ireland
12. Brian O’Driscoll breaks championship try scoring record v England, 2011
2011 was a disappointing year for Declan Kidney’s men as they struggled to find any consistency. Two wins and two losses was what they had to show for their efforts and it was expected that it would be a difficult day at the office against Martin Johnson’s England who were going for the Grand slam. But the Irish had other ideas and produced a performance from the depths of their souls as they ended English hopes of a clean sweep. Brian O’Driscoll’s try secured the victory and his place in the record books for most tries in the championship.
11. Peter Stringer’s tap tackle on Jason Robinson v England, 2004
Ireland headed over to Twickenham for what was expected to a big beating at the hands of the newly crowned World Champions. The Red Rose had annihilated Ireland the year before in Dublin 42-6 and had won 22 games straight at the old cabbage patch. One of the most memorable moments of the match was an extraordinary tap tackle by Ireland’s Peter Stringer. England’s danger man, Jason Robinson, had broken through the Irish defence and it looked like twinkle toes was away for a score. But Ireland’s diminutive scrumhalf had other ideas!
10. Brian O’Driscoll’s dodgy try v France, 2001
And so Ireland welcomed France to Dublin trying to make it consecutive wins over the French for the first time since 1973. With the score at 15-8 to the home side, flanker David Wallace made a half break and offloaded to O’Driscoll. The number 13 made a bee line for the corner as French fullback, Xavier Garbajosa, hurtled across to stop the Dubliner. O’Driscoll slammed the ball down onto the turf and the referee went up stairs to the TMO. The replays suggested that the centre did not have control of the ball but the TMO gave the green light and the try was given and Ireland won the game 22-15. It was a controversial call and probably should have been denied but was the IRISH video ref really going to say no try?
9. Tommy Bowe breaks English hearts v England, 2010
Ireland came into the competition as reigning champs but their campaign was in danger of falling apart after a stuffing by France in Paris. Twickenham was the scene as England pummelled the away side from the first minute. Yet heading into the dying embers of the game, Declan Kidney’s men were only 16-13 down. From a lineout, the ball was tapped down to Tomás O’Leary who popped the ball up for Tommy Bowe to burst through and dot down underneath the sticks. Ireland somehow had managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
8. Tommy Bowe burns the Cardiff turf v Wales, 2009
Ireland had just taken the lead thanks to Brian O’Driscoll’s try in the Cardiff Cauldron. It was a scrum in midfield and scrumhalf, Tomás O’Leary whips the ball out to Ronan O’Gara. The flyhalf chips over the Welsh defence and it sits up perfectly for the on rushing Bowe. The Monaghan man beats, Wales’ fullback, Gavin Henson, to the ball and sprints away from mini speedster, Shane Williams, for a famous try. Magic!
7. Jonny Sexton sends Ireland to glory v France, 2014
Final day and the final game of the 2014 Six Nations was a classic in Paris as France entertained Ireland in an epic battle. Joe Schmidt’s charges achieved a 22-20 success over the French and the trophy was going to Dublin. The third try, Jonny Sexton’s second, was a beauty which set the Irish up for the win.
6. Shane Horgan’s fielding in Croke Park v England, 2007
Eddie O’Sullivan said to his charges before the match it was the one game they could not afford to lose (well there were a lot more expletives in the speech) and it is likely that if England had had two teams on the field they would have lost as Ireland played like men possessed to smash the Red Rose by 43 points to 13. The moment of the match came when O’Gara delivered a pinpoint cross kick for the on rushing Horgan. The 6 ft 4 Drogheda man fielded Gaelic style at the headquarters of the GAA.
5. Keith Wood bulldozes through the English brick wall v England, 2001
It was September Six Nations as Ireland’s rearranged clash with England was put back to the autumn due to the Foot & Mouth outbreak that engulfed the British Isles the previous spring. England came to Dublin searching for a Grand slam but Keith Wood and his men made sure that Clive Woodward’s charges would have to wait at least another year to try and complete that feat.
4. Shane Horgan reaches for glory v England, 2006
Twickenham again and O’Sullivan and Ireland travelled to London looking for a second Triple Crown success in three years. The game was on a knife edge at 24-21 to the home side and Ireland needed something special. From a scrum on their own 22, O’Gara chipped ahead, O’Driscoll gathered and passed to Horgan. The winger tore down the wing only to be stopped by a wonderful cover tackle by Lewis Moody. Ireland recycled and Captain, O’Driscoll, took the ball into contact. Peter Stringer then threw a magnificent cut out pass to Horgan on the wing and the big man used every single millimetre of his frame to squeeze over in at the corner and win the Triple Crown.
3. Introducing Mr. Brian O’Driscoll v France, 2000
No win in Paris in over two decades and everyone knew something special was needed. And that someone was a man wearing green 13. He was hoisted onto shoulders and carried off the field but the modest man lavished praise on David Humphreys without whom O’Driscoll’s heroics probably would have been forgotten had the Ulsterman not nailed the winning penalty. C’était magnifique!
2. Ireland’s quiet man, the hero v England, 2004
Girvan Dempsey was one of Ireland’s most dependable operators. He was never flash and did the basics to a high standard. But the Terenure man had a knack of scoring vital tries and none more important than the touchdown that downed the World Champions in their own backyard. At a boy, Girvan!
1. That “manky” drop goal v Wales, 2009
Grand slam at stake, one point down and the Munster man doesn’t let down the nation. Seriously, what else did you think was going to be number one?
Those are my fifteen memories for fifteen brilliant of Six Nations rugby. Let us know what yours are!
Image by ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan