SO Ireland have won another Grand Slam. And the first one in Dublin, with the previous wins being secured in Belfast, Cardiff, and Twickenham.
Does anyone even think that’s being presumptuous? Do England need to turn up?
I’ve always thought there’s no real joy to steamrolling England at rugby. It’s way more delectable when they think they are the better team and we turn them over.
Five years ago, they had an idea to stop us doing a Grand Slam, but failed miserably.
When England were clearly the best side in the Northern Hemisphere, in the late ’90s and early 00s, they had a habit of being tripped up near the line when trying to complete Slams.
That was until they arrived in Lansdowne Road 20 years ago, when we were also in the race to win it and absolutely hockeyed us.
Then they went on to win the World Cup later that year.
Not many of us travelled to that game two decades ago with a great deal of confidence (the most memorable moment for me was being happy-slapped by two rogues outside an Abrakebabra) and England fans will be in a similar position tomorrow.
The Red Rose was crushed in the French fist last weekend at Twickenham. While our lads put the best Scotland side to the sword in Murrayfield, despite dropping like flies on the field (the injuries reportedly led to the Irish squad laughing about it at half-time in the dressing room). They eased away to victory with a flanker throwing lineouts and a prop hooking in the scrum.
‘Ireland can’t handle the favourite’s tag’. ‘Ireland can’t deal with adversity’. Both have been proved wrong. Even those of us who grew up in an era when Irish players struggled with the simple facets of the game, like holding on to the ball when under minimal pressure, are now convinced.
They are 1/9 to win tomorrow. But now is the time to look towards the World Cup and concern ourselves with France and the All Blacks.
That we are 4/1 on what is almost certainly a four-horse race represents terrific value, considering the form they are in.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, that American comedic institution, which was funny sporadically in the late 70s and early 80s and very few times since, was the focus of some head-shaking here last weekend for portraying Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson’s accents as incomprehensible (and they “hadn’t even started drinking yet!” was the kicker).
Mary Lou MacDonald among others, wasn’t impressed. More of it came in the Oscars ceremony itself: “Five Irish actors are nominated tonight, which means the odds of another fight on stage just went way up.” Should we really care about this? Or should we just be glad they weren’t labelled ‘British’?
I remember getting this sort of stuff two decades ago living in England. Drinking. Fighting. Paddy. Leprechaun (I had an ill-advised beard). Ten years earlier I’d have had it much worse. But it never really bothered me. I always assumed whoever threw a jibe at me (which they presumed was harmless slagging) would eventually get a box from someone less laid-back than I was.
There is always the accusation that we bring it on ourselves (or on our elves, considering the amount of eejits who dress up in leprechaun outfits at sporting events abroad).
Our national holiday is Paddy’s Day so is it a huge leaping insult to be called one (a Mick is certainly worse)?
It is a day when an estimated 100 million people worldwide who claim to be Irish (“my mom was half-German; my dad was half-cut”), our emigrants, celebrate our rich heritage by singing folk songs and wearing traditional dress, such as ‘Kiss me I’m Irish’ T-shirts.
And these days, when a significant minority get so unreasonably upset about immigrants, it is worth remembering that our patron saint was one.
He was born in Wales. Or Scotland. Or France. Or Las Vegas. Nobody really knows. But as a youth he was taken to Ireland and sold into slavery by Niall of the Nine Hostages (or Niall and the Nine Sausages for readers still in senior infants), who was then the ruthless High King of Ireland. Niall sold Patrick to a farmer as a pigherd. The future saint lived with the pigs, ate from their swill and generally got to know them quite well.
But this wasn’t what Patrick wanted to do for the rest of his life. He had aspirations. He dreamed of becoming the first bishop of Ireland.
It’s not surprising that Christianity attracted Patrick, as it was still only 400 years old and was fashionable among young people then, a bit like Presbyterianism today.
One day, deciding it was time to start his training for the priesthood, he left a note for the pigs and headed for France. There he told Saint Germain that he wanted to become the bishop of Ireland and Germain told him to feck off, but said he would train him to become a priest. However, he still had a pagan name, so he picked a Christian name that he felt would be for a future bishop of Ireland, Paddy.
When he returned here he caught the public imagination by getting rid of the snakes. This is, of course, a myth. He only got rid of around three-quarters of them and to this day it is not advisable to go out after dark in rural Clare without reptile tongs.
Using the shamrock (symbolised the holy trinity of the father, the son and the hard spirits) and travelling from town to town on a float, he did convert a significant amount of Irish people and their pigs from paganism to Christianity, and every March 17 Irish people all over the world celebrate this by getting very, very “stereotypical”.
A Plus Tard is 7/1 at time of writing, but if you fancy something a bit longer, Shark Hanlon's American National hero Hewick may not appreciate softer ground, but 50/1 are huge odds for him