David Corkery on Ireland v England: Chance for glory that Irish simply can't let slip

'A one-point win at the Aviva will do to make it a St Patrick's weekend to remember for the Irish public...'
David Corkery on Ireland v England: Chance for glory that Irish simply can't let slip

Ireland's Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Jack Conan, Conor Murray and Josh van der Flier celebrate a try by Keith Earls against England at the Aviva Stadium in 2021. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

MARSHALL Bruce Mathers III, known professionally as Eminem, is an American rapper who released a song called ‘Lose Yourself’ in 2002.

The lyrics of the song depict Mathers’ struggles with life and the opening lines read as follows.

“Look, If you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, In one moment would you capture it or just let it slip?”

I know this song has been used by many teams and individuals who are confronted with very rare sporting opportunities in order to put themselves in the right frame of mind, and I’d be shocked if many of the Irish players haven’t been listening to it in the build-up to this game.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this Irish side, and if they do somehow manage to let it slip through their fingers, it will undoubtedly be a missed occasion that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Modern-day coaching philosophies will dictate that both sets of players should view tomorrow’s game as just another match, and all the passion, fury, emotions and lust for glory that makes sport so, so special should be locked away for the duration of the game.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Well, I give that approach the two-finger salute and I do so with both hands.

I can fully understand the logical thinking behind the approach of remaining calm and focused in the moment. However if, as a player, you are not allowed to suffer that empty, gut-churning feeling that you get just before the trigger is pulled, you will never truly have experienced anxiety at a heightened level.

Since retiring from the game, many people have asked me what is it that I miss the most and my answer will never change; it’s the dressing room.

Anyone who has ever had the priceless experience of preparing for a crunch game in a dressing room environment will tell you that there exists a kind of thick and often smothering atmosphere that stimulates diverse reactions in its occupants; and no matter whatever you do in life after playing sport to try and simulate the dressing room, you will fail and do so miserably.

Joy for Ireland at Edinburgh. Picture: PA
Joy for Ireland at Edinburgh. Picture: PA

Everything from crying, laughing, empty-reaching, physically getting sick, and feelings of overwhelming weakness will be on display, but as soon as you get the knock on the door to tell you your time in the arena is moments away, everything changes and you become a different person.

At about 4.45pm tomorrow South African referee Jaco Peyper will look at his watch and summon both England and Ireland to the corridor.

From there they will walk stone-faced on to the hallowed surface of the Aviva where they will be met by a crescendo of fireworks, scorching flames, and a wall of noise that they will have seldomly experienced in their playing careers.

The prize for Ireland is very easy to quantify because they will have won a Grand Slam for only the fourth time in the history of the IRFU and it is something that no one can ever take away from them.


Their names will be embossed into sporting folklore with the blackest of ink and long after they hang up their boots, the stories of their endeavours will be there for all to contemplate and ponder over.

For the chaps in the white jerseys, the reward for winning will be very different, and in many respects, they are playing for far more than a Grand Slam.

Setting to one side their humiliating thrashing at the hands of the French in their own back garden six days ago, English rugby has lost so much of the lustre that it once displayed with pride and what some would consider arrogance.

Long gone are the days of the English forwards ploughing through anything that stood in their way in order for their backs to glide through opposing defences as if they were none existent.

As with the Welsh, their domestic game is amassing massive debts with clubs suffering to the point of near extinction. On top of all this, the numbers at the grassroots of the game are falling because parents are worried about the long-term effects of brain injuries due to concussion-related injuries.

So, what recently appointed Steve Borthwick and his players are playing for tomorrow goes way beyond the whole pride in the jersey thing.

In essence, what they are playing for is the immediate future of the game in England and I’d expect them to put up one hell of a fight.

Will Ireland win? Well if they don’t there is something seriously wrong with the world of logical thinking because from what we have witnessed over the last few weeks of this year’s Six Nations, England look like a side that has zero interest in representing their country and Ireland appear to be a side that is playing for the lives of their immediate families.

A one-point win would be a magnificent way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, especially with so many English paying us a visit.

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