Coming so quickly on the heels of the conquest of Cheltenham by Irish raiders, Saturday’s magnificent Grand Slam at Twickenham created the kind of feel-good atmosphere that the Government’s Special Communications Unit can only dream about.
Sport, once again, showed that it can cheer the heart and generate the kind of justified pride that sustains most of what is good about society and, in turn, each of us. It was, for a small, often peripheral country, inspirational.
That it came just as some of Britain’s National Hunt community, overwhelmed by Irish success at Prestbury Park, vented their spleen by suggesting that cheating and doping played a part in the Irish strike rate — how else could British horses be so dominated, after all? — added another layer of pleasure to an already over-flowing celebration. English rugby was, thankfully, more gracious in defeat.
Despite closing out the Grand Slam with possibly the youngest Irish backline ever, it might tempt fate to diary date next year’s World Cup final (November 2) but it is possible to look forward to Sunday, September 22, 2019, when we open that campaign against Scotland, with some confidence.
Irish coach Joe Schmidt has shown what can be achieved by ruthless application, relentless planning, and analysis. The players won the day but he won the war. There is a powerful lesson in that for our ailing public institutions. Hopefully it might be absorbed.