Proud as punch, of their own man Peter O’Mahony, the rest of the Munster contingent and this Irish team as a whole. That was the ecstatic reaction of a small group of Cork Constitution stalwarts when they watched — and played every move — intently as Ireland swept to triumphant Grand Slam and Triple Crown wins on top of the Six Nations Championship title.
After watching the game on television at club headquarters in Temple Hill, Mick Boland, a member of the Constitution executive, was thrilled with what he termed “a sensational performance”.
“It really was great and you know what was really great? It was the age of the team we finished with, the young guys that came on, it shows that the schools game, the club game in Ireland, it shows everything we have here is really, really, working. Once upon a time it took many years for guys to lose their place on the Irish team to guys coming up, but Joe Schmidt clearly has faith in the youngsters.
“Look at Larmour (Jordan), Stockdale (Jacob), you look at all these guys and it’s clear that one big thing he (Schmidt) has brought to the table is to build a side with depth, something we didn’t always have before. Go back 20 years, Ireland would perhaps have lost games like this but there was no fear of losing this one. Yes, we were all sweating but that’s us, that’s why we watch sport, for the adrenaline.”
Boland was thrilled with the contribution of flanker O’Mahony, one of a hugely influential back-row trio. The Munster man’s defensive prowess, mixed with aerial dominance out of touch, gave Ireland an advantage at crucial times of this cracking tie.
“He made a huge impact, won some great lineouts, he was fantastic, but he always produces it every game.”
Former club president Der O’Riordan was captivated by the Irish performance both in attack and defence: “We can look at the Irish tries and they were brilliant, but ultimately games of this nature and intensity are won by the defence and that was key. Look, the English back row started with the intent of battering us up the middle but our guys were brilliant and the back row played superbly. Peter’s tackling was unbelievable and both Dan Leavy and CJ Stander made significant ground going forward. Ireland put them under pressure from the start and that game was well won with 10 minutes to go. Forget about the late try, it was only a consolation score when the game was already won.
“I never feared they would lose it; even when they were forced to bring on subs it didn’t knock them out of their stride. Take Larmour, for instance, he got a couple of touches and showed confidence and intent, he actually brought something different. It’s great to see that, young players with talent, without fear and with belief. If anything, we looked even more exciting in those last 10 minutes. I really think it makes a great base for our World Cup challenge now. I think this team has certainly proved it can be a force in Japan.”
Half-time and former Con player Brian Fitzgerald had figured there was no way Ireland would lose this match. Awestruck by the way Ireland played out the final moments of first-half injury time to score their third try, Fitzgerald declared: “Irish teams of the past would probably have settled for a 14-5 lead at the break and kicked the ball out of play. The 40 minutes were up when Ireland got possession and they went through an entire series of plays to get another seven-pointer.
“It just showed the difference in confidence. All 15 players were playing off the same page, they understood that they had to turn the screw; that it was what had to be done. That is something I haven’t seen much of in all my years watching Irish teams. That to me was world class.
“Another example of how good this Irish performance is was shown in the 10 minutes when they were down to 14 men (after O’Mahony’s first-half yellow card). “The way they kept the ball was magnificent, it was world class as well, New Zealand like; they played down the clock brilliantly playing a particular style of rugby in order to buy time and get their player back on the pitch. Sensational, absolutely sensational.”