Ultan Dillane hoping to banish another curse in Chicago

In a city obsessed with sporting history, Ultan Dillane can see the neat symmetry with Ireland’s bid for a first win over the All Blacks this weekend as the Chicago Cubs chase a first World Series since 1908.

Ireland get their chance to avenge 111 years of hurt at New Zealand’s hands this Saturday at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears NFL team, by which time the Cubs’ fate will be known, the ill-fated baseball team going into last night’s World Series game six at the Cleveland Indians needing to tie the best of seven contest at 3-3 to force a decider tonight.

There’s no escaping the expectation and second row Dillane has been drinking it in as he strolls around Chicago, thoughts of a second piece of sporting history not far from his own mind as Cubs fans dream of theirs.

“It would be cool, wouldn’t it? The city is really excited. We went for a stroll this morning. There is some serious support.” Ireland will have some serious support of their own when their exiled supporters converge on Soldier Field from all corners of north America and they will watch a team Dillane says is not short on the belief that create that milestone for Irish rugby.

“There is evident quality but they are only human at the end of the day,” he said. “They do have weaknesses. We are looking to exploit them. They have 18 wins in a row and clearly have been hyped up as favourites and all that. But there is a lot of pressure on them to maintain that streak. Us going in as underdogs, we see that as an opportunity to upset them. We hope to create a bit of history.

“The belief has been there for a while. I don’t want to dwell on previous games but three years ago we almost upset them at home. That is only a taste of what is to come. We don’t think about games from long ago. We think about how the team is now, not how things panned out in games from years ago. We don’t think they are invincible. They do have weaknesses. We will try and exploit those.”

Things are coming together nicely for the Tralee-born forward, who stayed loyal to Connacht despite interest from his home province by signing a new two-year contract.

“I wasn’t feeling I was going to leave anyway. So yeah, it is nice for me and for my family to have that out of the way and definitely focus on that for the next few years, and hopefully building on what we’ve done with Connacht, and more silverware would be fantastic.”

Playing for Munster, he said, was not on his radar. Certainly not at this stage of his career. “No, to be honest I don’t think so because Connacht gave me all the opportunities I ever had and it’s no disrespect to Munster at all, but Connacht were definitely there for me.

“And through the relative success I might have had the last few years, it would have been a shame to turn my back on them that quickly and go back, I don’t think it’s a good sign of character anyway.

“But it was never my intention and I’m definitely so happy I’ve made an incredible group of friends and there are good coaches as well down there, so it wasn’t a tough decision.

Not that he has ruled out his home province, Dillane adding; “It’s down the line but that’s very far, and again it’s not something I’d be thinking about at all, at all.

“I’m really happy where I am and yeah, I’m really excited for what we’re doing and what we’ll hope to achieve again. So it’s definitely something that’s not on my mind at all.”


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