Monday, September 24, 2007

Another Miracle Match Please

Well, you know, it wasn't such a bad weekend for Irish rugby after all. All four provinces winning their opening Magners League fixtures and all? That's good isn't it? Feel better?

Indeed.

The Irish Rugby World Cup campaign has gotten so bad that people are beginning to compare it to England's effort at the football World Cup last year. The talk of a 'golden generation', the misplaced optimism of the public mood, the overbooked endorsement diaries, a 'Goldenballs' figure who isn't quite as good as he thinks he is, a coach rewarded with a juicy new contract prior to proving himself worthy of it; all followed by dismal, disjointed performances.

All we need is Eddie to embark on an affair with the tealady at the IRFU and a slew of player autobiographies to complete the analogy.

But here we are now. In need of a miracle. Did someone say 'miracle'? As in 'miracle match'? Well why didn't you say so?! Don't we have just the men to do it right here!

Cast your mind back to a cold and wet January Saturday in 2003, when Gloucester arrived at Thomond Park needing to avoid both defeat by 27 points or more and the concession of four tries to eliminate Munster from the Heineken Cup. Remember what happened?

Wind forward a few years, 2006 this time, Sale Sharks had to be beaten by four tries lest Munster's Heineken Cup quest fail again. Remember what happened?

Ah, if only those happy-go-lucky Argies could be brought to Thomond, and if it only it was January, and if only our rugby players had a few hard months of toil under their belts.

And if only it was somewhere far away from this oppressive, claustrophobic World Cup, with the haunted looks on the faces of the players and their coach as they try to figure out answers to questions we can't even get our heads around to ask.

It's been mentioned in several reports how the Argentines have given the impression of greatly enjoying their World Cup experience. Trevor Brennan, in his national anthem polemic in last Friday's Irish Times, described how he rang one of his Argentine colleagues at Toulouse, who was at that moment on the team bus back from training last week. "What's that in the background?", asked the Barnhall Bruiser. "Singing," responded his Puma friend.

Singing. Can't imagine our boys giving it The Fields on the TGV. Not that Eddie should start handing out lyric sheets instead of conducting DVD analysis. Nothing, of course, makes a player happier than good results, but the sense of embattlement, unease and a general lack of wellbeing has pervaded for weeks now.

Which is why, on Sunday, necessity and - good God man! - the milk of human kindness dictate that O'Sullivan should send his team out with the most minimal instruction. "Go and enjoy yourselves lads." It's about time. And it might just work.

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