A Match Report – One Team, One Dream
Written by Maeve Fahy from Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh, Limerick.
The eleventh of October 2015. In nearly every rugby fan’s eyes this would prove to be one of the most decisive, definitive nights in Ireland’s Rugby World Cup dreams. One hope versus another. Old rival versus old rival. Ireland versus France.
The scene of this epic showdown was to be held in the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff. The venue of many other Irish triumphs but this day presented a whole new challenge. Hordes of excited spectators filled the stadium. The referee, Nigel Owens, blew his whistle and the battle began.
From the very beginning, the intensity was out of this world. All thirty players on the field were not throwing, but hurling themselves into every single tackle. Ireland’s Johnny Sexton claimed the first three points for the boys in green with a well-placed penalty. France quickly responded with three points of their own, courtesy of number fifteen, Scott Spedding. Sexton booted over another three points to bring the score to six-three but the French stayed right on our heels and brought the scoreboard back to six-six. By now, the temperature had increased to “cooking” in the Millenium Stadium and nothing was to be heard over the cacophony of shouts and cheers.
Suddenly, Ireland were hit with their first blow. Johnny Sexton was forced to limp off the pitch with an expected abducter muscle injury. The important and daunting task of taking Johnny Sexton’s place fell to Leinster’s Ian Madigan who confirmed why he was on the panel by scoring a further three points. Approaching halftime the scoreboard flashed nine-six but there was yet another twist in this awesome tale. Ireland’s leader, anchor and one of the most respected Irish players of all time, Paul O’Connell, was stretchered from the field with a horrific hamstring injury. Ireland led at the interval but they had paid the price by losing Johnny Sexton and Paul O’Connell.
Rugby, is a game of two halves and so, the boys in green had to pull up their socks and put on a resilient performance in the second half for their lost teammates. However, resilience doesn’t really sum it up. The second half performance was astounding – only achieved by sheer hard work and dedication. Rob Kearney was serenaded over the try line to the “Fields of Athenry” and Conor Murray outwitted the French defenders to sneak another five points. However, these trys were at the expense of Peter O’Mahony – the Munster number six was stretchered off the field.
The final score was 24-9 in Ireland’s favour. The World Cup dream remains alive but injuries may certainly hamper our prospects. Yet, we should take it one step at a time. I think that only one thing is certain about the eleventh of October 2015: that the “Fields of Athenry” continued long into the Cardiff night.