AFTER last weekend’s heroics in the Aviva, and with our u20s winning back-to-back Grand Slams in Cork, we are without doubt the country to beat in world rugby. I’d say there wasn’t a candelabra washed in Bandon rugby club for the week.
Something I can’t figure out is how this team is suddenly able to handle the ‘favourites’ tag. This is something we have scientifically been unable to achieve up until this point in our history.
Sociologists and psychologists would presumably tie all this in with post-colonialism and the sense of never having a feeling of self-worth as a collective. But these rugby lads seem to be able to play really poorly for half an hour and then just turn on the magic at will. It’s gloriously different and ever so slightly disconcerting!
I have no insight into the sports psychology being employed by the coaching staff, but from my very loose knowledge of the team and how they approach games, it seems to be all about living in the moment for them, from play to play, so to speak.
You do everything you can to face up to what’s in front of you and trust in the system and your teammates. The past is gone, and the future isn’t relevant.
From what I can tell, essentially, we’re becoming world-beaters by being a bit more Buddhist.
Instead of our in-built tendency towards Catholic self-flagellation, where every mistake is counted and stewed over and punished with penance and shame, these guys seem to have a lightness about them, an ability not to carry emotional baggage from one minute to the next, or from one game to another.
I know it helps that we’ve got some of the best players in the world who have developed within a national system of excellence that is well-resourced and organised to the ‘nth’ degree. And it’s built on the shoulders of giants like Declan Kidney, Joe Schmidt, Ronan O’Gara and Brian O’Driscoll. But we’ve had great teams in the past who have been found wanting when the going got tough. In key World Cup games, they froze and were overwhelmed.
The next few months will tell all, of course. The pressure that is going to build on this squad between now and the Rugby World Cup in France will be geological in scale. The expectations are already comically high. Even some of the language in this article has been dangerously hyperbolic. After all, it’s only a leather ball and a load of big, small, fast, slow, tall and chunky lads running around after it.
Whatever about the rugby, it certainly didn’t help the DUP’s cause this week. Jeffrey Donaldson came out with his latest variation of ‘Ulster Says No’ in midweek, and it must be slightly bothersome that men in green from all traditions seem to be world-class when they combine their talents.
All roads seem to be leading to the Biden visit in April, with the DUP being strong-armed from every direction at this stage and under increasing pressure to do their part to get the institutions up and running again. There is even talk of the region being flooded with US money if things go the right way in Stormont.
Time will tell if ‘Sleepy Joe’ gets to rock up for one of those rare things – a US foreign policy success story. Or whether the hardline unionists will even come out of their room for tea.
Taking off for Éire
PADDY’S Day saw the annual Wild Geese-style migration of Irish politicians to the four corners of the globe in full flow. And boy did they spread out this year. Like a bad variant of Covid, they were.
This is the sort of war this country was made to win. We move out in waves from the Emerald Isle once a year to oppress other sovereign nations with parades, politeness and peaked caps.
They say no other nation on Earth gets the sort of access to the geopolitical corridors of power we do. Every March, we shamelessly don the leprechaun hats and strap on the shillelaghs in a nation-state marketing campaign that has our neighbours green with envy.
This year the campaign was called ’100 Years of Ireland in the World’ and was pitched as a ‘celebration of a century of our country’s engagement as an active member of the international community in the promotion of democracy, peace and security.’ Nobody mention the eye-watering price of the Guinness.
A total of 74 cities in 44 countries were attacked, sorry visited, by smiling Irish eyes. Leo Varadkar got to hit Washington DC, insult the Clintons and play a game of Pass The Parsley with Joe. Micheál Martin got to NYC like he was Tom Hanks in Big. Eamon Ryan got to go to China and reverse climate change and communism, using only a single bike, while his party imploded on WhatsApp.
Poor old Mary Butler was the Designated Survivor Minister, tasked with staying in Dublin and keeping her hand on the tiller in the event the world was struck by a mystery virus eg where everyone turned green and started getting sick on one another.
Unfortunately, Mary did not get to become our ruling dictator this year. But great leaders play the long game. The reign of Mary Butler will come.
Over and out for Tubs
TUBBERS fairly shocked the country last week with his announcement that he’s leaving The Late Late Show at the end of this season. Quite a wise move too, in my opinion.
The relatively recent arrival of Tommy Tiernan’s excellently spontaneous and always interesting Saturday night chat show has rather shown up the old Late Late as a fairly staid and out-of-date throwback to another time.
It’s also a sign of a much more culturally fractured society, where gathering around the TV collectively every Friday makes for a very tough editorial balancing act.
How do you draw 600,000 in every week when there is a world of content out there to discover on Netflix, Disney and the other streamers? The question is – should you even try?
Still, I bet we’ll all miss that collective experience the minute it’s taken away....