What’s happening here?
It’s March 21, 2009 and the 78th minute of a Six Nations game between Wales and Ireland at the Millennium Stadium. Ireland needs to beat Wales to claim the Championship and Grand Slam but they are trailing 15-14 against an obdurate Wales who want to spoil their party. Two minutes earlier the Welsh had taken the lead with a Stephen Jones dropped goal and the Ireland fans in the stadium, and at home, we're getting a little frantic. Their side needed to hit back immediately. Time was running out. Up stepped Ronan O’Gara to attempt a drop-goal.
The story behind the picture?
Two storylines running concurrently and then merging. First Ireland, for all the marvelous players they have produced including too many great Lions to mention, had failed to win a Grand Slam since 1948 when Karl Mullen skippered them to glory and Jack Kyle was the hand on the tiller at fly-half. It has been 61 years since the ultimate accolade in northern hemisphere rugby had come their way.
There had been near misses. That immediate postwar period was strong and there were near misses in 1949 and 1951 – titles but not Slams – while perhaps 1972 should have been the year. They had done the really hard work and beaten France and England away but ‘The Troubles’ saw the cancellation of their home games against Wales and Scotland.
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