After Ireland’s devastating loss at the quarter-final stages of this years Rugby World Cup, Holly Cooney writes about the final game that crushed a nations dreams.
As a 20 year old arts student, I’ve usually been more of a book worm than a rugger bugger with sports never really capturing my imagination. This year though that has all changed. A fantastic Irish team’s performance throughout the year has morphed me into match watching, advice shouting, heino drinking rugby fan and I’m not the only one. The Rugby World Cup is taking place in the UK and it seems that the whole nation succumbed to rugby fever, no doubt due to the fact that 2015 had been described as “Ireland’s Year” in international rugby.
Winners of the 2015 RBS Six Nations and reaching 3rd in the international rankings, the rugby world cup was to be the culmination of Ireland’s success. Storming through the group stages with impressive wins against Canada, Romania, Italy and France the quarter finals against Argentina was one of the most talked about moments in Irish sport. With the hopes of a nation on their shoulders the boys in green were set for the match of their lives.
Unfortunately, as we’re used to here in Ireland, in the sporting world fairytales don’t always come true. Following on from a highly physical French opposition, the calibre of players leaving the pitch was a huge blow to the team, losing Peter O’Mahony, Jonathan Sexton and the captain of all captains, Paul O’Connell surely left us hopeless? Despite some hopes that Sexton would return, by Thursday he was declared unfit to play the quarter final clash by Coach Joe Schmidt. Even this devastating blow didn’t knock Ireland’s confidence, Ireland were after all the bookies favourites and due to a fantastic performance against France the fans were rooting for Ian Madigan, the new star of Irish rugby to take up the reins.
Confident as ever, the Irish fans started celebrations a day early, singing their hearts out in Cardiff’s Millennium stadium during the New Zealand and France match on Saturday. Spirits were high at Sunday’s game with the whole of Ireland believing in our boys, but alas it was not to be. With Argentina up 17 points by the 13th minute and the loss of fan favourite Tommy Bowe, it seemed less than a quarter of the way in there was no hope left for Ireland.
This changed with a penalty from Madigan bringing the score to 3-17 to Argentina and restoring hope to the Irish. A Sanchez penalty brought Argentina back, but a fantastic try from Luke Fitzgerald and a conversion from Madigan put us back in the game before the end of the first half.
The second half saw Ireland really getting back into the game with a Jordi Murphy try and a Madigan conversion, Argentina were now only 3 points ahead. Penalties for both sides brought the score to 20-23 Argentina but unfortunately the Argentinians ran away with the game, ahead 33-20 points by the 70th minute. The last ten minutes saw an exhausted Ireland try to make up their pride, but Argentina went on to score a further try, conversion and penalty before the final whistle, leaving the final score Ireland 20, Argentina 43.
As a disappointed Irish fan it would be easy to knock the Pumas, but that’s the nature of sport, that old cliché of “you win some, you lose some”. The Argentinians put on a fantastic display of world class rugby, with a style and grace that we rarely see on this side of the hemisphere. Yes, one could argue that Ireland were unlucky, losing some of their strongest players and leaving a relatively young team to face the mighty Argentina but that is merely excuses. Despite an excellent comeback in the second half Ireland were not at the same level as the South Americans, a fact that was clear to all. We’ve proved we’re up there with the best in the world, but due to a number of reasons 2015 was just not to end as we’d hoped. Here’s to hoping that 2019 will be our year!