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This is the story of Ireland’s Triple Crown winning exploits of 1982 and 1985. Dubbed ‘Dad’s Army’ due to the number of elder statesmen in their ranks, they defied the odds to write themselves into Irish rugby legend. eir sport 1, Tues, Dec 25th 6pm
Ireland’s 1982 Triple Crown triumph marked the end of a barren period in Irish rugby stretching back to 1949. It was a long story of so-near-and-yet-so-far as the weary Irish support was forced to endure one disappointment after another. Always the bridesmaid…..
We didn’t expect much. Our only brush with the legends of the game in those days was when the star-studded Welsh squad came to town. Phrases like ‘encouraging defeat’ were bandied about after each match. They insisted that the team were making progress but, back in dark days of the early 1980s, few people believed it. No-one thought things were going to change anytime soon - but they did.
Produced by D4 films and funded by the BAI through the Sound and Vision scheme, Where’s Your Pride? recalls a glorious chapter in Irish rugby history. Set against a backdrop of mass unemployment, wholesale emigration, sectarian murders and hunger strikes, it brought much-needed cheer to a nation on the brink. The story is told by the players themselves who recount every scrum, penalty, conversion, try and, of course, crucial match-winning drop goal as if it happened yesterday.
Things weren’t looking too good heading into the 1982 Five Nations campaign. The team had suffered seven consecutive defeats, including a whitewash and wooden spoon in the previous season’s championship. They welcomed Wales to Lansdowne Road for the opening game at the end of January, but it looked like more of the same as a Terry Holmes try helped the visitors to a narrow 9-8 lead at the break, despite wingers Moss Finn and Trevor Ringland both crossing for Ireland. But, with Ollie Campbell inspired, the home side were a different proposition in the second half and a second Finn try and two Campbell penalties saw them run out deserved 20-12 winners.
Skippered by the talismanic Ciaran Fitzgerald, they carried that momentum with them to Twickenham a fortnight later where Ginger McLoughlin crossed for one of the most famous Irish tries of all time as Ireland recorded a famous 16-15 victory. The sight of the Limerick prop carrying what looked like the entire English pack on his shoulders as he bulldozed his way over in the corner is one of the greatest moments in Irish rugby history and will be replayed over and over again as long as the two nations continue to chase the oval ball around a pitch. A late Mike Slemen try flattered the hosts who were never really in it at all.
Suddenly, Ireland were riding the crest of a wave and a consummate Campbell performance at Lansdowne Road in mid-February which included six penalties and a drop goal sealed the Triple Crown with a 21-12 victory over Scotland. It was Ireland’s first Triple Crown and championship in 33 years and sparked jubilant scenes at the final whistle as the crowd invaded the pitch and carried the players shoulder-high towards the tunnel.
They faced France in Paris a month later with the Grand Slam at stake but, despite a 6-3 interval lead, the hosts proved too strong and eventually won out by 22-9. It was a disappointing end to the campaign, but the foundations had been laid. Irish rugby would never be the same again.
The following season saw Ireland’s resurgence continue as they shared the championship with France following wins over Scotland, England and the French themselves. But the wheels came off in 1984 as they suffered a whitewash to finish bottom of the table.
It was back to the drawing board as Mick Doyle replaced Willie John McBride as head coach and a number of senior players retired. But, just as they had three years previously, Ireland surprised everyone. The likes of Fergus Slattery, Moss Keane, John O’Driscoll, Ginger McLoughlin and Ollie Campbell were gone, but they were ably replaced by Willie Anderson, Phillip Matthews, Brian Spillane, Paul Dean, Michael Kiernan and Brendan Mullin while, crucially, Fitzgerald remained as captain.
The campaign began at the beginning of February at Murrayfield against Scotland, the previous year’s Grand Slam champions. Winger Trevor Ringland crossed for his second try late on to seal a narrow 18-15 victory in a tight game. Next up was a hard-fought 15-15 draw against France at Lansdowne Road before Ireland secured their first win in Cardiff since 1967 as tries from Ringland and Keith Crossan helped them to a deserved 21-9 victory.
It all came down to the final game against England at Lansdowne Road. In front of a sell-out crowd, Brendan Mullin scored his first try for his country after charging down full-back Chris Martin’s kick, but winger Rory Underwood threatened to spoil the party when he crossed in the second half to put the visitors ahead with just ten minutes remaining.
Where’s your pride?
It looked like the game might be slipping away from Ireland, but then came skipper Fitzgerald’s famous ‘Where’s your f****g pride’ rallying call to his pack. It galvanised the entire team and Michael Kiernan levelled matters with a penalty shortly afterwards. Rob Andrew then missed a very kickable chance to put England back in front before Kiernan sealed a memorable 13-10 victory with a late drop goal. And the rest, as they say, is history…….
Speaking about Fitzgerald’s call to arms, Trevor Ringland later revealed that he didn’t actually hear what was said. However, he could see the skipper remonstrating with his forwards and knew immediately what was going on. So did everyone watching – it remains one of the most iconic Irish sporting moments of all time, a ‘once more into the breach’ clarion call that helped secure a second Triple Crown in three years and a deserved place in the hearts of a nation forever.
It’s a tale to warm every Irish person’s heart - perfect Christmas Day viewing.
Images: D4 Films
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