Mighty Irish too good for New Zealand in rugby classic

The following two tabs change content below.
Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

I have been challenged by several Irish travel retail executives to write this story, and write it I shall…

Above is the headline many Irish men and women thought they would never read. It’s certainly one that Irish friends of mine in travel retail thought I’d never write.

I had, after all, regaled all who wanted to listen (and many more who didn’t) about the magnificent combination of triumph, tragedy, perfection, pathos, delight and despair on show in the extraordinary contest between my beloved All Blacks and the most super-charged, sublime and, you’d swear, shillelagh-wielding Irish team you ever could hope to see in Dublin on 24 November 2013.

To recap. Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks. Never, I mean in the purest sense of the word – i.e. not ever. But on that crisp winter’s day in Dublin the men in green were possessed of a spirit (and ability) so great that it seemed undeniable, irressistible, even to the legendary men in black from the land of the long white cloud.

But deny and resist they did. Having trailed for precisely 79 minutes and 26 seconds (a rugby match is supposed to last exactly 80 minutes), the All Blacks secured the ball, interchanged it with the precision of a heart surgeon’s hands nearly 40 times between huge Kauri tree man-mountains and whippet-lean dancing sorcerors before striking a collective dagger through the heart of all Ireland with the winning try in the corner after two minutes and 34 seconds of sport dressed up as ballet, brilliance and brute force.

I had been invited to that game by Aer Rianta International CEO Jack MacGowan but could not attend due to other commitments. “Lucky you didn’t make it,” he muttered to me on the Monday, “you may have been strung up.” I didn’t sense much levity in his voice.

Working on the perhaps unwise theory that if you see a wound it’s worth pouring a litre or two of salt on it, I subsequently offered a limited-edition DVD of the match in a readers’ competition. Not just limited but also condensed – to the final 2 minutes and 34 seconds, of course. And here’s the thing, I received more abuse (good-natured to be fair) than I did entries. (By the way if you have not seen the footage, here it is https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=All+Blacks+vs+Ireland+2013+final+try – I have just watched it again, twice, to verify its quality…)

But as my dear old Ma no less, used to say of me and my Celtic skin and (alas, now long-gone) blonde hair, “You’re nothing if not fair Martin.” And so, in honour of that Dublin-born lass, Mary Madeleine Sophie O’Neill, I shall indeed be fair (I was going to say return to my roots but I don’t have any) and report another epic story from the weekend, when the Irish rugby team did indeed finally beat the black-clad Kiwis, by 17 points to 14.

Again it was 80 minutes of intense combat and unimaginable tension. Again it all came down to the final minutes. However, this time, at last, it was the Irish eyes that were smiling. But these were very different teams from those that played at Landsdowne Road in 2013. For one thing, these Kiwis were called the Black Ferns not the All Blacks. For another, both they and the magnificent team in green were made up of women not men. The occasion was a critical meeting at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in France, where perennial champions New Zealand were hot favourites to win again.

Not if the Irish had anything to do with it. And boy did they have plenty to do with it. “Heroic” said one headline. “Historic,” screamed another.


Both terms were eminently justifiable. But personally, I loved the more modest response of Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan, who said: “It’s absolutely wonderful to win against the world champions. Tonight we’ll go out and enjoy a beer, then tomorrow we’ll start getting ready again for Kazakhstan.”

A beer followed by a visit to a distant Central Asia republic? No, the reference to Kazakhstan was simply to the women in greens’ next match. I’m willing to stake my house on them winning by over 60 points. But (my mother may have been Irish but my blood runs neither red nor green but black) I will then place all my winnings back on the Black Ferns to rise not like a flightless Kiwi bird but like a phoenix, from the ashes of defeat to the mountain crest of champions.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

  • Hi Martin, fair play, and we could say that we in Donegal, my home county, helped you guys (all Blacks) along the way, with our very own David “Dave” Gallaher (30 October 1873 – 4 October 1917) as you know he was one of your great New Zealand rugby union footballer, best known as the captain of “The Originals” that toured Europe and North America in 1905 and 1906 – the first New Zealand national rugby union team to be known as the All Blacks. Gallaher was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland, & emigrated to New Zealand with his family as a child. Keep up the banter. Marcus