where are Willie O’Dea’s Defence Forces in Limerick when you need them?

Whatever about the spine-tingling atmosphere in the new Thomond (worth the million quid it’s estimated to have cost to get the Kiwis over; a euro for every viewer that watched on RTÉ… the audience peaked at 1.03m at 9.16pm), and the team’s competing hakas, the airborne delivery of the match ball prompted me to wonder: where are Willie O’Dea’s Defence Forces in Limerick when you need them?

Credit where credit crunch is due: Munster versus the All Blacks was something else. I’ll spare his blushes by not identifying him, but a fellow cynic had texted me in advance to predict that, following the mother, father and Mauri first cousin of all build-ups, the game would inevitably prove “a damp squid” (sic… that’s another blush you owe me – Ed.)

In the event it was anything but, and will rightly go down in the 2008 annals as the Irish sporting event of the year, bar none. (With the exception of Cork Hurlers Lite v St Colmans All Stars, obviously.) The courage of the hosts was awesome to behold.

Visibly and understandably peeved at having missed on a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Ronan O’Gara was right to remark on the disparity of passion between that shown by Munster’s mighty second-stringers and the Irish first-teamers of late; particularly the latter’s submissiveness in the face of most-comers over the past season-and-a-bit. Mick O’Driscoll & co were having none of New Zealand’s bully-boy tactics, and there were plenty of what Ryle Nugent euphemistically and repeatedly referred to as “afters” around the fringes in Thomond Park last Tuesday.

Wearing green against Argentina on Saturday O’Gara seemed determined to demonstrate the red in his Cork/San Diego blood. The result was a protracted fit of pique that betrayed his individualist tendencies, and an attitude certainly not becoming the Irish captain many feel he would make.

The problem with O’Gara is that for all his failings he’s a bona fide match-winner (his second-half drop goal, the ball for the much-maligned Tommy Bowe’s try) and remains Ireland’s only live option at No10. We know it, Declan Kidney knows it and O’Gara himself knows it. It’s a situation that’s not doing anyone any favours.


* Email from Down Under: “I am watching this game on my TV in New Zealand, and we are 15 mins into the game. I have never watched a game previously where the local team have shown such respect for the opposition. The silence when a kick is taken is absolutely unheard of in any game I have watched, and I am a real All Blacks fan. I always thought you Irish were special – now I know. Hope your boys win, though that goes against the grain of a fan of the All Blacks, but if you don’t, you can teach teach the footballers of the world a great lesson. Well done.” Rose Oud, Dargaville, NZ