Belfast Telegraph

A drop of the Blacks stuff is hard to take

By Billy Weir

Sir Edmund Hillary, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sir Richard Hadlee, Russell Crowe, Lord Ernest Rutherford, Crowded House ... your boys took one helluva beating – and still won.

I'm still not quite sure how that happened, but I've watched it twice now and New Zealand definitely did win at the Aviva Stadium as the latest chapter in the Big Boy's Book of Glorious Irish Sporting Failure was penned.

Before the game we'd have gladly taken non-humiliation as an outcome and that was the general consensus on RTE once presenter Tom McGurk had stopped waffling on about sporting Gods doing funny things and how the likes of George Best, Muhammad Ali, Pele and Jack Nicklaus had combined divinity with the 'athletic and the aesthetic.' No Big Daddy, Bill Werbenuik or Cliff Lazarenko on his list, I noticed.

Tom was still in full flow, reminding us that 'sport is the drama of the unwritten script' and sometimes divine intervention does occur, and eagerly we awaited George Hook to embrace this spiritual awakening and lead us into battle.

"Ireland cannot win this match but I don't want my country to be humiliated," he said in Churchillian fashion, the wee nodding dog rather than the wartime leader, but Tom was having none of it.

"Negativity, stop it, stop it, stop it ... " he screamed as he bounced up and down on his chair like an angry toddler who'd just had his Munch Bunch yogurt taken away from him.

By the break, we were all drooling like toddlers and didn't give a hoot about our yogurt as Ireland produced their best ever 40 minutes of rugby leaving Tom in such a state as to babble 'welcome back to a studio that has run out of adjectives and out of words' as we cut to pictures of George cutting the tails off puppies.

Okay, I made that last bit up, but while Conor O'Shea and adopted Irish Kiwi Brent Pope basked in the green glow of glory, George not really sensing the euphoria, countering that Ireland had done well but had had the breaks.

I'd had enough, I crossed to BBC for a bit more sanity and found it in Keith Wood, grinning like a cat convention in Cheshire, with John Inverdale revealing that at 19-0 after 19 minutes, Wood had joked it could end up 80. He's not laughing now.

So obviously after a half with so much to talk about we moved on to reminisce with fellow pundit Clive Woodward about England winning the World Cup 10 years ago. I switched off before Geoff Hurst came on.

But after the ecstasy came the agony, the last gasp kick in the Gilberts that left us all bent double and gulping in air that somehow the All Blacks had won and Ireland had too, sort of.

Back in Dublin, Tom admonished George, saying 'now George Hook, you have a lot of negatives to take back with that performance.'

This elicited a response of 'what negatives?' at such a high pitch that a school of dolphins off the coast of Connemara stopped in their tracks and headed off in search of a shortcut to the Liffey to rescue their stranded leader. It was too late, he was gone, cast aside in a tide of negative waves, while the rest of us, like big Woody, were down but up, as he confessed to having 'butterflies for the first time in many a year.'

Inverdale though had his thoughts trained on what most had on their mind, and it wasn't entomology, saying it just went to prove 'there's nothing like the black stuff.' A bit like George's moods.

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