On the eve of Ireland’s bid to clinch a fifth Triple Crown in seven seasons, Ollie Campbell disagrees vehemently with anyone who views that as being a consolation prize for failure to complete back to back Grand Slams.
That’s understandable; Campbell — star of an era when “you could play for Ireland on Saturday, your club on Sunday and be back at work on Monday” — remembers leaner times.
Like 33 years without a Triple Crown, a famine which he is remembered for having helped end in 1982 by kicking all of Ireland’s points — six penalties and a drop goal — to give them a 21-12 victory over Scotland in Dublin.
That secured the hosts’ first Triple Crown since 1949.
For anyone too young to remember, believe me, we weren’t dismissive of domestic trebles in those days. The celebratory party went on for weeks.
It was Ireland’s fifth Home Countries treble in 88 seasons and the first they had managed to complete at Lansdowne Road.
Victory tomorrow would give them their 11th Triple Crown in 136 years. Currently they and the Scots have 10.
“Given that five of those 11 would have been in the past seven seasons, that would be quite remarkable and quite unbelievable,” Campbell muses.
“Some people are devaluing a Triple Crown, which is very hard to understand.
“I was weaned on the 1948 and ’49 teams’ heroics and have been lucky enough to be on a Triple Crown-winning team in 1982.
“So for me a Triple Crown is well worth winning.
“In terms of the pecking order there is no question that it’s Grand Slam number one and Championship number two.
“But the Triple Crown is still an enormous achievement and a great prize and it isn’t in any way, shape or form devalued by the fact that this would be our fifth in seven years.
“Think of the guys like Cian Healy, Jonathan Sexton, Keith Earls and the possibility of them winning their first Triple Crown.
“Then, alongside that, you have Brian O’Driscoll saying that it isn’t diluted in any way as a result of having won it before, as he and a number of the others have. He has said this is as important as the first one he won in 2004 and that is very reassuring to hear from your captain.
“He is heading for his 101st cap and here he is making it plain that this is as important as 2004. Then add in the others hoping to win their first Triple Crown and I think you have an Irish team not lacking any motivation.
“It may not be quite so important as in the past, but winning silverware is what it is about and these guys are going to want that.
“I don’t think the players — or too many of the supporters — are guilty of undervaluing the Triple Crown, though it may be that some commentators are.
“But who knows how long it will be before Ireland do it again? Maybe next year. Maybe not for 10 years. Maybe not for 20.
“One or two are on the final straight of their magnificent careers. Others have just started.
“In either case they will want this wonderful prize.”