Belfast Telegraph

Fans hail hero of Ireland's Six Nations triumph Jacob Stockdale

Ireland's Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring a try during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ireland's Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring a try during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ireland's Sean Cronin (centre) celebrates scoring a try during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Ireland's James Ryan misses a line out during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Ireland's Sean Cronin (bottom left) scores his side's fourth try during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Donall Farmer/PA Wire.
Scotland's Huw Jones is tackled during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Donall Farmer/PA Wire.
Ireland's Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring a try during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Ireland's Jacob Stockdale celebrates after scoring his second try during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Donall Farmer/PA Wire.
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton celebrates as Conor Murray scores a try during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Donall Farmer/PA Wire.
Ireland's Conor Murray (centre) celebrates scoring a try during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Scotland's Grant Gilchrist with Ireland's Devin Toner during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Donall Farmer/PA Wire.
Ireland's Jacob Stockdale scores a try during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Irelands Jacob Stockdale scores his side's first try of the game during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 10: Jacob Stockdale of Ireland and Blair Kinghorn of Scotland during the Six Nations Championship match between Ireland and Scotland at Aviva Stadium on March 10, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 10: Johnny Sexton of Ireland and Hamish Watson of Scotland during the Six Nations Championship match between Ireland and Scotland at Aviva Stadium on March 10, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Ireland's Jacob Stockdale (left) celebrates scoring a try with team mate Johnny Sexton during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. RESTRICTIONS:
Scotland's Sean Maitland with Garry Ringrose and Keith Earls of Ireland during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Donall Farmer/PA Wire.
The Ireland team stand for the National Anthem during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Donall Farmer/PA Wire.
The Scotland team stand for the National Anthem during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Donall Farmer/PA Wire.
Scotland's Finn Russell (left) reacts to a challenge from Ireland's Rob Kearney during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Ireland's Gordon Reid (centre) is tackled by Scotland's Conor Murray (right) and Huw Jones (left) during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
An Ireland supporter sings Ireland's Call before the match during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 10, 2018.Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

The morning after helping Ireland clinch the Six Nations title, Ulster sensation Jacob Stockdale was modestly meeting young rugby fans in Dublin.

After equalling the record for tries in a single championship campaign, the down to earth 21-year-old was milling around the Shelbourne Hotel yesterday morning with girlfriend Jessica Gardiner, taking pictures with supporters who had seen him in action in the Aviva Stadium against Scotland the day before.

There are 20 men in history who have scored more Test tries for Ireland than Jacob Stockdale. But he has just eight caps.

Now known throughout the rugby-playing world for his fast feet and beaming smile, Armagh-born Stockdale is putting together a season that will live long in the memory - and is already a firm favourite in Joe Schmidt's triumphant squad.

And it was another huge occasion for the former Wallace High pupil over the weekend as he ran in two scores against Scotland with three generations of Stockdales among the 51,000 packed into the Aviva Stadium.

Equalling the try record, and winning the first medal of his career in front of his family will have meant all the more to home-bird Stockdale.

As he was scooping two top gongs at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards in January, the powerful winger paid tribute to the influence of his mum and dad.

"Two people who have been massive influences on me are my parents," he said as he was then preparing for the Six Nations tournament.

"My mum and dad never forced me to do anything I didn't want to do, and always supported me really well in everything that I did want to do.

"My mum was probably tearing her hair out when she thought rugby and the Schools' Cup was taking precedence over my A-levels, but she never forced me into being anything other than what or who I wanted to be."

Jacob Stockdale has his photo taken with fans by girlfriend Jessica Gardiner
Jacob Stockdale has his photo taken with fans by girlfriend Jessica Gardiner
Irelands Jacob Stockdale scores his side's first try of the game during the NatWest Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Rory Best and family in Dublin yesterday

Jacob comes from a family with the sport in its blood.

His father, former Presbyterian minister Rev Graham Stockdale, now a chaplain at Newry hospice and Maghaberry and Hydebank Prisons, recently said that rugby was "a big part of our life".

Rev Stockdale revealed that his father, Jacob's grandad, was a regular attender at Ireland rugby internationals in Dublin.

"My dad always took us to the internationals in Dublin once a year, which was a big trip in those days," the clergyman said.

"Then he bought Jacob a rugby ball when he was born, and that was it.

"Jacob started mini rugby in Ballynahinch when I was minister there, and was involved in schools rugby at Wallace High."

Jacob was invited into the Ulster Rugby academy on leaving school and made his senior debut at the age of 19.

After playing for Ireland Under-20s, the whole family was waiting anxiously to hear whether Jacob had been chosen for the senior team's summer tour in the US this year.

"He played a trick on us," Rev Stockdale said.

"We have a WhatsApp family group and we were waiting all day to hear news.

"Then he put in a comment saying: 'It's bad news'.

"So we replied: 'Oh, don't worry Jacob, you'll make it next time… maybe it was too soon'.

"We were giving him all this supportive advice, which he enjoyed reading, and only then he said: 'It's bad news because you'll not see me for three-and-a-half weeks'.

"Friday night is a great family night out - as long as Ulster win, of course."

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