Friday 19 January 2018

French left green with envy as Irish celebrate a bruising win

In Cardiff were Juliet Hone and Matilda Olsen, from Baltimore, Co Cork
In Cardiff were Juliet Hone and Matilda Olsen, from Baltimore, Co Cork

As the final whistle sounded in the Millennium Stadium, the emotional Irish supporters erupted in joy and relief over Ireland’s hard-won victory.

Only in the last few minutes, as Ian Madigan lined up the penalty kick to put plenty of sweet blue sky between Les Vertes and Les Bleus, did The Fields of Athenry bellow out with resounding confidence.

It had been looking good, but Ireland have a sorry history against France in the Rugby World Cup.

Victory was bitter-sweet, however, as Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony were taken off on stretchers and Johnny Sexton left the field before the first half-hour. Ireland may have been ahead 9-6 at half-time, but the crowd was subdued.

READ MORE: Ireland pass French test but injuries to Sexton and O'Connell take their toll

Then the interval whistle blew to the sight of big Paul O’Connell in agony on the grass.

However, the second half was considerably better than the first.

Before the game, the atmosphere in the stadium was electric – the closed roof amplifying the roars and cheers; the sound of the two anthems sung with intensity was absolutely deafening.

From mid-morning, the streets close to the stadium were packed with green shirts. Face-painters did great business – mostly adorning the cheeks of adults with shamrocks and Irish and French flags.

An impromptu kick-about began on the main street to cheers.

Four Dublin lads were resplendent in green velvet leprechaun suits and hats that were bought online.

“Sure, we wear these all the time at home,” said one, tongue firmly in cheek.

“We’re feeling positive. It’ll be a massively physical game, but we should come out of it OK,” said Adam Langboek.

Afterwards, the sense of relief was tangible.

“It was fantastic but so nerve-wracking,” said Louise Gallagher from Tipperary. “Now I just have to figure out how I get back over for the Argentina game.”

Back in Dublin, hundreds of fans gathered in what has been dubbed the Irish Rugby Village in the Docklands.

The ground shook when the match ended and a date with Argentina was confirmed.

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