herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

We'll witness rugby played again on the Jones Road

IT'S always unsettling to walk away from an Irish rugby defeat surrounded by a low susurrus of mild complaint and repressed angst. Even the bad days like this one are parsed and diced without much outrage.

What was supposed to be a tidy way to sign off the lease on Croker and head back across the river with a sense of forward momentum and optimism turned into a shuffling retreat from the IRFU's temporary home.

Instead of the Triple Crown canter suggested by most pundits, we had schoolboys on ice and a series of handling errors which so discombobulated everyone, players and punters, that it was hard to find the rhythm of the game again unless you were Scottish and happy to take advantage of the chaos.

How does a group of players construct so clinical and beautiful a move as the one which teed up Johnny Sexton for his late drop-goal against Wales a week earlier and then drop the ball like amateurs on a warm, dry spring day?



inspired

The impact of this result will be felt for some time and it punctured the sense of well-being inspired by a very satisfying performance against the Welsh.

Doubts now abound about the capacity of the current squad to maintain the high levels of performance achieved in recent years until the World Cup.

Life moves on and so too will the extra 30,000 or so people who were able to get tickets for Croke Park and will only have good memories of the experience -- even if it ended on a sour note.

Back in Lansdowne Road, the IRFU won't be hugely discommoded by the fact that such a huge chunk of paying customers can no longer find a way to watch international games in the flesh.

The economics of the rental agreement between the IRFU, the FAI and the GAA left €35m on the Northside in Croke Park vaults and the extra capacity available simply paid some of the bills.

But they will be mostly delighted with the experience they had on Jones Road and the fact that over the last four years, they were able to preach the gospel to so many more people.

There's no doubt we will see rugby again in Croke Park. Whether it's a parochial Heineken Cup tie or even some time down the road, a World Cup semi-final, there's 80,000 punters out there prepared to pay to fill it and that's hard to ignore.

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