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World Cup Defeat marks end of careers of sporting legends

TODAY'S defeat marks the end of the World Cup careers of sporting legends such as Brian O'Driscoll, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara.

The World Cup was the only arena where these inspirational Irishmen have failed to dominate their sport and it's bitterly disappointing that we won't see them grace this competition again.

While today was agonising in the extreme, these sporting giants have given us memories that will be relived and recalled long after they're gone.

Grand Slams, Triple Crowns and Heineken Cup memories are stored in our heart but no abiding World Cup highlights apart from our demolition of the Wallabies.

In O'Driscoll we have a talent which has delighted us for the past 12 years and revolutionised Irish rugby, his reputation did not diminish today.

His graciousness in defeat was the mark of a sporting gentleman.

Spare a thought for the majority of Irish fans who are not in the southern hemisphere by design but necessity.

It's fantastic that our economic refugees had the opportunity to come together and their passion and patriotism are as big a source of pride as the feats of our team on the pitch.

The Irish team, 14,000 miles from home, were made to feel as though they were playing on the hallowed turf of Lansdowne Road.

We all rose this morning for breakfast and watched expectantly with friends and family but to our dismay the amazing efforts of our side fell agonisingly short.

The Welsh made a blistering start as we gave them cheap turnover ball and Jamie Roberts almost knocked O'Callaghan out cold before Shane Williams went over in the corner.

On three occasions Ireland were camped in the Welsh 22 but wave after wave of Irish attack broke against the Dragon's defence, which was as impenetrable as the walls of Troy.

O'Gara got us on the board before before Leigh Halfpenny landed a monster penalty from the same distance that Stephen Jones missed for Wales in the last seconds of our Grand Slam decider in 2009.

Games, like life, change on the smallest margins on the inches between catching the ball and letting it fall, between crossing the try line and not. In the first half, Ireland couldn't eke out those inches.

Uncharacteristic loose passing and dropped balls kept us on the back foot and the Welsh confidence grew and grew.

Our World Cup hopes stood on a precipice, we were 40 minutes away from glory or despair. These are the situations where heroes are made.

In the first seven minutes of the second period we had supremacy and the smallest man on the Irish side went low and slid into the corner.

A monumental conversion from an ice-cool O'Gara levelled it up and we dared to dream of a final-four place but our hopes and expectations were dashed.

The despairing look on Gordon D'Arcy's face as Mike Phillips blew past him on the blindside and was ruthless like any good assassin would be.

Ireland just couldn't get out of their own half and constantly kicked the ball away to Welsh backs brimming with confidence and verve.

Jonathan Davies crossed again with four Irish players palming at him but getting no grip on the giant inside centre and he got in easily.

But for two of Rhys Priestland's penalties hitting the woodwork the scoreline would have been much worse.

In the last 10 minutes we tried to unlock the Welsh defence but to no avail.

We have good memories from what happened before this morning, slaying the Wallabies and destroying the Italians, but we will always wonder what might have been in the best chance we will ever have to get to a World Cup final.

Disappointed in defeat, but our pride is intact.

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