ONLY A GAME? - The early start was worth it

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I suppose I can understand why some may have felt disappointed. In terms of the here and now Ireland are out of the competition which doesn’t give fans too much to shout about but when I looked at the bigger picture I soon realised that yesterday’s defeat not only signalled the end of the line for Ireland’s campaign but it was probably the last World Cup action we’ll see from players like Brian O’Driscoll, 32 and Paul O’Connell, 31.

WAS it worth getting up at 5.30a.m.? It definitely was. Despite being almost full to capacity with caffeine I couldn’t help but feel utterly exhausted after Ireland’s defeat in the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup to Wales yesterday morning.

I suppose I can understand why some may have felt disappointed. In terms of the here and now Ireland are out of the competition which doesn’t give fans too much to shout about but when I looked at the bigger picture I soon realised that yesterday’s defeat not only signalled the end of the line for Ireland’s campaign but it was probably the last World Cup action we’ll see from players like Brian O’Driscoll, 32 and Paul O’Connell, 31.

As Ireland dragged themselves off the pitch in New Zealand I felt so sorry for the older players. After the remarkable victory over Australia a few weeks ago fans started to even entertain the idea that Ireland could go all the way to the final but a stoic Welsh defence put and end to that dream.

Some fans may feel that Ireland didn’t play to their full potential and they may have a good point but I was just delighted to see a group of players who gave us fans such good memories.

A lot of my friends and family wouldn’t know a rugby ball if it hit them on the head but for the last few weeks they’ve been totally drawn to the sport because of the exploits of O’Driscoll and Co.

Some people I know had never watched rugby before until the last few weeks but then all of a sudden they were setting their alarms to rise early like the rest of us and cheer on the Boys in Green.

There’s no doubting that Ireland should have done better yesterday and it’s something that haunt the minds of some of the older players but we shouldn’t too tough on them; we are a nation of underdogs after all.

When Keith Earls scored a second half try I almost choked on what was my second cup of coffee; it was game on. But no sooner had Ireland restored parity than Wales scored another try. Ireland were on the back foot from the moment on and the miraculous comeback that we all dreamed of disappeared as the clock edged closer to the final whistle. Ireland were out.

It was sad to say the least but as I left the house to go to work I remember thinking that I was delighted to have shared in the last few weeks with friends and family. Some cheered on no matter what was happening whilst others, with no understanding of the rules, went buck mad when they a saw an Ireland player with the ball.

If dealing with Ireland’s elimination wasn’t enough to contend with I am going to put my nerves to the test on Tuesday when I go to cheer on the Republic of Ireland as they take on Armenia in Dublin in their bidto book a place in the European Championship play-offs. I am a gluten for punishment, I know. But if Tuesday was to go the same way as Saturday morning then I don’t know what I will do.

The Republic of Ireland are so close to reaching their first place in any set of international finals in almost 10 years and defeat now would be a hard pill to swallow.

Whether it’s rugby, soccer or GAA there’s something brilliant about cheering on your own team. It instills a great sense of national pride and if the team’s in green then count me in.

The next Rugby World Cup will take place in 2015. Players such as O’Driscoll and O’Connell will probably have retired at that stage. But one thing’s for sure we’ll be ready to do it all over again.