A piece on last week’s page said that the Ireland team’s call going into the upcoming Six-Nations could be something like “let’s do it for the lads”, the lads being Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and any of the other squad members on the far side of thirty who might be thinking of packing it in.
But after his show of power-play at Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday last, O’Driscoll is eminently capable of doing it for himself, thank-you-very-much. And O’Connell wasn’t too bad either in Munster’s route of Perpignan the following day.
On what was this country’s best-ever Heineken Cup weekend – aside, of course, from the ones on which Leinster, Munster and Ulster clinched the title – O’Driscoll dug deep into his bag of tricks and derring do. His dink, setting up the first of Luke Fitzgerald’s three tries, was quick-thinking at its best, while his between-the-legs pass to Robert Kearney, leading to another major, was, as the commentator put it, “a priceless moment”.
Then there was his interception leading to his own try. His was only a sprint compared to Kearney’s run of the previous week after he’d picked the pocket of a poor Northampton side yet again; but there was still no-one catching him, suggesting there’s still some mileage left in those long-running legs of his.
This could have been history in the making, all four provinces scoring Heineken Cup wins on the same weekend. Leinster, Ulster and Munster – each of whom now top their respective pools - would have been near enough favourites to win, but huge odds were available about Connacht beating former champions, Toulouse, away from home.Notwithstanding the quality and size of Leinster’s win, Connacht’s was the one that earned most kudos.
On the evidence of this remarkable weekend, it certainly didn’t take the players involved long to shake off the disappointment of the country’s unlucky defeat by New Zealand. It bodes well for what’s coming up in February and March.