Tag Archives: Rugby

English to Irish during the course of three rugby matches and four years

28 Aug


My metamorphosis from English man to Irish man took place between the ages of 10 and 14. In the early 1960s, my father brought me to my first England v Ireland rugby match in London. I was then supporting England but I didn’t mind if Ireland won because I did not want my father to be unhappy. It was a magnificent experience, one which has left an indelible impression on me. Our seats, which were just in front of the touchline, were positioned a couple of feet below the level of the pitch; as a result,  whenever play came near, the players seemed like giants, except for the English right wing. He was much smaller than his team colleagues.

Ireland, playing right to left, took the kick-off to start the second half of the match. The objective was to boot the ball high into the sky and land it a little more than 10 yards into the opposition’s half of the pitch. The high trajectory of the kick was designed to give the Irish pack time to get to the expected landing point before the ball hit the ground. If executed correctly, the move would result in an almighty collision between to the two opposing packs. On this occasion, either due to misjudgement or by design, the ball’s flight was slightly lower and longer than normal. Consequently, it sailed just above the grasp of the tall English forwards and into the arms of the right wing – so far so good for England. However, the Irish pack, being skilled in trigonometry, quickly calculated that the ball would not be caught by the English pack. Therefore it  reprogrammed its route across the pitch so as to avoid an unnecessary collision and proceeded directly to the point at which the ball would come to earth.

The English right wing probably compensated for his slight build by fast running, but on this occasion speed could not save him. At the moment he caught the ball, he was hit by an Irish combine harvester. It surgically removed the ball from his grasp, gobbled him up and deposited his mangled remains on the freshly cut grass, like a bale of hay.

I watched this spectacle surrounded by hordes of middle-aged Irish rugby fans. The memory of their warm personalities, coupled with the smell of whiskey and tobacco that they exuded, would stay with me forever. When I attended the next England v Ireland match in Twickenham two years later, I wasn’t entirely sure whether I felt English or Irish, and by the time the third match came around, my metamorphosis to Irishman was complete.

(Edited abstract from the book – London Irish Dublin English – for more information please refer to my website:- danielmdoyle.com)

Moss Keane bids farewell (repeatedly)

5 Aug

Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, I had religiously followed the Irish international rugby team. My heroes were the likes of Moss Keane, Fergus Slattery, Willie Duggan and ‘The Blessed’ Oliver Campbell.

Following my arrival in Dublin, in the mid-1980’s, I was absolutely thrilled to find that these legends, although past their best on the field of play, were still very much alive and out and about around the city. One beautiful May evening, I arranged to meet an old school friend in Toner’s pub on Baggot Street. Only a few feet away from us sat Moss Keane, Peter Wheeler (the former England captain) and a few others in their company.

After Moss finished each pint, his huge frame would rise off the stool and assume a standing position. He would solemnly put on his jacket and bid farewell to all. A process of persuasion would then ensue, culminating in Moss agreeing to stay for just one more pint. The jacket would be removed and was hung up neatly.He would then resume his original seated position. This procedure was to be re-enacted repeatedly throughout a very pleasant evening.

Note: RIP Moss Keane. When we have admired a hero from afar for many years, some of us might prepare ourselves to be disappointed if ever we were fortunate enough to be in their company or to just to see them in the flesh. “Surely Moss can’t really be that larger than life.” I would tell myself.

I am happy to report that he met all my expectations.

(An edited abstract from my book: London Irish Dublin English)