Monday, November 7, 2016

Another Historic Sports Drought Ends as Ireland Defeats All-Blacks

You can hear it in their names, and you see it in their traditional dancing, the pre-match haka, as it is known, which almost seems like preparation for a war when you watch it.

Yes, if there is anyone who approaches the level of intimidation that New Zealand's rugby team (often better known as the All-Blacks), it is a rarity. It seems that the All-Blacks are just about always either the standard bearers for their sport of rugby or, failing that, they are right there among the elites, perhaps losing in the final of the World Cup of rugby or, at least, losing in the semi-final round.

That level of dominance was telling in many ways, but perhaps one of the most signature illustrations of this was a winning streak over the Irish national team that had lasted for 111 years. That means that the drought for the Irish national team was actually even longer than the championship drought of 108 years suffered by baseball's Chicago Cubs and their fans.

Is it not remarkable, then, that two such historic level streaks ended within a couple of days of one another? And add to it this fact: this particular game was played in Chicago, of all places! Okay, not Wrigley Field, granted. But it was played in Chicago's Soldier Field, home of the NFL's Chicago Bears, before a capacity crowd of over 60,000. What are the odds that Chicago happened to see the end of the 108-year championship drought for their beloved Cubs and the 111-year drought of the Irish national team against New Zealand, all within a couple of days of one another?

In fact, both the Chicago Cubs and Ireland did not seem particularly bothered by the burden of the seemingly endless droughts, which must have seemed like epic curses to their fans. The Cubs players today are generally young and a bit cocky, and they seemed to almost take their historical championship season in stride. And the Irish players did not seem particularly intimidated this time around by New Zealand's aura of invincibility, of dominance - particularly over Ireland, specifically.

Indeed, Ireland defeated the All-Blacks, 40-29, to earn their first win over this normally dominating team - a team that, in particular, tormented Ireland for well over a century. It was an unusually high-scoring contest, although New Zealand has traditionally been a tough team to play against defensively. The All-Blacks rallied to pull to within four in the second half, but the Irish dug in their heels and held on, to secure this historic win and get the monkeys off their backs.

One thing that should be noted was that Ireland seemed particularly highly motivated and focused after the untimely death of former international and Munster head coach Anthony Foley last month. Perhaps their motivation to put a good show in his honor helped them to achieve this historical win against the defending world champions, New Zealand.

The Irish national team returned back home to Dublin, Ireland, with unusually high media coverage, and a hero's welcome from the entire country. 

The two sides will meet again in a couple of weeks in Dublin, so we will see if New Zealand has the revenge factor now on their side, and if this was perhaps some kind of a fluke, or if Ireland's win signals some kind of changing of the guard in terms of rugby powers.

Autumn internationals: Ireland 40-29 New Zealand  By Richard Petrie BBC Sport November 5, 2016:

1 comment:

  1. I'll be rooting for "Le XV du trèfle" (the French nickname for Ireland's rugby team, which combines the number of players on a team with the clover that appears on their jerseys, and indeed serves as a symbol of Ireland itself) to shock the rugby world all over again at Aviva Stadium on November 19th.