€1, illness 279.22 is the least it’ll cost you to have the time of your life right now. As long as you don’t mind spending thirty hours on an airplane, medical seeing all the delights that the airports of Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur have to offer and splashing out on somewhere to actually stay during your time there, store then New Zealand beckons. Among the tens of thousands of Irish fans, and newly converted Irish fans, you could be joining three Donegal lads travelling around the land of the long white cloud in a battered Mitsubishi L300. Having initially spray painted the van green, white and orange, they’ve since had the addition of the signatures of all but four of the Irish players and have appeared on news bulletins in both New Zealand and at home. My envy of their trip has grown with each day.
The fact that Ireland have become every Kiwi’s second favourite rugby team could be meaningless as, by Saturday evening, the World Cup party could be losing its best guests. Our best World Cup win ever against Australia, a sublime reminder on how to play rugby against the Italians; it could all count for absolutely nothing. However depressing George Hook might think the masses of Irish emigrants attending the matches is, it’s incomparable to the depression they will feel and we will feel watching them following an Irish defeat.
It’s easy to forget about Wales in the build up to this match, and exactly what defeat would mean to them. Western Mail columnist Deimi Parfitt sums up in his own understated way what this match is all about for our Celtic cousins – “Tomorrow, we’re in a battle to conquer the rugby world. It doesn’t get any bigger.” Yes, this may seem extremely over-the-top, but one look at the camps of the potential semi-final opponents is all that is required to see what Parfitt is coming from. The English are seemingly on a mission to offend as many people as possible on their travels, whereas France have a head coach who has had to try and prevent a mutiny taking place in a squad which he described as “cowards” last March.
One must also not forget that although Ireland have often been credited with being the biggest underachievers in rugby world cup history, Wales aren’t far behind. Humiliating defeats to Western Samoa in 1991 and 1999 and Fiji in 2007 perhaps even top Ireland’s lackluster performances in this tournament. Thus a Wales side that are performing up to, and perhaps beyond any expectations is as unique an experience to them as the performance of this Irish side is to us. With a semi-final against one of two utterly dysfunctional and underperforming sides, then it is very easy to see why this match is so huge.
The generation of post-Japan/Korea Irish footballers also have a fantastic chance of a special achievement this weekend. Two victories against Andorra and Armenia, and a little help from our friends in Bratislava, and a new generation of players and fans will be going to another major tournament. Yes, this might be a slightly less exciting prospect than what the rugby counterparts are in line to do this weekend, but nonetheless, this is a golden chance not to be looked down upon because of the escapades of the other boys in green. On a side note, Tuesday may also finally produce the first football night in the new Lansdowne Road that could be described as special.
It could be a great weekend to be an Irish supporter, whether it be rugby or football. The underachievers are very close to becoming achievers. Let’s hope the party keeps going.