Heroes of '48 rue Irish Grand Slam triumph
March 27, 2009
Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll and his Grand Slam-winning team mates are set to become media magnets © Getty Images
Ireland's first Grand Slam for 61 years has had a huge impact on rugby in the Emerald Isle.
The Irish Rugby Football Union expects a significant rise in sponsorship deals, ticket sales, corporate interest, merchandise opportunities and player numbers. The clean sweep of the Six Nations could potentially bring in millions of euros into the Irish game whilst having a huge 'feel good' effect, especially for grass roots rugby.
However, the long awaited success has not led to a positive outcome for every section of the Irish rugby community. Several surviving members of the 1948 Grand Slam side, the only other Irish side to ever achieve the full house of wins, have admitted they expect a dramatic drop in media interviews, public appearances and the right to boast loudly in the bar as a result of Ireland's heroics in this year's Championship.
One player from the 1948 side who wishes to remain anonymous (we will refer to him as Player A) spoke to The East Terrace about the fallout from Saturday's dramatic win in Cardiff.
"We were an exclusive club," said Player A, "We were living legends: the only Irish men to have the honour of calling ourselves Grand Slam champions. Every year, particularly in recent years with Ireland doing so well, we would get calls from the newspapers, visits from the television people and requests from the radio stations for interviews. They all wanted to know about our achievement in 1948 and what it was like being the only Irish men to have a Grand Slam to their name. It was brilliant. I could have done it forever. Now, suddenly, it's bloody gone. Who wants to talk to people like me now? You think Johnny-come-lately of Dublin wants to know about me? Not likely. He'll be all Brian O'Driscoll this, Ronan O'Gara that."
Despite his protestations, Player A was adamant he wanted to keep his identity secret: "I don't want to be seen as a spoil sport. In public I keep saying how delighted I am at the whole affair. How good it is to have the burden lifted. I'd say it was time to 'pass the torch' on. Hogwash. We all loved it. It's not even like the number Grand Slam champions in Ireland have suddenly doubled after Saturday's win either. Due to squad numbers in modern rugby and all these replacements, there's suddenly almost another 30 odd of us!"
Player A watched the Wales - Ireland decider in his local pub and fellow drinkers claim he spent the pre-match banter discussing his exploits of 1948. His talk was, according to the barman, something of a regular occurrence.
Player A told The East Terrace he cheered all the Irish scores during the match and that he was biting his nails when Stephen Jones lined up for the potential slam-breaking kick at the game's conclusion.
"When I saw that kick from Welsh fly-half Stephen Jones fall short in the last second my first thought was 'Wow, we've finally done it, we've finally claimed another Grand Slam'. Then a few seconds later I though 'Damn it! There go my media bookings for next year'."
Player A insists he isn't the only member of the team concerned with his media profile suddenly losing its currency.
"I've talked it over with the other lads and, when you scratch the surface, they all feel the same way. Our glory has gone. I'll guess we'll just have to hire an agent," said Player A. "I spoke to some young media type and he was throwing out these words such as 'rebranding', 'relaunching' and 'crossmarketing'. I've no idea what he meant, but I think he sounded right and we need to look into it."
"One of my grandchildren, who I admit is a bit of a cheeky chap, turned around to me on Sunday and said that I was 'so 1948'. Imagine that! It's almost like he was bored hearing about it."
Player A also spoke of his guilty wish that Ireland would be stripped of their 2009 Grand Slam on some technicality.
"Nothing serious," he explained, "Not like a failed drug test or anything, that would be awful. But maybe someone from the Six Nations could find out that they had too many players on the pitch at one time during the match. Or perhaps the IRFU filled in some form wrongly and mis-registered a player. I'd even take the referee suddenly remembering Wales scored two tries in the first half and he forgot to write the score down and, in fact, Wales won. Yes, that would be nice. It would be like the old days again then. Everyone treating us as Irish rugby kings."
However, a fellow drinker from the same pub as Player A was delighted with the outcome of Saturday's match: "God, if I had heard Player A tell me about Ireland's only Grand Slam one more time I was going to empty my Guinness on his head. I swear it. Hopefully this will shut him up a bit."
James Stafford is editor of The East Terrace (www.theeastterrace.com) - an offside view of life in the rugby world