10 years later: Former Irish rugby star recalls the emotional England game in Croke Park
Was it really 10 years ago?
Ireland’s intense encounter with England in Croke Park remains one of the most memorable moments in Irish sport. The atmosphere in the build up to the game was a heady mix of sporting rivalry, nervous anticipation, politics and old grudges.
Not everyone at the time embraced "foreign sports" being played in Croker but everyone was fascinated to see what would happen. The removal of Rule 42 had already allowed the French come to Croke Park to play Ireland in the Six Nations tournament.
But this was different. This was England.
Even minor things became bogged down in controversy, with some quarters opposed to ‘God Save the Queen’ being played at the hallowed ground of Croke Park.
By the time the Irish anthems were played, the whole country was paying attention and the emotion of the occasion was etched on the faces of the Irish players. That passion set the tone for a famous victory.
Speaking on this week's The Clubhouse, David Wallace recalled playing in Croke Park and getting a try on the day.
“It was probably one of the most emotional games, I have to say, I’ve ever been involved in,” Wallace recalled.
“You’re playing against England and I suppose the history was so relevant to everyone and hit everyone so hard that you just didn’t want to let anyone down.”
There were many memorable moments in the match. Who could forget Shane Horgan’s demonstration of Gaelic football skills as he fielded Ronan O’Gara’s cross-field kick before his try? This mixing of codes on such an occasion was hard to ignore. John Hayes’ tears during the anthem became an iconic image but Wallace couldn't resist poking fun at his former teammate.
“He was a big baby, wasn’t he!?” he joked, before admitting that everyone felt the importance of the occasion.
“Obviously, you were emotional but I was very, very nervous before games anyway.
"The guys would feed off that [nervous energy]. The whiter I was, the more comfortable they were because they knew we were at the right pitch.”
Wallace also paid tribute to Donncha O'Callaghan for helping him across the line for his own try on the day. His first thought after his try was “get back and go again,” showing how focused that Irish team was on the day.
The 43-13 score line reflected the intensity that the Irish team brought to a fantastic sporting occasion. It may not seem like 10 years ago but it remains an historic moment in Irish rugby.
Next week's episode of The Clubhouse airs on Thursday at 10.30pm on 3e and their rugby guest is Wales' Shane Williams.
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