Game 1 vs England
First match up was against England on the pitch I made my Ireland debut on in 2011… against England. This was the advice I got from a friend by text before that game. ‘Everything is going to happen at such speed you won’t realise what’s happening to you. You’ve got to be ready for it… Hit it from the start like a hurricane!’ This is what I wrote at the end of the game. ‘A 4-3 loss. We gave away a try in the last play. We should have beaten them… Most of the lads were delighted with our performance. I felt sick.’
It didn’t get better after that. 7 losses in that tournament. And in the following years, I never beat England once.
Today? We won. 6-1.
Which was nice.
Game 2 vs Wales
“I hold a beast, an angel, and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, down throw and upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression.” – Dylan Thomas
One of my top ten Welsh people, Dylan Thomas. Those resounding phrases of his poetry. ‘Do not go gentle… rage, rage against the dying of the light’ ‘dance in my chains like the sea’ that stuck in my head when I read them as a teenager.
What other Welsh people stuck in my head… In the late 90s, Cerys Mathews’ arse in that silver suit in the video for Road Rage almost made me want to move to Wales. A couple of years ago, while driving across Wales, I heard her as a radio presenter and not knowing who she was till the end of the programme, I fell in love with her all over again.
Other Welsh people I liked. Well, Terry Griffiths was quite good at the snooker I suppose. He was no Dennis Taylor but I liked him. Bertrand Russell was good at the auld philosophy. He was no Descartes but he’d a few good points. Anthony Hopkins, I always love him. Catherine Zeta Jones in ‘Darling Buds of May’ and nothing much since. Rob Brydon. Henry VII, not the best Henry but a lot nicer chap than his son. David Lloyd George, was more sympathetic Prime Minister to the ‘Irish Question’ than his big rival Gladstone in the early 20th century, so no beef with him. Nigel Owens. The most moving Desert Island Discs podcast I’ve listened to. My favourite Welsh sportsperson overall… Joe Calzaghe, I’d say/.
Anyway, we lost the match 8/7. We’ll play them again twice more and we’ll need to learn. There’s a lot to learn and it just depends if we do. I think we will but we’ll see. Three more games tomorrow. Two against England. One against Wales. We’ll know each other well by the end of this.
Six years on, running onto the pitch, I still felt it all today… the hurricane, the sickness in the stomach, the beast, the angel, the madman inside… All the stuff that competitive sport does to you. I’m looking forward to it again tomorrow. And it looks like I’m getting the big bed tonight!