Sadness for Ireland, after a thrilling spell for local sport

Morning View
Morning View

On Saturday, there were jokes flying around about how Scotsmen, Irishmen and Welshmen were still enjoying the rugby, while Englishmen were not.

By last night, all the home nations were out of the World Cup.

It brought to an end any involvement by the varying parts of the British Isles in the thrilling tournament, that is now attracting significant interest in countries that have not traditionally been much associated with rugby, such as Japan and the United States.

In Northern Ireland, support for Ireland’s rugby success has been accompanied with the recent joy at the Province’s football team comfortably reaching next year’s Euro finals for the first time ever.

It was a shame to see the Irish rugby team being toppled yesterday by Argentina, but there was a widespread feeling that the men in the green jerseys had lost to deserving victors.

Amid the global problems in parts of the world such as the Middle East, which seem perhaps to be worsening, these international sporting events have been a welcome contrast.

Both the soccer and rugby World Cups are, like the Olympics, tournaments that seem to keep growing in prestige and popularity (despite the turmoil at Fifa and athletic controversies over drugs).

One optimistic interpretation of the excitement that is generated by these contests is that it provides an outlet for nationalism that might once have spilled into violence.

Let us hope that is true.

In Northern Ireland, our difficult past and our smallness means that we know how to savour sporting success when it comes, as it has done spectacularly in golf, football and boxing. Yesterday, sadly, it was not to be for rugby, but one day Ireland’s huge achievements in that sport will be fully reflected on the global stage.