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Zero to Hero.

Zero to Hero.

As Warren Gatland makes his way back home to the west of Ireland he can surely allow himself a wry grin at the vagaries of his chosen profession.

As Warren Gatland makes his way back home to the west of Ireland he can surely allow himself a wry grin at the vagaries of his chosen profession. From hero to zero in Lens , zero to hero in France last year, hero to hero again against France earlier this year, and back to sub-zero after Murrayfield four short weeks ago. After the Scotland game the amount of vitriol poured in his sides direction was excessively unreasonable. The players did not need reminding that they had underperformed, nor did their performance mean that Warren Gatland should be run out of town. And even after the Welsh game there were those who would still grudgingly question the merit of the victory, contenting themselves with the notion, albeit a fair one, that the Welsh side were as poor as has come out of the valleys since Boyce was a baby.

The talk all last week was how Ireland would have to step up an awful lot just to avoid a pummelling from Clive Woodwards swashbucklers and the underlying theme suggested that Gatland would depart in the aftermath of the English coronation.

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There can have been very few people who travelled to Lansdowne Road last Saturday genuinely believing that Ireland would win. Very few that is, outside of the group who took up station in dressing room number 1 under the West Stand. Next door, the English squad included 14 players who had been with the Lions in Australia. Woodwinds starting backline were all Lions, with another, Austin Healey, warming the bench.

But from the moment early in the game, when our own Lion malcontent Malcolm OKelly clattered into Iain Balshaw, the feeling grew that the Irish were never going to play a supporting role and, having weathered the early tempest, they then proceeded to take centre stage.

Keith Wood was back to his rampaging best, Girvan Dempsey rock solid at the back, Denis Hickie making a mockery of his exclusion from the Lions trip and Kevin Maggs simply blasting anything in white that came anywhere near his neighbourhood.

And all around them, their colleagues worked their socks off and made rubbish of the pre-match predictions. Shane Horgan was meant to get a roasting from Billy Whizz and Jason Robinson. Mick Galwey and Peter Clohessy should have been cleaned by their younger opponents, but somehow or other it just did not work out that way.

As individuals and as a team, this side gave a display that all Irish sportspeople should be proud of. Those who left the bench played as important a role as the ones they replaced. And the admiration for the Ireland team grew in the final ten minutes when the English came looking for the winning score. By then Irish legs were wobbly, energy levels pushed beyond exhaustion. But they would not lie down and claimed a victory that ranks among their finest.

It was a great day for Irish rugby, a great day for the squad and management. And it was a day and a performance that should be remembered in the future, when things do not just go according to plan.

They were not a bad team in Murrayfield. They just played badly. England were not a bad team on Saturday. Just not as good as Ireland.