At about five minutes past nine, the Air New Zealand Jumbo 747, flight number NZ2, lifted out of Auckland airport, banked left and left the City of Sails behind en route to the City of Angels.
At about five minutes past nine, the Air New Zealand Jumbo 747, flight number NZ2, lifted out of Auckland airport, banked left and left the City of Sails behind en route to the City of Angels.The atmosphere in the Irish squad was subdued. The fatigue of a long season, a wearying if enjoyable three weeks and the disappoitment from Saturday, all factors in the jadedness of the squad.
Oh, and the lateness of the post match activites.
After the game in Eden Park, both sides gathered in the Heritage Hotel for a post match sit down meal. It was a glamourous affair with guest speakers including Lane Penn, President of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, Erroll McKenzie from sponsors Phillips and Waka Nathan President of the Auckland RFU, a former All Black the french dubbed the “Black Panther’.
But the man who stole the show was our own Roy Loughead who earned the loudest applause with a short snappy speech which ended thus. “And finally, I would like to thank Auckland’s first citizen, it’s Lord Mayor, Mr John Banks, for his interest in our visit to his city and I would like him to come forward and accept this gift from the Irish Rugby football Union.”
Then a voice from table 17 shouts.
“He’s not here mate.”
“Oh”. says Roy.” Perhaps he’s not as interested in our visit as we thought.”
Cue loud laughter, and then Roy again in that soft northern brogue.
“Ach now, I didn’t mean to be rude but if someone could come up here and accept it on his behalf, that’d be grand.”
The party moved on to various city night spots before the entire Irish party ended the evening in the chic Left Field overlooking the harbour.
Earlier in the day there had been a stream of well wishers calling to the team’s hotel and they included, former Leinster back-rower Dean Oswald, Noel McQuilkin and Mike Mullins. The forwards did their line out in the Post Office car park and the atmosphere in the camp was particul;arly good, the seriousness often punctuated with the the kind of humour displayed by the Wallace brothers.
“He Dave, what’s the story about lunch?” Paul enquired.
“Eh lunch Paul? Well it’s a meal that eaten, normally, in the middle of the day…..”
Paul looks away ruefully with a “I should have known better look.’
A police escort led us to Eden Park toavoid the heavy traffic and before kick off the lights were turned off to allow Irish and Maori dancers entertain the packed stadium.
There weren’t as many Irish there as we had in Dunedin but what was, made themselves heard. And if it ended in disappointment there was pride in the performance and Irish supporters left Eden Park with heads held high.
And now it’s time to leave the City of Angels and head for Heathrow. Our party has dwindled. Some players, Anthony Foley, Alan Quinlan, Justin Bishop, Brian O’Driscoll and John O’Neill included, will head off to Venice Beach for a few days R&R. Eddie O’Sullivan and Brian O’Brien have already gone to Australia to check things out for the World Cup next year. Others will take off again when they get home for a well earned vacation. They all have to be back to go to a training camp in Poland. It starts on the 20th July.
So a season that began with a match in early August comes to a close. – Finally. But only for a short while.
Oh. A correction to the introduction to this piece. Marcus Horan says he’s nearly certain the Jumbo banked to the right not left. – Sorry.