Today is Poetry Ireland Day and what better way to mark it than to look back at the Ireland v England match in 1938 as celebrated by noted Irish poet Louis MacNeice in his ‘Rugby Football Excursion’.
The poem tells the story of MacNeice’s journey from London to Dublin to watch the match and evokes the trip by train and boat to Lansdowne Road.
England ruled the roost that day and MacNeice perfectly captures the unusually high-scoring flavour of the match:
Lansdowne Road – the swirl of flags and faces
Gilbert and Sullivan music, emerald jerseys;
Spire and crane beyond remind the mind on furlough
of Mersey’s cod and Rome’s.
Eccentric scoring – Nicholson, Marshall and Unwin,
Replies by Bailey and Daly;
Rugs around our shins, the effortless place-kick
Gaily carving the goalposts.
Highlights of the match – showing the scoring sequence as described and even the ‘rugs around our shins’ – can be seen in this footage from British Pathé news:
The Irish scorers included M.J. Daly and A.H. Bailey. The Ireland team from that February day in 1938 is listed below from ‘Irish Rugby: 1874 – 1999 – A History’ by Edmund Van Esbeck.