This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famous Ireland v England Five Nations fixture in 1973 that took place against the backdrop of a heated political situation.
Ireland won 18-9 on the day but the England team received a monumental reception at Lansdowne Road. Johnny Moloney lined out at scrum half for the hosts, playing a pivotal role in engineering tries scored by Tom Grace and Dick Milliken.
Moloney was amongst members of both teams and delegates from the IRFU and RFU who gathered at a reception in London, hosted by the Irish Embassy, to celebrate the anniversary of such a special moment in rugby history. We spoke to Moloney about his memories of that day.
“Believe it or not, this is one of the proudest days of my life. It goes down with two other events, the actual match in ’73 and to play in that, and to be at the speech when John Pullin said, ‘we may not be a great team but we turn up’. That was very special to me,” he said.
“The other one was the Croke Park match (in 2007). The total respect the Irish crowd had for ‘God Save The Queen’. The impossible happened that day and I was so proud to be Irish, and this function here in the Embassy in London is on a par with those, so that says exactly how I feel.”
It was an occasion filled with special moments in time. When asked about his favourite memory of that day back in February 1973, Moloney reflected on another unique thing that happened before the match got underway.
“There was a man called Frank Whisker, an Old Wesley alickadoo, who was responsible for making sure both teams got onto the pitch. At that stage, we togged out in the Lansdowne Pavilion, we had to go across an area where the general public was,” he explained.
“But, it was his quick thinking, normally the English team went out on the field. He saw what was happening, they were getting a standing ovation. He stopped us coming, so therefore the four minutes or whatever it was, was seen to be given to the English team which they fully deserved. That’s a great memory.
“I knew Frank Whisker because I’d done a bit of business with him…to be able to say to Frank Whisker that he was responsible for that standing ovation…because if we had gone out, it would have been totally diluted.”
History beckons again this weekend as Ireland will attempt to win only their fourth ever Grand Slam and the first ever to be secured in Dublin.
Moloney is confident that Andy Farrell’s men can put in a winning performance similar to the one his team mustered 50 years ago, but he expects that Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations title decider will be tougher than most anticipate.
“I think England have got a kick in the pants and they are going to be really up for it. I think we’re going to win, but I think it’s going to be tighter and a lot more difficult than a lot of people predict,” he added.