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‘Only Our Best Will Do’ – McNulty

‘Only Our Best Will Do’ – McNulty

‘Only Our Best Will Do’ – McNulty

Harry McNulty is pictured running in a try for Ireland during the pool stages of the European Games in Krakow ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Ireland Men’s Sevens captain Harry McNulty was pleased with the performance they put in against Portugal, which moved them within reach of the double prize of Olympic qualification and European Games gold.

Great Britain, one of their most regular recent opponents, stand in their way in tonight’s final (kick-off 9.35pm local time/8.35pm Irish time), as the Ireland Men look to qualify for a second successive Olympics.

All of the European Games matches are broadcast live on rugbyeurope.tv via the Rugby Europe website – click here for more.

There was huge drama and excitement when Ireland defeated France to win the global repechage tournament in 2021 and qualify for the Covid-19-delayed Tokyo Games, but McNulty is hoping to get the job done twelve months earlier this time around.

They are going the right way about doing that, with a well-judged 24-0 semi-final win over Portugal maintaining their winning form in Poland and setting up a winner-takes-all showdown with Britain.

Speaking after this afternoon’s four-try victory, McNulty said: “Semi-finals are pretty difficult games. There’s a lot of nerves going into them, a lot of prep. Anything can happen, in Rugby Europe especially. You just see teams getting beat left, right and centre.

“We just knew we had to bring our best, and one thing I asked the lads before running out was to bring themselves, and that’s all we could ask for.

“All of us collected (together) means we’re a team, and we can do our best. Fantastic result against a strong Portuguese side. We’re into the final, we’re delighted with that.

“We threw everything at them, there were some kick throughs and we chased back incredibly well. We held onto the ball for long periods of time, lots of defensive efforts as well. It’s great to have a score reflect the way that you played.”

Ireland (sponsored by TritonLake) have a good recent record against Britain, having beaten them at the final two World Series legs in Toulouse (22-0) and London (19-12), and then twice (12-7 and 17-14) during the opening leg of the Rugby Europe Sevens Championship Series in the Algarve.

Those results will count for little come kick-off time at the Henryk Reyman Stadium, though, and another tight tussle between these familiar rivals is anticipated with that golden ticket to Paris 2024 on the line.

While acknowledging that Ireland have a global repechage place secured if they need it next year, McNulty insisted: “We haven’t come here for that. We’ve got one more game on our plate that we need to finish.”

Meanwhile, former skipper Billy Dardis had a big contribution in steering Ireland through to the gold medal match. He converted both of his first half tries to establish a 14-0 lead over Portugal.

Like McNulty, Dardis is one of the most experienced members of this Ireland squad and they can lean on their experience of playing in big semi-finals and finals on the World Series – and the qualifier event before that – and also at last year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens.

With the carrot of back-to-back Olympic appearances dangling in front of them, the Naas man knows it is all about keeping calm under pressure and delivering as good a performance as they can in the Cup decider.

“We’re well versed in these kind of games, these qualifier games. It’s nerve-racking, I suppose this morning there was not much eaten at breakfast! And everyone’s a bit excited,” he said.

“But you just need to focus on one step at a time, get your job right. You don’t really need superheroes in this situation.

“Big high-pressure situations like this, it’s more about who can stay on task, get the jobs right, the really simple things done really well, and then the result looks after itself. Hopefully we can do that tonight.”

Dardis also spoke about how the squad will regroup, refuel and get ready for the challenge that Britain will present, as well as giving his take on his two tries and how they fared overall against Portugal.

“We have to try and recover now, focus and get on task for this big one. There’s no motivation needed for a big Olympic qualifier, so it’ll just be about getting our jobs right, getting our roles right and going out there and executing.

“I’m not much of a try scorer myself, but for us it’s not really about who scores. Terry (Kennedy) and Jordo (Conroy) are our try scorers, that’s their job. My job is to try and make them look good and do the donkey work in the middle of the park.

“It was a good game. A bit hectic at the start, but we stayed on it and controlled that second half and saw it out. It was a good ruthless performance and it will have to be the same tonight,” he added.