Wales 15-17 Ireland, Six Nations Championship, March 21
Kyle delighted to pass the torch
March 23, 2009
Ronan O'Gara was singled out for praise by Jackie Kyle © Getty Images
Ireland's legendary fly-half Jackie Kyle has insisted that he is delighted with the Grand Slam-winning exploits of Ireland's class of 2009. Kyle was at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday to watch Brian O'Driscoll's side win the Grand Slam for the first time since 1948, the year that Kyle himself inspired Ireland to their first clean sweep.
"Seeing the players jump for joy and parade around the pitch was a pleasure," Kyle said. "I'm so happy they have won and taken on the mantle, more so because they are a side worthy of the Grand Slam.
"Many of them have been playing for a number of years, becoming a Triple Crown side without claiming the final prize. Some of them will be retiring in a number of years, and to do so as Grand Slam winners will give them enormous satisfaction. When they're old and grey they'll get together much like we have done and will be invited to functions as Grand Slam winners."
Kyle watched from the stands as tries from O'Driscoll and Tommy Bowe secured a 17-15 win, sparking wild celebrations in the stands and on the streets of Cardiff. Kyle added his applause along with everyone else, and is overjoyed that a new cast of Irish stars can now call themselves Grand Slam champions.
"We had that pleasure for a long time, and there is no regret whatsoever that they've joined us," he said. "After such a long time without the Grand Slam, we're all feeling proud that Irish rugby has achieved this. To win in Wales is always difficult, and I think that adds something extra to it.
"It's good for Irish rugby and good for the nation as well - people will have taken a lot of pleasure from this during difficult times. With all the different sports in Ireland, such as hurling and Gaelic football, it's good that we can still produce a Grand Slam side."
Kyle witnessed a game that will go down in the history of the Six Nations, with Ronan O'Gara and Stephen Jones swapping drop-goals before Jones saw a last-gasp penalty to win the game drop agonisingly short.
"It was wonderful to be there. The atmosphere was great - there was so much drama," said Kyle. "One moment we were cheering; the next moment we had our head in our hands. Talk about being on the edge of our seats! To see Ireland pinch it right at the end, when in previous years they've been thwarted, made it very exciting. That last penalty brought back memories of France at Croke Park two years ago.
"With two minutes to go, we were congratulating ourselves that we'd won - and suddenly France scored a try to reverse the result. That ultimately cost us the Grand Slam that year."
The focus in Cardiff was often on O'Gara, whom Kyle singled out for particular praise in the aftermath of his winning contribution.
"I thought O'Gara was fantastic. People talk about his ability under pressure, but that second-half display has ended any doubt," Kyle said. "He directed play so well, as he has done all Six Nations when Ireland have won every game. That says a lot for him. To have the calmness to drop that goal near the end was quite a feat, because he had been through a tough match. It was also brave - because had he failed, everyone would have felt that it was a missed opportunity to win the Grand Slam."