October was a busy month for Irish sport. The Irish rugby team – laden with expectation – performed in the Rugby World Cup. The Irish soccer team played their final two group matches in their bid to qualify for Euro 2016. A number of Irish boxers fought to qualify for the Olympics, and an Irish hockey team made history. All in a month!
Let’s start with the lows, and get them out of the way.
The Low Points
Ireland vs Argentina (Rugby)
Rugby fever consumed Ireland in October. Thousands of Irish people made the journey across the channel to support the men in green, and thousands more tuned in to watch the Irish team excel in Pool D. Expectations were massive. The entire country, it seemed, was behind the team.
The 24-9 win over France on October 11th was one of the most enjoyable Irish sporting events in recent memory. The nation began to dream. Sadly, it was not to be. Injuries to key players, including Johnny Sexton and Paul O’Connell, proved costly, and Ireland failed to negate the quarter finals yet again.
A disappointing comprehensive 43-20 defeat to Argentina on October 18th eliminated Ireland, and crushed any dreams of World Cup glory.
Billy Walsh’s departure
The success of the Irish boxers in Qatar has been overshadowed by the departure of Billy Walsh; the Irish amateur boxing head coach. Walsh, who led Ireland to Olympic, World and European gold medals, will now ply his trade in the US.
Irish boxing is sure to suffer as a result. The thought of Walsh being in the opposite corner to Michael Conlan – or any Irish boxer for that matter – is a grim one. Katie Taylor stated that Walsh’s departure is a huge loss for Irish boxing. “I’m very saddened by the news,” the 2012 Olympic champion said. “I genuinely thought it would be resolved. He was so important to me early in my career.”
Much has been said on why Walsh has resigned, and opinions differ. Many feel the IABA is at fault. One thing is for certain, Irish boxing has lost a talented coach.
Poland vs Ireland (Football)
The elation of beating Germany soon wore off, after Ireland’s sobering 2-1 defeat to Poland on October 11th. Expectations were high for the clash, but Ireland failed to replicate the level of performance which stunned the world champions, and instead looked tired and unimaginative at times.
The result means that Ireland finished third in the group, and must overcome Bosnia and Herzegovina in the qualifiers in order to qualify for next summer’s tournament. The away leg in Bosnia is on Friday, November 13th, with the return leg being played in the Aviva on Monday, November 16th.
Home defeats at UFC Dublin
Irish fighters endured mixed evenings at UFC Dublin which took place at the 3Arena on Saturday, October 24th. Irish fans were disappointed before the event even began, with main card fighter Joe Duffy pulling out through injury.
Norman Parke, Aisling Daly and Neil Seery delighted the crowd with deserved wins, but Cathal Pendred and headliner Paddy Holahan were both defeated on the night.
A small section of the crowd also dampened the evening by hurling objects at the ring after Holohan’s defeat.
That’s enough negative reflection for one article, on to the best bits! Let’s relive some of the great Irish sporting moments of October.
The High Points
Ireland’s win over Germany (Football)
Ireland’s incredible 1-0 win over Germany ranks up there with the great soccer moments; McAteer’s volley, Ray Houghton’s goal, Robbie Keane’s equalizer against the Germans in 2002. It was the ultimate smash and grab, and had the entire country in hysterics.
Substitute Shane Long was the hero, burying Darren Randolph’s long ball past a helpless Manuel Neuer.
Michael Conlan winning gold
Michael Conlan has been heralded as the future of Irish boxing, and from what we’ve seen thus far, it’s hard to argue.
Conlan won the bantamweight gold medal at the World Boxing Championships – held in Doha – thus becoming the first Irish man to win a world title.
Unfortunately, fellow Irish boxer Michael O’Reilly missed out on a place at the 2016 Olympic Games after losing his third-placed box-off. Promising Irish boxer Joe Ward also won the silver medal in the light-heavyweight division at the AIBA World Boxing Championships.
It was a hugely successful tournament for amateur Irish boxing, and we could be witnessing the rise of a generation of elite Irish boxers.
Ireland beating France (Rugby)
As mentioned above, Ireland’s victory over France (24-9) in the final World Cup group game was a great day for Irish rugby fans. Joe Schmidt’s charges put in a brave, battling performance to overcome the French, and thus win the group.
Despite the loss of Paul O’Connell and Johnny Sexton through injury, Ireland remained in control and dominated the French. It meant a lot to the players, manager and fans, as demonstrated by an emotional Ian Madigan at the final whistle.
Despite the subsequent disappointment, this was a day of Irish Rugby to cherish.
A triumph for Irish Hockey
It’s not just Irish boxing that had a wonderful month.
It has been an amazing year for the Irish hockey team, who claimed a bronze medal at the Eurohockey Championships in August. They have now added to their momentum by qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics for the first time since 1908.
Now the Irish team will join 11 other finalists from around the world to compete at the Olympics next summer.
All in all, October was a massive month for Irish sport. A month which had its share of highs, and its share of lows.