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Michael Kiernan Recalls The Drop Goal Which Sent England Packing In 1985

Michael Kiernan Recalls The Drop Goal Which Sent England Packing In 1985
Gavan Casey
By Gavan Casey
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It was a winning score carved on Leeside.

Christians, Pres, Pres. Con, Con, Dolphin. Lenihan, Bradley, Kiernan.

Rarely have we seen Irish fans at Landsdowne Road go so suitably berserk behind the posts than during the primal, arm-flailing cacophony that greeted Mike Kiernan's drop goal which sunk England in 1985.

With a particularly assured swing of his famed right boot, the nephew of Ireland's greatest ever fullback had written his own name into Irish rugby folklore, securing what would be Ireland's final Triple Crown for 19 years in the process, along with a final Championship triumph for 24.

A nation beaten to its knees for the bones of a decade rose to its feet once more.

"I suppose it was an instantaneous thing, really," explains Mike Kiernan, now almost 22 years removed from producing one of the most iconic moments in Irish sporting history.


The conditions were pretty bad, it was kind of late in the game. I just literally found myself in front of the posts where the 10 would normally be - I was playing at 12, you know? But our 10 [Paul Dean] had gone down the blindside. The scrum-half [Michael Bradley] passed it straight to me and it was instinctive as much as anything. We were level at that stage, so any score would do.

The game was over very shortly after that. It just started sinking in then, really.


As is the case for many of us who witness great sporting moments live within a stadium, Kiernan's memory of the moment, despite having bisected the sticks himself, remains relatively hazy; instead, the countless tv and Youtube playbacks over the intervening years have reframed the drop-kick and ensuing bedlam from that March afternoon.


And while it doesn't quite make for his evening viewing of choice over two decades later, the Dolphin man has no qualms with the score's occasional airing in the Kiernan household, be it at the hands of Mick The Kick's own friends or those of his three children - Ali, James and Paul:

My abiding memory of it is definitely having seen back in retrospect. I mean, that moment - and you're literally talking about moments - isn't something that I'd be able to properly recollect without seeing it back.

Ah, you'd never get sick of it. It was certainly shown quite a lot in the years soon afterwards, and probably with the advent of professionalism, and the way the game has changed since, it's not played back quite as often. But it's still nice to see it every now and again - it brings back some nice memories alright.

Yet, for all its glory, that late winner against the Old Enemy wasn't the highlight of Ireland's season from Kiernan's perspective.

Incidentally, that Five Nations-deciding fixture had originally been scheduled as the tournament's curtain-raiser in '85, but was postponed due to adverse weather conditions in Dublin. It meant Ireland instead opened their campaign in Cardiff against the Welsh, having not come away from the valleys with a victory since a 3-0 win in 1967.

Kiernan reckons to this day that the rescheduling of England's visit to Landsdowne, and the subsequent change of plans for the Ireland squad that evening, played no small part in the success that was to follow:


We were in Dublin, ready to go, the day the match against England was called off. I'd say the 'bonding session' that day probably helped us as much as anything! We couldn't train, so we were able to go to a local hostelry and bond, as they say.

I think the match with Wales in Cardiff is more of an abiding memory than England, to be honest, because we hadn't won there in so long. And it was THE toughest place to go back then. So we kind of broke that duck. That meant a lot to us, because we played really good rugby that day as well.

I just remember... That feeling of achievement in Cardiff was probably the highlight of the season in terms of which match you'd pick out.

Two years prior to Ireland's famous '85 triumph, Kiernan toured New Zealand with the Lions, aged just 22. With the Lions' return to Kiwi soil just around the corner, the former Munster and Ireland centre believes any call for the concept to be abolished to be nonsense.

Indeed, he suggests that most players themselves would agree, but accepts that the flagrant commercialism and injury problems which plague modern-day tours have warped the Lions in the minds of many punters. Nonetheless, he views it as a staple in the sport, and one which he hopes continues beyond 2017:

Well, I certainly wouldn't like to see it scrapped. I think it's unique in world sport that you'd get four rival countries coming together to play as one team - that's unheard of. Alright, the Ryder Cup is maybe comparable, but in terms of so many players coming together and working together as a team, the Lions is different.

It's a great opportunity for guys, and the tours now are much shorter. Our tour was two-and-a-half months. It wasn't that big of a challenge being away. I mean, most of the guys would have been single, you know? A lot of us were sort of 23 or 24.

We had 18 games, where the tours now have far fewer. It's still a great opportunity for rugby players to represent the four 'home' countries, and I think very few guys who've experienced it would have anything negative to say about it.

In keeping with the family rugby dynasty, Kiernan's two sons - James (24), and Ireland u20 international Paul (21) - both play in the AIL for UCC, with the elder brother crossing the whitewash for 'College' against UL just last Saturday.

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