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Remembering One Of The Loudest Roars Ever Heard In Lansdowne Road

Remembering One Of The Loudest Roars Ever Heard In Lansdowne Road
By Conor Neville
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The roar that greeted Gordon Hamilton's try against Australia in 1991 couldn't happen now. It would be drowned out by the PA system playing 'Shipping up to Boston' by the Dropkick Murphys.

Ireland tries were a novelty in those days. Ireland tries against proper teams when games were still in the balance  were even more of a novelty. So rare were they that they were invariably greeted by an impromptu pitch invasion in the corner.

Every time a man in a green shirt tumbled over the try line, his jersey rippling in the wind in a way that rugby jerseys don't anymore, the lucky corner that got a close-up of this historic moment would burst its banks and that part of the pitch would be momentarily flooded with jeans wearing men in greying coats tugging at and tousling the head of the hero of the hour.

There were no models from the pages of the Sunday Independent at matches in those days and no kids waving political correct non-tricolour Irish rugby flags - just a load of men leaping around like maniacs.

And Hamilton's try was greeted with an incredible, euphoric wave of noise - of the type which gave meaning to the cliche of the Lansdowne Roar.

I don't know what the standard unit of measurement for a roar is but it may well be the loudest roar ever at the old Lansdowne Road. There are a few compelling competitors from the Irish football team's days there. Jason McAteer's goal in 2001 is a favourite modern one and generated a massive sound, while Tony Cascarino's equaliser against England in the Euro 92 qualifier sparked a mini pitch invasion of a sort.

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In the following play, Ireland's Nottingham-born scrum half Rob Saunders (Irish rugby was briefly minded to follow the lead of Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland team in the early 90s) sportingly kicked the ball straight back to Australians and they mounted an attack, forcing a lineout close to the Irish line.

No one watching at home saw this. RTE were still showing a replay of Gordon Hamilton's try when Saunders gifted the Australians one more chance to rescue the game. The try was to be replayed approximately 1,867 on TV over the next 23 years and now occupies pride of place on Youtube, where there are about five videos devoted to it, replete with different commentaries, the RTE one, the ITV one, the French one. Rob Saunders failed kick for touch has never been shown, not even at the time it happened.

The air of foreboding should have been all consuming at this point, but everyone was still in breathless celebration mode after the try. The Australians won a scrum, siphoned the ball wide and the absurdly menacing David Campese almost skated in for his hat-trick try but was tackled and somehow popped the ball back to Lynagh (although it sometimes looks like the ball just flew out of his hands), who picked the ball off his shoelaces to score. The crowd behind the goal seemed to perform one universal slump. All the fizz went out of the atmosphere, and suddenly there they were just people standing around watching a bunch of Aussies clap each other on the back.

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Hamilton played nine times for Ireland, all during Ciaran Fitzgerald's spell as coach in 1991 and 92. His win-loss ratio is fairly typical of any Irish player who played at that time. He was on the winning side on just two occasions in an Irish shirt - against Japan and Zimbabwe in the group stages of that World Cup. He also played when Ireland drew with Wales in Cardiff in the 'wooden spoon' decider of the 1991 Five Nations.

According to most reports, one of Ireland's best players that day was Neil Francis, who more than achieved parity in the lineout with the legendary John Eales. Francis's controversialist tendencies in print mean that negative comments on his articles are often accompanied by critiques of his rugby career, usually from Munster fans (for whom he seems to personify Leinster arrogance and complacency) dubbing him 'a big soft ruck inspector.' Those same people will often then mutter a few words in praise of Tony Copsey. But most contemporary accounts report him as a 'talented, if sometimes lazy player' and he was clearly good enough to make the 1989 Lions squad.

The following year, Ireland lost every test match they played, were hammered in Twickenham and Paris and were booed by their own supporters in the home game against Scotland.

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The try was replayed again and again during the 1990s - a tantalising glimpse of a paradise lost.

It was only after a few times of seeing it re-shown that I actually learned that Ireland had lost the game in question. For years afterwards, it was only mentioned as an aside.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvhHy6MFfi4

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