Ireland-v-USA-007 Normally, I hate moral victories. But this is a weird day and a weird week and a weird time. I’m still struggling to make enough sense out of what I think about current affairs let alone recent history to write intelligibly. But, Ireland, ranked 6 in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, beat the US today 22-10.However, the Green are probably wondering a little bit…they got lucky to do as well as they did, as the USA defense was stunningly good. Conditions were good Rugby conditions — cold, muddy, miserable, like US Football games in November. Stadium holds 20000, and was packed with locals, Irish Supporters, and USA supporters. More Irish than Yanks — Rugby is an Irish passion, and something mainly understood as a shirt style here in the USA. But, there’s lots of affection between the two countries, and between New Zealand so it was a friendly game. It began with a moment of silence for those members of the Rugby community lost on 9/11. That, in itself, was interesting. This was a four province Irish Team, with players from Ulster as well as the South, so they had a Team anthem. But, when they played the Star Spangled Banner, it seemed like the entire stadium was singing.

The game itself was great. The Irish team is definitely better — far, far more experienced. I think athletically our players match up well, but they just don’t have the experience. Again, in Rugby countries, they start playing Rugby year round at the same age we start in at T-Ball. The host country, New Zealand, is ranked number 1, the current champion, and I think they start listening to Rugby songs in the womb.

So, Ireland had the wheels come off a few times. That was caused by an aggressive and committed USA defense. Rugby can be a brutal game — you ideally need something like a mix of Tight Ends, Scat Backs, and Nose Tackles, but everybody needs to do everything. It also helps to have somebody like Shaquille O’Neil playing in the line-ins and scrums. The Irish had this blond giant who was, of course, the team captain and was able to get well above where the Rim was on throw ins. They also do better at the scrum, where ideally they dribble the ball along like soccer players within a pile that resembles in some way the Flying V because, well, it is — big guys in depth yoked together by their arms around each others shoulder pushing their way onward until the mess either comes apart or crosses the goal line.

The US got one penalty kick as did the Irish. Neither side was good at the kicking game. Ireland got three tries, but in the last minute, while they were trying to run up the score, a flicker pass was intercepted by a US player who ran it back for a score and then got the point. Could have been worse…

During the Irish Resistance, the Gaelic phrase Tiocfaidh r lbecame a motto for Militant Republicans and Nationalists. It means “our day will come,” and refers to the concept of an overall United Ireland. Or, it’s a way of reminding those on top that history does sort of run in cycles…During the Civil War, the Union’s Irish Brigade was almost continuously cited for valor, with the war cry “Faugh-a-Ballagh!” or “Clear the Way!” And, the official flag of the Irish Brigade carried the motto of the Fenian Brotherhood’s fighters,Riam nar druid sbarin lann orWe will never fly from the clashing of blades.

Now as I look for some sense in the past and the present, for better or worse, I see some paralells — American Rugby is going to get better. It’s mainly a club and college game now but it will eventually catch on, particularly for people who are looking for more contact than soccer, more scoring and lesss faking but like the cleaner game with the need for less protective gear. When it does, it should do well. So, clear the way, our day will come in this sport…which is probably the closest to the original football anyway. And, because of the date, it’s worth reminding the world that we may be dense poltically at time, but we don’t as a natural move avoid combat. And, we can be pretty vicious when provoked…

Or, to steal a line from another Irish guy, Robert F. Kennedy, at our best we “meet our duty and convince the world we are just friends and brave enemies.”