Ireland in its golden age of rugby

Joe McCarthy taking possession in Ireland’s clash with France in Marseille. Photo: Harry Murphy.

KERRY football legend Pat Spillane said it best: “Rugby is sexy, it’s in, and it’s hot.”

The jury is still out in regard the “sexy” claim, but the game is certainly exploding as far as Ireland’s national team is concerned.

The Aviva Stadium is sure to be rocking on Sunday (v Italy, 3pm) particularly after Andy Farrell’s side put the French to the sword in the Six Nations Championship opener on their own soil at the weekend.

Italy will not fancy the task that faces them and, despite all the pre-match comments from the Irish camp regarding “not underestimating the opposition”, a sizeable winning margin for the home side beckons.

The Azzurri shone in stages of their recent defeat at home to England and scored some exciting tries, highlighted by a possible ‘try of the Six Nations’ from Tommaso Allan, but every detail of their game will have been assessed by Farrell and co before the green shirts take the field.

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Italy contributed to their defeat last week with handling errors, a lack of precision, and lineout malfunctions and, once the Irish unit turn on the power of their pack, scores are sure to result.

We are living in a golden era of Irish rugby and the growth in almost every level of the game is reaping rewards.

Out goes Andrew Conway, in comes Calvin Nash for instance, while the emergence of Joe McCarthy is another example of the high quality of talent hovering under the surface.

Nash has hit the ground running this season and this writer can remember the late Young Munster follower Sam Browne reckoning that the Patrickswell native was a serious prospect.

Similar to Craig Casey, who is related to Joe Casey who starred with Limerick AFC, Nash can also trace his lineage which goes back to the 1940s of Limerick soccer, when Bud Aherne left the local senior side to play with Luton Town.

Nash joined Young Munster at a young age and has developed through the various stages under coaches Darragh Jones, John Staunton, and Gearóid Prendergast.

There were celebrations in Tom Clifford Park at the weekend too when their fleetfooted product dived over for that memorable second-half try in Marseilles.