Ireland’s 2024 Six Nations campaign got off to a dream start in Marseille after picking up a 38-17 bonus point win over France in their opener.
Jamison Gibson-Park and Tadhg Beirne’s tries, coupled with the dismissal of France’s Paul Willemse, positioned Ireland strongly within the opening 30 minutes.
Controlling the majority of the first half, Ireland extended their lead by 14 points with Calvin Nash’s try.
“I remember as a young fella, watching Ireland teams and hoping we’d hang on in there. It’s a different animal now,”Ireland Captain Peter O’Mahony.
Despite a response from pre-tournament favourites France, including a Paul Gabrillagues try and O’Mahony’s sin-binning, the defending champions maintained their grip on the game.
Although Damian Penaud’s try injected some hope for France just before halftime, Ireland, despite Captain Peter O’Mahony receiving a yellow card, emerged victorious, making a powerful statement.
Dan Sheehan’s bonus-point-sealing try and a late contribution from Ronan Kelleher solidified a memorable night for the men in green.
Peter O’Mahony, the captain of the Irish rugby team, was ecstatic about their performance on the night.
He called it one of the best moments in his career but reminded everyone not to go overboard with the hype about winning back-to-back grand slams.
O’Mahony couldn’t contain his excitement, especially considering it was Ireland’s biggest win against France on their turf.
He shared how as a kid, he used to watch Ireland and hope they’d hang on in tough games, and now, it’s a whole different ball game.
“I don’t think it gets any better, really,” he said. “The stress of the last couple of days, I’d have given all that up for a win, Friday night, first game, Marseille in the Vélodrome. I remember as a young fella, watching Ireland teams and hoping we’d hang on in there. It’s a different animal now.”
Giving props to the young guns on the team like Calvin Nash, Jack Crowley, and Joe McCarthy, O’Mahony highlighted their stellar performances in the game.
“Guys like Calvin Nash, Jack (Crowley), big Joe (McCarthy), there were some big performances from guys who were getting an opportunity,” O’Mahony said. “Joe had some great moments in the game, and just continued to get better and better,” he added.
Coach Andy Farrell was all about praising the team’s ability to stay cool under pressure in the face of a crazy crowd.
“It’s a French side that was always going to pose questions, and the crowd was going to get behind them. But we managed to silence them with our composure,”Ireland Coach Andy Farell.
Farrel loved how they stayed on top of their game for the full 80 minutes, and even when playing against 14 opponents for a while, they relentlessly attacked and were ruthless. Farrell gave a special shout-out to their killer lineout.
“It’s a French side that was always going to pose questions, and the crowd was going to get behind them,” he said. “But we managed to silence them with our composure, our ability to stay on it for the full 80 minutes and keep attacking the game,
“When you’re playing against 14 men for a long period, you tend to shut up shop a little bit more. Our intent was pretty good, we were ruthless when we needed to be, and I also thought our lineout was outstanding,” Iralnd’s head coach said.
On the French side, Coach Fabien Galthié admitted it was a tough loss and pointed to a red card as a game-changer.
He mentioned some areas they slacked in, like missed opportunities, turnovers, and lacking speed. Despite the disappointment, Galthié reminded everyone that the tournament was far from over, with more matches to go.
This triumphant evening in Marseille serves as the perfect remedy for Ireland, erasing any lingering World Cup disappointments.