By Eddie Ryan
The first few months of the year herald the return of one of oldest international rugby tournaments in the world, as Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy go head to head in the now ‘Six Nations’ title. Since its inception, in 1883, the tournament has seen many changes, but there nearly always been one constant, Ireland versus England.
Ireland and England have provided many classic and dramatic clashes in the competition’s illustrious history, and just last year, Ireland denied their neighbours a Grand Slam title in Dublin.
The cast may often change, but the rivalry and good nature of both sets of fans makes this a truly unique fixture in the international rugby calendar. Form, (or lack of it), favouritism, home advantage, all seem to have little effect on the outcome, as the games tend to take on a life of their own.
Nowhere was this more evident than in 1982, when Ireland travelled to ‘Fortress Twickenham’ to take on the English. Ireland who were nicknamed ‘Dad’s Army’ due to the age profile of the squad, were outsiders, but this game would go to the wire and hinge on one of the most iconic plays in Irish rugby history.
Ireland had many superb players like Fergus Slattery, and Ollie Campbell, but heroes come in many shapes and forms, and Ireland’s saviour on the day was not known for his scoring prowess, but more for the colour of his hair!
The flaming red locks of prop, ‘Ginger’ McLoughlin, would soon etch their way into Irish sporting folklore. The Shannon RFC player was the unlikely hero, as the green shirts somehow found a way to escape London with a precious victory.
McLoughlin, who would go on to tour New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions, was no stranger to historic moments, as he was one of the Munster XV who beat the All Blacks in that famous game back in 1978, in the Limerick heartland of Thomond Park.