Ireland’s Grand Slam moment: how will it rate in your personal history?

Last Updated on 29 April 2024 by gerry

O'Driscoll holds the 6 nations trophy aloftIreland is now basking in a new post-Grand Slam glow. The enjoyment of seeing our hopes for Grand Slam victory become reality on Saturday got me thinking about where the moment ranks in our personal histories.

In years to come will we readily be able to answer the question:

Where were you when that final penalty attempt fell short and the Grand Slam was ours?

My answer is: it’ll probably be up there with my special remembered moments. My own story was a bit complicated and I feared I might not see the six nations decider at all. On Saturday 21 March 2009 I was in Edinburgh with my children and my eldest son was performing in Edinburgh’s Spring Festival 2009 at the Assembly Rooms as part of the Edinburgh Schools Guitar Ensemble (50 classical guitars playing together). The concert took place between 6-7pm. My lad was safely delivered for rehearsal at 4.30pm leaving me time to do my messages and catch the first 20 minutes or so of the match. 0-0 was the score when the concert got underway. I’m grateful for my mother for keeping me in touch with (silent) score update text messages, particularly the one that said Wales 6 - 14 Ireland.

Pubs in Edinburgh city centre with a Children’s Certificate are very few and far between – luckily my chosen hostelry, the Wetherspoon Standing Order right next to the Assembly Rooms is one of these, so we were able to savour those thrilling last 10 minutes.

So what other historical events make it to my personal “Where were you….” list?

Here’s a few of my thoughts on moments in history about whether I can answer the “Where were you…” question.

11 Sep 2001 – planes attack the WTC twin towers in Manhattan

That's me circa 1992 visiting Manhattan
That's me circa 1992 visiting Manhattan
Like many people, I’ll always remember where I was when I first heard the news about the Twin Towers. Me and family had just returned to Ireland and were getting acquainted with our new home in Scariff, Co. Clare. I spent the afternoon exploring the area in the car with the three children, at first not quite understanding was being said on the radio.

10 April 1998 – The Good Friday Agreement is signed

Nope – a very big moment indeed, but I can’t for the life of me recall where I was when the news broke. I was living in Edinburgh at the time…a two-year old and a toddler keeping me occupied. It’s all a blur sorry.

22 March 1996 – the birth of my first child

A special moment for any parent – I’ll cherish the memory. The births of children nos. 2 and 3 are also etched in my memory, each one different, each one special.

31 August 1994 – the IRA ceasefire

Yes, clear as day I’ll never forget that moment – very exciting. I found it surprising that the euphoria felt by many was not universal – sceptical indifference or suspicion were commonplace. I was living near Belfast at the time and was the Public Relations Officer for the North of Ireland Family History Society. On that last day in August 1994, I had been invited to appear on a BBC Radio Ulster show to talk about genealogy. To be in Broadcasting House in Belfast on that exciting news day was a real eye-opener. The world’s media were hungry for the news and the people who at that time provided the actors’ voices for Sinn Féin spokesmen and -women were working over time.

18 June 1994 – Ray Houghton scores wonder goal against Italy

Yep – this ranks up there in my special moments. I had travelled down to Dublin with a friend and was watching the match in a Northside pub. I remember very little after the match (such as cars driving through Dublin with flags flying and horns blaring), but I’ll never forget that moment. As for his heroics six years earlier against England, my particular whereabouts have not stayed with me.

25 June 1990 – Italia 1990 penalty shootout

Oh this sticks in the memory – gathered with workmates in Musgrave Park Hospital. Packie Bonner hero and David O’Leary the rather unlikely hero also.

9 November 1989 – the Berlin Wall comes down

A big moment for the 20th century…sorry I can’t remember what I was doing at the time. I suppose when events don’t have a major impact on your life they don’t become etched on the memory. I had just returned to Belfast at the time and was looking for work – I would shortly begin a research associate job in the Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery at QUB.

6 May 1981 – Bobby Sands dies on hunger strike

As a fourteen year old boy living in Belfast, I was very moved by the 1981 hunger strike. I think it was a political awakening for me and in my humble opinion we can see the seeds of the eventual peace process in the hunger strike. I’ll never forget that morning trip to school – we never made it to our destination and my mother was persuaded to turn back for home for fear of what might happen in the city throughout the day. It was only when I returned home I realised I had dressed myself with odd shoes that morning. Some of these memories are expressed in my song Everybody Has Their Part To Play.
[audio:everybody has their part.mp3]

So in conclusion, only time will tell whether Saturday’s excitement will join the following etchings in my brain:

  • 9/11 – twin towers
  • the births of my children
  • the IRA ceasefire
  • USA 1994
  • Italia 1990
  • Bobby Sands dies on hunger strike
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