After the extremely tense and very exciting England v Ireland rugby match in Twickenham yesterday*, as always, I met some wonderful colourful characters in Twickenham and this one was a former international who sees the fun in the occasion almost 50 years later.
Meet Ron McCarten (photo), who told me that he actually played on the wing for Ireland against England in Lansdowne Road in 1961 (the other Irish winger that day was Tony O’Reilly). Irish hero Tom Kiernan made his debut that day with Ireland going on to win 11-8 in another dramatic match. I will post up a video interview of Ron later. Crystal clear memories almost half a century later.
Ron McCarten enjoys the drama of Ireland versus England.
Meanwhile, I heard a nice story about the English coach, Martin Johnson, which I am going to ask for help in finishing the story. Here’s the start. When England came to town in 2003, Johnson and his team stood at the Irish end before the national anthems – forcing the Irish team to stand further down the pitch on the grass (beyond the red carpet) and thereby forcing the Irish President McAleese to soil her shoes as she had to walk on the grass. Despite being asked to move, Johnson refused. England had failed at the final hurdle during the previous three seasons. This time both Ireland and England were going for the Grand Slam. England stuffed Ireland 42-6 and went on to win the World Cup that year. Half the country hated Johnson for insulting the Irish president and half the country (including the Irish captain, O’Driscoll) quietly admired his determination not to be bossed by anyone that day.
A few seasons later, an Irish rugby character sent Johnson a red carpet with the following message: ‘For sale, one red carpet, unused, almost new‘. Johnson took the carpet to a charity auction in his club Leicester. He sold it and sent the money to Ireland with the cheque made out to the Irish character’s local rugby club, with a photograph of Johnson holding the carpet. If anyone has a copy of this photograph or the name of the rugby club – please let me know. Or perhaps get Martin Johnson to give me a call to clarify.
*For the record, yesterday, Ireland won 20-16.