THE ADMIRAL WILLIAM BROWN CUP is in the bag.
IRFU headquarters on Lansdowne Road has a shiny new trophy to stick above the fireplace from Monday morning onwards but the Irish players are blowing off steam in Dublin tonight, safe in the knowledge that they are a top-eight rugby team.
Defeats for Argentina, courtesy of Ireland, and Wales mean Declan Kidney’s men could end a tough year of rugby ranked sixth in the world.
The problems of the past 18 months have not been repaired by one stunning victory but there are enough reasons to be positive going into the Six Nations in 2013.
One of those glittering reasons comes in the elusive form of Ulster winger Craig Gilroy.
“It’s been a fantastic week for me, I really enjoyed it,” Gilroy told RTÉ after the 46-24 win. ”I was extremely nervous coming down [to the ground] but I’m glad how it went.
It’s not every day you get an opportunity like this and I wanted to grab it with both hands and try and perform as best I could.”
The 21-year-old considers himself fortunate to get ahead of Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble on a provincial level so he was overjoyed when Kidney selected him against Fiji then the Pumas.
“I’m ecstatic really with how it went today,” he said.
Gilroy was asked if he was looking forward to competing in the Six Nations but, not for the first time, his side-step was impressive.
“I’m not going to look that far ahead,” he responded. “I’m just really going to enjoy this day and try to remember it forever.”
Locking up the personal plaudits
Munster’s Donnacha Ryan was awarded the RTÉ man-of-the-match, making it the second Test match that an Irish lock has won the accolade.
“We really wanted to put in a good performance for the supporters and we’re delighted they really got behind us today.” Ryan added:
We were really under pressure this week but doing some great things in training that needed to come out on the field for 80 minutes.
“We’re delighted to be in the top eight and we’ll take it from there.”
Having only broke into the starting XV in last year’s Six Nations, Ryan is now a combative fixture in Ireland’s second row. He won himself more friends in the dressing room by name-checking the entire forward pack.
He declared, “From the guys who came in off the bench to all the forwards, they put in a massive effort.
“Cian Healy, [Richardt] Strauss did brilliant, [Mike] Ross did brilliant, Mike McCarthy another outstanding game, Peter O’Mahony, Chris Henry, Jamie [Heaslip] – they all did fantastic.”
Ryan added, “Hopefully we can carry that into the Six Nations and take it from there.”