Ireland 30 - 21 France 21. February 7, 2009.
Declan Kidney’s fourth match at the helm teed up his finest achievement. France had proved to be a perennial stumbling block for Eddie O’Sullivan, but this thrilling win in (the, by now, familiar) Croke Park gave Ireland the much-needed momentum for a Championship push.
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Wales 15 – 17 Ireland. March 21, 2009.
His greatest day. Kidney’s side trailed 6-0 at half time, but came up with a typically incisive third quarter to set the game up for the most nail-biting finish rugby fans on this island care to remember.
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Ireland 20 – 23 Scotland. March 20, 2010.
364 days after lifting the Grand Slam, Ireland expected to turn up and collect the consolation prize of a Triple Crown in their last game in Croke Park.
Instead, they could never quite overtake Scotland on the scoreboard after Johnnie Beattie’s first half try.
Tommy Bowe would level the game at 17 apiece. But at 20 all, this happened…
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Wales 19 – 13 Ireland, March 12, 2011.
Ireland showed up in Cardiff for the fourth Six Nations game of 2011. Having narrowly edged past Italy and Scotland, but lost to France, the Grand Slam was gone, but a title shot was still possible.
Wales’ illegal line-out ended that feint hope.
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Ireland 15 – 6 Australia. September 17, 2011.
Ireland put the disappointing run of pre-World Cup defeats and stuttering win over the USA behind them. A damp, cold night in Eden Park could well be Kidney’s finest hour. Australia – many people’s tip for the Webb Ellis crown – were cut off at every pass as Ireland beat southern hemisphere opposition for the first time in their own half of the world, and thus, became the first Irish side to win top seeding from a World Cup pool.
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Ireland 10 – 22 Wales. October 8, 2011.
Having topped the pool and avoided the ‘stronger’ opponents, Kidney stuck with Ronan O’Gara at number 10 having started the tournament with Jonathan Sexton.
The coach’s game-plan was ruthlessly picked apart by Warren Gatland and his young Welsh side.
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France 17 – 17 Ireland. March 4, 2012.
A magnificent first half performance earned Ireland an all-too-rare result in Paris. Two Tommy Bowe tries shot Ireland into a 17-6 half-time lead, but a worrying trend began to take hold. Ireland were making a habit of letting winning positions slip away.
Stephen Ferris’ late charge-down on Lionel Beauxis would save a point for Ireland and Kidney.
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England 30 – 9 Ireland. March 17, 2012.
With a new, young coach at the helm, England had spent the Six Nations casting off their arrogant reputation. But they comprehensively bullied Ireland around Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day last year. Once Ireland lost Mike Ross to injury in the first half, Ireland’s pack was in reverse.
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New Zealand 60 – 0 Ireland. June 23, 2012.
Close to winning Test two, Ireland had well and truly poked the bear. The World Champions viciously dismantled Ireland over and over again.
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Ireland 46 – 24 Argentina. November 23, 2012.
With World Cup qualification on the line, Ireland flew out of the traps and made fans wonder what had been missing all this time.
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Ireland 6 – 12 England, February 10, 2013.
The form of Argentina was carried across the winter and into a thrilling first half against Wales. Ireland would end that game holding on, and when England rolled into Dublin a week later, Ireland’s fast-moving game-plan would be foiled by litany of knock-ons, injury to Jonathan Sexton and Simon Zebo, and a suffocating English pack.
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The tone – the hope and potential raised by the 30-22 win in Cardiff – was never saved after this home defeat. Kidney would not win another game as winning positions against Scotland and France were lost, before a patched-up squad was thrown in against a fired up Italy in Rome.