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Ireland captain Billy Dardis marks Olympic qualification with pitch-perfect interview

‘To be an Olympian, no one can take that away from you.’

Dardis: 'You dream of doing something really special for your whole life.'
Dardis: 'You dream of doing something really special for your whole life.'
Image: Manuel Blondeau/INPHO

IRELAND CAPTAIN BILLY Dardis summed up Ireland’s Olympic achievement with this pitch-perfect interview moments after their magnificent win against France in Monaco.

Jordan Conroy ran in two second half-tries and Harry McNulty scored in the final minute as Ireland came from behind to beat France 28-19 in the Olympic qualification repechage final.

“Words can’t describe, it’s just bizarre,” an emotional Dardis said in a heartfelt interview.

“You dream of doing something really special for your whole life. It’s incredible what we’ve done just over a number of years, it’s absolutely incredible.

“It’s weird what went on on that pitch. I thought we were out of it for a while in the first half when they had so much possession and they got in front, and then we just got a few lucky bounces. I think that’s Sevens like — the bounce of the ball goes your way and you can end up in the Olympics — that is just incredible.

“I don’t really know what else to say other than how cool is that? Like, that’s just incredible.”

Dardis, 26, was one of the new faces in Ireland’s Sevens set up in 2016 when they came up short in their bid to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

“When I started about five years ago, we had a good enough team. We played in this tournament in 2016 and we came over, I’d only got my first cap about three weeks beforehand. We won our first day and I remember lying in bed that day thinking, “Jesus, we could do something really special here”.

“And we didn’t, we lost that one. I stuck with the programme, and each year we just kept getting better. So many players have come through this system but it started right at the bottom. Some serious names, guys that have gone on to get international caps, guys like Tom Daly, Adam Byrne, Shane Layden, Dan Goggin, guys who are incredible rugby players now and they contributed so much.

“Then we had another turnover with guys like Hugo Keenan, Shane Daly, Jimmy O’Brien, Rob Baloucoune — and others, I apologise, I don’t remember them all right now.

“But this core group of lads stuck around and it’s been tough, trying to earn a lot of respect. Everyone’s been through hardships, and everyone’s been through tough times, especially in the last year or two. Guys in this squad have been in academies and they’ve got let go, and that’s the twisted story, the twisted tale of us all.

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“And we’ve come on, and we’ve done something really incredible here, put our own selves on the map, put Irish Sevens on the map. It’s only going to do wonders for Irish Sevens, for rugby, for kids that are going to start playing rugby maybe after seeing us playing at the Olympics. It’s pretty cool.

“It’s really overwhelming, how much this means to all of us and how big this is for us. So many people contributed to this, and so many people can’t be here today but they’ve contributed so much, like our families — it’s Father’s Day, I just want to say Happy Father’s Day to my dad — my family, all my cousins, my mates, and it’s the same for every guy on the squad. So many people contribute to something like this.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s very cool to say we’re going to the Olympics. To be an Olympian, no one can take that away from you. I remember speaking to my mates last week. You have that for life. That’s beside your name, when you’re 60 years old and you’re down in the pub: “That guy went to the Olympics.” That’s pretty cool. It’s really special.”

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Niall Kelly

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