'It was a proud day for the Irish people' - Wallace remembers when England came to Croker

The rampaging flanker played a key role in one of Ireland’s greatest victories.

Wallace scored Ireland's second try in the famous 43-13 win.
Wallace scored Ireland's second try in the famous 43-13 win.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IF YOU WEREN’T as emotional as John Hayes before the match, the manner of Ireland’s 43-13 demolition of England at Croke Park eight years ago today had to have left you more than a little stirred.

The build-up to the fixture was unlike almost anything ever seen in Irish rugby before. Even the Grand Slam decider four years earlier didn’t seem to get as much attention.

That’s probably because the Croke Park fixture had stakes that were both micro – Ireland needed a win to keep their hopes of a championship alive – and macro – England playing in the same ground where Bloody Sunday had happened.

Ireland had opened up their Croke Park stay with an almost unbelievably heartbreaking defeat to France and David Wallace told The42 that the prospect of losing to England was not something the players even entertained.

“The France loss was in the back of your mind and the thought of losing with the historical backdrop,” Wallace said.

“Also, losing both games at Croke Park because it was such an honour to be playing there and it meant so much to people. We felt like we couldn’t go out there and lose.”

david David Wallace and his brothers Paul and Richard are participating in the Life2good CROSS Atlantic 1000, which will be staged from 5th – 11th September 2015. The Rugby Legends Cycle for Cross Charity Supporting Cancer Research at Trinity College Dublin, now in its 4th year, takes a twist in 2015 as the route embraces 1,000kms of beautiful scenery on the Wild Atlantic Way from Skibbereen to Donegal. Over 7 stages, it stops off along the way to visit schools and attend events to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. Source: Marc O'Sullivan

The players had ample motivation going out against England that day but in case they needed a bit more fire coach Eddie O’Sullivan gathered some kindling. His speech to the players before the match captured the emotion of the day perfectly and left the players perfectly primed to smash the visitors.

Source: bunnyireland/YouTube

“It just encapsulated the energy in the dressing room because everyone was charged,” Wallace said.

“That bus journey to Croke Park on the day, everyone just stopped and cheered us on and you could feel the whole groundswell of support for you.”

Before the players could tear into the opposition, they had to stand together for a couple of minutes in song. Often the anthems can seem like a chore to players but that day they all seemed move by the occasion.

Even eight years later if you mention that game to an Irish rugby fan, John Hayes’ tears will be one of the first things they remember (God only knows how rabid Peter O’Mahony would have been in that line-up).

Source: enjoyvideoclips/YouTube

“The anthems alone are something that stick out in my memory,” Wallace said.

“You’ve been involved in so many line-ups but that is one that you will never forget. You had the likes of Hayes crying in the line-up and even though you only see that afterwards it shows how much it meant to us.

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“God Save The Queen was sung and I actually thought it was a powerful rendition. And then we were blown away by Amhran na bhFiann and I think it was a proud day for the Irish people.”

The earth-shattering roar that accompanied those songs only grew louder after the game started. Girvan Dempsey crossed first after delightful hands and when Wallace burrowed over for the second five-pointer it was just a question of how much the home side would win by.

Source: MottiRugby/YouTube

Source: MottiRugby/YouTube

“It was one of those days where you had a special feeling going into it,” Wallace said.

“Even outside of rugby, the mood in the camp was where it should have been and I think we fed off the public and their attitude. The build-up to the game and the media highlighted the importance of it to us and the Irish people.”

It was the kind of game that even though Ireland had amassed a 20-point lead before half time, the crowd wanted more. And Wallace remembers that the players were happy to oblige.

“Sometimes when you are winning games well it can be a bit of an anti-climax but this one just got better and better,” Wallace said.

“And even Isaac Boss’ try was the icing on the cake.”

Source: MottiRugby/YouTube

Source: MottiRugby/YouTube

A bit of time has now passed but Wallace still looks back on that evening as a rare occasion where everything clicked perfectly on the rugby pitch.

“Everything seemed to go right for us on the day,” Wallace said.

“We were in a better place than England going into the game and it seemed to come right.”

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