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1972, the year 'The Troubles' wrecked Ireland's Grand Slam hopes

Ireland and Lions flanker Fergus Slattery reflects on politics and sports mixing to ill-effect.

Fergus Slattery directs operations for Ireland.
Fergus Slattery directs operations for Ireland.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

IN 1972 IRELAND won all of their matches in the Five Nations but were denied the Grand Slam.

An Irish team containing rugby legends Fergus Slattery, Mike Gibson and Willie John McBride beat France and England away but lost the championship to Wales.

The Troubles, the conflict that raged in a politically divided Northern Ireland more more than three decades, reached an early peak in ’72 and adversely affected the Grand Slam hopes of the combined Irish team.

Slattery, in an upcoming Club Rugby feature story, recalls the year when a dominant Ireland lost out to Wales in the standings.

A Triple Crown, under the captaincy of the Dun Laoghaire flanker, arrived in 1982 but regret remains over missing a glorious chance to equal the Grand Slam of Jack Kyle’s men in 1948.

Slattery said, “The Triple Crown was something very special. Once the side was in place the standard was very good.

I have no doubt that we would have won a Grand Slam in 1972 but both Scotland and Wales didn’t come here because of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

“It shouldn’t have taken us that long to win something. I said it to Karl Mullen that the weight of expectation was immense and we had to win something eventually.

“It was 33 years since Ireland won anything so [the Triple Crown] was overdue.”

Slattery was delighted when Ireland won the country’s second Grand Slam in 2009 but believes the failure to replace players like Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara has come back to damage the side.

The likes of the O’Connell’s, O’Gara’s and O’Driscoll’s aren’t going to be around forever so they have to be replaced.

“It would be better if they were not all replaced at once.”

The full interview with Fergus Slattery is featured in Club Rugby magazine (available free this week in the Irish Independent).

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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