Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 16°C Tuesday 22 September 2020

Letter from Cardiff: Argentinian storm approaches after Ireland's calm week

The World Cup party returns to Cardiff for one final weekend.

Murray Kinsella reports from Cardiff

AFTER THE MADNESS of last weekend, Cardiff was a picture of calm throughout recent days.

The Welsh capital hosts two more World Cup games today and tomorrow – more chaos awaits – but the sense that the party is near its end was certainly palpable around the place in the early stages of the week.

Yvonne O'Brien and Sarah Quillinan Ireland fans Yvonne O'Brien and Sarah Quillinan in Cardiff. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

‘The Ball in the Wall’ drew in a few sightseers eager for photos and camera crews looking for an interesting backdrop, but the fact that a small group of homeless locals took residence under the oversized ball from Monday onwards said it all.

One sensed that the quiet vagrants and their peaceful dog would be moved along when the trickle of incoming of French, Kiwi and, most of all, Irish fans turned into a flood.

So proved the case on Friday morning when the small group was shifted 15 metres along the castle wall, just out of shot of the many photographs being taken in front of the cleverly-designed contraption.

There was more of the autumn sun in Cardiff this week, but it was bittersweet for some. The sight of Paul O’Connell on crutches, heading for a waiting car outside Ireland’s team hotel and on towards an eventual operation was a reminder of that.

Joe Schmidt’s men have been based out of the Hilton hotel all week, across the road from the castle, allowing the players to use their rare moments of down time to wander the city and forget about analysis and rehab for an hour or two.

No chance of anonymity on their morning stroll from yesterday onwards.

Devin Toner, Donnacha Ryan, Chris Henry, Rhys Ruddock and Mike McCarthy Some of the Ireland players standing around in Cardiff. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

After an early start on Friday, we planted ourselves in prime position at the window of a St. Mary Street coffee shop, the intention being to bury the head into the laptop and create something.

Instead, as so often has been the case during this World Cup, the many comings and goings around us proved to be a distraction.

First entered a Kilkenny man who lives in Singapore and was on his way to Switzerland, but meeting his family in Cardiff before they supported Ireland in their clash with Argentina tomorrow.

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

11,000km around the globe and this friendly gentleman won’t even get to see the game.

Next scene, a bloke from New Zealand who recently went through a divorce and was taking in the World Cup in the hope that the mighty All Blacks would conquer. Although you wouldn’t begrudge the Irish, says he.

Open swings the door and a troupe of merry Frenchmen and Frenchwomen enter stage left, as boisterous and obliviously loud as could be. Berets, blue scarves, hope and even expectation, these Parisians don’t think the Kiwis so mighty.

Real work called up at the Hilton, so out we headed into the fresh Cardiff air only to spot a familiar figure sneaking down the street.

Conor Murray and Keith Earls Conor Murray and Keith Earls on a Cardiff stroll. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leggings and shorts, hood up, head down, but the 59FIFTY and his lurking 6ft 3ins frame giving him away, Sonny Bill Williams was trying to make his way back to the Kiwis’ hotel without being spotted.

A group of New Zealanders sipping midday beers al fresco didn’t miss a beat.

Sonny? Sonny? Mate, is that you? Sonny, can we get a pic? 

Cardiff is a rugby city once again, the calm of midweek gone in the flash of a morning. Funnily enough, Puma spottings were few and far between yesterday around the city centre, but we can be certain that they will prowl in as 1pm tomorrow approaches, hopeful of feeding on Ireland’s World Cup dreams.

Ah, it’s the dreaming that gets you. The early sense is that there is a confidence among the Ireland supporters arriving into Cardiff and indeed this quarter-final oddly feels less pressurised than last weekend’s pool game against les Bleus.

A misread of the situation on our part perhaps, but you would be confident that Schmidt’s group are not underestimating the challenge that lies ahead. Cardiff waves goodbye to the World Cup on Sunday; let us hope it ends with a bang.

Dave Kearney waiting patiently for Ireland chances out wide

Beating Ireland would be the latest mark of Argentinian rugby growth

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

Read next: