The Magnificent Seven: Irish sporting anti-climaxes

Sonia O’Sullivan, the Irish rugby team and Thierry Henry all feature on our list of nights to forget for our sports heroes.

AFTER ALL THE hype and talk of reaching the World Cup final that the Irish rugby team’s excursions inspired in the run-up to last Saturday, the game itself proved to be quite a let-down.

And it wasn’t the first time a big event involving an Irish team/athlete ultimately ended disappointingly. Here are seven other examples:

7. Michelle Smith wins an unprecedented three gold medals at the 1996 Olympics, but…

Smith was solely responsible for Ireland’s second largest medal haul ever in the 1996 Olympics. However, her achievement will be forever tarnished by the subsequent controversy and doping ban she received.

While it was not conclusively proven that she was under the influence of illegal substances, there is strong evidence to suggest that this was the case. Consequently, she experienced a dramatic decline from hero to villain and her ‘victories’ are no longer recalled so fondly.

(John Giles/PA)

6. Ireland’s World Cup 94 journey

For a tournament that that started so promisingly with the defeat of Italy, Ireland never again matched the heady heights of their opening game and were duly knocked out in the second round by a superior Dutch outfit.

After the euphoria of Italia 90, Ireland had to endure a far more prosaic experience this time around in a tournament with many parallels to our fate in the 2011 Rugby World Cup (for Italy, read Australia).

5. Conor Niland meets Novak Djokovic… and promptly retires

Most tennis fans felt enormous sympathy for Niland who, having finally gotten his chance at the big time, was severely hampered, as during the game, he was suffering from a severe bout of food poisoning.

Not to suggest he would have beaten Djokovic had he not suffered this affliction, but there was a definite sense that he had the potential to at least test the Serb. Instead, he endured a 6-0 5-1 thrashing, before retiring.

4. The 2007 Rugby World Cup

At least this time around, the Irish team provided fans with a few memorable moments to savour, such as their shock victory over Australia. In 2007, every match, in fact, practically every second they played, constituted an anti-climax – from their inept defeat of Georgia, to their all-too-predictable loss to France.

Despite the significant hype prior to the games, indicating that it was the best prepared Irish team ever going into a major tournament, the performances on the pitch indicated otherwise.

3. The 1978 All-Ireland SFC final

While it may not have been a disappointment for Kerry fans, most neutrals watching would have been dismayed by the inability of Dublin – who had previously won back-to-back All-Irelands – to mount any form of a challenge whatsoever, as Kerry steamrolled their opponents on their way towards winning an unprecedented four All-Irelands in a row.

Therefore, the game ended in an ignominious 5-11 to 0-9 defeat for Dublin and represented a foreboding sign of things to come for Kerry, who would dominate football for sometime thereafter.

2. Ireland’s World Cup play-off against France>

Having comfortably lost the first leg 1-0 at home, Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland were on the cusp of completing the most unlikely of comebacks against France in their own backyard. Ireland gave a performance that defied the odds, and outplayed the French for large sections of the game.

Trap’s men looked the far more likely team to win it before Thierry Henry’s now-infamous handball goal all but ended their qualification hopes.

1. Sonia O’Sullivan’s 1996 Olympics failure>

Despite a highly promising build up to the 1996 Olympics, in which she won the World Championship and performed well in the heats, O’Sullivan’s Olympic journey ultimately ended in disappointment, starting when she failed to finish in the 5,000m.

With the hopes of the nation solely resting on her shoulders, one could not help but feel sorry for O’Sullivan, as she failed to perform owing largely to a stomach ailment. Thankfully, she recovered and enjoyed a successful career thereafter, performing well at the next Olympics in 2000.

Read: In review: The An Post Sean Kelly team’s season>

Read: Two cameramen got in a fistfight outside of the NBA lockout meeting>

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