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'They went ballistic': The perfect moment captured when Ireland Women beat the Black Ferns

Photographer Dan Sheridan tells about his unique view of one of the greatest ever moments in women’s rugby.

THERE IS A different sort of pressure on goal-kickers.

Even though, when the game is in full swing they are required to file in and take part in the minute-by-minute processes that help to provide a release for the pressure, a constant tension remains within.

So many fine margins rest ultimately on whether the goal-kicker is in enough of a rhtyhm to make a difference on the scoreboard.

That pressure has rarely been so perfectly captured leaving the body as it was in the below series of images.

INPHO’s Dan Sheridan caught the magic moment when Ireland Women had sealed a victory nobody thought possible. They had beaten the mighty Black Ferns 17 – 14. For the first time in 23 years, New Zealand’s women had been bettered and nothing bottled the elation, colour and passion like Sheridan’s camera.

Niamh Briggs celebrates at the final whistle 5/8/2014 Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Fiona Coghlan’s side were camped in Kiwi territory for the final minutes of the game. By that stage, holding on was more of a matter of mental strength than physical. And after Briggs had booted the ball as far as she could across the right-hand touchline she turned, begging for the whistle.

Nora Stapleton, Ashleigh Baxter and Niamh Briggs celebrate at the final whistle 5/8/2014 Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I was looking for a good group of senior players. I was focusing on Briggsy and it happened to be herself, Nora Stapleton, Ashleigh Baxter and Tania Rosser,” Sheridan explains.

“They just went absolutely ballistic and their emotion just kicked in. It was fantastic. I just stuck with them through a full sequence of images.”

Nora Stapleton, Ashleigh Baxter and Niamh Briggs celebrate at the final whistle 5/8/2014 Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“They were across the opposite side to the benches,” he adds, ”I would have been on the Ireland attack [behind the goal-line] I moved up the side slightly to get a better angle on it for the final whistle.

“You think to yourself ‘what’s going to happen’. Then you get a little break in play and there’s only a few seconds left, you take a chance and move up to get something a little different like that.

“You could stay on the try-line and maybe they might score another try and there might be emotion like that, but I knew they were going to get the ball and it was just going to go out. So I decided to go up and try to get something like that celebration of a good group and get as much emotion as I could.

“Luckily enough I got the right group of people.”

Ashleigh Baxter, Nora Stapleton and Niamh Briggs celebrate at the final whistle 5/8/2014 Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Watching the events unfold from Ireland, it was striking just how composed Ireland were in way they systematically went about extinguishing New Zealand’s threats, and finally, their hope.

Post-match, captain Coghlan presented a face of pure professionalism. With a calming deep breath, she informed the pitchside interviewer: ”we knew we had the ability in the team, it was just [about] being consistent for 80 minutes and we were.”

Simple as that,

After the intense out-pouring from Briggs and co at the blast of the final whistle, Sheridan recalls Coghlan’s focus quickly spreading to the rest of the team.

“When they came in, there was a fantastic feeling in the changing rooms. A fantastic performance all round, but they didn’t go on about it – ‘job well done, let’s move on’.

“Great emotion and you feed off that, but they didn’t start cracking open champagne bottles or anything like that. No big sing-songs, they came in, Fi [Coghlan] talked in the middle and pointed out all the positives, [she said} ‘enjoy this moment and bring that emotion in to the next phase.’”

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Sean Farrell

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