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'It's a big piece of history for us and one we wanted to tick off'

Man of the match Peter O’Mahony led Ireland’s tireless defensive effort on a historic night.

HEARTS POUNDING IN every corner of the Aviva Stadium, palms sweaty. The All Blacks — the mighty All Blacks — have the ball, pushing and probing. The clock is red, the difference on the scoreboard seven points. The world champions hammer away. Not 2013 again, please not 2013 again.

Ireland, as they have done for 80 minutes, are relentless in defence, tackling as if their lives depended on it. And then, after 113 years, after near-misses and agonising heartbreak, Brodie Retallick spills it onto the Dublin turf. Green and black shirts drop too. The Fields, the euphoria, the sheer bloody relief. History.

Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best, Cian Healy, Peter O'Mahony and Devin Toner celebrate winning The Ireland bench celebrates. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Every single Irish player — from 1 to 23 — were immense, putting their bodies on the line, conjuring match-defining moments from first until last. But Peter O’Mahony typified the fearlessness. What else have we come to expect from the Munster captain? Heroic, superhuman. A crucial try-saving intervention, and then a trademark turnover. The man for the big occasion, the man for every occasion.

A first win for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland over the All Blacks on home soil. Wow, what a night.

“It’s taken a while, 100 or whatever years, but it’s a special group of boys,” O’Mahony, physically and emotionally exhausted, said afterwards.

“It’s an honour to play alongside them every time we take to the field, every time we get a chance. It’s special playing alongside some of my best friends.

“We knew we had to be relentless, they’re not number one in the world for the craic, they’re the best team in the world. We knew we had to play our best game of this squad’s tenure and it was well up there as one of the best.

“It was unreal playing alongside them, boys showing up everywhere. Tackles that probably shouldn’t have been made, plays that shouldn’t have been made but guys were fighting for each other, fighting for the cause. It was a good day.”

Jacob Stockdale will grab the headlines for his virtuoso score in the far corner, as he kicked, chased and powered over like the prolific try-scorer he has become. There was no stopping the Ulster winger, there was no stopping Ireland.

“We’re building nicely, some nice confidence going into the next Six Nations,” O’Mahony added.

“We’ve obviously got a big game next week against the States, so we’ll get recovered and get stuck in next week.

Peter O'Mahony celebrates winning Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It’s a big piece of history for us and one we wanted to tick off. And we’ve ticked it off now, so happy days.”

Rory Best, as the Fields of Athenry reverberated around Lansdowne Road, paid tribute to the febrile home support.

“It was a massive lift for us. When we came out here and heard this noise, we couldn’t not be motivated. When you’re playing the best team in the world, we knew it was going to take a special performance and we started well. Everyone in the stadium gave us a lift whenever we needed it.

“We had to hang on at the end but it shows the character we had, we emptied the bench and everyone dug deep and forced the mistake at the end.”

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Ryan Bailey

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