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The five lessons every one of us could learn from Ireland’s Grand Slam heroes

Griffith College students win the Grand Slam
5 min

With Ireland clinching just their third ever Grand Slam, we’ve decided to take inspiration from Joe Schmidt’s men. There is so much to take from the team’s professionalism and attitude so we’ve just took five examples that anyone could take into their own day-to-day life. The win over England was just the cherry on the top - the real work had been done in the months and even years leading up to today's huge win. Two Griffith College students were on the pitch at Twickenham as Ireland clinched their historic win - Sean Cronin and Jordan Larmour - and Fergus McFadden and Sean O'Brien were unlucky not to be involved due to injury.

1 - Never, ever, ever give up

It’s easy to forget now, but Ireland’s Grand Slam Dreams were almost over before they began. With 77 minutes gone in the opening game of the Six Nations, France had a penalty to go four points ahead with three minutes left. They missed, meaning a Ireland had one chance to score to eliminate the one-point deficit. But Ireland never panicked and it took a phenomenal 41 phases of play to set up Johnny Sexton’s last-gasp winning drop goal. The calmness and maturity they showed are a lesson to all of us. Whether it’s coming up against a class that challenges you or even deciding to take the plunge and return to education after years out of school - if you’ve got the will, then there’s always a way.

2 - Surround yourself with a strong team

In past eras, Ireland had a handful of world-class players on whom the team was utterly dependent. Be it Tony Ward, Keith Wood, Paul O’Connell or even Brian O’Driscoll, the team had a distinct star system. But the current team, under the astute leadership of Joe Schmidt, doesn’t have a discernible ‘star’. Sure, Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray are probably the world’s best scrum-half and out-half but there is no talismanic leader like Ireland relied on in the past. Instead, the team ethos was the dominant theme. The trust and belief that each member of the squad showed in each other was evident throughout the campaign.

3 - Never settle and rest on your laurels

After beating Wales last weekend, Ireland had the Six Nations championship wrapped up - becoming only the 14th Irish team in the 125-year history of the competition to achieve such a feat. For many, that would be enough. But instead, look at the way Ireland approached the crunch game with England - Johnny Sexton hung the ball up in the sixth minute (a brave and somewhat risky move in itself), Rob Kearney then put Anthony Watson under pressure to chase a ball that he was unlikely to get.

Gary Ringrose followed up because he believed that his teammate Kearney would distract Watson enough for the ball to spill loose. And so… a try was scored and Ireland’s nerves soothed within six minutes. And then from the English re-start after the try - Ireland stole the English ball. It was demoralising for England. And set the tone for the rest of the game.

4 - Don’t let your history define you

Ireland are definitely dining at the top table when it comes to world rugby. They’ve been unbeaten in any game since March 10 2017 (when they lost to Wales) and have now racked up 12 wins in a row. That’s the kind of statistic you only ever hear about when it comes to the likes of New Zealand. But that’s not always been the way. Before today, Ireland had only won two Grand Slams (in 1948 and 2009).

Before that win in 2009, they had gone a whopping 24 years since their last championship win back in 1985. Indeed Ireland had been awarded the Wooden Spoon (a notional prize awarded to the team who finish bottom of the championship table) 35 times - meaning that Ireland’s history states that it’s 1750% more likely that Ireland win the Wooden Spoon than win a Grand Slam. But this Ireland side have never let that get to them.

So, if you are the first member of your family who has ever thought about college or are wondering if it’s too late for a career change - then think about your future. The past is over.

5 - If you’re choosing a mentor - choose wisely

We stated earlier in this article that this Ireland squad doesn’t rely on a talismanic warrior-type player like many teams did in the past. Well, that’s true only when it comes to players. Because the Irish team, just like the Irish country in general, is utterly in thrall to Joe Schmidt, the quietly-spoken New Zealander who masterminded Ireland’s triumph. But as Theodore Roosevelt once said “walk quietly but carry a big stick”. Schmidt is known for being well able to discipline his players but it’s the other side of Schmidt that makes this squad tick.

Kieran Shannon wrote a masterful profile of the man in the Irish Examiner and one story stood out when describing Schmidt’s approach.

“When you do something good that 99 percent of out of 100 wouldn’t see,” Tommy Bowe says… He’ll be the one person who will have spotted it and he’ll congratulate you on it.

“He’ll show it on the television in front of everybody,” Johnny Sexton concurs in the same book. “And you feel like a million dollars.”

We all have that one person in our lives that has made a difference, be it a parent, sibling or even teacher. But if whenever you are listening to such advice - make sure that the person can give out a bit of praise too - you don’t want to be listening to a constant litany of your faults either.


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