Pádraig Harrington reckons Ireland’s historic demolition of the All Blacks in Chicago could mark a major watershed for Irish rugby.
Just as Harrington’s 2007 Open Championship win ended a 60 year wait for an Irish major winner and heralded a magical run of another 13 European major wins in nine seasons, he believes Ireland’s first win over New Zealand can give a new generation of Irish rugby stars huge confidence.
“It certainly was worth staying up for,” beamed Harrington, who had a big crowd looking over his shoulder as he watched the game on his tablet in the bar of the five-star Regnum Carya Hotel & Spa Resort in the Turkish resort of Antalya.
More than a dozen Irish and British rugby fans crowded around Harrington’s iPad until the small hours to watch a nail-biting 40-29 win with the Dubliner glued to every second of the action despite facing a 10.20am tee time in the final round of the $7m Turkish Airlines Open.
“It was a great game, exciting, everything about it was a nice little buzz, a dozen of us huddled around the iPad. It made for good viewing, nice buzz to it,” Harrington said.
“Hopefully Ireland keep playing the way they did last night but it might be one of those, ‘where were you the day Ireland beat the All Blacks?’”
Harrington gave the Irish rugby team a pep talk at the end of 2008 but admitted that this is a new generation of players and they may now have more self-belief than any Irish team in history.
“Those guys are gone at this stage,” he said of his team talk for the likes of the now retired Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell eight years ago.
On the effect of last night’s win, he said: “It will definitely give them belief, no doubt about it. To overcome the All Blacks at any stage, there has got to be a huge mental block in that, and to achieve that it should help them against anybody.
“If you can beat the All Blacks, you can beat anybody. It wasn’t lucky or anything.”
Harrington did not grow up playing rugby but he loves team sports and remains close to several members of the current squad.
“I never played rugby,” he said. “I think we all follow it in Ireland because we are quite good at it rather than because we played it.
“It’s an interesting game because of that.”
On the second half comeback by New Zealand that was cut short by Ireland’s late rally, he said: “It was the way they did it. We’re all sitting there thinking not again. I am glad the players weren’t thinking that.”