Dark day can lead to brighter things in 2014

Even in the over-populated pantheon of cruel Irish sporting defeats, Sunday 24 November 2013 will forever be remembered.

With less than 30 seconds left, Ireland – having never ever beaten New Zealand in rugby – were within touching distance of that historic victory. Ahead by 5 points, in possession of the ball and deep in the All Blacks’ half, this was the moment.

And then… penalty against Ireland. One last chance for the visitors. Surely not?…

As the black shirts marched forward, desperate to become the first team in the professional era to complete a ‘perfect’ season, joyful expectation turned to anxiety in the packed stadium. Into the Irish half. Into the 22. On they went. Panic rising. Closer and closer. Mouths open, willing them to make a mistake.

They made no mistake, and scored in the corner, with the last play of the game.

Silence.

Even worse, when the conversion was missed, the refereee ordered them to retake it. Naturally, the second attempt whistled over the bar and Ireland were beaten.

If you love Irish rugby you must be able to absorb disappointment but even still, this one was shockingly painful.

That pain subsided – a little – afterwards, and we could reflect on what had happened. Ireland lost in the last seconds but for the previous 79-odd minutes, they were magnificent.

Fearless, committed, passionate, clever, creative and utterly together, playing for one another, it was perhaps the greatest ever Irish performance on a rugby pitch.

They made us proud by drawing on all the qualities that we value in ourselves as a people.

And as we look towards 2014, those are the very characteristics that can help us continue on the road to national recovery.

A recent survey by Viking suggests that most small business owners are no longer worried about the future; indeed, most even expect their business to grow in the new year.

Good signs; green shoots at last? Just as the rugby boys vowed to bounce back stronger than ever, let’s hope we as a country can harness all the good things that make us Irish – and make 2014 a year to remember.