FRANCE 17-38 IRELAND
Joe McCarthy justified all the faith shown in him by Andy Farrell, his coaches and his Ireland teammates as he moshed some big French operators on an historic night in France.
The Leinster lock was given the No.5 jersey, ahead of James Ryan and Iain Henderson, when Ireland took on the 2022 Grand Slam champions at Stade Velodrime, in Marseille. He was penalised on two occasions, but everything else he did was perfect for Ireland and a bloody mess for the French.
McCarthy was the heaviest Ireland player to take to the field for the Six Nations opener, and he made every ounce count. His tackling was forceful and he drove a number of French players back while providing plenty of gainline ball in attack. He was also a lineout beacon on a few occasions.
McCarthy played 66 minutes as Ireland secured a bonus point victory over Les Bleus to get their Grand Slam defence off to a fine start. When the cameras flashed to him, after he was named Man of the Match, the 6-foot-6 lock smiled and fluffed his mullet.
As the scenes from Marseille were beamed back to Irish TV viewers, former Ulster and Ireland winger Andrew Trimble pulled out a cracking Joe McCarthy line.
“He’s got that kind of thuggery about him that we don’t see with Irish athletes, we don’t see second rows that can bully big French second rows in the South of France, it doesn’t happen!”
"He's got that kind of thuggery about him that we don't see with Irish athletes, we don't see second rows that can bully big French second rows in the South of France, it doesn't happen!"
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) February 2, 2024
Andrew Trimble on Joe McCarthy
Andrew Trimble noted how Joe McCarthy had “bullied” some big French players at Stade Velodrome and remarked how that was a rare and welcome sight. Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony was trying not to get carried away but told Tommy Martin, “A big chunk of that [win] was the youngfellas. Guys like Calvin Nash, Jack Crowley, Big Joe!”
So that is that, he is now Big Joe.
As for the game itself, Jamison Gibson-Park and Tadhg Beirne scored first half tries but Damian Penaud got one back, not long after Paul Willemse was red-carded.
Calvin Nash added to Ireland’s lead, after the break. There was a brief flurry of French resistance but tries from hooker Dan Sheehan and, his replacement, Rónan Kelleher sealed a resounding win. In fact, it was the biggest ever Ireland win over France, on their turf.
Following the game, Joe McCarthy handed his Man of the Match medal away to his brother, Andrew, who was cheering him on from the stands.
WILL CONNORS & LINDSAY PEAT ON HOUSE OF RUGBY
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