Brian O’Driscoll joined Monday night’s Off The Ball to reminisce about the 20th anniversary of Ireland’s U-19 World Youths Championship win.
Managed by Declan Kidney, a crop of talented Irish youngsters, including the likes of Donncha O'Callaghan and Paddy Wallace, headed to France with the hope of making their mark in the game.
Ireland saw off the USA in their opening match before edging past South Africa by way of their opponents fielding an ineligible player in a penalty shootout.
Kidney’s side’s adventure culminated with a victory over hosts France in the final after easing past Argentina in the semi-finals.
Speaking to David McIntyre, O’Driscoll reflected on the 1998 triumph and how it helped Ireland emerge as a force in the game.
“I don’t think it’s like the U-20s World Cup that’s had a chance to have a good run,” O’Driscoll told OTB.
“We have to let it be known that there was no big three in there. No New Zealand, no England and there was no Australia.
“So [if] you take those three teams out of the equation, you’ve a considerably bigger chance of winning any tournament.
“That said, we did beat the best teams in the tournament. Beating South Africa in the quarter-final, Argentina in the semi-final and then France in the final, who were alongside ourselves the best team in the competition.
“It was a big deal because we were playing for Ireland – lots of us hadn’t played for Ireland – and we got into the knockout stages, which you wouldn’t normally associate with Irish rugby teams.
“I think the excitement and the appreciation for how big an impact it made, only retrospectively was realised by us, with the greeting in the airport on the way home and the acknowledgement and realisation that we had some bloody good players in that team.”
Written by James Hopper