Now the French were better than us. Sharper, faster, seemingly more committed, definitely more skilful, and certainly better organised in defence. And yet we so nearly won - that's the really cruel bit, because it's so especially sweet to win under those circumstances.
And we had the scent of victory in our nostrils. Despite no O'Driscoll, despite a poor first half, despite an unbalanced back line, we were going to do it. What a way to christen Croke Park - what a memorable day for all who were there. And then disaster. It started with a great hanging drop out (this was an area in which Ireland were deficient - O'Gara dropped out far too deep all through he match, giving his forwards no opportunity to contend and gifting the French possession). The French forwards were there as it dropped and instead of going backwards or forwards, the ball broke to the right and was snapped up by one of the French backs. A quick ruck, a virtuoso break by the French centre Clerc (Hayes a statue in mid-field) and we were undone. The cup dashed from our lips.
And wouldn't O'Driscoll have made the vital difference.
And to compound our misery, England had been very poor against Italy - no creativity in he backs apart perhaps from Robinson - and don't look like they will be any threat in a forthnight's time. Scotland and Wales were both woeful - and will struggle to beat Italy. The rest of the campaign will be easy for us - we'll win the Triple Crown - but France will win the Grand Slam again.