Elwood puts Irish celebration on hold
For Irish rugby fans all over the world, last Saturday was a day for island-wide celebrations when their team beat England in their final Five Nations match.
But one of the important men who gave the whole of Ireland reason to make merry has yet to saviour the moment.
Galway-born Eric Elwood, the 24-year-old fly-half who restored Irish pride by steering his side to victory over an England team vying for the Five Nations Championship, will have to wait until after the Hongkong Sevens before his own celebrations can begin.
But while his countrymen, who have a world-famous knack for celebrating, still rejoice, Elwood re-laces his boots for another challenge in what has been a dream three weeks for the Lansdowne player - the Hongkong Sevens.
''We stayed at the hotel on the night of the match, but there was no time for me to go back home and celebrate as we left for Hongkong on the Monday. So, I don't really know how they celebrated,'' said Elwood, who was chaired off the Lansdowne Road pitch by joyous fans after the England game.
''It was a great feeling. I had put in a lot of hard work to get into the side. I was very nervous before both matches, but it went really well for me.
''I was quite surprised by how it all turned out. But it was great after the match against England. There was an official dinner and everybody kept congratulating me.'' Elwood's first dropped goal against England gave Ireland a 6-3 lead two minutes into the second half.
He dropped another goal and added two penalty goals to make it 12-3 before Mick Galwey scored the only try of the game.
And the way he overshadowed England's resurgent fly-half Stuart Barnes catapulted him to hero-status in Ireland.
But Elwood is not letting the events of the last three weeks go to his head.
He is well aware of the tenuous nature of the fly-half position, especially in Ireland.
Elwood is the seventh fly-half to be tried since Paul Dean retired in 1989.
''I didn't think about Barnes in the match. He played well against Scotland in England's last match, but if you remember, he started to play well after Craig Chalmers went off,'' he said.
''I just went out concentrating on what I have to do and in the best way I can. I leave the rest up to the selectors.'' Elwood made his senior debut in Ireland's victory over Wales at Cardiff two weeks before the England game.
His tactical and place kicking abilities were just what Ireland had lacked and after the England match, there was talk about Elwood being part of the British Lions side to tour New Zealand this summer.
He was subsequently not picked for the Lions, but admitted that he had not allowed his hopes to get too high.
''I never thought about the Lions. I just wanted to do well for Ireland and help us win the match against England.'' It is the first time Ireland have sent a full national squad to the tournament.
They have, in the past, been represented by the Irish Wolfhounds, who failed to reach the main competition last year.
And Elwood is hoping Ireland's return to form can be translated into the sevens arena as well.
''I was thrilled to be picked for Hongkong. It is a world famous competition and it is important for Ireland to do well here, especially with the World Cup sevens coming along.
''We have some good internationals in our side but we haven't got that much sevens experience.'' Elwood's teammate Jonathan Garth, a member of last year's Irish Wolfhounds side, said Ireland's victory over England has injected the players with an incentive to do well in Hongkong.
Although Garth did not play in the match, the win is still fresh in their minds.
''There is a great spirit within the side and we want to continue Ireland's success in Hongkong,'' said Garth, who plays for Wanderers, in Dublin.
''We were disappointed at how we did last year, but this time we are a national team and we want to do well.'' The Wolfhounds were beaten by France in their preliminary group match and lost to Tonga in the semi-finals of the Plate.
Apart from Garth, the squad contains five other survivors from last year's Wolfhounds, who also fielded Scotland's promising fly-half Gregor Townsend, who will represent his native country this year.
The squad is captained by Blackrock College scrum-half Allain Rolland, who has won one cap for Ireland, against Argentina in 1990.
Paddy Johns, Bill Mulcahy, Niall Woods and Vince Cunningham return from last year.
Cunningham was also part of the Penguins side who played a series of friendly matches in Hongkong last summer.
Ireland are favourites to win Pool C, probably the most competitive groups of the competition with Hongkong and Italy.