Who is the greatest ever Irish fly-half? Players like Tony Ward and Ollie Cambell immediately spring to mind.
The nation has been blessed with talent at the pivotal at number 10 position. Perhaps the best place to start is Grand Slam winning sides. Ireland has only ever produced three ‘Slam’ winners, underlining just how difficult a feat it is.
Jackie Kyle led Ireland to a first-ever crown in 1948 and starred in all four matches. Ireland had heroes aplenty including Karl Mullen and Mick O’Flanagan, but it was the former Belfast Academy student who was widely hailed as the mastermind behind a truly historic campaign. Kyle was an off-the-cuff player who could turn a game in the blink of an eye with flashes of outrageous skill. One example of this was a stunning solo try against France in Ravenhill, Belfast in 1953. He made 48 appearances for Ireland scoring seven tries. He also represented the British & Irish Lions on six occasions. In total Kyle won three Five nations Championships in 1948, 1949, and 1951.
Ronan O’Gara won a Grand Slam in 2009 and is the highest ever scorer in Six Nations history with 557 points. The current head coach of La Rochelle in the French Top 14, O’Gara is fondly remembered for that famous drop goal that secured a second Grand Irish Slam in Cardiff against Wales.
O’Gara bagged several match-winning drop goals for Ireland and is the fourth-highest scorer in test rugby history.
He won his first international cap for Ireland against Scotland on 19 February 2000 during the 2000 Six Nations Championship. In all, he won 128 Irish caps and announced his retirement from rugby on 18 May 2013.
Johnny Sexton was voted World Rugby Player of the year in 2018, and also added a famous drop goal to the list of Ireland’s favourite sporting moments. The Leinster fly-half became the 106th player to captain Ireland in the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A Group match, at the Kobe Misaki Stadium in Japan.
Sexton is a born leader who constantly puts his body on the line for the team and is blessed with the killer instinct that all great fly-half possess. Never was this more evident than in
2018 when Ireland was trailing France in Paris, as the clock ticked towards the red. Showing nerves of steel Sexton attempted an all-or-nothing match-winning attempt from near the halfway line. It sailed over and propelled Ireland to a hat-trick of Grand Slam titles.
On 24 November 2009, Sexton was controversially selected ahead of Ronan O’Gara in Ireland’s autumn international against world cup champions South Africa at Croke Park.
It proved to be an inspired decision as he kicked all of Ireland’s 15 points. It was revealed that Sexton had played out Ireland’s pulsating 15–10 victory with a broken hand. Sexton truly is Captain Courageous and will be central to Ireland’s prospects in the post Joe Schmidt era.
WHO GETS THE NOD?
In a glittering list, O’Gara gets the nod by virtue of his astonishing numbers, but Johnny Sexton has no retirement plans just yet and is closing in on fast on his former coaches impressive targets.