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Irish joy tinged with sadness as All Blacks finally vanquished

Irish fans all over the world celebrated the side’s electrifying first-ever victory over the All Blacks, but the historic triumph was tinged with sadness following the recent death at just 42 of former international Anthony “Axel” Foley.

“Ireland create history with stunning victory over the All Blacks,” was the online headline of the Irish Independent newspaper after Saturday’s 40-29 victory in Chicago.

The Irish Times chimed in with “Irish warriors take down All Blacks at Soldier Field”.

The Irish have been close before – sometimes painfully – but this time, after 111 years and 29 test matches, they held firm, despite a late surge from the mighty All Blacks, who had won 18 games on the trot before this shock defeat.

“It’s an awesome day for the Irish, not just for this team but for the 28 teams that have gone before us,” elated Irish full-back Rob Kearney said after the final whistle.

With Chicago Cubs having broken their 108-year hoodoo by winning baseball’s World Series last week, the stage was set in the Windy City, and Ireland duly ran in five tries to secure a famous first victory.

For Ireland, the occasion was made even more emotional by the recent death of former player and Munster coach Foley, who died as Munster prepared for a European Cup game just two weeks ago.

As the All Blacks performed the Haka, the Irish, led by Foley’s former Munster players, stood in a figure-of-eight formation on the pitch in memory of the enormously popular back-row forward.

From the off, the Ireland pack displayed plenty of the spirit that Foley embodied as a player and a coach, thundering into the All Blacks and never giving them time to settle.

“New Zealand aren’t used to that sort of treatment, everybody just stands back and respects them,” said former international Neil Francis.

“Over the years one of the problems we have had is that we have feared sides like New Zealand,” Francis explained.

“But over the last six or seven years, that fear has gone.”

New Zealand will have their chance for revenge in Dublin in two weeks but captain Rory Best believes that the fear of the All Blacks is now a thing of the past.

“We’ve created history by going and attacking New Zealand, they’re a quality side and it shows how good they are, how important this win was to us,” Best said as tears welled in his eyes.

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