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All Blacks go Gaelic and lose to Dublin

AIG Ireland

James Mortimer     25 Nov 2013     AIG Ireland

A short drive from the centre of Dublin, the All Blacks headed out to the wonderfully equipped Westmanstown sports centre, located in the west countryside and nestled near the beautiful Strawberry Beds between Lucan and Clonsilla.

To rugby fans, the faces of Richie McCaw, Owen Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua stood out.

But for the locals, the Dublin hurlers had a few famous faces of their own.

Among them was Johnny McCaffrey, who created history this year when becoming the first captain of the local Dublin team to win the Leinster Hurling Final, claiming the Bob O'Keeffe trophy in the process.

Dublin had knocked out Kilkenny, the powerhouse of the GAA, but eventually lost to Clare, who lifted their fourth All-Ireland Hurling Championship in September.

The players, pulled together thanks to the efforts of AIG, who also sponsor Dublin, had to try their hands with a variety of challenges.

First the sliotars were smacked around, with the big All Blacks forwards looking menacing smashing the traditional hurling ball with the wooden 'Hurley', while there were skills tasks with the round and oval ball as well.

Dublin midfielder Cian O'Sullivan swapped jerseys with McCaw, with the GAA stars saying rugby had plenty to teach the hurlers.

The Dublin side works with Leinster rugby, and while the Irish hurling game is not fully professional, the 2013 season was regarded as one of the best ever - although the locals were in awe of the world's number one ranked rugby team.

Some players joked to the All Blacks to 'go easy' on their rugby counterparts.

However McCaw subscribes to the same mantra as legendary Gaelic manager Brian Cody, who despite winning championship after championship with Kilkenny is quick to remind his troops of their own mortality.

Anyone can beat anyone else on the day is something that has become scripture here in Ireland under Cody, a line not unfamiliar to the All Blacks.

Irish media have almost comically reflected on how McCaw has talked up Ireland, saying that the All Blacks have paid a mammoth amount of respect to a team that has never beaten them.

However if the world's number one ranked team follow that mindset, then they won't be focusing on the job at hand.

And as McCaw will quickly point out, there are plenty of little tasks to take care of over 80 minutes before the side can toast a victory over Ireland in Dublin.

For O'Sullivan though, a household name locally with his exploits with the hurley, the experience was beyond being a two-time All Ireland winner.

He and the team had been "giddy" about the event for some time.

Certainly they can extend this to feeling quite chuffed, as for the record, the Dublin 'All Blues' won 3-2 on a windy and cold Clonsilla afternoon.