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IRELAND'S rugby heroes were too shattered to party in their dressing room after Saturday's momentous Grand Slam victory.

The aching stars were so mentally drained by the triumph over Wales they could only manage to put on a CD by Christy Moore, pictured right, to relax.

Photographer Billy Strickland said yesterday it was "very tranquil" in the dressing room.

He added: "The boys had arranged to have Christy play for the team before.

"So when they got into the dressing room, Christy was blaring from the stereo. The lads are familiar with the music so they were well able to sing along with him.

"But they just kind of sang a few lines in the chorus and then stopped - they were just so tired. They played a lot of Irish music."

Billy said many people would be surprised to see what the atmosphere was like after such a euphoric but bruising encounter.

He added: "I think there is a bit of a myth that they go into the dressing room and start high-fiving and everything.

But they were just so exhausted. It was very subdued.

"There was so much adrenalin on the pitch, the crowd was buzzing and then as they stepped off the pitch, the buzz faded and they started feeling all the hits and knocks they had got in the match.

"I think the over-riding emotion in the dressing room was exhaustion.

"They were so tired-all the stress and tension from the match just poured out.

"There was one or two limping around while a few of them just sat around and stared into space, trying to take in what had happened.

"There was no yahoos or well dones, it was just a few moments of peace and quiet after the storm." Billy, who has been photographing rugby matches for 25 years, said the Grand Slam was a vindication for the team.

He added: "This side is made up of a great bunch of people.

"For the past number of years they have underachieved and people were hounded by claims that they weren't really putting up a good fight. It had been said that some of them were performing in a Munster jersey and weren't performing for Ireland.

"It was almost like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders. There was a great sense of relief."

Billy also revealed the team were paid a special visit by Prince William.

He said: "William presented the medals to the team on the podium and then he came into the dressing room.

"He knows Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, Ronan O'Gara and Donnacha O'Callaghan from the 2005 Lions tour.

"He was very nice, he got on very well with the lads and he is the Prince of Wales, so the lads respected that he came in and thanked them."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 24, 2009
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