23 year-old Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale spoke to the BBC about how he was in a dark place after he dropped the ball while trying to score in the second half European Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster.
Ulster were leading by two points when Stockdale lost control of the ball and the try was disallowed. Leinster came back fighting and scored a try of their own and they beat Ulster 21-18, securing their place in the last four.
The young winger apologized to his team as he felt he alone scuppered their chances for a semi final place. He also made a statement to their fans on social media the next day saying “”A lot of people said to me that I shouldn’t have felt that way, but I just felt like I had cost us a semi-finalIf I get that ball down it’s a one-try or two-try game and we’re looking pretty comfortable. All of a sudden I drop it and Leinster get back into the game.
“I just felt that I had to [apologise] and I realised that we had an incredible amount of support there – a lot of people had paid a lot of money to come down and watch us and made a lot of effort, so I felt like I had to say sorry that they weren’t getting to enjoy a semi-final.”
Former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll branded the mistake “unforgivable” but is this really fair? In order to build resilience players must be allowed to make mistakes, they are not infallible and nor should they be expected to be. After all, they are human and everybody has to make mistakes to learn from them.
Ulster captain Rory Best, did what he does best by leading by example and rallying around Stockdale and telling him not to let that one moment define him. Stockdale received great moral support from his team mates in Ulster and also from the Irish squad.
The young wingers has learned a hard lesson for trying to place the ball over the try line instead of sliding over, he said of the incident “I’m learning every time I step onto the pitch and some lessons are easy to learn and some are harder to learn and unfortunately this was one of the hard ones.”
Stockdale is the one the brightest talents Ulster and the Ireland squad has and although sincerely talented, he is not and never will be infallible. We need to cut sports stars a bit of slack, everyone is allowed off day.