Dublin-born kicking king McCourt enjoys college football’s Champaign moment

There’s over 10,000 kilometres between Tokyo and Champaign, Illinois and last Saturday the change in emotions between two related sporting sons of Dublin were worlds and hemispheres apart.

While Garry Ringrose was coming to terms with Ireland’s exit from the Rugby World Cup at the hands of the All Blacks in Japan, his second cousin James McCourt was preparing for the University of Illinois’ big homecoming football game against Wisconsin, a team ranked sixth in America ahead of the meeting in the famed Big Ten Conference.

Just over three hours later, McCourt was the hero of the day after landing a 39-yard field goal on the buzzer to claim the biggest upset in over two years in the college game and the biggest upset in a Big Ten game since 1982, as the Fighting Illini made a nonsense of a handicap that had them as 30.5-point underdogs at their 60,000 capacity Memorial Stadium in the college town 220 kilometres south of Chicago.

Most of the crowd ended up on the field after the kick was landed, with McCourt mobbed by his team-mates; even passing out briefly under the mound of bodies before being hoisted up on shoulders as the party got underway.

“It was bonkers, it was nuts, it was definitely a scene,” McCourt told The Irish Times on Wednesday afternoon when reliving the post-game celebrations. “There was a dog pile in the middle of the field and I actually passed out underneath at the bottom with all the weight on top of me. I lost my breath and my eyes rolled back in my head for a minute so it took me a little while to actually realise myself what actually happened.”

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