These expectations were built on a foundation of sand. Sure Ireland won the Triple Crown in 2006 and 2007. But it is worth remembering that the English team has been in free fall since 2003. The present English team is but a pale shadow of the World Cup winning team of 2003.
Scotland is in decline. Wales during this period had injury problems. So winning two Triple Crowns in successive years probably masked some glaring inefficiencies in Ireland's game.
Much is made of the fact that Ireland defeated South Africa and Australia in Autumn Internationals. Both South Africa and Australia sent experimental sides. They were more concerned with developing strong squads for the World Cup. This was the correct approach and is in marked contrast to the ill-advised policy pursued by Eddie O Sullivan.
A disappointing tour of Argentina and a shockingly poor performance against Italy in a warm up match ought to have sounded the alarm bells.