For some people, it didn't matter what Ireland did tonight against England. Their mind was made up either way.
It was a lose-lose situation for Joe Schmidt's side. If they were beaten by England it was further proof that Ireland are a poor team, over-hyped at the detriment of other sports. If they won, it was just another example that the Irish rugby team are bottlers who can only do it in friendlies and dead rubbers.
The championship may have been out of their hands, but Ireland took to the pitch this evening at the Aviva Stadium knowing it was far from a dead rubber. Going into the day, we all knew that if Wales beat France in Paris, and if Ireland were then beaten by England, it would mean the Welsh replaced Ireland in fourth place in the World rankings, leaving Ireland as a second seed for the 2019 World Cup draw in May.
That's the message that will have been hammered into the players at Carton House this week. Forget about denying England the Grand Slam or bursting their winning streak, today was all about securing themselves the best possible position for the World Cup in Japan.
France's late win in Paris may have ensured that Ireland would secure that top seed regardless, but that didn't mean the Irish players kicked off at the Aviva thinking they had nothing to lose. After spending so long getting into the right frame of mind, you don't just switch off in an instant. With kickoff delayed by several minutes due to 100-minute game in Paris, it's even likely the players didn't know whether France had snatched the result until half time.
Of course, it's hugely disappointing that their best performance of the tournament came in the final game with the title out of their hands. However, they can't change the past. They'll rightfully be reminded of their slow start against Scotland and their failure to take their chances in Cardiff. Beating England doesn't just erase the past and make them the best team in the world, just as losing to Wales didn't make them mugs.
In the top tier of rugby the margins are minuscule, and overreactions to both the wins and defeats are huge. Often times, the only thing splitting teams is the home advantage. Ireland, England, France and Scotland all had a 100 percent record in their home games, and Wales's sole defeat in Cardiff hinged on a try four minutes from time.
Even a quick look at the rankings will show you just how little there is in the game. A spilled pass from France as they pushed for their late try, and a missed Irish tackle would have seen Wales move up to fourth in the world. When the updated rankings are published on Monday, Wales will be down in eighth.
The fact that England stood on a podium and and lifted the Six Nations trophy at the Aviva will obviously take something away from tonight's win, but it was undeniably a great performance. The tame celebrations as England lifted the trophy was proof enough that this was far from meaningless.
After Peter O'Mahony sat and watched from the start against both France and Wales the Munster captain finally got his chance to start when Jamie Heaslip pulled up in the warm-up. And on short notice, he put in one of his finest performances in an Irish shirt. His lineout steal in the final 10 minutes was gamechanging.
Ireland's squad depth was tested, and it answered the call emphatically. Kieran Marmion was assured at scrum half, once and for all proving that all is not lost without Conor Murray. Marmion's replacement Luke McGrath was the coolest man in Dublin when his box kick found the tiniest gap imaginable to creep into touch in the corner and march England back to their own line in the closing stages. Andrew Conway looked comfortable in his long-awaited debut, while Dan Leavy was everywhere in his 14-minute cameo.
There will be plenty of Irish fans taking delight in being the party-poopers for England once again, and while it's certainly a bonus, the overall feeling will be relief to still be avoiding England, New Zealand and Australia at the World Cup.
Tonight's win doesn't automatically turn a frustrating campaign into one of the greats, but it does end the tournament on a high. Australia have had four cracks off England since the World Cup and lost them all. France and Wales have both tried and failed twice. South Africa and Argentina were brushed aside at Twickenham in November. Beating this England team, regardless of what's at stake is something to take pride in.