The story behind this iconic photo of Jacob Stockdale’s match-winning try

A moment of history captured by Inpho’s Tommy Dickson. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

THE AVIVA STADIUM press room, deep in the bowels of the west stand and located at the heart of the ground’s nerve centre, is a hub of activity on matchday. It is from here where reports will be filed, coaches and players interviewed and deadlines met. 

The hours until kick-off can often represent the calm before the storm as journalists and reporters gather their thoughts in anticipation of what is set to unfold in front of them. 

But the same cannot be said for the adjacent photographer’s room, however, where there is rarely a moment’s calm, whether it is two hours before the game or two hours after the game. 

Hundreds of snappers from national and international photo agencies will be in position from early in the day — often six hours before the first whistle — as they prepare to capture every moment from every possible angle. 

At any given game, you will see swarms of photographers — armed with three or four different lenses in their brightly coloured bibs — assembled in various points along the sideline and end lines, from where many of the images published on this site or indeed in newspapers will be taken from. 

But there is always a demand for something different, for something more. 

Tommy Dickson was one of six Inpho photographers assigned to work at Saturday’s November Test against the All Blacks, with each positioned at a different vantage point around the stadium to ensure they were on hand to capture any potential moment of history as it happened.

Billy Stickland, Dan Sheridan, Gary Carr and Oisin Keniry were all situated at pitch-level, while Bryan Keane was in the stands shooting all the action from a different perspective — but it was Dickson, stationed on the stadium’s walkway, who took one of the standout shots of a historic night.

Having taken close to 7,000 images throughout the course of the match, from the pre-match warm-ups, team arrivals, the anthems, the Haka and then the 80 minutes of action itself, there is one sequence which provides an entirely different angle to every other shot.

Stockdale kicks ahead in the build-up to his try. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The walkway, which wraps all the way around the stadium from the west stand to the far side, has been used by Inpho on numerous occasions before, but Dickson’s decision to stay directly on top of the big screen at the Lansdowne Road end of the ground paid dividends.

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Having been in position an hour before kick-off with two camera bodies and three lenses (16-35mm for fireworks and teams running out, 70-200mm for the Haka and 400mm for the action), Dickson took more pictures than he has ever taken at a single game, all the while waiting — and praying — the right moment came his way. 

And then Jacob Stockdale conjured a piece of magic, finishing off one of Joe Schmidt’s training-ground masterpiece moves with a virtuoso, and match-winning, history-making, score, all of which happened right under Dickson’s lens.

“You’re so close to all the action up there,” he tells The42. “Initially I went over to shoot the lineout side on, and I just happened to stay put as the play moved across, then they changed direction and passed to Stockdale.

The sequence of shots which followed are truly outstanding, as Dickson captures the try frame-by-frame, including the moment the Ulster winger reaches for the line under pressure from Damian McKenzie and Aaron Smith. 

Dickson knew he had something special.

“When you’re shooting, you know if you have something nice in frame but there is always that small voice in the back of your head wondering if it’s in the right settings or if it’s slightly out of focus.

“But I was able to check the sequence back on the camera after the celebration finished, and there is no better feeling knowing that you have something good and it could be a potential shot that lands.”

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

As is the way nowadays, Dickson was able to send the images back to his photo desk immediately off his camera without having to upload them onto his laptop, and within minutes of Stockdale touching down, they were all across social media. 

But it has been in the days since, as the magnitude of Ireland’s win sinks in and the enormity of the occasion is realised, that the brilliance of the images — and the detail in each one — have developed. 

“You can never know what shots will land in the papers or be a success online, so when it does happens it’s great to see,” Dickson says.

“Just the bird’s eye view perspective is different from what we normally see and I don’t think it would be the same if I shot it slightly from the left or the right, but the luck was with me thank God.”

A stunning photo of a special moment in Irish sporting history. 

“It’s one of my favourite shots of the year,” he adds. “And the fact that it was a big game makes me like the picture even more.”

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