Michael Lowry revelled in achieving his childhood dream after his two tries helped Ireland to a convincing Guinness Six Nations victory against Italy.
The Ulster full-back was a standout performer at the Aviva Stadium and crossed once in each half as Andy Farrell’s side kept their title hopes alive.
Italy played much of the match with 13 men after Hame Faiva, who had replaced the injured Gianmarco Lucchesi at hooker, was shown a red card for a high tackle on Dan Sheehan.
That reduced Italy to 14 men but as a result of uncontested scrums, they then went down to 13 and Ireland cashed in on the extra space.
Lowry could have had a third try but unselfishly passed to James Lowe to score late in the game when he could easily have gone himself.
“It is a special feeling, everyone would say that,” Lowry said.
“I tried to compose myself coming out to thousands of people here today and I had fans and family wishing me all the best, thanks for everyone who got me here today.
“Lining up for the anthems is special, it is a childhood dream and it is something I will never forget.
“It is about taking my opportunity when it comes. I have worked hard for this and the likes of Rory [Best] have supported me all the way through the age-grade systems and we wished me the best today.
“Hopefully I can step up from this and get a few more caps.”
Ireland were 7-3 up when Faiva was sent off and Lowry admits the complexion of the game changed from there.
But he was proud of how Ireland approached the remaining hour and hailed a job well done.
“It was about playing our game,” he added.
“It is very easy to think you have to shift the ball wide but fair play Italy, they kept coming after us. We had to play our game and be patient with that.”