Phew. Let’s Try Again

We’ve pulled this morning’s post after huge objections from the galleries. We fully accept we were wrong, and stand corrected – our followers and commenters are our lifeblood, and we bow to their greater knowledge, and issue a full mea culpa to National Treasure Rala. Next time he’s in need of some free puff pieces, Conor George-style, he can call us.

Unlike most countries, Ireland’s blazers (who gave themselves a self-congratulatory 5 pages in the Bok match programme) ignore the (professional) RWC as a marker in the national teams development, preferring their school chums favourite tournament – the braying old Six Nations.

Thus after 2007, Ireland endured Eddie’s swansong, and after RWC11, while other countries started afresh with a 4 year plan, the IRFU stumbled around the like amateurs they are with a contract through to the 2013 Six Nations. The year 2012, once the glow of the Argentina game fades, will be recalled as a year marked by operational disasters and on-field listlessness as the team slumped into the last months of Deccie’s contract. Organisational mishaps have followed Ireland around and been allowed to fester.

When Deccie came on board, he brought a crisp and fresh management team with defined roles – Les Kiss and Gert Smal were a breath of fresh air and for all the talk of Deccie getting the luck that Eddie didn’t, the famous Gary Player quote deserves to be recalled – the more Ireland practised the luckier they got, and a fully deserved Grand Slam was delivered through innovation and hard work. Post RWC11, that coaching team has evolved into something of a dogs dinner – Les Kiss gets shunted around, Gert Smal’s role is unclear, and Axel Foley and Greg Feek get drafted in and out to fill in gaps.

The nadir was the Mick Kearney’s first week as team manager in January 2012 – his first act was to get slapped down by the IRB for suggesting Barnes had admitted Fez’s tackle shouldn’t have been penalised in the Wales game. It was not the most auspicious start to his new job, but was symptomatic of a set-up which was seemingly intent on continuously criticising match officials.

The penny-pinching that characterised Ireland’s efforts in the dawn of professionalism reared its head again this year. For the end-of-season tour to NZ, a small squad was selected despite the inevitability of injuries – no lessons were learned from 2010 when armies of players came out one at a time. Before the final test in Hamilton, the players had to check out of their hotels in advance to save a nights room charge, and Paddy Wallace was grabbed from a Portuguese beach and fast-tracked into the side, with wholly predictable results.

The story in the Sunday Times last week where O’Reilly revealed the turkeys at Lansdowne Road might be on the verge of voting for Christmas is long delayed. The appointment of a professional director of rugby with a meaningful role would be a hugely welcome development – the present structure in Ireland is not fit for the purpose of producing consistently well-prepared and successful sides. The idea that Deccie has to sit in front of some amateur volunteers and justify his selection and tactics for a Test match is a sepia-tinged anachronism in this, the 18th year of professional rugby – we have been critical of Deccie for his selection and tactics, but we don’t envy him for having to deal with the old farts of Lansdowne Road. Without brushing over the work these unpaid volunteers do, this is a job for a professional.

Perhaps the most important function of the new role would be managing the relationship between provinces and national team.  The head coach having to enforce the Player Welfare rules with provincial coaches has surely not helped Ireland’s cause over the last season or so, particularly as the dichotomy between their relative performances has emerged.  We’ve said before that Ireland going down the road of Country vs. Province can only end in failure, and that remains the case.  Taking the head coach out of the firing line might also negate the need for the media to peddle this agenda, which has become especially trying.  At one point in the last month an interview with Eoin Reddan was headlined ‘Reddan Defends Provincial Success’.  Such silliness has to end.

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  1. Giuseppe

     /  November 27, 2012

    Well done on the correction lads. Fair play for holding up your hands on it.

  2. SASP

     /  November 27, 2012

    Any chance I can have a look at the removed article to see what all the fuss was about.

  3. Rocky

     /  November 27, 2012

    Another very good post guys, keep it up please. The idea the the players had to check out of their hotel in Hamilton before the match is disgraceful . Flying Paddy Wallace out from his holidays not only was an insult to Fergus McFadden (and Paddy) but also probably cost as much as another night in a hotel for the squad. Talking of wasting money, what a waste is this nonsense with smoke machines, pillars of fire and other fireworks before the Aviva matches? Whose brainwave was that? To think they went for months without replacing the strength and fitness coach (or someone like that) but can waste money on fireworks is infuriating. And, while I’m on the topic of the Aviva and wasting money, could someone please shoot that idiot of an announcer – he is totally embarrassing.

    • Anonymous

       /  November 27, 2012

      That’s a job for Connor O’Shea if ever I seen one. Coordinator extraordinaire

    • Leinsterlion

       /  November 27, 2012

      I think if we set up a paypal account to “facilitate” the announcers removal, we’d have enough donations to have it done professionally.

  4. Len

     /  November 27, 2012

    The point regarding provincial success coming at the cost of the national side is so ridiculous it hardly warrants a response, yet its rolled out every time Ireland start to do badly. Yes with the provinces playing more top level games there is a chance that we will loose players to injury. The flip side of this is that we have a larger pool of players getting game time at the top level to pick from. The fact that we fail, completely, to promote fresh players or even look at alternatives at a national level preferring to stick with the same tired match day 22 year in year out (baring injury) regardless of form is an issue for the IRFU to take up with the national coaching team not, as Decci’s heralds in the media have it, a result of the success of the provinces.

    Involvement in the later stages of the HC and the knock out stages of the Pro12 harden young players and lessen the step up from province to national team. They still have to be selected. If were unwilling to put them straight into the senior team then we need to organise more wolfhounds games and use this as our development squad not as a way of giving members of the senior squad who aren’t good enough to make the match day 22 (but who the coach likes) international game time. Can’t imagine a NZ coach ever complaining about the super 15s teams doing well.

    Great picture of Reddan with that article.

    • Yes, we’ve writtena couple of standalone posts on the issue so we won’t revisit in huge detail, but suffice to say it’s certainly one of the more bizarre lines of argument we’ve heard in recent times. It just makes no sense on any level.

      Reddan looks like a small boy in that picture, very strange indeed.

  5. Contraflow

     /  November 27, 2012

    Well done on Rala roll back lads, my outrage was mostly faux, but I thought I’d better nip in the bud your questioning of certain amateur ethoses and personas which have persisted in the professional era. Lest I see a blog asking who is this Hago fella and surely can’t he can be replaced by a radio controlled toy car.

    When Johnny Sexton came on against Munster in the HC 2009 semi-final, I’m sure he appreciated, close friend of his father and someone he knew since he was a kid, Johnny O’Hagan handing him the kicking tee.

    Rala reminds us of certain amateur ways that have been lost a little with professionalism. No bad thing I think.

    Keep up the good work though, without your blog I might have to read more stuff from newspaper journalists… shudder!!!

    • Thanks Contraflow. Nice comment. As a total aside, am I right in saying Hago brought on the wrong kicking tee [the one Conters liked to use] for that all important penalty and Johnny had to send him back for his one? I think I remember an interview where Johnny was chiding him jokingly over it.

      • Contraflow

         /  November 27, 2012

        Ha ha I think I remember that also… let me roll back on Hago then… I am googling radio controlled cars right now, they can’t be that expensive.

  6. Jimbob

     /  November 27, 2012

    I think the Director of Rugby position isn’t always the way forward; firstly what is the role? how do they effect what happens on and off the field relevant to the main people (players and coaches)?. Will the appointment of a director undermine the position of the head coach(picture Rob Andrew sitting above Martin Johnson)?
    I’m not really sure what the job of Director actually does in terms of a rugby team, it seems to me that it’s a position created by the blazers to facilitate one of their boys or former players, where once upon a time they went and worked for someone’s law firm instead.

    • Very good questions every one Jimbob. Answering them properly would almost be a post in itself. Going on Peter O’Reilly’s article from the ST this weekend, it appears they’ve gone through a big consultancy period involving many of the senior players to try and gauge exactly what it is that’s required. The issues you raise demonstrate the importance of getting the appointment right and making sure everyone has clearly defined roles.

      In a very broad sweep, our understanding is that the performance director should be looking after all the structural elements, such as player welfare, NIQ rules, possibly managing intra-province player movement and so forth. Hi job is effectively to ensure the talent has the best chance of thriving, leaving the head coach to get on with what he’s best at – coaching the team.

      I guess the IRFU can always use the RFU as a guide on how not to do things.

      • Jimbob

         /  November 27, 2012

        That’s fair enough; if (big if) that can be done well then I’d be all for that. The director would, in that case, need to be able to stay close enough to the team in order to keep an eye on proceedings but not step on any toes when doing so – a very difficult task in itself!

    • Leinsterlion

       /  November 27, 2012

      Rob Andrew undermined Johnson as it was plain for all too see that Johnson wasnt up to the task and needed guidance/help.
      A Director or General Manager(in yank parlance) is common in most other major sports.
      For one It would stop Kidney having to report directly to the IRFU giving him more time to focus on aspects crucial to the success of the national team. The Director would organise where the training will be held, hotels and all other logistical matters, youth planning, development etc etc.
      The key to the role working in my eyes would not to appoint someone who still has eyes on coaching or has had no experience in the role. He would also have to be allowed total control and have final say in whose appointed HC and other staff appointments. Look at European Football or Gridiron where this is the norm, there are people who have never been anything other then “directors of X”. Its the most accountable and professional way of running things

      • Jimbob

         /  November 27, 2012

        As much as Johnson wasn’t up to the task, putting a world class prick like Andrew in there was never a good option. Surely Mick Kearney as team manager(is this not more equivalent to GM?) handles the logistics end of things but I doubt he has any part in youth/development.
        While it’s easy to say these roles are the most accountable and professional way to run a team (by putting people in more easily defined/black & white roles), while trying to simplify, you run the risk of over complicating due to having too many involved. I wouldn’t take the model of soccer or NFL as both are run differently and have different structures on and off the field.

  7. Should have left the original post up and taken the shit in the comments.

    • Spike

       /  November 27, 2012

      Gaiusc, I see your point, but I’d disagree. The article should represent WoC’s views and the facts as they understand them. If either changes, I’d rather see the article modified, with an acknowledgement, so that any future reader doesn’t have to wade through the comments to get the latest view.
      WoC – good on you for the correction, and thanks for the blog, its a pleasure to read.

  8. @gaiusc We take your point, but after reading what people had to say about Rala it became clear to us he didn’t deserve to be invoked in the piece. So we thought it was best to retract what we said and try to move on.

  9. Rich

     /  November 28, 2012

    Excellent piece

    About time someone highlighted the fact that everyone in Ireland but the IRFU took professionalism seriously. Its much easier to have old retired hacks in blazers who get paid sweet FA making these decisions – all they want is a ticket for the game and a chance to meet BOD after the game after all…….

    Scots and Welch have failed miserably with professionalism – they have lost provincial teams and any decent player will leave for more money and the chance
    to play infront of a crowd of over 100 people. England, as they do everything, took it as a money making exercise, with jobs for the boys and a new away jersey…for every home game? Is this correct? Purple followed by maroon???It is xmas after all – the all white can wait for the 6 nations!!

    I actually thought we had moved forward but after hearing about that NZ tour i see we have nt. 2012 was another typically inconsistant year for an Ireland fan. I m currently living in Sydney – and this article typifies the idea the aussies have of us. Good players but no structure or organisation……”O’Gara’s dad is your coach is nt he” one of the guys at training asked me a few weeks back……Might as well be…..

  10. Don

     /  November 29, 2012

    Wow, Im gone for a day and the sh*t hits the fan!
    I appreciate you boys holding up your hands and admiting you were wrong, about whatever it is you were wrong about.
    Would I be correct in assuming the above piece is what caused the outcry but you removed a paragraph from it about Rala?

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