Siege Mentality

Down the years, many a successful coach has driven on his team by creating a siege mentality within the camp.  No less a man than the great Sir Alex Ferguson, before becoming a darling of the media himself, used what he perceived to be a London bias in the English press to motivate his team.  No one likes us, we don’t care, he would say, and the team bought into his vision.

The Irish love a siege mentality and traditionally only ever reach a peak when they’re written off.  Remember beating Australia in Auckland?  Remember the 1991 World Cup?  Great performances from a team dismissed in advance.  At provincial level, the siege mentality has been a huge factor in how Irish rugby lines have been formed.  And it looks like it’s found a new home (incidentally, Connacht permanently have a siege mentality, so let’s leave them out for the moment).

Historically, the chip on the shoulder was always seen as a Munster thing.  It’s what drove them on to being the most successful team of the early professional era.  Munster rugby long held a view that Leinster and Ulster, with their wealthier private-schools-based catchment area and powerful boardroom presence, cocked a snoop at them and national teams reflected a selection bias against them.  Back in the days of selection commitees there was certainly  a sense that the school tie was as important as a player’s ability.  When the Heineken Cup launched and Irish rugby built itself around provincial franchises, Munster used the chip on its collective shoulder to brilliant effect.  They had always dominated the club game, and with Limerick and Cork now aligned in pursuit of a common goal they took the opportunity to show the Nordies and the D4-heads just how good they could be when given a proper chance.  The rest we know – they dominated Europe and national selection for the guts of a decade.

But a siege mentality can only last so long.  Munster became media darlings on a near mythic scale.  Anyone following our twitter feed will know that we don’t entirely buy into the extraordinary levels of mythology that get perpetrated at the very mention of a late Saturday afternoon kick-off in Thomond Park, but there are plenty who do.  Munster, the pride of Irish warriors, stitching the tears of Ginger McLoughlin into the team shirt, was born.  They became the embodiment of everyting great about Irish sport, a brilliant and heroic team.  When everyone loves you, it’s hard to claim that nobody likes you and you don’t care.

So the siege mentality was picked up by Leinster, who were seen as the team opposite to Munster in every way.  In a wonderful article, Matt Williams recently described a speech made in the dressing room by Denis Hickie after Leinster beat Clermont Auvergne in the Stade Marcel Michelin in 2003.  They had little travelling support, no more than a handful of family members who joined the players in the dressing room.  Hickie said that Leinster had no ‘Red Army’ equivalent following them and no support in the media but that none of that mattered.  Everyone important to Leinster Rugby was in that dressing room and that was enough; they had to do it for each other.  When we read it, it made us think about something we’d never considered before: that it’s great saying ‘we’re going to win for the fans who are the best in the world’, but having an army of passionate support is in fact a luxury that plenty of teams don’t have.  Some team simply have to win for themselves.

The culmination was in 2009, when Michael Cheika drove his team to new levels of feral hunger by exposing them to the full scale of the media hubbub, which was at that point in time in full Munster Lovin’ flow.  Niall Kiely’s infamous smugfest was apparently pinned to the wall in the Leinster dressing room that day.

Again, though, circumstances changed.  Joe Schmidt brought a new skills-based emphasis and didn’t require the media to motivate his team.  Besides, once up and running, his slick Leinster team themselves became the most celebrated rugby team in the land.  The image of an exclusive school boys’ club was long removed and Leinster the family-friendly creche-cum rugby-club was a hit with the public.  The siege mentality could be put down.

So it is that Ulster look to be the team in possession.  They have a real chippy look this season.  They look like a bunch of caged beasts (with an appropriate nod to the memory of Nevin Spence, which seems to be driving them on to lay down something great in tribute).  Leinster and Munster still seem to swallow up most of the rugby oxygen, with Ulster a bit of an afterthought.  They’ve had to take Gerry Thornley saying things like ‘Ulster might be the better team, but Munster are the better province’, whatever that means.  They’ve had Hugh Farrelly write that Ulster beating Munster in the quarter-final last year was bad for Irish rugby.  Their players seem to draw the short straw come national selection time, with Chris Henry, Paul Marshall, Dan Tuohy, Paddy Jackson and Tom Court all missing out on selection at various times – and all to Munster players.  They might be entitled to feel that none of the Irish media – dominated by Munster and to a lesser extent Leinster – really like them.  And they don’t care.

But where does this leave Munster? Stuck in the middle of the Pro12 and in the most precarious position of the Big Three in terms of Heineken Cup, while Leinster are reigning champs of Europe and Ulster are unbeaten this season, they are right now the third best team in Irish rugby.  Shouldn’t they be the ones trying to foster the spirit of indignation?

For sure, but how?  The memories of Munster’s greatness are still fresh and there’s no real desire to turn the crosshairs on a province which has given so much to Irish rugby in the recent past.  The respect they’ve earned down the years has long-term value.  Even tedious 15-9 wins over a dull Saracens team have the press swooning like its the Beatles and are described as ‘magical nights’, while ROG even at his most ordinary can be described as the ‘perfect 10 giving a tactical masterclass’.

While we are not proclaiming that the entire Irish media are biased towards Munster, we do have a theory on this. The sports media in Ireland is pretty uncritical in general – they reflect a public which proclaims extreme loyalty towards “their” team (whoever it may be) and wants to see that reflected in what they read. In addition, Ireland is a small and parochial country – the sports media are in regular contact with coaches and players and like to keep on good terms with them. Two stories stand out in this regard:

  • Dwarf-gate in Queenstown – while Mike Tindall and various other England players were having photos surrepticiously taken by hacks writing Gotcha! stories, the Ireland team were in the exact same bar … with the Irish rugby press, all drinking together and having great gas
  • Fangio once told a story about how he wrote “Peter Clohessy would be the only man in Limerick whose car could be left unlocked on the street and it would still be there when he got back” – he meant it as a compliment that, in a city with a gritty reputation, the Claw was held in huge esteem. By the standards of (again) the English gutter press, it’s pretty tame stuff – but Clohessy took exception, and went out of his way to point that out to Fanning

So that means lots of positivity – but what has this got to do specifically with Munster? The punditry class in Ireland is dominated by former players, and those from Munster appear to be more reluctant to dole out criticism of their province than those with ties to Leinster or Ulster.

Leinster, in their lengthy fallow period, had to endure the likes of Franno and Jim Glennon sniping from the sidelines, sometimes with some pretty nasty observations (remember the Leinster Ladyboys?).  Ulster have always had a culture of criticism, and tend more naturally to see the glass as half-empty.  Former Ulster players feel a responsibility to hold today’s team up against the standard of their interpro-dominating vintages from the past. But former Munster players appear lothe to criticise the players wearing the shirt.  There’s a culture of blood being thicker than water, for sticking up for the team, buying into the ethos – embedded from their playing days when they had to do exactly the same.

Perhaps it will change once Generation Ligind move into media roles – they knew what it took to achieve greatness, know what professionalism is all about and know the standard required to make Munster great again. In fact, Alan Quinlan looks extremely capable of hard-hitting analysis [aside: when, as a former Munster player, he tipped them to lose at home to Saracens, it was so noteworthy the boys on OTB speculated about “Quinny Slams Munster” headlines], and Jirry Flannery is on record as saying he didn’t really rate the next group of players coming through, and in a remarkable swipe, said he didn’t have much time for ex-players hanging-on to the coat-tails of the current squad.  He’s yet to establish a niche for himself in the media, but could be interesting, and his hair is really fascinating.  And surely, when ROG eventually retires after the 2021 Lions tour and moves into punditry he’ll offer a suitably withering assessment of the shortcomings of his replacement at fly-half.  Now that has to be worth waiting for.

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61 Comments

  1. The Munster “chip on the shoulder” thing preceded the Heineken Cup and the rise of the provinces. It actually dates to the formation of the AIL, when (rightly or wrongly) it was perceived in Munster that the media was Leinster-biased (e.g. RTE rugby coverage dominated by the likes of Fred Cogley and Jim Sherwin – good rugby men, but ineffably Leinster). Hence, we in Munster took particular pleasure in winning the first 8 instalments of the AIL – it was regarded as an annual “up yours” to the D4 rugby establishment. Of course, you’re 100% correct that Munster, with all the nauseating hype that the noughties and Celtic Tiger Ireland engendered, themselves became establishment. That’s probably why the empire crumbled, to say nothing of the Leinster backlash, and the current Ulster backlash.

    You’re correct in saying Munster are clearly 3rd best right now, but Leinster and Ulster are playing such good rugby that there’s no shame in that!

    • Thanks for commenting Fergal. As you say, the Munster chippiness long predated the professional era. Guys like Ginger McLoughlin from the 1970s who only got single-digit caps were the embodiment of it. Our point was that when rugby re-arranged itself along provincial franchise lines, Munster brought that chip on the shoulder with them – but there’s no harm in reminding us all that it goes way beyond that.

    • I’d reccommend Axel’s biography as a good read that straddles the AIL chip on the shoulder with the provincial chip ont he shoulder and ends right after the crowning of Generation Ligind. Covers a really interesting time & massive period of change int eh clubs history.

  2. insertnamehere

     /  December 13, 2012

    Great article guys. The last paragraph had me in stiches!

  3. Len

     /  December 13, 2012

    Lads another good article. The media in this country loves a band wagon and stirring things up. A lot of the animosity between different fan groups seems to be generated by media articles. I never saw the Hugh Farrelly article. Did the numpty expand on why this was bad for Irish rugby? Those sort of comments really annoy me.

    • @Completebore

       /  December 13, 2012

      It’s here – http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/heineken-cup/hugh-farrelly-ulster-victory-would-be-bad-for-ireland-3072155.html. I hadn’t read it before and its as bad as you can imagine. It also manages to contradict itself as it goes. The main thrust is Ulster have too many shady foreigners keeping young Irish players down while Munster has no such issues because…well that’s not really explained.

      It’s also why I can’t read the indo anymore and am increasingly frustrated with the IT – so much opinion is trotted out as fact with no supporting evidence or context (like Cummisky discarding Jackson for ROG with only kicking stats over one weekend – 2/7 vs. 5/5 – cited as evidence).

      • Thanks Completebore – we probably should have hyperlinked it so thanks for fishing out the link.

        100% agree with your final point and we got into a bit of a tete-a-tete with the man himself on Twitter over his article in the week. Paddy Jackson’s general play was eons ahead of ROG’s last weekend, so to boil the whole thing down to one aspect of play – kicking from the tee – was pretty derisory.

      • Len

         /  December 13, 2012

        Cheers for the link. I don’t even know where to start with what’s wrong with that piece. I wonder did he have a similar piece before the 2009 semi finales? What a tool.

  4. Great article lads. Anyone else having issues with the link for Matt Williams and Denis Hickie article?

  5. Xyz

     /  December 13, 2012

    I think the plonker’s point was that Ulster had built their success on foreign imports – they had no significant Irish eligible players, as you should well recall. Their opponents on the other hand were not men, but heroes, hewn from the sacred earth of Ireland.

    It withstood reason as well as most of his diatribes.

  6. Bushmills

     /  December 13, 2012

    Terrific article. I agree with your assessment of irish fans only wanting to read press that supports their beloved teams. (why do I trawl thru the English press after an Irish win?!).

    I am not trying to cause trouble here but I do feel that the suspicion of the Northerners was a reflection of the political situation in Ulster at the time. I remember visiting fans from Munster clubs in big AIL clashes behaving in a somewhat apprehensive manner (until they won!). Remember this is the province that gave us Michael Collins as well Mick Galwey! They genuinely believed they were entering the Lions den coming up to Co Antrim or Co Down.

    Also to suggest that Ulster teams were formed by privately educated schoolboys is plain wrong. The publicly funded grammar school system has always allowed kids from all social backgrounds to get an excellent education. These schools are the rock upon which the game is based. Admittedly they were bastions of the Protestant establishment but pleasingly the modern integration of faiths in the schools has translated to the rugby field and the number of Catholics in the Ulster squad is a testament to that. I hope it continues to grow and the sport can tap kids who play GAA as well and we can unearth another Tommy Bowe!

    • Amiga500

       /  December 13, 2012

      Already there Bushmills; Craig Gilroy played Gaelic for St. Pauls Holywood as a kid…

      • The Irish Times had a piece on what they delicately called the “new audience” of Ulster rugby fans in the week leading up to (I think) the Embra semi-final – they now estimate that Ravers is about 25% “non-traditional” i.e. Catholic.

        I (Egg) can speak somewhat personally on this, being from a “non-traditional” Ulster background. UR made huge efforts early on to broaden appeal – even at school (late primary) in the early 1990s, Ulster sent Willie Anderson over to oversee touch sessions, and plenty of my peers (which in Belfast sadly means mostly co-religionists) played for a while, mostly for Cooke or Malone, and there was none of the trash-talking sectarianism that is so prevalent in soccer leagues in Belfast. Harlequins now have quite a strong link at committee level with St Brigids, but there is virtually no cross-pollination in the playing personnel, despite some of the St Brigids players have rugger experience.

        For al the positivity above, when Ulster won the HEC in 1999, there wasn’t quite the same ownership of the team as there is now from people like me – its certainly something that grows gradually – professionalism has helped, as, obviously, has the peace process.

        Personally, I can’t wait until those hard-faced Tyrone f*ckers like Ricey McMenamin start playing rugby – you’ll never see a more niggly scrummie methinks!

      • Amiga500

         /  December 13, 2012

        Same boat here…Gaelic footballer “by trade”.

        Its not yappy wee feckers like Ricey yer looking – its boys like Anthony Tohill. Got the hands, feet, speed and strength to do anything.

      • As one of those Tyrone boys who took up the rugby after years of Gaelic let me tell you… We need to recruit more of them! Imagine Sean Cavanagh in the heart of midfield. Perfect replacement for BOD. Packie McConnell would make an awesome second row and Ricey I suspect could have been Ireland’s answer to Ruchie…

        I was lucky in that my school (St Pats Academy D’gannon) was absolutely mad about GAA. So therefore there were a lot of very decent footballers who didn’t make the big MacRory teams, which my PE teacher, and one of the refs at Dungannon RFC, took full advantage of. He found a group of us who were interested and got us down to the rugby club one Thursday afternoon. And we were hooked! Maybe we didn’t have the technique in the scrum/lineout but we more than made up for it with our ball skills and just pure enthusiasm! Best few years of my life. We ended creating a culture of not only GAA but rugby in the school and to this day it’s still there!

      • paddy o

         /  December 16, 2012

        Really agree with the sentiments here lads. I was one of those soldiers too and got the same treatment from these fellas. We were raw, but game as hell and the benefits of this good (….dare I say unseen?) work go a long, long way. Our house was sport mad and I had a gra for the game from an early age, but I doubt I would ever have played a game without this type of initiative.

  7. paddy

     /  December 13, 2012

    Great Article lads. I was away for the 2009 final in the arsehole of Australia. So missed the QFs on. Just read the Nial Kiely stuff there. Whoa! They really got there heads wedged up their arse smelling there own farts there.

    That Farrelly article was the last one of his I ever read. I’ve given up on the Indo since.

  8. Just to note that Flannery has been involved in the creation of both joe.ie and her.ie, along with his attempts at speaking Irish on tg4. I point this out simply to say that Flann is perhaps going in a different ‘non-traditional’ media direction, but I realise you were talking exclusively about rugby analysis and punditry in your article, so this was not that relevant to your overall theme but perhaps could be important in 5-10 years time when Ireland finally catches up with other internet savvy countries?

    Also, Flannery’s quip about flash hookers in that article of his that you mentioned was hilarious, but the overall article was a very interesting read and I’d definitely like to see more from him.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  December 13, 2012

      I agree, Flannery also seems to understand objectivity, unlike his erstwhile colleague Sheahan.

      • Amiga500

         /  December 13, 2012

        Depends on whether he is discussing “his client” or not…. 😉

  9. Thomas

     /  December 13, 2012

    Like the article a lot, it may become more prophetic as the year wears on. The national papers don’t pick at the open wounds that result from the more cutting aspects of the (largely benign and entertaining) provisional divisions, apart from the cases and pundits stated above. Where as the more regional press (the Belfast Telegraph is a prime example) tend to praise their respected local team an embarrassing amount.

    I think it was Niall Crozier who wrote the piece casting doubt on Ferris’ ability to sustain his playing style through near continuous injury, which was hardly a discredited view. Either way Ferris sent up a strong rebuke and despite being a complete non-event, the whole thing seemed very unusual, an article that asks difficult questions about an Ulster star when the team is doing so well, I’m surprised there wasn’t call’s for his head.

    Ulster players are pretty cosseted and seldom talked about behind their backs in the press, even when Ian Humphrey’s was throwing games away and playing like a drain he got little criticism, and when he left it was seen as poor management by Ulster, before being followed by cozy backslappy goodbye pieces from the paid writers (given he was never THAT bad, just annoyingly inconsistent).

    Given all this, its the most upsetting to hear the pro pundits denigrate the amateur pundits chief amongst which, ahem the bloggists ahem, for offering the appropriate (withering or constructive or otherwise) criticism where its necessary. So I think the siege mentality comes with a qualification, Ulster are rarely criticized internally and largely ignored externally, they’re more mysterious to outsiders who don’t understand what the third province is, “all about” and insiders are more suspicious that they challenge the status quo.

    As an aside, every time you hear the rugby blogs get slammed are you filled with a little pride, does it make you feel like its all the more worthwhile.

  10. Leinsterlion

     /  December 13, 2012

    The lights dimmed, the crowds roar was naught but a low rumble of anticipation. The opposing fans were cowed, some were openly sobbing and tearing to remove their replica shirts.
    The echoes of “Supermans” pre match speech still reverberated in the rafters of the spiritual like fortress Thomand. He would not be there in person as he was grievously wounded in a previous battle, but he would be there in spirit.
    The red army, arms linked in unison, hair standing on end, roared en masse, foaming at the lips as their heroes entered the field.
    Evoking memories of Cú Chullain and legends of yore. O’Callaghan steamed out of the tunnel, arms windmilling furiously, giant gusts of wind swept forth knocking over small children causing the Saracens players already on the pitch to squat down eyes rolling in fear.
    O’Callaghans tanned muscular ripped torso, rippling from the efforts of his furious windmilling, was steaming in the freezing sleet. He stood beside the faithful, allowing his warmth to exude over the stand, warming whiskeys as well as the red enrobed faithful.
    Suddenly the low rumble of the crowd turned into a roar as the leader of the red warriors stepped out into the freezing sleet, as if he was walking out onto a beach in San Francisco. What was rain to this leader of men? a general for the ages, a man tales are written in stone for.
    ROG started kicking balls into the crowd. Women dropped in their children in an effort to get a hold of the piece of rubber that had been blessed by their hero. Women and children were afaint at the sight of his majestic touchfinders, and the odd ball he kicked into the baying mass. What would happen when the match actually kicked off?
    Young Farrell, his father high up in the rafters, had never felt more alone, he couldnt concentrate, couldnt hear his captain or his general on the touchline.He tried to kick in the now pounding sleet, but the ball slithered off his boot barely going ten meters. He watched in fear and awe the the giant figure of ROG boomed his kicks INTO the wind.He briefly felt his frozen thighs warm as he realised he’d involuntarily wet himself.
    The Saracens team were beaten in spirit by the baying crowd and the sight of the mythical red robed warriors. Still they lined for the Heineken cup anthem determined to go out in glory or die trying. But what was this? It wasnt the Heineken cup anthem It was a druidic song, passed down from generation to generation…..Saracens cosmopolition team began to quiver and drop to the ground eys rolling tongues gagging in fear…The song went..
    RUCK……MAUL…KICK FOR THE CORNER!!!….RUCK….MAUL….KICK FOR THE CORNER!!!!..PENALTY…MIRACLE MATCH!!!…..WHO IS THIS JOHNNY SEXTON FELLAH?….. The crowd began then to join in the druidic incantations evoking the spirits of the fallen warriors of yore to inhabit the jerseys of the current players …Clohessy….Galway…….Wood….Quinny …the list went on…….
    Suddenly there was an almighty blast of a horn, and a humongous stag came bounding through the mists…Sat on the stags back was the hulking figure of John Hayes. Such was the awe and reverence one could hear a pin drop…John let out a low rumble…”Proceed” he intoned, handing the ref P Gaüzère the ball…..Stuart Barnes let out a low breathless Ooooooooh as the match kicked off, knowing Saracens had already been beaten before they had stepped foot on the pitch and in anticipation of the grinding slaughter he knew was coming.

    • Jimbob

       /  December 13, 2012

      Thanks for making me chuckle profusely at my desk Lion; now everyone in my office thinks I’m mental.

    • ruckinhell

       /  December 13, 2012

      Coffee all over the keyboard and monitor. The invoice is in the mail.

      Top, top stuff!

    • Len

       /  December 13, 2012

      Nearly choked on a mint there.

    • Amiga500

       /  December 13, 2012

      Su-feckin-perb!!!

      [The indo will be tracking you down right now to write their next piece]

      • Completely lost it at the image of John Hayes on a stag, fantastic work.

    • SteveO

       /  December 13, 2012

      “Proceed”….beautiful stuff!

    • Hilarious stuff Leinsterlion. This had us in stitches.

    • This isn’t funny it is embarrassing somebody took this long to right what Gerry Thornely prints every week…..

  11. ruckinhell

     /  December 13, 2012

    I think the media coverage will always be somewhat cyclical, bar obvious cheerleaders (Let’s not forget that Farrelly cut his teeth writing for the Examiner, which has never cast off its Cork roots). “The meeja” loves a good zeitgeist, so it’s no wonder that they salivated at being able to tap into the “Heroic Munster” narrative. In fairness, Munster were damn good value at the time, with some fantastic performances, amazing games and some heartbreaking losses the team had it all from the media’s perspective- Toulouse in Bordeaux, Wasps in Lansdowne, Northampton and Leicester in the finals all added to the collective mythology of the team before they cracked Biarritz in 06. Throw in the “red horde” and they had it all.

    This mythology often clouded the reality- for all of the “brave little Munster against all the odds” hyperbole, the team had a hardened and experienced international pack and half backs combo operating at HEC level for the bones of a decade and that’ll serve you well in Cup rugby.

    I won’t touch on the rise of Leinster and the emergence of Ulster as I think there are other posters who are far more knowledgable on these subjects. I would say, as a West Corkonian who lived in Dublin for 5 years and played with a Club there, that Leinster rugby was a much maligned concept for a lot of the time I lived there. Some of the scorn poured on Leinster supporters by the media and by some (certainly not all) Munster fans was disgraceful. The “D4 Ladyboys” narrative was a bit of fun and all that but to have guys who had obviously never touched a rugby ball in their lives openly mocking people, some of whom had given 40 years plus in service to their Rugby Clubs, was rather saddening. The rise of Munster rugby helped drive the growth of the game in non-traditional areas of the Province, which was a fantastic development, but it created a certain arrogance and conceit on behalf of some sections of the Munster support. I think the province is suffering a bit of a hangover as a result of this, as quite a bit of support which was attracted to the glory and narrative of the team have abandoned it as Munster slip into the “also-rans” category. Munster didn’t quite capitalise properly on the administrative side during the glory days (the Academy is only now starting to bear fruition after some early and rather public teething problems), and the two city set up is a big hindrance. Leinster got their house in order earlier and have reaped the rewards of this, Ulster also seem to have put in place a very good setup and I think they might be here to stay as a top player for the forseeable future.

    Basically the above is a rather long winded attempt to say that dynasties rise and fall. I think…….

  12. Seiko

     /  December 13, 2012

    Can anyone explain the obsession the Leinster supporters have with Munster, bearing in mind that Munster is now the 3rd province in Ireland. Surely they are not really rivals anymore?

    • Len

       /  December 13, 2012

      I think some of stems from being slagged off in the media for years, some from ‘that game’ in Lansdowne, some from the fact that Munster were top dogs for so long and therefore the main rival. Add to that the arrogant fans ( on both sides and now thankfully in the absolute minority) and you end up with a rivalry where no one wants to give an inch. The Ulster games on the other hand are generally more good natured regardless of the score and are one of the highlight games of the season for me. Still they don’t compare to the blue and red derby.

      • What Len says.

        Would add that – as someone who went to school, played my rugby and watched my club rugby in Munster – a large chunk of my rugby watching friends are Munster fans. The arrogance and grief was unbearable for a 5 year period (and the sense of privilege remains). I also have a bunch of Ulster friends and we have always got on when watching rugby and used to meet for the St Stephens/Boxing day fixture each year. Last year was the first one in a while that didn’t work out for me.

        However, for both Leinster and Ulster fans, the real issue is the vomit-inducing meejah.

  13. Michael

     /  December 13, 2012

    All things considered, i think the Ulstermen take things pretty well….
    Gerry Thornley recently wrote about the Ireland team having an orange tint after picking too many Ulstermen…..
    They have also had to listen to Hugh Farrelly’s drivel about why it was bad for rugby if they beat Munster, and recently George Hooks unresearched nonsense about the foreigners in their team keeping out Irish talent.
    Does anyone remember Brendan Fannings article about the Trevor Brennan incident?
    All in, I say fair play to them for keeping their powder dry and just getting on with it….

  14. I don’t think a fan-site is in any position to criticise the objectivity of the national rugby media. It’s like a glazier throwing stones. Maybe if you could bring yourselves to give Devin Toner the same, sarcastic Stakhanov treatment as Donncha O’Callaghan (Bambi Toner perhaps), or treat ROG to the same uncritical praise attending Dan Parks for just kicking his goals and offering no running threat whatsoever, you would be entitled to your lofty objectivity. In the absence of same, maybe you should just accept that you have your biases too. I mean, this isn’t Media Lens, is it? It’s just a blog about rugby.

    • Amiga500

       /  December 13, 2012

      Devin Toner has publically accepted there are faults in his game (such as rucking) and has been working very hard to improve them. Not exactly the same as someone who a manager praises for “unseen work”… which is… well… unseen.

      You don’t necessarily have to offer a **running threat** to get a backline operating – but you do have to work the gainline. ROG no longer does this – that is one of the points. Another is that Dan Parks isn’t keeping two hotshots out of the team, ROG is. A third point is that Dan Parks isn’t trying to pull in a different direction of play to the coaching team, ROG is.

      You are that quick to try to put down the observations of those running the blog that you have completely missed the contradictions in your argument.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  December 13, 2012

      Dan Parks performance(be they in the same style as Radge plays) clearly are an upgrade on what they have had in the past. Radge is clearly on his last legs ditto DOC.. Any rational observer would be amiss not to point that out. Parks is doing what he was signed to do. Clearly ROG is not, can you honestly say he is Munsters and Irelands best option? What benefit does ROG offer off the bench at international level?
      As for comparing Toner to DOC, how many Ireland squads has Toner been in, how many internationals has he played? He is a mediocre club player whose only assets are that he has youth and a dearth of players in his position, on his side. Toner is not afforded the same preferential treatment DOC is.
      When WOC starts writing puff pieces covering up the absence of a gameplan and praising the current regime, then your glass house analogy would be correct. WOC offers objective and salient analysis that the press release regurgitaters in the old media have failed to provide.

    • You are entitled to your opinion HenryFitz, but we simply don’t agree.

      In the case of DOC, we call him Stakhanov as a reference to the obsession of the media with his workrate – if Donncha offered only work, do you realy think he would have been first choice for 6-7 years and accumulated as many caps as he did? Its an example the same lazy analysis which motivated us to start this blog – “honesty of effort” (whatever that is) somehow as a substitute for ability. DOC is by no means Willie John McBride, but he can look back on an effective and successful career – we called for him to start alongside POC in RWC11, and have been pretty open in our praise of him this season – for a man of his vintage to try and change his style of play entirely is tribute to the ability of the man.

      As for Toner, we’re on record as saying how, if he can’t get a HEC start now, with Leinster so weak in the second row, he isn’t going to get one. He had a decent season last year, and is still young for a second row, but has huge improvements to make if he is to forge a long career at the top. We’ve called him Lighthouse in the past by the way!

      We do indeed have natural biases, towards Ulster and Leinster respectively, but we try to be neutral. If we occasionally don’t succeed, we offer our humble apologies.

      Oh, and cheers for commenting by the way – you know we dig your thoughts.

    • paddy

       /  December 14, 2012

      Check out the piece in the Indo today about Leinsters game against Clermont. Hint it’s about Cork Hurling.

    • Isn’t WOC a Leinster-Ulster combo? If so, its hard to see what the fan site reference is. If you’re near a hospital Henry, I would get that huge fecking chip in your shoulder seen to. It must be painful.

  15. Jlo37

     /  December 14, 2012

    One of the biggest problems with rugby players and probably with sportsmen in general is that they don’t know when to retire (at least from international level). This means there are players who are spoiling a fine reputation. It has been pointed that ROG kicked 5/5 which would be great were he playing American football, come on, kick and go off again. I think the rest of his play is now mediocre at best, at times rabbit in the headlights. This is sad after such a fine career.

  16. Jereth127

     /  December 14, 2012

    While I’m quickly going to earn myself a reputation of ‘whinging moanbag’, I’ll take the risk and throw my 2 cents in.

    IMHO, you guys run an excellent operation with this blog and really know your stuff while you always seem to have ‘another’ angle on things and generally make an argument for and against each decision made, which is refreshing to see. (e.g. your piece about Mike McCarthy going to Leinster). I’ve complained before about the anti-Munster bias around here and you responded by saying you were more or less taking a jab at the media for creating this silly ‘Munster magic’ fairytale. However this article seems to do it’s utmost to prove that was nothing more than blurb that is thrown out. It unfortunately seems quite obvious to me that while 90% Munster talk is jabs at the ‘red heros’ and ‘liginds’, you seem to think that occaisionally saying things like ‘Yeah, DOC is playing well this year and deserves a go in the green jersey’ makes you impartial and opens up the door for more jibes and snide remarks.

    As a Munster, Ireland and all things rugby fan, I find it difficult to find interesting places to read about the Irish rugby so I was initially refreshed to find this place. I don’t want to remove it from my favourites bar but when my favourite blog’s scapegoat is my own team.. well I can do without reading the crap that I get enough of on the forums.

    P.S.
    I really enjoyed that piece LeinsterLion, pretty accurate of a tea-time kick-off in TP 😉

    • Thanks for commenting Jareth127. I really, really think you’ve taken us up wrong on this one. Where are the jabs at the ‘red heroes’? We get the ‘ligind’ thing from the Apres Match skit, and while we can lay claim to the phrase ‘Generation Ligind’, you can rest assured that while we don’t have much truck with some of the over-the-top-mythology that built up around the team, we have nothing but respect for those players and their achievements. How could we not? They won two Heineken Cups for Chrissakes! We’re well aware that said mythology is a PR/media thing and that the players wouldn’t buy into it for a moment,

      Have a read through of our argument again – we’re saying that Munster have engendered huge loayalty in former players towards them. That’s to their credit, obviously. The piece just asks if – creditworthy and all as it is – it might actually work against them, and maybe if former players asked a few tough questions it might help to foster a spirit of righteous indignation in the team.

      • Seiko

         /  December 15, 2012

        That is some PR/Media campaign to generate such positive publicity! You boil everything down to winning cups – Munster’s mythology is not based on success – its based on doing the impossible from time to time (beating the All Blacks, beating big English/French teams when they hadn’t a hope etc.). Thats probably why its retaining its fans without the success. When you have players like Conrad Smith saying that the only NH team he’d consider playing for is Munster (he was at the last Munster v AB game in ’08), or even Schalk Brits comments in today’s papers:

        “Mate, I would kiss my own arse to play in front of a crowd like they’ve got at Thomond Park every week,” came the response with a naughty chuckle. “It’s probably one of the best places I’ve played rugby at. It was special, and it’s very intimidating for the opposition”.

        The opposition players are buying into the mythology as well. Check out any top games/moments of the Heineken Cup produced from time to time by the English press – Munster will feature in 75% of them and will usually be involved in the Top 3.

        Perhaps you should get yourself down to Thomond Park on a big Heineken Cup (when Leinster/Ulster are not involved) and maybe then you might get what everyone else gets.

  17. Jereth127

     /  December 14, 2012

    Agreed Jlo37, it’s a shame to see players clinging on for so long and starting to wreck what have been amazing careers and legacies. I feel Munster would have done much much better last Saturday with Keatley at OH. The 5 kick’s that ROG made weren’t exactly the most difficult either. Hell, if Farrell hadn’t had a nightmare then it would be a very different story.

    In truth though, I don’t blame ROG. I blame the IRFU for giving him a central contract until 2013

    • Anonymous

       /  December 15, 2012

      A good read as usual, but may I point out a fatal flaw in the initial post. You talk about a siege mentality and then quickly say lets leave Connacht to one side for the moment, and promptly forget them!
      While I am not suggesting that WOC gas any agenda I would say that an article about siege mentality in Irish rugby that basically excludes Connacht sums up everything that is wrong with Irish rugby.

  18. Feck the begrudgers, you two are like Drico and Darce in their pomp. It’s a crying shame only internet nerds in their underwear get to read you.

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