Last Throw of the Dice

Declan Kidney’s decision to overlook Ian Madigan for the Irish training squad flies in the face of logic, and suggests the coach is hunkering down with his tinfoil hat on.

Last week we blogged our opinions on the matter of who should start for Ireland, so let’s not go over that ground again.  For now, let’s assume ROG is starting and was always going to, and have nothing more to say on the matter.  Except to note that he played rubbish on Saturday night and that the theory that he is just a touch ring-rusty is increasingly difficult to support.  But he’s starting, so that’s that.

The choice for ROG’s back up was between Ian Madigan, Paddy Jackson and Ian Keatley.  All three featured for their provinces this weekend, in what we hoped would be a beauty parade for at least a place in the matchday squad.  But if it was a beauty parade, the ugly sisters have walked away with the sashes and flowers.

Ian Keatley played full-back for Munster, where it was required that ROG get some match-time at 10.  Once that was the case, his chances were always somewhere between slim and none.

Paddy Jackson played his first game for Ulster since returning from injury.  His form has been scratchy for a couple of months now, and Ruan Pienaar has taken over kicking duties, following Jackson’s struggles with placed ball.  He piloted Ulster to a comfortable win over a por Zebre side, in which they performed reasonably.  Jackson had an ordinary enough game, and Pienaar took the place-kicks.

At Leinster, Madigan had a very productive outing.  He kicked four from five conversions, in keeping with his kicking stats over the course of the season.  He ran the Leinster backline efficiently, made one lovely line break and – most importantly – curbed his enthusiams to try and do too much on his own.  It bears mention that Treviso were hopeless, but he was among the best players on show.  He did everything that could have been asked of him.

Deccie’s seletion effectively says ‘I don’t care how the lads played this weekend, I’m picking this team anyway’.  By omitting his most in-form 10 he is rendering form an irrelevance, and confirming a long-held hunch in most people’s minds that he just doesn’t like Ian Madigan as a player.  It’s also a call that gives his critics – such as they are in a supine national media – such easy ammunition it’s almost unbelievable.  They say in politics, you should never do anything to confirm a stereotype people have of you – well, Deccie has done exactly that here.

It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Deccie to pick Madigan in the training squad, let him run around a bit, and go ahead and pick Rog and PJ and justify it by saying he judged them the best options given form in training. He might have never intended to pick Madigan, but optics mean a lot. Kidney has opted for the other course, of sticking his fingers in his ears and doing what he wants and not caring what anyone thinks.

The match in question – away to Scotland – is looking increasingly like the stuff of potential nightmares.  Losing is far from inconceivable, and this decision could be fatal as far as Kidney’s career as head coach goes.  The ship is going down, but the captain will be stubborn to the last.

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52 Comments

  1. Enlightened Ulsterman

     /  February 18, 2013

    One we have forgotten about is Gareth Steenson of Exeter. Must be playing ok as their other Argentinian No 10 is very decent. Would love to know why Ulster overlooked him years ago when he had a pedigree.

    • Lads, I thought you might consider leaving this issue this week as there’s really nothing more to say. It’s a case of sitting back, as comfortably as possible from behind the sofa, and letting the match play out.

      Despite the long-term predictability of all this, the logic behind the selection choices still has the power to amaze. Staggering.

      • The above wasn’t meant to be a reply, but a fresh comment – my mistake.

      • We considered it, and will be saying no more, but we thought the omission of Madigan warranted a remark!

        Its becoming a truely tiresome sideshow, and it’s Through The Looking Glass stuff.

  2. Anonymous

     /  February 18, 2013

    Its sad to say, but maybe a loss in scotland might be a better result in the long term for Irish Rugby.
    even from a logistical point of view surely it would be better to have Madigan there to learn moves and be part of the camp in case of injury. If either of the 10s get injured we will have a 10 on the bench that wont be up to speed..
    It really is stubbornness from deccie at this stage and is doing Irish rugby no favours at all.

    • Good point especially as PJ is carrying a knock an ROG’s hamstrings are pretty dodgy.

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  February 18, 2013

      I agree in the sooner he’s gone the better type thing.

      BUT. We’ve a Lions tour this summer and we will want as many Irish men as possible on it. To do that Ireland need to be doing well. Hope the players take over like the English did in WC’07 and just get on with it. Deccie is(*should be) gone in all but title.

  3. Len

     /  February 18, 2013

    Has anyone noticed a slight turn around in the media. Several articles this morning were calling into question the decision to omit Madigan and more importantly there were articles questioning the selection of ROG and his ability to continue? I wonder if this is the start of a sanctioned hit on ROG by the media like what was done to Ross in the autumn? I noted that none of the major figures like Gobbels Thornley have yet to wade in on this.

    Agree on Maddog. BT were dire but we failed to really take advantage of that in the second half. Next weeks game will be a better test of where Mads is, with Scarlets unlikely to be as poor as BT.

    • Even Hook is singing from the fans’ hymn sheet today. Breaking the media omerta on ROG and being honest about Earls. Refreshing reading from the Hookster for a change: http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/six-nations/comment-analysis/george-hook-coachs-caution-makes-scots-a-worry-29077122.html

      • Len

         /  February 18, 2013

        Wow that’s the first bit on sense that man’s put in print in a long time. Then again we shouldn’t be too surprised Hook is a doom munger.

    • Contraflow

       /  February 18, 2013

      I noticed a change in media coverage of O’Gara too; e.g the journal.ie had the following headline: “O’Gara has a nightmare as Munster fall to the Scarlets”. This kind of coverage is new. Is it being fed by Kidney through the usual channels similar to the Ross affair in the autumn, I am not so sure?

      Brendan Fanning, who wrote about the Kidney-O’Gara falling out over the weekend, is no Kidney-phile and would not be trusted by Kidney to spin the falling out to Kidneys advantage. The journal.ie is the best of the online papers but unlikely to be read by the majority of Kidney’s fanbase which I assume is an older paper based crowd. Therefore again unlikely Kidney used this channel, it’s probably a solo run by a journalist who has been dying to criticise O’Gara but was too afraid of the backlash he/she would have endured from the journal.ie’s lively comments section.

      If I see Goebbels Thornley criticising ROG then I’ll believe it’s an attempt by Kidney to motivate ROG through the press by turning public opinion against him. As their personal relationship seems to have fallen down this may be the only effective avenue open to him.

      Goebbels man-love for ROG is strong though, I can imagine his discomfort should Kidney give him the call to turn up the heat on ROG. The thought of being outside the ROG friend-zone might be too much for him to bear. I feel for Gerry, it’s like his parents are going through a messy divorce and he is caught in the middle… sadly it’s always the kids who suffer the most.

      • Fangio wrote that Deccie and Rog had fallen out during RWC11 – he’ll be right eventually

      • Contraflow

         /  February 18, 2013

        The body language between Dec & ROG seems to back up Fangio this time. Hopefully he won’t still be writing they have fallen out in RWC-15. Jeebus, how depressing would that be if both Kidney and ROG were still in situ at the World Cup… and fianna fail were back in power… just shoot me now.

      • Whatever about Fangio – the look on Kidney’s face when Sexton got injured and ROG was warming up spoke more than a thousand words. Starts at 43:50 – Kidney face at 44:30 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0Lsu9lRz80

  4. jojo

     /  February 18, 2013

    He has sealed his fate with this decision. It defies logic and will provide ample evidence for him not getting another contract. If , however, he had gone with madigan and lost, he could have used it as evidence of progressing the team. The sooner DK goes the better. Rog is behind all the young OH’s in form and ability. I think there’s an extremely good chance we are going to lose to Scotland.

    Ps. I think Cummiskey is one of the brave journalists giving any criticism of this decision
    (if DK gets another contract , he may not get too many interviews)

  5. If Deccie were England coach their back line would be:

    Care, Wilkinson, Cueto, TIndall, Barclay, Monye, Balshaw.

    In recent years, two coaches in the 6N have gone with youth over experience – Gatland and Lancaster. Things have worked out pretty well for them.

    Some selections, such as POM over Henry, or Paul Marshall’s omission, I might not like, but they are close calls and one can make a case for either. Not having Madigan in the squad is a disgrace. How on earth does Deccie think that ROG is going to turn his form around in a week such that he plays better than Madigan would?

    People may point to the inclusion of POM, Zebo and Gilroy over the last year, but they only really got a look in due to injury. Perhaps Murray was a brave selection, but Deccie gave Tomas O’:Leary more chances to prove that he wasn’t rubbish that anyone deserves.

    The Scottish coaches must be delighted. They’re porous in midfield but have a back-three that is close to world class. Of all the potential replacements for J10, ROG is the least likely to probe their inherent weakness. It will be even worse if Deccie goes with BOD at 12 and Earls at 13. Hogg has a boot that would have made Bill McClaren swoon and I expect ROG to be punished badly if tries to play his usual game.

    With the resources available, a trip to Scotland should be a foregone conclusion. If Kidney continues in this vein I fear it might be, but not the sort that Irish fans would want.

  6. montigol

     /  February 18, 2013

    Two words: lame duck. ROG was always (as in 100%) going to start if fit. The Heaslip captaincy move now looks more and more like a diversion tactic to give the impression that he has any interest in the future.

  7. Connachtexile

     /  February 18, 2013

    Don’t know what meds Kidney is on but they must be pretty strong. Also think Penney isn’t helping either. If he had a pair between his legs he would have taken O’Gara off after 70 mins and given Keatley a chance to prove his case for Ireland at 10. Instead he subjected the Munster fans to 80 mins of puerile rugby fare driven by O’Gara. As for Steenson he had a mare of a game against Saracens last week and his form has dipped alarmingly.

  8. I’m glad you wrote this. It is an important issue, and this weekend’s games really highlighted the gap between what O’Gara and Madigan could bring to the table in Murrayfield. From a Leinster point of view, if Madigan isn’t going to be used then I’m glad he hasn’t been taken away for a week purely for optics. Versus Scotland, a lot depends on who gets picked at 12. I watched back some of the Scarlets game at the weekend. I thought O’Gara’s kicking out of hand was mediocre (let’s not mention placekicking). However, he did bring his centres into the game a couple of times. If Scotland are poor, and we play a straightforward game with the majority of possession, and our replacement centre partnership works, I can imagine O’Gara piloting us to victory like a captain steering a ship through calm waters.

  9. Leinsterlion

     /  February 18, 2013

    He was frantic, nothing was going to plan, the ill-prepared Jackson had crumbled in the unrelenting pressure of the ferocious Scottish backrow, trailing by twenty with no options on the bench he had visions of an O’Sullivanesque future, prostituting himself to all and sundry trying to hustle a dime…………
    “Although Spain would be a nice place to coach” he muttered to himself…picturing a bed of siestas, paellas and senoritas.. Gert Smalls rumbled oath startled him out of his reverie.
    “Eh where am I now?, Is O’Callaghan on yet?” Kidney exclaimed to no one in particular. The room mostly filled with sycophants, flunkies and lackeys looked anywhere but in his direction. “No boss, he started the match” Small said looking at him quizzically, followed by a lower furtive “Are jou ok boss”. “Things arent that bad, we still have Tony Buckley on the bench if things get out of hand”
    But Kidneys mind had left the room, thinking back to the exact moment where things started to go catastrophically wrong.
    “Damn, Bic razors” muttered Kidney to himself as he cut himself for umpteenth time. I remember getting a hot towel shave from Paddy Wallace every day before the IRFU budget cuts came into force. “Its those sanctimonious plebs not buying enough merchandise and ten year boxes, that are the cause of this” he spat, giving up on the shave flinging his cheap razor into the sink and turning back to face the room.
    “Dont worry babe” said Goebbels Thornley, climbing out of their bed and turning on the curling Iron. “The plebs will think what we want them to think” he sneered. “I have a revenue generator up my sleeve that’ll pay for Paddy Wallace towel shaves for the rest of your life” he said as he began curling his onyx locks.
    “Im running a story that the new Ireland 5th strip when combined with Irish bedspread and “official Kidneyclock” will allow you to telepathically influence with the ref through your official IRFU reflink, the saps..er fans will lap it up, you’ll be rolling in Paddy Wallace hot towel shaves, and I’ll have enough “just for men” to last me until this gravy train goes belly up”. He said laughing. “Oh your a divil” said kidney,slipping the team sheet into his hand and patting him on the bum.
    Kidney was out of his trance, deep in the “Downfall-esque” poured concrete bowels of Murrayfield, Eva was sobbing quietly in the corner, GT was pacing, ashen faced. O’Gara rolled up to the bench Kidney was sitting on with his head in hands. “Story horse” he piped up jovially. “Wh..wh..why arent you on the pitch” Kidney said, eyes bulging. “We have a game to win” he bellowed spittle flying everywhere. Evas sobbing stopped and GT slowly stopped pacing. “You dont remember what happend do you horse” said O’Gara his cheeks tuning red as he strained to get out his his chair. “The games long over horse” “I hear Madrids nice this time of the year………” said O’Gara, trailing off as he noticed Kidney had entered a catatonic state again, thinking about the exact moment it had gone wrong…
    The gruff scottish steward was immovable. “Ah canne let the lad onto the field in that”..”Bu…bu.. but hes been playing in it since 09″ sputtered Kidney. “We dinnae have the ‘mergency access ontae the park, is not gonnae happen sunshine” said the steward straining to be heard above the impatient mob who were sick of the 30 min holdup to kickoff. Barnes meekly tugged at Kidneys sleeve and said ” a change will have to be made, or you’ll forfeit the match”. Kidneys form crumpled as he conceded defeat. He went to the sideline kneeling down beside O’Gara, and sobbing, whispered in his ear…
    “I’m sorry son you cant play today”. O’Gara began to huff and puff, “W…w…w….whhhhhhhy horse?, you promised!”…
    Kidney cut him off, fearing another tantrum….
    “Its not my fault son..its just Murrayfields pitch doesn’t have wheelchair access”
    The skies darkened ominously and Kidney had a vision of David Knox laughing maniacally, before he mercifully blacked out.

    • toro toro

       /  February 19, 2013

      This was hopelessly overwritten crap long before you got the gay joke in.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 19, 2013

        In retrospect It could do with a lot of tightening. But the central themes of O’Gara immobile, temperamental and frail, Kidney a delusional dictator, Goebbles an IRFU shill in the middle of a love triangle, work. Unfortunately just like the rugby of the Kidney era, it has the makings of something great but somehow fails to combine all these elements in a satisfactory manner.

  10. Jlo

     /  February 18, 2013

    Will RoG be dressed as a target like he was on Saturday?

  11. Jlo

     /  February 18, 2013

    Prior to the commencement of the 6n I said that Ireland would do well to win one match. Naturally this was greeted with some abuse. Had Wales turned up on time this would look like a very accurate prediction although I didn’t expect France to be so awful.

  12. Anonymous

     /  February 18, 2013

    I agree with Len. We learnt nothing about Madigan on Saturday other than that he at least has the composure and confidence to keep playing his game and didn’t play himself out of contention by having a mare. That is the most that can be said.
    But I would be concerned about not having a third outhalf in the Edinburgh area on Sunday morning should anything happen to Radge or PJ. For that reason as well as the general benefit of bringing him along, Madigan should have been named in the extended squad and brought along for the ride (which is what Deccie did when he was bringing Conor Murray along before RWC2011 – he was brought along to Scotland for the ride, got on away in France, O’Leary played himself out of the squad v England so not being Eoin Reddan meant he got his first start in the first World Cup game)

  13. Reblogged this on ItLooksGood,ItIsGood and commented:
    the sinking ship, finally accepted by all that Deccie is buying his head in the sand..

  14. Len

     /  February 18, 2013

    My concern now is not if we win or loose against Scotland or in fact in the rest of the six nations. I worry that what now seems evident to all (with the exception of gobbels and tony ward), that Decci and ROG have out stayed their respective shelf lives will not sink in with the IRFU. I expect that Decci will be handed an extension or if not we’ll be lumbered with a sub standard caretaker until after rwc 15 due to financial restrictions. ROG will be gone at the end of the season whether he accepts it or not.

  15. Anonymous

     /  February 18, 2013

    Said it last night, Deccie’s on the green mile now. Dead man walking …….

  16. Alec Trevelyan

     /  February 18, 2013

    Huge sea-change in the media; just read Conor George!!!

    Anyone have a link to this new Brendan Fanning article?

    • Conor George is in the media? We thought he was in the cheerleading corps – what a surprise that he doesn’t even have the courage in his own convictions to maintain 100% backing of O’Gara.

  17. Not Michael bent

     /  February 18, 2013

    Excuse me if I’ve missed it somewhere in the comments, but is the truly shocking thing not that there isn’t even a third out-half in the 29 man squad. I had resigned myself to the fact that it would be ROG starting and most likely PJ on the bench, but for a 29 man training squad to be named and not include third out half (and in the name of anti-parochialism, i’m not saying it had to be Madigan (although it did)) is just mental.

    10 options for second row/back row. 5 possible centres (and Luke Fitz).
    All due respect to James Coughlan as a faithful servant of Munster Rugby, but that is a joke.
    Henshaw is a talent for the future, but he wasn’t even the best player in the under 20s last Friday week.

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  February 18, 2013

      I’d forgive Henshaw an average performance for the Wolfpuppies. Being the age he is and his first year of any pro rugby, it would be reasonable to excuse some dips in form given all his squad hopping. The game against England was his first U20s match while he did play well for the Wolfhounds.

  18. Jlo

     /  February 18, 2013

    Just wonder what DK’ll do IF he doesn’t get a new contract. After this selection I wouldn’t let him manage my fantasy12 team. Maybe he’s going to shock us and not start Rog. Sorry thats fantasy !!!

  19. Gerald Williamson

     /  February 18, 2013

    Kidney must have seen your comments, as he has now added Madigan to the Irish panel squad which could leave Joe Schmidt of Leinster with a problem at No10.

  20. jojo

     /  February 18, 2013

    frankie and alan supporting their old mate and revealing their brilliant rugby analysis.
    Against the head.. yep that goes against the head

  21. Yossarian

     /  February 18, 2013

    Quinlan is an awful pundit!thought when he started he might be decent and he does some decent pieces when not trying to analyse a game but tonight it was all random cliches. ROG should play because “he has achieved so much” then statements when trying to comment on the game coming up talked about going with “Confidence” “belief” “up for this one” “Pressure” Zero commentary on tactics, strengths weaknesses. The more he talks the more he is being found out.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  February 18, 2013

      Quinny and Frankie are the equivalent of quoting “The Beano” in a wartime situation while Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” is sitting on the shelf. They are the Merry and Pippin of punditry, light comic relief, at best.

  22. Lamo

     /  February 19, 2013

    Just watched Against the Head there. Cringe-inducing stuff really. Of the Scotland game, the consensus seemed to be that we need to play a percentage game, stick the ball up the jumper, focus on the set-piece… This isn’t bloody Australia we’re talking about. It’s RTE fueling their dogma that ROG is still the man for the job by convincing themselves that this is a match that was made for him. If he produces a masterclass on Sunday I’ll eat my words but, from what I’ve seen this year until now, there’s nothing to suggest ROG deserves a place in the Ireland squad, either extended or matchday. To start him would be an entirely emotional decision, as summed up by Frankie and Alan’s offerings this evening i.e. saying “he’s achieved so much”, “he’ll be desperate to prove his critics wrong”, and perhaps most amazingly “I know he missed his kicks, but I don’t think that will be a problem on Sunday” *DOES NOT ELABORATE AS TO WHY HE THINKS THIS*.

    • Frankie always, always suggests we play a percentage game. All he ever advocates is kicking the ball away. It’s very reductive stuff.

      Besides, it’s totally bleedin’ obvious that the opposite is the case. England offloaded and ran at the Scots and found numerous gaps in the middle of the park. Itlay were lacklustre, but even they punctured the line on a number of occasions. It’s a day to run the ball and carry hard. The Scots use their lineout to bring Visser in as first receiver and it’s about their best platform. Why would we give them that option?

  23. L.P.O.

     /  February 19, 2013

    Gutted that Dickie has been reading you lads all along. Nice one… you explained the obvious way he should spin it, and he then follows your instruction.

    Kidney has before responded to losing the unbiased media pundits when his selections and omissions go beyond the ridiculous (Ross is a good example), but this time I’m blaming you two. If he has the Dog holding tackle bags and cuts him late Saturday morning (just to make sure Leinster are ham-strung too) then you’ll have a lot to answer for!

    • Mea culpa LPO. Ireland lose a centre so they get Mad-dog on the case. Presumably his pad-holding is up to inside-centre standard.

  24. Len

     /  February 19, 2013

    I think the end is near for ROG. Gobbels has criticised him in an article (granted in a pandering apologetic sort of way). But who would have thought such a thing possible. One question for all here is Tommy O’Donnell worth the bench spot that GT claims he’s likely to get now that Henry is out. I haven’t really seen him play so I’d like to get some non media opinions. Also does anyone know why GT thinks Ruddock isn’t available? He looked fairly solid last Saturday.

    • If Ireland could field a team of flankers, we would be in the top 4 in the world.

      O’Donnell is having a great season. A real 7: pace and link play but also good at the breakdown. Have started to watch more of him since Ronan Murphy set me straight. He has definitely been a far more consistent performer than Dom Ryan (who has been more cold than hot since coming back from injury). O’Donnell’s main problem is that there is a lot of competition for backrow places at Munster (like at Leinster) and he is a horses for courses man. For me, there is always a place for a true openside (be it Henry, Jennings, Ryan or O’Donnell). Kidney thinks otherwise.

      With POM and SOB in there already, O’Donnell makes mores sense for balance than Ruddock or Locky (now that Henry’s out).

      • Len

         /  February 19, 2013

        Cheers for the response CE. I’ll have to keep an eye open for O’Donnell in future. Agree on Ryan he has yet to hit consistent form but hopefully last weekend will push him in the right direction. With Mads belatedly called up to the Irish squad Leinster could be in trouble at the weekend. Suspect goodman will go to 10.

      • Don’t worry about that. Madigan will drop out of the squad as soon as Deccie picks his 23. Madigan will play against Scarlets…though a gander at Goodman at 10 would be insightful.

    • contraflow

       /  February 19, 2013

      Looks like Kidney has dropped the hammer on ROG using his usual mouth piece. Poor Goebbels it must have been a heart breaking choice. He must have felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can” when he is asked to pick between his divorcing father and mother as a teenager.
      http://qkme.me/3t24e3

      • Stevo

         /  February 20, 2013

        I’d say he was like Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice.

      • Contraflow

         /  February 20, 2013

        This could be basis of an epic Hollywood script… there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house… heart-breaking stuff.

  25. El Greco

     /  February 20, 2013

    This selection, and one presumes it came straight from the horse’s mouth if both Lady and The Tramp published it this morning, smacks of nothing more than panic-ridden fear. This is not an active decision to better the team, it is reactive not to injuries but to ensure his hide is saved.
    The real difficulty comes if these youngsters play well. Could we be saddled with another Renal Failure contract?

  26. jojo

     /  February 20, 2013

    not a massive surprise now that dk hasnt picked ROG (should have told his mates Quinny and Frankie before they ran around supporting him), its so transparent through goebbels, all you have to do is follow the shift from this first article to his next one, where it goes from him being a definite starter to ”should he pick ROG”. Ridiculous. and this stinks of a man clinging for his job with such a ”bold” move

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