Panic on the streets of Dublin

The normally placid Irish press are at each others throats today. Hot on the heels of Colonel Toland’s idea not to bring Rog to New Zealand to sit on the bench, but invest in youth instead (which was our idea anyway), Farmer Farrelly is on the offensive, rubbishing the entire idea.

Toland (thoughtful, considered):

Having O’Gara on hand to aid the transition is crucial. But at what distance should that be? In the touring environment the experience and class of the veteran will rub off on those non-Munster players who know him less well but there is real merit in omitting him from the squad. However, should an injury occur to Sexton, and considering the opposition that awaits, it should be qualified that O’Gara would be quickly brought in to start.

Farrelly (foaming at the mouth):

The view that Ronan O’Gara should be left at home is preposterous — it’s impossible to envisage Ireland beating the All Blacks for the first time this summer without the 35-year-old in the squad

The logic is obvious – O’Gara is 35, and bringing him 10,000km to sit on the bench may not make sense. However, on the flip side, it is PREPOSTEROUS. Also, it is impossible to envisage Ireland beating New Zealand full stop, so Farrelly is technically right to say it is impossible without his friend.

In the interests of fairness, we should note Farrelly omitted Rog from his Ireland team, and only has 2 Munster players, Donnacha Ryan and Conor Murray.

For what its worth, we would bring Sexton, Madigan and Jackson with O’Gara waiting on the runway at Cork airport with his iPad packed.

Johne Murphy … Zhonnee Moorfee … Nul Points

It’s that time of the year again – awards time, when professionals get to tell each other how great they are, and everyone can feel good about themselves no matter how rubbish they are – even London Samoa get to have a player of the year.

Over in Blighty, Ooooooooohh Brad Barritt and Ooooooooohh Jordan Turner-Hall get to fight it out with Oooooooooohh Matt Banahan for Most Over-rated Bosher, in France Lionel Beauxis and David Skrela compete for Most Disappointing Ten, and over here in Ireland, rank parochialism means the usual provincial carve-up of the big prizes.

The process is that a committee at IRUPA pick 3 names and the players vote along provincial lines for their choice. This year’s nominees for the Big Boys Cup were Fez, Bob and Radge; and for the Toddlers Prize its O’Mahoney, Gilroy and Madigan. Tiernan O’Halloran would doubtless have got nominated were he not based in (Hell or) Connacht, but it would be hard to find fault with the nominees, with one caveat – ROG.

A bit like the nomination of Piri Weepu for IRB Player of the Year, the nomination of ROG seems to be based purely on column inches – the man’s preference for the dramatic has played in his favour. We’re not naive enough to think that the committee didn’t just select the best Munster player (in their eyes), but it’s a bit of a farce – O’Gara is still a fine, massively important player for Munster, but this hasn’t been a vintage year for him, late drop goals aside.

ROG had an ok World Cup – playing better than Sexton in the group stages, but having an utter shocker in the quarter-final. In the HEC, his impact was huge, but more due to dramatic fireworks than sustained excellence.  He spluttered rather than strutted at times in the group round, along with the rest of the team and conspicuously failed to fire against Ulster. He was a peripheral figure in the Six Nations, where he didn’t start any games and didn’t score a single point.  There were a few more deserving contenders within Munster:

  • Paul O’Connell. Superman wears Paul O’Connell pyjamas etc. Well, he probably does after this year. O’Connell seemed to be carrying Munster on his shoulders at times this season, and was comfortably their stand-out player in the HEC. At international level, he continues to astound – like the best locks these days (Bakkies, Shawsy, Nallet, Thorn), he appears to be peaking in his early 30s. Long may this last.
  • Keith Earls. Played like a drain in the World Cup warm-ups, then like silk in the group stages, before missing 5 of 8 tackles against the Welsh. Come 6N time, he grew into you-know-who (© G Thornley)’s shirt and has (finally) shown some real development as a player – his (and the Irish 13 jumper’s) future looks brighter than it did in August.
  • Donnacha Ryan. Displaced Stakhanov from the Munster HEC team, and has added some aggression and dog to the pack that the newbies behind him have yet to develop, excepting POM. Had a curious Six Nations, in which he was a contender for Ireland’s player of the tournament, yet failed to displaced Teacher’s Pet despite being laughably superior. It would be remiss, however, not to mention that it’s unlikely Big Jim, Johann Muller or James Horwill would be speared by their opposite numbers.

Still, at least ROG’s nomination gave David Kelly the chance to erroneously claim that it meant O’Gara’s peers rated him higher than Sexton, and it has given us a reason to rant. We can only assume the committee used the following criteria:

  • Impact at international level (5%)
  • Impact in Heineken Cup (25%)
  • Impact on fawning domestic media (25%)
  • Impact on YouTube viewing figures (45%)

By that logic, Tom Croft is the best player in the world. To balance the ledger, let us show you the reason ROG is on the list – note: we think its official to refer to this as epic…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFJ65Og3A2o

P.S. at the Sunday Times round table, one of the panellists said that referees were given a notification to clamp down on sealing off and players going in off their feet after that game – it’s not the first time Munster’s sealing tactics have resulted in a new diktat from on high.  You can’t but be impresssed by Munster’s ability to bend the game to their will, but while they may have won the Northampton battle, they lost the Ulster war partly thanks to Paddy O’Brien being distinctly unamused at Owens’ home-towning.