SPRING 2009 WAS a heady time for Irish football and rugby supporters.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s team had kicked off their World Cup qualifying campaign with three wins and two draws. An away draw against Italy, in Bari, was not far away.
The rugby team, under the stewardship of new national coach Declan Kidney, had clinched their first grand slam in 61 years and, with it, the Six Nations.
The fortunes of both coaches have dipped in the past four years and glorious days have often been followed by long periods of dejection and accentuating post-match positives while the scorecard illuminates the truth.
Trapattoni was on the brink of an early exit from his post [his contract was extended until 2014 after Euro 2012 qualification] while Kidney’s agreement runs out in four months.
Even if Ireland end their Six Nations campaign with two victories, Kidney should be on his way this summer. Not many punters would have bet on the Italian outlasting the Cork native in their respective national posts.
End of an era
If he is indeed on the way out, Kidney is not going without a whimper. He took the captaincy from Brian O’Driscoll before what could well be his final campaign in the green jersey.
By axing Ronan O’Gara from his 32-man squad for the France game, he has effectively shuffled the Munster outhalf out the back door of Test match rugby.
Ronan O’Gara with Declan Kidney in 2009. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
Kidney told TheScore.ie, “I think there has been a lot of change. Any time that change goes on in any spectre of life, it always leads to a lot of comment and feelings.
There are always a lot of emotions flying around and they are difficult to deal with. If change is needed then that’s what has to happen.
“You can make no decisions in life or you can make them. We did, for the good of the team.”
Shutting down leaks… and France
Kidney addressed the recent issue of squad and call-up leaks by admitting ‘it’s a different age we live in’ and pointed the finger at ‘the world of social media’.
He added that, if he knew who was responsible for the leaks, the situation would be immediately dealt with.
The pressing concern for Kidney, and Ireland, is attempting to laden a sixth successive Six Nations defeat on France.
Kidney said, “I thought I did [see them turn the corner against England]. In that first hour they were really strong, it was just that England had that bit of momentum behind them.
“They got that ricochet ball out of the ruck and managed to steal off down the pitch for a [Manu Tuilagi] try. They are those little bits that you need to go your way.”
Kidney will be praying for the little bits to go Ireland’s way today and also hoping that, buoyed by an Alan Quinlan-led promotional campaign, Lansdowne Road will be packed to capacity to give the French a warm welcome.
The whole weekend is set to deliver €60m to the coffers of the Irish economy, not to mention a plethora of publicans.
The send-off for the Irish coach at the final whistle may rest on the performance his troop and for try-scoring chances to stick rather than skitter away.