Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Benefit of the doubt

Should we be harshly critiquing the Irish squad or the naysayers? asks Kate McEvoy…
Rugby Opinion

Reaction to last weekend's Wallaby victory, and more particularly, the abject Irish performance which in no small part contributed to the result, has largely fallen into two categories.

There are those who have harshly critiqued the squad, and those who have harshly critiqued the naysayers. I'm in two minds about this. Of course it's early days for Schmidt and his team, particularly given he brings a very recognisable and specific style of play that doesn't bed in overnight. Hopefully there'll be no repeat of the premature “he's lost the dressing room” blusterings that followed his somewhat rocky start at Leinster, but criticizing other fans who highlight the flaws Saturday's game also misses the point.

Post-game analysis is a massive part of being a fan. I should state at this point I'm not talking about personal attacks on players or staff. Those who tweet abuse, are rude or have personal vendettas against individuals regardless of how well they play, you are not my good-time brethren. You're not being a fan. Then again, some people are just jerks. Having said that, being able to point out the flaws in your own team put the brakes on, to an extent, the one-eyed parochialism that can dominate Irish rugby.

kate mc pic

Constructive criticism is no bad thing, even in the abstract. I'm not deluded enough to think Joe and the IRFU lurk on Twitter, or skulk behind a newspaper in the pubs of Ballsbridge apres match, desperate to hear the every thought of the average rugby fan. Nor should they. They're paid to do their jobs predicated on the idea that they know more about this that we do. But constructive criticism in the abstract helps a fan make sense of what they've seen, to enjoy rugby on a deeper level, to recognise quality or lack thereof, no matter what colour jersey it's clad in.

“Get behind the team”. Being critical is not automatically the same thing as being unsupportive, whether in life or as a sports fan. My family members frequently tell me when I'm acting like a complete gobshite but that doesn't mean they don't have my back 100%. That makes us sound like a gang of some sort, which is not actually a bad idea, but you get the gist. Furthermore, unless people are acting like the aforementioned jerks, calling out other fans for something that is a huge part of the post-game experience is, frankly, even more unproductive than armchair analysis.

Of course this is a transitional period and the new coaching team need time to bed in and the benefit of the doubt when they're at the wrong end of some attractive scorelines. However, rational criticism of a bad performance isn't treason. As we were exiting the stadium, my companion and I decided that in two years time, we'll be able to look back at the Australia game and say “We were there. Look how far we've come.”
I went to the match. I stayed til the end. I thought we were awful. I'll be back next week.

Kate McEvoy : Munster fan in a sea of Leinster blue. Raised on a strict diet of Bective Rangers. Earliest childhood memory is stud marks in the muck. Former hooker for a father & a mother with an eye for a forward pass bordering on freakish. Best rugby memory, Toulouse main square, May 24 2008. Epitaph will read “Knew a lot about rugby for a girl.” Can be found tweeting optimistically at @ImKateMc


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019