Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Time for the MOCkery to stop

Leinster should send Wasps, not Matt O'Connor, to Coventry, says Brendan Grehan...

IN THE AFTERMATH of Leinster's defeat to Munster two weekends ago, one would be , forgiven for thinking that ccc-wearing tribes of Dublin and the pale were facing a bigger catastrophe since Donnybrook Fair last ran out of organic peanut butter.

And now as Matt O'Connor faces one of the most important games in his coaching career, can he call on the Leinster 'faithful' to support him. I have seen the rumblings about O'Connor among the faceless internet forums. Keyboard warriors love taking a cheap shot. But a cheap shot is just a cheap shot, it isn't a knockout punch.

Calling for O'Connor's head at this stage of the season is quite simply not the Leinster way. It's not the rugby way. There is a truth universally acknowledged in  team sports in that you give a paid head coach a minimum of two seasons to prove his métier and then he moves on.

Rugby is now a world game and there are countless opportunities for professional coaches throughout the northern and southern hemispheres.

The thing I really don't understand is that it was obvious to everybody that Leinster and indeed Munster are in a period of transition. 

I am lucky enough to have witnessed professional rugby in Ireland from its second season. I was in America for the first.  I well remember that summer of 1995 in the aftermath of RWC 1995 when over 100 years of amateur football was turned on its head. 

It was even a topic for discussion amidst the leafy avenues of West Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was chatting to a prop who played for Boston RFC and he mentioned that two of the Welsh players who lined out for Beacon Hill RFC were going off to play Rugby League for the USA Tomahawks (The USA's national rugby league team). This was all possible because of the IRB's announcement in Paris turning the game professional.

The ridiculous divide between the two codes of rugby came to an end. Former players could now make some small profit from their fame without losing the link to the game many served so well.

The point is that I was privileged to witness the development of Leinster as a professional sports team. Some hate the term "Club Leinster" but that is a point for another day. Any rugby fan should check out Brendan Fanning's excellent "From There To Here" which chronicles the early development of the professional game in Ireland.

Am I digressing, sorry at this stage I must point out that its a blog piece, its my blog piece and I'm entitled to take a trip down memory lane every now and then.

There is some method to my madness. We will get there. When I got the big metal bird back over the pond, it was a source of some pride to me that some of my contemporaries from school and college, two in particular, were now holders of IRFU contracts. They in fact were semi-professional at this stage. Only one of my year from school went on to win a full Ireland cap, Stephen McIvor, against Australia in 1996. Paul "Slimer" Cunningham who played with distinction for DUFC and later Garryowen and is now a successful coach.

Leinster went from strength to strength, reached the top of Mount Olympus in 2009 and scaled even greater heights in 2011 and 2012.  But no party lasts for ever, well some do but drinking a warm can of lager at 8am  with a dehydrated gob isn't exactly my idea of heaven.

Was the Leinster squad that O'Connor handed a poisoned grail, an unholy cup which could only bear misfortune. No, he had O'Driscoll and Cullen and things have not gone to plan but now is not the time to send the former Brumbie home.

On Sunday afternoon, they face Wasps (formerly London Wasps). We can send Wasps to Coventry, not O'Connor. It's a good Kerry name, O'Connor. You dont send Kerry people away, they are a wily, cute sort that always come good.  So less of the negativity from the ranks of the faithful and lets support this team and the coaching team.

PS I was shocked to hear from a long-time Leinster fan (who knows who she is) that a section of fans booed when Michael Bent's name was called out at a recent match (I missed it to my shame I may have been in the queue for a soy latte!). Now I just don't understand that and I don't know why any fan who pays their hard-earned money to support their team would boo an Ireland international. Shame on you. People who carry on that sort of behaviour should be ejected from the ground. 

Brendan Grehan is a journalist
Twitter: @brendanxavier
Facebook: Brendan Grehan


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