Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Burning the Irish rugby media's straw Leinster rugby fan

And what certainly doesn’t help is the narrative from many in the “mainstream media” which tars every Leinster fan who uses Twitter & such with the most extreme “Anti-Matter” brush going.  Hopefully that won’t stop them making their feelings known where possible, for as someone who deals with social media every day I can think of no better source of opinion, as this cross-section of reactions to the Dragons result shows.
Less than 24 hours after I pen the above passage in my writeup for the Dragons v Leinster match, we have Tony Ward in the Irish Independent providing a perfect example of what I'm talking about, albeit on the topic of Jimmy Gopperth instead of Matt O'Connor...
No doubt we will have Jimmy Gopperth portrayed as the root of all evil according to a vociferous section of Leinster fans. They are entitled to their opinions but they are wrong. Gopperth is the real deal as an all-round out-half.
First of all, this is an extremely poor argument which creates the archetypal straw Leinster fan. It begins with the words "no doubt we will..." which means he's speculating, then he goes on to say "they are wrong"!!!

If I was cynical I'd say he was framing his argument to specifically have a pop at Leinster fans in general, but instead I'll give him the benefit of the doubt in that he is defending Jimmy Gopperth on behalf of the Outhalves' Union.

But his is just one example of an alarming narrative seen in countless media sources, most recently on RTE's Against The Head last night (where incidentally they proceeded to preview the Toulon game without anyone in the studio who has ever had anything to do with the Leinster set-up).

So what I wanted to do was put together a reply in the Indo comments section that tried to give a more realistic and balanced view, but thankfully fellow Leinster fan and regular commenter on the HoR Facebook page John Molloy saved me the trouble, so with his permission I have posted it below so more can view & react.

by John Molloy

I'm not sure if Tony reads these comments, but on the off chance that he does I'd like to make a couple of points which I hope come across properly.

I agree with MOCs selection for the Dragons game even in light of the results. We were facing into 3 away games in the space of 13 days and you simply can't play the same squad in all 3, especially when every other game thereafter is a must win as well. The Dragons game had to be the game that players were rested. And I think in the 40 minutes where we played well we showed the selection was good enough to win the game. Sadly yet again we fell away and failed to close out the game. I simply can't understand why Reddan was left on for as long as he was. He was clearly tiring and mistakes were creeping into his game. Luke McGrath should have come on far earlier than the 76th minute. And I don't get why Fitzgerald didn't replace Fanning when Te'o was binned. His ability to play 13 would have seriously helped our defensive effort during those 10 minutes. Decisions like that should be the rod used to beat MOC with, not the squad selection. He managed the game from that aspect all wrong.

Regarding Gopperth I agree he is getting a massively disproportionate amount of flak from certain quarters. People would do well to remember that if not for Gopperth we wouldn't be going to Marseilles this weekend. If MOC is suffering from not being Joe Schmidt in some quarters then Gopperth is suffering for not being Jonathan Sexton. Jimmy is not a world class 10, but then there really aren't many world class 10s around these days so what exactly are people expecting? That said he's played every game and played the full 80 in most. There were a lot of complaints about Sexton getting flogged in France yet I haven't seen anyone talk about Gopperth being flogged here. His form hasn't been great lately but we've gotten a hell of a lot out of him and he is the better out-half when compared to Madigan, much as that may displease some to hear.

I hope the above gives an indication that I'm not some sort of reactionary and/or irrational supporter who can't see the wood from the trees because the next point I feel is incredibly important. Despite the above I'm still not happy with MOC at all. I don't think he's managed to get the best out of this team consistently at any point. Really good performances like Northampton away or Glasgow in the Pro12 final are the exception. Even when winning last season we often did it badly. Not ugly, badly. I couldn't give a fiddlers about pretty rugby or ugly rugby. I want to see effective rugby. A game plan that is being executed well doesn't have to be champagne rugby. Leinster under MOC have consistently failed to implement a game plan with any great accuracy. And while we may have scraped results at times these kinds of performances eventually dictate your results. And we're starting to see this season that the results aren't coming. This is because of the performances. Last season players with that "winning mentality" or whatever you want to call it knew what it took to get over the line. And despite some of our performances we were able to go to that well a lot last season. But it is not a bottomless, limitless well. If you don't have performances backing up that winning habit/mentality then eventually that well will run dry and the results will start to slip. That's what is happening to Leinster now. The confidence is gone. And it is gone because other than confidence and belief this squad has had nothing else to fall back on since MOC took over.

This is the viewpoint of a large portion of Leinster fans that I know. There may be a vocal section of the fan base that deserve some of the comments that have come from pundits lately but I would much appreciate if not all of us were tarred with the same brush. There are rational and logical reasons to be unhappy with Leinster right now but to write off fans complaints as the whinging of spoilt children is unfair to many of us. This season has been our worst in the league for 11-12 years. Even accounting for the loss of personnel, injuries and disruptions that is very disappointing. And I'd be wary of pointing to a European semi-final as a measure of success. A cup competition can be misleading. Didn't Edinburgh make a semi-final a couple of years ago? I'll be in Marseilles making noise and waving the flag because I support this team. I may be unhappy and my expectations may be low but they are still my team and they will still get my support. That doesn't mean I can't be unhappy with what is going on though.


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