herald

Thursday 18 September 2014

Blessed is Saint Deccie, as he will be remembered for years to come

Declan Kidney during a press conference. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.
Declan Kidney during a press conference. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

A DIGNIFIED man – the exit – well he got to go with some dignity.

The official IRFU announcement gingerly avoiding any histrionics – no axing or bullets or sackings. Kidney's contract was not to be renewed. The national coach had talked about getting out of bigger holes in his career. It wouldn't have mattered if he'd had Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing with him – he wasn't climbing out of the hole he had dug for himself.

His legacy is intact – the coach of our only Grand Slam winning side in the modern era. You can't just take him out to the East River and wait for the concrete leg warmers to set. The man has done some service to his country. Not even Drico will get to go out on his own terms – Kidney certainly had aspirations for the 2015 World Cup but his tenure was holed below the water line by a number of factors and the graph was only pointing one way. He won 27 of 53 matches but was less than 45% for the Six Nations – which is poor return. Under performance with the group that he had was the primary indictment on the charge sheet.

In the last five to six years France – even though they got to the World Cup final in 2011 – and England have seen the fortunes of the abilities of their senior sides fall into a calamitous state. Both of these sides should win the championship every year. Their ranks have been filled with nondescripts and pale imitations of international class players. The field was well and truly open as Scotland went from rank to abysmal. Ireland and Wales had the talent and ambition to steal a march while the two super powers fiddled through a long transition period.

Our quality in the Heineken Cup and Rabo did not translate into Six Nations glory and the Taffies – asleep at the wheel in those competitions – awoke to plunder two Grand Slams and a championship to our solitary one. Considering the talent available to us, that was a truly galling reversal.

The guy who used to coach us before we sacked him for Eddie – before we sacked Eddie for Deccie – had plundered the best part of the pie. When you look at it forensically, Eddie bungled a Grand Slam – Kidney bungled another one. Even this season, what frustrated the most was losing matches that we should have won. Even the England game was winnable if we had been cute enough.

Kidney handled the transition poorly – injuries and their scale certainly caught him cold – you couldn't legislate for that. What you could legislate for, and plan against, was Ireland's inexplicable inability to keep the scoreboard ticking over and work something to get a score when the clock went past 50 minutes of the game played.

The team had lost its direction and its shape. They no longer had a clear vision of where they were going and their tactical and strategic outlook had regressed. The coach was no longer able to direct or control, the players also had their fill of him. Kidney had also done an exceptional job of alienating himself from his most influential player when he took the captaincy away from him. So when the team started to lose games and Kidney looked for reassurance and support from Ireland's greatest player, it was not forthcoming.

Alex Ferguson is a freak with 27 seasons – four years is the average shelf life for a good coach. The legacy is intact – blessed Saint Deccie of Assisi. He will be remembered for years to come.

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