Declan Kidney will be learning fast – though that’s assuming he ingests anything the media might have to say; which is moot – that if you can’t please all the people all of the time, George Hook is simply insatiable.
In appraising Sunday’s five-try if not quite five-star victory over a typically-abrasive Italy, RTÉ’s ‘rugby Dunphy’ (lets call him Rugphy) jumped to the conclusion that the Irish coach should be a worried man heading into the England, Scotland and Wales Six Nations games as “his team are not playing well.”
His co-panelists Brent Pope and Conor O’Shea stopped short of suggesting his multi-coloured tie may possess psychedelic properties, but their expressions suggested they knew Hook, indulged as ever by Tom McGurk, was being controversial for controversy’s sake, when he’d have been better off backtracking on his hitherto constant barracking of Tommy Bowe.
That said, I accept what he was getting at. Most certainly it’s not merely the winning that counts. (“I know we won… you don’t have to tell me that,” George snarled at Popey, suggesting the audience was owed more astute analysis than bald facts, which is true.) However, context is everything.
Ireland were coming off the back of a Herculean effort against France, which, for all their extraordinary conditioning, must have left the players aching for ages. A seven-day turnaround before another war of attrition was always going to beg questions, something Kidney recognised. You can’t hope to play like Gods each time you go out. Well-paid, finely-tuned sportsmen they may be, but they’re not machines: some days are simply better than others. Something with which, and speaking of which, the punch-drunk Paddy Wallace and at least one semi-concussed Italian might concur after Sunday. Now wouldn’t you love to stick that Mickey (Harte) man Ryan McMenamin in the middle of those lads for five minutes…