Friday 28 October 2016

Billy Keane: No need to worry about Sexton burnout

With our star man fresh and fit for battle, let's hope we can catch Aussies cold and give boost to Irish Bondi brigade

Published 16/11/2013 | 01:00

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton

November isn't as bad as it's made out. It's worse. Ah, but I hate the short evenings, the livid people suffering from light depravation, the incremental cold and the insufferable suffocation from the rain forest humidity of central heating. Straight away I can tell you how to save money. Turn off the central heating. A blanket does the same job. People are gone too soft.

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November is the month for misery. Lads are still going off the drink in November for The Holy Souls, though. some of you may not be familiar with the concept of suffering for your faith. In times long past, holy men shivered with the cold in beehive huts out on bald rocks, praying, meditating and trying hard not to think of women and turf fires and women lying down on sheepskin rugs by turf fires, while fat Popes gorged on big feasts and cast aside vows of chastity at the merest swish of a passing skirt.


As if giving up the beer for a few weeks will make all the difference to some poor sinner on the pass/fail borderline at Heaven's gate. "Go on, go on let him in," shouts St Peter. "Let him, sure isn't Mikey Murphy gone off the drink for him down below."

There's suffering and there's suffering. I have never heard so much rubbish about the so-called exhaustion of Jonathan Sexton. He's playing rugby. The game he loves and getting well paid for it. The young lad is in great form. After a fortnight's rest. He's fresh and fit for anything.

If you were reading the papers, it's as if he's shackled in a slave galley rowing with big baters of Frenchmen belting him with whips and saying merde to him and other horrible things like the Irish broke Europe with their flash cars, conservatories and maxing out credit cards for dresses and big feeds of coq au vin.

I'll tell ye what work is. There are men with hernias and bad backs out in all waters repairing roads; slips of women with bales of hay up on their shoulders for the feeding of hormonal in-calf heifers that kick as hard as Dan Carter; and there are publicans suffering all kinds of mental torture, listening to lads going on about the new scrum laws and crooked in as if they had 50 caps in the front-row when all they ever pushed was the button on the lift. Now that's suffering.

The Aussies have been breaking stones. They have cause to complain. Already this year they have played 18 Tests. Sexton has played 1.25 for Ireland and 2.75 for the Lions.

The Australian coach Ewen McKenzie was going on about having to play in all sorts of conditions and that this was great practice for the World Cup. But, reading between the lines, you sort of guess the Aussies idea of a bad winter is being able to barbecue only twice a week.

I often wonder if it's possible to barbecue the turkey on Bondi. The Irish abroad are always telling the folks at home they'll be on the beach for Christmas Day. I think it's a ruse to cheer up loved ones. I hope our team are thinking of our emigrants today and the boost it will give the thousands in exile if we beat the Australians.

I bet the Aussies will be dying to get back home and they'll probably have the central heating in the hotel pushed up high enough to grow bananas. The Aussies are worse than the Yanks for being frozen with the cold. If McKenzie was smart he'd make them sleep naked with the windows open, like the monks, to get used to the conditions in the Aviva today.

Yes, indeed, we do have some advantages. Home is always better than away. Paul O'Connell and Brian O'Driscoll have hardly dirtied their boots, though, and many of our team need more game-time.

Congrats to Dr O'Driscoll on his honourary doctorate from DCU. It was so well deserved. With the recession gnawing away at the national bank of self-esteem, Brian showed us all about fight and valour. And surely Paul's internship is also up. He, too, is worthy of an honourary doctorate. I'd say he'd have a lovely bedside manner. O'Connell is a superb captain and it's all about his way with people.


His team really do like him a lot. Players respect Paul because he leads by actions more than words.

There is a danger we will become psychologically reliant on these two brilliant, but injury-prone, men who have given so much to Ireland. We hope they stay fit. Paul and Brian deserve all the luck in the world. The same to our good friend Donal Lenihan who was voted into the Rugby Writers' Hall of Fame and to Jonathan Sexton who was named Player of the Year. Their dads are from Listowel and lived two doors away from each other.

The poor oul' Australians have to do without any Listowel players, but they have improved since the Lions Tour. The Wallabies ran the All Blacks very close. We have near enough to our best team on the pitch. I would have picked Conor Murray, but we love the fizz and fast passes of Eoin Reddan. Both backlines are exciting, but the Aussies have a deadly back three. They will have to be watched very carefully. The odd Garryowen coming out of the night sky might test them.

I hope our backs play like Leinster and our forwards like Munster, wherever the players are from. Most commentators are forecasting we will win the scrums handy enough. I'm not so sure and Ireland will have to make certain of our own line-out ball to have any chance of getting those Leinster plays into the game.

I suppose November isn't that bad if you think about it. There's a whole day of rugby to look forward to and there's the racing from Cheltenham. I'm not having any bets, though. We have this far-out cousin who supposedly suffered from chronic impure thoughts and the kicking of yippy wides at the climax of matches.

I'm going off the betting for his soul.

Irish Independent

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