Tuesday 27 September 2016

Fans too quick to blame O'Connor for all Blues' ills

Pundits make persuasive case for Leinster boss to stay on despite team's shocking loss of form

Michael McCarthy

Published 22/04/2015 | 02:30

Matt O'Connor has come in for heavy criticism from Leinster fans
Matt O'Connor has come in for heavy criticism from Leinster fans

The furore and animosity from Leinster fans over the future of Matt O'Connor feels like it's becoming something of a trend for Irish rugby.

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Last season, Munster fans went through the same process with Rob Penney, and eventually got what they wanted, with Penney himself deciding against taking on a third year in charge.

On Monday's Off The Ball, Trevor Hogan and Eddie O'Sullivan got pretty heated discussing the criticism O'Connor is receiving from supporters.

Trevor in particular was irked by the #OConnorOut trend that has been sweeping social media during the province's shocking loss of form in 2015.

In response, a significant number of our listeners got annoyed by the pundits' defence of the coach.

As with Penney, the main issue, besides results, is a shift away from the philosophy of the team - in this case, 'The Leinster Way'. In admittedly terrible conditions last Sunday, Leinster had zero offloads, and zero line-breaks. That is incredible in 100 minutes of rugby.

But listening to Hogan and O'Sullivan, it was easy to see reason in their calls for calm.

It's always an interesting one when pundits and fans disagree so vehemently. Rugby, in particular, is such a technical game, it's hard not to bow to those that have been involved professionally.

This is a team who, unlike any other year, have struggled, yet went to France to play the two-time defending champions, and brought the game to extra time (not to mention were within inches of winning with a last second drop goal). The pack performed heroically; the set-piece was outstanding.

Granted, Toulon didn't have their greatest game, but Leinster didn't allow them to play.

That said, an unhappy fan base is not good news for Leinster. Attendances have already been dropping this season, and they cannot afford a further drop-off due to disillusionment.

Rugby in Ireland has become a media-driven professional sport, and it seems that with that comes football's obsession for blaming (and sacking) the coach for all of a team's ills.

A lot of factors have worked against O'Connor in his two years, not least following a Messiah-like coach in Joe Schmidt and losing half of one of the greatest club back-lines of all time. Two of those backs - Johnny Sexton and Isa Nacewa -will be back next year. He should be given the chance to see what he can do with them.

Irish Independent

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