Thursday 17 August 2017

Flannery set to miss tour after injury

Barbarians 29
Ireland 23

Jerry Flannery is stretchered off the pitch after the game
Jerry Flannery is stretchered off the pitch after the game

When the alarm-clocks rang in Ireland's Strand Hotel HQ at the unearthly hour of 4.30am this morning, Declan Kidney will have been forgiven for hoping that he had just awoken from a bad dream.

Losing this match was one thing. Losing another key forward, Jerry Flannery, with a recurrence of his left calf trouble, as well as reserve back Fergus McFadden (and another, potentially, in Shane Horgan) was far more worrying.

These latest injury catastrophes overshadowed a dispiriting defeat and a slew of uneven auditions from those hoping to take advantage of what the Irish camp this week termed an "horrendous" injury list.

As if that were not enough, Jonathan Sexton, only recently recovered from a broken jaw, was forced to vacate his position on the bench after complaining of soreness in his mouth earlier in the afternoon.

The out-half's specialist was conveniently on hand to assess the situation and he deemed it more prudent that Sexton not participate, warning that there was a potential risk for infection.

How this affects his availability next week is less certain. What is clear is that Flannery and McFadden will be afforded an unwanted lie-in as the rest of the squad jet off from Shannon at 6.30am.

David Wallace's ankle twinge forced him out, but he should be okay, although Horgan may have to follow the squad next week after suffering a stomach bug. One suspects the whole lot of them are feeling a little queasy after their Thomond Park experience.

"I imagine Jerry won't travel but we have Damien Varley training with us this week so he is available," said Kidney. "And Johne Murphy was called in when Shane went down so the numbers shouldn't change that much. It's not like we need to bring 34 or 35 players."

As for the game, where Ireland suffered a numbing opening half with their scrum and line-out in trouble and some fringe players unable to step up to the plate, Kidney was equally downbeat.

"It was a tough game," he said. "I thought the Barbarians would come and entertain but I was wrong. They came here to win. But the senior guys showed their experience when they came on and I was proud at the way we stuck at it.

"I think the players bought into what we wanted to do even though we only had a short bit of time together. If we can sustain that, and get some more fluidity into our game, then I think we can knock on a few doors. With a bit more time, that can happen."

Connacht flanker John Muldoon was the obvious success story and now seems set fair to start alongside Wallace and Jamie Heaslip next week. Sean Cronin impressed but his darts less so, but he too will start.

Neither Marcus Horan nor Tony Buckley, despite the latter getting a rare 80-minute shift, will have done enough to eject messrs Healy and Hayes, while Donncha O'Callaghan and Mick O'Driscoll, the starting second-rows next week, impressed when brought on to launch a late, ultimately fruitless charge for victory.

Luckless

The luckless McFadden was guilty of trying too hard before his game was prematurely ended; the left wing, now vacant due to Keith Earls' predictable withdrawal, will be filled by the busy Andrew Trimble, who will have needed a first outing in over a month.

And, given Sexton's woes, Ronan O'Gara cannot be entirely dismissed, although a couple of feeble tackling attempts in midfield will have alerted the bloodthirsty Kiwis ahead of next week's New Plymouth test.

"They treated it like a Test match and we gave them too much of a lead," said O'Gara, whose place-kicking was almost unblemished, the uprights robbing him of a six-from-six haul.

"This will be hugely beneficial for us, I think. It was a great game although there were a fair few errors. It wasn't a warm-up match by any stretch, it was a bloody good game. I thought the new fellahs did well and they can be proud of their performance."

With another week together and not as much alcohol consumed as in days of legendary yore, the Barbarians would have targeted a win here, especially with a more intimate half-back combination looking to control and a determination to impose their will on the set-pieces.

This they did, working their scrum and line-out with worryingly well-oiled perfection. Brock James' decision to spurn an early penalty was not representative of a cavalier spirit. Rather, it engineered their first three-pointer, swiftly followed by another.

The Barbarians' opening try from Xavier Rush stemmed from the scrum; their second reflected a week of too much golf and brandy in Adare Manor and not enough sprint work, Casey Laulala hunted down superbly by Rob Kearney after Gavin Duffy's spill.

George Smith pounced, though, and suddenly it was 21-3 and a yawning gap.

A yellow card for either side -- one for the anonymous Ed O'Donoghue -- spurred the Irish into action and it was they who aptly demonstrated the famed Baa-Baas spirit with a scintillating try to end an underwhelming half.

Weaving and ducking, forwards and backs combined, with Trimble allowing Chris Henry to run straight, before Duffy ran off his shoulder at an angle, releasing Ronan O'Gara into what seemed a like a cul de sac, until his instinctive shimmy allowed Niall Ronan to gambol over the line.

The trend continued after half-time. An O'Gara penalty narrowed the gap to eight points but then Ireland were undone by width once more, James finding David Smith with a long pass before the latter fooled Murphy to send Cedric Heymans in.

Buckley's late converted try and an O'Gara penalty failed to alter either the result or the lingering impression that this month may be a step too far for an increasingly ragged Irish set-up.

Ireland -- R Kearney (T Bowe 54); J Murphy, G Duffy, F McFadden, A Trimble; R O'Gara (capt), P Stringer (T O'Leary 61); M Horan (T Court (61), S Cronin (J Flannery 57), T Buckley, E O'Donoghue (M O'Driscoll 55), D Tuohy (D O'Callaghan 55), J Muldoon, N Ronan, C Henry.

Barbarians --P Warwick; D Smith, C Lualala, S Rabeni, C Heymans (F Estebanez 64); B James (J-B Ellisalde 50), P Mignoni (B Kelleher 50); D Barnes, S Brits (B August 64), C Johnston (J White 67), J Thion, M O'Kelly (R So'oialo 53), A Quinlan, G Smith, X Rush (M Williams 62).

Ref -- R Poite (France).

Irish Independent

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