Declan Kidney's future was not protected by the 2009 Grand Slam but his legacy is
'EVERYBODY knows me. Everything is rugby. And I just can't get away from it." Eric Elwood gives a fascinating insight into the life of the modern manager. Their job can be all-consuming, all-encompassing and, for many, all over before you know it.
But the Connacht head coach was in the unique position of deciding when he had enough. Tired of talking strategy 24/7, Elwood devised his own exit strategy – this season was going to be his last.
Turns out, it was also Declan Kidney's last. After five seasons in charge, the IRFU decided this week not to renew Kidney's contract as Ireland head coach. Despite a horrendous Six Nations, Kidney wanted to stay on.
Delivering a Grand Slam in 2009 will always stand up as an outstanding achievement. But the lack of further silverware depreciated the value of Kidney's bargaining position.
His future was not protected by that Grand Slam but his legacy is. His ground-breaking work at provincial level set in motion Munster's two Heineken Cup victories. He went straight from leading Munster to their second European title to the top job. But his Ireland career didn't finish the way his Munster one did.
Do most managerial careers, in a sense, end in failure? In GAA, former Tipperary hurling manager Liam Sheedy and ex-Cork hurling boss Donal O'Grady are rare examples of managers signing off just after winning All Irelands. Brian Cody and, in another sphere, Alex Ferguson have reached 'untouchable' status – a luxury afforded to them after years of hard work and success.
Time is a commodity modern managers generally don't have. Patience seems to be a lost virtue. Mick O'Dwyer and Sean Boylan were football managers, with Kerry and Meath respectively, who were granted time and they delivered (yes even us, the 'notorious' Kerry fans, were content to wait back then!).
But now the 'honeymoon' period for new bosses to settle in has been pared back to just after the 'I do'. Last autumn Eamon Fitzmaurice became the new Kerry football manager. But after a dispiriting start to the League, some questions were raised over his suitability for the post. The clocks have just gone forward, give him a chance.
The same goes for the current Munster head coach Rob Penney. This weekend he brings Munster to the Heineken Cup quarter-final stage. But even though it's his first season in charge, the pressure is on, with a lot of criticism over the style of play he wants Munster to execute.
Does the demand for instant gratification, which is prevalent in many aspects of our lives, over-ride common sense at times? Just how much are we being influenced by the theatrics of professional football in England and Europe?
The term 'dead man walking' in professional football has practically become redundant, such is the trend of managers getting sacked. The billionaire owners who are bankrolling some clubs have completely skewed the perception of how long the shelf-life of a manager is. That shelf-life is now flatpack-style, easy to assemble but it never lasts.
There is little room for emotional attachment. Jose Mourinho has coached at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and is currently at Real Madrid (currently being the operative word). The one constant in Mourinho's career is change. New club, new challenge, more cash.
The intensity and scrutiny on all managers, by various stakeholders such as fans, us in the media and – crucially – the club's power-brokers and players, has increased drastically.
If the wins don't stack up, bosses don't get away with an assertion like "crisis, what crisis?", which was famously uttered by former Taoiseach Jack Lynch. In the battle to keep fans onside, the PR of Promises doesn't last, it's all about Results.
But beyond the nature of the manager, is the nature of the man. When Kidney was still Ireland coach, his management style and that of Giovanni Trapattoni could not be more different.
It would be anathema to Kidney to publicly criticise his players the way Trap has done. But it doesn't mean the ruthlessness in the decision-making behind the scenes is any different.
Did Kidney agree with what former Leinster head coach Michael Cheika said in 2007? The Australian said he's "not one of these career coaches. I'm not worried about where my next job is coming from". How common is that approach? The nature of the job is to succeed. Failure ultimately decides most managers' fates.
Sinead Kissane is a sports presenter and reporter with TV3