Monday 19 February 2018


Gibbes signs off from Blues legacy

Brian O'Driscoll and Leo Cullen, of Leinster and Ireland, have each had their large and deserved public send-offs in recent weeks, but another crucial rugby figure who will be departing the stage at the conclusion of this year's RaboDirect Pro12 competition on Saturday, May 31, after six years' service, will be Leinster's revolutionary forwards' coach, Jono Gibbes.

The New Zealander Gibbes took up the role of forwards' coach at the beginning of the 2008-'09 season. By the end of that season, Leinster Rugby had won its first ever Heineken European Cup. During Mr Gibbes' time as forwards' coach, Leinster added a further two Heineken Cups, making Leinster the most successful Irish province in European Cup history.

Until the arrival of Jono Gibbes, Leinster's forward pack was considered to be the perennial Achilles heel of the team. The top teams in Europe knew Leinster's famously talented backline could be rendered impotent by the targeting of their soft underbelly up front.

Mr Gibbes found a way to put an end to this problem by developing a vastly improved technique and hard edge within Leinster's forward play. As forwards' coach, Mr Gibbes succeeded in fixing the problem beyond recognition to the point where Leinster's greatest asset is not its (still potent) backline, but its forward pack.

It was Leinster's revolutionised forward pack which made the province's three Heineken Cups possible, and Jono Gibbes must be thanked for that.

Mr Gibbes' ability to form a complementary working relationship at Leinster with such superb (but diverse) successive head coaches as Michael Cheika, Joe Schmidt and Matt O'Connor is also a testament to his character and lack of ego. The standard which he has raised Leinster's forward play to will pose a worthy challenge for his successor to maintain.

John B Reid

We can't pay the penalty anymore

Perhaps the focus of the debate regarding the hurling penalty should be less on stealing metres than on justice.

The awarding of a free at any point on the pitch is to cancel the gaining of an unfair advantage. Why is a free for a foul committed less than 20 metres from the goal-line brought back to the 20-metre line? Surely it is because, conversely, to allow the free to be taken from the spot where the foul occurred would then confer an unfair advantage on the attacking team.

While preventing a player in close proximity to the goal from taking a shot may appear to be denying him a score, that is not a certainty. On the evidence to date, eg Nash and Reid, allowing the sliotar to be carried to the 13-metre line there is an undue increase in the chance of scoring a goal, almost to the point of certainty.

Whatever solution is arrived at by the Rules Brain Trust in the GAA, it must be firmly rooted in justice. Nor would I overlook the element of reasonable safety.

Peadar Ó Callanáin

Francis' Munster rants are weary

Once again Neil Francis carries on his anti-Munster rant. I have no idea what Munster has ever done to him but 'tis getting weary to listen to.

Pádraig Grey

Satire staves off 'Saturday Scrap'

I suspect that your contributor of last Sunday, Seamus ó Murchú, is at least of 'Scrap Saturday' vintage. If that is the case, it is regrettable he did not view my contribution of the previous week for what it was – a satirical response to the torrents of hot air that has been ventilated in recent months relative to Anthony Nash and his close-in free-taking technique.

Of course I acclaim Nash and now Reid. Long hours of practice of a very difficult skill has been mastered to a very high degree. Most of hurling's great free-takers stole a few yards while in the act of free-taking. It is somewhat ironic that the most recent approach was adopted and perfected by a player who comes from the traditional football division of Duhallow. Hence the Donegal reference.

By the way, Dan Kennedy was not a member of the 1904 Kilkenny team and he was listed as an Erins Own player for his first two All-Ireland final wins, in 1905 and 1907. God protect us if contributors are not encouraged to take an occasional sideswipe at life, including sport.

Dermot Kavanagh

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