Sunday 18 February 2018

It's easy to tweet from a soft seat

WE are a nation of slaggers and there is one particular acquaintance who receives more than his fair share.

It starts with his preposterously spelt 'Gaelgoir' name, an utterly unpronounceable moniker packed with pretension and superfluous vowels. Then there is his height (it is said in Cork that if you catch hold of him, you get to make a wish) -- 5' 2" is ridiculously small for a fully grown man and when you meet him you instinctively look for a yellow brick road to follow.

Finally, there is the tightness, he's as mean as Ming the Merciless. There's a story going around that he once cut himself after finding a Band-Aid on the ground and the little fellah never seems to dip into his 'pot of gold' to get a round in. Put it all together and the wee man gets a pretty relentless scourging, but none of it seems to bother him.

Why? Because of the internet.

Online, this parsimonious hobbit metamorphoses into a generous giant, doling out grandiose observations on his platform of choice -- Twitter. Some of us just can't get our heads around Twitter. With a set of sausage fingers making communication easier said than done, we're still adjusting to text messaging but that, at least, has a logistical use, the practicalities of tweeting are less obvious.

It appears to be used for frothy, frivolous commentary on daily routines, but also seems to provide people with an outlet to vent their frustrations. That is one of the internet's most potent characteristics -- suddenly, every one is a critic.

The Government and bankers are obvious targets but Irish rugby, at committee and playing levels, has been getting it in the neck online this month also. Newspapers have been the traditional platform for passing judgment and newspaper critic is a strange profession -- parasitically dependant on men who operate in a sphere beyond the reach of those of us required to critique their ability to do so.

Last weekend, during the half-time break in Ireland's defeat to the All Blacks, the Irish players and management attempted to devise some means of engineering a victory against one of the finest sides to have played the game.


Meanwhile, several floors above them, members of the Irish rugby media were consumed with such weighty matters as how to beat a path through Lansdowne's unwashed herd to the press room and a hot cup of coffee. Once there, the major issues were the lack of spoons and which hungry hack had taken all the best biscuits.

Different worlds. But the reality is that, despite never having played or coached professional rugby, we are charged with the task of analysing those who do.

There are intricacies and insider knowledge we will never be privy to but, equally, there are basic principles that have not been submerged by the scientific tsunami that has swept through the sport and remain obvious to anyone with any knowledge of the game. Ireland gave an encouraging performance in defeat last weekend, but one area where they were obliterated was at restart time. It is such a rudimentary aspect of rugby that there is no reason Ireland should have been as poor as they were.

Yes, Dan Carter's accuracy was phenomenal when he dropped the ball into the Irish and it is also true that the All Blacks, at the end of their season, have had greater preparation time than the Irish, who only came together a few weeks ago.

Although they put up a fine effort, Ireland were always going to struggle to reach the heights of New Zealand's multi-phase, off-loading game, but restarts were well within their control.

For all Carter's accuracy, the advantage always lies with the receiving side, who can lift their designated catcher above the reach of the chasers. Mick O'Driscoll, Donncha O'Callaghan and Devin Toner have been practising restarts since they first picked up a rugby ball and with a bit of practice on organisation and communication, it would not have been an issue. Small things can make all the difference and the All Blacks' capacity to reclaim possession from drop-outs was one of the main reasons they finished 20 points ahead.

As mentioned above, it is easy to hand out advice when you are safe behind a keyboard rather than facing a feral pack of All Blacks intent on mangling your manliness. Nonetheless, this is an area where you would hope to see improvement against the Pumas on Sunday (we'll also be on the lookout for biscuits and spoons at half-time) and it if it is achieved, we'll be happy to acknowledge as much.

We might even tweet it -- if 'Frodó' shows us how.

Irish Independent

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