Monday 18 December 2017

Eddie's western history makes him just perfect for job

Sean Diffley

Even the dogs in the streets are, for once, barking in the same tune. It's for Eddie O'Sullivan to coach Connacht when Eric Elwood retires at the end of this season.

We all know that he led Ireland to three Triple Crowns between 2004 and 2007, but long before that he was enmeshed in a variety of roles in Connacht.

He coached both Galwegians and Corinthians -- separately of course -- chores equivalent to being tolerated by both the Montagues and the Capulets.

Then came a spell as the enthusiastic aider and abettor at that remarkable nursery of the game, the Monivea achievement with the local youngsters and that apostle of the game, Padraic McGann.

Then, a period with Buccaneers until he arrived at the holy grail with the provincial team, initially assisting the Connacht maestro himself, George Hook.

That was a bit like the Odd Couple, working well, between bouts of stringent discord. Eddie is amusing about George's booming verdicts on his player's errors.

Eddie's book (in collaboration with our Vincent Hogan) relates how a Connacht player, an army cadet, got a rush of blood, lost contact with his colleagues and was bundled into touch.

"Jamesie," thundered George, "there were 50,000 men lost for 80 yards of ground at the Battle of the Somme and you, a cadet in the Irish army, f***ed away 80 yards at the Sportsground yesterday... ON YOUR OWN."

O'Sullivan is the most experienced and qualified rugby coach in Ireland, by the proverbial mile.

A PE product of Thomond College in Limerick, where one of his classmates was Tony Ward, Eddie's first full-time job was at the Holy Rosary College in Mountbellew, and his first coaching success was to bring the All-Ireland U-15 girls' basketball title to the Co Galway school.

Will O'Sullivan be drafted into the Connacht job? Many of us believe that it's the obvious appointment.

But rugby politics are far from absent. Eddie doesn't refrain from saying what he thinks, and in the course of time he has run foul of a couple of individuals in the media.

Hopefully, common sense will prevail and the man who lives in Moylough, just a stone's throw from the Sportsground, will be appointed.

Elwood has contributed immensely to Connacht but it's a job that has its own particular stresses. He is one of a small elite of Connacht-born players who have graced the green jersey.

There have been Ray McLoughlin from Ballinasloe, Ciaran Fitzgerald from Loughrea, Dicky Roche, Eamonn McGuire. But Elwood was the only playmaker from the west -- and on at least one notable occasion, a match-winner for Ireland.

That was the famous game at Twickenham in 1994 when Elwood kicked his second penalty and converted the noted try by Simon Geoghegan and Ireland won 13-12, their first victory there in 12 years.

Irish Independent

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