Wednesday 21 March 2018

Five key issues on the future without perfect 10

Conor George

Conor George

1 Declan Kidney really is ruthless – When he promoted Denis Hurley and Tomas O'Leary over Shaun Payne and Peter Stringer for Munster in 2008 we got a sniff of it. When he then omitted Anthony Foley from the match-day squad for that season's final that further cemented it.

Then he told John Hayes "thanks, but no thanks" in the lead-up to the 2011 World Cup after the prop held on thinking he was a sure thing. Then O'Leary got the bullet for the tournament on the eve of the squad's departure. What was astonishing then was Conor Murray getting called up after being told by Kidney he wasn't going. This latest move, however, trumps everything. Why now? Why so callously? Why so pointedly? If Kidney was so confident about Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan why didn't he promote them at the start of the championship? Any suggestion this has been done on form doesn't stack up.

2 Future gamble – Kidney has written off this year's championship and is angling for his future position. The next World Cup is two years away and Kidney wants to be in charge for that tournament. This is a job application to the IRFU, highlighting the fact that he is planning for the day when ALL the 'Golden Generation' are gone. He is gambling that by putting faith in two inexperienced out-halves he will sway the jury when his contract situation is discussed at committee level.

3 End of an era – Whether or not this is the end of his international journey, O'Gara's career has been an exercise in excellence. He has never been the biggest out-half or the strongest but he was irreplaceable for nearly a decade in a green shirt. He has always shown the moral courage to take responsibility when the challenge had been at its most intimidating – the number of 'clutch' kicks he converted at the death will always remain a glorious part of his rich legacy.

That tiny and petty minority who take to social media and criticise from behind the coward's veil of anonymity should ask themselves the question: without O'Gara would Ireland have won four Triple Crowns and a Grand Slam? O'Gara has always stood by his decisions, his successes and has always been honest throughout his career ... when they reflect on the pantheon his name will be among those at the very top.

4Don't write him off – Munster have a Heineken Cup quarter-final to contest and this setback will make him all the more determined come April 7 and their date with Harlequins at the Stoop. Munster will also have Paul O'Connell back in the side and they will need their iconic players to perform if they are to progress. Munster's fortunes that afternoon will be decided by their experienced players and O'Gara will have a key role, as always.

5He deserves better – This is a player on whose shoulders the nation's hopes rested for over a decade. We lived in fear that he might stub a toe. We were that reliant on him. He also delivered every time. If this is the end of the international chapter of his career those in power should know better than to have callously ended it this way. If nothing else he was owed ending it on his terms.

Irish Independent

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