Sunday 25 August 2019

'Goose' Doyle just the latest member of Irish coaching's wild geese

New Scotland Women head coach Philip Doyle. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
New Scotland Women head coach Philip Doyle. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

They call him "Goose" amongst the motorcycling and rugby fraternity; and it is not so long ago that this one helped lay the golden egg that proved so transformative for the women's game in this country.

Six years on from that memorable Grand Slam triumph for a previously unheralded Irish side on a soggy Italian day, Philip Doyle (above) has been finally confirmed no longer as a prophet in his own land, but an oracle in exile.

He will carry quite less baggage on his new adventure than the hefty weight some feel he has freighted here since his departure from the IRFU, all the while watching agog as the proud triumph he curated was, imperceptibly, undermined from different directions.

And so his passion will be lost to this country and, poignantly, might see his new Scottish charges provide an obstacle to Ireland even qualifying for the next World Cup.

Last season, Scotland - who only three years earlier had been spanked 73-3 - achieved their first success in 12 years against the free-falling Irish side.

This season, Ireland suffered an historic first reverse against Italy, a first defeat to Wales since 2011 and a Six Nations finish of fifth, their worst in 13 years, combined with their world ranking of tenth.

Doyle would be the last to appreciate any element of personal vindication were his Scotland charges to stymie Irish World Cup dreams.

Cohort Irish sport has a curious relationship with a cohort of its coaches; on the same weekend as Doyle's women secured their Slam, a defeat to Italy would end Declan Kidney's coaching career in Ireland. Like Doyle, he has sought rehabilitation elsewhere.

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Rugby is not alone; Brian Kerr has been isolated from Irish soccer for more than a decade, marooned in press boxes throughout the world, enlightening an audience with a message that should have been preserved for emerging players and coaches in his own land.

Billy Walsh, a boxing seer, and Stephen Maguire, once a foremost athletics coach, have become wild geese, too.

The IRFU appear intent on focusing on an Olympian quest that is more achievable than anything in the XVs game; initial success by the Women's Sevens team underpins their priorities.

Yet whatever the future for the game here, it will continue without one of its most impassioned supporters. And that seems like a shame.

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