Tuesday 24 April 2018

Comment: Swelled-head syndrome not a problem in Ireland's ranks

Keith Earls wins a high ball under pressure from Italy’s Matteo Minozzi. Photo: Sportsfile
Keith Earls wins a high ball under pressure from Italy’s Matteo Minozzi. Photo: Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

There was a national obsession with the prevention of the swelled head when I was a boy and well beyond that.

Praising in those days was banned as praise was generally considered to lead to vanity and membership of the cult of self. There was a man in our GAA club who said the placing of a mirror on the dressing room would lead to lads pulling out of tackles.

Instead the talk was of the mistakes made, even on days when players scored winning goals and terrific tries.

The definition in the Book of Quackery states the swelled head is thinking you are a great man, even if you are great man. It was and still is still frowned upon to say how good you are at something, anything, here in this country. The usual type of comment is he'd lick himself if he was an ice cream.

Jonathan Sexton barely acknowledges he was even playing in Paris, such is his fidelity to the old rugby notion that the team is paramount. He refuses to talk about Le Drop other than to say he was merely at the end of a massive team effort.

Ireland scored eight tries against Italy on Saturday but gave away three. There's a swelling and a deflation in the scoreline. We should have won by more.

Compare and contrast the attitude of Super Bowl winners to a winning rugby player. Some of the lads who win the Super Bowl will tell you of their own greatness in an Ali kind of way: "I'm the man." And they will be wearing more bling than the Lord Mayor of Dublin on St Patrick's Day.

Diagnosed

In Ireland, it's best to keep the head down. Poor Aidan O'Shea posed for a few selfies and he was instantly diagnosed with the swelled head.

The worst thing you could do is to praise yourself. This is a sure way of turning people against you.

Ireland scored some great tries against Italy. The team is loved and maybe times have changed. Personally, I'm all for that American positivity. We need to praise more where praise is deserved. And self- praise is praise even if it's confined to inside your own head.

The lack of structure told when Conor Murray and Sexton went off to the cotton wool wrappers who were brought in from Egypt especially for the day. Joe is fair. He is a teacher and he understands the old Irish maxim of 'mol and óige agus tiocfaidh siad'. Praise the young and they will thrive.

The video analysis reveals all but when the Italian job is finally dissected, I think there were will be some praise for an Irish team that, at its best, looked the part and, more importantly, the sum of its parts.

We mentioned at the outset there was another serious condition at the far end of the body. Getting too big for your boots means you are exceeding your authority.

Eddie the Sledger Jones' toes are constantly coming out through the top of his hob nails.

The Sledger spent last week trying to upset rookie Welsh out- half Rhys Patchell. Eddie's behaviour was disgraceful.

Two seasons ago he was advising Jonathan Sexton's parents as to how to mind their son. Eddie didn't seem to be aware Jonathan also had a wife. He gets away with unsporting behaviour all the time. Eddie is a pup.

Then Eddie reported Alun Wyn Jones the Wales captain for delaying a quick conversion which was no more than a bit of a laugh. Eddie is the one who should be reported to World Rugby for doing his best to ruin a young player's confidence when he said: "Every time Patchell looks up, he is going to see JJ in his vision - that is not a great sight."

And there was more. "When Alun Wyn Jones and the guys go down for breakfast on Saturday, they'll be looking at him thinking, 'Can this kid handle the pressure?'" Jones had said last week.

"It's a big ask and we will see if he has the bottle to handle it. He is going to have Robshaw at him, Farrell at him, Care at him - all guys that have played a lot of Test rugby."

Jones sought to destroy young Patchell the person. It was a horrible degradation of the human condition but no one in the RFU or in World Rugby took any notice. "Ah sure, Eddie is great gas. He wins. So all is forgiven."

But Eddie gets away with his bad behaviour because he can. Like all bullies. Wales really put it up to England and young Patchell didn't do too badly, after a nervous start.

Ireland then will have to improve to beat a never-give-in Wales who were superb in the second half. There's no danger of swelled heads now after Wales' big game.

Ultan Dillane will be back for Wales.

The Irish players wore the black armband in memory of Ultan's mother Ellen who died suddenly in Tralee earlier this week. There are angels in rugby too.

Practical

I knew Ellen. She nursed my mother in her last days at the Bon Secours Hospital. Ellen was kind, smart and practical. All of those skills went in to rearing of Ultan and his brother Cian.

The boys are Irish but with some colour crayoned in from their dad's side.

I sympathised with the Dillane boys on Friday evening.

We do death better than most other nations. Their Kerry family was there in strength.

This is the Ireland I want to be part of. An Ireland where we back each other up irrespective of race or colour. An Ireland where the only colours that count are the green, white and gold.

And Ultan will never suffer from a swelled head. His mother made sure of that. Ellen drove Cian and Ultan to training at Tralee RFC and to games, no matter where. She was always there for her boys and she always will be.

God go with you, Ellen Dillane.

Irish Independent

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