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David Kelly: 'Spring springs but no bounce for Farrell's men'

David Kelly


Farrell's men lack a spring in their step as experts impatiently await revolution

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

PA

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Springtime all along the Dodder and a breezy, bright day summons the great expectations of growth and renewal.

From springer salmon a-leaping to grey wagtails a-cheeping, the day seems like much the same as the day before but there is change all around if only one cares to look for it. Or, patiently, wait.

Too many, of course, are in desperate need of instant gratification, the scourge of the needy now generation.

And so the recent history of the Irish international team seems to weigh so heavily on the future prospects that lie in wait.

From the initially extraordinary achievements of Joe Schmidt's side into that late period winter of shivering discontent, such a bittersweet blend served to create a suffocating memory that demands immediate recompense.

They are celebrating St Brigid at Imbolc in Kildare; she could turn water into beer and in the 'bolg' of the stadium, two taps of the sponsors' product make their intoxicating debut; as an exercise in PR the bar has been raised but few approach it.

They forget that a drink is more required after a game - and particularly after this wretched affair - but by then the taps have been peremptorily dismantled en route to gratifying needs urgently requested elsewhere.

The vast emporiums of drink and food remind one that these events are more of a social gathering than a sporting occasion; the action on the field is merely a support player to the incessant requirement to guzzle impatiently poured stout and expensive - but impressively fast - food.

And yet everybody housed within is an expert on the oval ball game, even though if you asked many of them what the All-Ireland League was, they would probably suggest it were a political vehicle for national unity.

But query Monsieur Reynal's penchant for allowing deviants to squirm through the middle of Ireland's lumbering, plodding maul and their eyes light up at the prospect of inflicting incessant boredom upon another innocent victim.

In all sports, in fairness, mentioning the performance of a referee is not only a definite way to start a conversation but in many cases a sure-fire way of ending it, too. Some things remain constant.

A significant change sees Andy Farrell assuming the reins for the first time; eschewing his predecessor's predilection for taking an energetic part of the warm-up, he stands aloof, substituting Schmidt's tracksuit for one befitting sober business.

His mandate when appointed well before time was to maintain the continuity of the most successful era this country's rugby side has ever known; when he finally did take over, suddenly his responsibilities seemed a tad more onerous.

Eliminating

Not only must he lift a side from the sporting depression of a precipitous 2019, but do so by eliminating almost every vestige of a regime that, we were all led to believe, had become a monotonous metronome.

While the punters were expectant, so too presumably were the players whose careers are shortening by the day; the brutality of a match which strikes down almost a third of the Irish team with injury a stark reminder of the punishing sacrifices required to quench public thirst between drinks.

Apparently, bean bags have been installed in HQ so the camp is a much happier one than the seemingly Spartan cruelty of the Schmidt era.

Many within have sought since Schmidt's leave-taking to express their misgivings at how the greatest Irish winning machine spluttered to a halt; curiously, none felt so bold to speak up at the time.

On this sainted day, when many natives glorify the birch for it is the first tree to grow back after a forest fire, we wonder could Jonathan Sexton's men rise so swiftly from the ashes of their World Cup failure?

It was difficult to see the join. Rather than a glimpse of the future, at times it was like stepping back into the past.

Some of the fare was so comically slapdash, it seemed as if one had accidentally stepped into a re-run of 'Reeling in the Years'; suddenly it is 1987 all over again with wild kicks and lawless rucks and the nagging temptation to fish in coat pockets for a can of Holsten and 10 Major.

Like a sleepy riser who tries to open the curtains but instead ends up pulling the rail down upon their heads as their pyjamas slip slowly to the floor, the attempt to witness the bright new day presents a series of challenges.

True, there are snatches; Ireland create space out the back in the opening quarter but as our wise guests of Joe Leddin in the Lansdowne clubhouse remind us, that is the easy bit. Finding space on the edge is key.

Ireland unlock it, once, with the game's solitary try but elsewhere the game presents a litany of personal and collective flaws.

Then again, though spring sprung for some on Saturday, others insist it does not arrive until March. Irish rugby's transition may be delayed, too.

Irish Independent