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Kidney unruffled by storm of hype

The Six Nations is about to begin again and maybe we are never destined to be lovers when at that momentous moment last year that Ireland defeated Wales I was stuck in some mountain isolation in Austria necking wine with friends and feeding off text updates from home.

And I don't even like skiing. The same night Bernard Dunne became world champion -- a feast of Irish sporting celebration went on without us. It was like having an insight into what it might be like to be dead and being able to look at life continuing without you.

Rugby never penetrated west Clare much, although the pervasive influence of Munster has meant a recent new presence for the oval ball. Whether this will amount to anything is another day's work. But interest in the game has never been as high and it's not unusual to see someone arrive into the pub wearing the red shirt and waxing lyrical about this hooker and that hooker and talking some rugby as well.

What intrigues me -- from afar -- is Declan Kidney. He would only be too aware of how easy it is to place emphasis on things that may not have any real significance yet his inscrutability and Buddha impersonations are fascinating. It makes him an unlikely contributor to the testosterone world of rugby and the enveloping hype; all that glory, glory Munster, the hipflasks and bonhomie, the beautiful people, the times when the praise and self-regard goes beyond the beyond. I am sure that behind that veil is a monster motivator but he hides it well.

And when we watched the Wales game, too late of course, the moment had passed. But one spectacle took exception: Kidney's motionless expression in the stand. With that crazy finale, and so much hinging on it for him personally, wouldn't you think he'd have been off the seat? The match swayed over and back and the camera panned to Kidney each time. Deadpan. Not a flicker.

Until, at the final whistle, he's engulfed by his companions, and at last you see some joy, some of himself: he smiles broadly. I think he may even have laughed, although this could have been the result of tickling by his associates. 'Come on Declan,' they seemed to be saying, 'chill out, we've won the Grand Slam'.

Sunday Independent