Thursday 19 July 2018

Irish forced to play mere side show to main event

Ireland's Sene Naoupu. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland's Sene Naoupu. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The Kingspan Stadium will host three World Cup games today, yet Ireland find themselves playing in the one that no one wants to be involved in.

Competing in a fifth place play-off against Australia before the four semi-finalists take centre stage will hammer home the reality that the hosts are now a mere side show to the main event.

A two o'clock kick off on a Tuesday afternoon in Belfast will hardly attract the crowds organisers had hoped for prior to the tournament but such is its format, Ireland, like all of the other 12 teams, must play another two games to determine what place they finish in.

While world ranking points are at stake, for this squad who have set high standards for themselves, not competing in the last four is all that matters.

Sacrifices

Such were the sacrifices that the players made in the build up, you wonder if they have been able to move on from being dumped out of their own party in such a short space of time.

Time will tell but Tom Tierney insisted: "We have moved on from the disappointment. We want to put in a performance that says 'Right, this is the start of a new competition.'"

The head coach however is irked by some of the coverage of his team.

"There's huge frustration, there has been a lot of talk in the media which is fine, that's their job, but the girls are putting in the work day-in-day-out, and the management team, because we're all in this together," Tierney said.

"There's a lot of things that have gone right that probably people have missed but it's just that finishing things off or letting teams off the hook. That's the disappointing part but that's behind us now and hopefully we can put in a good performance.

"It's all part and parcel of the job. I have 21 years of being either a professional rugby player or a professional coach under my belt. All I have to ensure is that the players aren't affected and they can go out and perform.

"It has nothing to do with me. I have a job to do and the media have a job to do. It is what it is, so long as the players aren't affected then I have done my job as a coach."

Ireland did come up against an outstanding French side but the manner in which they were well beaten will leave the players with a tinge of regret. "I think they will put England to the sword, a very good English team that put 38 points on us in the Six Nations," he suggested.

The world champions might have something to say about that later on. With the tournament moving to Belfast, Ireland's campaign had real potential to ignite, particularly in a bigger stadium but instead, the wind has been taken out of their sails.

"It was difficult but we're not the first Irish team not to achieve what we wanted in a World Cup so there's nothing new there," Tierney added.

That may be so but at least now, the weight as host nation that looks to have hampered Ireland has been lifted. They have an opportunity to release the shackles and prove that they have more strings to their bow.

It's been a hard slog to get here but they must find a way to finish a disappointing campaign on a high.

Ireland v Australia

Live, RTE 2/eir Sport 1, 2.0

Irish Independent

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