Friday 23 March 2018

Tony Ward: Sad to see JJ Hanrahan go, but he's made the right decision

JJ Hanrahan is taking a chance by moving out of his comfort zone
JJ Hanrahan is taking a chance by moving out of his comfort zone
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

A week in which three out-halves dominated the domestic news and, amazingly, not a Sexton or Madigan in sight. JJ Hanrahan's move to Northampton Saints is undoubtedly the biggest story.

'Should I stay or should I go' has been the issue at the heart of the talented Kerryman's thinking for some time now.

I believe he has made the most sensible decision.

Munster folk might not be agree as they are losing a highly promising footballer - and one of their own - although they should take solace in the imminent arrival of a very talented out-half in Tyler Bleyendaal.

The biggest issue still to be addressed since the game went open - 20 years ago this year - is the dearth of creative midfield talent (specifically in the centre) coming through the underage system.

Hanrahan (22) clearly has the potential to prove an exception.

But enough to warrant selection ahead of Munster incumbent playmaker-in-chief, Ian Keatley? No, not at this point in time.

I would like to think that like Ian Madigan in Leinster (whose attitude has been professional to a fault), Hanrahan is open to wearing whatever number it takes to nail down regular football wherever his particular bag of tricks takes him.


The bits and pieces are in place to share the playmaking load, much like Madigan has done (when wearing 12) alongside Jimmy Gopperth at Leinster.

Quite whether Anthony Foley would have wanted that - given Munster's history and tradition in terms of a door-breaker rather than lock-picker down that midfield channel - I'm not too sure, but I suspect not.

Equally, whether Hanrahan perceives himself an out-and-out ten only he can answer.

I suspect he's happy to be versatile, given that Stephen Myler is firmly entrenched in the No 10 jersey at Franklin's Gardens.

Put it all together and it represents a high-risk move, but given Hanrahan's age, the current road block (as he perceives it) in his career allied to the opportunity to move to a different working environment entirely I firmly believe he has made the right call.

The former Rockwell and UL Bohs out-half is taking a chance in moving out of his comfort zone to develop his game further. He is doing what's right for him. Right now, needs must.

I wish him well in joining the top club in the English Premiership - a not insignificant factor many seem to be overlooking.

While one talented player was slipping out of the net, another was being locked in chains, with Keatley signing a two-year extension.

It's fair to say that in terms of his relationship with the Munster fans, it has been something of a slow burner.

Anyone following in the footsteps of Ronan O'Gara was inheriting a poison chalice, yet slowly and surely - if nowhere near as fully - the Dubliner is filling those boots.

He does still have a tendency to visibly beat himself up when he makes a mistake, yet is beginning to learn the art of conning the opposition at bad times and good.

Rog was in many ways the master craftsman in that respect, although he too had his flustered and insecure moments.

Keatley is coming into the prime phase of his career and this contract extension should give him the confidence to kick on, although he has the Bleyendaal battle to come.

Gopperth, meanwhile, is on his way to Wasps, where I wish him nothing but the best. The talented Kiwi out-half has been good for Leinster rugby, despite getting nowhere near the appreciation he deserves.

That said with Johnny Sexton on his way back and Ian Madigan in situ, Sexton's most appropriate shadow for province and country, Gopperth's decision to move on is a no-brainer.

What with the shift to Coventry and some measured player investment, the Wasps revival is well under way.

It was suggested to me that Hanrahan's decision to move to England could represent the beginning of a trend.

I seem to remember much the same being said around the time of Sexton's move to Racing Metro.

There is no room for complacency - the French clubs, and to a lesser extent their English counterpart, have a financial advantage - but the IRFU and the provinces are doing an excellent job in balancing the books and keeping the best of emerging talent home.

There will be the odd exception, but playing abroad should never prevent anyone being picked by Ireland - as has been the case in the past.

I get the logic behind the threat but out of sight should never be out of mind.

Elsewhere, Jack McGrath's stamp on Rory Best's leg was at best crass stupidity, and at worst downright malicious. It was out of character, as acknowledged by the disciplinary committee, but should never have happened.

It was an unacceptable act, and McGrath knows he was wrong. The honourable action is to take the three-week hit.

What Ulster's Roger Wilson did was equally wrong, but the two cases should not be linked.

Two wrongs will never make a right.

Everyone loved Anne, and Anne loved her job

On Wednesday in Kimmage Manor we celebrated the life of Anne McInerney, Leinster Rugby administrator extraordinaire.

Just last March, Anne stepped down from her role as organiser in chief of underage rugby, specifically the game in the schools.

When it came to cancellation and reorganisation of matches she always succeeded in getting the job done because she was larger than life.

If for any reason she didn't get on with somebody, it wasn't too difficult to figure where the fault lay. Everyone loved Anne, and Anne loved her job.

Her son Mark, in the eulogy to his mum, used a lovely line whereby having got the fixtures fixed, so to speak, her last instruction to the appointed referee when wishing him well would be "now whatever else, don't bring me back a draw"!

It summed her up admirably. She will be missed so badly by so many but most of all in the bosom of her family - husband Colin, children Mark, Mischa, Corie, Leah, Kenny and Graeme as well as brothers Ollie and Peter.

Ar dheis De go raibh a hanam dilis.

Irish Independent

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