Jan 312009

The announcement during the week of the renewal of the Captaincy under Brian O’ Driscoll does not surprise me in the slightest. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I am now even more convinced that this was part of the monetary deal that was made with O’ Driscoll to keep him playing rugby under the Irish flag. How else can you explain handing such a responsibility over to a man whose current form (Over the last two years) hasn’t even been good enough to keep him on the pitch as a player at times.

In my eyes the man’s place on the field is in jeopardy with the rising young stars coming hot on his heels in the shape of Earls, Fitzgerald and co. The number thirteen slot has many many more options than almost any other position on the field. The promotion of O’ Driscoll says wonders for the stranglehold still being wrought by the three mile circle surrounding headquarters when in fact it is the Money Generating Heineken Cup Monster that Munster has become that keeps the whole show on the road. I now think that it is time for the “old school” to open their eyes and let a coach pick from all the pool that he has to offer without having to worry about whose toes he may be treading on or having to keep any corner of the country happy by filling in slots uselessly when there are better options on offer.

Okay, being realistic, It’s not as if there is a ready replacement for Ronan O’ Gara, Paul O’ Connell is  an automatic walk in to any team in the world, What Munster and Ireland are going to do when the “Raging Bull” from Cappamore finally hangs up his boots is one of the unanswered Questions. “Mushy” is being groomed to take over the Munster Slot but to be honest it’s not as if he’s getting enough game time currently to up his game and one wonders whether a spell “Down Under” like his predecessor would improve the possibility of him filling the role.

However, In the Irish setup,  possibilities abound all around the pitch for up and coming youngsters. What does the handing of the captaincy to a man whose best days appear to be now behind him say to the likes of Trimble, Fitzgerald, Earls and D’Arcy to name but a few? The Scrum-half slot is now a battlefield with Reddan and Tomás O’ Leary fighting it out with Peter Stringer not out of contention either.Opportunities abound for anyone who can step up to the mark throughout the pack (With the exception of tight head prop), Okay the second row fight is for a Partner to O’ Connell but there’s still a fight and the back row is wide open to form players.

The Green jersey has to come around to being earned by Merit and Merit alone, not by who you know, where you’re from and how many slots have to be filled from each province. That’s what make Munster the fabulous team that it is when they put on the red shirts, much, much greater than the sum of it’s parts. Every player that has worn the red jersey has stated that You know that the man alongside you has earned the right to that jersey for that game. But only for that game, and when you’re not performing the next man to fill it has also earned that right by virtue of what he has brought to the table. And when the time comes for you to hand it over, the man in whose hand you put it has earned the right to put it on.

What’s the point of handing the reigns over to a setup like that which Declan Kidney puts in place, if you are merely pulling the strings behind the scenes to satisfy political requirements. If things remain the same then we’ll get the same results as we have done for the last four years. Once and for all give a coach or manager, (whichever term you prefer) his head and let him do what has to be done.


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