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Thornley on a Tuesday - 18 Dec 07

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    Thornley on a Tuesday - 18 Dec 07

    <H1>As much as it sucks, it's cravats off to Les Bleus</H1>





    Gerry Thornley On Rugby Twenty four hours on and it doesn't get any better. A win away to Wales in the bank, four points up on France at home with two and a half minutes to go, England coming to Croke Park in a fortnight's time with the great man back in harness - opportunity knocked.


    That's what makes it so hard to take, and if we're feeling like that, one can only imagine how the players felt as the reality of the missed opportunity gnawed at them on Sunday night. One's sympathy for them was only accentuated by the manner they dragged themselves into the game and ultimately even gained some ascendancy over an initially dominant force both on the pitch and the scoreboard. For sheer effort once again you couldn't fault them.


    Had the final whistle sounded with 78 minutes gone there would even have been an argument for saying Ireland deserved to win. Following another of their curiously sluggish, standoffish starts, when they showed too much respect to France or were nervous about the sheer scale of a magnificent occasion or possibly were inhibited by Steve Walsh's comments post-Millennium Stadium, they smashed into blue shirts with the kind of physical intensity and irreverence one suspects England will experience in a fortnight.


    Without playing especially well, Ireland had taken the game to France - albeit from a long way out - and the controlled aggression of that 20-metre maul alone would have been a suitable winning effort.


    But put the shoe on the other foot for a second. Imagine Ireland had trailed 17-13 entering the last two and a half minutes at a raucous Stade de France on Sunday. Imagine Ronan O'Gara's hanging restart had provided a target just beyond the 10-metre line for the chasing pack, that Donncha O'Callaghan or Paul O'Connell had extended their left hand on the run as Jerome Thion did to deflect the ball infield, that Shane Horgan had latched on to it the way Yannick Jauzion had, that they launched Gordon D'Arcy on a good cutback line as David Marty had, that having explored the blindside O'Gara hit Denis Hickie in midfield from the recycle with a peach of a pass and he cut through the French defence to score beside the posts. Would we be mentioning, much less bemoaning, the bounce of the ball?


    We would have hailed it as a brilliant, nerveless and winning endgame, and rightly so. You can go a long way to making your own bounce of the ball, as Lionel Beauxis, Thion and Jauzion did for that restart play, and for manufacturing that try France deserved their win. It sucks, but cravats off to them.


    In the cold light of day, the Irish players also know that had they secured the restart, or had they had not drifted so hard with the numbers there to support John Hayes, they'd have won.


    It also has to be said that - handling the ball much better overall - France played the more purposeful rugby for much of the first half and on the run of play deserved to be more than two points ahead at half-time. Ireland, for all their bravery and willingness to take on France both closer in and through the middle (though again not too often out wide), never threatened their line as much in the second period.


    France's scrum was the more aggressive, their lineout had more attacking variety and they counter-attacked better; their willingness to take quick throws being the launch pad for 10 of their points. Nor did their running threat ever go away, and for Ireland to keep them scoreless for 66 minutes (helped by Geordan Murphy's brilliant cut-out defensive play, two missed penalties by David Skrela and a Beauxis drop goal off the upright) was a monumental effort.


    For sure Ireland haven't quite scal
    New infraction avoidance policy: a post may be described as imbecilic, but its author should never be described as an imbecile.

    #2


    Ward in Indo is right about the drico injury being fatal but not exactly in the way he thought. Of course BOD's talent will boost any team but much more than that his presence would have prevented EOS from making the huge selection error of Horgan at 12. That would have been enough to win the match IMO. Chance gone!





    RUGBY has long prided itself as being the ultimate team game, catering for all shapes and sizes.


    The term 'one-man band' is alien to the very ethos of the sport, 'there's no I in team' and all that. Far be it for me to suggest therefore, that this Ireland side - arguably the best ever assembled - is a one-man show.


    There are far too many talented players on this side to make the team entirely reliant on one individual for success.


    However, in terms of influence, there is no escaping the fact that, with Brian O'Driscoll on board, a good Irish side is transformed into a very good Irish side.


    Make no mistake, Brian O'Driscoll is more important to Eddie O'Sullivan than Roy Keane ever was to Jack Charlton, Mick McCarthy or Brian Kerr.


    I have noted a number of commentators dismiss the notion that, had O'Driscoll played on Sunday, Ireland would have won a game they narrowly lost.


    What Irish team have these people been watching over the past eight years?


    Would we have won on Sunday with our most gifted player, of this or any other generation, centre stage?


    Yes, is the short answer.


    His ability to create and finish tries is what grabs the headlines but that is merely a fraction of what the Irish talisman brings to the side.


    Indeed, it is the defensive qualities we miss more than anything when O'Driscoll is unavailable.


    He also brings the best out of those around him. Gordon D'Arcy and Shane Horgan gave it their best shot on Sunday as a makeshift centre combination but the void without O'Driscoll at the heart is frightening. What we saw at Croke Park was the bitter disappointment of a defeat just when bloody-mindedness and guts appeared to have got us over the line.


    When a team gives its all, no coach can ask for more. In that respect, the visibly disappointed O'Sullivan was upfront and honest in his assessment. He knows the better team, playing the better rugby over the 80-plus minutes, eventually eked out the victory they should have sealed long before.


    The rugby the French produced in the opening 25 to 35 minutes should have seen them out of sight. Had Vincent Clerc not made the most of that last-minute mismatch on John Hayes then Bernard Laporte's side would have had only themselves to blame for their demise.


    Is was blatantly obvious that the entire dynamic in attack and defence altered in O'Driscoll's absence.


    Peter Stringer was also missed. The Munster man's greatest quality is the speed with which he delivers the ball to the Irish backs.


    Isaac Boss did all that was asked of him but can't compete with Stringer in terms of the pace of his passing.


    His is a breaking game, with his second-half role in physically taking on the French key to Ireland's recovery.


    O'Driscoll and Stringer will be picked to face the English, if available, with Horgan shifting to his best position on the wing and Geordan Murphy losing out.


    In unit terms, the line-out is still not operating anywhere near the levels it is capable of.


    For whatever reason, Donncha O'Callaghan and Paul O'Connell are both performing below par. A situation that further exacerbates the O'Driscoll absence.


    Most teams function on the basis that forwards dig out the gain-line momentum but, when it is not happening up front, Ireland can turn to O'Driscoll and D'Arcy to spark go-forward movement behind.


    It is a role reversal unique to the brilliant Irish pair.


    On Sunday, the on-fire D'Arcy did his level best and he and David Wallace were Ireland's
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again (like picking Gordon D'Arcy) and expecting different results.
    Albert Einstein

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by Old Dog


      O'Sullivan responded: "Probably two to be honest. One would be the start of the game, not starting the game on the back foot and let the opposition come at us and then have to absorb all that pressure and then try to get into the game. Part of it is getting off the defensive line earlier in the game and throwing down a marker defensively and not sitting back and waiting to see what they do; just getting off our line and knocking people over.


      "Once we do that our game seems to tick pretty well. We need to do that earlier in the game and probably an aspect of our game that we tend not to get right is our starting 10-15 minutes. We tend to give the opposition a better start than us and then we've got to start the engine 15 minutes into the game and let it pick up."


      This is why Niall Best should start. This is what he does.
      The only difference between me and a madman is that I'm not mad.
      - Salvador Dali (1904-1989)

      Comment


        #4



        <H1>New Boys in Green did us all so proud</H1>





        Gerry Thornley On Rugby : A day or two on and the feelgood factor, the smiling, even the feeling of buoyancy, won't go away. In this business we can be more prone than most to hyperbole, but Saturday, February 24th, 2007 will go down in Irish sporting folklore and Irish rugby history as one of the landmark days.


        To have played like they did, to have delivered a victory like that, Ireland owes 22 rugby players and their management staff quite a thank you.


        In truth, putting the game and the occasion in context, never mind doing it justice in mere words, is still quite a task. Nothing concentrates the mind like fear, be it fear of disaster, fear of embarrassment, fear of defeat, all the more so if it's at home in the greatest Irish sporting citadel and, of course, to the team not only Ireland like beating most.


        And the fear, provoked in part by radio phone-ins, sections of the media, website blogs and wherever, reached a palpable, nervy peak in the eerily quiet build-up to England's entrance and, it seemed, the interminable delay prior to the playing of God Save The Queen .


        The response then, the singing of Amhrán na bhFiannn and Ireland's Call , had to be experienced to believed. It all undoubtedly had echoes of 1973 and the warmth afforded John Pullin's England team for not following the regrettable lead of Scotland and Wales the year before. The pre-match pageantry, be it the anthems, Kiwi tribal dances or whatever, rarely scales such emotional heights. For everyone present, be they Irish, English or from elsewhere, it really was a privilege to be there. One English writer has likened it to South Africa's winning of the World Cup in front of Nelson Mandela, Springbok shirt et al, in 1995 in Johannesburg.


        This was only a game, but of course it was more than that. It's rare indeed that a sporting occasion can make a nation feel as proud as it does in the aftermath of Saturday's 43-13 victory. Brent Pope had to field three separate radio interviews from New Zealand on the morning of the match. This journalist even had the bizarre experience of being interviewed by Radio Barcelona on Friday evening, to discuss the historical significance of this event in the context of Anglo-Irish relations.


        By kick-off it really did feel the world was watching, and not just for the rugby. In any event, the whole of Ireland appears to have been [* with the exception of Tom "I hate rugby" Humphreys of course] Mike in Marios of Sandymount said the village was so deserted it resembled Tumbleweed Town, and likened it to Italia '90. Someone else who nipped down to a shopping centre at half-time said it was akin to Christmas Day. The phenomenal viewing figures confirm as much.


        The comparison with the exploits of the Republic of Ireland team circa 1990 are valid, for economists have since traced the birth of the Celtic Tiger to, amongst other things, their performances and achievements. It would appear that in the nation's eyes, rugby has assumed that role, for however long. Perhaps in part this is because the players, based at home, are truly of the people. Contrasting their media relations for one thing, they are certainly more accessible. Don't go changing boys.


        Occasionally begrudging losers, the magnanimous generosity of England's coach, team and supporters in defeat is worthy of mention, and the value of extending such a céad míle fáilte to our neighbours probably can't be measured in pounds or euros. English newspapers have been dripping with praise and one of countless entries on a BBC blog yesterday encapsulates the appreciation of their supporters.<
        New infraction avoidance policy: a post may be described as imbecilic, but its author should never be described as an imbecile.

        Comment


          #5


          13 March 2007
          <H1>Will the real Ireland team please stand up?</H1>





          Gerry Thornley On Rugby : So who are the real Ireland? That appears the abiding, most vexing question arising out of their fourth Six Nations game in Murrayfield last Saturday.


          Is it the Irish team that peaked at home to Australia last November and even more strikingly against England, or the team that once again failed to back up a big performance and their own expectations, never mind the media or public, next time out?


          Eddie O'Sullivan twice apportioned part of the blame to the Irish media for the "hoopla" they generated after the 43-13 win over England. Yet it was only in keeping with the public's perception of that performance and indeed their own satisfaction with that performance; as good, according to O'Sullivan, as any in his tenure.


          The Irish coach was more specifically referring to the media's perception that last Saturday in Murrayfield would be a walk in the park, but most of the media appeared to acknowledge that, being human, it would be well nigh impossible for Ireland to rescale those heights.


          What palpably disappointed the players and the massive Irish contingent in Murrayfield was the lack of accuracy and precision in their performance which, more than anything, undid much of their good work and gradually allowed Scotland into a game they had started reactively rather than proactively.


          Watching the tens of thousands descending on Murrayfield on Saturday in the fall-out from that unforgettable day against England at Croke Park, and bearing in mind the anticipated St Patrick's Day invasion of the Eternal City, prompted the question: are Ireland becoming the new Munster? If so, then one below-par performance will not change that, for it is founded in a belief that this team can credibly aspire to being Grand Slam/Six Nations and World Cup contenders. Perhaps some of us are over-rating them, but it's hard not to think of this Irish team in this light after the performances against Australia and England.


          The whole breakdown area, the way Ireland cleared the ball out, Scotland's deliberate slowing down of the ball and Dave Pearson's refereeing of that area, were a major contributory factor in Ireland's inability to create their high-tempo game.


          However, what makes Ireland's performance last Saturday all the more puzzling is that the relatively assured handling and highly skilled accuracy of their wins over Australia and England were in near torrential downpours and with the proverbial bar of soap. The scratchier and increasingly nervous effort against Scotland, and indeed against Wales, not to mention the nervous opening quarter against France, were all played in sun-kissed conditions. Go figure.


          It cannot be technical, given they demonstrated such high skills against Australia and England, so presumably it must be more a psychological or emotional problem. Of course, these Irish players, like all sportsmen and women, are human beings. They're not robots.


          Still, it was evident to at least one former Irish international that Irish emotions were not running so high before the kick-off in Murrayfield. He also made the point that rugby, especially at the top level, is about playing with controlled madness, but while there was control last Saturday, there wasn't enough madness.


          In large part this was because Ireland were away from home, and it is well nigh impossible to reproduce the emotional intensity that pertained prior to, and subsequent from, the kick-off in Croke Park two weeks before.


          Indeed, this applies equally to the Irish supporters and here a 1.30pm kick-off to accommodate the BBC's coverage of a Middlesbrough v Manchester United FA Cup tie doesn't h
          New infraction avoidance policy: a post may be described as imbecilic, but its author should never be described as an imbecile.

          Comment


            #6


            O D,


            Thornley ignores the most vexing issue of all - what ref do you get, whose glasses is he wearing (they all need 'em), and what law-book has he read/is reading (&amp; if you're Italian che ora é....).


            Pearson wasn't exactly applying the laws asI know them...... (but then again I wasn't reffing; nor was Dave at times it seemed.....).


            His analysis dips somewhat where he implies Leo or big Mal might be the missing link.....? Why not go the whole hog and call for Trevor? At least he has the passion.

            Comment


              #7
              How many line breaks did we make last Sat?

              15 I was told, and we didn't score 1 try from any of them.

              A damning statistic.

              My view is the forwards did ok, nothing more, but the backs failed to take advantage of a glut of territory and possession, and convert a host of chances.



              Comment


                #8


                Too true DG. We still kick the ball away far too much.


                My computer thinks I'm gay
                What's the difference anyway
                When all the people do all day
                Is stare into a phone

                Comment


                  #9

                  Originally posted by Dermot G
                  How many line breaks did we make last Sat?

                  15 I was told, and we didn't score 1 try from any of them.

                  A damning statistic.

                  My view is the forwards did ok, nothing more, but the backs failed to take advantage of a glut of territory and possession, and convert a host of chances.


                  We don't often score off first phase, there could be a host of reasons for us not scoring rather than the backs mucking up. Failure to supply quick ball for example, which is the sole responsibilty of the pack and Stringer. There were missed chances but it clearly wasn't a case of forwards good, backs bad.

                  Comment


                    #10

                    Who mentioned 1st phase?



                    Comment


                      #11
                      The fact of the matter is that if we played our full on,high tempo game, we would have destroyed Scot,who are even worse that the eng team we whitewashed a few weeks back...we never really attacked them out wide, where they give space and are weak......
                      Seas suas agus troid!

                      Comment


                        #12


                        As an examplewe hadfour absolutely terrible phases of attacking play.


                        In the first Horgan kicks away a ball he should be running back. Kicks it way too far and dosent follow it up. Scotland run it back 60 yards.


                        In the second Girve drops a pass from ROG for an almostcertain try.


                        For the third Dennis Hickie went for the corner when it was clear he wasnt going to make it. If he cut back inside we couldhave had a great chance.


                        In the fourth Horgan throws a disgraceful attempt at a pass to Hickie which ends up costing us a clear try scoring oppurtunity. Hickie went nuts.


                        My computer thinks I'm gay
                        What's the difference anyway
                        When all the people do all day
                        Is stare into a phone

                        Comment


                          #13

                          Originally posted by sewa

                          As an examplewe hadfour absolutely terrible phases of attacking play.


                          In the first Horgan kicks away a ball he should be running back. Kicks it way too far and dosent follow it up. Scotland run it back 60 yards.


                          In the second Girve drops a pass from ROG for an almostcertain try.


                          For the third Dennis Hickie went for the corner when it was clear he wasnt going to make it. If he cut back inside we couldhave had a great chance.


                          In the fourth Horgan throws a disgraceful attempt at a pass to Hickie which ends up costing us a clear try scoring oppurtunity. Hickie went nuts.

                          All Eddie O'Sulivans fault too, according to some.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by epaddy
                            Originally posted by sewa


                            As an examplewe hadfour absolutely terrible phases of attacking play.


                            In the first Horgan kicks away a ball he should be running back. Kicks it way too far and dosent follow it up. Scotland run it back 60 yards.


                            In the second Girve drops a pass from ROG for an almostcertain try.


                            For the third Dennis Hickie went for the corner when it was clear he wasnt going to make it. If he cut back inside we couldhave had a great chance.


                            In the fourth Horgan throws a disgraceful attempt at a pass to Hickie which ends up costing us a clear try scoring oppurtunity. Hickie went nuts.




                            All Eddie O'Sulivans fault too, according to some.

                            Correct EP. Eddie should have told Horgan before the game that passes need to go to hand. He obviously didn't bother so poor Shaggy didn't know what to do and through the ball on the floor. Poor coaching is always to blame when we lose.[img]smileys/lol.gif[/img]

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Horgan was poor, Eddie should have pulled him ashore on 60mins, THAT is poor team management and tactics.
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