Here's how the last 8 Irish rugby coaches fared first time out

Declan Kidney and Eddie O’Sullivan had winning starts but Warren Gatland and Brian Ashton had afternoon’s to forget.

Eddie O'Sullivan and Warren Gatland attend an AIL match between St Mary's and Ballymena in 2000.
Eddie O'Sullivan and Warren Gatland attend an AIL match between St Mary's and Ballymena in 2000.
Image: INPHO/Patrick Bolger

JOE SCHMIDT TAKES charge of Ireland for the first time today with Samoan, ranked seventh in the world, in the firing line.

The former Clermont number two and Leinster head coach was the overwhelming favourite to succeed Declan Kidney as the Corkman failed to maintain the high standards he achieved in the Grand Slam year of 2009.

Schmidt travelled to North America this summer and took an observational role as Les Kiss ran the rugby show. Three wins from three November Tests may be a stretch but the Kiwi will be expected to beat two of the southern hemisphere visitors.

Here is how Schmidt’s predecessors fared in their first match in charge of Ireland:

Les Kiss — Ireland 15-12 USA [June 2013]

The interim coach travelled to North America without Irish players that were on Lions duty and without the injured Donnacha Ryan. Peter O’Mahony captained Ireland to a hard-fought victory over the US Eagles. Ian Madigan kicked all the points for the tourists.

YouTube credit: USA Rugby

Declan Kidney — Ireland 55-0 Canada [November 2008]

A rugby season that would bring Grand Slam success began with a rollicking win over Canada at Thomond Park [back when Test caps were awarded for playing away from the Aviva Stadium]. Stephen Ferris was named man-of-the-match. Tommyy Bowe grabbed two tries as did debutant Keith Earls. Nine of the matchday 22 are in the current Ireland squad. The coup-de-grace was Bowe’s second try, set up excellently here by Shane Horgan:

YouTube credit: docathail

Michael Bradley — Ireland 11-21 New Zealand [June 2008]

Kidney would take over following the summer tour to New Zealand and Australia but Bradley came so close to going down in folklore as the first Irish coach to beat the All Blacks. Paddy Wallace scored a first-half try and an O’Gara penalty on 43 minutes put the visitors 11 — 8 ahead.

imageJamie Heaslip and Ronan O’Gara congratulate Paddy Wallace (centre) on his try. INPHO/Billy Stickland

A Dan Carter break had Ireland back-pedaling and prop John Schwalger kept the play alive and passed inside for Ma’a Nonu to bounce and bundle over for the matchwinner. Ireland lost 18-12 to Australia the following weekend.

Eddie O’Sullivan — Ireland 54-10 Wales [February 2002]

The Guardian nailed it when they described O’Sullivan’s opener as Irish coach as ‘the stuff of dreams’. Having convinced the IRFU he could improve on Warren Gatland’s tenure [he was Gatland's assistant], the Cork native got off to a flyer.

imagePaul O’Connell celebrates his debut try at Lansdowne Road. INPHO/Billy Stickland

Geordan Murphy scored two tries, a young Paul O’Connell muscled over to dot down and out-half David Humphreys kicked 22 points. Lansdowne Road was rocking and an era of Triple Crown success had begun.

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Warren Gatland — Ireland 16-18 France [March 1998]

Gatland, who is now in charge of Wales, took over at Ireland after a home defeat to Scotland made Brian Ashton’s position untenable. Denis Hickie became the first Irishman to score a try away to France since 1980 but the visitors were left ruing a late try from hooker Raphael Ibanez after leading 16-13. The New York Times reported that the score gave France ‘a barely deserved victory’.

imagePeter Clohessy and Denis Hickie dejected at the final whistle as French players celebrate in the background. INPHO/Billy Stickland

Brian Ashton — Ireland 15-32 France [January 1997]

imageDavid Venditti celebrates with French fans in 1997. Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

‘No Merci for Ashton in Irish thriller’ declared The Mirror as the former Bath coach oversaw an Irish performance typical of the era — brave but guileless. Winger David Venditti ran in a hat-trick of tries, scrumhalf Fabien Galthie added another and the boot of Thomas Castaignede did the rest.

Murray Kidd — Ireland 44-8 Fiji [November 1995]

The former Garryowen and Sunday’s Well got off to a great start as his team ran in six tries, including scores from Wallace brothers Richard and Paul. Kidd’s reign was short-lived however and he stepped down after a home defeat to Italy in 1997.

imageJim Staples gets set to launch an aerial bomb. INPHO/Tom Honan

Gerry Murphy — Ireland 17-42 Australia [October 1992]

imageDavid Campese in action against Ireland. INPHO

The Wallaby’s winning streak over Ireland stretched to five as they ran in five tries at Lansdowne Road. David Campese and Tim Horan were among the tryscorers, as was current Australia coach Ewen McKenzie. Murphy, who took over from Ciarán Fitzgerald, last three years in the job but stepped down after the 1995 World Cup.

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McFadden reflects on Ireland’s crash landing under Kidney

About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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