Opinion: '09 will never be forgotten, but it's about time we moved on

The sacking of Declan Kidney paves the way for the IRFU to restructure its coaching hierarchy.

We'll remember the good times, Deccie.
We'll remember the good times, Deccie.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

THERE IT IS, the news we all expected.

In truth, the only question left open for discussion was when, not if. And the IRFU emphatically ticked that box before 4pm today.

We hope Ireland’s most decorated coach is well away from these shores; perhaps enjoying some warmer climes before returning to fill a role with UCC. But if he was foolish enough to go online, we hope he was pleasantly surprised by the grateful sentiment the majority offered.

When all is said and done, a coach is judged on his medals and Kidney has them all. Despite the inexorable slide that has happened since, Ireland is still in love with the events of March 21, 2009.

So it’s good news from the Union that this was indeed a sacking, and that the 53-year-old will not be asked to suffer the indignity of playing the lame duck on a thankless tour to North America.

Instead, his back-room trio of Les Kiss, Anthony Foley and Gert Smal will remain at their posts for the duration of their contracts.

While at least one of these men will be hoping to use the Tests as a proving ground for their credentials for the top job, it seems the Union’s head has already been turned. As usual, the bookies were the first to send a ripple through the water this morning when Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie’s odds on being our next permanent coach were slashed to 1/2.

Having won the Heineken Cup in 2008, Kidney’s seat was kept warm by Michael Bradley after Eddie O’Sullivan’s exit. So the IRFU will have no qualms about repeating history whether or not a new man (such as McKenzie) is available at the time.

The important thing for the future running of Ireland’s senior squad is that the new position of Professional Game Director (a director of rugby to us mere laymen) is installed before the new head coach.

Should the reverse happen, it’s all too easy to imagine a falling out.

The Super XV season will not end until August so there is a clear window to install a director who will take the steer Irish Rugby forward,  away from the committees and through a World Cup cycle with a coach’s remit stopping at a World Cup exit. Not before.

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Tough to palate

And if the prospect of another southern hemisphere coach is too tough to palate for some, then the director’s role could also be a useful bridge to the argument.

It’s this job, not a coaching role, that might be able to tempt Conor O’Shea away from his successful stint at Harlequins. Highly thought of by both the RFU and Great Britain’s Olympic committee, the former international fullback has proven himself adept at elite-level organisation and the decision makers at Lansdowne Road should be bending over backwards to entice him home.

The search has already begun, but the questions remain over two vacant positions and we will continue to enjoy and endure argument and speculation over every last candidate.

But we should also take some time to think of Kidney, the man who delivered a Grand Slam and deflected the plaudits away. The man who, despite undoubted spells of stubborn selection policy, placed his trust in the youthful Rob Kearney, Cian Healy, Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton, Peter O’Mahony and, latterly, Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall.

Whoever Kidney’s successor will be, he’ll be taking over a squad with the foundations already laid.

Highs and lows: 11 games that defined Declan Kidney’s Ireland

In pictures: Declan Kidney’s tenure as Ireland coach

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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