I don’t remember a national coach being overly concerned about the shuffling of sun loungers on the media deck, but I suspect that’s about to change. Hugh Farrelly, Irish Indo rugby corr, is going overboard. As in disembarking. Going ashore.
The glam of every boy’s favourite job – sports hackery – is least appealing on the daily beat where it’s mostly about grinding out team news, harvesting quotes from barren fields. Hugh now sees himself as a well-sized hamster getting off that wheel, in search of a better quality of life. And that decision will have exactly the opposite effect on his former schools coach, Declan Kidney.
Even if the recent IRFU agm was significant for the studied avoidance of that mortifying night in Hamilton, the Ireland coach understands that he is far from being off the hook. Rather it is caught painfully under his collar. Hugh Farrelly was one of two hacks – Gerry Thornley in the Irish Times is the other – who Kidney could have relied on to take some of the weight off.
The reasons for this support are mixed. Farrelly goes back to Pres Cork with Kidney and has a high regard for him, while Thornley’s respect for the man was partly because of his excellent coaching record. The larger part I suspect was down to Gerry’s bottomless antipathy for Eddie O’Sullivan. He soldiered for seven long seasons getting the bum’s rush from O’Sullivan who delighted in treating the ‘rugby paper’ like a freesheet.
Between them, the Irish Indo and Irish Times would account for a good proportion of the rugby readers in this country. To have both rugby correspondents firmly in your camp was good business. With Kidney claiming defiantly at the end of the New Zealand tour that he knew how to fix the problems with his squad, it was going to be critical to have two channels always open to repeating this message. Eh, make that one.
I have no idea how the Indo will go about replacing Hugh – for sure I know they will find it harder than they think – but I’d be amazed if the new man isn’t given clear riding instructions about chasing down Kidney.
Already the coach is struggling with the Sunday market where I don’t think he has any believers now. The explosion in numbers of loonies online has meant that there are lots of sources now that might influence public thinking – so it’s not just about newspapers – but any coach with expectations of survival will first and foremost try and swim with the mainstream. Having the IT as his only safe-house will make it harder for him to sleep at night.
Neither can Kidney fall back on any media management skills to change people’s minds. He struggles desperately on this front. Typically the IRFU’s performance here is also poor, from nuts and bolts stuff to strategizing about getting the best possible spin for their message, so that avenue is also closed off.
That leaves the coach needing stellar results to save the day. No pressure then. And by the way, the best of luck to Huge in a new life less ordinary.