Kidney about to lose staunch supporter

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.


About Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning has been involved in rugby all of his life as a player, coach and journalist. He has been rugby correspondent on the Sunday Independent since 1996, and has been reporting on the game since the mid 1980s when he stopped playing with Clontarf. In 2007 his book From There to Here, a definitive account of Ireland’s transition from amateur to professional rugby, was published to critical acclaim.
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20 Responses to Kidney about to lose staunch supporter

  1. Ben M says:

    Jesus Brendan, is there anyone you do like in Irish Rugby? You have a go at fellow rugby writers, online fans, the national coach, the IRFU Media Depatrment. Let’s face it if the IRFU ‘spin’ something you will call it ‘spin’ and if they are honest about something you will call it ‘spin’. You’re setting your stall out that you want Kidney fired. Nice approach!

  2. James says:

    Well done on breaking the news to the world Brendan


  3. RADGE FAN says:

    Aren’t we just lucky we have you and the Sindo to keep us all in the know!


    Couldn’t face into reporting on another Leinster School’s Cup – and who could blame him?

  4. molloyjh says:

    It would be great to see the rugby journos in the mainstream media actually reflect what most of us are thinking and saying on a regular basis. I’ve been getting very tired of the Kidney love-ins…

  5. DaveJ says:

    More of this type of frank and honest journalism. Have people forgotten all of the recent systematic losses to NZ, France, Wales & England in games we should or could have won? (except NZ) Kidney is not a coach of the modern game under the ELV’s. Since then he has failed. He cannot get any better out of the team, he cannot motivate 2 performances in a row and he needs to go in order for us to progress. Irish rugby has been going backwards since 2009, a year that we were very very lucky to win a grand slam (pre ELV). The more spoken out about and against Kidney the better as the IRFU seem to be completely oblivious through the view of their rose tinted glasses. Yes he won a few H’cups, but he has run our national team into the ground with reckless decision making both tactical and selection and all round lack of people motivation.

  6. Ronan says:

    I can only assume “the explosion in numbers of loonies online” writing about rugby includes yourself. If anything, rugby pieces online largely reflect the staid old print pool opinions. It is a pointless exersize writing about modern rugby post ELV unless you have insider information/insight via friendship of players, coaching, executive or grassroots involvement.

    Declan Kidney remains because the blazers want him there to ensure the new IRFU changes are adopted in full throughout the organisation and in all branches. As soon as this is complete, they will send him packing. The real challenge for the IRFU is to attract the calibre of coach required to deliver consistently good performances.

    • DaveJ says:

      So Ronan, let me ask you… how can you talk about “internal changes” unless YOU have “insider information/insight via friendship of players, coaching, executive or grassroots involvement??”

      I have every right to talk about the ELVs as they are public knowledge, I understand then, I play the game under them and it would take an absolute idiot not to notice how they have changed the game and how teams like NZ, OZ, Wales and France have adopted but unfortunately not us. Its a much faster game nowadays focussed around offloading, continuity and cutting out ruck time…some things we aren’t doing well. All blacks killed us my offloading in the 60-0 game, I also remember seeing a stat in one of this games that Ireland had zero offloads….in the WHOLE GAME!!

      Also on the motivational piece, again it’s takes an idiot not to see the problem there, when is the last time you have seen 2 passionate irish performances in a row? so in fact I don’t need any “inside information” to talk about things that are blatantly obvious.

      • DaveJ says:

        That is meant to say “IRFU Changes”

      • Ronan says:

        DaveJ I was refering to Brendans article originally, not your comment. I didn’t say people couldn’t comment on rugby post ELV, I suggested their opinion would be worthless without regular insider information/insight via friendship of players, coaching, executive or grassroots involvement. I happen to have that insight which makes it easier understanding decisions by branches, unions, coaches and players. Financial troubles throughout SANZAR means the lag time to adjust to Paddy O’Briens personal ELV’s will shorten, making the unfair advantage over the Nortern Hemisphere less effective. The difficulty for Irish provinces is competing financially with English and French teams as they soak up the best of the exodus from SANZAR

  7. bobbers says:

    Good piece Brendan.

  8. I find this article fascinating, and sort of depressing. Is Irish rugby so political (and maybe, so small?) that only those with entrenched viewpoints can get ahead in the media? Whatever happened to the noble art of calling it as you see it, rather than basing ones writings on who taught you in school, and sticking rigidly to them no matter the evidence in front of you.

    I change my mind when the facts change. What do you do, sir?

  9. Brian T says:

    “Having the IT as his only safe-house will make it harder for him to sleep at night.”
    I’m sure it will Brendan.

  10. Harry says:

    Best of luck to Hugh, hopefully he will go to a paper where is doesn’t have to dumb down his writing to cater for the gombeen South County Dublin readership of the Indo.

    • I really, really don’t think Hugh’s articles were catering for the South Dublin readership before or after editing. They were Munster-centric to the point where you’d wonder if he knew the game was even played outside the province. Ridiculous comment.

      • Radge Fan says:

        I think the point he was trying to make (and I would agree with) is that Hugh decided he had no wish to dumb down his articles to appeal to the South Dublin internet warriors which Brendan would only love to do. Have you ever read any of the comments at the end of Hugh’s articles?

  11. Yes, Radge Fan, I have read the comments, and I am entirely sympathetic towards those frustrated by the ridiculously one-eyed and pre-conceived opinions of a journamist writing for a national newspaper.

    Hugh cut an increasingly frazzled and daft figure towards the end. At times he was stretching the facts to breaking point to suit his agenda. His stance that Kidney had to work in a system that was apparently set up to work against him was beyond ridiculous.

  12. JR says:

    Ironic that your criticisms of Thornley mirror your own behaviour in support of O’Sullivan. Self-righteous and arrogant drivel flows easily from you typewriter Mr Fanning.

  13. JR says:

    ..your typewriter..

  14. Darren Whitty says:

    You are the most unreasonable idiotic hack to ever touch a keyboard Irish Rugby has made great lengths in recent years and Kidney has been the first coach to deliver a grandslam in over 60 years! Its unbelievable that foolish “Dunphy-esqe” writers like you want to make your name attacking ppl or institutions that are far greater and grander than you or your newspaper! You are a fanatic in terms of your trying to be controversial like Eamon Dunphy! And you can’t reason with a fanatic! The trouble with Munster was also a hate filled attack on the daddy of Irish rugby in which you should have been ashamed to have concocted and the independent should have been ashamed to have printed! Neither of you have the decency or comprehension of modern rugby! Rugby supporters are genuine and treat each other with respect you and the independent are neither you are an information source for yobbos or would be rugby hooligans you have no class or pedigree! You are a joke to your profession and the sport you profess to love!

  15. Gavo says:

    Stephen Jones of the sunday times once described Brendan Fanning thus: I had the misfortune of spending a car journey in the company of a cerytain irish hack…just because you’ve played for a minor sunday leaugue side doesn’t necessarily qualify one as a serious rugby writer. as this imaginitively limited individual seemed to believe….

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