Ireland Second Rows in 2016 – The Post-Paul O’Connell Era

toner-ryan_new-zealand

Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner celebrate Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks in Chicago. They’re neither the most complementary second row partnership that Ireland have fielded in the professional era, nor the most individually talented locks, but they’ve succeeded where more illustrious pairings have failed.

Given the number of headlines sent to print and the variety of plaudits doled out for Ireland’s performances in November, it has been telling that very few of those made a hero of Devin Toner, one of only two Irish players to have gone the full 80 minutes in the three games against Southern Hemisphere opposition.  Continue reading

Ruck Marks: England vs Ireland 2014

Conor Murray and Andrew Trimble make an effective last ditch tackle on England Wing Johnny May to prevent a certain try early in the game.

Conor Murray and Andrew Trimble make an effective last ditch tackle on England wing Johnny May to prevent a certain try early in the game [photo copyright – Mark Pain].

Narrow margins! England versus Ireland was a high intensity game, and a different standard to the rest of the championship thus far. English coach Stuart Lancaster isn’t given to exaggeration, and his description of the game as “a real test match” was both accurate and, in its way, laudatory. The action was genuinely high-paced for much of the 80 minutes, and with that came individual errors from a lot of players on both sides of the pitch. Unrelentingly high impact collisions from gun to tape will do that to you. Continue reading

The Gospel of Saint Joe

A letter from Joe to the Scots (Book of Schmidt II.1)

A letter from Joe to the Scots (Book of Schmidt II.1)

The road to being canonised in the Catholic faith goes through Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed before arriving at Saint. Two miracles must have been performed through the Saint’s intercession. Continue reading

Ruck Marks – Ireland’s Autumn Series

Paul O'Connell's expression says it all. Ireland were seconds away from a first win over New Zealand in history, but it was snatched out of their hands.

Paul O’Connell’s expression says it all. Ireland were seconds away from a first win over New Zealand in the history of games between the two countries, but it was snatched out of their hands.

Amidst no small dollop of carping and moaning about what a pain in the arse it was, we mentioned at the end of the last Ruck Marks article that we’d try and run a similar exercise using Ireland’s November tests as our subjects. We surprised ourselves by actually carrying this through [just like we carried through our tag index … all the way up to ‘D’] with a Boxeresque appetite for dumb labour. Continue reading

The Dying Days Of The Diddymen

The Leinster second-string backline head out to training. They’re very keen on playing on tightly-mown surfaces, both so that their flashy skills and quick feet are in evidence and so that they can actually see each other. It’d be like patrolling in Vietnam if they had to play in a meadow. Because they’re all midgets, y’see?

There’s nothing inherently noble or right about having a small backline, rather than one composed of enormous, planet-boshing mutants. When old-timers quote the gospel that rugby is a sport for all shapes and sizes, they conveniently forget that a good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un.  Continue reading

Joe Duffy On Speed-dial

“It’s nothing short of a disgrace, Joe. A disgrace!”

The Irish radio-listening public can be pretty quick to call Joe on 1850 715 815 [“eighteen fifty, seven-one-five, eight-one-five”] and let rip on Whine Line about how most things in Ireland are “a disgrace” or “nothing short of a disgrace”; he might have had a few extra callers this week.  Continue reading

Corporate Governance

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with quarterback Tom Brady. Tom Terrific knows a thing or two about keeping an even keel when times are good … and maintaining it when they’re not so good as well.

As Tom Brady has said many times, don’t get too up when you’re up or too down when you’re down. The New England Patriots quarterback knows all about winning and losing – he’s got three Super Bowl rings, but has recently been on the end of two losses in the NFL’s biggest game.  Continue reading