Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Irish can bounce back in style

The noises coming from France this week have been positive - but then again we've heard all that before.



Namibia had to be one of the worst performances from an Irish side in decades.

There was nothing to praise at all during an error-ridden 80 minutes against one of the also-rans of world rugby.

Praise to Namibia all the same. They played the shirts off their backs and in the process won the hearts and minds of the crowd with two cracking tries.

Ireland, meanwhile, struggled to create anything that would bring applause never mind a cheer.

The writing was on the wall after the woeful performance against Italy at Ravenhill but few, if any of us, chose to recognise that fact.

Perhaps the only good thing that came out of the win over Namibia is that expectation levels have been lowered.

No, that's not true. They have plummeted.

Ireland now go into tonight's game against Georgia with everyone hoping they can turn it around and give us a performance to breathe new life back into our World Cup campaign.

I think Ireland will do that. In fact I believe they will hammer Georgia.

The reason I think that is because they must have been given some ear-bashing from Eddie O'Sullivan and the rest of the back room staff.

Eddie has just pocketed a new four year-deal but even with that he must have given them all a severe tongue-lashing.

I think Ireland will respond.

Let's face it, Ireland aren't a bad rugby team they just had a bad day, a very bad day.

Whilst I think we will hammer Georgia, I do worry about Ireland's forthcoming tasks.

I am concerned about having to face the French in Paris and then Argentina a week later.

The return of Shane Horgan will give Ireland several options but you wonder about his fitness levels after being out for the past few weeks.

Next week France and then the impressive Argentina are the key games.

There is one thing I would like to know. I have many rugby friends but no one so far has been able to answer me this question.

Argentina are fourth in the world and yet you get the impression they have gate-crashed the party in France.

How come Argentina appear to be the outcasts of the game? The Tri Nations don't want them nor does the Six Nations and yet apart from New Zealand they have been the team to watch in this competition.

I don't want Argentina to beat us and yet there is a part of me which would love to see them make real progress so their case for 'formal' recognition on the global rugby administrative stage could no longer be ignored.

Anyway good luck Ireland. Tough luck Georgia. Bring on the French.

No border when it comes to Euro woe

It looks as if the dream of European glory is fast slipping away from Northern Ireland and the Republic.

In fact Steve Staunton's side have no chance.

They have gone and the manager will soon follow if you listen to all the pundits in the South.

Some of the 'experts' in the Republic, though, should realise one thing before they rush to judge Staunton.

The former captain has done all right in recent months with what is a very ordinary side.

There isn't a single world-class outfield player in that squad. Goalkeeper Shay Given is the only player who might make into that elite department, but that's it.

Before everyone throws Staunton out they should take a look at that.

There have been calls to get some top-class foreign manager involved.

They tried that last time but could only come up with Bobby Robson.

I can hardly see a queue to FAI headquarters.

Northern Ireland on the other hand even after the defeats in Latvia and Iceland look to be the better long-term bet.

They are younger and fresher and in David Healy they have a proven goalscorer.

When you have that, you can go places.

That probably won't be to the European championships but even if Northern Ireland could hold on to third spot in the group that would be some achievement. It would set us up nicely for the draw for the World Cup and would help no end in the seedings.

I am gutted that Northern Ireland didn't get something from their travels.

Nigel Worthington has come in but things so far haven't worked out.

A dismal display against Latvia, unlucky against Iceland and than all the wrong headlines with the problems on the plane home.

After all that, knowing us, we'll probably beat Sweden!

Morgan's men might just un-Cork a surprise

The All Ireland final beckons tomorrow and you wonder will it turn into a parochial event or something that will live long in the memory.

Perhaps now I know how some people felt when Armagh and Tyrone made the All Ireland final back in 2003.

You sensed there was little interest way down in Munster for that little affair.

This year it's the same for me.

Kerry v Cork isn't a game to get the pulses racing.

I don't have much to say about either manager except that it's hard to choose which you would prefer not to have to dinner some evening. Pat O Shea will hardly light up the front room while Billy Morgan is a well-balanced man. He has a chip on either shoulder.

This all-Munster affair hasn't really caught the imagination up here because both sides haven't had the hardest run to the All Ireland final.

Out of the two, Cork have had the most difficult.

Apart from Cork in Munster and a scare against Monaghan it has been a breeze for Kerry.

And now here they are on the threshold of immortality. Or so we are told.

We are told if they win tomorrow Kerry can be ranked among the great Kerry teams of the past. I disagree.



You have often heard me talk about the Northern factor.

In this decade let's be straight. When Kerry were at their best and Armagh and Tyrone were at their best Kerry were third of the three.

When it mattered most in the All Ireland final of 2002 against Armagh they were second best.

When it counted in the All Ireland semi final of 2003 and the All Ireland final of 2005 they were second best to Tyrone.

Yes, they have won the title many times in this decade but some of the wins have been facile to say the least.

Last year's win against Mayo was awful. Kerry played in harder training sessions than the woeful effort served up that day.



Kerry are raging hot favourites to win tomorrow - even I accept that. But I have a sneaking feeling for Cork. They have a team of men willing to stand up and be counted and can win by a couple of points.

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