Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Mind over matter for Declan in bid to turn it around

DECLAN Kidney didn't look into his heart when he opted to overlook Ronan O'Gara and plump for Paddy Jackson to help dig Ireland out of a championship crevice in Murrayfield this Sunday. He looked into his mind.

He saw not an uncapped out-half, the youngest prospective championship debutant at 10 since Mick Quinn against France 40 years ago, nor the freewheelin' kid whose viral videos rival those of Simon Zebo.

Instead, when the 53-year-old coach looked into the eyes of the 21-year-old player, he might as well have been looking at a mirror image, for here was someone who paraded an attribute that so aptly represents Kidney's mindset.

"He's dealt with adversity," relates a steely-eyed Kidney, averring specifically to last season's Heineken Cup final meltdown.

"It's the first thing you have to learn. Out-halves get all the blame or all the glory. And you never deserve either.

"You're doing your job, that's how I see the role of the out-half. That's something that was given to me a long time ago and something that I've lived on ever since in terms of that position more than any other one.

"And he's coped with that adversity. It's the first thing an out-half has to do. I've seen Jonny Sexton have to do it and Ronan O'Gara have to do it. David Humphreys had to do it."

Kidney himself had to do it. In certain quarters of Cork, he is still – incorrectly – blamed for tossing away the 1977 Schools Senior Cup final while playing for Pres against fierce rivals Christians.

At one stage in the piece, Kidney, playing at out-half, attempted to relieve pressure by taking a quick throw near his own line. He was swallowed by voracious cover and the opposition scored.

It wasn't a defining moment in the game, but for many it was a defining moment for the player. "If Paddy just goes out and does his job it will be up to the other 14 to do their jobs around him more than anything else," says Kidney, attempting to avert the pressure from just one man.

"That would be my wish for him, just go out and back himself. I talk a lot about them being themselves when they're out on the pitch and that's what I mean by it, that he just goes out and does what he does and enjoys himself."

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