Leinster can rediscover the mongrel dog within and rise again
From that day the mongrel dog has stayed with Leinster – until Clermont came to Lansdowne Road.
I am not suggesting Leinster were unmotivated, that would be an oversimplification. Leinster are true champions and were brave but Clermont’s desperation to win was greater.
After last season I thought Leinster were on course for a dynasty of championships but success can make you weak. Like a thief in the night, winning can steal away your inner drive, that crucial edge.
The contentment that winning brings can eat into your subconscious and place dangerous emotions into your mind. Emotions like accomplishment, contentment and fulfilment. These throw food to the snarling mongrel dog of your motivation and turn it into a well-fed lap dog.
In the words of Marcel Proust: “Happiness is beneficial for the body, but grief powers the mind”. Happiness has not been good for Leinster’s mindset.
Crash and burn
Bill Walsh, legendary NFL coach of the San Francisco 49ers, won five Superbowl championships. In the NFL Walsh observed “that individuals who prevail in a highly competitive environment have one thing in common besides success, it is failure and their ability to overcome it. Crash and burn is part of it, so is recovery and reward.”
Bill Walsh’s 49ers of the 1980s won a sequence of Superbowls. Then, like Leinster, they lost. It took time but the 49ers rediscovered the mongrel dog within and they once again recorded Superbowl victories.
For Leinster, this Heineken Cup season is over. Yet I believe Leinster still have what it takes to recover and win in Europe. They have massive talent across the entire organisation. Joe Schmidt took over a hungry and driven Leinster and they have won championships that have etched their names into Irish rugby history.
Joe’s task now is, after achieving so highly, can he do what Bill Walsh did with the 49ers and lead Leinster to rediscover the motivational hunger necessary to win the Heineken Cup again? This is a brilliant challenge for a top coach like Joe.
Gene Tunney, the Irish-American former heavy weight boxing champion, said, “champions get up when they can’t.” I know a lot of champions in the Leinster team and there are still a few old mongrel dogs in D4 that right now are hurting and licking their wounds. I would not dismiss Leinster from winning next season’s Heineken Cup just yet.