Girvan Dempsey secure at the heart of Bath overhaul
Club are enduring a poor season in the Premiership but change as afoot at The Rec
Girvan Dempsey has said his position at Bath is secure as the club prepare a coaching overhaul. Photograph: Bob Bradford/Getty
Girvan Dempsey took the career coach’s plunge. Moving away from boyhood environs, where he served as resident Leinster fullback, straddling amateur to professional days, accumulating 198 appearances and 82 Ireland caps, before the age of Rob Kearney (sprinkled with Isa Nacewa) organically washed over the eastern province.
Post playing, in 2010, Dempsey was directed towards the Academy, graduating to attack coach until Stuart Lancaster arrived to realign a stagnated system. Everyone earned a piece of last summer’s Champions Cup, captured in Bilbao, but this 43-year-old had already decided to wade into choppy waters.
Change is coming to Bath but Dempsey will remain a central figure. He compares recent moves by the dormant English giants to Leinster promoting Leo Cullen as former club captain Stuart Hooper replaces current director of rugby Todd Blackadder in the summer of 2020 (results may accelerate this date).
Other assistants on the Blackadder docket, Toby Booth and Darren Edwards, depart at season’s end but Dempsey’s position, he informed The Irish Times ahead of Leinster’s visit to The Rec on Saturday, is secure.
“I’m 100 per cent clear on my contract length but also my role and where we see the club going,” said Dempsey. “There was an open letter from Tarquin McDonald, the CEO, to both the fans and general public a while ago, which laid it all out. I think everyone is clear what direction the club is going, which is important, as in the past that was always cited as an issue - there wasn’t enough clarity in terms of direction, in terms of roles and responsibility but I am 100% clear of what I’ve been charged with and the opportunity in the future for me within this club.”
Dempsey retains his right to keep the length of the contract private.
“That’s the reason why I wanted my family over here,” he continued. “I wanted to immerse myself in the club and give everything and try to help the club grow and be successful within the Premiership but also within Europe.”
Such a vision remains shrouded by mediocrity. Bath lie sixth in the Premiership with three wins from nine games and following Sunday’s 7-7 home draw with relegation favourites Sale, Blackadder stated: “I think we’re letting our supporters down with the way we’re playing at the moment. We’re letting ourselves down, more importantly. We’re not playing the kind of rugby we want to play.”
Lancaster’s impact in Dublin is cited as a motivational tool to re-shape Bath.
“I was surprised about how open and honest Stuart was about his own experiences. He was very willing to share what he didn’t get right [as England coach].
“He was hugely invested in [LEINSTER], similar to what I am trying to do here. He’s fully immersed himself - I know his family didn’t move over - but he got involved in the academy and schools coaches, he ran clinics. There was huge interest in improving the club and not just a narrow focus on the senior team.”
Dempsey preaches Leinster levels of potential in Bath’s future.
“I look back to where Leinster were three years ago and I see a lot of similarities with where this club is now. I’m massively excited about that.”
Leinster and Bath, presumably, present significant structural differences?
“There is and there isn’t,” Dempsey responds. “Bath have links to a school here and there are a lot of feeder regions, clubs and schools within the area, but a real ambition of ours from top to bottom - CEO, coaching staff right down to the academy - is to try and grow our own talent.
“Ideally that is the plan, that is the hope.
“I think it’s really important to have people like Stuart Hooper involved, who know the fabric of the club. I think he is the lifeblood of the club. Similar to Leo Cullen in Leinster.”
The repeated comparison crashes against multiple barriers but mainly the threat of financial oblivion caused by relegation and how that links directly to the constant flogging of English club players.
“I think [Ireland]is the ideal model. The structure of the way the clubs are owed in the Premiership and structure of the competition is massively challenging. I know there is conversations behind the scenes how to improve it and change the model, which will be important. . .We are playing week-in week-out all the way through the season, which does take its toll.”
Next comes the European champions in search of salvation following the October defeat to Toulouse.
Blitzkrieg to trump insider knowledge.