High-achiever Joe Schmidt records another first
Kiwi becomes the only foreign rugby coach to claim Irish Sports Manager of the Year award
Philips Manager of the Year Joe Schmidt with his award following the ceremony at the Shelbourne Hotel: “It’s humbling because of the competition that is here today.”
Previous rugby winners include the late Mick Doyle, after the 1985 Triple Crown, Eddie O’Sullivan for the same achievement in 2004 and Declan Kidney on three occasions – following Munster’s European titles (2006, 2008) and when Ireland captured the Grand Slam in 2009.
Schmidt’s monthly award followed Ireland clinching the Six Nations championship in Paris on March 15th.
Living in Dublin since 2010, he was at pains to recognise the achievements of those the judging panel – compiled from eight media outlets – decided fell short of the standards set by the Ireland rugby team in 2014.
Nine victories from 10 Test matches saw Schmidt’s men rise to third in the world rankings.
“I just heard the dossiers of the men who came before me, some of them I’d know reasonably well,” said Schmidt. “Guys like [horse trainer] Aidan O’Brien, [Dublin manager] Jim Gavin, [former Ireland women’s rugby coach] Phil Doyle, [Leinster coach] Matt O’Connor. A lot of those guys have done a fantastic job.
“I remember talking to Aidan during the Six Nations and saying, ‘What have you got in the stable that is going to be outstanding?’ and he said ‘I think this Australia is pretty good.’ He did at least apologise for the name! But, wow, what a horse.
“I think he has achieved something special with the three Epsom derbies and backing it up with the Irish one as well. He has nailed the southern hemisphere as well with Adelaide, doing a great job.
“Some of the guys I knew less about, you would have respect for them now.
“I’ve been to a few of these and not been the recipient, I know in my first year after the Heineken final in Cardiff you didn’t need any award, you just needed the trophy, I think Trapattoni won it that year.
“The one thing you do know as a coach or a manager is you could be flavour of the month and out of a job the next.
“One thing I would say, and I genuinely mean, is it’s humbling because of the competition that is here today. And because I lead a backroom staff of incredibly top-class people.”
He made particular reference to Jason Cowman, Ireland’s strength and conditioning coach, and team doctor Éanna Falvey.
The “competition” genuinely was stronger than usual this year, with Paul McGinley captaining Europe to the Ryder Cup in September while last month Peter Taylor trained his daughter Katie to a fifth world title.
“I really felt at three-nil down that day we stayed in the fight really well. Conor Murray’s tackle on Johnny May. Our defence and some really good attack, we came so close to scoring in that first half.
“It was after that game that I really believed we could win the Six Nations.”
He added: “The other thing that gives me real confidence – and we will be looking at in December – is the quality of our squad. We won the Six Nations on a points differential of 10 points [+83 to England’s +73].
“In the last eight minutes against Italy we scored 19 points. All of those points were contributed to by the bench.”
He was referring to three late tries from Seán Cronin, Fergus McFadden and Jack McGrath allied by Paddy Jackson’s two conversions.
The small margins, as usual. nOther monthly winners were: Tom Mullally (Mount Leinster Rangers), Colin O’Reilly (UCC Demons), Brian Nugent (Cycling Ireland), Michael Bannon (coach to Rory McIlroy) and Stephen Kenny (Dundalk FC).