Gavin Cummiskey: Welsh ready as Irish fans descend on Cardiff

Communication a pivotal part of the game, though sometimes not with journalists

Penarth is home. A quiet village four train stops from the Millennium Stadium and sleepless Cardiff sounds.

Thanks to rigorous scoping on Airbnb back in July, the top floor of a Victorian house was cordoned off for this and next week. Thomas Hardy would approve of this cherished refuge far from the green brigade invading the Welsh capital in the coming days.

They journey from Paddington train station in London, Rosslare harbour, Dublin Airport and, most importantly, a picturesque golf resort high above Newport.

Looks can deceive though. Maybe it’s Celtic Manor’s 15-minute walk from team room to bedrooms. Maybe it’s the heavy pitch in Newport High School after training on a Wembley replica in St George’s Park before and the lush Surrey surrounds used by Harlequins.


Or maybe Simon Easterby's personality is incompatible with dictaphones. There is unforthcoming, then there is the Ireland forwards coach. His sarcastic remark about concussion in the week that Benjamin Robinson's parents spoke so passionately about their son's death from head trauma on RTÉ's Hidden Impact documentary felt ill-timed and unnecessary during yesterday's media gathering at the 2010 Ryder Cup venue.


The 40-year-old Welsh resident with 65 caps for Ireland was hardly asked an incendiary question: what's the difference in mentality between the Irish team you played on against France at the 2007 World Cup and the current group?

“It’s a long time ago, to be honest.”

Eight years. “Yeah, I think I’ve been hit on the head too many times to remember.”

We waited for elaboration or even retraction. None came.

The breakdown in communication between England coach Stuart Lancaster and captain Chris Robshaw against Wales, when the latter opted to kick to touch despite trailing by three points with three minutes to play, was also broached. The fallout from that continues to reverberate mainly because Lancaster disagreed with Robshaw after the game.

“We haven’t had any issues to date,” said Easterby. “We have clear lines of communication and they work. Hopefully we don’t have to speak of something like that post-game.”

What did Jared Payne do today, Simon? "He took full part." Took contact? "Yep, yep," Easterby added.


Maybe the Ireland camp would prefer we only ask about Cian Healy's birthday present (tea and scones, allegedly) or the TV series Devin Toner is watching ( Peaky Blinders). Both were, crucially, discovered by professional journalists.

Not much hanging about afterwards as there’s no work area in Celtic Manor’s five-star resort despite the known arrival of Irish, French and a few loose-ended English reporters.

Golf media experienced a similar cold shoulder five years ago. “Not in the same league as K Club or Carton House,” said a veteran scribe.

But this provided an opportunity. Realising we had an hour window until Uini Atonio – a New Zealand-born Samoan prop naturalised by France in 2014 – was providing English quotes, we mapped the 41km route to the Vale of Glamorgan hotel and gold spa resort (pitches onsite).

Simon Zebo declined a similar request by French journalists on Tuesday despite being “90 per cent fluent” so they will crave Joe Schmidt’s words on Friday.

Uini, a 24-stone impact replacement, had a solution to the residency rule that damages rugby. “I think they should change it a bit, that if you don’t play more than ten Tests for one country you can change countries, because a couple of guys are missing out on playing for the little countries like Samoa and Tonga because they’ve played one match or two matches for the All Blacks. I think it’s unfair for them.”

We agree before making a swift retreat to Penarth.

Of course, the World Cup has seeped into every Welsh nook and valley. The local cafe owner has erected a picture of herself and a glum Robshaw. An elderly man at the bus stop spies the accreditation and produces his Cardiff RFC membership card. He watches most games in the clubhouse shadowed by the Millennium.

Off to Twickenham Saturday night? “No, no. I’ll watch it with my son in the flat.”

Far from, as Thomas Gray inked, "the madding crowd's ignoble strife – their sober wishes never learn'd to stray; along the cool sequester'd vale of life. They kept the noiseless tenor of their way."

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent