TV View: O’Mahony not buying pundits’ darkest hour narrative

Ireland captain’s positive outlook on unconvincing win at odds with pundits’ views

Ireland players walk off the pitch after a hard-fought victory over Italy in Stadio Olimpico, Rome. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland players walk off the pitch after a hard-fought victory over Italy in Stadio Olimpico, Rome. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

While you’d want to think twice about telling him to his face, Peter O’Mahony is very definitely sort of our Winston Churchill. Whenever the nation is in need of a calming, comforting word in difficult times, a reminder that we’ve bounced back from darker days than only beating Italy 26-16 in Rome, he produces the goods.

And so it was again on Sunday when he told us, lest we’d forgotten, that there are no easy games in international rugby, even when Italy are the opponents, so picking up a bonus point win in their own back yard was no bad thing at all. All was well.

But it wasn’t the performance you were looking for? “Ah, I don’t know about that.”

If he’d concluded with “we still are captain of our souls”, you wouldn’t have blinked.

‘Incredible job’

The lads in the Virgin Media studio were having none of it, though, not least that bit where Peter paid tribute to the “incredible job” Conor O’Shea is doing with Italy who, he insisted, are “a super rugby team”.

“I’m not buying that,” said Shane Horgan, reckoning Italy are several country miles from being a good team never mind a super one. And Shane Jennings began ominously with “not to be disrespectful to Conor O’Shea”, thereby guaranteeing he was about to be disrespectful to Conor O’Shea. Which he was. “He’s NOT doing a good job.”

The mood, then, was decidedly gloomy, Matt Williams close enough to removing the hair from his head strand by strand, declaring this to be “the worst Irish performance I’ve seen in a long, long time”, the only thing that saved it from being accurately branded a “train wreck” that bonus point.

Any fears that Ireland would peak too soon in 2019 by obliterating their Six Nations opponents had, then, been allayed.

But Shane H shared his sinking feeling with us, that he was spotting similarities between this Irish team and the one that entered the 2007 World Cup with their hearts overflowing with hope, only for Argentina to leave said hearts in smithereens.

“I am a little bit worried,” he said, his face saying he was a lot worried.

By now Joe Molloy was in despair, his panel beginning to convince him that winning the World Cup might not be a foregone conclusion.

Sinead Kissane then tried heroically to get Joe Schmidt to explain why pause has been pressed on the team’s Autumn form, but his response – “every game has an independent lifespan” – left us none the wiser, to be honest.

Matt and Shane J, meanwhile, were fretting over Ireland’s body language, showing us clips of the players standing around with their hands on their hips and not having a chat with each other after bad things had happened. “It was shocking,” said Matt, although Shane J conceded that maybe they were being “hyper critical”.

Body language

While the analysis was largely focused on body language, unforced errors, a dodgy lineout, something called line speed, and the like, there was, somewhat frustratingly, no discussion of the impact of the version on Ireland’s Call played pre-match by what sounded like a brass band that had been on the rip the night before.

You might need to ask your Granny about this, but it was like a 45 being played at 33, the rendition so funereal it had all the rousing qualities of Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor. By the end of it, the players looked like they’d just left a wake, overcome by melancholy, rather than being fired up and ready to enter their latest Six Nations battle. 

In summary, how bad was the performance? “It wasn’t a disaster,” said Shane H, “but . . .”. It sounded like a big but, too.

At least Wales had made us smile on Saturday by seeing off the Sasanachs, thereby keeping our title hopes above water.

Sonja McLaughlan: “That’s 12 wins on the bounce, you’re the history men, how significant is in that in the development of this side towards the World Cup?”

Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones: “Ah, it’s just another Saturday.”

Sonja: “No it’s not, Alun Wyn.”

Next up for Ireland, France at home and then, gulp, Wales away. But as Winston put it, “for myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else”.

“Atta boy,” Peter would, no doubt, say.

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