The Offload: Microphone on Flannery raises TG4 coverage
Meanwhile, we saw Connacht’s cardinal sins and is there an English rugby civil war coming?
TG4 putting a microphone on Jerry Flannery was an excellent addition to their Pro14 coverage at the weekend. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
TG4 needed to land a blow as béarla. With Eir Sport building up a head of steam under Tommy Bowe and Murray Kinsella’s expert analysis, the Irish language broadcaster’s rugby coverage risked being left behind. That was the assessment by this column in October.
Enter January and the clever use of Jerry Flannery. TG4 have started to ‘mic-up’ head coaches for pitch interviews as Dan McFarland or Andy Friend oversees the warm-up. A worthy experiment but little joy ensued as questions by former players lack any measure of journalistic probing and the weapon of eye-balling the interviewee is lost.
On Saturday night in Galway TG4 went to another level as the public was privy to Flannery’s edited pre-game interactions. “The pitch is remarkably firm,” he told fellow Munster assistant Felix Jones. “Practice fielding, man, as it is not that bright.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Keith Earls agreed.
“Get a feel for the turf now okay?” he told all six frontrowers. “Nice and tight up here Killer [Dave Kilcoyne], nice and tight up here Jez [Jeremy Loughman]” as he pokes a finger into both looseheads upper backs.
“Get that left elbow high and tight.”
“That’s it, that’s it,” Flannery inhales as Andrew Conway smashes the tackle bag.
“You got to think there is this much extra depth you are trying to wrap around when I’m on the pad.”
Actual coaching from the trenches without releasing any trade secrets, this was entertaining sports broadcasting.
There’s a lovely YouTube clip of Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr telling the greatest basketball shooter of all time, Steph Curry, he need not worry about a mini-slump. After the exchange went viral, Kerr smiled and claimed he forgot to press the off button on his belt. How about that? Give rugby coaches what they crave: total control of message. It would force everyone else – referees, media, players – to up their game.
Connacht’s cardinal sins
Something special happened to Connacht under Pat Lam in 2016. Then they wasted any chance of continuity by appointing Kieran Keane. The bones of that Pro 12 success are evident again under the clever coaching of Andy Friend but not if they keep flinging away possession.
The Ireland coach is watching. “Keep hold of the ball” and “never get tackled into touch” are two of Joe Schmidt’s non-negotiable mantras. Tom Farrell’s weekly impersonation of Aurélien Rougerie makes him a contender for the Six Nations despite the wealth of options at centre (Munster’s Chris Farrell was also outstanding this weekend as Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki were rested).
Yet, Connacht’s inability to protect vital possession – Schmidt’s primary rule – ruined a famous victory at the RDS in December and yet again on Saturday in Galway. Munster, expertly guided by Joey Carbery, including a try scoring cameo from fullback, led 31-17 when Colby Fainga’a sent Jack Carty racing clear. The Sportsground went ballistic.
Seven point game seven minutes to play, they attacked from their own 22 with 79:26 on the clock only for Carty to make a deadly error: he ran into Tadhg Beirne. Tyler Bleyendaal gifted Connacht a second chance but they committed Schmidt’s second cardinal sin: Farrell was shepherded into touch. Something special can still happen under Friend this season or next but only if they iron out the kinks.
By the numbers
11 – Bath players on the field as they lost to a 98th minute try against Worcester Warriors.
Quote of the week
“It’s something we will consider for sure before Tuesday’s deadline.” – Leo Cullen on registering centre Conor O’Brien for Europe before Toulouse pitch up at the RDS on Saturday (Robbie Henshaw is still injured).
English rugby’s civil war?
Sam Underhill won’t be renewing his ground war with Dan Leavy and Josh van der Flier come the Six Nations opener on February 2nd. Like so many of England’s flogged internationals, Underhill is injured, again.
Ian Ritchie, the former RFU chief executive and current head of Premiership Rugby, has denied an impending “civil war” despite The Mail on Sunday reporting looming catastrophe as clubs consider an unregulated competition without relegation that could see players ineligible for national selection.
“CVC [a private equity firm] will grow it to make a profit,” said CVC advisor Bernie Ecclestone of F1 fame. “If you got hold of the guys and tarted them up, it would be better than American football.’ Meanwhile, three rounds of interprovincials saw almost every contracted player on this island utilised.
“The secret is no secret at all,” wrote Mike Ross for The Sports Chronicle about Ireland’s current strength in depth.
“Joe’s methods are based on putting faith in the players at his disposal. Look at Kieran Marmion. We didn’t need to rush Conor Murray back for the All Blacks and risk further injury. I am living proof that some players will rise to the level they are playing at if given enough time to learn from their mistakes. Not many people watching amateur club rugby back in 2006 would have said, ‘That Mike Ross fella will rack up 61 caps for Ireland and anchor the scrum at two World Cups.’ All they saw was a big Cork Con tighthead who could scrummage."
Nowadays there are plenty of Irish tightheads who can scrummage. Roll on England’s visit to Dublin.