The article, penned by chief rugby writer Mark Woods, carried no comment from Kidney himself, but relied on various sources to give the story substance. In fact, there was nothing really new in the information. Since before the World Cup, when Eddie O Sulivan was confirmed as coach for the next four years with no mention of anyone else s fate, the dogs in the street have been howling what was confirmed yesterday.
That is, Declan Kidney will end his involvement with the national side at the end of this championship. Given that the content of the Evening Echo article was basically accurate if uncorroborated, why then did Kidney insist on an apology ? Two things. One will have been the headline which screamed Kidney to quit Irish rugby team. And the second, and maybe more importantly, will have been the timing of the piece.
Word drifted through to the Corkman minutes before he appeared with O Sullivan at the Ireland team announcement in City West and in response to a media question, Kidney s answered honestly that it was pure speculation and he was focussing on preparing for the game on Saturday.
A meticulous planner, he would have been acutely aware that the last thing the national squad needed was this type of distraction days before the RBS Six Nations opener. On top of that, the idea that he would quit any role is something totally alien to the Kidney mind-set.
So he looked for and rightly got an apology, thereby killing any further speculation and went about his job as only he can. With quiet dignity. And that you would have thought, should have been that. Time to move on, let the dogs howl away and the Irish management concentrate on what will be a huge game, the home match against Wales.
But quite extraordinarily, a little over 48 hours after Kidney had successfully put the affair to bed, at least in the short term, his employers re-opened the issue with an amazing press release issued by IRFU Press man John Redmond. It basically confirmed what Woods had written a week earlier, and that Kidney had been offered a new role in a newly created position.
He was to become Performance Manager Age Grade Rugby, which we were told in the obviously hastily cobbled together press release was a critical new position identified by the Union for the development process of players in the age groups from school leaving to 21 years .
Mind you, up to then there had been no mention of the need for such a position but IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne enthusiastically explained that We see an urgent need for a Performance Manager in age-grade rugby in order to provide leadership, direction and technical expertise in the implementation of a plan which is designed in line with supporting sub-professional pathways and systems that meets the objectives and goals contained with the Union s Strategic Plan. All very laudable of course except for one thing.
Kidney wasn t exactly over enthused with the Union s offer. No doubt Redmond would even has prepared Kidney s response along the lines of, I am really excited about my new role etc. I have enjoyed my time as assistant coach etc etc etc and I thank the Union for their faith in my ability etc etc etc etc etc. Well Redmond would have got the I thank the Union piece right, well almost. In fact what Kidney said was, I appreciate the offer of this new position from the Union. And after that, from Redmond s and the Union s point of view, in PR terms, it was all downhill.
What appeared at the end of the Union press release was Kidney s contribution and it must be assumed he had to do a fair bit of insisting that what went in,was Kidney and not Redmond-speak. Declan Kidney says, While obviously disappointed by my current contract not being renewed, I appreciate the offer of this new position from the Union. However, the offer in question is not a coaching position as such, therefore while considering it, I will now be looking at all options open to me. In the meantime, I will as usual be concentrating on fulfilling my obligations to the best of my ability in the best interest of the team.
And so now we know officially. At the end of this year s championship Declan Kidney will have no further involvement with the national squad. He may be, Performance Manager Age Grade Rugby. According to Browne, he would, of course, always be considered for any front line coaching role that might become available in Irish rugby and in which he was interested. Of course he would, and they of course, are three a penny in this rugby mad country of ours.
What really amazes is not that Declan Kidney is being moved sideways. Everyone knew that the arrangement at national level wasn t working. What amazes is that the Union chose to make their announcement when it did. What was the point? Why now, at the outset of the Six Nations. Could it not have waited a few weeks, given Eddie O Sullivan a harmonious atmosphere in which to prepare his side and give the position itself some legitimacy.