Thursday, January 12, 2012

Won't Someone Put Connacht Out of their Misery?

After thirteen straight defeats, and a fourteenth as inevitable on Saturday as another tax increase or cursed referendum, the people involved in Connacht rugby need to ask themselves why do they bloody bother.

It’s hard to love something that doesn’t love you back, and there are no signs of love for Elwood and Connacht right now. Connacht lost in Italy last Saturday, to a team who would be the Gaelic football equivalent of Sligo. You expect to beat them, but every now and again they’re going to hand you your hat.

This Saturday, Connacht have to travel to Toulouse, which is the equivalent of playing Kerry in Tralee in high summer. If Connacht get less of a beating than the Huguenots suffered on Saint Bartholomew’s Day they can consider themselves very lucky. A seventy-point pasting could be on the cards, and the -26 available on the rouge et noir looks a gimme to your correspondent.

It’s one thing to say you should never quit, but that only applies to a fair fight. Connacht aren’t in a fair fight. Connacht have nothing like the funds or the resources that the other provinces have. You won’t fight anyone with your hands tied behind your back. You’ve handed your wooden sword, clapped on the back and told: on you go son. The Romans are thattaway.

Most wretched of all is the patronizing way the Connacht games are covered in the national media. How galling can it be for the players and supporters to be patted on the head and told what brave little meneen they are? Where's the pride listening to that?

If the people involved in Connacht Rugby do want to show some pride, they could realise that the IRFU needs Connacht more than Connacht needs the IRFU. The clubs will continue to play – people who want to play will be able to do so. Players who want to pay professionally will always have that chance. If you want to be paid for playing rugby, there are more towns than Galway in the world.

Ordinary people in Connacht itself support either Munster or Leinster anyway. Munster, because they were the first, a sporting personification of the Spirit of the Celtic Tiger. And Leinster, because even if you haven’t been privately educated, all that yak about “Munster by the grace of God” gets tiresome very quickly.

An Spailpín’s not very trusting nature suspects that the IRFU are content to keep Connacht barefoot, pregnant and tied to the kitchen sink because all four provinces are vital to the IRFU’s marketing of itself professional rugby product. “The four proud provinces of Ireland,” as that dreadful song goes. They want Connacht to exist to add lustre to the other three, but for no other reason. Back to the scullery, Cinders, and damn well know your place.

Well, when what’s left of Connacht come home from Toulouse, maybe it’s time to blow the whistle on the IRFU and start demanding some rights. If the IRFU want Connacht to exist a province, they need to support Connacht rugby.

The whole thing about Connacht as a “development” province is a joke and a nonsense. As soon as any player shows any signs of talent, he scurries away to Munster or Leinster, showing all the loyalty of a rat. Connacht must then make up the numbers with international players. These aren’t great old pros in the autumn of their careers. They’re not so much Dougie Howlett as Doogie Howser.

If the IRFU wants to support Connacht Rugby, let them go ahead and support Connacht Rugby. If they just want to patronize the west, Connacht Rugby should fold it tents and tell the IRFU go hang. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.