18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
On Thursday three young men lost their lives in a Co Wicklow road accident and three bus passengers were killed in Toomebridge County Antrim. Further afield, hundreds died in a massacre in a fort in northern Afghanistan.
And at the end of that week Ireland's biggest selling Sunday newspaper devoted its only leader column to the coach.
If we can put aside the logic of that editorial decision, some of the comment surrounding Warren Gatland bears examination. Mind you, Paddy Power bookmakers would have had an easy time predicting which scribe would jump which way but Man of the Match in the Scarcely Credible entry has to go to the Sunday journalist who told us of the conversation Warren Gatland had with a "friend" in the aftermath of the Murrayfield game. Apparently Warren asked this friend for "his vision of the future" and the reply from the friend (obviously descended from Nostradamus) ran as follows: " I believe, Warren, that you will not be the Irish coach when the World Cup comes around and that as a nation we will come to regret it". Yeah, right.
Was the IRFU wrong to sack the coach last week? Maybe it should have sacked him on the evening of the Murrayfield match, then sent him home via the Stranraer to Larne ferry - train to Dublin and bus to Loughrea. No-one would have raised an eyebrow and it would have saved itself all the media hassle. But had it done so then, it would have been wrong and the IRFU accused of a knee-jerk reaction. So it let the season end, let him see out his contract, reviewed it as per agreement and decided to terminate.
There was therefore absolutely nothing wrong with the timing of the decision and journalist Brendan Fanning got it right when he wrote : " They could have engineered a situation where he had to jump ship, or they could have told him straight. To their credit, they took the direct line".
However, where the IRFU got it badly wrong was the location. It might have been better advised to conduct its business away from the goldfish bowl that is the Berkeley Court Hotel. Surely it would have served everyone's interests to carry out the various interviews in one of the many houses owned by the IRFU. The whole affair has been chronicled through the comings and goings in those plush surroundings, with one total innocent (Matt Williams) caught up in an already overcrowded plot. God only knows what might have been written had Sir Alex Ferguson breezed through.
The question of whether Gatland deserved to go is another matter altogether. Again Fanning probably got it right when he wrote: "They (IRFU) believed he couldn't offer the consistency they wanted. Moreover, he exhibited little of the enthusiasm and drive that marked his early days in the job". That he is a good coach is beyond question - remember the miraculous results he achieved with Connacht ?. And he does deserve credit for introducing structures that have left Ireland in fifth place in world rankings. The real question is, was he the right coach to take the squad through to the next World Cup?
Warren Gatland is a professional, well versed in the vagaries of a sport he has been involved with all his adult life. He was prepared to bring the curtain down on Mick Galwey's international career back in September, not because he bore Galwey any malice, but because he believed it was in the best interests of the team and therefore, the interests of Irish rugby. And that's fair enough. Now, others have decided that those interests would be best served if another coach were brought into play. Time will tell if they got it right.