Tuesday, May 01, 2007

O'Sullivan Searches For X-Factor

He may have slightly better dress sense, and presumably a marginally less humungous ego, but Eddie O'Sullivan puts me in mind of Simon Cowell with this whole Argentina tour squad thing. Looking at the names mustered by O'Sullivan yesterday for the upcoming summer tests in the land of tango and tenderloin, I couldn't help but picture the massed auditionees for the early rounds of X Factor or Pop Idol.

Some of them are bright young hopefuls, bursting with talent; some are more familiar faces, giving it a second or third shot at the big time; and some will disappear back into obscurity as sure as if they were a yodelling granny.

Eddie (did he do a Louis Walsh on Declan Kidney a few years back?) will sit back impassively, arms folded, waiting to be impressed.

"Call that tackling? You're wasting your time, but more importantly, you're wasting my time. I'm sorry, no!"....."I don't know who ever told you that could scrummage, but they were lying"....."But Eddie, give me another chance, I've got what it takes"...."I've seen some bad players in my time, but you are by far the worst yet," and so on.

It'll be a nervous party that fulfils Ireland's tests in the Estadio Brigadier Estanislao López del Barrio Centenario in Santa Fe and the Estadio José Amalfitani in Buenos Aires. If you take out Ireland's starting XV (that which played against Italy, save for Paul O'Connell instead of Mick O'Driscoll) and those in the Argentina party who are certain to go to the World Cup (the two Bests, Jerry Flannery, Mick O'Driscoll, Isaac Boss, Geordan Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Paddy Wallace), that leaves 22 players battling for just seven vacant places in a 30-man squad for France.

With so much at stake, maybe, less than X Factor or Pop Idol, the bitchy competitiveness of America's Next Top Model might be a more appropriate comparison. Certainly, there are close calls in many positions before the Argentinian catwalk decider (although hopefully no nude shots will be required).

Malcolm O'Kelly, Ireland's most capped player and once an untouchable squad member, faces the challenge of younger, fitter men in Trevor Hogan and Leo Cullen. Frankie Sheahan may find the dynamic Bernard Jackman of Leinster a tough contender for the third hooker berth.

The competition will be most ferocious in the back row, with no fewer than five viable contenders to join the abovementioned four certainties. And then, in the backs, you have the dark horse, Brian Carney, eyeing up bright young thing Rob Kearney and Ulster's Tommy Bowe, with Kearney's greater versatility giving him the edge currently. Perhaps even Geordan Murphy could be vulnerable, given O'Sullivan's impatience with the Leicester man during the Six Nations.

Of course, in the end, that man O'Sullivan is far more powerful than Simon Cowell; after all, Eddie doesn't have to bother with the inconvenience of a public vote. Fortunately, however, there are no yodelling grannies to get rid of in this contest.

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Anonymous Cahony said...

I think Argentina's team sheet's will have as patchy a look as Ireland's with respect to big names missing. So it should be pretty competitive. There's lots of interesting rugby to come here I think and you've outlined all the interesting questions down for resolution.

Don't agree that MO'D is a certainty for the WC by any means considering Cullen's form and pending repatriation. I can see the four locks being PO'C DO'C MO'K and despite the significant handicap of not having an O in the middle of his name, Leo Cullen.

10:11 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we could just call him Lee O'Cullen

10:36 a.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

Still think M O'D's not having been tainted by foul English ways will stand to him (see B.Casey) over Lee O (like that).

Is MOK a stick-on though?

6:39 p.m.  
Anonymous Cahony said...

If he's fit he's a cert, and I'd agree with that myself.

MO'D also defected for a time remember, granted not to English shores. In any event, I agree his presence in the south-west does give him an advantage in selection. I'd never question the mans integrity, but his recent outings have laid bare that he does not have the class required at lock. That coupled with the rise of Cullen's star, both in action and leadership terms will be enough to upset the unwritten bias for home-based players on this occassion.

Plus the fact that you've come up with the Lee O workaround, this selectorial matter is already in the post ;)

3:01 p.m.  

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