Former Kerry player Pat Spillane has criticised Irish rugby pundits and commentators for being too soft on the Irish team's Rugby World Cup failure to advance past the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Ireland was once again knocked out of the event at the quarter-final stage, marking their inability to progress beyond this stage since the tournament's start in 1987. Ireland's 24-28 loss to New Zealand was met with appreciation and respect by many in the Irish rugby media landscape.
Players like Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton thanked fans for their support afterward, with Sexton saying, "Four years ago, we sat down as a squad and spoke about what we wanted to achieve. Our main motivation and objective was to inspire the nation. I think we achieved that. We lost, but we won."
Others have viewed Ireland's failure in the tournament as something that should be celebrated. One of those individuals is GAA legend and former pundit Spillane. He has criticised his rugby counterparts for how they reacted to Ireland's exit in France.
Writing in his Sunday World column, the Kerry native said, "The coverage left a lot to be desired. I’m more convinced than ever that rugby commentators and analysts are just like their horse racing counterparts. They are cheerleaders for their sport.
"Here is my unbiased analysis of how Ireland performed at the World Cup.
"For starters, let’s call a spade a spade. At most, there are six, maybe seven, world-class rugby nations.
"Yet the stark reality is that Ireland has failed in every World Cup tournament since the inaugural one in 1987 to get past the quarterfinals. It is a terrible record."
Pat Spillane: Rugby pundits are just cheerleaders – this World Cup was a failure for Irelandhttps://t.co/jym94KS5NU
— Irish Independent Sport (@IndoSport) October 30, 2023
Ireland entered the tournament ranked number one in the world, having beaten every team they faced. This included a first-ever series win in New Zealand. A first home Grand Slam followed after this. Expectations were high, and some even had Ireland as favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in France, but that wasn't to be.
Spillane believes that the famous wins over the All-Blacks count for nothing because of Ireland's lack of success at World Cups. He claims there is no other word that can sum it up other than "failure."
"Ireland might have achieved notable wins in the autumn series and beat New Zealand in a Test series down there last summer – but those games, like the 2016 fixture in Chicago in which Ireland also beat the All Blacks, are glorified challenge matches," he added.
"The World Cup is the real deal, and Ireland, despite being the number one ranked team on the planet, fell again at the quarterfinals. In anybody’s language, this outcome must be classified as a failure.
"Unfortunately, none of the rugby commentators want to dwell on this failure.
"Instead, they extol the merits of morale victories, gallant defeats and, of course, never fail to applaud the all-singing, all-dancing Irish supporters."
Rugby fans did not take kindly to Spillane's opinion and hit back at the 67-year-old for his views.
"If Pat Spillane thinks rugby pundits are cheerleaders, then he hasn't been paying attention, as there are a number of them who are just dumping on the sport week after week," said one user.
While another sarcastically said, "Really looking forward to Babs Keating's thoughts on the Cricket World Cup next week."
The debate will rumble on. You can read the piece here.