MICHAEL BRADLEY described his brief tenure as interim Ireland head coach as “exciting” but it appears the man who almost masterminded two Test victories down under will be returning to Connacht as their director of rugby next season.
Current Munster defence/attack coach, Tony McGahan, is still favourite for the top job at the home of the European champions, although McGahan met new national coach Declan Kidney in Australia last week to discuss the possibility of joining the Ireland back room staff.
Should McGahan opt to follow Kidney, Bradley would become favourite to land the plum but high pressure job at Munster and, after helping restore the pride in the Irish jersey in New Zealand and Australia, there are compelling arguments to see him installed as the No 1 man in his home province.
Bradley exited centre stage on Saturday with honour having prepared an Ireland team to play with freedom and élan, and perhaps he was unlucky not to have steered them to a first Test victory down under in 29 years.
“I got a great kick out of this tour,” admitted Bradley. “I got a great buzz out of both stadiums — they were a little bit bigger than the Sportsground.
“The extremes of the conditions were ridiculous, where you just couldn’t handle the ball in the first Test and couldn’t but handle it in the second one. For me and Joe (Joe Miles, manager) working with these guys has been fantastic – I really enjoyed it.”
He hopes to have a meeting with the new Ireland management to discuss this tour and help plan for the future.
“We need to sit down and talk to some of the senior players and the new management and decide where we need to improve. We need to agree a strategy with the new management, try and work on that and achieve it. There were some good words spoken after the match today about the fact that New Zealand are coming in November – players want to start thinking about that game next week and the week after.
“That’s the calibre of person you have in there. We need to start converting now. The frustration of the players is becoming not desperate but to a point where we got to get over this one and start making these near-losses into wins.”
Asked if he would be making any recommendations to the IRFU after the tour, Bradley at first stalled at the question, before saying: “You need to listen to what the players have to say and go forward from there. From my point of view, it’s obvious the talent is there, so let’s use the talent.”
In a game Ireland dominated everywhere except the scoreboard, Bradley did concede that the better team won, but admitted to feelings of “frustration” at an opportunity lost.
“The better team won. Australia won on the basis that they got more scores than us. That’s life. But it’s disappointing and frustrating.
“In both matches the effort from the lads was exceptional in terms of it being the end of the season.
“When you achieve that level of commitment you then want to get your victories. It’s just very, very frustrating.”
Meanwhile Brian O’Driscoll scored his first try for either club or country since last September’s RWC match against Argentina, but in the process tweaked his hamstring. He was however pleased with the performance that could be the start of something positive for next season.
“The public pressure is very different to the pressure we put on ourselves,” said O’Driscoll. “We have this level of expectation that every time we go out we should perform. That was a better Irish performance than a lot of games over the past year and something to build on, but at the end of the day we didn’t win the game and that’s what you judge yourself on. You’d prefer to win ugly.
“With regard to the try, I think it’s a massive third of the year. Any time you score, certainly against one of the top nations, it is a nice feeling. It gives me as much of a buzz putting someone away. Unfortunately I didn’t quite manage to do that with Paddy (Wallace). I don’t think too much of it. Shaggy (Shane Horgan) was a little bit gutted because he had an eye on catching me on the try-scoring count!”
At least he’s leaving the tour with something to smile about.
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