Next time you slate a professional athlete, consider Rob Kearney's words 5 months ago

Next time you slate a professional athlete, consider Rob Kearney's words

Getting out of a rut can be the hardest thing in life, and sport is often no different.

There was a time, in the 1990s, when Ireland were lucky to cobble together two wins over the course of a year.

The Five Nations wooden spoon loomed as a spectre and stirring wins were the exception rather than the norm. Ireland under Joe Schmidt are a different prospect.

The 2018 Grand Slam champions went through last year with 11 wins from 12 games. There was a Guinness Six Nations title, Test Series win in Australia and a Dublin victory over the world champion All Blacks.

One loss against England and Ireland have been badly stung. Much like Liverpool fans, across the water, Irish supporters are fretting as they see their side struggling to get their mojo back. There are big prizes there to be won and painful, past experiences are embedded in their psyches.

On Baz & Andrew's House of Rugbyformer Ireland internationals Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble spoke about Ireland's brittle confidence and how players cope with playing their way through a bad patch.

Trimble, who won 70 caps for Ireland made 223 Ulster appearances, spoke about moments in his rugby career when he was affected by 'impostor syndrome'.

"I met up with Enda McNulty, the sports psychologist, a couple of times. Some of the conversations I had with him, there's no rocket science behind it. It's not that innovative; you're just having a conversation about, 'Here's half a dozen games where I played really well over the last 12 months' and 'Here's a couple of really big performances'.

"Enda made me write them out and he called it my confidence resume. I just wrote them out on my phone and then, on matchday, I'd take the phone out and go through it."

He added: "I always had this thing where I thought, 'What am I doing here? I'm about to get found out. Everybody in the stadium is going to find out I've been getting lucky for years. Everybody in the stadium is going to find out I've been getting lucky for years.

"So, the resume is just that rational way of saying - Here's how good I am. It is not rational to think that I've been getting lucky for years... I addressed those fears by trying to think about it more rationally and objective, and thinking about those big performances. 'Here's what I'm capable of doing'."

One can imagine, given his close work with the Irish rugby team over the years, that Armagh (the former Armagh footballer) has advised several of Joe Schmidt's current squad to do something similar to Trimble.

The issue of confidence, or lack thereof, was discussed at Ireland's first press briefing of the week, at Carton House. Rob Kearney - Irish rugby's most decorated player - was asked why Ireland are struggling to replicate the performance levels that helped see off the All Blacks.

Why are Ireland's levels not the same?  Kearney's answers were considered, honest and very powerful.

"Because elite athletes are people. Same doubts, same fears, same anxieties, same struggles with confidence."

He added, "Sport is very, very psychological. Sometimes in those games, and particularly that Italian game, a lot of the mistakes... we kind of went into our shell and showed our anxiety a little bit. It's all psychological."

Never let it be said that Kearney shirks a tough question. He is one of the most forthright of all the players currently earning a crust on these shores.

Ireland's players, and fans, will be hoping Sunday's game against France will shunt them back on the right track.