London Irish planning for a ‘rich future’ under new ownership, says Declan Kidney
Declan Kidney has backed the US consortium bidding to take over London Irish to build a “rich future” for the Exiles.
Irish saw off Exeter 17-14 at Brentford’s Gtech Stadium to seal a fifth-place Premiership finish, their highest in the league since 2009.
The Exiles players and staff went unpaid for six days this week, before owner Mick Crossan stepped in to solve the payroll shortfall.
The US consortium bidding to take over the club had promised to cover April’s wages, but then blamed banking issues for the delay.
The Exiles’ staff and players delivered an emotional rendition of club song “Maybe It’s Because I’m an Irish Londoner” on the Brentford pitch at full-time, with the 11,000-strong crowd raucously following suit.
Rugby director Kidney later hailed Irish for finishing “best of the rest” in narrowly missing a top-four finish that would have yielded a first play-off campaign in 14 years.
Kidney led Ireland to the 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam in that year, but admitted pushing Irish to this fifth-place finish it its own way carries equal significance.
“We're planning for a rich future with the age group of the lads out on the pitch, that's what we’re building on,” said Kidney.
“There's a rich future for this club on the pitch and I’m sure the people off the pitch will do the business just need a bit of time to see it through.
“We’d entrust in them to manage something between them, to get it right.
“I think we’re not the most outwardly, but we wanted to involve the supporters, off-field team, everybody there, with the singing.
“It wasn’t just about this week, it was for the whole season.”
Juan Martin Gonzalez’s try brace and a score from Tom Pearson edged Irish home against a battling Exeter in driving rain in west London.
The match was only confirmed as going ahead some 47 hours before kick-off, when owner Crossan paid the Exiles’ players and staff.
Kidney hailed his squad for putting all off-field worries aside to prep properly for what proved an emotional but important victory.
“Our leadership group have been magnificent, it never interfered with training,” said Kidney.
“The players have been brilliant, but so have the coaches, the strength and conditioning team, the medics, all the off-field team.
“It didn’t just affect the players, it affected everybody.
“We never had a big meeting beforehand, the players just went out and did it because they wanted to do it.
“Given everything that’s gone on, this moment is up there in my career.
“When you’ve been lucky enough to be involved in the things I’ve been involved in, you’d think it’s not the same, but it actually is.
“It's a really good feeling. That's strange isn’t it, to the outside I suppose?
“The best of the rest might not sound that great to everyone else, but it’s really big for us.”