He may have hit the heights with Ireland and Leinster in recent years, but Joe Schmidt says that some of his best times as a coach occurred on the “undulating” playing fields of Wilson’s Hospital School in Multyfarnham.
The popular New Zealander recently returned to the school where he taught and coached in the early 1990s to officially open their new playing pitches. A large crowd of parents and students (past and present), including members of the team that the two Joes (Schmidt and Weafer) trained to Leinster Schools senior 'A’ rugby cup glory, attended the ceremony.
The Irish coach told those assembled that while it was “fantastic to be back” it was also “tinged with a bit of sadness” due to the absence of his former coaching partner, who passed on in 2007.
“I couldn’t not mention Joe Weafer. He told some of the worst jokes ever heard and I enjoyed some of the best times I’ve ever enjoyed coaching with him,” he said.
Describing his departed friend as a “real quality person”, Schmidt said that Joe Weafer “contributed massively to the school and contributed massively to my understanding of what being a first rate person is”.
During his time in Westmeath with wife Kellie, Schmidt said that the friends they made, such as the Gillespies, were “almost family”. He also spoke briefly of his “formative” time with Mullingar Rugby Club, where he tried “to get on to the end of Freddie Butler’s passes” many times in his two years.
Schmidt congratulated Wilson’s on their new pitches but joked that the school may regret upgrading them.
“They are nothing like the fields that were here when I was here – it was an undulating surface.
“I don’t know if you have given away an advantage you previously had because any team that came here wasn’t ready for the undulating surface, the uncanny bounce that would occur,” Joe concluded.