Declan Kidney started his reign as Ireland coach with a shock to the system.
He expected a side which had accumulated three Triple Crowns and consistently been in the RBS 6 Nations title hunt since the turn of the century to be brimming with confidence.
Indeed, since Italy joined the tournament in 2000 Ireland were the second-most successful side with only two wins less than overall leaders France and one more than third-placed England.
Instead, he found a group of dispirited players made weary by a succession of failures during the 2007-08 season and the relentless criticism that followed each setback.
The World Cup was the setting for Ireland's greatest calamity, starting badly and unravelling spectacularly into a group exit that had everyone scratching their heads as to how one of the fancied teams could perform so badly.
It was essential they recovered at the first available opportunity with an impressive RBS 6 Nations, but a frustrating campaign saw them finish fourth.
Ireland's worst championship performance since 1999 sealed the demise of Eddie O'Sullivan with the Irish Rugby Football Union having little option other than to let their beleaguered coach go.
Kidney stepped in and to his surprise he found his most pressing duty was to begin working his magic on psyches damaged by a succession of disappointments.
"In top-level sport we can be hard on one another," said the former Munster coach.
"It surprised me when I came in because these players had won three Triple Crowns and they seemed to knock that back. They should have been fully confident but they were not.
"That lack of confidence is a thing, but we just need to get that balance right and be reasonably critical while not being too over-the-top hysterical when we win a match.
"If that happens then going forward as a rugby team we can be better because everyone is feeding into that.
"Everyone has a role to play in this - even the media - but we have to do it between us.
"We are no different to what we were 10 years ago. We are a small country and we can achieve great things but we should not get too hyper if we win. And let's not get too down when we lose."
Despite a mixed autumn on the pitch - Argentina were beaten in the crucial match but a heavy defeat by New Zealand was a major disappointment - confidence had risen.
Using his famed man-management skills that served him so well during his successful time at Munster, he had Ireland's players making the right noises.
The change in regime was the breath of fresh air the Irish camp needed so desperately after growing stale during O'Sullivan's seven years at the helm.
There were encouraging signs during the autumn, although whether they will be able to mount a serious challenge for this year's Six Nations title is open to debate.
It promises to be a wide-open championship with Wales the slight favourites, but Ireland still have the talent to sweep aside all before them.
With Kidney pulling the strings they are led by a canny operator, whose often banal appearances before the media mask a shrewd brain.
But he has strong opinions which occasionally he is compelled to voice, as exemplified by his thoughts on the criticism Ireland have been forced to take in recent times.
"Ireland is a brilliant place to live and slagging is an innate part of it that we all enjoy, but sometimes we slag each other off too much," he said.
"We're actually holding ourselves back. For example Ronan O'Gara knows how good Brian (O’Driscoll) is yet he'll slag the face off him.
"There's a lot of financial uncertainty around, a bit of doom and gloom. There's a small bit of that about the team.
"You can never do without honesty. Sometimes we pussy-foot around but life is what it is. Sometimes you want life to be sweet and rosy.
"It's great to be alive but sometimes you have to work through the difficult things."