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Sunday, 27 December 2009

Munster v Connacht-St Stephans Day

Gav and I were ment to go together to Limerick to see it but the ice has been awful so we opted for the safer idea of going to the pub to see it. That didn't quite go to plan either-too icey to leave here so I got it online instead. I have to say Munster was beyond brilliant. 35-3 is a great way to finish up. I dont think Gav thought so though. Ronan O Gara was back on form, each kick was spot on and brilliant. He went off and was replaced by Deasy with Warwick taking over kicking duty with a certain amount of flair. Munster leapt onto the scoreboard in the tenth minute and by half time Munster were 20 up to Connachts 3 points from Ian Keatly at the last minute of the first half. We saw Dowling, Varley, Warwick and De Villiers score fantastic tries while Connacht struggled to even stay on the pitch. O Gara did very well as stant in skipper and we in Munster were glad and proud to see him return to his glory. Gavin, I dare say, wasn't too happy with the result but we played exceptionally well and deserved this after a somewhat rough start to the season. This is a more than welcome change and a nice postive note for our Christmas wishes.

Merry Christmas Munster x

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Crouching Tiger Hidden Hydrant

Tiger Woods has issued a second statement regarding his now infamous car crash last Thursday night/Friday morning. If you haven't heard about this by now, then you've probably been living under a rock for the past week. Woods, for reasons unknown, left his house at 2:30 a.m. or so last Thursday (Thanksgiving) night and then proceeded to crash into a fire hydrant and tree outside for his home, again for reasons unknown.

Woods is unimpressed with the scrutiny he’s been under since the crash – there’s been a mountain of speculation about affairs with at least two women. However, that does come with the territory of being the most famous and wealthiest athlete in the World. This is the first time that he has felt the full force of fame’s dark side, and now he’s not playing ball.

There’s a reason that the speculation won’t go away, and Woods has no one to blame but himself. Website statements don’t mean a damn – we want more. We want him in front of cameras, speaking about the events of the night and explaining what happened. We’ve seen this before – earlier this year, Alex Rodriguez sat down with Peter Gammons of ESPN shortly after it emerged that he was a drugs cheat. The interview showed a contrite A-Rod and this, coupled with a press conference, allowed the speculation to go away quicker than it would have had he hidden in a hole, a la Tiger. His silence gives gossip sites further licence to probe deeper into his private life. The facial lacerations that he has picked up in the crash, may or may not be due to domestic violence and we don’t know the truth because Tiger himself hasn’t interacted with the insatiable media. He can put that confrontation off for as long as he wants, but he has to return to golf at some stage.

Woods, literally, needs to show his face.


Here’s a video, presumably from a Chinese news broadcast, which shows (in animated form) what happened and what happened. Gas stuff.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A case of Sour Grapes

It's almost two weeks since the Ireland and France match. The night itself can only be described as the stuff nightmares are made of. Ireland sat glued to the television sets in all four corners of the country. I myself sat in the living room, attached to my laptop and blogging away goodo here. I'll admit I was confused at times, and I still need someone to explain the offside rule. But over all I really enjoyed watching the match even if I didn't enjoy the end result.

Not long after the match ended I went to bed to do some lesson planning. Not exactly the highlight but it had to be done. I wasn't there long when I noticed a very popular trend in the online worlds of facebook and twitter. Groups were being set up Henry bashing. Now I agree he was wrong and he knows better then to do the hand ball thing but at the end of the day he did it and got away with it. Given half the chance we would have done the same. I was sent links to various anti Henry sites and pages begging me to join them on twitter or the facebook craze lashing out at Thierry Henry or calling him a cheat (which he is) it goes on and on and on and on.....

It's two weeks later and people are still joining this pointless groups and going on and on and on about the Match. I do understand that it's a big deal. Because of Henry Ireland will not be going to the world cup next year and YES we are all heartbroken but this Hatred of Henry has GONE BEOND A JOKE!!

The rest of the world now sees the Irish as a bunch of sour grapes. And we do not need to be seen like that.

Outside of our little bubble of a island we are seen very differently to how we view ourselves. To look in the mirror we see ourselves as really welcoming and friendly, a lovely nice green country.
Let me assure you the only green thing about Ireland now is the green envy we embody these days. Hating Henry does very little to help our self image.

And as for the replay we spend so long talking about does anyone really believe we deseve it? In all fairness if we had played in anyway well in all the other matches we wouldn't be in this mess. In the group matches yes we did ok but as I stated in a post just hours before the first Ireland and France match, We could have done so much better against Italy. We threw it away. And in the first France match we didn't play half as well as we could have done. And we banked our whole world cup experience on one match in Paris. Yes we played well in that match but it takes more then one match to be good enough to get to the world cup.

So I have a question....

Did we throw away our World Cup chances because we were afraid of actually having to go to Africa and play on the biggest stadium in front of a massive world wide audience? What do you think?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Kidney calls for Sexton appeal

Bit of a shock, but Jonathan Sexton gets the nod at Out-half over Ronan O'Gara for Ireland's clash with South Africa at Croke Park on Saturday. In a surprise move by coach Declan Kidney, Sexton has seized the number 10 jersey from O'Gara as reward for his outstanding display in Saturday's 41-6 victory over Fiji.

To be fair, Sexton has been the form fly half in Ireland this season with O'Gara failing to find any real decent run of form since returning from the Lions Tour. It is a bold selection that rewards the 24-year-old's sparkling form since being thrust onto centre stage during the latter rounds of Leinster's march to their first Heineken Cup crown last season.

Elsewhere Keith Earls comes in on the Wing for the injured Luke Fitzgerald. Other than that its the same team that lined out in the drawn match with Austrailia. With Denis Leamy back on the bench after what I thought looked like a seasoned ending injury against Fiji.
The South Africans are the World Cup & Tri Nations champions and are formidable opposition, however they have been hit by a bit of an injury crisis. Fullback Zane Kirchner (knee), centre Adi Jacobs (ankle), scrum-half Fourie du Preez (hand), lock Bakkies Botha (back), hooker Bismarck du Plessis (ribs) and backrow forward Schalk Burger (ribs) are all on the treatment table. This has been a trying tour for the Springboks as they have already been beaten by France and Guinness Premiership opposition in Leicester & London South Africa... oh i mean Saracens. Having said that I still believe it will be a fairly brutal encounter on Saturday & a fine test of this Irish side.

I'll put my head on the line and predict Ireland to win by 3 points.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Case For A Replay

The fallout from last night's game has been astonishing.  All around the world, Henry’s handball is the centre of sport attention.  Here in Ireland, it is the lead story on front page and back.   It’s been spoken about in the Dáil while the BBC have held a live blog about the fall-out, the sort of treatment they usually only give to actual matches.

The demand of the Football Association of Ireland today is simple – a replay.  They’ve lodged an official protest over last night’s result, a move I agree with because to accept it without kicking up a fuss would insult the two-million Irish fans who watched the game.  FIFA have so far said no to this and (in my opinion) rightly so.  Decisions of referees should be sacrosanct, even when they are wrong.  Nonetheless, like a lot of Irish fans, I am clinging to the hope that such a replay should be given.  It’s what my heart wants, even if my head says that it shouldn’t happen.  Like all Irish fans, I have no problem when my side are beaten fairly – I just want to be given the honour of fairness.

FIFA have released a statement on the matter this afternoon, referring to Law Number 5 in their Laws of the Game which can be seen here.  It is both long and convoluted but essentially FIFA are standing by it to say that the referee’s decision is final, and cannot be tampered with.  However, there is precedent which may work in our favour.

In 2005, Uzbekistan and Bahrain played a World Cup Qualifier in which the referee made an incorrect decision which averted the course of the game.  Essentially, a player encroached into the box as a penalty was taken and the referee ordered a free kick for the defending team, rather than allowing the penalty to be re-taken.  To me, that’s a less significant mistake than last night’s but it was nonetheless regarded as important enough to render the game null and void.  That judgement was made under article 12.4 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup regulations, which essentially gives organising bodies the right to make such decisions.  It should also be noted that this decision was made despite Article 14.4 (amended slightly for the 2010 World Cup, under the title Article 13.6) which states that 'no protests may be made about the referee’s decisions regarding facts connected with play. Such decisions are final...'

It would seem that, as they say, would be that.  The FAI look likely to have no way of protesting last night.  I’ve read through any relevant legislation that I can find and can see only one course of action.  Article 5.g says 'all participants...including players...should observe the principles of fair play.'  Those principles, under the FIFA Fair Play Code, call on players to ‘play fair’, to ‘observe the laws of the game’, to ‘respect opponents, team-mates, referees, officials and specators’, to ‘honour those who defend football’s good reputation’ and perhaps most crucially, ‘denounce those who attempt to discredit our sport’.  Last night, Thierry Henry discredit football by his actions and it is now up to FIFA to take action.  I don’t hold my breath.


Ireland’s only other hope is that the French FA step in on our behalf.  The public in France, I’ve been told by people there, are unhappy with last night’s match.  They want to qualify with honour, like the other 30 countries who won their way through to join South Africa in the World Cup.  However, given the large financial bonus that comes with playing in a World Cup, I wouldn’t expect this to happen, nor would I believe that the French authorities should go to bat for Ireland.  We may just have to walk away from this incident with a very bitter taste in our mouths.

Henry Handball Humour

I don't agree with some of the vitriol directed at Thierry Henry today, but here's some of the photoshopping that's happened in the last 24 hours.





My Sporting Memories

After the highs and depressing lows of the encounter in Paris and after listening to Gav's great from the heart pod cast i got thinking about my own love & passion for sport. And instead of ranting on about the details of last night's game I've decided to share with you a few of the moments in sport that have moved me & made me jump for joy or given me a lump in my throat.

Moment 1: Robbie Keane Vs Germany - 5th June 2002 World Cup

Most of the Irish soccer moments blogged about in the build up for the game are included. But Robbie Keane's goal against Germany in the dying seconds was a moment that will stay with me forever. Watching with all my family including uncles, aunts & cousins, as soon as we thought hope was lost, up steps Robbie Keane & the nation goes wild! Mick McCarthy's jaw dropping reaction is priceless. After this game and the win against Saudi Arabi, I donned face paint, a green jersey and Tri colour, with a sign that read Korea and took to the streets of Mullingar hitching a lift to the Far East... Honestly!

Moment 2: Injury Time, Manchester United vs Bayern Munich, 1999 Champions League Final
Back in the day I was a huge Man Utd fan. (Now i'm back to my roots as a Watford fan). The 3 minutes of injury time played that night were special. I remember sitting in my front room with my pal William when Teddy Sheringham knocked in Gigg's effort. The two of us jumped up and actually ran around the house, then the garden outside. We were just settling into the idea of extra team, maybe penalties when Beckham's corner is nodded on by Sheringham for Solskjaer to poke home a winner. Cut to - more running around the garden & mad screaming and shouting. Fantastic stuff.

Moment 3: The National Anthems Ireland vs England. Croke Park 24th February 2007
This was the season when the GAA opened up Croke Park to 'foreign sports'. All the talk during the build up was of God Save the Queen being played in Croker, the scene of a massacre by British troops on Irish GAA fans in 1920. It was a tense build up all week and the atmosphere on the day was a curious one, with small protests being held in Dublin.

I was at the game, standing in Hill 16, made it even more special. There was an eerie silence just before the Anthems roared out, a pause as the Irish President took her seat in the ground. Then the English Anthem was played. It passed off well, and when it was finished, it was met with a large round of applause. Then Amhrán na bhFiann began. As tears rolled down my face, I tried to clear the lump in my throat to join in the singing with the rousing rendition I was being treated to by my fellow Irish Rugby followers. Glancing at the players and you saw exactly what it meant. John Hayes, Jerry Flannery & Paul O' Connell were overwhelmed with emotion. It was one of those 'glad I was there moments'. And after all that passion and emotion, we hammered 'em!

Moment 4: The Munster Haka - Thomond Park, Limerick 18th November 2008.
It is a year to the day nearly since the Rugby world was treated to one of the great matches of the modern day. This game marked the beginning of a truly remarkable year for Irish Rugby. The All Blacks, on there tour of Europe, were shown how passionately the emotionally the game is supported in Munster, & in Limerick in particular.As the teams gathered on either side of the halfway line, the four New Zealanders in the Munster side; Rua Tipoki, Doug Howlett, Jeremy Manning & Lifeimi Mafi, stepped out ahead of their teammates and challenged the All Blacks with their own Haka. The Thomond Park crowd went wild. It was another welling up & lump in the throat moment.

So now, there is just four amazing sporting moments that have moved me to tears. There are many many more. Up there includes the first European cup win for Munster in 2006, Munster beating Saracens in Thomond Park with an injury time try by Keith Wood. (In fact most years Munster provide a few of these for me!) When Damon Hill & Ralph Schumacher finished off 1-2 for Jordan in Belgium in 1998. Or Paul McGinley sinking the putt to win the Ryder cup for Europe, God I could go on!
Last night we nearly had another lift the nation result, but Ireland is unrivalled in its sporting achievements in one sense. This small nation produces special athletes who have a unique bond with the people of this island, and I know that just around the corner is a another iconic moment waiting to happen which will capture or imaginations, lift our spirits & let us cheer once more.

Hand Gaul

I want to sleep badly but I can't.  Too troubled by the match this evening.  Instead of a rushed post about the game, here's an audio blog post capturing how I feel about the Irish team, tonight and that goal.

PS Thanks to all who came out for the live blog.  After this, and Dunne's KO in September, I'm not sure if I'll ever do another.

France v Ireland LIVE blog

Only 31 or so hours to go... loads of time!  Live blog is below.  Do take part but in the lead-up to the match and, of course, during the game itself.  There'll be plenty of posts about the match over the coming days so be sure to come back and check out The Almost Daily Sports Blog.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Ireland's World Cup Qualifying History - Part 2, Things Get Better

At the beginning of Qualification for the 1990 World Cup, Ireland’s fans were more optimistic than ever before. The long wait for a major tournament was broken months when Big Jack led us to Euro ’88. England had been beaten, and Ireland were within ten minutes of the semi-finals before an agonizing defeat to the eventual champions, Holland.

So as one of the best teams in Europe, Ireland’s fans no doubt believed that they would be in Italy two years later. They nearly didn’t get there. Ireland drew two and lost one of their opening three games, all away from home, against Northern Ireland, Hungary and Spain (where we lost 2-0). Four home games in succession got our campaigns back on track however, as Spain, Malta, Hungary and the Northerners all came to Lansdowne and lost between April and October of 1989. The final qualifying game, twenty years ago last Sunday, was held in Valetta and qualification, already virtually secured, was clinched with a 2-0 win. Ireland were headed for Italy, having kept seven clean sheets in the eight games. We all know what happened there...

Four years later, an Ireland side which missed out on Euro ’92 were faced with a tough group which included Spain, Denmark and Northern Ireland. Things started well, with wins over Albania and Lithuania and draws away to Spain and Denmark. However, one point from home games against the Spanish and the Danes left Irish fans with a nervy ending to the group. The equation facing us in November 17th 1993 was simple. Ireland, taking on Northern Ireland in Belfast, needed a win to guarantee qualification. A draw would be enough, but only if the game between Spain and Denmark in Seville wasn’t a draw. The Northerners wouldn’t make it easy for us, even if they were unable to qualify themselves.

Spurred on by Billy Bingham, the home side took the lead thanks to a wonder strike from Jimmy Quinn. All looked doomed, before Alan McLoughlin, a bit player in the team, scored an equalizer which ended up being one of the most important goals during the tenure of Jack Charlton. This, and Spain’s win over Dublin, meant that we were on our way to America and eventual revenge over Italy at Giants Stadium.

The next qualifying campaign, beginning in 1996, saw Mick McCarthy in charge of an aging Irish side that was in need of new blood. Drawn in a weak group, qualifying for France shouldn’t have been out of the question. It was an unimpressive campaign however – results included 0-0 draws at home to Iceland and Lithuania and a defeat in Macedonia. A late resurgence in form – Roy Keane manhandled us to a 4-2 win in Iceland – meant that we finished a million miles behind Romania, albeit in second position. A play-off with Belgium ensued, and we drew the first leg in Dublin after a Denis Irwin free-kick. We went to the Heysel Stadium but were ultimately undone by Luis Oliviera and lost 2-1, despite a Ray Houghton header. A loss to Holland at Anfield two years previously may have ended the tenure of Jack Charlton, but it was defeat to Belgium that ended the careers of many of the players who had given him and us so many great memories.

As a result of this, the team that entered the 2002 Qualifying campaign had an entirely different look but the same manager in the form of Mick McCarthy. Where four years previously we had been inept in many of our games, this wasn’t the case here as Ireland qualified out of a tough group which included Holland and Portugal. Along with the 1990 campaign, this was as good as Ireland ever performed. Estonia, Cyprus and Andorra were all dispatched with, home and away but the best performances came against the group’s superpowers. In our opening game we drew 2-2 in Amsterdam (a match we should have won having gone 2-0 ahead) and then 1-1 away to Portugal while in June 2001 we managed another 1-1 draw against the Portuguese. The group’s highlight though, came on September 2nd 2001 (I didn’t have to look that up) where Jason McAteer scored to sink the Dutch and give Ireland a second-place finish in the group. This set up another play-off, this time against Iran. Ireland won the first leg 2-0 and then battled hard in the tough atmosphere in Tehran, losing 1-0 to a late, late goal. It didn’t matter though, and we were on our way to the Far East, via Saipan.

McCarthy was gone by the time our next qualification group got underway, and again we were up against France. Many fans were critical of Brian Kerr’s negative approach, given that we had some creative players. There were draws in Switzerland and in Israel, and the campaign’s highlight was a 0-0 draw in Paris. However the negative approach hurt us at home, most notable when we blew a two-goal lead at home to Israel. A Thierry Henry moment of magic handed us our only defeat of the campaign at home to France, but we could have reached another play-off with a win against Switzerland. That match finished 0-0 and Brian Kerr’s contract was not renewed.

Since then, Stan has been and gone and we know all about Trapattoni this time out. Comparing this campaign to all of our others, as I’ve done today, a number of things stand out. Ireland struggle, regularly, and to get as far as we have is the exception rather than the norm. Also, comparing this set of players to some of the ones which have been successful, it could be argued that our current team is not as good as any of the ones which have qualified in the past. We’ve also had several amazing moments and fantastic wins over some of Europe’s greatest football powers. Tomorrow night, if it went well, would be the best of all.

Ireland's World Cup Qualifying History - Part 1, The Dismal Years

Should Ireland win tomorrow, it will of course be the fourth time that we’ll play in football’s showcase. For years, we looked on longingly at the World Cup from the outside. In fact, Ireland’s history of World Cup Qualification makes for depressing reading.

Ireland has entered every World Cup since 1934, when we were placed in a group alongside Belgium and the Netherlands. The highlight was our draw at home against the Belgians, when the great Paddy Moore became the first player to score four goals in a World Cup game in a 4-4 draw. We then lost our second and final game 5-2 against the Netherlands – a one goal defeat would have sent us through.

In 1938 we lost out to Norway with a draw and a defeat while in 1950 we finished ahead of a team for the first time (Finland) but behind Sweden. With only the winners to go through, it looked like that would be that, but when Scotland withdrew we were offered their spot. The FAI, in their infinite wisdom, baulked at the £2700 cost of travel. The tournament was such a success (financially) that they would have made a handsome profit.

In 1954 we lost out to France (hopefully not an omen for tomorrow night), in 1958 England topped our group after getting a 1-1 draw in Dublin and 1962 was probably our worst ever campaign – Ireland lost every single game home and away to Scotland and Czechoslovakia.

With the 1966 World Cup to be held in England, Irish qualification would have given a large travelling support and ex-pat community a chance to roar on the boys in Spain. Drawn in a two-team group, things got off brilliantly with a 1-0 win in Dublin. We then lost 4-1 in Seville and, given that goal difference was not used at this time, both sides were to play a play-off on a neutral site. That game was to be held in London but an agreement was made to move it to Paris, where there was a larger Spanish support. Ireland lost 1-0.

Ireland finished last in their 1970 Qualification group, and second in 1974 (behind the USSR) when we beat France in Dublin, and drew 1-1 in Paris. There was another win over the French in the 1978 Qualification, but that wasn’t enough to prevent them from beating us to the group’s top spot.  We did, however beat them in Dublin thanks to a wonder goal from Liam Brady.

1982 gave us another close call, and again the French were involved. Ireland were also drawn alongside Belgium, Netherlands and Cyprus with two of five teams to reach Spain. The group started well with a win in Cyprus, a win at home to Netherlands (who, remember had been in the 1974 and 1978 finals) and a draw at home to Belgium. Two defeats though, in Paris and in Brussels, were to prove crucial as Ireland finished up with four wins and two draws after our eight matches. Irish fans could then just watch on as France, who still had two games to play, got the wins they needed to overtake us on goal difference.

Ireland again missed out on the 1986 edition of the tournament, as a 4-1 home defeat to Denmark marked the end of Eoin Hand’s time in charge and the introduction of Big Jack Charlton. The man who’d won a World Cup as a player with England was to usher in Ireland’s greatest years on the football field, but I’ll talk more about them tomorrow...

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Allez Les Verts!

Óle Óle Óle Ireland take on France....Twice

So today is MASSIVE I am told. I'm guessing it hasn't a whole lot to do with the X Factor and Queen night or with the shopping spree I had this morning. Instead Gav tells me it has something to do with a small insignifigant night of sport.....men in shorts running after a round rolling abject gets my vote any night so I decided to look into it!

Seemingly its Ireland vs France tonight in the World Cup Qualifiers....who knew eh?? Gavin did. As always. But Gavin is a very busy man today at work but I'll explain that later on....I promise. So Trap has had a tough job ahead of him. We all remember the Italy game. That game in my humble opinion was by far the biggest f**k up of the year. I mean we were ahead twice in that match and both times we threw it away and Italy came back so we ended in a draw. We coulda had that win boys! To make it even worse it wasn't long after, a few days to be exact when we realised how crucial that win, the one we threw away, really was.

Then the nerves started in when the draw was coming up and we were faced with the propect of some really tough teams to be in a play off against. Now it's France. So tonight at 8pm the whole nation, inculding me (the girl who is giving up X Factor on Queen night to watch) will have their fingers crossed in hopes that we can come up Traps in this and show France that they have serious competition in Ireland. Prayers will be said. Hopes will be high. Dreams will be made or broken. Lives will be put on hold for 90 minutes of the most important match in ten years.

Nervous?? Hell ya! France won the World Cup in 98, how could we not be nervous? Trap and Given both say it will take nerves but it can be done. I just hope they're right. A squad with Thierry Henry, Karim Benzema and Nicolas Anelka doesn't scare them says the Republic boss Trap. After all he says his team inculdes players who play against Arsenal and Man Utd. Lets hope his faith is all our Fates.

Trap is leaving one decision to the last minute. Having named Shay Given, John O Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger*, Kevin Kilbane, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan*, Damien Duff, Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle as definite starting players this week, Trap is leaving the right side of midfiled open until just before the match. He has a choice of Aiden McGeady and Liam Lawrence. A tactical move? A decision Trap can't or won't make? We'll have to see closer to kick off what our team leader will do. Meanwhile * St Ledger and Whelan are musts after a pair of fantastic goals againt Italy. Can they do it again?

Mistakes like the Italy match cannot happen again and Trap knows this, a goal in Dublin for France tonight could be detrimental to Irelands chances next Wednesday in Paris. If like me you are not a religious person now is the time to pray and pray that our Irish team, our boys in green keep their nerve and show what we Irish are made of.

Ireland has a lot to offer sport mad people tonight as Limericks own University College is hosting a major fight tonight. Our own Andy Lee against Frances own Affif Belghecham, I can see the irony of that too. Belghecham is the French and European Unions Middleweight Champ and tonight Lee looks to take a leapfrog step towards European and World Titles. Fellow Limerick men Jamie Power and Willie Casey are in front of their home crowd as well tonight on the undercard. Having seen Power at the Dunne fight in Sep of this year I can say he's a handy fighter who had a bad night and he will want to bring himself back from his one and only defeat against Micheal Sweeny last September.

It is a big big night! The reason you're stuck with my incoherent ramblings today? Gavin is up the walls at work and is going to see and report on the Andy Lee fight in the Univeristy Arena tonight. So if you happen to be there keep an eye out for him!!

Meanwhile Ireland has a lot to offer us tonight and we want it all. We want to beat France. We want Andy to beat Belghecham and We want to have that good good night we're sacficing the X Factor for. Check out Gav's very quick post from today of Ireland in World Cup 90.....we want this but with less CRINGE factor please!!!


Thursday, 12 November 2009

Chairman of the 'Boro

After reading Gav's piece on Notts County I have been very curious about the type of characters investing money, big money, into Football clubs in the UK. One individual in particular caught my attention more than a few others, a certain Irishman named Darragh MacAnthony, Chairman of Championship side Peterborough United. I rcall being slightly taken aback at this move and by this gentleman in general. A 30 year old Dubliner, with a massive personal fortune of allegedly over €50 million.

I remember all the publicity and meda attention on the club three years ago when MacAnthony invested heavily in the club and took over from Barry Fry as the club's Chariman (Although Fry did remain on as owner and director of football). The club at this stage were positioned in League 2 & struggling for survival in both financial terms and footballing terms. Fry's 'Knight in Shining armour' promised 'Boro would be "Knocking on the door of the Premier league in 5 years time". It was a bold and brash statement to make, but you don't expect anything less from the Playboy Chairman of a company turning over £200 million pounds a year.

The club achieved great success following the appointment as manager of Darren Ferguson, son of Sir Alex. They achieved back to back promotions and attracted the highest quality players from the lower English leagues. Playing the Championship is a big step up, especially this season with a number a very strong sides, so most people expected them to struggle, and they have done. However the sacking of Ferguson came as a huge shock. The press conference held by Fry & MacAnthony last week made for interesting viewing. They seemed almost at odds with each other & claimed Ferguson as ready to step into another job immediately. This claim has been vehemently denied by Ferguson.

Looking a little closer at the company MacAnthony set up, MRI Overseas Property, gave me an unnerving feeling. Blog after blog have pages dedicated to the rip off merchants & dodgy dealings of this company



Just a few examples of the stuff being said about them. Just curious if Mr. MacAnthony was subjected to the FA’s fit & proper persons criteria for club ownership. He might be 100% above board, in fact he probably is, to be the chairman of a multi-million Euro generating company he must be… I just find the whole thing very curious indeed.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Women's Soccer Catfight

This story has been all over the sports news here in the US for the last two days.
Now, I know that there are dirty players back home, but even Vinnie Jones would be proud of this girl!
New Mexico were playing BYU in the Mountain West Conference Semi-Final, which BYU ended up winning 1-0. But nobody will really care about the score thanks to New Mexico defender, Elizabeth Lambert. Enjoy your 15 minutes Liz!


Needless to say, she's been suspended indefinitely by the University of New Mexico.

They say women's soccer is popular over here. I've watched a couple of Division 1 college matches, and..... well, trying to describe how awful they are without using profanity wouldn't really be doing it justice. It really is a chore to watch, so this is pretty much the only way they're going to get on television. More power to them!

Heisman Watch: Don't Believe The Hype

I regularly read a few college football blogs, and most will have the inevitable “Heisman Watch” section. My feelings on the Heisman Watch have grown from a fascination of mine, to a minor pet peeve, and are now bordering on full blown hatred.

The only instructions given to voters seems to be to vote for the “most outstanding player in college football”, which is pretty vague. Still, shouldn’t be too difficult. But somehow many “experts” that I follow, seem genuinely clueless. They cling to traditions rather than judge by what is happening on Saturday afternoon.

The Heisman is, above all else, an individual award. How good a team is should not be a deciding factor. But if you look at the majority of lists out there, you’ll see Tebow, McCoy and Ingram atop of them. Coincidentally Florida, Texas and Alabama are currently ranked 1, 2 and 3.

Anyone who has actually watched college football this season would have a hard time justifying that they’ve been the three most outstanding players.

In my opinion, the most outstanding player this year has been Golden Tate, the Notre Dame wide receiver, who uses his insane leaping ability and speed to consistently get the better of double teams. Since his first couple of so/so games, where his team-mate Michael Floyd clearly outperformed him, Tate has exploded. His catch against Washington State this weekend was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Take this into account – USC has allowed 3 passing TDs all season. 2 of them have been caught by Golden Tate. USC has allowed only one 100 yard receiver all season – Golden Tate. This is in spite of the fact that he has been double teamed all year long because of Michael Floyd’s absence. Based solely on the 2009 season, he’s been the best player.

Others who have been getting some consideration are Case Keenum, Ndamukong Suh, Jimmy Clausen and CJ Spiller. Again, based solely on the 2009 season, these are the best players.
Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy have been getting consideration because….. well, I don’t know. It’s because their teams are undefeated (thanks in large part to dominating defense) and because they both had a great 2008. But neither should matter because it’s 1) an individual award, and 2) it’s now 2009.

So (drumroll please), here is my Heisman list as of November 4th 2009.

1: Golden Tate – WR – Notre Dame
2: Ndamukong Suh – DT - Nebraska
3: Jimmy Clausen – QB – Notre Dame
4: CJ Spiller – RB - Clemson
5: Case Keenum – QB - Houston
6: Mark Ingram – RB - Alabama

There are other names which, on another day may have been included like Jacquizz Rodgers, Kellen Moore, Ryan Mathews, but I could mix and match them all day and still not be any the wiser.
I’m pretty sure most people who have Tebow and McCoy on their lists have just taken a look at the BCS standings, based their “opinion” on that, rather than actually watching games. If you see any of these lists, I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on them. Just go and read Dr. Saturday to make sure you get some common sense.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Girardi The Good Guy

The New York Yankees won the World Series last night, a win master-minded by their manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi made the gutsy gamble of starting his pitchers on 3 days rest (as opposed to the customary five) but the gamble paid off when Hideki Matsui fired them to a win in last night's Game 6 and to a 27th World Series title.

So well done Joe, right?  Sure, but I reckon that is only the second most impressive thing he did last night.  I quote an article on Yahoo Sports.

Girardi stopped in the wee hours Thursday to help a motorist who crashed her car into a wall after losing control on the Cross Country Parkway in suburban Westchester County.

The crash happened at a particularly dangerous section of roadway, so it not only surprised police to see Girardi on the scene jumping up and down and waving his arms to flag them down, but it also worried them.

The area is notorious for its blind spots and Girardi, who parked his car along the right side of the parkway, and then ran across the traffic to get to the injured motorist, put his life at risk, police said.

"He could have gotten killed," county Sgt. Thomas McGurn said, adding that responding police units take extra precaution in that area because of the blind curve and speeding cars. "Traffic goes by at 80 mph."

The driver was stunned from the accident and otherwise unhurt...The motorist didn't realize who was helping until police told her afterward.

"The guy wins the World Series, what does he do? He stops to help," said Westchester County police officer Kathleen Cristiano, who was among the first to arrive at the accident scene. "It was totally surreal."

Monday, 2 November 2009

More Nutty NASCAR Madness

Only caught the last fifteen minutes of last night's NASCAR race from Talladega and it looks like I didn't miss much - NASCAR bosses are being (rightly) panned for pre-race announcement that they would launch punitive measures against overly aggressive drivers.  That said, the last few laps were more than dramatic.  In the space of five laps we were treated to these two 'minor incidents'.  Everybody walked away safely.

Firstly, take a look at Ryan Newman' flip:

And now here's footage of a multi-car crash that was headlined by Mark Martin's flip (that's him in the 5 car)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

It's Notts Right

Notts County is an odd little club this season, to say the least.  They’ve been taken over by a multi-millionaire that no one knows the identity of.  They also have Sven-gali as their Director of Football in an experiment that’s doomed to last as long as, well, a vow of celibacy from Mr. Eriksson.  With their new-found injection of cash, County promptly snapped up Sol Campbell who gave us two of the funnier moments of the season thus far.  Firstly, he said he was taking a 50% pay cut to join the League Two outfit (on a mere £40,000 a week) which is surely impossible, given the fact that Campbell was a free agent and thus was earning £0 per week before he signed up.  He also then fled after one game, allowing fans to hold up one of the best chants of the season.

We had Sol but he’s not a soldier.

All joking aside, what’s going on at Notts County is disgraceful and while it has garnered some media attention, most of that has been of the ‘ooh look at that silly club’ variety.  Too few football writers have seriously analyzed this situation, like they have done previously with the takeovers of Chelsea and Manchester City, and more recently, Portsmouth.  There’s been some investigation into the anonymous Qatar-based owners, but not enough.  The club have identified the people who they say are their owners, but those people deny any involvement.  If a ‘big’ club was taken over in such a fashion, such investigations would be all over the back pages and on several pages on the inside of the newspapers.  The problem is, to Notts County fans, they are a big club, indeed the biggest, and football fans as a whole should be worried about this because if it can happen at Meadow Lane, then it could just as easily happen at Old Trafford or Anfield or at your club.

Two weeks ago, County fired Ian McPharland after two years in the job, even though he had moved them up to fifth in the League.  Today, he’s been replaced by Hans Backe, who has been a long-term Number Two to Eriksson.  It’s a job for one of the boys, given to a man who has no experience in Lower League Football, and limited managerial experience outside of Sweden.  He’s a man who knows football, of that I have no doubt, but so do I yet I wouldn’t regard myself as a candidate to take over Notts County or any other professional club.

I support small teams in various sports and the one thing I hate to see is poor management.  Fans need to know that those in charge of their club are doing their best, giving it all, and serving the best interests of the community of people who follow that club.  Speaking as an outsider, it seems that Notts County fans are being denied this right now and we should not tolerate it.

Your club could be next.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Hellie's Premier Team Hopes

It’s part of the job title of Girlfriend to find out her mans passions and to somehow find her own interest in them. We work hard to do that. In my case it was easier said than done. I had to dig really deep into myself and find, manufacture an interest in sports. Ha!
I watched him enjoy the highs and lows of sporting events, wondering what the point was, never understanding why one person could care so much about one result and one team. I struggled to understand it. I tried asking him but it still made no sense. So I tried what I thought was the impossible and sat through a full Rugby match. The match made and impact on me I never expected. Not in a million years. Next thing I knew I was asking to see more rugby. Suddenly I found myself agreeing to go to Dublin to see Bernard Dunne in the O2. Since then my interest in sport has escalated, ten fold. I found myself agreeing to take part in a Fantasy League to get into the Premier League.

It’s working.

It’s week 9 now and I’m looking into the prospect of picking a Premier League Team. We all know the choices by now. But I have set myself goals on how to pick a team, a decent team.

Goal 1: I want a team with a history. A team I can say proudly “Ya I like them, I support them”

Goal 2: I want a team in which I don’t end up jumping on a bandwagon because someone else likes them. I want a team for me, a team that I’ve chosen and not one that has been forced on me.

Goal 3: I want a team that I can look forward to watching each week

Goal 4: (rather selfishly) I want a team that will earn my Fantasy League points as well.

Manchester United: One of the chosen four, the golden balls. It’s almost a given that as a young boy you should support Man Utd, being a girl I don’t care so much. Still though they are the most popular club and a founding club of the Premier league.....that’s a history to be proud of, I guess. It’s also def a bonus that Utd have a local Cork “hero” Roy Keane as a former player, being a cork woman I have to say that. Final point? Gavin likes them.

They don’t make the cut.

Aston Villa: Another founding club of the premier league, an ancient team founded in 1874, old timers have great history. Natural rivals to Birmingham, always like a good bit of rivilery to keep a side going. Their kit is an odd collection of colours though, not sure I like them. 5th in the All Time FA League means they’ve done well but like my report cards always said “can do better”

I don’t think so......

Liverpool: Won more trophies than any other team. That’s good. Another oldie in the club stakes. Golden Balls and one of the four.... Liverpool has a great history with the Beatles, I like the Beatles. Teams kit colours are better than Vilas but that wouldn’t be hard. Good history with the stadium, Anfield looks great and it’s definitely I could see myself going to see, I like Liverpool.

They are possible as a team.

Chelsea: Frank Lampard is a good start, I call him Lampy, he gets me points for my fantasy league team. Colours are ok.....I don’t understand why they were called The Pensioners? The last decade has been their best so far, the golden balls and one of the four. Located in London is a good thing, great excuse to go over, see a match and take in a show and some shopping.

Possible, very much so.

Fulham: Another oldie, founded in 1879 and still going strong. Ish. They don’t have the best reputation right now. Former player George Best gets them Kudos though. Nice normal not too obvious coloured kit helps Nice long eventful history. Only debuted in the Premier League in 2001-2003, not very long to gain experience.

I don’t think so no.....

West Ham: Highest finish in the Premier League was in 98-99, ages ago. Too long. Geoff Hurst of the infamous hat trick of 1966 is a former player for West Ham. Started well this year. Well known over the years for Hooliganism and football related violence. Rivals? Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur....Long History, goes on forever.

I don’t think so, not with the violence, I’d be squeeshed.

Stoke City: Wow the oldest club in the premier league, 1863 thats ages ago!! Oldie indeed. Their nickname however doesn’t help them at all, The Potters? As in Harry Potter? Hmmmm I hope not. Another team with a hooligan filled history, and ID cards to try and stop this at away games? No idea how this helped but I don’t fancy it.

Eh no.......

Everton: I like Liverpool and this lot are based in Liverpool as well.....They were even founding members as well, although at this stage it doesn’t seem so impressive. Although they do generally have great attendance at games with roughly 95% of all seats filled. Rivals you ask? But of course, Liverpool! I won’t even pretend to like their colours or kits!

All in all? Maybe......

Blackburn: Played well this season against Arsenal, decent start. Another founder but this time of the Football and Premier League, nice history! A run of 11 losses in 2008 doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence though. Plenty of Irish players on the team though, always good for us here however the games are the least attended in the league.

Will I? Won’t I? I won’t no....

Arsenal: Most successful of the league teams with the most wins, nice, awful nickname though “The Gunners” sounds as hooligan ish as you can get but I’ll assume it has something to do with the picture of a gun on the crest. The ladies team is the basically the best in the league and I really like that. Even their kit seems ok, ish.

The Verdict? Maybe yeah I could deal with that.

Tottenham Hotspur: Same name as Shakespeare’s Hotspur, great link! In the season of 60/61 they won the league and the FA, the only team to win the double. Pity it was so long ago but still a decent enough history. All their well played seasons were ages ago. I don’t like their kits, none of them look good.

Nope. No chance.

Sunderland: Haven’t won a title since 1936, what’s that all about? Not sure I wanna know any more after finding that bit out. I don’t get the nickname The Blackcats, it’s weird and I think it has something to do with the cats on their crests? Either way I hate cats. Andy Reed plays for them, an Irish man who doesn’t and didn’t play for Ireland lately, seems awfully silly.

Silly isn’t for me.

Portsmouth: Nicknamed Pompey this team have a reasonably ok history of winning the FA cup, better than other no hope teams. Mainly owned by a Saudi Arbian family the teams main rivals are Southampton and are 2 divisions below, perhaps the lack of rivals in the Premier league is cause for concern? Or am I just looking for a reason to say no other than I don’t fancy trips to Portsmouth in the near future?


Wolves: Probably the only team with a understandable nickname, their own Wolverhampton Wanderers is far too long. 2006 saw a clearout of players and Mick McCarthy take over the club. The last few years have seen a lot of changes in the club, can this be good for the team to have so many upsets and changes? Probably not. And their colours are shockingly bad.


Wigan: Their only ever spot in the Premier League is this one, rough. 1995-2005 saw the impossible and Wigan made it to the Premier League, an idea that was laughed at way back then. The hunger they have to stay there must be helpful. Oddly the clubs rivals aren’t a football team but a rugby team, I like quirky this is very quirky. Kevin Kilbane used to play for them, not bad points wise but he left for a reason.

Possible choice? Maybe?

Hull City: A Yorkshire based team, they have browny points already. Least season they were too close to comfort to falling down to the next league, they narrowly avoided it by one point. But they did stay in the premier league, Kudos for that. Two irish players, including Kilbane, again think of the points.

Yeah I’ll shortlist them. Yorkshire is home sure....

Bolton: They’ve spent the longest time in the league without winning a title. Eh how? That’s not good. Two Irish players as well but I haven’t heard of either of them. Not good. Varied History but nothing worth writing home for.

Not a chance.

Burnley: The Clarets, named for their colours, have spent most of their life in the top two divisions but from 76 to 09 they failed to reach the top and have only just returned. OK fair enough everyone has bad weeks, but that’s a lot of bad.......I love that they have their own song “Dare to Dream” written by a teacher (lol) and a 8 year old pupil. I love the quirkiness!

A slim chance but better than others.

Birmingham : This year is only their 6th year in the premier league, but the club won other titles donkeys years ago under various other names such as The Heath....I’m glad they changed their names. The Umbro kit they have this year is kinda pretty, the colours are ok. Main rivals are Aston Villa, perhaps a pipe dream to beat them but I guess at the very least it gives the club a focus.

Yes? No? Maybe? Eh no.

It’s taken a few days to get to know each of the teams and clubs in the premier league but after all the reading I’ve done the last week or so I feel like I know the clubs better. Can I choose a team to follow?

Probably not based on what I’ve read and learned but I think from paying attention to the league this year I can. It may be based on a total biased point of view, on points and on daft names but I think I can manage it.

It’s been narrowed down to just two clubs for the season. It’s down to.....(this is where a TV ad break cuts in to the huge announcement) either Liverpool or Chelsea. However I’m expected to narrow it down now I’ve no idea but its thanks to Lampy (Lampard) and Bully (Torres) that I’ve gotten this far. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll come out and have a definite answer to the question, “How do you Pick a Premier League Team?” and which team is best suited for Hellie.

Maybe I’ll have caught on to a team by the end of the season but til then I’m guessing I’ll have to base all my fantasy league hopes on Lampy and Torres and hope that I can choose at the end.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Worst Of The Best

So Jenson Button is World Champion. Congratulations. I’m one of many (a large majority I suspect) who felt that this day would never come so well done to Jenson.

But, though he is World Champion, my question is how good is he really?

Mark Hughes reckons Button is the bee’s knees and makes a convincing argument on the BBC F1 Website as to why Button has taken so long to reach this point and why we should acclaim him as a true great. I disagree.

Jenson has had several years in the sport now, but before this year had only won one race at a rain-affected Hungarian Grand Prix. Now you can argue, rightly, that this is due in part to the fact that he was never in one of the grid’s best cars but I counter that point with a simple fact – Button would have been in one of those cars if he was good enough. Remember, this is a man that about twelve months ago looked destined to be booted out of the sport. When Honda jumped ship, he was left without a drive. His commitment to Brawn and his decision to take a pay cut to stay in the sport are commendable, but let’s not fool ourselves and say that Jenson Button is the fastest driver in the world. In the same car, on a dry track, I would fancy Massa, Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel and maybe Kubica to finish ahead of the Briton. He may be World Champion but in my book, Jenson Button is not world class.

Look at his title winning season. Button began the year in a Brawn GP car that was the class of the field. Yes, he took advantage of this, but in truth all he had to do was outrace team-mate Rubens Barrichello. After seven races, Button had 61 points. Since then, he’s won 28 points in nine races. Vettel has won 45, Barrichello 37, Webber 34, Hamilton 40 and Raikkonen has scored 38. Sure, Jenson has been consistent in that he’s scored points in all but one race, but he’s limped across the finishing line. In the second half of the year, he has been mediocre and outraced by all of this title rivals, even a man in the same car as him. He won this World Championship in the first seven races and though that is how the rules are configured, Button has had the worst finish to the season of any champion that I can remember.

Jenson Button has taken advantage of a great situation and for that he does deserve to be commended. However, once the hoopla dies down, I feel that in years to come we will look back on the 2009 Formula One World Championship as a poor one, and it’s champion will be a man who’s fluked his way to the top spot.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Bye Bye Taylor

I pointed this out earlier on tonight and here's a video pulled off Youtube.  This is from tonight's fight between Jermain Taylor and Arthur Abraham and here's Abraham's 12th round knockout.  It's a corker.

Bent Bursts Liverpool Bubble

Here's a video of Darren Bent's goal for Sunderland against Liverpool today.  Watch how it deflects in off of a balloon on it's way into the goal.

On behalf of all Manchester United fans...

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Is The Super Six Really Super?

I’m just watching the first fight of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, Arthur Abraham v Jermaine Taylor in Germany. After 8 rounds, the commentators have one round in it so I expect Abraham to win by about 8 points, given the way fights are scored in Germany.

For those of you that haven’t heard about the tournament, and due to boxing’s perilous standing in the world, the Super Six World Boxing Classic involves six boxers who will fight a series of fights over eighteen months to determine the best Super Middleweight in the world. Indeed, it’s an attempt to boost the profile of the sport itself.

Jermain Taylor, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch, Andre Dirrell, Andre Ward and Mikkel Kessler are the six entrants in the Super Six and, to be fair to the organisers, they are six of the top ten in the world. Indeed, only Lucian Bute can feel aggrieved that he wasn’t invited to take part – he is the IBF World Champion. And Super Middleweight is one of boxing’s most vibrant divisions. Froch fought Taylor last timeout in a bout that ended in a twelfth round knockout for the Nottingham man, while Mikkel Kessler has been involved in plenty of scraps too. They’re good boxers, and good boxers to watch – this should work, right? I doubt it.

The problem with the Super Six is the very problem that it is trying to fix. Boxing’s profile is low, and isn’t helped by the media coverage. It’s on Showtime in the States, the second biggest premium channel for boxing in the States, rather than HBO or (in a dewam world) ESPN or one of the networks. At least it’s on an established channel – in the UK, tonight’s action is on a channel called Primetime, it’s first ever program. And it’s pay-per-view.

So, good as the tournament is, it will battle to register beyond the boxing community. I hope it does, like I always do when it comes to boxing, but I’m pessimistic.

Abraham won, by knockout. It’s one of the knockouts of the year. I thought I was going to be proven correct on the scorecards. I still may have been. I’ll have to get a video of that punch up. Yowza it was a good ‘un.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Football gives you brain damage?

A medical study in the United States has issued some pretty worrying results for the National Football League (NFL) and all high contact sports such as boxing.

William Reville of the Irish Times discusses the medical side of the report and it's possible effects in detail here.

Well worth a read, he is objective and brings to light the most important aspects of this report.
At the same time it is also quite worrying when he brings this report to Irish sports, namely Rugby.

For some years it has been noted that rugby players at the highest level all over the world are getting bigger.
Personally, I noticed it the most when Munster played Wasps in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup in 2004. Wasps' players such as Josh Lewsey a winger that day, seemed to be the physical build of David Wallace, Munster's flanker rather then John Kelly the winger.

Notably, Eddie O'Sullivan saw this as a key issue for the Irish national squad and started to implement off-season programs in Spala , Poland to, for want of a better word, beef up the Irish players.
The change was most notable in player's like Ronan O'Gara or Peter Stringer for Munster, and maybe Gordan Darcy for Leinster.

Also, it clearly improved results on the field. This trend however, has trickled down the grades to school boy level. At what age is it acceptable to be pumping young players fuel of dietary supplements or creatine?

I know it has not been 100% confirmed but reports of creatine and it's effect on the liver are widely known. As much as the NZRFU will deny it, the supplement robbed the game of one of the best wingers in the world in Jonah Lomu.

This is not the first time the size of players debate has come to the fore, but this new report from the States has already caused the NFL to conduct reviews on 120 retired players. Maybe it is times for the ERC or the IRFU and RFU to look into something similar?

PS. The line in the report about multiple concussions has this author pretty spooked!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Irish Boxing Set For Middleweight Feast

As part of work today, I attended a press conference in Limerick where Andy Lee announced his next fight.  For the record, it will take place on November 14th in the University Sports Arena and Lee’s opponent will be French and European Union Middleweight Champion Affif Belghecham.  He’s a decent fighter who’s ranked ahead of Lee by most organizations but his lack of power – four knockout wins in 23 fights – makes me think Lee will be favourite, particularly in front of his home fans.

Much of the talk at the press conference surrounded other potential opponents for Lee, namely John Duddy and Matthew Macklin.  This trio have the potential to give Irish boxing some of its biggest ever domestic fights.  They all fight at or near middleweight and each one is a top class fighter, if not quite world class (yet).  More importantly however, each boxer has the ability to entertain and a series of fights between them could give Ireland something similar to the Benn/Eubank/Watson fights in the UK in the early 1990s.

Lee is probably the most naturally gifted of the three.  He’s fought 20 times, losing only once in a premature stoppage against Brian Vera.  After failing to medal at the Athens Olympics, Lee signed on to be trained and managed by Emmanuel Steward and his Kronk crew.  Steward promised much but so far Lee has failed to deliver.  Most of his fights have been unimpressive and though he shows some power with several knockdowns, he’s lacked the flashy knockouts you feel he’s capable of.  He also has the small problem of being the most in need of this quasi-tournament, hence (I feel) the reasons that it was spoken about today.

Duddy has one defeat, against Billy Lyell in April of this year, but he did bounce back from that with an impressive win over Mexican Michi Munoz in New York on Saturday.  He’s now likely to fight in Mexico in December before a mouth-watering clash with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. In New York on St. Patrick’s Weekend.  It’s worth noting that he’s persuing this course of action (in conjunction with Bob Arum of Top Rank) instead of fighting Lee in Limerick, a fight that he was offered (according to what was said at Thomond Park today).

Macklin, about two years ago, would probably have been regarded as a distance behind both Lee and Duddy.  That’s because of the two defeats on his record but they’re not important right now, simply because he’s bounced back from them, and in style.  (Ironically, one of those defeats was in a barnstormer against Jamie Moore, who himself could work his way into this potential series of fights, even if he is a way behind the rest, at least until he wins a European Title of his own next week.)  Indeed, Macklin is probably our finest middleweight.  That’s after his European Title win over Amin Asikainen last month.  Macklin blitzed the Finn in one round – take note Andy Lee, this is the sort of thing we need to see from you

They’re three potentially great fighters and they’re all Irish.  Anyone who remembers the Benn/Eubank/Watson fights will know how three fighters can capture the attention of the public, and these three fighters have the style to give us classic fights.  It is a potential purple patch for the Irish boxing and I, for one, hope that we will see them in the ring together in the not-too-distant future.

Bonehead Of The Week

My buddy Walshie won't like me posting this. It comes from Sunday's game between the Atlanta Falcons and his beloved San Francisco 49ers. It was a bad day for the ‘Niners fans – not only were they hammered by Matt Ryan and co. but they also had to watch cornerback Dre Bly make this idiotic mistake. Watch below as Bly intercepts a pass from Ryan, only to celebrate too soon and lose the ball when tackled by Roddy White. Stoopid.

Monday, 12 October 2009


Depending on the time of the year, my all-out favourite team varies but from September – December, NFL season, it’s generally the Kansas City Chiefs. Even this year.

The Chiefs, it’s fair to say, are a pretty poor team. We’ve lost 27 of our last 29 games, dating back to the middle of the 2007 season. Last night, we blew a 10 point lead against the Dallas Cowboys, then fought back to force overtime, and then lost regardless. It made for tough viewing, but I’m hardened to it by now. Unsurprisingly.

The worst part about it all is how management of your team screws things up, and one such instance was pointed out to all Chiefs fans by Peter King today in his excellent Monday Morning Quarterback column. It involves our former Defensive End Jared Allen, who is now with the Minnesota Vikings and is probably one of the best defensive players in the NFL this season. The Chiefs traded him at the end of the 2007 season. It was a deal I agreed with at the time – he wanted to go – but boy have the Vikings had the best part of the deal.

I’ll leave King to explain the latest bit of Chiefs related information that has me in despair.


I think if you're a Chiefs' fan, you might want to skip this section. Kansas City refused to give Jared Allen a top-tier defensive end contract 18 months ago, instead shipping him to Minnesota for what appeared to be fair compensation three days before the 2008 draft. Here's how the deal looks today:

What the Chiefs got:

1st round (15th overall) Branden Albert, OT -- Starting LT has a chance to be good. In-and-out work ethic.

3rd round (73) Jamaal Charles, RB -- Change-of-pace back averaging five carries a game in 21 pro games.

3rd round (82) DaJuan Morgan, S -- Sub safety who still has to prove self to new coaching staff.

6th round (182) Kevin Robinson, WR -- Cut by Chiefs in '08. Never played for them.

What the Vikings got:

Jared Allen, DE -- The league's best all-around defensive end has 21 sacks and three safeties in 22 Viking games.

6th round (187) John Sullivan, C -- First-year starting center on one of NFL's best lines.

It's not certain, but it's possible that history will show that the Vikings got a more productive player at 187 (Sullivan) than the Chiefs got at 15 (Albert). Ouch.


Ouch indeed.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

C'Mon You Boys In Green

The countdown is on to Ireland v Italy.

Four and a half hours now!

I'm not sure how big a game it actually is - Ireland can wil and still not overtake Italy at the top of Group 8.  Nonetheless, it would be brilliant to beat the World Champions in our own back yard and give us four days of dreaming that Cyprus might, just MIGHT, do us a favour against the Italians in Italy.

To get you in the mood, here's a reminder of THAT day in Giants Stadium on the opening weekend of the 1994 World Cup.

It really was fifteen years ago... Christ.  I'm old.

Bohs' Bailout Is Not Right

Apologies for my recent silence but I've been very busy.  Despite that, I can't let one very, very annoying story rumble on past without comment.

The story comes from the world of Irish football and concerns Bohemians FC.  For our foreign readers, or for those of you seemingly unaware that association football is, in fact, played here, Bohemians are one of Ireland's most successful clubs.  This decade alone, Bohs have won three League of Ireland titles and two FAI Cups.  They've also been moderately successful in Europe - the win over Aberdeen in 2000 was probably their highlight.  All in all, they're one of our finest.

Like all clubs, Bohs have been hit hard by this recession you may have heard about, but then again who hasn't?  And Bohs' appearance in the Champions League this season, not to mention prize money from last season's League and Cup wins, as well as appearance money in the Setanta Sports Cup, should mean that they're able to stomach the downturn.  Unfortunately, no.  This week it was revealed that Bohs were bailed out by the FAI to the tune of €100,000 earlier this season.  The cash was not a gift, nor a loan, but (according to the FAI) an advance on monys paid to Bohs by UEFA for their brief appearance in the Champions League.

This is a disgrace.  In a year when Cork City were on the brink and when clubs like Galway United, Sligo Rovers and Drogheda have all struggled, why do Bohemians deserve money?  The FAI say that the nature of this money isn't a loan and thus means that they're not contributing to the club's operational costs, but so what?  A loan is a loan and by all accounts this money was given to Bohs to ensure their financial stability.  So why them?  Why not any other struggling League of Ireland club?

When it comes to sport, favouratism cannot be allowed from any figures of authority.  Not from a referee, not from officials and certainly not from the body charged with running the game.  The FAI say that what they have done is not unusual, and even say that they've done similar favours for other clubs but that's not good enough either.  Clubs should live within their budgets, even in times like this when all clubs are struggling financially.  Bailouts shouldn't be given, to anyone.

All any fan wants is fairness.  We want our lot to win, sure, but more important than that is the knowledge that the playing field is level.  A mere suggestion of bias towards one side or another comprimises the integrity of the game and in an instance such as this happens.  Fans of other clubs can now argue that 'the FAI love Bohs 'cos they gave them all that cash' and while that may not be the case, this bailout is enough to plant seeds of doubt into the fans of other clubs, including your's truly. 

This money, though well intentioned, was an own goal.