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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Wimbledon... Again

A couple of quick points on the tennis.

Andy Murray's match last night was fantastic. I don't think I've ever seen Wimbledon look as well as it did under the lights. The crowd got into it and both Murray and Warwrinka gave them a five-setter to remember. Murray now takes on Juan Carlos Ferrero in the quarter-finals and it's a matchup I don't like for Murray. Ferrero was impressive against Gilles Simon yesterday and it was Warwrinka's punishing ground strokes that hurt Murray, something that Ferrero is well able to provide. Murray should still win, but not as smoothly as I thought yesterday.

And the women's semi's today... jeesh. Will someone do something?!!? As I type Serena has just begun her match against Radwanska so if this one turns out to be a classic, I apologise, but there hasn't been a memorable game of women's tennis at Wimbledon for, what... four years? The '05 Final? Someone fix it, somehow. Introduce a maximum arm-size maybe? This is ridiculous.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Lions 2nd Test Aftermatch

Bakkies Botha has been suspended for two weeks following a dangerous "charge" at Adam Jones, which resulted in the latter dislocating his collar bone.

Schalk Burger has been given an eight week ban for making contact with the eye area of Luke Fitzgerald.

For those, like myself who did not see the Botha "challenge" there is a clip here on youtube.
Personally I think the ban is harsh, Jones is bound to the ruck but not really expecting to be hit and thus not braced for the collision. Botha (who was guilty in several other incidents of foul play throughout the game) seems to be hitting the ruck to delay the ball coming out, or as seen often in the game today hoping to cause a knock on by the scrum half. The sheer size and power of Botha and Jone's relaxed state are more then likely what caused the injury to occur rather then any intent from Bakkies, but in the grand scheme of the entire game and his "carry on" I do not think he will appeal.

Burger on the other hand can count himself lucky. See the video here.
Now I am the furthest from a professional rugby player you will find, but viewing the above and reading the South African coaches comments that such an act is "part of the game" has left my baffled.
It is clear that Burger has taken the player out of the ruck and has his hands near his face and continues to leave them there for a few seconds. Both players are on the ground and out of the play, so why would there need to be continued contact from Burger, let alone near the face. Personally I think the formation of Burger's fingers, the index finger and "ring" finger bent show he is attempting to grab or penetrate the eye area of Luke Fitzgerald. Accidental contact would involve a scrape across the area or a sudden poke where one would expect Burger to quickly remove his fingers. Neither of these are what is happening here.
In my view gouging, which is extremely dangerous to the livelihood of professional sports players should carry a much greater minimum ban. If a player is found guilty of purposely sticking his fingers in someones eyes it should be closer to 6 months suspension.

Burger can count himself lucky he will miss just three games in the Tri-Nations. I would expect with all the media attention given to this incident, and also to Alan Quinlan's poke at Leo Cullen that the IRB may review the laws governing disciplining gouging, as clearly the current bans are not incentive enough for some players to stop.

Wimbledon Preview

There's one way to know that summer has arrived. Here in Ireland, the sun can't be relied upon so the only way we can be sure that it's time to tuck into the ice cream is when Wimbledon comes on the telly.

Now you may think it odd that I'm previewing a tournament midway through the seventh of it's 13 days but to be fair, Wimbledon 2009 still hasn't taken off. There's been no drama, no scandal and even less upsets. We miss Rafa, we really do. The Spaniard's knees are a real worry for the future but it's good to see him take some R&R now, to hope that he has a future.

Nonetheless, like we missed him in the Roland Garros decider, it seems that Rafa being away leaves the Men's tournament down to two men. If you've been watching the BBC you'll know that Andy Murray is all but into Sunday's decider. Murray has been impressive, no doubt, but he's played no one. Thankfully for him, he doesn't have to. After a draw that even he would have been embarrassed to ask the ever-so-kind people at the All England Club for, Murray today plays Stanislas Warwinka for a spot in the Quarters. Warwinka. Christ. Hope mum Judy has a hat picked out for Sunday.

He'll likely take on Roger Federer in Sunday's decider. Federer has also had a relatively easy passage thus far. Sure, he's taking on Robin Söderling today but since Federer has a 10-0 record against the Swede, it's likely that he won't be too worried about facing the French Open runner-up. Some are saying that this is a return to form for Fed but I think it's unfair to say he lost his form. Last year, Federer was hit with a pre-season bout of glandular fever, something which would knock the stuffing out the average Christmas turkey. Yet he still went on to reach one Grand Slam semi-final and three finals, winning one. Federer has reached the last 21 Grand Slam semis - he's as consistent as clockwork.

There have been other contenders in Week One. It was nice to see a semi-return of Leyton Hewitt and The Other A-Rod still has the serve to contend with the World's best. Still, it'd be a major surprise if Roger The Dodger didn't take Moany Murray on Sunday. Sigh... At least we still have last year.

On the women's side the Williams sisters are my pick to advance into the final. Like the men's game, it seems that there is too large a gulf between the very top players and the next tier. Consistency is the aim of the game now and it's increasingly rare that we see interesting ties before the last eight of any of the Slams.

Who'll win the final? I think it's Serena's turn but that'll be up to Daddy Williams. And in the men's? Always rely on Fed-Express.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Where did it all go wrong?

Let's start with the bench maybe.
Or perhaps the game plan?
The assistant referee's decision that eye gouging despite recent suspensions for players like Alan Quinlan and Martin Corry this season, Schalk Burger's attempts to touch Luke Fitzgerald's brain only gets him 10 minutes in the bin?
Ronan O'Gara - more then likely going to be the fall guy for near every paper the far side of the English Channel?

Will Greenwood touches on some interesting points about the commitment with which the Lions played. Never shirking from the immensely physical 'Boks and standing toe to toe with them in the confrontations - a point no more evident then Brian O'Driscoll mouthing "Bring it on" to the slightly taller Victor Matfield after a bout of handbags.
Unfortunately Greenwood's points lose their resonance when he then turns around to single out his compatriots Simon Shaw and Tom Croft for special mention. A bizarre decision after such a game. Shaw for his honesty and brute force had a good game, Sky do seem to have a love affair with his character that probably stems from his great personality. He played a good game today, took his line out ball at two cleanly and carried some good ball forward. However, he was also at fault for a couple of silly penalties and his bulk also makes it hard for him to compete with opposition lineouts, which led to some easy and quick ball for the 'Boks. It was terrible to see him dragged before the cameras out of the losing dressing room to answer some pretty awful questions from the Sky commentators, maybe there is a contractual obligation to have these interviews but I am not one to enjoy either winning or losing players being asked banal questions minutes from a victory or defeat.
Tom Croft on the other hand seemed anonymous. Picked for what the pundits will have you believe was his speed around the park and sheer atheltchism, he failed to provide any of the abilities today. The Springbok backrow is one of the best, if not the best in the world, but Croft was outpaced on a couple of occasions in the latter stages of the game giving the South Africans great field position with which to attack.

The game was marred with huge hits, some legal and some not so much, the most memorable in Brian O'Driscoll's which resulted in his opposition man clearly concussed. "B O'D" once again putting his body on the line for a cause, showing why he is one of the greatest defensive centres in the world.

Ultimately the Lions lost the game by failing to make more of their lead at the start of the second half. They let the Springboks slowly back into a game when they should have increased the tempo and spread the ball out wide early to either wing, both of whom looked dangerous when given the opportunity.

It's still raw now, great games like these always are for the losing fans. Despite losing the series I think this trip may have secured the Lions as an entity for another few years. With professionalism hitting heights never seen before, and players getting bigger, the collisions now more like car crashes, a 7 week trip at the end of a season is always going to be in jeopardy. Hopefully it will last as a Lions victory is always something to cherish. Unfortunately for the likes of Simon Shaw and B O'D they may not play in one before the end of their careers.

I will post more during the week on the Lions and Ireland's recent success in the Churchill Cup.

Lions 2nd Test.

Our resident Rugby Guru is still having connectivity problems, so again I'll fill in the gaps. Later on today the British & Irish Lions take on South Africa in the 2nd test. Having lost narrowly last weekend, this game is the last chance the lions have to salvage a first tour victory since 1997.

But in a bizarre development, scrum-half Mike Phillips has revealed that Springboks lock Bakkies Botha went on about his 'sexy blue eyes' in an attempt to put the Welshman off his game. Botha is revered in South Africa as the Springboks' 'enforcer', a salt of the earth country man who is hard to the core. But Phillips' revelation proves that Botha may be more in touch with his feminine side than was previously thought.
To be fair Mike Phillips does have dreamy eyes, but i was always a man fan of the green wonders of Joost Van Der Westhuizen.
Anyway... Phillips & Botha both start tomorrow, so lets see what happens when their eyes meet again. Will Sparks fly? I hope so.

Friday, 26 June 2009

When You Miss A Potential Classic

Apologies for a complete lack of any hurling guff last week, in the busiest and best weekend for the sport of kings thus far this year. Wins for Waterford, Tipp, Kilkenny and Dublin seems them all progressing to inter-provincial finals (particular kudos to the Dubs for their first appearance since '91), as many would have predicted. Kilkenny must be delighted that Galway are in Leinster this year, as that's as good a game as they've got prior to July in many years, while Tipperary again looked as if they were passing around a bottle of whiskey at half-time, given their tendency to try and throw away leads.

Speaking of comebacks, a classic encounter took place in Pairc Uí Chaoimh on Wednesday night last, as Tipp and Cork Minors played out what seemed like an exhilirating 5-17 each draw. On account of work, I couldn't make it down to Cork, but accounts filtering through over the airwaves seemed to make it seem like one of the best games played at any grade in a long time. Disgracefully, no local radio station seemed to carry live commentary of the game. Anyway, onto the game: Cork led at one stage in the second half by five or six points, only for Tipp to claw their way back and go three points up, before Cork managed an injury time equalising goal (2-15 to 3-12 at that stage).

Tipp came out of the blocks in extra time with two goals in the first half, racing into an eight-point lead. Cork incredibly pegged them back, scoring two more goals themselves, and leading by two, when John "Bubbles" O'Dwyer came off the bench (he started the game, was substituted in the second half, came back on at end of second half, was subsituted again, and came back on again, scoring 2-6 in the process) and netted a Tipp goal, before a Cork 65 in injury time deservedly sent the game to a replay next Wednesday in Thurles at 7.30pm

It has the potential to be another absolute cracker.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Wimbledon 2009

So its Mid-Summer and Wimbledon has arrived to take over our television sets for a number of weeks. This year Andy Murray is Britian's great white hope. On this occasion he has a genuinely chance. Rafa Nadal is not here this year to defend his championship. Federer is the top seed and the one to beat, but Murray having won recenlty at Queens Club, will give him a good run.

Now on to the main business... the Women. Already the lovely Maria Sharapova is out. Beaten in the 2nd recond. Very disappointing for use fans of the female... game. Dinara Safina is the number one seed, followed by the two Williams brothers. The ladies i'd keep an eye out for are Daniela Hantuchova, the Danish young gun Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Dominika Cibulkova. Jelana Jankovic has alot going for her too AND is pretty good at tennis too.
Maybe leave me a comment with your favourites!
C'MON TIM... Eh? mmm.... I Mean ANDY!

Media Watch: The League of Ireland and the Recession

A glum week here on the media watch, given the unsurprising yet nonetheless sad demise of Setanta Sports in the UK. While Setanta Ireland is still on air (at the time of typing), thus meaning that we should still see League football from over here, this week has seen the indefinite postponement of the Setanta Sports Cup. Though never, I felt, the most cherished of competitions, there’s no denying that the loss of its substantial prize money will hurt the finances the League of Ireland clubs you and I adore.

Setanta’s demise comes on a week in which the finances of those same clubs have been under the spotlight. Limerick F.C’s case was widely reported after a public meeting was held in the city on Sunday night. A not-so-sexy 69 people showed up (exactly 500 less than were at Limerick’s 1-0 loss to Shels on Friday) but while the attendance was not the best, the media did their bit to save the Super Blues. By Monday, there were stark headlines in the local press that the club could go out of business this weekend unless €70,000 was found. Right now, again at the time of typing, it looks like the club will stave off the Grim Reaper thanks to a kind offer from a local businessman and the club have the media to thank, in part, for bringing awareness to Limerick’s issues.

While this is one positive way in which the financial woes of a League of Ireland club have been reported, it is in the minority. Also on Monday, the Irish Independent previewed the draws for the Qualifying Rounds of the Champions League and UEFA Cup Light a.k.a. the Europa League, focussing on Bohemians and explaining how a long European run was just what the bank manager, and not hte doctor, had ordered for the Gypsies. Alongside the article was a ‘helpful’ table which detailed the financial situations of the four clubs in the pot. Derry’s was the most positive even though, depressingly, the paper detailed vague rumours about their finances. The less said about Cork, Bohs and Sligo, the better. Was this really necessary? Could the Indo not have examined our improved European performances in recent years and wondered if this was the year that we would see a breakthrough for an Irish club?

Limerick and the European 4 aren’t the only clubs in trouble, of course. There have been problems at my own Galway United and at Drogheda also. We’ve heard all their stories, all topped with bleak headlines, particularly in the national press. While we hate to read or hear about these problems, the case in Limerick this week shows that on a local level at least, there is a groundswell of public will that wants to see our clubs survive these tough times. No League of Ireland club has yet gone to ground during this recession and long may that statement remain factually correct. We have a vibrant league, we have teams who play good football and we have players who are very, very talented. We’re just not told about them.

The League of Ireland needs an injection of positivity. The media can and should do its bit.

This was originally posted over on http://www.extratime.ie

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

USA cause major shock in Confederation Cup

USA tonight beat the giants of European football Spain 2-0 in the semi final of the HUGELY important and significant Confederations Cup in South Africa.
To be fair it was a major shock. Marcel Desailly, BBC analyst, said after the game that "its amazing that they (USA) did not make the mistake that make Spain score".
He's dead right. They didn't make any mistakes in the back - led by Watford legend Jay Demerit.
Goals from Jozy Altidore and Fulham's Clint Dempsey sent the hundreds of US supports in the stadium into raptures.
Oh they'll be dancing on the streets of the Big Apple tonight with this result. Great Stuff.


It's a fate worse than relegation itself. This is - no joke - Newcastle United's new away jersey. It might be the worst kit since Jorge Campos' goalkeeping jersey for Mexico circa 1994. This... thing is absolutely horrible but makes for great comedic material.

The Toon Army will be more like Bananas in Pyjamas in this one.

Altogether now... "You're shi(r)t and you know you are...."

As Irish As Big Jack

Like many of my countrymen, I’m proud to be Irish. Being Irish brings certain traits with it: a general (and abhorrent) dislike of them from across the water, a pride in our arts and heritage, and a devotion to our sports teams. We love being Irish and we love following our sports teams. No matter where we play, there is always a large and vocal presence of Irish people to support our own and while I’m in no doubt that the importance/uniqueness of this is overstated by ourselves, we are a nation of sports lovers.

In return for this devotion, we expect many things in return, most notably pride in the shirt/flag. We want our sports stars to represent Ireland with dignity, honour and most importantly passion because they are representing more than just the island of Ireland; they’re representing the sport mad community that lives here too. Be it rugby, football or Gaelic games, when our men/women represent Ireland, they become an extension of each sports fan in this country.

Yet the essence of this Irish-ness, and indeed of other nationalities, has become weakened in recent times. In athletics we have seen Africans such as Rashid Ramzi, Stephen Chorono (Saif Saaeed Shaheen) and Albert Chepkurui (Ahmad Hassan Abdullah) defect from their home nations and instead compete for Asian countries such as Qatar and Bahrain, often for no reason other than financial reward. We here in Ireland aren’t immune to allegiance switching – who can forget the ‘Oi-rish’ football legends such as John Aldridge, Ray Houghton and Terry Phelan. These are players who were adored by the Green Army for their exploits on the field, as was their English manager, even if their passports and birth certs weren’t from this country.

So does it matter where someone comes from? There are reports that Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni will look to take advantage of new citizenship rules from FIFA and invite players such as Kevin Nolan to line out for Ireland. He’s become available now that FIFA say he and other players are eligible, even if they’ve played for other nations at an underage level, in Nolan’s case England. He qualifies for Ireland under ancestry rules, though oddly he also qualifies to play for the Netherlands. Would the Dutch be happy to see a Scouser called Nolan lining out for them?

In an increasingly globalized world, people’s nationalities have become less defined than they once were. A growing number of athletes will have a choice between two or more countries, as Aldridge and Houghton had in the 1980s. They chose Ireland, and represented us well, so maybe being from this little island isn’t that big a deal after all. Maybe we just want our sports stars to play as if they are one of our own.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Lions Update

Since Rob is currently Laptopless I thought i'd give a quick run down of the team for Tuesdays game against the Emerging Springboks.
Ronan O'Gara will captain the side, making him the 4th Irish player to captain the Lions on this tour, following Paul O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll & Donnacha O'Callaghan.

An interesting aside - each of the Irish Captains on this Lions tour have all one thing in common - the O' , just thought i'd point that out.

John Hayes, recent addition to the tour party, starts in the front row. As does Tim Payne. Both props were called out during the week as replacements for injury concerns to Euan Murray (who's tour is over) and Andrew Sheridan (Back injury responding slowly to treatment).

Emerging Springboks v British & Irish Lions - Newlands, Cape Town, on Tuesday 23 June at 6.10pm:

15 Keith Earls, 14 Shane Williams, 13 Riki Flutey, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ronan O'Gara (Captain), 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Joe Worsley, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Tim Payne.

Replacements: Lee Mears, Phil Vickery, Simon Shaw, David Wallace, Mike Blair, James Hook, Ugo Monye.

Lovin' Lucas

Apologies for the comparative silence here recently. Got college results today so... you know. Havin' fun. I'm enjoying the golf though, 'cos I've a bet on Lucas Glover at rid-onk-ulous odds. Go Glover!

Friday, 19 June 2009

More Clowning Around At The F1 Circus

Quite frankly, what is happening in Formula One this week can at best be described as a shit storm.

For those of you who’ve not heard, eight of the ten teams currently taking part in the sport last night announced that they’ve commenced preparations for a breakaway series in what could become the greatest upheaval in the sixty year history of Formula One. Unless a compromise is found between the FIA and the teams’ association FOTA, then it’s possible that Formula One will continue sans Ferrari, McLaren and many of the other teams which have contributed to the history of the greatest form of motorsport.

So how did we get here? Well, the starting point can be debated but this row hit its current zenith when Honda sensationally quit the sport towards the end of last year. Though they were saved and became what we now know as Brawn GP, this signalled a warning sign for the sport’s governing body. Costs needed to be slashed to ensure that grid levels didn’t fall below the current twenty, a move made more necessary and urgent by the recession. Discussions on how exactly to save money left to the proposal of a budget cap, something that many of the teams (especially Ferrari) are against. They accuse the FIA of poor governance, the FIA don’t back down and we’re now as close as ever to the ruination of Formula One.

There are other factors at work aside from the obvious monetary ones. For one, it’s clear that many team principals are unhappy with the stewardship of Max Mosley as President of the FIA. They claimed about him to the World Motorsport Council and a statement released by the FIA in the last few days showed contempt for Ferrari head Luca di Montezemolo. Another statement is due from the FIA this afternoon – I’d expect more of the same.

Today’s development is not unexpected and while my pal James claims that a breakaway series is viable, I have to disagree. Split championships mean split revenues. Is it really feasible for FOTA to organise a Championship on time for next year? Aside from the logistical problems that come with organising events, the teams will have to negotiate deals with tyre suppliers, fuel suppliers etc. Who would televise the deals and, more crucially, who will pay to televise them? Formula One’s main income is from broadcasters and this will not be matched for the FOTA crowd.

I suspect a deal will be reached. Common sense will apply, concessions will be made and Formula 1 will last. Max Mosley will almost certainly have to leave his post as FIA President for this to happen, but I feel he will. The sport’s reputation will be tarnished though. Fans want close racing and great action. Casual fans will be turned off if, when they tune in to Sunday’s race, discussion is dominated by politics. The sport did not need this, and unless a deal is struck soon (this evening's impending deadline for next year’s entry list means that is possible) then the sport could take a long time to recover from this.


The FIA statement has been released in the last few minutes and will do little to ease tensions. In the statement, which can be seen here, the governing body threaten legal action against FOTA over the breakaway series and again single out Ferrari for criticism. The statement also indicates that the aforementioned entry list will be delayed because of the legal proceedings, which hopefully is a tactic to buy more time to ensure that a deal is struck. The row rumbles on...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

US Open Update

So the heavens have opened up over Bethpage and it looks like there won't be much play today but I saw and enjoyed this. Ian Poulter is providing live twitter updates to pass the time. http://twitter.com/Ianjamespoulter

Open For Business

As I write this, the opening groups at the US Open have begun their rounds. The year’s second Major has always been a favourite of mine. The courses used in the US Open don’t have the beauty of Augusta, and there’s a lot more history in the Open but regardless of this, there’s something special about the US Open. To see golfers tested on an exceedingly difficult course, and to see them fail like us mere mortals is oddly satisfying, in a slightly sadistic way.

Perhaps because of this, the US Open has the feel of a people’s Major. The pomposity of the Masters is not present, nor the formality of the Open, and in a way this is most evident at this year’s venue, Bethpage Black. Seven years ago the 2002 US Open at the same venue was one of the first major international events to be help in New York State since 9/11. Tiger won, naturally, and he’ll be the favourite to do so again this weekend in a tournament that will be held in the background of a massive global recession.

Again this can be tied into Bethpage. It is a course that was built as a public project during the Great Depression of the 1930s and it’s also one of the most accessible Major venues. Over 30,000 rounds are played on the Black course annually and weekday green fees are a modest $50 for the local residents who’ll be out in force this weekend, over 250,000 of them.

Last year’s US Open was a memorable affair. A virtually one-legged Tiger won in the Monday playoff, beating off the genial Rocco Mediate while Lee Westwood was a nearly man who had a putt on the 72nd green to join the Americans on the Monday. Only in the aftermath of the tournament did we learn how hurt Woods actually was (he wouldn’t play again for over eight months due to the extent of the ligament damage to his left knee) and he himself has called it his favourite ever Major win. Along with the 1997 Masters, it was certainly his most impressive.

Phil Mickelson will be the darling of the crowds. His wife Amy is continuing her battle with breast cancer so while it would be unreasonable to expect too much from Lefty, it would be lovely to see him do well. Padraig Harrington may have won two Majors in the last twelve months but his recent slump in form shows no sign of abating – it would be rough weekend for Paddy. Rory McIlroy is being touted as the best Irish hope but in only his third Major it’s probably too soon. If there is to be a European winner, Paul Casey is probably most likely but anyone will do well to beat Tiger. No matter though, we’ll enjoy the next few days. After all, it is our Major.

The FAI Cup on MNS

It was a Late Late MNS this week as the show was booted from its usual 8:00 p.m. slot by a group game from the most pointless international tournament of them all. Con told us that it was the ‘first Late Late since Pat’s departure’ and that Rico, Pat Morley and Steve’s big brother had all stocked up on the coffee to get them through it. I found beer worked better myself. Con the conman then went on to explain in his online blog that the show was actually pre-recorded so it seems that he was lying to us. TV fakery from Montrose? Surely not.

It’s a shame that this week, of all weeks, was shunted into the wee hours as it was FAI Ford Cup Third Round time, a weekend crammed with more one-sided victories than your average Harlem Globetrotters World Tour. There were some juicy ties though, and to be fair to the MNS crew, they were covered well.

Tony O went Leeside to report on the Cork – Sligo game. Yours truly thought it a bit odd to see the managers interviewed before the game, giving their thoughts before an event that had already happened days previously. Paul Cook told us unequivocally that he didn’t want a draw at Turners Cross, yet we all knew that a 2-2 was on the way. It was like watching a particularly deadly knockout punch for the 12th time on YouTube – you know what’s coming, the victim doesn’t.

Speaking of boxing, it’s clear that Paul Cook’s voice went through a tough 12 rounds during the 90 minutes. Cook’s match day bout of laryngitis is as regular as sunset but the two interviews, either side of the match, shows the battering the genial Liverpudlian puts himself through for the Rovers’ cause. It was as if Stevie G himself had munched on a kitten. Hope there were plenty of Hacks on the team bus home.

It was nice to see a feature on the Tralee Dynamos. Their 2-1 win over Salthill Devon was described as ‘the biggest game in Kerry soccer history’ and no doubt the locals, interviewed before the game, will be happy that the Dynamos are one step closer to picking up the “Heineken Cup, Super 14 trophy or ‘McCarthy’” as they identified one of Irish soccer’s most important trophies.

The match itself seemed to give good entertainment to the 14 or so souls who forgot that there was a game going on in Pairc Uí Chaoimh. Reporter Eamonn Donohue took full advantage of the unusual inclusion of the Dynamos on MNS by using as many tortured puns as possible... a tactic that this reporter thought he had an exclusive hold upon.

To ensure that RTE got their full value from the trip to Kerry as this week’s Karaoke King came from Tralee’s David O’ Leary. If there’s been a more annoying feature on a sports show anywhere in the world, ever, then it would surprise me. This week’s King should be dethroned as soon as possible. Warbling isn’t the word that one should use to describe his version of Sex on Fire from the Kings of Leon. Heck, even Paul Cook sounded better.


This week's edition of MNS can be seen by clicking here. This article was originally written for the nice folks over at http://www.extratime.ie/

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A New Kind Of Slap Shot

Courtesy of Peter, here's one way not to be a good teammate from the recent World Ice Hockey Championships.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Setanta & The SPL - Troubled Waters For Both

I’m about to make an admission.

I’m a television rights nerd. Who shows what and how much do they pay for it are questions I regularly ask, and I don’t just mean here in Ireland. Michael Hiestand in USA Today is necessary reading (I’ve probably read everything he’s ever done on their website) and when I go to the Digital Spy forums, I’m normally only in the Broadcasting section.

We watch a lot of sport on television, and a lot of us pay very well for the privilege, so given the impact on the armchair fan, it’s only right that TV sports deals are followed. Some of the quirky facts involved in television rights deals are very interesting – did you know that BSKYB get the Lions tour for SFA because of a deal Murdoch did for the Super 14/Tri-Nations? And in the US, ESPN pay $1.1bn for 17 matches each year on Monday Night Football; answers on a postcard if you’ve any idea how they turn a profit from this. Given this nerdiness, it’s probably not surprising that I’ve been very interested in the financial health of Irish sports broadcaster, Setanta.

For the record, I am a Setanta subscriber and have been for nearly two years. I think they provide a very good service on certain sports. Their Magners League coverage is very good and they’ve done well to give boxing fans fights that otherwise wouldn’t be seen in this part of the world. It’s also nice to see a sports provider for Ireland. For many, Setanta burst onto the scene when they snatched two Premier League packages for the 2007/08-2009/10 seasons for a sum of £392m. Since then, they’ve broadcast 92 matches and they’ve done an OK job. At the very least, they should be commended for offering top-flight English football for a more reasonable price than Murdochvision.

Yet this deal, in hindsight, wasn’t their best. Setanta, quite simply, overreached on this and other occasions. Too much was paid for the PGA Tour, football internationals, an FA Cup deal, the Guinness Premiership and the SPL. From a base of low subscription fees and an all-too-low number of subscribers, Setanta’s business model floundered and it’s reported that they’re losing about £100m a year.

Setanta’s latest troubles started when they lost one of the two packages they had owned for the Premier League. From the 2010-11 season, Setanta are scheduled to broadcast only 23 matches per season, half of their current total. From then on, media commentators speculated about the financial health of the company and now, about four months later, things have come to a head. There are talks of a buy-out deal for the company from ESPN, or Bauer (not Jack), Endemol, Top Up TV or one of a host of other groups.

It looks like Setanta will survive but I’m not going to discuss the consequences of this crisis for the company. Instead, I’m going take a look at how this is going to affect sports fans, both Setanta subscribers and otherwise. Most commentators agree that the SPL would be the biggest sufferer. It is difficult to see any company willing to shell out to cover it – the BBC (previous rights holders) are cash strapped and SKY simply don’t have the space to show as many games as Setanta do, given their Premier League, La Liga and Football League commitments as well as everything else. This means that SPL clubs are in for a huge decrease in revenues, no matter if they re-negotiate with Setanta or are forced to move elsewhere.

So that means that the fans of the SPL clubs will also suffer, through no fault of their own. If their club goes down the tubes or if it is forced to go semi-professional like a lot of clubs in Ireland have done, then they will be given a lesser quality of football and a smaller chance of winning/surviving. Celtic and Rangers will struggle in Europe, while clubs like Hamilton and St. Mirren may struggle to survive. This is down to Setanta’s issues, but also due to the clubs themselves. On one hand, it’s difficult to blame them for spending money that they have budgeted for and are contractually obliged to receive. However, given that Setanta’s troubles were documented for many months now, and given the publicity surrounding the difficulties in the broadcasting sector, these issues are hardly a surprise. If yours truly, a recently finished media student with an interest in this isn’t surprised by the crisis facing SPL clubs, then unprepared clubs really do not have an excuse.

About 12 months ago, my beloved Galway United faced heavily documented financial issues. Players were released and fundraising efforts were stepped up after lower-than-expected earnings left the club falling foul of the League’s spending cap rules. The club’s Chief Financial Officer, Nick Leeson (yes. That Nick Leeson) saw a crisis coming, prepared for it and now the club are in a relatively state both on the pitch and the balance sheet. This clearly shows that clubs who are aware of what is going on can and will survive. In the coming months, we’ll see which clubs are properly prepared.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Lions Side Named For Kings Clash

The British and Irish Lions have named their side to face the Southern Kings tomorrow afternoon. The last warm-up game before the first test with the Springboks, the side named this morning gives clues as to who will and won't be involved in the test series.

Lions team: K Earls (Munster & Ireland); S Williams (Ospreys & Wales), R Flutey (Wasps & England), G D'Arcy (Leinster & Ireland), L Fitzgerald (Leinster & Ireland), J Hook (Ospreys & Wales), M Blair (Edinburgh & Scotland); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks & England), R Ford (Edinburgh & Scotland), E Murray (Northampton & Scotland), S Shaw (Wasps & England), D O'Callaghan (Munster & Ireland) (capt), N Hines (Perpignan & Scotland), J Worsley (Wasps & England), A Powell (Cardiff Blues & Wales).

Replacements: M Rees (Scarlets & Wales), A Jones (Ospreys & Wales), T Croft (Leicester Tigers & England), D Wallace (Munster & Ireland), H Ellis (Leicester Tigers & England

Two points to note, Shane Williams has a virus and there is a doubt over his participation in the game. The Beeb are reporting that he hasn't travelled for the match and that Tommy Bowe of Ulster and Ireland has been called up as a standby.

Secondly, according to rugby guru Rob who's been posting here in the last few weeks, some of those named in the side could yet figure in the test team. He's asked me to tell you to look out for Simon Shaw and Luke Fitzgerald in particular as players who could yet make the 22 for Saturday, particularly if they're substituted from tomorrow's game at about the fifty minute mark.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Le Mans, Ten Years Later

It's Le Mans weekend. I won't see too much this year because herself is about but it did remind me of the first time I watched a significant amount of the race, which was ten years ago. You'll be glad to know that Peter Dumbreck walked away from this one okay, but I wish I was a headline writer back then just so I could write about Mercedes' Dumb-wreck!

Quick Hits - Rugby 13/06/09

The Irish U- 20s stormed through to the next stage of the Championship in Japan with an impressive victory over Uruguay.

Ryan Jones joins the Lions squad in South Africa as Stephen Ferris' replacement.

Declan Kidney names 14 changes to the Churchill Ireland A team to face Georgia this Sunday night.

Ryan Jones departs the Lions squad through injury.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Waterford V Limerick - Munster Hurling Semi Final Preview

Surprisingly, the first Munster Senior Hurling Semi Final of the year has crept us on with barely a whimper until the last day or two. Perhaps, the somewhat poor form of both Waterford and Limerick in the league with both teams finishing on just six points had something to do with it, but when the draw was made for this tie, it had all the ingredients for a real humdinger.

And do you know what? It still has. If you asked me before the league campaign got underway, I'd have slightly favoured Limerick in this affair; the Justin McCarthy factor and the fact that if Limerick turned up like they did for the 2007 Championship swung it for me. And while both teams finished level on points in the League - Waterford actually beating Kilkenny by four points, and Limerick running the Cats extremely close and losing by just one - Waterford's form has been slightly the better of the two, and they even managed to catch Bernard Dunne's fight prior to their defeat to the Dubs.

McCarthy doesn't seem to have discovered a number of new players since taken over the reigns for the Treatymen this year; then again, he may not have needed to, given that the nucleus of the three-in-a-row U21 team should be still in their prime. However, that team has become one of the most underachieving proving that underage success doesn't always indicate similar honours at Seniors grade (see also the Tipp U21 team of 79-81 who had to wait until '87 before even gaining Munster Senior success).

Nonetheless, McCarthy has quality players at his disposal, and runs with a fairly experienced line-up - Damien Reale at corner-back is as tight a marker as there is, Brian Geary is at Centre-back, and former Young Hurler Of The Year Seamus Hickey has recovered from injury to be moved out to Centre-Field. In the forwards, the Moran brothers (Ollie and Niall) and Andrew O'Shaughnessy is where Limerick will be expecting to garner some scores.

However, there are times when Limerick seem completely lacking on the scoring front, relying on free-taking or O'Shaughnessy turning on the style; "Shocks" probably best sums up Limerick's forwards, in that he can blow as hot and cold as a Triton in need of desperate maintenance. Yet, Limerick did manage to score five goals against Waherford just two years ago in the All Ireland Semi.

This, you can beat your bad debts on, is the stick that Davy Fitzgerald is hitting the Deise players with in his dulcet tones in the run up to this tie. John Mullane has just about recovered from his hamstring injury to assume his place in a forward line more than capable of scoring, particularly if Eoin Kelly is in form. Throw into the equation Ken McGrath starting at Centre-Forward (will he?) and you've one heck of a match up with Geary.

Waterford's backs can still be a little bit suspect, even if they had made improvements in this area in the last year or two - will Michael 'Brick' Walsh have the same impact at centre-back as Ken McGrath? Time will tell.

Thurles will be a melting pot come 4pm on Sunday, and this game really could go either way. For some bizarre reason, I've a sneaky feeling this one could end all square - now that's sitting on the fence. Making a prediction on this just seems too tricky, but if I had to, I'm going to say Waterford by two points.

Limerick: B Murray; D Reale, S Lucey, M O'Riordan; S Walsh, B Geary, M Foley; D O'Grady, S Hickey; J Ryan, O Moran, N Moran; A O'Shaughnessy, J O'Brien, D Ryan.

Waterford: C Hennessy; E Murphy, D Prendergast, N Connors; K Moran, M Walsh, A Kearney; S O'Sullivan, S Molumphy; S Prendergast, K McGrath, J Nagle; J Mullane, E Kelly, E McGrath.

Hanging On... Hanging On...

This is Raffaele De Rosa who races in the 125cc World Championship and, judging by this clip, has very impressive bike control!

Limerick FC In Trouble?

Forget the moany Portugese poser, the real footballing story could be that Limerick FC seem to be in some bit of financial bother. Now, any eejit with half-an-idea about what is going on with the Super Blues is very aware that things aren't rosey, as the club themselves admitted just in the last month that a major fundraiser and a move back to the Market's Field are needed for the club's survival.

However, an article from the print edition of today's Irish Times by Emmett Malone has sent off some shockwaves on the Limerick Forum of Foot.ie, while in Malone's FAI Ford Cup preview (where he still refers to Limerick as "37"), he alludes to these financial problems.

All-in-all, this news/rumour couldn't come at a worse time; tonight the blues are in action in a cup glamour tie against St Pat's at Jackman Park that'll surely bring a few punters through the gates. But, will it be a case of too little, too late. Hopefully not...

Lions Team Announced

The British & Irish Lions side to play Western Province

15. Rob Kearney (Leinster/Ireland)14. Tommy Bowe (Ospreys/Ireland)13. Keith Earls (Munster/Ireland)12. Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England)11. Ugo Monye (Harlequins/England)10. Stephen Jones (Scarlets/Wales)9. Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers/England)

8. Andy Powell (Cardiff Blues/Wales)7. Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues/Wales)6. Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England)5. Nathan Hines (Perpignan/Scotland)4. Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster/Ireland)3. Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England) captain2. Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales)1. Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks/England)

Replacements:16. Ross Ford (Edinburgh/Scotland)17. Euan Murray (Northampton/Scotland)18. Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England)19. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England)20. Mike Blair (Edinburgh/Scotland)21. James Hook (Ospreys/Wales)22. Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster/Ireland)

Some interesting selections from Ian McGeechan. I'm suer Rob will have more on this later on.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Cristiano Ronal-Go!

I'll have more on this later on, but for now here's two quick points on Ronaldo's move to Real Madrid.

It's a good deal for United. Ronaldo wants out, has done for some time, and though there was little evidence of this on the pitch this year, that would have come in time. Rumour has it that this deal has been done for some time and that wouldn't surprise me - keeping him for one more year after the shenanigans of last summer is good going.

Secondly, while I'm not going to point out the lunacy of spending so much on players, Real Madrid have now spent about €138m on two players this week. Either Perez is the President they needed all along or we're in for another failure, a Galacticos Mk II if you will. Time will tell. I can't wait to see.

Rugby Updates - 11/06/09

With Mike Prendergast retired and Tomás O'Leary recovering from an ankle injury, Irish Province Munster have signed former Otago and Waikat0 Chiefs scrum half Toby Morland to a short term contract.

Lions over come Natal Sharks in a hard fought victory to keep perfect record in South Africa.

Ireland "A" beat Canada in opening Churchill Cup game in a scrappy affair.

More detailed analysis and views on these games from the contributors later.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The IRB Toshiba U20 Junior World Championship

This competition has been underway for a few days now in Japan.
The Irish Team coached by Allen Clarke, won their first Pool game against a handy Argentina side 16 -9.
Yesterday they came up against the "Baby Blacks" of New Zealand. These two teams played against each other in the competition two years ago when Eric Elwood was coaching Ireland, and Hosea Gear, the New Zealand winger Rico Gear's younger brother led New Zealand to a 70 point plus rout of the Irish.

The Irish certainly looked up for the game from the proceedings. Engaging in an act some see as disrespectful and foolish. From this video from 7.30mins on , you can see the Irish U-20s marching up into the face of the New Zealand players during the Haka.
This temper seemed to bubble on the surface of the match for the game, and while Ireland gave it their best they could not overcome the superior All Blacks skill and pace, eventually losing 17 - 0.
Some are saying this is a feat in itself as no team in the history of the competition has gotten within 25 points of the Baby Blacks, but it is of scant consolation to the Irish captain Ruddock, son of former Welsh Coach Mike Ruddock, or his outstanding backrow partner Dominic Ryan who gave as good a performance from the no.6 jersey as I have seen from an underage player in Ireland.

Ireland play Uruguay next on the 13th of June at 13:00 in their last group game.

Videos courtesy of the IRB website which doing a fantastic job of streaming every game live.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Lions update: 9th - June - 2009

Stephen Ferris has dropped out of the Lions tour to South Africa. The robust and physical backrow forward suffered a ligament strain in his knee that will sideline him for up to 6 weeks.
It is a cruel blow to the Lions as Ferris was staking a claim for a Test spot, one of the backrow forwards who could match the 'Boks pack for physicality around the fringe defence as well as matching the disgustingly good Spies.
Wales Captain Ryan Jones has been drafted in as his replacement. At the top of his game Jones' can be a world class backrow player. He was instrumental to Wales's recent Grand Slam victories. However, his form this season has been poor and one wonders if he can regain any of it to challenge for a Test spot.

Add to this Leigh Halfpenny has also had a relapse of his thigh injury that delayed his arrival to South Africa. He is replaced for the match tomorrow by James Hook. If he fails to recover it is unlikely he will be replaced as Gordon D'Arcy has already joined the squad as back up or cover for RikiFlutey who is healthy enough for the bench against the Sharks.
EDIT - 10/06/09 - Halfpenny is heading home. Cruel blow for him, but personally I felt he was unlikely to make the Test team. No replacement will be sought as guessed by AlmostDailySports last night.

Lions Update

Here's our first post from Rob, giving us about the latest updates from the Lions tour to South Africa.

Players blogs providing an insight into team and camaraderie - while not openly criticising Sir Clive Woodward, it is evident he got it completely wrong on the lions tour to NZ. From the get go players felt like two teams rather then one squad, from everything from training to travelling as pointed out in Martyn Williams blog.

A credit to munsterfans.com contributors for updating one thread with Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney and Martyn Williams' blogs.

Interesting news this week - Neil Jenkins taken on as "kicking coach". Had O'Gara, Jones or Hook missed more then the measly one a piece this might seem more appropriate. To the author it seems a bit like a job for the boys approach. I may just be too cynical, the Irish Province Munster have over the last two seasons always brought a former player in a non coaching role to big European Heineken Cups away matches. Declan Kidney introduced the policy to help remind the younger players of the tradition they play for. Kidney has won 2 Heineken cups with Munster, and guided Ireland to it's first grand slam of the professional era, so I think I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on his methods! Jenkins kicking was instrumental to the Lions series win in SA in 1997 - an untried or tested full back at the time, his deadly accuracy with the boot was the difference in the test games. Ironically it was a debutant Percy Montgomery (then a centre) whose now flawless kicking ability was not yet refined in '97 and ultimately cost SA with inaccuracy.

McGeechan not ready to play Test 15 together.
Whether this is a smoke screen or not, I think the starting test 15 will play together over the next two games, but the coaches just do not realise it yet, due to some positions being tighter to call then expected. PO'C is a certainty, and I think it would be a silly move to bet against BO'D to start in the centre (injuries permitting of course). Despite a shaky end to the Cheetahs game I don't think Lee Byrne has been removed from the 15 shirt either. From the games so far I would say my 15 would look like this*:

1- Jenkins

2- Mears - although I'm still not 100% sold and would like to see Ford play another full game. ( Rory Best where are you ?!?!?)

3 - Sheridan for his scrummaging power - with Vickery to replace him on 60 mins if he can stop giving away penalties.

4 - Simon Shaw - strange call yes? But his overall bulk will be needed to quell the power of Botha & Matfield in the opening exchanges. Wyn-Jones to replace him early 2nd half.

5 - PO'C. With Shaw on from the start O'Connell can carry more ball and hopefully set up a platform to release the backs - if only he learnt to pass in Ard Scoil Rís!

6 - Ferris, outstanding so far, very physical on the fringe area and has shown he can attack with pace. His off load versus Italy in the 6 nations shows he can play a continuity game as well.

7- Martyn Williams - the out and out scrounger, he will give a few penalties away at the breakdown, especially with the Lions not interpreting the refs well, but his ability to slow down the opposition will be vital.

8 - Heaslip - his athleticism wins him the spot over Wallace, but it's close. I think Powell has shown that he is too on dimensional and would be of no challenge to the man monster Spies.

9 - Phillips - crabbing along in his best Tomás O'Leary impression makes you think how much Howley must bemoan the loss of the Munster and Irish scrum half.

10 - Jones his physicality will win him the spot over O'Gara. If the Irish ten plays a good game Wednesday he will take the bench spot. If the test game is tight I would much rather a cool headed O'Gara to come on and pin the 'Boks into the corners.

11 - TBC - I would prefer Luke Fitzgerald or Monye on recent showings but will wait until next Sunday to make a call. I think the over persistence with trying to get Williams his form back is now embarrassing.

12 - Roberts - if Flutey can prove his fitness he takes the bench over D'Arcy for me, but for now I'd love to see the medical student run hard and straight into the Springboks backs.

13 - Brian O'Driscoll, with Roberts taking up a lot of the 'Boks backrow and back line I think O'Driscoll can exploit the extra space with his re-newed sense of skill. I will admit, I thought he was done prior to Christmas, but the 2nd half of the season he has played the rugby of his career. To top it off with a Lions series would befit a man of his talent.

14 - Tommy Bowe - what a difference a year makes? Playing for the Ospreys has turned him into a medium skilled winger into a top class distributor and link man- just watch the rout last Wednesday and see how many of the tries his hands were involved in.

15 - Lee Byrne - one knock on not withstanding one of the best 15's to ever play the game of rugby. Hopefully he can maintain that in the tests.

* team open to changes over the next two games. Author accepts he will not be 100% correct and that opinions with readers may vary. Author also doesn't care.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Bangladesh Stumped

Just a quick comment about Ireland's Twenty20 World Cup win over Bangladesh today. I know that cricket purists don't like Twenty20 and that's fair enough, but Ireland's win at Trent Bridge this afternoon means we're into the Super Eights no matter our result against India in our remaining pool game. After our exploits in the Carribean in 2007, this is the second successive Cricket World Cup that Ireland will be a last eight participant, an achievement that (my reckoning) has only been matched on a global level by our rugby players, and even then not for 14 years. Congrats to all, in particular Niall O' Brien who kicked ass on one leg today. Great sport.

Have We Finally Got A Leinster Championship On Our Hands?

Wanted: One competitive Leinster Hurling Championship

Last Seen: The 2004 Wexford V Offaly final after the Yellowbellies shocked Kilkenny in the last few minutes of the Semi Final.

Reward: A possible Leinster Championship if Kilkenny are caught off-guard, or even a sliver of hope for hurling folk in other parts of the country if somebody manages to run them close.

While yesterday’s Semi-Final draw threw up two potential crackers, with Wexford facing Dublin, and Kilkenny facing Leinster newbies Galway, the likelihood of the Cats not claiming their 11th Leinster Championship in twelve years is pretty, pretty slim. So slim, in fact, that the good burgers at a renowned bookies chain have Kilkenny at 1/4, Galway 4/1, Wexford at 10/1 and Dublin 16/1.

However, anything can happen on any given Sunday. Galway are something of an oddity in Leinster, and previous years would have had them at this time of the year preparing for a Connaught Final against Roscommon, or awaiting life straight into the qualifiers. Their league form this year was somewhat average, but do remember that they had their Portumna contingent out until after March 17th on club duty. Also, perhaps new manager John McIntyre didn’t put as much emphasis on the league as previous regimes, given that they actually had a provincial championship ahead of them.

Nonetheless, there isn’t a lot that the Tribesmen could have learned from their inaugural Leinster drubbing of Laois by 27 points. In all fairness, Kilkenny’s last game, the League Final against Tipp, was played at more of a Championship pace than the Laois game. Actually, scratch that; a game of tiddlywinks between Tipp and Kilkenny would have been more at Championship pace than that game. However, they must be pleased that Niall Healy and Damien Hayes showed up and took some of the scoring burden off Joe Canning’s big shoulders.

Galway rely hugely on Canning, obviously so given his immense natural talent, but like Tipperary with Eoin Kelly for many years, there may not be sufficient quality in the supporting cast. No better way to find out than a Championship game against Kilkenny, and if Noel Hickey is fit, his battle with Canning could possibly be one of the most intriguing contests of not just the year, but the decade.

On the other side, Dublin eased past Antrim yesterday by ten points, but some wayward shooting led to seventeen wides. Anthony Daly really seems to have Dublin believing in themselves this year, and their fantastic league performances need to translate into a big championship performance. Dublin have some nippy, good scoring forwards like David O’Callaghan and midfielder Alan McCrabbe is something of a talisman also. They ran Wexford, who have the hulking Stephen Banville (pictured) in their ranks, close last year and could just do enough this time around to make a Leinster Final.

The two games take place on the weekend of the 20th and 21st of June, and after a decade of Munster Championships where it seemed just about anybody could win it, we may finally get a few classic Leinster games.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Cork's Week Of Woe

Many in the media thought that Friday night’s soccer action was headlined by Ireland’s game against Nigeria in London. Yet, for a competitive game of football, the best place to be was surely Turners’ Cross. Cork v Bohs for the top of the table – League of Ireland football at its finest. As we all know, Bohs went home with all three points and that was a blow that the City fans didn’t need. It began a week they’ll certainly want to forget.

The 5,500+ attendance will have helped with the club’s financial issues, but the home crowd were no doubt left with a ‘Byrne-ing’ feeling after Bohs snatched all three points. ‘Bohs On Top Of The World’ screamed The Star on Saturday, obviously deciding that the League of Ireland Premier Division table was now a barometer for the globe as a whole. Bet let’s think of the Turners’ faithful here. The defeat came on the day that the famed Beamish brewery on South Main Street shut and it’s probably ironic that City are sponsored by the makers of the Other Black Stuff; no doubt many of the Rebels will have needed a drink after their loss to Bohs. And about ten drinks after Tuesday.

Drogheda’s 2-1 win over City is like the Leaving Cert, in that it involved events in Louth that angered a lot of people. However, we should have seen it coming. Cork’s former boss Alan Matthews left City in acrimonious circumstances and there’s some Corkonians who aren’t sorry to see the back of him. Judging by the horrible picture of him holding up his index finger in the game’s preview in the Cork Irish Examiner Matthews was either ready to declare himself as a number one of something or he was snapped just as he was getting set to pick his nose. Either way, flattering it was not.

The 2-1 win for Drogheda didn’t surprise Roddy Collins either. Speaking on Newstalk on Wednesday night, Steve’s brother said he wasn’t shocked by the result. Not that he saw the game, oh no. Roddy is on his holidays this week, and was working on his tan as presenter Eoin McDevitt told us. Repeatedly. We had to wait until McDevitt asked Collins about his tan three times before an answer was forthcoming. Either there was a problem with the pre-recorded segment that the Off The Ball team were trying to play us, or Roddy has gone somewhere very odd for a sunny break. Not that it would be the first time Roddy’s summer holidays would have caused a problem. Just ask Bohs.

Newstalk’s piece with Roddy and Daniel McDonnell of the Indo finishes up with both pundits predicting the forthcoming week’s matches. Speaking of Cork, Daniel predicted that they’ll draw against Shamrock Rovers while the ever-ballsy Roddy said predicted that ‘Cork will win...possibly.’ We’ll forgive Roddy his ambivalence; he is after all on holidays. And for the sake of the Rebels, let’s hope that his right, or else they’ll have to console themselves with a pint of Beamish. That just won’t taste the same, not if it’s not out of South Main Street.

Monday, 1 June 2009

The King Of Clay Is Dethroned

An unseasonably warm day here in Ireland (yes, even for June) probably explains the almost complete silence from your team today but with 43 minutes remaining until the end of the warmest bank holiday weekend since the one before the last set of exams, I said I'd come along and blog about something that's a lot more genuine then Bruno's fall into the face of Eminem at the MTV Movie Awards, yet just as unexpected.

Yesterday at Roland Garros Rafael Nadal lost. He actually lost. To Robin Soderling, a man who's not very good on clay. It's been called the biggest upset in the history of the French Open and I for one won't disagree with that. Coming into this year's tournament, Soderling had a record of three wins from the eight games that he'd played in the year's second Grand Slam. Nadal had thirty-one wins. From 31 matches. The difference, nay, gulf in class between them cannot be overstated and that is why this was such a shock.

I thought the most poignant moment came after the match when a visibly shocked Nadal looked for a marker to sign the camera lens as he walked off the court, a tradition reserved for the winners of matches on the show courts in the French capital, a tradition Nadal would have taken part on every other occasion he played there.

Two points of note in the fall-out from this match. So, Rafa is human after all, and I think that Soderling may just be the one player he would wish not to lose to. The pair played a two-day, five-set epic in the third round at Wimbledon in 2007, a match that became remembered for the antics of the Swede who imitated Nadal's antics and failed to raise his hand in apology after he won a point on a shot that crept over the net chord.

To have lost to someone who angered him so would have rattled Rafa and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back going into the grass-court season.

The result also has implications for Roger Federer. The Swiss maestro barely squeeked by his opponent today, falling two sets behind Tommy Haas before coming back to win in five. He's now just three matches from winning the one Grand Slam that has eluded him throughout his career. Federer is not guaranteed the win - I for one feel that he'll do well to overcome Monfils, del Potro and the winner of Murray/Gonzalez. But if he is to do so, and remember Federer has reached the final in each of the last three years and thus is no slouch on clay, I would expect the media to tarnish the victory by reminding us that it was not he who beat Nadal. That would be a fair comment, and though Federer would have completed the sweep of Slams, the curse would still be on his back for at least one more year.