31 December, 2010

Heineken Cup free-to-air/Sky Sports debate:

The Irish Government is considering bringing Heineken Cup matches involving Irish provinces to RTÉ/free-to-air Irish television networks. This would be under the "Crown Jewels" broadcasting plan; that is: that there are certain events (All-Ireland Finals, Six Nations, World Cup, Olympic Games etc.) that are National Events and that therefore should be viewed by as large a national audience as possible. The Government also says that by limitting Heineken Cup matches to Sky Sports, these matches aren't viewed by the "next" Brian O'Driscolls, and therefore, are not being inspired by viewing their heroes on television. Speaking to Newstalk, the Minister for Sport: Eamon Ryan compared an un-regulated (television) sport like boxing to rugby, saying he doesn't know who the World Heavyweight Champion is/are. This is absurd since an un-regulated sport like boxing, with many Governing bodies, cannot be compared in any way to rugby.

Where will the next Brian O'Driscoll come from if the IRFU lose Sky Sports' money?

Since Heineken Cup television rights went to Sky Sports in 2007, viewing figures have
remained effectively the same in Ireland, which shows that people are finding a way to watch these matches. Also, the money provided to Irish (and English, Scottish, Welsh, French and Italian) clubs, is vital to the development of grass roots rugby in the country. Money from pay-per-view T.V. provides a major percentage of the payment of wages to top players and is one of the main reasons that top players can stay and play club/provincial rugby in this country. If the IRFU lose Sky Sports' money, they will lose a vital revenue stream and will also lose dozens of the very best Irish rugby players, who will be attracted to higher wages are brought. Incidentally, wages at top clubs in France are already higher than the top wages in Ireland, so if wages are halved at top rugby clubs/provinces in Ireland (which would certainly happen if the IRFU loses Sky Sports' money), there will be no chance of keeping top Irish players in Ireland.

Review of the 2010 Season / Preview of 2011: Cork City F.C. / Cobh Ramblers F.C.:

2010 was a year of new beginnings for professional soccer in Cork City,
as Cork City Football Club went to the wall one week before the season started.
However, new manager Tommy Dunne (pictured right) and his backroom staff, including assistant Greg O'Halloran, performed trojan work in getting a team/squad to-gether within seven days to start the new season in the Airtricity League First Division.
In what was a reasonable start, City finished fifth, which was probably as good as could be excpected in the very trying circumstances.
City will look to push for promotion in 2011 and have already started looking to next year with a quality signing in 'Cockney Rebel' Danny Murphy and there are a number of other signings in the pipeline - including Liam Kearney and possibly even the return of former Ireland international: Colin Healy. Exciting times are ahead for Cork City soccer, even if its with a more limited budget, though it's certainly positive that the club at least has a vision for the future and the fact that the club is now owned by the fans means the good of the club will now (unlike in the past), always be the Number One consideration.


This time last year; 2010 was looked on as being a transitional year for a young Cobh Ramblers side, who had a woeful 2009, garnering just six points (from 16 league games), and finishing well adrift at the foot of the Newstalk A-Championship League Table. Of course, the vast majority of the promoted 2007 Division One winning squad (and indeed the 2008 relegated Premier League squad) has well and truly moved on, with stalwarts like striker Kieran O'Reilly (below) moving into the management ranks at the club in 2010. However, the young side (with average squad age of just 19 years), exceeded expectations in 2010, reaching the A-Championship play-offs and eventually falling to Finn Harps in the semi-finals. While the budget at the club is still very limitted (since the end of 2008, none of the players at the club get paid and the club has no physio), 2011 looks like being a season spent on the front foot for the sea-side club, with promotion definitely a realistic possibility for a squad which now has a couple of seasons of League of Ireland/A-Championship experience and in players like goalkeeper Kevin McCarthy, experienced defender Michael 'Zico' Hasting, midfielder Emmet O'Hanlon and young striker Alan O'Flynn - they have a spine of players of real Airtricty League Premier Division quality.

Van Driven in Demons Derby Day Delight:

Mardyke UCC Demons: easy derby win last night;
led by Marcus Van (above) with 22 points

Captain Coughlan praises Irish players in 18 point win:
UCC Demons 86 - 68 Bord Gáis Neptune

UCC Demons cruised past Neptune last night to increase their lead over the North siders to 4 points in the Southern Conference table.
Even the 18 point victory did not send the home fans at a packed Mardyke Arena into raptures. In fact, much of the game was played out in cathedral silence after Demons increased their lead to more than 20 points and so ruled out the dramatic finishes that have been part and parcel of these derby games down through the years.

Neptune still had the top scorer in Michael Bonaparte (pictured left) who hit the game high of 29 points.

30 December, 2010

Interesting insight of Ian Holloway:

Always worth listening to: Blackpool F.C. boss Ian Holloway (above)
Ahead of this weekend's clash with Manchester City, Blackpool manager Ian Holloway was asked: "What would you do if you had all those millions that Manchester City have?" To which Holloway replied: "It's obscene really isn't it - the amount of money they're spending on players and wages? And I wouldn't want it. It'd be a pain in the neck. You'd have to keep so many people happy. If you increase one chap's wages - someone else will want the same. I mean what's that about - you're either happy with your wages or you're not. Nah, I'm happy and delighted with what we're doing here."

Ferguson Senior shows his childishness yet again:

After the sacking of his son Darren from Preston North End: - with Preston bottom of the Championship: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has today recalled two players from loan deals at Deepdale and is in the midst of a legal process to recall a third.
This is once again a very juvenile reaction from Ferguson Senior, who is famed for kicking players out of his club any time he has a row with one.
Ferguson Senior's actions in this case could have serious repurcussions for players who are looking to gain experience at Preston which they won't get at Manchester United.

Ferguson: infant

29 December, 2010

The legend of "The Fields of Athenry":

"With most sport's songs, only some of the fans are singing it - but with 'The Fields of Athenry' - the whole crowd sings it and it's something really very special and very emotional" - says Munster & Ireland Rugby's Donncha O'Callaghan (pictured right)

"I was in Cork one time and I was told - 'That Athenry song is a marvellous rugby song.' And I said: 'It's not a rugby song, it's a song about the fucking Famine like.'" - Folk singer Paddy Reilly

"In the Irish psyche, the most powerful sense is the sense of loss from emigration. Every family in this country has been touched by emigration, all down the generations. Millions left this
country (Ireland) never to be seen again and 'Athenry' sums that up. All the ghosts appear when 'Athenry' is sung." - RTÉ Sports Journalist Tom McGurk

Ghosts of the Famine:

"The Fields of Athenry"

"Fields of Athenry" composer Pete St. John (left) tells the story of the song: "I set my character Michael for 'The Fields of Athenry' in a real situation that was happening in Ireland. This man was suffering all the terrible things up in the area of Athenry. Then he heard of a store of grain stored in Cork. He went to Cork to try to steal some of the grain, he was apprehended and sent to Australia as a convict.

"You don't need a special voice or an operatic voice to sing the song - it's a song of the people" - says Irish singer Charlie McGettigan

"Charles Trevelyan (an agent of the Queen, sent over to Ireland during the Famine period): Trevelyan had a firm belief that this was a divinely ordained Famine; that Ireland's rural agriculture was unsustainable and that you needed a devastating episode like this in order to result in the mass clearance of all these small holdings and small farmsteads that relied on the potato crop. This song triggers a memory of 800 years of British Imperialism and it becomes a very tribal thing." - Irish Historian Diarmaid Ferriter

"Sport developped from the British Empire and was spread particularly to nations which the British colonised. The only place that Britain's colonies could possibly prove their equality to the British, was on the sport's field. For example, Ireland's success at the 1990 World Cup brought this country to a new psychological level." -

By 1994,
"Athenry" was THE Anthem for Irish sport's fans. In New York's Giants Stadium (pictured below), when Ireland beat Italy at the World Cup, there were tens of thousands of third and fourth generation Irish-Americans who were singing that song in recognition of their ancestors who had been forced to leave Irish shores during the Famine, never to return again.

Ireland 1-0 Italy:
FIFA World Cup
USA 1994

The song was adopted by fans of Glasgow Celtic Football Club, as it told the story of Irish emigrants into Glasgow and Celtic was a club founded by an Irish Catholic priest for the Catholic poor of Glasgow in the years following the Famine.
In 1999, the song was "banned" in Scotland, due to it's supposed Republican connotations. This is a view refuted by both the Celtic chairman (Fergus McCann) at the time and the song's composer: "It's a story from the Famine. If people want to hang other things on 'the Fields of Athenry' that's their business. But I don't like that."-says the composer: Pete St. John

In recent years, "The Fields of Athenry" has been adopted by Munster Rugby. Former Munster & Ireland legend Keith Wood (pictured left) tells the story of the aftermath of the 2000 Heineken Cup Final, which Munster had lost 9-8: "Within 30 seconds it was the worst and best moment of my career. Declan Kidney (Munster's manager that day) was trying to say a few things. Suddenly it seemed as if the whole crowd started to sing 'The Fields of Athenry' - it was a real launchpad for the song. It's the worst place for us in our profession (just after losing a big match) and that song really spurred us on for the future. In the long run it was probably better to lose that day because it gave us the impetus to keep coming back, time after time after time. This song is about rejection and loss and basically it's saying: 'Let's see what you're about.....'"

Of course, the first match played by Ireland against England at Croke Park in 2007 (pictured right) evoked memories of the blood shed in 1920 on the same pitch - at the hands of British soldiers. "The Fields of Athenry" evoked all sorts of emotions that day in 2007, it was very powerful. That was the Irish anthem for the day (see video clip below), the whole tension and hatred between Ireland & England dissipated that day.

"Rugby is a hugely physical contact sport. You can't walk up stairs the day after a game. The physical hits are huge. There's a direct relationship between physical hit and adrenaline. Unless your body is full of adrenaline, you can't take hits like that. The most effective way of creating adrenaline is emotion. And the most effective way of creating emotion is song. So literally, 'The Fields of Athenry' is pumping that team full of adrenaline" - McGurk (pictured right)

"The Fields of Athenry":

By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young girl calling
Micheal they are taking you away
For you stole Trevelyn's corn
So the young might see the morn.
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay.

Low lie the Fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing
we had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.

By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young man calling
Nothing matters Mary when you're free,
Against the Famine and the Crown
I rebelled they ran me down
Now you must raise our child with dignity.


By a lonely harbour wall
She watched the last star falling
As that prison ship sailed out against the sky
Sure she'll wait and hope and pray
For her love in Botany Bay
It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.


fields near athenry

Famous win for famous Old Gold club:

Magical night: Manager Mick McCarthy
Liverpool 0-1 Wolves

Wolves have gone to Anfield and beaten a stuttering Liverpool side to take the Molineux men off the bottom of the Premier League Table.
The winner came 11 minutes into the second half from Ireland's Stephen Ward (pictured right). Wolves were good value for their win and withstood whatever Liverpool threw at them. The closest Liverpool came to scoring was a good Hennessy save from a one-on-one with Skertel, who also (correctly) had a "goal" disallowed for offside in the dying minutes.

Wolves winner: Ward

Managerial Merry-Go-Round continues apace with Burnley laying down the Laws to Brian and Preston P45 for Darren Ferguson:

The nPower Championship has seen two managerial casualties today with the news that Burnley's Brian Laws and Preston North End's Darren Ferguson have been relieved of their duties.

At a board meeting of Preston North End, it was revealed that Darren Ferguson (pictured left) would no longer be needed by the Lancashire club. Ferguson took over in January and led the club to Championship safety in his first four months in charge. However, this season saw a nose-dive in fortunes, with Preston rooted to the foot of the table, some five points adrift of safety as we enter 2011.

Brian Laws, like Ferguson, also took over at Burnley in January of this year, after Owen Coyle had left for Bolton. Laws (pictured right) could not prevent Burnley from being relegated from the Premier League. However, he had seemed to consolidate the club in the Championship and he left the club with them just two points off the play-offs. Laws can consider himself a little unlucky to be let go, as Burnley have had a decent start to the season. However, no manager can consider themselves as unlucky to have been fired as Ireland's Chris Hughton (pictured left) who was sacked by Newcastle United a week before Christmas. Hughton guided Newcastle to promotion to the Premier League in his first season on Tyneside and had the club sitting comfortably in 11th place in the Premier League when he was relieved of his managerial duties! Top-flight football management is indeed a harsh world.

Hughton in his playing hey-day

England "Trott" home on 4th Day; this is an update of Day One because the Test (and Ashes) was "won" on Day One:

England "Trott" to victory in four days;
This Test was "won" on Day One though
After skittling Australia out for a record low 98 first innings total; England have duly gone on to win the Fourth Test by an Innings and 135 runs. By taking a 2-1 lead in the Test Series; England also retain the famous old urn with one Test to play. That Final Test will start in Sydney on January 3rd.
Ricky Ponting (left) now
Ashes: stays in English hands
becomes the first Australian Test cricket captain to lose three Ashes Series and his future is in doubt. However, there is not much coming up behind him. The once cricketing Superpower has fallen a long way from Grace.

28 December, 2010

UCC's elite soccer students to get professional treatment:

"The facilities here (UCC) would rival anything I have seen in the United States" - says Greg Yelverton

Former Cork City FC player: Greg Yelverton (pictured right) is overseeing the professionalisation of soccer at University College Cork (UCC).
After spending two years in the United States, Yelverton was appointed the FAI's Football Facilitator at UCC (one of six at each university throughout the country) with a remit to encourage third-level students to play soccer during the course of their study years.
Yelverton has stated above that the facilities at UCC are of international quality, but, in the past, UCC have not (for whatever reason) attracted the calibre of player for which their facilities deserved. It is Yelverton's job to encourage students to make UCC their number one choice if they want to make it as a professional footballer. He does this through the recently established Player Development Programme. The Programme is not a scholarship as such, but players are encouraged and can apply for scholarships at the University, further down the line.
Yelverton consulted people like Neal Horgan (pictured right and current Cork City FC player who is also a qualified lawyer) about how to draw players in who had real potential but who also wanted to have a degree to fall back on in case things didn't go their way in the harsh reality of professional football.
With nutritionists, sports scientists, strength and conditioning coaches all ready, UCC went about attracting one of the most respected names in Cork football, John Caulfield, to its ranks. Caulfield now manages the UCC Senior Squad, which competes in the Premier Division of the Munster League but he also offers guidance to the college's three junior teams and freshers' team, alongside the two women's teams.
Most players are on the Player Development Programme and train five days a week along with a game (or two) at the weekends! Nutrition, strength, conditioning, bleep tests, sprint tests, body fat, agility testing and muscle strength are all intensively monitored on a weekly basis by UCC's sports science experts.
Yelverton believes that if the Player Development Programme had been in place years ago then many more Cork players would have made it at League of Ireland level and possibly onto England also, if they so wished. The programme - as well as all players on the programme - is being closely watched by current Cork City FC manager Tommy Dunne - and there are sure to be other scouts monitoring the fledging endeavour.
The main benefit of this Programme is the way it bridges the gap between youth and senior football, both in terms of physical and tactical development. We await, with interest, the fruits of this great initiative.
UCC's Mardyke Arena: facilitates player development through world class equipment & expert staff

Deserved trip for footballers of Cork to Cape Town

2010 GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Champions: CORK depart from Heathrow Airport tonight for a well earned two-and-a-half week break in Cape Town, South Africa. There will be a travelling party of 80 tonight, including wives/girlfriends and partners. A few players will have to miss the holiday however due to work commitments. It is the third time such a trip has been taken by the Cork footballers. However, on the previous two ocassions (2007 and '09), Cork were coming off the back of losing All-Ireland Finals, which certainly took the gloss off of festivities.
The squad will visit Robben Island (pictured below) and Table Mountain, with plenty of challenging golf courses to work on the handicap. The more adventurous might try deep sea-diving.
The squad returns home on January 14th and resume training immediately ahead of the defence of their National League Title against old-rivals Kerry in Killarney in February. The players have done their own training the last number of weeks, with some playing basketball and others boxing to keep up their cardio. Squad training is banned by the GAA in November & December.

27 December, 2010

Welcoming the 90th Anniversary of Ireland as a Free State: Lest we forget:

Official League Table of the first League of Ireland season (now Airtricity League):

Archive memorabilia indeed:
With special thanks to:
Guinness Sports & Social Club,
St. James' Gate Brewery,
St. James' Gate,
Dublin 8,
Republic of Ireland.

To the memory of those who gave their lives in the pursuit of freedom for this Great Nation: Irish Free State 1921 - 1949: Republic of Ireland 1949 - Present: Lest we forget

Review of the "Greatest (Sporting) Show on Earth": Dramatic Moments of FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010:

If adhering to symmetry, this would be a Top 10 Moments of FIFA World Cup 2010, but to keep it interesting: I'm going to make it the:
Top 3 (Dramatic) Moments of World Cup 2010:
3rd. French farce: in the most infamous World Cup meltdown since Roy Keane's Ireland/Saipan debacle of 2002; the 2010 French World Cup squad imploded and were knocked out in the Group stage. "Les Bleus" finished bottom of their Group, scoring one goal and earned just one point from three games. In a throwback to the Roy Keane fiasco of World Cup 2002 - some French players went on strike, with the French Government holding an official investigation into this "Disgrace to the French nation on a global stage" - according to French Minister for Sport, Culture & Tourism: Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin. To add insult to injury - the French squad were forced to fly home from the World Cup in economy class, which is of course unheard of for a World Cup team.

Contrary to popular opinion: French fighting/farce (pictured below) at World Cup 2010 had NOTHING to do with "karma" for Thierry Henry's handball (also pictured)

There are those who will say that France "got what they deserved" and that what happened to France at World Cup 2010 was "karma" for Thierry Henry's infamous handball for France against Ireland in the World Cup play-off in Paris. This of course is nonsense; Thierry Henry's handball was exactly what any Irish player would have done in a similar situation. Yes, France let themselves down at the 2010 World Cup, but it was nothing to do with "karma" and it was nothing to do with Thierry Henry's handball against Ireland (pictured right). Famous Irish commentator Jimmy Magee (a veteran of 12 FIFA World Cups) summed the situation up best by stating: "If I had a wish for football - it'd be that we Irish would stop talking about Thierry Henry's handball. Otherwise we'll be in the same boat as the English; bleating on about a dam handball by Maradona a quarter of a century ago in Mexico City. So, I got no satisfaction from France's dismal performance at the 2010 World Cup, no satisfaction at all"- here, here Jimmy; here, here.

Frank Lampard's 'goal' versus Germany (pictured left): is it time for football to follow other sports and bring technology into the decision-making process?

Frank Lampard's "goal": England v Germany: This incredible replay of the 1966 World Cup Final: England v Germany and yet another "goal that never was" which of course re-ignited the "Technology in Football" debate. This second-round tie was poised on a knife edge; some six minutes before half-time: England were trailing 2-1 when Frank Lampard hit a 25 yard shot which struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced down fully half-a-metre BEHIND the goal-line. England were incensed, as this time - unlike 1966 - no goal was awarded. Germany went on to win the game 4-1 and to say that England would have won if Lampard's goal had been awarded would be unfair. However, goals do change games and who knows what psychological impact it would have had on a young German side to have been pegged back from 2-0 up to be level at 2-2 and what sort of a boost would it have given England to go in level at the half-time break? The answer we will never know, but there is certainly more than an argument for the introduction of technology in top level football - where there is so much at stake. I don't think it would slow down the game much and it would certainly add to the integrity of top level competitions, certainly in situations where opinions are not required (e.g. was the ball over the goal-line or not?) While there are of course arguments against technology in football, it is something which certainly needs to be looked at.

Suarez' handball: morally wrong?

Luis Suarez handball:
Uruguay v Ghana: World Cup Quarter-Final:
With seconds left of extra-time and Uruguay drawing 1-1 with Ghana, the West Africans launched one last attack into the Charrúas' penalty area. The ball was headed towards goal and with the goalkeeper beaten and a goal seeming certain; Uruguay striker Suarez batted the ball off the goal-line with his hands. In the ensuing meleé, Suarez was red-carded. There was a delay of some five minutes before Ghana's Gyan took the penalty which was the last kick of the game. With the eyes of the world watching him (and a place in the World Cup semi-final at stake): Gyan skied his shot over the crossbar. Suarez was seen celebrating the penalty miss (pictured right) - was this bad sportsmanship? Or was it a great competitior delighted his nation was still in the "Greatest Competition of All"? Uruguay of course went on to win the penalty shoot-out and the moral debate went on. There are those who said that Suarez was morally wrong to handle the ball in such a situation though journalist James Anderson summed up my feelings in the situation when he stated: "I would not want to be on a team with a guy who would not handle the ball in that situation to keep his team in the competition" - well said James Anderson, well said.

Suarez' dramatic handball: Hero or villain? You decide:

English fitness instructor is World's longest driver:

Big hitter: "Killer" Miller
The world's longest hitting golfer is 26-year-old English fitness instructor Joe "Killer" Miller who cracked a drive of 414 yards at the World Long Drive Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada yesterday. Miller also holds the World Record for the longest record drive, with an effort of 474 yards recorded back in 2005. Miller banks a cheque of US$150,000 for his efforts.