30 July, 2011

International Rules in doubt; this time for off the field reasons:

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International Rules fighting; this time off the field
         This year's International Rules Series could yet be scrapped as an escalating pay row between Australian Rules players and their bosses threatens its existence.
         A boycott of the international series is one of the weapons that AFL players are now reportedly considering in their battle to break a deadlock in pay negotiations, which have intensified in recent days.  The AFL Players Association (AFLPA) brought 400 players to a landmark meeting in Melbourne in midweek and another 300 were involved via video link, when the union were given a full mandate to do whatever is needed to secure a new collective bargaining agreement.
         Whilst strike action is the last option Australian media sources have revealed that the players have discussed the nuclear option of going on strike but only for the International Series and the AFL's pre-season NAB Cup.  The players apparently expressed a desire not to do anything that would impact on their Premiership season.
         The current deal does not expire until the end of the AFL season in September and negotiations are expected to intensify in the coming weeks.  Worries have also increased because today was originally set as a nominal deadline for the new pay deal.  
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28 July, 2011

Once again; the media badly needs some perspective instead of over sensationalising the most trivial of incidents:

MUCH MALIGNED: Mario Balotelli
          Branded a brat, disgrace, and names much worse by many quarters of the football world, it seems 20 year old Mario Balotelli cannot get anything right. In his most recent controversial incident, the mercurial striker was hauled off immediately after attempting an audacious back-heel in the last match of the ever so important Herbalife World Football Challenge match against the LA Galaxy, after scoring from the spot earlier in the half.
          The substitution took place in the 32nd minute of the match, and Balotelli exchanged words with Roberto Mancini before taking his place on the bench, and failing to come back out after the first half. Balotelli has never been far from the spotlight and criticism, and given his past, it would seems his reputation is almost beyond repair even at such a young age, with this another mark on his record. Because, to many, an attempted back-heel in a pre-season friendly might be seen as immature, at the most. If fellow City team mates Edin Dzeko or Shaun Wright-Phillips would have attempted it, it would likely not have been anywhere near as covered and condemned as it has been.
          In fact, what would the reaction be if Lionel Messi attempted it, or another Barcelona player? Would he be praised for his creativity and love of the game, with the same old cliches bandied about regarding the “Barcelona way,” La Masia, “mas que un club,” total football, etc?  With no preconceived notions of the player, the action in itself is barely noteworthy, certainly not front page news on the world’s major football media tabloids and websites. But it seems Balotelli, rightly or wrongly, has been labelled the ever-troublesome problem child yet again.  In this case;  wrongly from this observer's viewpoint at least.

Here is the  "disgraceful"   incident: 

15 Brain Injury Facts Every Athlete Should Know:

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After recent revelations and findings from both the International Rugby Board (IRB) and America's National Football League (NFL);  a U.S. insurance firm has come up with their own findings on brain trauma among athetes:

With thanks to Liz Nutt at  Insurancequotes.org
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23 July, 2011

Rebels roast Mourne & look hot to repeat All-Ireland

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Star man Donncha O'Connor scores Cork's clinching second goal
          In a repeat of last year's All-Ireland Final;  Cork v Down was the most eagerly anticipated fixture on this week's GAA calender.  A tight contest was anticipated after last year's one point winning margin for the side from the  "Real Capital."  Cork however laid down a marker with a 12 point win and provincial champions will not want to face the defending All-Ireland champions over the next two weekends.
Cork are now favourites to retain the All-Ireland Title
          Donncha O'Connor was an inspiration for Cork today, scoring 1-7 and what was one of the best goals seen at Croke Park in some time late in the first half.  The Ballydesmond native was full of life and effervescence; running deep to pick up loose ball and breaking down Down's advances in midfield.  The Rebels will have their fingers crossed that O'Connor stays fit til September because his full-forward partner in crime; Daniel Goulding did his hamstring this evening and looks like being out for some time.  For now though; Cork will look forward to the All-Ireland Quarter Finals in good heart and this observer feels that anyone who beats Cork will be the All-Ireland Champions as Cork ooze class, strength and athleticism all over the field.
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20 July, 2011

Shay Given signs amazing £15million 5 year contract; but at 35; is he still worth it?

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This Shay Given save booked Ireland's place at World Cup 2002
           Aston Villa have signed 35 year old Shay Given on a remarkable £15million 5 year contract, but is it a lucrative retirement pacckage or will it re-ignite the Donegal native's stalling career?

          The length of the cotract is a gamble. Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish says that Given has a point to prove, but, in reality, there is more than just one.  On the face of it, he is taking a massive step down in leaving England's most upwardly mobile entity to join Villa, a selling club that consistently flatters to deceive, a midlands club firmly planted in the middle of the road.

Kieran Westwood: Ireland's new Number One goalkeeper?
           Another question now lingers. After signing a bumper club contract that looks like keeping him in senior football until the age of 40, will Given seek to extend his international career in tandem?
           Trapattoni is desperate to stay on until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil; he shouldn't find it too hard to convince Given to stick around as well when that tournament is just over halfway into his existing club deal.

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16 July, 2011

"Ireland will be close" - Jonah Lomu previews Rugby World Cup 2011

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Lomu in his hay day, but sadly he never won a World Cup
          All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu has named Ireland as the dark horse at this year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and warned any title contenders will underestimate Pacific teams at their peril.   While making it clear that he believes New Zealand are the favourites for the  tournament, Lomu said Ireland's ageing squad was not being given the respect it deserved.
          'If there's a team that you have to be wary about, and not many people are talking about them, it's Ireland,' Lomu told reporters in the Cook Islands during a trip to promote the World Cup.  'Purely because I've watched a lot of their teams. I've watched Leinster play in the Heineken Cup and they were very impressive, especially up front.   A lot of those players are coming to the end of their career and they'll put everything on the line.'
Brian O'Driscoll will hope his last World Cup is better than 2007
         Lomu, who has scored a record 15 tries at World Cups, said conditions in New Zealand would also suit the Irish, while veterans such as Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara would be desperate to finish their last World Cup on a high.
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11 July, 2011

McCarthy has no time for international no shows

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"The pinnacle for a player is international football. I can't fathom any attitude other than busting a gut to play for Ireland"  
- Mick McCarthy        

            Former Ireland World Cup legend Mick McCarthy has given his, as ever, outspoken views on the spate of Ireland withdrawls from the end of season internationals.  McCarthy has shared some strong opinions on the many stay-aways who missed wins over Northern Ireland, Scotland, Italy and Macedonia for dubious reasons.
Mick: no time for international no shows
           McCarthy has no doubts what he would do with any player who puts his summer holidays before the national team. "I have a word for the players who don’t turn up but you can’t print it," declared the Wolves boss. "They are bang out of order. It is just wrong. I am not bothered what their reason is.  I’m not having it and as a manager, I wouldn’t have it.  I missed my brother's wedding to win my first Ireland cap.  The pinnacle of any footballer's career is to play for his country and I just can't understand any attitude other than busting your gut for the chance to represent Ireland."
         Mick also stated he doesn't currently want the Ireland manager's job but that he would be interested in an international job in the future.  "I prefer day-to-day management right now. If the Ireland job comes up in the future, I'd consider it.  But not now."
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09 July, 2011

End of era as Cork hurling needs a shake-up after heavy loss:

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PLENTY TO PONDER: is it time for Denis Walsh to step down?
          Cork hurling is  "in the doldrums"  after a 12 point defeat to Galway today and now major changes are sure to be made both on and off the pitch.  The best days are behind many of these Cork players and a spate of reitrements can be expected.  Galway can now be regarded as All-Ireland contenders in what was regarded as a two-horse race, but, after today, there are definitely three sides capable of lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup come September.  Galway can beat anyone, including Kilkenny and Tipperary on their day, but they could also lose to anyone.
Walsh's departure could see the return of at least one Ó hAilpín
          This day for me was more a time to take stock for Cork hurling though.  There can be no argument that Galway deservedly won on a scoreline of 2-23 to 1-14 today.  The Tribesmen were in cruise control in the closing minutes.  Whilst the Cork hurling set-up is somewhat in transition at the moment, a much better performance would have been expected than what was witnessed in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick today.  Now must surely be the time for Denis Walsh to step down as manager.  There will be few within Cork GAA sad to see him go.  
This man (Dónal Ó'Grady) would shake things up if he returned to Cork
   Walsh's departure will mean the return of a number of players, including, very likely three time All-Star Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and possibly his brother Aisake, who is currently Down Under playing Aussie Rules.  There can be little doubt that GAA is Aisake's game though.  One thing that Cork have missed is a big target man (Aisake is 6'7") to aim balls at, who, while he might not score every time he gets the ball; things will certainly break off him.  The departure of Denis Walsh, would certainly increase the likelihood of a return of Aisake, amongst a number of other players to the Cork senior hurling set-up.
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"My helmet saved my life:"

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HAPPY TO BE HERE:   Waterford's Eoin Murphy
"When I went down, I deliberately stayed motionless because I didn't know what had cracked inside my head,"
- Eoin Murphy
 Waterford defender Eoin Murphy is looking forward to getting back playing hurling after suffering a traumatic blow to the head in April.  Murphy fractured his skull in a collision during a club game and there were fears that he would never regain consciousness.
Those pitchside that day worked hard to keep Murphy from slipping away and when speaking about the day, Murphy recalls the terror he felt as he lay motionless on the ground.
"My first thought was that something serious had happened," he remembers. "Just this sensation of bones breaking inside your head. When I went down, I deliberately stayed motionless because I wasn't sure what had actually cracked."
"If it wasn't for my helmet, I wouldn't be here," - Murphy publicly revealed this week.
The 2006 All-Star hopes to return for the All-Ireland semi-finals in mid-August (should Waterford still be in the competition); but for now he is happy just to be alive.
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08 July, 2011

It's a dog's life; woman brings dogging to a whole new level:

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Further images would be excessively disturbing
I know this is a sport's blog, but I have to report this story; it's just too funny!  A woman has died following a sever allergic reaction caused by having sex with an Alsation DOG!:

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03 July, 2011

Links between heavy impact sports and brain disease are too close for comfort: - with thanks to former Ireland rugby international Neil Francis:

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PAUL DARBYSHIRE: wishing him well in his next life
It is significant that nearly all NFL and rugby players are diagnosed in their mid to late 30s - sometimes much earlier         

Last week we learned that Munster strength and conditioning coach Paul Darbyshire had lost his battle with Motor Neuron Disease (MND).  The use of the word 'battle' evokes the notion that there was some form of contest going on.  There would indeed be winners and losers as there are in every contest.  In this case however, the winners and losers were pre-determined.
          Darbyshire's father died from the disease years ago; it left him in a minority of 5% of the population who are genetically pre-disposed towards the disease.   Darbyshire diagnosed himself and only presented himself clinically for confirmation.  He is one of the few rugby players who had the disease where you were not inclined to ask the question: is there a link between rugby/heavy impact contact sports and MND?
Wally Hilgenberger (Number 58): too many collisions
Progressive paralysis, physical impairment and atrophy occur before the end of life of an MND sufferer.  It's a grim exit.  I had heard that former Leeds manager Don Revie died from the disease.  Aside from that I did not know of anyone who had died from the disease.  The disease re-surfaced again last year on a HBO television documentary called  "Real Sports"  with the broadcaster Bryant Gumbel.  This episode was called 'After the Hits.'  The programme focused on Lou Gehrig's Disease also known as Motor Neuron Disease (MND) or ALS.
Neurology Professor: Dr. Ann McKee
          The clinical focus centred on Dr. Anne McKee of Boston University and Dr. Chris Nowinski of Harvard University who, after extensive research produced a paper which made a connection between brain trauma and concussion suffered in contact sport (NFL) and MND.  McKee's interest was caught by the diagnosis of Wally Hilgenberg, a line backer with the Minnesota Vikings - Hilgenberg was diagnosed with MND.  What sparked McKee's interest was that he was one of several sufferers on the same team.  After Hilgenberg's death; analysis on his brain and spinal cord and those of 12 other deceased NFL players - indicated the first firm pathological indications that brain trauma results in motor neuron degeneration.  All of the brains examined had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive disease in brain tissue that results in cognitive impairment and eventually dementia.  
          CTE is a pre-cursor to all sorts of neurological impairment.  The NFL has a disproportionate level compared to the general population of dementia, depression and Alzheimer's.  There are many reasons for this, but we know what the primary ingredient is.  Suicide is also at epidemic lengths among former and current players.  In the NFL though, Motor Neuron Disease is eight times the national average.
2008  Zurich Conference
          In a week when Berwick Barnes, the Australian centre who would have played a part in his country's pool match against Ireland this Septmeber, was advised to take an indefinite break from rugby as a result of continuous concussions sustained on the field of play, the IRB brought in revised protocols governing concussion evaluation and what are called  "graduate returns to play."   Sterling work lads.  The programme used the  'Zurich Consensus'  as a template and initiated their procedures based on its principles.  The Zurich Conference took place in November 2008 - I'm just wondering why it took two and a half years to implement?
           I have always thought the term 'proactive' was to have the capacity, foresight or vision to see something coming down the line and pre-empt or take calculated corrective action.  The latest action from the IRB has the sheen of reactionism to it.  A legal rearguard action or a preventative move based on the realisation that a game whose force equals to mass times acceleration quite often leaves is combatants with brain injuries and they are only a year or two from following the NFL into litigation from players who are brain damaged or worse.
          It is an unfortunate situation.  You still have people who smoke 40 a day suing tobacco companies for giving them lung cancer.  You cannot play a high-intensity contact sport without picking up head injuries - what these morph into in later life is a matter of chance - at the moment all I am doing is pointing out a series of coincidences.  In 50 years time or, hopefully, sooner, we will know for definite.
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Kingdom hold on to derail Rebels and win today's Munster battle but who will win the All-Ireland war?

No quarter asked, no quarter ever given:   Kerry v Cork
The Rebels have not gone away and it would be no surprise should these two meet again come September.
O'Sullivan celebrates goal which eventually proved decisive
There are those who believe that the Munster Title is no longer what it once was.  Try telling that to a Cork man or Kerry man today though.  The scenes of jubilation from the Kerry players (most of whom have won multiple All-Irelands) at the final whistle today, certainly allayed those claims as to the irrelevance of the Munster crown.
...Cork are far from finished this year though
Kerry had dominated the game up until the 55th minute and led by eight points with 15 minutes to go.  However Cork went on to score 1-4 without reply to leave the Kingdom clinging on with minutes remaining and Kerry were leading by one point in the last minute.  Kerry had gone 27 minutes without a score but added two points in the last minute to finally come out the right side of a 1-15 to 1-12 scoreline.  
Cork aren't dead though.  Far from it.  Indeed;  if Cork had scored a goal in the last minute, instead of John Miskella's 12 yard effort hitting the post; the Rebels would this evening be Munster Football Champions.  Kingdon manager Jack O'Connor admitted afterwards that his charges were  "a bit lucky"  to come out the right side of the result.  Cork  certainly battled heroically in the second half.  The Rebels have by no means gone away and it would be no surprise should these two meet again come September.
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01 July, 2011

End of era as Bull Hayes appears to be finished:

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NO MORE BULL: Munster Legend Hayes finished at 38
Rugby icon John Hayes could have played his last game for Munster after the province confirmed they have no plans to extend his contract beyond the World Cup.  The legendary prop will turn 38 in November and was left out of the 45-man squad published by the province earlier this week, fuelling speculation that he is set to retire after the tournament in New Zealand.
The veteran was named in Declan Kidney's extended squad for the World Cup warm-up and reported for pre-season training at Carton House this week.  The Cappaghmore man has played 201 times for Munster, winning two Heineken Cups and two Celtic leagues during his 13-year stint. 
BIG HITTER:  Botha (bottom) has arrived in Munster (Ireland)
The Munster squad began pre - season training in Cork today, minus their Irish internationals.  Springbok World Cup winner BJ Botha had his first training session and 11 academy players have been handed full-time contracts for the 2011-'12 season.
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