27 August, 2011

South African amputee creating World Championship history:

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HIGH HOPES:  Oscar Pistorious
              The man known as the  "Blade Runner";  Oscar Pistorious will become the first parolympian to run against able bodied athletes in a major championships.  The man on no legs is second only to the fastest man on two legs (Usain Bolt) in terms of curiosity value.  
              The South African 400m has endured rigorous testing to ensure that his false  "legs"  give him no competitive advantage over able bodied runners and he is ranked 17th in the world this year in his event.   Says the man himself:  "My mother used to always say when we woke up in the morning:  'Your brother puts on his shoes, you put on your legs, ye both go running and that's the last she wants to hear about it.'   That attitude is why I never viewed myself as any different." 
              His running legs cost about $3,000 per set and are about half the price of the feet he walks around on each day.  Although his running legs are made of carbon fibre;  they are actually quite low-tech.  The stumps are custom made because the stump of everybody's legs are different.  Pistorious wears a socck inside the leg because he has lost weight in recent months.  His coach has targetted a World Championship semi-final in Dageou this month.  
             Pistorious says that he doesn't view himself as a pioneer:  "There are a lot of parolympic athletes doing exactly what I'm doing.  They might not be doing it at an international or national standard but they're doing the best they can do."  The World Championships will be a learning curve for the 24 year old, who must meet the Olympic/Paralympic qualifying time between January and June next ahead of a possible Paralympic (or maybe even OLYMPIC) London 2012 medal.  That would be historic indeed.
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26 August, 2011

First ever competitive tie between Irish and English clubs as Shamrock Rovers secure teak tough Europa League Group:

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Rovers will happily cash in by welcoming top English club to Dublin
Shamrock Rovers reward for creating history last night is being drawn in one of the toughest Europa League groups.  PAOK Salonika and Rubin Khazin have played in the Champions League Group stages in recent seasons, whilst the top seeds are none other than top English Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur.  The Dublin leg of this tie will be played at the 50,000 capacity AVIVA Stadium.
Shamrock Rovers players jubilant in Belgrade last night
              The Hoops created history last night by becoming the first team from Ireland to ever reach this stage of European competition. They defeated FK Partizan in Belgrade 2-1 away from home, to clinch a 3-1 aggregate victory.
          Rovers, amongst the 38 play-off round winners, were joined in the draw by the ten losers from the UEFA Champions League play-offs.  The clubs were split into 12 groups of four teams, playing home and away against each of their pool opponents, between September and December.   Two sides from each section advance, proceeding into the round of 32 alongside eight third-placed teams from the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche: delighted with Europa draw
            Speaking at the draw in Monaco today;  Rovers' chairman Jonathan Roche said:  "For our club; it's massive.  Five years ago we were relegated.  Then the fans took over the club.  We fought for our stadium, we won our first league title in 16 years last season, got to the Cup final so we've progressed all along through.  So, this is a big thing for the club and the league.  The league is not as well supported as it should be in the country.  Hopefully this will get the country behind the league clubs in our country, not just us.  This shows people that we have a very good standard of football in our country.  Irish clubs have been knocking on the door (a European breakthrough) for the last five years and thankfully now we've done it."

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25 August, 2011

For every League of Ireland fan who puts up with the ignorance of so many critics of the domestic game, this is our moment:

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Stephen O'Donnell nets penalty to create Irish soccer history in Belgrade
            In an aptly partisan setting; Dublin's Shamrock Rovers battled for their lives against Partizan Belgrade; forcing the home side into extra-time of this Europa League final qualifying round.  Rovers dominated vast portions of the game after Belgrade went ahead 10 minutes before half-time with a Volkov header coming from a corner; but came back to secure one of the most famous victories in Irish soccer history.

Rovers celebrate history made by world class Sullivan goal
For League of Ireland fans who put up with so many ignorant critics of the domestic game, this is our moment              
          At the start of the second half; manager Michael O'Neill changed to an attacking 4-3-2-1  formation and brought on striker Karl Sheppard for Billy Dennehy.  O'Neill's positivity was rewarded almost immediately as a Chris Turner header hit the post.  Ten minutes into the second half;  the Hoops were rewarded with one of the best goals you're likely to see all season;  Pat Sullivan slamming home a first-time volley into the corner of the net from 30 yards out.  And for every League of Ireland fan who puts up with the ignorance of so many critics of the domestic game, point to this moment. 
Man of the Moment Sullivan chaired from the pitch at the end
           Rovers deservedly held out for extra-time but were under the cosh when the hosts thumped the inside of the post and had serious claims for a penalty in the first half of extra-time.  However, early in the second half of extra-time; Rovers won a penalty and when Stephen O'Donnell netted the Dubliners were effectively through.  Amazing scenes in the stands followed as the 50 hardcore travelling fans welcomed a result to rival Ireland's qualification for the 1990 World Cup.
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Barry Murphy set to be Cork hurling boss again:

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Jimmy Barry Murphy (left) celebrates 1999 All-Ireland triumph
          The committee set up to appoint a successor to Denis Walsh has recommended that Jimmy Barry Murphy be appointed as the next Cork Senior Hurling manager for a three year term.  Barry Murphy has already held the position of Cork boss in the past and managed them to an All-Ireland SHC title in 1999, as well as provincial honours in 1999 and 2000.
          A statement issued on the Cork GAA website this afternoon confirmed that Barry Murphy is the preferred candidate and that his name will be put forward for ratification at a meeting of the Cork GAA County committee on 6th September.

          He was an ever-present during the Cork hurlers' three in-a-row of All-Ireland wins between 1976 and 1978;  adding five All-Star medals to his Celtic Crosses; while he added two further titles in 1984 and 1986, in addition to an All-Ireland SFC winners' medal in 1973.
          Following his last stint as Cork hurling supremo, Barry Murphy has continued to be active in the GAA within his own club St. Finbarr's and also through his involvement with the Cork development squads and various other initiatives.

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21 August, 2011

England's most Irish club top of Premier League:

Wolves celebrate Kevin Doyle goal & perfect Premier start
"Wolves look a top ten side based on this performance,"
 - Kevin Kilbane

           The English club with most Irish players (and management) have won their first two games of the season for the first time since 1998 in what is quite a philip for former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.  
          Five Republic of Ireland internationals were on the pitch during the course of the 90 minutes with former Cork City FC star Kevin Doyle bagging a cracking opener three minutes before half-time.   Matt Jarvis sealed the points on the stroke of half-time in a fully meritted win for the home side.  
Good day and great Premier League start for Mick McCarthy
          Republic of Ireland international Kevin Kilbane stated at the end of the game:  "Wolves look a top ten side based on this performance."  For the next week at least, the Midlands men will occupy a Champions League berth atop the Premier League.
         Wolves Chief Executive Jez Moxey speaking before kick-off today stated:  "Hopefully some day Wolves can get back into Europe."  With performances like today's;  that  "one day"  might come sooner than you think Mr.  Moxey.
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19 August, 2011

Famous Tallaght night as Rovers are one win from history:

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Shamrock Rovers players celebrate what could be an historic goal
          After weathering a number of storms:  Dublin's Shamrock Rovers secured a deserved draw with Partizan Belgrade and are now one result from going where achieving what no Irish football club ever has.
          The early stages were dominated entirely by the Eastern European with Rover's keeper Thompson making a world class save to touch a 35 yard piledriver over his cross bar.  The side from the former Yugoslavia went 0-1 up on 14 minutes after lax defending from Dan Murray allowed the unmarked Tomic to plant a low shot into the bottom corner from 15 yards out.
          Rovers were feeding off scraps were the remainder of the half with the visitors monopolising posession and should have been more than one goal ahead by the time the referee blew the short whistle.
PIVOTAL ROLE:   Conor McCormack
          As the second half matured, Rovers got more and more into the game, though keeper Thompson very nearly handed a goal to the visitors on 55 minutes which would surely have killed the tie.  That was the only real chance for the visitors in the third quarter and Rovers came close to equalising when Sullivan's header forced a decent save from Stoijkovic.
          With the game entering the final 10 minutes;  Rovers were well on top and the goal finally came with Gary McCabe going on a mazey dribble, playing a one-two with Gary McCabe before rounding the last defender and planting a low shot into the far corner from 15 yards for a goal labelled by one Liam Brady as  "The best I've seen for a long, long time."
Master tactician: Michael O'Neill (left)
         Rovers could have won the game with four minutes left when the ball fell to Twigg five yards from goal but his hurried volley beat the 'keeper and cleared the crossbar.  The final whistle went shortly after with manager Michael O'Neill deserving a lot of credit for changing things around at half-time and switching the effervescent Conor McCormack into midfield.  It was a switch which now keeps the tie very much alive.
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18 August, 2011

I don't often feature American sports but....

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The NFL Lockout is over
 ....with the start of the National Football League  (NFL)  season on the horizon across the Atlantic;  I thought this storyline would be pertinent:

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11 August, 2011

McIlroy tightlipped on Olympic allegiance:

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Rory McIlroy:  IRISH or BRITISH?
      "It would be a huge honour to represent your country.  It would be a great achievement to win a gold medal,"  - Rory McIlroy

         Rory McIlroy has now decided not to declare which team he would represent in the Olympics until he has to.  Two years ago the 22-year-old said it would be Great Britain and Northern Ireland if he qualifies for golf's return to the Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.  
          But all Northern Irish citizens can opt for Ireland and the US Open champion said: "I still don't know. Basically, if I am going to be very honest, which I usually am, whatever I say is going to upset someone." 
          If he is in the world's top 15 at the cut-off point McIlroy would be guaranteed a place in the 60-strong field and he is certainly looking forward to the possibility.
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10 August, 2011

"I feel for IFA:" Former Ireland boss has his say on exodus of players from Northern to Republic of Ireland ahead of key Euro qualifier:

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Brian Kerr:  has sympathy for Northern Ireland's plight
          Former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr has expressed his sympathy with the Irish FA over the increasing number of players who are deciding to opt for south over north, despite being born, bred and coached in the latter.  Kerr was speaking in Belfast ahead of his Faroe Island's side crucial Euro 2012 qualifier with Northern Ireland at Windsor Park.
          New Sunderland signing James McClean is the latest player to defect under FIFA rules, declaring his dream is to play for the Republic after dropping out of the Northern Ireland squad which faces Kerr's Faroes Islands side at Windsor Park tonight.
Kerr stated: “It is a unique situation but not a good one and I sympathise with the IFA and football people in Northern Ireland.
          “But those are the rules and the Republic are taking advantage.  I would hope this situation would change because it's not good for a lot of reasons. It doesn't sit right with me. 
          It will be interesting to see how many of these players play regularly for the Republic in the future.” Kerr added: “We (the Faroes) have 47,000 people to pick from scattered around 18 islands and I understand how hard it is to get together a group of players with the quality required to compete against the best teams.”
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09 August, 2011

Cork's Meyler makes speedy recovery and looks set to start first Premier League game of the season:

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TERRIBLE INJURIES: Cork's David Meyler
          Ireland international David Meyler makes an ahead of schedule return to competitive action when he gets a first real run-out for Sunderland Reserves tonight.
          The Cork born Under 21 international has been sidelined since May when he ruptured knee ligaments in Sunderland's last home game of the season against Manchester United. The very promising Irish midfielder twisted studs in the turf and damaged ligaments so badly that it was thought at one point, that the whole of this season could be spent recovering from the serious injury.
          The young man has made an incredible recovery after medical experts predicted he would not return to competitive action before December.  The timing of Meyler’s injury could also not have been worse for the young player, as he had just been selected by Giovanni Trapattoni to take part in a senior Ireland training camp, which was due to take place the week after he sustained the ligament injury in May.  Now;  Meyler looks set to return to Premier League action in the season opener against Liverpool on Saturday.
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08 August, 2011

Good news for Irish international soccer as Shane Long looks set to join Premier League West Brom:

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               West Brom are poised to smash their transfer record to sign Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long from Reading.  The Baggies spoke to Long's advisors over the weekend and are today completing negotiations on a £7million deal.  Whilst this observer was hoping that Long would join the plethora of Irish players at Wolves;  the fact he has signed for a Premier League club will be good news for the Irish international football cause with the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign now coming towards a climax. 
25 goals last season for Reading's Player of the Year
               Albion head coach Roy Hodgson is hoping to sign Long in time for Sunday's Barclays Premier League opener with Manchester United at the Hawthorns.  It will be the first monetary outlay of the summer by West Brom after Gareth McAuley, Zoltan Gera and Billy Jones arrived on Bosman free transfers and Ben Foster joined on loan from Birmingham.  Hodgson has been pursuing Long all summer after the 24-year-old scored 25 goals last season for Reading.  I am quite sure the Tipperary native will more than hold his own in the Premier League.         
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