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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Quick NFL Hit

Up until this Sunday, the Detroit Lions endured a really, really long losing streak.  They last won in December 2007, and last season they became the first team in the NFL's history to lose all of their games in a 16 game season.

That ended this weekend with a 19-14 win over the hapless Washington Redskins.  It merited the floowing headline, recently tweeted by Adam Schefter (I belive it initially came from the Washington Post).

Washington Bails out Detroit Again

With Obama's Help, Olympics Seem Chicago Bound

When London was chosen as the host city for the 2012 Olympic Games in Singapore four years ago, one man who emerged with a great deal of credit was Tony Blair. The then-Prime Minister travelled there to lobby for votes from IOC delegates and though he left before the winner was announced, the mere fact that he'd put in the effort on a week in which he hosted a G8 summit is one of the key reasons that the eyes of the sporting world will be on the English capital in three years time.

Today it's been confirmed that Barack Obama will follow Blair's lead and travel to this week's IOC conference in Copenhagen. Obama won't be the only world leader in Denmark - the leaders of Brazil, Japan and Spain will all be there to lend their support to Rio, Tokyo and Madrid. However, as the leader of the United States, Obama's attendance will contain a certain cache of influence not held by the others.

The truth is, Chicago probably deserves the Games. America has not hosted them since 1996. Indeed, the Americas have not hosted them since the Atlanta Olympiad while the world’s greatest sporting event has been to Australasia and Europe. It could be argued that a twenty-year break is short for some countries (London, for instance, hasn’t hosted an Olympics in 1948), this isn’t the case for the land which gives such a massive percentage of the TV rights pie.

Plus, Chicago is the site that makes sense. Rio is looking to host the Games only two years after the World Cup. Madrid has been shunned on a couple of occasions and they are looking for a second-successive European Olympics, and a third in four. Too much. Tokyo is an intriguing candidate, but not an attractive one to many of the major television networks worldwide. The Windy City is home to the Bears and the Cubs and the Bulls – it’s one of America’s premier sporting cities. Now, with the help of the President with the Midas touch, they should get to show that on the widest possible scale.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Morning(ish) After The Night Before

Time for a post-mortem.

The last post prior to the fight was titled 'Bernard Abú' which is ironic, because last night about 9,000 souls in the O2 Arena were saying 'Bernard..Ah...Boo' or something like that. It was a disappointing fight.

I'm sure you saw it - it seemed to us that Bernard controlled, if not dominated, the opening two rounds but when he was drawn into a fight in the third, he was outclassed by Poonsawat who simply had too much power. Bernard was caught with a strong left hook - and don't underestimate the effect of the punch that cut and hurt his ear while on the way down - and he never truly recovered. He should have tied up, he should have spoiled and fouled, but he didn't. The second knockdown was brutal - there was never going to be a repeat of Cordoba Round 5.

Sometimes, when our sports stars lose, we feel cheated but not last night. All indications were that Bernard's training camp went well and he made no excuses on that front in his post-fight interview. There's also no doubt that he gave anything other than 100%. He was just beaten by a better man on the night.

Sport sucks sometimes.

At this point, I don't know if Bernard Dunne's career has been one in which he under- or over-achieved. That's because I don't want it to be over. I don't say that as a selfish fan but as someone who's genuinely trying to think of his best interests. Dunne has been beaten twice, sure, both knockouts, but he hasn't taken a large amount of beatings in recent years (Cordoba aside). He's not like, say Ricky Hatton, who looks punch drunk and should hang up the gloves. Bernard has a lot left to give inside the boxing ring, the only question is where and how.

For me, I'd be happy to see him fight Rendall Munroe for the European Super Bantamweight Title. Munroe would be a 'name' and the fight would also make cash common sense. His only other option, in my opinion, would be to move up to featherweight. At 5'7", Dunne is big at the 122lb limit and the extra bulk in his body could help him. That plan was indicated as most likely by Brian Peters last night, and both he and Bernard say that the Dubliner will fight on. Good. He needs to recover from last night, mentally more than anything else.

The good thing, though, is he will be back.


The rest of the card, Dunne aside, was quite good. Stephen Haughian was lucky to get a draw, and Tyson Fury wasn't that impressive - an injury to his right-hand may have something to do with that. The Jamie Power-Michael Sweeney fight on the other hand was a cracker. Like Dunne-Poonsawat, it only went three rounds but there wasn't a dull moment and it was a great win for Sweeney, the Ros Muc based Mayo native. I'd love to see the two of them go at it again. Brian Peters, or whoever, should get them to fight in a small-hall show in Power's native Limerick because that's a fight I'm more than willing to watch a lot more of. Should it happen, then I'll see you there.


A big thanks to all of you who checked out the live blog last night. There were hiccups, and there were issues but it was fun to share our thoughts with you in such an instant way. It's something you'll definitely see more of here at The Almost Daily Sports Blog.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Bernard Abú!!

So D-Day has arrived for Bernard Dunne. There’s not long now until his battle with Poonsawat, and the nerves are high. Both boxers weighed in successfully yesterday (though there was a slight scare as the Thai had to climb the scales three times to come in under the 122lb limit).

We here at The Almost Daily Sports Blog are providing coverage all day, as you can see, and we want you to take part. There’s a few ways that you can do that. Any tweets with the hashtag dunnelive (i.e. #dunnelive) should appear in the console automatically, while you’re also welcome to leave comments at the bottom of this page.

You can also comment in the CoveritLive console itself – for most of you these comments require moderation and this will be provided at various points from this evening, hopefully, and certainly during the fight itself.

So start off NOW by taking the poll, and let us know who you think will win. Feel free to tweet/comment with your predictions for the fight or anything else you want to say. Hopefully you’ll enjoy what we have to offer here later today.

One final thing, to get you in the mood, here’s Newstalk’s commentary from the final round of Dunne v Cordoba in March. If this doesn’t get your pulse racing, nothing will.

C'mon Bernard!!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Some rugby....

Just to break the boxing trend for a quick post.

Gerry Thornley reports today in the Irish Times of changes to the qualification process for the Heineken Cup.

It's a tad verbose, but effectively if Munster and Leinster are to continue their success in the competition it will automatically qualify Connacht a place.
This is great news - I am sure some die-hard fans would prefer to see the West province qualify by finishing ahead of Ulster in the Magner's but had you offered an automatic place to Connacht players for the 2007 season after Munster won their first title, I dare you to find me someone who would have turned it down.

This is indeed intriguing news, and no more so then the day it has appeared in print.

Tonight Connacht face Ulster in the first Irish derby of the Magner's league season.
Both teams are dealing with losses to key players, but to me it makes it an even more interesting game.
Can Connacht repeat last years feat and turn over the home teams in Galway?
Will the 8 o'clock kick off provide enough time for any rugby fan in the West to pack the Sportsground.
I hope so, personally I'm hoping to get home in time to catch it on tv. There is enough riding on the game for both teams for it to be a spirited affair.
Here's to the health of Irish rugby for the season - and a possible 4 Irish Teams in the Heineken Cup for the 2010-11 season!

Edit: Link to Liam Toland's piece in today's Irish Times about Connacht.
For me Toland is one of the best analysts of the game both in paper and on TV. If Conor O'Shea was ever to leave RTE's rugby coverage they should immediately snap this man up from Setanta. Objective, concise and informative.

T'Other Fella

As promised, here's a profile of Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, Bernard Dunne's opponent this Saturday.


Let's be honest, Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym isn't the sort of name that rolls off the tongue. Yet, difficult as it is to pronounce, the Thai's name is on the lips of all Irish boxing fans ahead of Saturday's bout with Bernard Dunne.

The main question, to be honest, is 'Who is Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym?'

Well, that's not an easy question to answer but I'm going to try. Make no mistake, this won't be an easy fight for Dunne. Like Bernard, Poonsawat has only one defeat in his pro career. Boxrec ranks him fifth (three places ahead of the Dubliner) while the WBA have installed him as their mandatory challenger for Bernard's WBA Super Bantamweight belt.

A quick look at his record reveals a lot of truths. Very few of his wins have been against 'name' fighters, while two of his last five fights have been against men with losing records. There are impressive names on his list though. Poonsawat has a win over Somsak Sithchatchawal, a former holder of Dunne's WBA Super Bantamweight crown. That was an eleventh round knockout in March of last year, and it was this win that gave Poonsawat the right to fight for the belt on Saturday. He's also beaten four-weight World Champion Leo Gamez (indeed, Poonsawat finished the Venezuelan's career) while there is one name that Irish fans will recognise - Poonsawat handed Ricardo Cordoba his first pro defeat with a split decision win in 2005.

As I said, he also has one defeat, and that was in his only fight that hasn't taken place in Thailand. Poonsawat travelled to Germany to take on Wladimir Sidorenko in 2006 and was beaten, in a unanimous decision, by the Ukrainian (who himself has a pair of draws with Cordoba).  That defeat seems to have been a key point in Poonsawat's career. Up until then, he was pushed, and he was going for big things. The above wins, the key ones, all came before then (with the exception of the Sithchatchawal fight) and since then, most of his fights have been against fighters with less than stellar records. The bout with Dunne is his toughest since then.

This analysis leads me to make these two points about Poonsawat ahead of Saturday's fight:

1. He's a tough cookie, there's no doubt about it. He's beaten big names, and his record of 27 knockouts from 38 wins shows that he has power to boot.  He's ranked higher than Dunne and this very well may be Dunne's sternest test to boot, Cordoba included.

2. Poonsawat is a fighter looking for a second coming.  His career has stalled (bar one win) for over three years and Saturday is a must-win for him, if he is to get it back on track.  He lost his one fight away from home, against Sidorenko, in Germany and he's already making pre-emptive excuses ahead of his trip to Dublin.

Yes, those are two contradictory points, but when we know so little about Poonsawat, we don't know which is the truth.  He could be a desperate fighter who Dunne is taking on at the right time, or he could break Irish hearts this weekend.  His record shows that he is more than capable of both, but we have no way of knowing which is the truth.  Dunne's camp should be confident that the second point is what will materialise, while at the same time fearing the first.  I certainly am not be confident enough to predict this fight, either way.


Don't forget our LIVE blog this Saturday.  You can sign up for an email reminder for it below.  It will kick off during the day on Saturday and we'll be blogging from inside the O2 Arena, giving you a flavour of the atmosphere direct from Dublin.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Bernard Dunne...So Far

As part of our preview for Bernard Dunne v Poonsawat, here is a profile of the WBA Super Bantamweight Champion and Ireland’s own, Bernard Dunne.


The first time I saw Bernard Dunne, professional boxer, was not inside the ring but in a feature on SKY’s much-missed boxing magazine show, Ringside. They profiled Dunne, who at the time had about seven wins from his first seven fights in the United States. The reporter (I think it was Adam Smith) kept up an Irish tradition in that when he went to visit Dunne, he brought him a present from home, in this case the ubiquitous box of teabags. He may have been all the way over in LA, but Bernard was still Irish, that's for sure.

When it comes to inside the ring, we didn’t get Bernard’s fights while he was Stateside, but his reputation was growing online. Aside from a few national amateur finals that had been shown on RTE, he existed only in print. He had gone from Neilstown to California, and was managed by Sugar Ray Leonard, trained by Freddie Roach. He was set for big things...but then all those plans changed.

Leonard decided to leave this contender to start his NBC TV series, The Contender, leaving our Bernard in the lurch. He was without a manager; he was without a firm future. He was forced to come back to Dublin. Though it didn’t seem a good move at the time, this move was to make Bernard Dunne the highest-profile and publicly-available boxer on this island since Barry McGuigan.

Leonard was replaced by Brian Peters, who took advantage of the opportunity.  He, and an unlikely RTE television deal, allowed Bernard the opportunity to base himself in Dublin and fight in front of his home fans. He was to give Irish boxing fans our first taste of the sport on the box. We lapped it up.

There were wins over Jim Betts and a scary last round against Yuri Voronin. Dunne made occasional trips to Germany and Italy but by and large, he built up his fanbase in Dublin, so much so that in November 2006, Dunne was able to lure Esham Pickering to Dublin to defend his European title.

It was a hard-fought and well-won points decision for Dunne, and it was the biggest night in Irish boxing since the days of Steve Collins. In under two years, Dunne had gone from career disaster in America, to winning the European Title in front of 9,000 hometown fans. He was one of the biggest earners in his weight division and it seemed like world class opponents would soon be coming our way.

The next chapter of Bernard’s career gives his critics plenty of ammunition. He fought a pair of relatively obscure European Title contenders, instead of pushing on like Peters’ own website had proclaimed. He won those fights comfortably, before the fateful night against Kiko Martinez. Dunne rushed into the fight – it came just nine weeks after his previous win against Reidar Walstad. The curtains were closing on the Point after this fight, and Martinez very nearly brought the curtains down on Bernard’s dreams in just 86 seconds.

Disaster doesn’t sum up how much of a blow this was. Bernard had been all conquering, he had been unbeaten in 24 fights; now he was Bernard ‘Dunne in One’. A long rehabilitation process was necessary. Dunne took a break, and when he did return his next three fights came against mediocre South American opponents; two of them were even held in Castlebar.

Then came Cordoba.

While Dunne’s career probably didn’t merit a shot at a world title, his earning power did. The fact that he had been on RTE for so many years, and was so well known, meant that a World Title Fight in Dublin could sell thousands of tickets, enough to lure Ricardo Cordoba all the way from Panama. Boxing, as the Don King adage goes, is not about what you earn: it’s about what you negotiate. Peters excelled, allowing Dunne to challenge for a World Title in his home town.

All Dunne had to do now was deliver, and boy did he do just that. Dunne put Cordoba down early in the fight, but then hit the canvas himself, twice, in the fifth round. It was de ja vu, the Martinez fight all over again. Dunne was once again on the seat of his pants, in the same arena where he'd suffered his worst night in boxing.  His supposed weak chin had cursed him again.  Yet Bernard Dunne survived through the fifth round, and the rest of the fight, before knocking Cordoba out in the eleventh. It's a good job he did - Dunne would have lost the fight if the judges were to be asked for their opinions.  But they weren't.

It was one of the most dramatic moments in Irish sports history, and given what had happened that afternoon, that’s saying something.

You can argue about the merits of the WBA as a body, but Dunne is now a legit World Champion, even if he’s not the true cream of his weight division. Unification may come further down the line, but for now Dunne stares into Saturday’s bout with Poonsawat. We’ll look at him, and at Saturday’s event in Dublin, tomorrow night.


Remember, The Almost Daily Sports Blog will be LIVE blogging all day Saturday for Bernard Dunne v Poonswat and we want YOU to be involved. Sign up below for an email reminder about the event, and be sure to check back here Saturday for all the build up to the fight, and the atmosphere direct from the O2 Arena.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A Venture Into The Unknown

Last March, on the same day that our rugby team won their first Grand Slam in 61 years, another remarkable sporting event occured in Ireland.

Bernard Dunne became WBA Super Bantamweight Champion in one of the best fights you'll ever see, knocking out Panama's Ricardo Cordoba in the 11th Round at Dublin's o2 Arena. I, along with the boss, was lucky to be there and we're going back to the o2 this Saturday for Dunne's first defence, against Poonsawat Kratingdaeng.

We're going to be blogging all day, about the journey up, the food, the cost, the fights and those quirky things that make a day like this memorable (this time I WILL figure out just how Marty Morrissey gets a crowd excited).  Our start time is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. but you can expect the comments to come in long, long before that and then they'll ramp up nearer to and during fight time.

I have some idea about how this will work, but not a massive amount! There will be issues, technical ones, but I hope that we'll be able to convey a sense of what's going on and give you a bit of the atmosphere live from Dublin.  I hope this will be the first of many live blogs here on the site.

To get you in the mood for the fight there'll be plenty of Bernard Dunne related stuff here on The Almost Daily Sports Blog all week. Sign up below if you want an email reminder about the event, and be sure to check back here on Saturday for all the shenanigans!!!

Hellie the Rebelette

I prefer the Rugby players in Munster to the GAA football players. When the Rugby players come home after a match you can be sure they will arrive in a flurry of style and charisma in their lovely sexy suits complete with a Munster Rugby tie pin. So as you can well imagine, I had high hopes for today when the Cork team arrived in Mallow. I was bitterly disappointed. They stepped off the train in, and I cringe as I type it, tracksuits. A serious let down. Not least considering they lost the All Ireland yesterday but in order to distract me from that upset I decided to focus on their clothes. HEHEHE I am Hellie, a girl so therefore I have different priorities! CLOTHES! CLOTHES! CLOTHES! HEHEHE!!

The brave team were eagerly awaited by a small group of supporters, the first 5 having arrived at half four.....they had a long wait til half six when the team turned up! But to be fair to the people of Cork we slowly turned up bit by bit until we had managed a, and I use this term loosely, a crowd of people. Well to be fair to Cork, Mallow is a small town with a small train station so to have a crowd of 200 ish was impressive to say the least. And for such a mediocre sized crowd they sure made a lot of noise when the team dared to step off the train to the platform and face their loyal supporters.

The speeches went well, the manager was obviously disappointed that his team didn’t win but you could see, hidden in the face of defeat was a sense of pride. A pride felt by a lot of Cork GAA patrons, the team were after all quite young and did really well to get to a final. And sure yeah of course as a county Cork would have loved to have seen them win and show Kerry where to go....But at the end of the day we knew we were facing into a tough match against a extremely experienced Kerry team. We did well and to see the fans congregate showed the team the pride is still there.

The Team left the platform to go to talk to the crowd. They spent ages there signing jerseys and talking to the young players in the gathering in Mallow. The managers, subs, players and anyone remotely connected to the team came out to talk to the fans. From the distance of the platform, where I was hidden away I could see the team captain Canty holding a tiny baby wearing a even smaller jersey. While the team were talking to fans I was lucky enough to get a word with a young player who expressed his slight distress that there weren’t more GAA followers in Mallow. I was delighted to tell him of the huge crowd awaiting them in Cork City Centre....we watched as the team boarded the train again and left for cork city and Kent station.

They may have lost the All Ireland Final but the Cork team won over a new fan tonight in me.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Renault Given Suspended Ban

Just a quick post (from my phone...how modern!) to discuss the verdict from the FIA World Council Meeting in Paris. In case you haven't heard, Renault have been given a suspended two-year ban while their former manager Flavio Briatore has been given an indefinite ban from all forms of motorsport, including driver management.

My buddy James, on his F1 Focus blog, argued that Renault should have been excluded from Formula One for race fixing and up until last week I probably would have agreed. They not only conspired against the merits of competition, but did so in a potentially dangerous fashion. However, the key figures in their conspiracy (namely Piquet, Briatore and Symonds) have all now left the team. Would there really be anything to gain from kicking them out? I think not.

Also, would Formula 1 be helped by banning Renault? Certainly not. In the last year we've seen the withdrawal of Honda and BMW and while fans aren't drawn to supporting the multi-ational manufacturers, the sport is helped in a commercial sense by their involvement. Business should not interfere with sport but there's little merit to punishing Renault when the 'brains' behind their plan have fallen on their swords. A fair balance has been struck, in my opinion.

As for Flavio...ciao. He may be enigmatic and a flamboyant presence, but anyone who conspired over this and other rumoured cheating scandals in the sport is no loss. We don't need him, and the sport will survive and thrive in the coming years, minus hospital ilk. It's time to close the door on 'crashgate' and move on.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Mayweather's Claims Not On The Money

Money, they say, can't buy you happiness and in the case of Floyd Mayweather, it can't buy you class either.

Pretty Boy Floyd ends his 21-month hiatus from the sport tonight, as he takes on Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas but in terms of contrversy and, well, arrogance, it's been a typical Floyd week.

You'll remember that in the lead-up to his last fight, against Ricky Hatton in December 2007, Mayweather was brash and plain rude and despite a long absence from the sport, he's not changed his ways.

See what you make of these comments that he made this week:

"If you're rich, you're a rich n-----. If you're poor, you're a poor n-----. At the end of the day, they still look at me as a n-----."

"But I wouldn't change my life for nothing in the world. There's nothing like being young, black and rich. But there are certain things you think about. If Floyd Mayweather was white, I'd be the biggest athlete in America. The biggest, the biggest. I know that for a fact."

A fact?  Ha.

The truth is that Mayweather isn't even the biggest star in his own sport, nor does he deserve to be.  Sure, he fought in the biggest grossing fight in history against Oscar De La Hoya but it was the Golden Boy that really attracted the cash for that fight.  And while the hype surrounding Mayweather's clash with Hatton was unequalled (in my opinion) in this part of the world, the truth is that we were sucked in by the genial Mancunian and not Money Mayweather.

While race may be an issue for some people, it never has been for me and I don't believe that it is for most boxing fans.  We've loved fighters like Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard.  We gravitate towards great personalities, fighters who give us brilliant fights and fighters who go up against the best in the world.  Floyd does none of this.  As I've said already he's rude and any drama in his fights have been provided by the opponents, such as Hatton or Zab Judah.

The real issue for me however, for the self-proclaimed 'would-be-greatest-athlete-in-the-world', is that he doesn't fight the best.  Ever.  Hatton - a B-Level fighter with an A+ fanbase.  Judah - average.  De La Hoya, Gatti, Sharmba Mitchell - washed up, one and all.  For someone who has reigned in the 130lb - 145lb region for the past decade, the names of people like Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley (arguably) and Manny Pacquiao are all notbale absentees from his CV.  Indeed, Pacquaio is a the antithesis to Mayweather.  Where Money's avoided fighters, Manny has taken on all-comers...except Floyd.  He's also a modest and charitable man, while he's also given us plenty of action in the squared-circle.  They are direct opposites and the comparison is not good for Money.  The mere claim that he could in any way be a bigger athlete than the likes of Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or any one of about fifty athletes in various sports is laughable.

Money is an ironic nickname for Floyd.  As outlined by Kevin Mitchell, he's facing a stack of unpaid bills and pretty poor ticket sales for tonight's clash.  Mayweather's 2007 may have been the most profitable year for any boxer in the sport's history, but it looks like all that money burned a really large hole in his pocket.  Another bill's been added to the list after Floyd weighed in over the limit for the fight yesterday, a mistake that will cost him $600,000.  To pay these bills, he needs the fans on boards, but I'm willing to bet his pay-per-view sales tonight won't be overly impressive because, as I've said, he just doesn't attract fans of the sport.  I'll tune in, but I'm not expecting a classic.

It's just another Floyd fight against a weak opponent (Marquez is a blown up featherweight fighting, essentially, in the welterweight division) and despite Mayweather's claims, it's not half as good as he'd want us to believe.  Consider me one fan who sees through the hype.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

SKY Shine With Champions League Coverage

Sorry for my brief silence.  I’ve been doing other things and to be honest I’ve also been struggling to think of anything to write about that’s not related to Darren Sutherland.  It’s really knocked the boxing community here in Ireland for six.

I guess the biggest story on a wider sporting scale this week is the return of the Champions League.  This year, more than ever with so many debutants, the group stages don’t seem overly appealing – I always feel that it is a competition that doesn’t truly get underway until the knockout stages.  Clashes such as Liverpool v Debrecen and FC Zurich v Real Madrid are unlikely to inspire anyone bar the most die-hard of fans, or at the very least the fans of the underdog.

I am, as I’ve no doubt mentioned on here before, a fan of Manchester United so I tuned in to a fair chunk of their game against Besiktas in Turkey last night.  TV3 have the rights back here in Ireland so, naturally, I watched it on SKY.  I was glad I did.

Their coverage is immense.  Now, the punditry was meh – Michel Salgado’s English made him a puzzling choice for the studio panel – and I am a fan of Martin Tyler and Andy Grey.  What I really enjoyed last night, however, was the technical elements of what I was watching.  I accept, now, that this may be old news to many of you reading but since I’ve literally never been at home on a Champions League evening in recent years, it was my first time watching all eight Champions League games at once.

To give you a brief overview of how the system works, when you press the eponymous red button you are presented with a choice of eight games (on a Tuesday that is.  ITV have first choice on Wednesday evenings from this season meaning there will be seven games to choose from tonight).  Naturally, I picked the United game but when there was a goal, a little banner flashed across the screen.  I press that little red button again and, lo and behold, I’m watching Guti score in Switzerland or Inzaghi poaching one against Marseille or whatever – it really is a stunning service.

Now what SKY are doing is not revolutionary – I know of at least one other provider in the States that does something similar on an NFL Sunday, while the BBC have been giving viewers the opportunity to choose between sports at the Olympics or matches at Wimbledon for a few years now.  Yet, I enjoyed last night and again tonight, though the service was marred by the aforementioned absence of one game, in this case Liverpool v Debrecen.

In a world (and a blog) where we sports fans love to give out about all sorts, I’m going to take this rare opportunity to tip my hat in the general direction of SKY and say thanks for the entertainment.  Now if only the same levels of commitment could be shown to other sports...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Shove up in the bed!

In a move that has been championed by many a rugby commentator and ex-player alike. The Argentinian Rugby team have been officially sanctioned to join the Tri-Nations where they will lock horns with current World Cup holders South Africa, New Zealand and Austrailia.

There are of course some key milestones to be agreed upon with SANZAR before they kick a ball in 2012. Most notably the commitment to get all the Argentine players available for the "Four Nations". This will be no small feat on its own - considering 16 of the current 30 on the squad play their club rugby in France, whose domestic season is one of the most gruelling and lengthy.

I believe we will see a large proportion of these players transfer to Super 14/15 clubs in the coming season or two.

No matter how it works itself out, it's a great decision for International Rugby as a whole and will add some extra bite to the Southern Hemisphere season.

One point to note, the Pumas are reknowned for their fiery and fierce pack play and quality scrummaging prowess. They will certainly put up a fight to the ever dominating Springboks, but how will the Wallabies feel when they are being mauled from one end of the pitch to another. The Aussies tried to have scrummaging and mauling taken out of Union already under the guise of "losing spectators interest", when really they were failing to produce quality front five players.

It might not be until 2012, but the Pumas joining the Tri-Nations will liven up the Southern Hemisphere's rugby calendar.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Darren Sutherland RIP

I've just heard the very, very tragic news about Darren Sutherland. 

I won't go into the details surrounding his untimely death - to be honest I don't have the stomach for it - but I just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed watching the Dazzler perform in recent years.

He's a man who overcame a serious eye injury to get his career back on track.  His highlight, of course, was last summer when he won a Bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics.  Things were going well in his pro career - Sutherland had won his first four fights, all via knockout.  And then this.  So, so sad.

My thoughts are with his family and friends.  I commend them for their part in raising a genial gentleman and wish them the best through this devastating time.

Adebayor Aside, City Are Coming

It looks like Emmanuel Adebayor is set to be given a ban of up to six weeks for his actions in Saturday’s win over Arsenal. Rightly so, too, in my opinion. The striker is accused of stamping on former teammate Robin Van Persie – when slowed down it does seem that he kicked out at Van Persie’s head.

However, the incident that troubled me most was his goal celebration. Quite why he saw it fit to run the length of a pitch to taunt the Arsenal fans I don’t know, but this is just the sort of behaviour we’ve come to see from the striker. He showed himself to be childish and insolent in his final season at The Emirates and his lack of effort on the pitch was clear for all to see. Disappointing as his behaviour on Saturday may have been, it certainly was not surprising.

However, we need to take a moment to look at the broader picture here. While Mad-ebayor may have stolen the headlines on Sunday’s back pages, the truth is that something else is at play. We could just have a new world order on our hands when it comes to the Premier League.

City’s 4-2 win was impressive in a way that not even the score line can convey. They were clinical, and organised in a way that a galaxy of stars shouldn’t be. There was no Tevez, no Roninho and no Santa Cruz in the side on Saturday but nonetheless Hughes’ side bossed the game. De Jong marshalled the defensive midfield while Gareth Barry and Stephen Ireland did enough to upset Arsenal’s usual slick passing. Sure, Arsenal had more possession and more chances, but City took there’s. This was a team performance that belies the way in which they’ve risen to become a genuine power in football.

In my work as a newsreader, I often call City’s home ground ‘The Middle Eastlands’ in reference to the way in which the club’s Arab owners are bankrolling their tilt at Premier League glory. Yet Saturday’s team wasn’t an example of how money has changed their fortunes. Adebayor, Touré and Lescott aside, most of the players on show for The Citizens were of the solid and dependable sort. Their man of the match was Craig Bellamy (not that I ever thought I would call him dependable) and among their other players on show were the likes of Shay Given, Micah Richards, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Wayne Bridge. All solid players, but none of them (with the possible exception of Given who was a relatively inexpensive purchase) are world-beaters. While the likes of Carlos Tevez and his reputed £47m transfer fee may grab the headlines, the quiet truth is that Hughes is quietly assembling a squad capable of breaking up the Big Four.

I am a Manchester United fan and thus should hate Manchester City and all who are partial to City but even I would welcome a much-needed change in the Premier League. And in a season when Liverpool and Arsenal are both struggling (even at this early stage), the truth is this could be the year that finally happens. I predict that we will see Manchester City play in the Champions League next season after they finish in the top four come May.

Can they maintain their impressive start and finish even higher than that? Probably not. I expect theit 100% start to end at Old Trafford on Sunday, but it won’t be an easy game for my Red Devils.

Fantastic Federer

He's one of the greatest tennis players of all time.  He's won more Grand Slams then you've had hot dinners, and he'll probably win another one in New York tonight.  He's reached a phenomenal 22 Grand Slam semi-finals in a row, arguably the greatest active streak in sports.

He says this is his "greatest ever shot".

Sunday, 13 September 2009

NFL, Oh How We Missed Thee

Apologies for the recent silence. I’ve been on holidays. It was lovely.

So, the NFL is back. How we missed it. It’s been a summer where the world of American football has rarely been a quiet one. Between the comebacks of Brady, Vick and Favre and the indiscretions of Stallworth and Burress, the League has flexed it’s muscles as America’s premier sport – it’s creating headlines when it really shouldn’t.

However, now, on Week 1, all of that hardly matters as we’re now back in front of televisions, computers and mobile phones, watching one of the finest sports in the world.

For the record, I think this could be a vintage year in the NFL. Favre is spearheading a Vikings team that could be tough to beat – his games against the Packers will be a treat to watch. Tom Brady is making his return from the best part of a year out. He picked up a serious knee injury against my own Chiefs, meaning that he’s only played about one half of football since his New England Patriots lost in Super Bowl 42, and lost a potential perfect season.

We also have other interesting teams to watch. Can the Steelers repeat after their battling win over Tennessee in the season opener on Thursday? What about LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers? Is he still a force to be reckoned with in the backfield? Is Jay Cutler the answer at Quarterback in Chicago? Can Joe Flacco (Ravens) and Matt Ryan (Falcons) build on their impressive debut seasons or will they suffer from the sophomore slump? Who among this year’s Draft class will follow them as first-year sensations? There are so many questions and they’ll all be answered in the coming weeks.

For the record, I think it will be New England’s year. Over in the NFC, there’s no clear winner right now but Green Bay will be hard to beat, though I wonder about their schedule. Don’t underestimate San Diego, or the Jets or Seattle. It’s set to be an intriguing year, no doubt about it.

Yet all is not rosy in the NFL world. Labour strife beckons. The NFL must negotiate a new deal with the Players’ Union, and in a time where both sides are looking for bigger slices of a shrinking pie, this set of negotiations looks set to be long and difficult. Next year is all but certain to be the first uncapped year since 1993, while 2011 may be impacted by a strike. Such a stoppage is seen as more likely than not by many, far more informed people than I. While Favre, Vick and co. made headlines this summer, that’ll be nothing like what will happen should there be no football on the second weekend of September in 2011.

Enjoy this season football fans.  While you can.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Bye Bye Tyree

It wasn't a surprise, but I still felt that I had to note the news today that the New York Giants have decided to release David Tyree.  Never a remarkable receiver (in a statistical sense) Tyree will nonetheless be remembered by all fans for THAT play in their Super Bowl XLII.  Don't forget that Tyree caught a crucial Touchdown earlier on in the Giants' win over the Patriots (his first of the season) but how Tyree caught this long heave from Eli Manning...  I guess that's something only the football Gods will ever know.  I give you a play so memorable that it has it's own Wikipedia article, Manning to Tyree.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Stephen Ireland - A While Elephant, Not A Great White Hope

One of the most crucial games in Ireland’s qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup takes place on Saturday, but you’d hardly know it.  On paper, a trip to Nicosia for a clash with Cyprus should be more than winnable for Ireland.  Cyprus are ranked 73rd in the FIFA World Rankings, and they’ve only ever won 22 of their 176 competitive games.  However, any Ireland fan knows that this is no simple trip to a Mediterranean outpost.  One of those 22 wins was a humiliating 5-2 drubbing of Ireland in 2007, while Cyprus also held Ireland to a 1-1 draw at Croke Park later that year, a game the minnows should have won.

Those games, unfortunately, took place under the not-so-watchful eye of Stan so with Trap now in charge, surely Saturday’s game is an opportunity for revenge for those games and a chance to affirm Ireland as a rejuvenated football power.  Add to this a need for three points as Ireland continue their march towards second- or (perhaps) first-place in Group 8 and the importance of Saturday’s match is clear.  Someone should point that out to our national media because, when it comes to the Ireland National Football Team, there’s only been one story told this week.

Stephen Ireland.

The Cobh native is a curious case, to say the least.  He’s a man with dubious taste in cars, odd tattoos and a phenomenal natural talent for the beautiful game.  Robbed of the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year for the 2008-09 season, Ireland should be the talisman of Trapattoni’s midfield.  He’s a man who defied logic and outshone the likes of Robinho at the Middle Eastlands last season.  Indeed, Ireland was named as the club’s player of the year.  What could he do for his national side?  One wonders.

Yet Ireland doesn’t play for Ireland, and hasn’t done so since Grannygate.  A dubious exit, to say the least, but the underlying point is that this incident has robbed Irish fans of one of our finest talents in the position where we are most lacking, the centre of midfield.  On the pitch, we feel his loss – his presence would have been telling in the clashes with Bulgaria and Italy – but the lack of Stephen Ireland could hurt Ireland in an altogether different fashion come Saturday as it seems that he's proving to be a distraction.

Already, two players have spoken openly about his absence.  At least.  Journalists are persuing the Stephen Ireland angle, even though the player himself slammed shut the door on a possible return in an interview over the weekend.  He’s moved on, so why can’t we?  We miss Stephen Ireland, sure, but we have to let him go.  Trapattoni should draw a line under the entire affair, rule out bringing back Ireland for the remainder of this campaign at least, if not his entire tenure as manager, and most importantly tell his players not to comment on a man who's not a member of their team and does not want to be.  It's time that Trap and his players focus on Ireland and not Stephen.


Edit:  It looks like Trap is an Almost Daily Sports Blog reader!!!