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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Voice Of Rugby RIP

When it comes to sport, it is those that perform on the pitch that largely steal the headlines, naturally.  However, there are some contributors who can enhance a sport in a different way, one which is more subtle yet can have equally long-lasting effects.

Bill McLaren, simply, was the voice of rugby.  He died today at the age of 85.  The amiable Scot lent his voice as the soundtrack to BBC rugby coverage for over 50 years.  He was genial, he was likable.  He was informed.  His research was impeccable and his passionate love for his native Scotland never clouded his work.  Each spring, he guided rugby fans through what was then the Five Nations before his retirement in 2002 and his passion for the game never dimmed.  He brought his own unique style to his commentary, with Scottish colloquialisms and mildly bizarre metaphors inter-twining with an in-depth knowledge for the sport, and a personable manner with which he relayed his knowledge to the viewer, both knowledgeable and novice.

I don’t remember much about McLaren, but I do remember choosing his commentaries over any other, even at a young age.  There was something about his gravelly Scottish voice, his re-assuring timbre that guided the viewer through the game, and enhanced it just by his mere presence.  He enhanced rugby as a viewing experience, be it in the Five Nations or the Autumn internationals or even in Jonah Lomu Rugby on the Playstation.  Along with the likes of Murray Walker, Peter O’Sullevan, Howard Cosell and Micháel O’Hehir, Bill McLaren will join the pantheon of sports commentary greats, a pantheon which is ever decreasing in size.  We’ll never see his likes again.

There is a wonderful video in his honour on the BBC Sport website, and I’ve posted another one of him in action below.

May he rest in peace.

Sorensen's Success

When? January 2010
Where? Melbourne
Who? Louk Sorensen

Can you guess what I'm excited about?

Round one of the Austrailian Grand Slam and Irishman Louk Sorensen won when he defeated Yen-Hsun Lu. Sorensen beat a player almost 200 places ahead of him in the ranking. All of us here at The Almost Daily Sports Blog are more than a tad excited.....Ireland had not produced a player that had won a match at a grand slam since the Californian-born Matt Doyle won through to the round of 32 at the 1985 Australian Open. We're positively bouncing we're so happy! Louk is only 25 (I'm feeling a tad bit insignifigant now but sure ah well...) and when his match was postponed on Monday due to the heavy and rotten rain he wasn't phased. Tuesday saw Louk on the least impressive court at the games, court 14, where the trams are louder than the crowds cheers. Oh dear.... Never mind Louk it's a court we'll all remember now thanks to your greatness. Sorensen broke thorugh in the first set with a firing forehand shot. After an hour and a half Lu levlled the game with a set a piece. But Sorensen wasn't to be beaten as he flew through the next two sets to claim a win that the Almost Daily Sports Blog team will be talking (and writing) about for years to come. Hell with it the whole of Ireland will be talking about this!

'It's the biggest achievement of my career so far,' said Sorensen, who grew up in Germany but whose parents live in Dublin.

Next on the cards is American tall man John Isner, he's 6ft 9ins, which frankly scares this 5ft sports girl. Not that I can be blamed, John Isner is a giant to me and even Louk Sorensen finds him a tad frightening.
"Isner is a big server. I have never played anyone that tall. He is huge."

Coachless Sorensen intends on watching YouTube clips of Isner to work out his serving styles and how best to play to his many strengths against the American Giant.
All of us here want to wish Louk the very best of Luck and we look forward to being able to continue to Blog about him ove the coming days!!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Return of the Schumacher

We are very excited here in the Almost Daily Sports Blog. We have a resident F1 expert in our midst-Gavin. But unfortunately for us he's been tied up at work the last few weeks and the blogging and sports have been left to poor ole clueless me. It's a clever way to teach me about sport though so I'm not too worried. Either way when it comes to F1 we really need Gav....I'll try my best if you try not to hate me when I kill this story.
As you may have heard in passing a certain F1 superstar and seven times F1 champ Mr Michael Schumacher has signed a deal to drive for Mercedes in 2010. Woohoo! It's a year long contract and lets face it we all LOVE it! We missed Schumacher the last few seasons since his retirment in 2006 but now He's BACK! Micheal hasn't been doing nothing since his retirment though, he's a busy little Bee don't you know. Schumacher became a consultant for Ferrai to keep him busy and was even rumoured, for a while, to be going back to Ferrai as a driver this season for the injured Massa. Plans change however and Schumacher is going to Mercedes, who recently bought out Brawn. He'll be driving alongside Nico Rosberg.

Now we hear that Schumacher is testing a very fancy looking GP2 car while in Spain in preperation for his F1 comeback. Nice one Michael! He's running up the miles alright. Since calling off his temporary comeback with Ferrari because of a neck injury, Schumacher has been restricted to karting to sharpen his racing instincts. But he's looking real goooood out there on the tracks and his sights are set, as ever, at the very top. Roll around feb 1 and Micheal will get his chance to get his backside into a F1 car again during the testing in Valencia. There are still question marks over both Schumachers head and his team-mate Rosberg as to weather they'll drive in the 4 pre season tests that loom ever closer and closer. Although this GP2 testing is a great start to blowing away the cobwebs of retirment that the 41 year old driver may have picked up over the last few seasons.

"It is an honour and a privilege for us to have Michael Schumacher help us develop our car," said GP2 organiser Bruno Michel.

And as for Michael himself? Well he seems to be more than happy with the work done in Mercedes engine factory in Brixworth!

"I have to say I am very impressed about the high level you see there,"
"The people seem to be highly motivated as well and I find that encouraging as it perfectly fits my personal mood." Schumacher is quoted as saying on his official website.

Monday, 11 January 2010

The Cup of Nations

Unless you've been living under a rock lately there is no possible way that you could have missed the headlining news about Africa's Cup of Nations. But in case you missed out somewhere I'm here to give you the basics and educate the masses on this headline!

The 8th of January saw gunmen on the bus carrying the Togo team and wounding team players. Rebels who have been fighting for the region's independence later said they had carried out the attack. All along the organisers said this tournament would be going ahead. The incident has been called an act of Terrorism.

"We were machine-gunned, like dogs," he said. "At the border with Angola - machine-gunned! I don't know why. I thought it was some rebels. We were under the seats of the bus for 20 minutes, trying to get away from the bullets." Thomas Dossevi said to the BBC. By the 9th of the month Togo had pulled out of the Cup and Angola was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor and Aston Villa midfielder Moustapha Salifou - were shot at by a group of gunmen as they travelled by bus from the Republic of Congo into Cabinda as we heard over the weekend and people all over the world looked on in shock. Although Adebayor escaped injury he was clearly shaken by the incident.

Angola have been reported as having spent as much as £1 billion on this biannual Cup with four new stadiums in Luanda, Lubango, Benguela and Cabinda. Along with new airports, roads, hotels and upgraded hospital facilities. Now that the Cup has started and matches have begun Angola are still in the headlines and not for their 4-4 draw against Mali.

State media says two have now been arrested following the attacks on Togo's Team. Angolan media quoted officials saying two Flec fighters were arrested near the site of the attack. Togo's team wanted to play on but their Government ordered them to withdraw from the cup.

"Our decision to withdraw the team is really based on the security consideration and what we believe is a mismanagement of what has happened," Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo told the BBC's World Today programme.

The match between Togo and Ghana has been called off. Togo's assistant coach and media spokesman were killed in the attack along with the team's bus driver. Several others were injured, including goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale who was taken to South Africa for treatment.

Mali observing a minute silence ahead of their 4-4 draw against Angola.

Today Togo were to play against Ghana, a game which will not be going ahead. Huongbo admitted there was confusion but said there was no chance of Togo fulfilling Monday's match against Ghana or any other games in the tournament. Togo are now pretty much disqualified, if they do not play against Ghana in todays group match. So it looks like Togo will not be in the Cup of Nations this year.

"It is not my pleasure we withdraw, we don't want to play into the hands of the terrorists, but we have a responsibility to protect our people." Huongbo

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Manny's new Man

Mayweather may need to find a new contender as Manny Pacquiao has a new man in mind for his MArch fight. Joshua Clottey from Ghana is all set to take on Pacquiao, although a venue is yet to be organised.

"He's a real strong, aggressive and hard punching African and he poses a real test for Manny," says Pacquiao's promotor Bob Arum.

"I wanted Manny in an action fight, and that’s what we got with Clottey," said Roach (Pacquiao's trainer)

Arum insisted that Clottey, who beat Zab Judah for the IBF welterweight title in August 2008, will be a tough opponent for Philippines star Pacquiao.

Clottey is a seasoned pro with a professional record of 35-3, but that tells only part of the story. He's fought the likes of Zab Judah, Miguel Cotto, Diego Corrales, Carlos Baldomir, and Antonio Margarito. And he dominated in those fights, as far as I know he even beat Cotto. Wow. This guy is no small fish in the pond. He ducks nobody and has taken on and beaten some of the best fighters in the world. Clottey is a big, physical fighter who can swat and can take a punch and by all acocunts he's gonna wanna fight for his life. At 32 he has some years left and is looking for some serious pay days ahead.

If Mayweather wants to show Pacquiao he needs to stop throwing random names out there and literally man up to fight. He needs a name to beat Pacquaio v Clottey, now where would he find someone like that? Arum says there's still a chance that Pacquaio could fight Mayweather-
"There's always later in the year and next year, it's up to Mayweather," said the Top Rank impresario. But if he starts this nonsense again with testing or anything then let him take a walk."
Arum insists that urine and blood testing is a job for the commisioners who regulate the sport and by no means is it Mayweathers job to do. Mayweathers job is to fight and fight well not regulate drug control.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Can Manny Man up?

Mayweather is reportedly furious that Pacquiao is blaming his side and team for the so called fight of the decade falling apart. Mayweather wanted urine drug tests to be done on a regular basis leading up to the fight. Pacquiao had other ideas. He wanted none of it. Mayweather oringally wanted these tests to take place up to and including the day of the fight. Pacquiao didn't want them at all. So Mayweather in a very fair move offered a comprimise of a 14 day cut off point leading up to the fight. Still Manny couldn't man up to it and insited on a 30 day cut off.

"I am ready to fight and sign the contract. Manny needs to stop making his excuses, step up and fight."
"First and foremost, not only do I want to fight Manny Pacquiao, I want to whip him.
A mediator was called in to try and find a solution. Judge Daniel Weinstein was brought in again, having had victory as mediator bewteen the two previously there were high hopes. But Even Weinstein couldn't help this time. A statement from Weinstein confirmed "in the end, the parties could not agree on a testing protocol acceptable to all."
Top Rank promoters can't see this fight happening in March, dispite many commentators being convinced that somehow a New Years miracle will happen. But Weinstein and Arum are seeing eye to eye on this one and have deemed the fight in March to be highly unlikely. But Top Rank have gone a step even further and drastically added this to the fore:
"There is no chance ever of salvaging it for March. There's no chance for it ever to happen."
It's not looking good for fans who are ultimately losing out on what would and should have been one of those unforgettable fights and nights.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Dispute cancelled the Fight

Pacquiao and Mayweather would have been the fight to beat all fights this coming March. I, myself, had already marked it on the calendar and was counting the days down to the 21st day of the third month. A little premature I realise but I was a tad excited you see. The 31 year old Pacquiao became a five weight world champ last nov when in the WBO welterweight win over Miguel Cotto. While the unbeaten Mayweather came out of his 21 month long retirment last sep to beat Mexican born Juan Manuel Marquez.

Why was it cancelled? Pacquiao pulled out after Mayweather demanded random drug testing. Is it just me or does this seem like a very sensible demand in this day and age? Both fighters were more than happy to take unlimited urine tests but Manny Pacquiao refused point blank to submit blood tests unless they are on specific dates. Sounds a tad dodgy if you ask me. Perhaps Mayweather is right to demand such a thing? Especially as Pacquiao responded to claims that he used and uses substances to enhance his performance within the ring by taking a lawsuite against Mayweather....the actions of an innocent man? I'm no expert but to me this looks a lil bit fishy.

This was to be the fight to end all fights, they are considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. And this fight would have had £25 million purse ffor each of the two fighters. Big loses there boys. As for me? This is a fight I would have paid to see, even being a sporting and boxing novice I knew this fight was gonnna be (as we say here in Cork) only massive. I guess we'll never know now.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Blind Side

Happy New Year to all!!

This morning I did something I genuinely thought I would never do, I watched an American Football based film adn really enjoyed it. So I thought I'd share it! In case the title of this post hasn't given it away the film was The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. The film is basic really, its the story of Michael Oher, played very well by Quinton Aaron. If like me you live in a American Football free bubble (with Gavin in my life I realise that will never ever happen) and have no idea who this Michael Oher guy is let me explain....

Michael Oher is a 23 year old American Football Offensive Tackle for the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL. He was drafted in for the Ravens in the first round in 2009 from University Of Mississippi college team Ole Miss Rebels. His childhood was anything but perfect, he was one of 12 siblings who didn't get a fantastic education having been to 11 schools in less than 9 years. He was enrolled in a Christian school and soon after Leigh Ann and Sean Tuohy took in him.

I won't go into too much more detail, although if you're in any way into NFL you know the whole story and will enjoy the film for its portrayal of the characters and the sweet realistic way in which the tale is told. I have to admit that I was more than a tad worried about watching it but it was something that Gav wanted to see and so I settled in to watch it and maybe even learn a thing or two. I did. It's a great movie and well worth a night in with a bucket of popcorn and a drink. Just make sure you watch it with a NFL fan who can fill you in on all the film extras, Like I did!! I'll leave you with a wee clip from the film (if I can work out how that is!!)