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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Joe Frazier RIP

With today’s untimely death of Smokin’ Joe Frazier, sport itself has lost a true warrior, and one of the most fearsome competitors of all-time.  The 67-year-old has passed away after succumbing to liver cancer overnight.

As a fighter, Frazier had it all.  An Olympic Champion in 1964, he could box as well as brawl, a quality which would define much of his later career.  Frazier’s professional record would be impressive with wins over Muhammad Ali, Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavera and Buster Mathis.  His only defeats came twice each to George Foreman and Ali.

Frazier’s battles with ‘The Greatest’ define his career, even though that is something he himself would not be pleased with.  He often spoke of their ongoing animosity, long after their in-ring battles concluded.  Famously, in 1996, after Ali lit the Olympic Torch in Atlanta, Frazier remarked that he wanted to push his rival into the flame.

They first clashed in New York in 1971.  With both men undefeated World Champions at this point, it was the ‘Fight of the Century’ and Frazier would inflict upon Ali the most notable loss of his life, knocking him down in the 15thround en route to a points win.  Ali would win their second contest three years later before the final contest in their trilogy.

The ‘Thrilla in Manila’ is simply 14 rounds of drama.  While Joe Frazier would end up the loser on that balmy morning, above all others this contest would highlight his strongest quality, that enduring spirit.  Even when his eyes were swollen shut, and when his opponent’s jabs would have crushed the will of a weaker man, Frazier kept coming forward and kept fighting on in a brutal war.  Make no mistake; but for the intervention of his trainer Eddie Futch, Frazier would have fought that 15th round, if given the chance, despite the likely disastrous consequences.  It was the event that would shape his very existence for the next 36 years, and in many ways he came across as bitter as a result, but one must remember the disgusting insults levied at him by his opponent in the previous five years.

Ironically, Muhammad Ali has led the tributes to Frazier today, saying “the world has lost a great champion” and that he will “always remember Joe with respect and admiration.”  All boxing fans will do the same – he may have been the third best heavyweight of his era, but he would have been the very best of most decades, and is likely in the top-ten heavyweights of all-time.

Today’s tributes do not match the outpouring of grief which will likely come when his great rival passes away.  However, that love and respect for Ali might just be due to Frazier.  The Greatest only has that title because he was tested and because he had to overcome so many obstacles, none tougher than the man from Philadelphia.

If Muhammad Ali is “King of the World”, then Joe Frazier did more than anyone else to put that crown upon his head.  It’s not the legacy he wanted, or even one he deserved, but it’s enough to cement his place in boxing folklore forever. 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

More Glum Than Glee-ful After Irish Jibes

We may be well into the 21st Century, but this week Ireland is being served an hour of television which appears to have come from the Dark Ages.  Glee is generally regarded as enlightened, hip and forward-thinking, but I’ve found the way it portrays my native land in its latest episode to be either negligent insensitivity or wilful stereotyping.

The latest example of Oirishness, entitled Pot O’Gold aired on Sky One tonight (Thursday) and will appear on TV3 this coming Saturday.  It’s likely going to resonate in this part of the world as it marks the series debut of Damian McGinty, a Derry native who won his spot in the series on a reality TV show.  He plays Rory Flanagan, a newly-arrived exchange student whose brogue is a step removed from Darby O’Gill and has a dress sense taken straight from Emerald City.

Feel free to check off the expected Oirish labels as I go – Rory’s accent, to begin with, was last heard when Cork featured in that episode of Heroes.  The dim Brittany believes he is a leprechaun, and offers her ‘pot of gold’ in exchange for three wishes, one of which involves Lucky Charms cereal.  He’s forced to defend U2, he’s called a potato-eater and even sings Kermit’s Bein’ Green because, guess what, that’s the colour he wears throughout the episode (until the final scene, which features somewhat of a redemption, signified by a new red ensamble).  Watch out for a re-appearance of Seamus McFly’s hat early on as well, among a host of other damning props, insults, jibes and digs all aimed at the Irish nation.  There were no 'tops of the morning' but make no mistake, subversion and irony were not at work here.  This hour of television can be classed as either laziness or casual racism, and was as subtle as a kick in the balls.

Glee is not the only television show to denigrate Ireland in this way in recent times.  Oirishness did not die with The Quiet Man as alcoholics showed in Family Guy, while The Simpsons tried and failed to show a more modern Ireland in In The Name of the Grandfather.  Obama became O’Bama when he visited Moneygall, but it’s not just the Americans who are guilty – Eastenders caused plenty of offence with a trio of Irish-based episodes in 1997 and from personal experience, sweeping generalisations are a regular feature of sports punditry here too.

Having said all this, I genuinely have great time for some aspects of Glee, especially the inclusiveness that it has often shown.  The show has won Gay Media awards for the way in which it portrays homosexuals, and for the way straight characters engage with gay ones.  I’ve also been impressed with the way in which those with physical and (especially) intellectual disabilities are central and equal at McKinley High.  The crude representation of Irish people in this episode belies this, but is not excused as a result.

Great strides have been made in American race-relations in recent years but there is room for further improvement.  Washington DC is home to an African American President, but also a team called the Redskins.  Across the land, sport teams are referred to as Chiefs and Braves and Indians and Seminoles and the Fighting Irish.  Notre Dame's logo is even of a leprechaun in a fist-fight.  Casual racism can become more than that - there is still a lack of black Quarterbacks and coaches, and it’s only eight years since Rush Limbaugh claimed NFL Quarterback Donovan McNabb got an easy ride because of the colour of his skin.  This episode of Glee has provoked little discussion stateside, at least in these terms, so I expect little rancour to emerge there, but in its own way this silence is just as troubling.

I don’t know why it is, but while racism is unacceptable in the Western world, mild forms of it exist in our media to this day.  Sometimes, in Crash or Confederate States of America a spotlight is shone on the problem, but more often than not viewers are served tripe such as Pot O’Gold.  I hope it does not represent the true thinking of those who tune in, but when such stereotyping is so regular, one must wonder why nothing is done.  Are people blind to racism because a colour is not involved?  Is it really acceptable to call an Irishman a potato-eater on television in 2011, 160 years after the Great Famine?  Does society truly tolerate this, because I know that I do not.  In the words of Santana Lopez, in this very show: “It’s mean, it’s bullying and I won’t accept it.”

I look forward to seeing what Irish critics and viewers make of it all.  Tune in to one of it’s many airings in the coming days and form your own opinion. Tweet me on @gavingrace or leave a comment below.


Thanks to Gerard Cunningham for urging me to write this post, and giving me a couple of ideas for it as well.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Presidential Election Shows TV Still Key In Internet Age

The modern-day world may be one of interconnectivity, of social media and of instant communication, but the 2011 Presidential election has shown that old-style television is still king.

Our case study today is Sean Gallagher, the man who nearly was.  His performance, finishing second in this election, is remarkable in and of itself.  While not necessarily independent, he lacked a party machine for canvassing etc.  He had no posters (at least not on lamp posts) and still was able to get his name out there, thanks primarily to his involvement in the likes of Dragons Den.  He entered the race as a personality, and people warmed to the familiar face.  For a while, at least.

As much as television gave Gallagher a boost, it also took him down.  Monday’s dramatic television debate saw his debate unravel before the nation.  He panicked, froze and showed the people that he is not Presidential, not according to the people of Ireland who left him in droves.  28% of the electorate changedtheir first preference this week, and of those 58% deserted Sean Gallagher.  That is 16.2% of those who voted –he lost out by 11.1%.

Twitter, in particular, is a fantastic way to experience news events, elections chief among them.  Those who followed #aras11 took part in critical discussion, humorous conversation and shared links to some of the most informative (and sometimes ridiculous) columns.  Voters engaged with candidates and their teams in a way that happens on the ground, but not in such an obvious or easy fashion.

However, while twitter is the internet’s brightest point, the reality is it does not have the mass reach of other media.  As of 5:30 on count day, 3800 people had tweeted using the #aras11 hashtag, taking part in this national conversation.  But on Monday night, 900,000 watched the campaign’s most infamous moment in the Frontline studio.  That’s half the amount of total voters.

There are few bigger advocates of twitter than myself, and this is not intended to take anything away from the medium.  However, despite the modern world in which we live, television has again shown it’s hold and power in Ireland.  More than anything else, it can capture, retain and influence the general public.  Ireland is now multi-cultural, modern and the internet is at the fore of our future, but our people remain entrapped by the old reliable television.  This may be 2011, but the story of this Presidential election is an old-style tale. 
In one foul swoop a dragon was slayed and a President crowned, while we all tuned in.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Dan Wheldon RIP

In May of this year, Dan Wheldon was the beneficiary of one of motorsport's most dramatic finishes.

Today, the 33-year-old father of two died in a crash while competing in Las Vegas.

Motorsport.  You never know what's around the corner.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Welsh Loss Set To Haunt Ireland's Greatest Ever Players

Losing’s a bitch.  Losing out on what is probably your last chance must be ten times worse.

As fans of the Irish rugby team, today we hurt.  This morning was a crushing disappointment that we feel even more because it was unexpected, and because of the euphoric highs that preceded it.  Yet as fans, we will have another day, many more in fact.  The Irish people will cheer for us in World Cups in 2015, 2019, 2023 and so on.  Four years is a long time, but time does pass.

But when that happens, things change.  Players get old, some of them too old.  2015 will probably be a bridge to far for the likes of Paul O’Connell, Rory Best, Donnacha O’Callaghan, David Wallace, Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll who by then could be mere fans like the rest of us.  That list is not exhaustive – there may be more, but it may also be the case that some of those men hang on.  I imagine the manner of today’s defeat, and the way it robbed Ireland’s stars of a swansong on the global stage will perhaps induce second thoughts and a drive to continue.

Some will go however, perhaps not straight away, but they will.  The Ireland team of the 2012 and 2013 Six Nations will look very different to the all-too-familiar squad of recent times.  It’s still too soon for a post-mortem, when we don’t even know who is leaving, but when change is most certainly coming, one thing has to be said – today is the most disappointing day any one of them will have experienced in an Irish jersey.
We have lost Grand Slam deciders, blown chances to beat Southern Hemisphere giants, even lost Quarter Finals before today.  However on virtually all of those occasions Ireland were underdogs, valiant battlers who attempted to stave off defeat.  Today, that was not the case.  We were a team poised to deliver the sport’s finest hour.  Take into account the brilliance of the win over Australia, and the economic circumstances in which this country finds itself, and today’s defeat is even more heartbreaking.  More so than on virtually any other occasion, today we knew that victory was tangible and realistic.  We could taste success, we could dream of a final, and yet it never came.

 Perhaps it was nerves.  Perhaps it was a poor tactical performace.  Perhaps it was plain bad luck.  No matter really, because it was most certainly the most gut-wrenching defeat for an Ireland rugby team in many a year.  Look at Brian O’Driscoll’s face in the post-match press conference.  In a word, it is grey.  He knows it as much as anyone.  After the win over Australia, I wrote that the victory was an opportunity that had to be grasped.  Today was the chance to do that and it was not taken.  I don’t say that as a criticism – no one man could have tried harder – but as a fact.  That’s what hurts most of all.

An opportunity like today might not come for another twenty or thirty years.  Then again, it could come in four, but even then that will too far away for some of the golden generation.  We laud then.  We thank them.  We appreciate their efforts, toast their successes and today, of all days, we share the pain of their defeats. 

More of them spoiled the homecoming of World champions and slayed the old enemy all in the one day.

Many of these players made what once seemed unobtainable the norm.  They came to the cusp of success, before falling short and trying once more.

Yet more were humiliated on the biggest stage of all, and still returned.

They showed the best of a 21st Century Ireland – our maturity, our facilities, our tenacity and the pride we have of this nation – in one of the greatest sporting days of recent years.

They gave us a day the likes of which comes once in every 61 years.

Virtually all of them did the unthinkable just three weeks ago against Australia - in a very different way, what happened today was equally unthinkable.

This is not a post-mortem, but they are the achievements of the Irish national rugby team 2000-2011.  

Today marks the end of an era.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Modest Kidney A Man Worth Hailing

It’s a landmark that means little, but last week marked the fourth anniversary of one of my bigger breaks in radio.  I joined a national station, as a stringer, and for around a year I attended sporting events from Sligo to Cork, doing interviews and vox pops and compiling reports.

My first assignment came at an unremarkable Magners League game between Munster and the Scarlets at Musgrave Park in September 2007.  As is custom, I interviewed the winning coach after the match, and as well as getting his views on another Munster win, I decided to ask him about the story du jour in Irish rugby; the then-ongoing failure of Ireland at the Rugby World Cup in France.

The reply, in a word, was unremarkable.

“You’d have sympathy for all of them.  They’ve all burst their traps to put everything in place and, you know, it’s very disappointing the way it’s working out for them.”

“There’ll be no one more disappointed than the players and the management themselves.”

What makes those remarks relevant today, is that the man who uttered those words is the individual most responsible for the turnaround in the national team’s fortunes in the intervening four years.

I wonder when he spoke those words in the Dolphin Clubhouse in Musgrave Park, whether Declan Kidney thought for a moment that he could be best-suited to benefit from Ireland’s misfortune.  Would he have wished for it to happen?  No, I’m sure, but the Heineken Cup winning coach would have known that he would be a strong contender to take over the position in the event of Eddie O’Sullivan’s departure.  He could have stoked the fire, told me what he would have done differently, why things were going wrong.  He could have increased the pressure on O’Sullivan but he didn’t.  He spoke in generalities, in platitudes.  There was no criticism.  No headline.  Kidney kept his true feelings to himself.  That is how he operates.

Declan Kidney is humble and modest to the point of satire, but his ways do not change.  In his greatest hour, in Cardiff in March of 2009, he declined an invitation to stand with his players as they lifted the Six Nations Trophy.  He is not meek however.  Make no mistake, Declan Kidney is driven, focussed and determined.  This is a man who inspires those around him and without a doubt, has the full respect of those he leads.  Men are not as committed as Ireland were in the win over Australia, unless the fully believe in their cause.  Remember too, when Ireland’s preparations were in crisis after four losses in August, belief was never lost.  Just as there was no catastrophe, there was no delirium when Australia was dispatched.  The result was an opportunity, not an achievement in and of itself.

There’s no doubting, mind you, that Declan Kidney has been lucky.  There’s no Grand Slam if Jones’ penalty travels three yards longer, or if O’Gara doesn’t connect with a late drop goal.  And if Ireland’s defence were to relent late on at Eden Park, then it would be Australia who would have celebrated that night, and South Africa who we would be focussing on now.  But if he is fortunate now then he was fortunate in leading Munster to their success for so long too.  At some stage luck gives way to something more tangible than that, something more permanent.  Class, perhaps.

There’s no man I would rather entrust the hopes of a nation in at this moment in time.  That he is one of our own, that he is modest and self-assured in equal measure; both of these are vital.  Unlike Lefty Gomez, he’s lucky and good in equal measure.  There are question marks about some of his decisions – I’ve raised some myself – but for the first time in our history Ireland have a proven track record of form, an opportunity to shine and a management team to be confident in as we head into a World Cup Quarter Final.  

We dare to dream, as fans and as a nation, but our charges are grounded.  If Saturday goes wrong, we’ll all hurt, but “there’ll be no one more disappointed than the players and the management themselves.”

Monday, 3 October 2011

Always Remember...

An important lesson for all journalists, not least yours truly.  Being first is not always that important.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Podcast - No. 3

I do these sometimes, albeit not enough.

Still, for your ears, here are my thoughts on Ireland v. Italy this Sunday, why Ronan O'Gara is the right man to start...but only for now.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Ireland Must Keep Cool After Oz Wizardry

There’s no doubting that Ireland’s Rugby World Cup win over Australia on Saturday was a monumental event in Irish sporting history.  The first victory over a Southern Hemisphere side in the global competition is the latest in about 6 matches which shower our ‘wonder generation’ of stars in the glory they deserve, and it also has fantastic consequences for the remainder of the competition.

However, is there a danger that Ireland’s sporting media over-stating the win?  Today’s Irish Independent, to cite one example, ranked it at the top of a ‘Top-Five Ireland Rugby Wins of All-Time’ list.  Our grand slam clinching wins of 2009 and 1948 were second and third, ahead of a win over Australia in Dublin in 2006 and the Five Nations win at Twickenham in 1994.  However, in my opinion it doesn’t belong there.

To look at another sport, as an example, the Republic of Ireland’s greatest soccer win, in a World Cup at least, was against Italy at Giants Stadium in 1994.  The 1-0 win in our opening group game could have set up a fantastic odyssey in the USA, but it did not, and now that World Cup is a failure.  If our rugby stars do not capitalise on the win in Auckland Saturday, then the 2011 Rugby World Cup will also be a failure.

We need this win to be a springboard, and not the finished article: a step in the road, and not the destination.  A quarter-final loss to Wales, when we have already proven ourselves to be above their level, would be worse than an insipid defeat to Holland in Orlando in 1994 as it would come in a game where we would rightly be favourites.  And that’s before we even consider a potential defeat against Italy.  Our media need to realise this, and while we rightly celebrate Saturday’s achievement, we must move on, look forward, and dare to dream of more.

The one thing that does please me in all of this, however, is the reaction of the players.  There were scenes of joy following the final whistle, but it was not unbridled.  It was controlled, and refined, and in the interviews the players struck the right tone.  One even called it ‘the start of our World Cup.’  Ronan O’Gara aside (and his situation is unique), emotions were in check.  It was a job done, a column ticked, and there are many more to follow, or so we hope.  And dream.  And pray.  And, just a little, expect. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Life Lesson Learned Through Sport - No. 48513

As is the case in sport, life is full of dilemmas, without having the merest iota as to which road to take.  We take risks and gambles, even when the fate of such decisions lies out of our hands, and their ‘correct-ness’ is in the hands of others.

Take two football stars, decades apart, who made similar decisions with opposite results.  While not in the same league as players, I would argue that Pele of 1975 and David Beckham of 2007 were stars of equal regard in the USA.  They were famous enough to permeate through American society in a market where football is not a leading sport.  Both tried to change that; one was moderately successful, the other not so much.

When he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy four years ago, David Beckham was looking to use his stardom to make the MLS a modern-day NASL.  The extinguished league of the 1970s and 1980s made soccer big in the US, particularly in New York, because of one team – the Cosmos – and their main man.  With Pele starting up front, the Cosmos sold out large stadiums across the country.  Their games were live on network television in a time when even the World Cup Final was.  Warner Brothers, who owned the team, assembled a plethora of stars but it was Pele, who mattered and who put bums in seats.

Beckham tried to emulate him, but despite their best efforts the Galaxy were not to be a twenty-first century Cosmos.  There are many reasons for this – he didn’t score as many goals, he was playing in a time when US fans could easily see that Major League Soccer was not the best league in the world.  However, his move could have worked.  He took a gamble (in spite of circumstances which perhaps meant he had to) which failed, while Pele’s gamble succeeded.  Pele will always be remembered for his success with Santos and Brazil, but unlike David Beckham, his American foray put a pleasant postscript onto his career.  I suspect the same will happen to Robbie Keane.

Both decisions could have been successful.  Both could have failed.  They’re similar gambles, though in different eras.  However, Beckham’s career (while never that of an all-time elite player) is now tarnished because his decision was the wrong one, at least in a sporting sense.

These are the decisions we all face, all the time.  Some are big, some small, but all have consequences, many of which are out of our control.  I can understand why David Beckham’s motives in going L.A.  Money aside, he wished to leave a mark and wanted to be remembered as more than just another very good footballer.  Would he have been better off staying in Europe?  No one will ever know, but that’s the thing about these decisions.  We never know.  We never know if they are right or wrong.  They are what they are.  Dilemmas, confusing, frustrating. 

When faced with these options, when you have no way of knowing what is the right thing to do and what will ultimately be wrong, it’s tough.  It’s difficult, and there are no right answers, at least not now.

That doubt is the worst bit of all.  Trust me.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A Moment Of Malaise

I wish I could write.

That’s a tough admission for someone who writes for a living, and wants to do so for some time to come.

I am a journalist, for radio, and if you want a four-sentence, 100-word summary of a news story then I’m your man.  Short, punchy sentences are no problem, but eloquence, verbose paragraphs and general flair are beyond me.

I’m not looking to be Shakespeare, or Norman Mailer or Hunter S. Thompson or even Bill Simmons.  I just want to be good enough to do what I want to do, what I want to be, what I always thought I was good enough to do.

I’m lazy – this blog hasn’t been updated since Jesus was in shorts.  That’s a bad habit.  It’s so long since I visited here that Google Chrome doesn’t know the URL to my own blog.  For shame Gavin, for shame.  Writers write, they work on their craft, they practice and they improve.  They learn from mistakes by making them.  I shy away from those errors.

I’m reluctant – I self-disparage.  I want myself to be the best and become disheartened by the fact that I know I’m not, and that I’m not close.  As a journalist, I don’t ‘get the story’ and as a columnist or someone who adds opinion, I make few points of worth.  It also, I imagine, is not a good sign that my first post of note in months (I’ve had a few false starts in the last while) is one in which I slate myself.  Nonetheless, I go on.

I’m inarticulate, at times – my command of the English language is not as it should be.  Where I wrote ‘disparage’ in the last sentence, I initially wrote defecate which, let’s be frank, is a lot worse than the truth.  I know I was looking for another word, I just don’t know what it was.

I’m plain – as a writer I lack humour, or wit.  I don’t believe that I provoke discussion.  I make good points at time, on twitter for example, or in general conversation, but find it difficult to expand these beyond 140 characters or an initial sentence.

I get distracted – I’m off to play Football Manager now before continuing this article.  And in the middle of that I’ll watch a field goal attempt from the NFL in 2008. True story.

I’m a poor manager – I lost 3-1 at home to Wigan.  Then again, I am Banbury United, and it is the Championship, so I might give myself a pass there.

I have a horrible attitude – that much is obvious though, huh?

I have other negative qualities, I’m sure, but you get the idea.  I also have some strong points.  I type quickly.  I’m an above-average speller too.  I even have a strong knowledge of things I write about (mainly sports, but other things too) and I can spot a story.  I also have to acknowledge that unlike a lot of people who get into this business, I’m working in a job so I must have some other qualities I am unaware of.

Despite that, and despite a number of other reasons to be happy like a loving family and relative financial comfort and a woman who loves me and a woman that I love (thankfully they are the same person), recently I find myself at a low.  I’m negative.  I’m chirpy, but I don’t mean it mostly and I become downbeat far too regularly.  Part of my life,the professional side, I would describe as being in a rut, and I see no way out of it.  I have a reasonable existence at the moment but I want more, and have no idea of how to make that a reality.

Metaphorically, I have A and B and C, but I want D, E, F and a whole lot more too.  That’s not greed, it’s ambition.  It’s a drive for more, that I have, yet that drive is something on which I do not act.  Or can not act.  I’m not sure. 

I want to be better.  I want to be happy, and to have everything.  Everyone does, of course, but I’m at one of those points in my life where I don’t know if it will ever happen, when at the same stage I should believe that anything can happen.

I want to be the writer that I want to be; I want to cover the big events, and make the points that people discuss.  I want to express my passion, and get paid for it because I’m damn good at it and because I’m worth listening to.  I want that to be true.  I don’t know if it ever will be, and while I have something not a million miles away from that now, I don’t know if it’s enough to satisfy me, and I don’t have the confidence to be sure that more will come.

I wish I could write.


As this is a personal comments, I am disabling the comments section for this post only.  It will return.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Nick Charles RIP

Very sad to hear about the passing of Nick Charles.  The 64 year old had been battling cancer for some time, and called off his treatment in January in order to prepare for today.  I saw this video of him, created by his old employers CNN recently, and found it both touching and inspiring.  I hope you do too.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Khan TV Debacle Bizarre At Best, Commercial Fatalism At Worst

I normally post my stuff for thescore.ie on this blog but I didn't get a chance to do so this weekend. As a lot of it is out of date now I shall leave it off here, but I'm told it's well written so head on over there to check it out, after you take a nose at this.


The twists and turns regarding the televising of Saturday's fight between Amir Khan and Paul McCloskey are likely to be more dramatic than the contest itself. And devastating as a loss this Saturday would be professionally, the events that have occurred in boardrooms over the past dew days would likely be more harmful to his career in the long run.

The fight was initially due to be televised on SKY Box Office, with fans paying around €22 for the privilege of tuning in. However, late last week the plug was pulled on the pay-per-offering after a number of blows to the undercard were deemed fatal to the chances of commercial success.

SKY then intended to show the card on a normal SKY Sports channel, showcasing Khan to a wider audience. However, the Olympic medalist baulked at this situation, as it was set to see him take a pay cut of at least £1 million. (Note - it should be pointed out that Amir Khan insists he has not been involved in any of the negotiations outlined here, which for his own sake I hope is correct. However, given that his representatives have negotiated on his behalf, and that one presumes he could have as much say in the talks as he chooses, I will continue to say the decisions outlined here are his, even if his involvement in the decision-making process is not complete.)

Further protracted negotiations continued, and fans of the sport posited theories that an 'unfortunate' injury was set to spell the end of this seemingly doomed card. It is understood that Khan's contract with SKY specifies his fights are carried on PPV, and that he shunned the chance to promote his skills to a broader audience ahead of an expected contest with Timothy Bradley. In the end, it has been decided that the card will now be broadcast on a PPV basis, albeit by Primetime and not SKY.

One need only look at the recent career of Carl Froch to see the potential problems associated with this. The Nottingham super-middleweight has gone from fighting before audiences of 6 million on ITV to barely 100,000 on the fledgling Primetime network. Lacking the commercial clout of SKY, but still maintaining the pay-per-view option, the financial aspect of Froch's deal are presumably adequate, given that his last three fights have been carried by them. However, there's no denying that the public acclaim that should have come from his performances in the Super Six contest has been notably absent.

Now, Amir Khan is not Carl Froch. His Olympic medal and subsequent showcasing on ITV means he is much more of a media darling. He is also a favourite of American network HBO, who will still screen Saturday's contest. However, if he has frustrated SKY with this weekend's shenanigans, then there is the danger that Khan will have effectively cut himself off from the paymasters of British boxing.

Insiders within the sport agree that the decision to shun SKY is not wise. Eddie Hearn of Matchroom has labelled the decision 'commercial suicide'. Few blame SKY for their decision to pull the PPV offering (it has been reported that the show had barely attracted 50 advance sales), and coming six months after the Haye-Harrison debacle, the network has to be seen to be offering value for money to it's boxing fans. It's also unlikely that the terms agreed with Primetime will see Amir receive much more than he would have received under the reduced deal with SKY so the question remains, why do this?

Perhaps Khan's people feel better-than-predicted sales are possible. A few juicy quotes and perhaps even a press conference brawl wouldn't hurt in this regard, but something will have to he done because it's almost certain that marketing for the PPV will be minimal.

Khan has lost this commercial battle in the short term, but whether this amounts to a knockout or merely a body blow in years to come remains to be seen. Personally, I feel it's unlikely that this will be a significant setback as a blockbuster summer bout will likely lead to a mutually beneficial reunion. SKY have seen Lennox Lewis and Ricky Hatton walk out on them in the past, only to return to them for the biggest nights and paydays of their respective careers. Khan's US TV support is also an asset, without which Saturday's fight in Manchester would probably have fallen by the wayside.

However, HBO's support is unlikely to weather any significant storm, such as a win for Paul McCloskey for example. That may be highly unlikely, but if Amir was to be defeated this Saturday then his fallen stock and soured relations would almost certainly make his comeback more difficult than he can imagine, and his Primetime gamble the worst decision of his career.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Irish Cricket Knocked For Six By ICC Buffoonery

Let’s re-imagine sports history, briefly.  It’s July of 1966 and on the back of a successful World Cup, won by the hosts, FIFA is meeting to outline the future of the tournament and has decided to streamline their event, limiting it to ten teams.  England is invited –defending champions after all – as are previous winners Uruguay, Italy, West Germany and Brazil.  Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Hungary and Argentina have all lost finals – that’s 9 teams - and the tenth team will be Portugal, who have just won the third-fourth place playoff.  These countries, say FIFA, will contest the next two World Cups, up to and including 1974.

It seems bizarre.  What about Holland, who went onto reach the ’74 Final, or USSR or France or Spain or the USA or any team from Asia or Africa?  These teams don’t meet the selection criteria now but maybe they will in time.  Well, they’ve been excluded, and won’t be given the chance to qualify for another eight years.  The same applies to North Korea, despite being the sport's Cinderella just weeks previously.

Such a move is illogical, yet this is the sort of decision taken today by the International Cricket Council.  36 years after their first World Cup (like in the fictional football example above), cricket officials have decreed that only the sport's ten full member nations will take part in the 2015 World Cup excluding associate teams like Ireland.  Ten teams will also participate in the 2019 Tournament, and while Ireland and others will have a chance to qualify on that occasion, the ICC have effectively put the brakes on the sport's development here and in the likes of Canada, Holland and dozens of other nations.

Officials, players and fans here, unsurprisingly, are disgusted at the decision which has been described as a ‘travesty’ and an ‘outrage’.  Warren Deutrom, chief executive of Cricket Ireland, says this “as a black day for cricket.”  Irish captain William Porterfield said of his team that they “have done everything they asked of us over the last few years in terms of restructuring Irish cricket and I can’t come to terms with how they can just shut us out, do away with the qualification period and then try and call this a World Cup.

“We are currently ranked 10th, ahead of Zimbabwe, and there is no reason we can’t move up another position, if not two, by the next World Cup. Instead, the door has been closed in our face. It is an embarrassment."  

Other players have also taken to their twitter pages to give out, even some not playing for Ireland.

What would a World Cup, or any sporting event for that matter, be without minnows?  If FIFA had taken the above decision, there would have been no Quarter Final appearance for Peru in 1970.  The stagnation in the growth of football elsewhere would have also had disastrous consequences, meaning it less likely for other small nations to experience some of the best days in the history.  Football is a very different case to cricket, absolutely, but the difference between the best ten teams in 1966 and the best of 2011 shows how sports evolve and how giants can fall and minnows soar.  The ICC’s policies, which have already seen some of Ireland’s best players line out for England, effectively kills our national team and any chance of the sport making further inroads in this country, following wins over Pakistan in 2007 and England just weeks ago. 

It smacks of hypocrisy, of protectionism and narrow-mindedness.  It is choking a sport, rather than letting it grow.  Ireland are not calling for automatic qualification, just the chance to compete, something which our nation has done on every possible occasion at 50- and 20-over World Cups in recent years.  The win over England in Bangalore shows the potential of our players, and the media response to the victory demonstrates the genuine appetite for the sport here.  There is no rational reason for destroying that, but that is what the ICC have effectively done today. 

Shame on them. 

SBP Headline FAIL!!!

Taken from the Huffington Post, perhaps the most unfortunate headline ever.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Quick Jabs 2

I've written another article for the fine website, thescore.ie this week. You should go there to read the snappy intro they've written for it, and all their other fine stuff. My merely adequate contribution is below.


Despite two Irish fighters losing in fights for World Titles last month, 2011 may yet prove to be a successful year for our own with, it seems, another pair of World Title shots to look forward to.

Paul McCloskey is continuing his preparations for his fight against Amir Khan on April 16th, but one man who won’t be fighting on that card is Matthew Macklin. The Tipperary native was due to take on Khoren Gevor in an Eliminator fight for the WBA Middleweight Title at the MEN Arena that night, but has withdrawn with promoter Ricky Hatton citing ‘contractual issues’ in an interview on RTE Radio.

However, word on the grapevine is that the real reason for this decision is that Macklin is set to get a straight shot at a World Title, probably against WBA ‘Super’ Champion Felix Sturm. The German last fought in February, so a fight in the next two months would not be out of the question. Regular WBA Champion Gennady Golovkin and IBF Champion Sebastian Sylvester are also both regarded as options, but Sturm is the most likely opponent for the Tipperary native.

The fight is fraught with danger however. Macklin was initially due to fight Winky Wright in the US on April 9th, before the American was injured, and now that he has pulled out of the Gevor fight it means his training schedule, presumably aimed at peaking this month, will now have to be changed. Also, Sturm has never lost a decision in his homeland and if a fight is to be made with the German, it’s likely that Macklin will have to travel. He’d best work on his knockout punch...


Speaking of judging decisions, it was interesting this week to read Katie Taylor tell The Score that boxing ‘is a corrupt sport at times.’ The statement is not news in itself, especially coming after Taylor’s recent shocking loss in Bulgaria, but it does serve to underline the difficulties facing Ireland’s amateur boxers ahead of the London Olympics.

For Taylor, there will be only one Qualifying event – the World Championships in China next May. Failure to progress to at least the Quarter Finals there, be it due to an off-day, a lucky punch or questionable judging will end any hopes the Bray woman has of winning an Olympic medal, long before the Games begin.

For Ireland’s men, the Qualifying process begins much sooner than that with this year’s World Championships in Azerbaijan in September. While not their only chance of reaching the London Games, it is one of the best for the Irish boxers who will continue to jockey for places on the team in tournaments in Finland and Poland next week.


Two years ago, Kelly Pavlik was one of the hottest things in boxing. As a middleweight champion who had twice beaten Jermaine Taylor, the Youngstown native was likable, a big ticket seller, and always entertaining.

However, alcoholism and a staph infection almost halted his career, and Pavlik is to make his comeback in his first fight in over a year on the undercard of the Shane Mosley – Manny Pacquiao fight next month. Pavlik has moved up to the 168 pound division, and will take on the unbeaten Alfonso Lopez. The show is set to be a cracker –Humberto Soto is also due to take on Urbano Antillon in a rematch of one of the best fights of 2010.


Congratulations to veteran promoter Bob Arum, who this week celebrates the forty-fifth anniversary of his first show. Arum has put on many of the most famous events in the sport’s history, including over 500 World Title fights. His Top Rank company are also going as strong as ever, and will put on the aforementioned Pacquiao-Mosley card on May 7th.

When asked about his career so far, the 79 year old said “It’s a good start.”


Tributes have been paid to former broadcaster and trainer Gil Clancy. The Hall of Famer passed away at the age of 88 on Thursday. Best known for his work with Emile Griffith, Clancy also trained a host of champions and contenders before beginning a career on US TV in the 1980’s.


This weekend is a fairly quiet one for boxing fans, though Setanta Ireland will have live coverage of Ivan Calderon’s bid to gain revenge over Giovani Segura in their WBO Light Flyweight Title fight from Mexico in the early hours of Sunday morning.


This Week in Boxing History

This past Thursday marked the 21st anniversary of one of the finest nights in one of the most under-rated boxing careers. An all-action fighter, Terry Norris was exciting as anyone in the ring, particularly from 1988-1993. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005, after a career which saw him win four World Titles and the support of many hardcore fans. ‘Terrible’ Terry’s gung-ho style is best encapsulated in this devastating first round knockout of John Mugabi on March 31st, 1990. It was Ring Magazine’s Knockout of the Year.

Greys Off Key

My other half has impeccable taste.  She goes out with me.

She does, however, watch Greys Anatomy, something I don’t.  That said, it does be on over on the other side of the bed from time to time, including tonight.

This is a show which has had it’s moments, good ones I mean, but this week’s one was not.

I won’t say much, as I’m aware that the show is on RTE during the coming week, except to say that the episode Song Beneath The Song reminded me of two moments from TV’s past.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Kids These Days

This is fantastic.

Picture is not related to the story, unsurprisingly.

Quick Jabs 1

I'm hoping to begin writing for another website, http://www.thescore.ie on my first love, namely boxing.  They published my first article on Saturday (it's a little dated now) but here you go.


There’s no way to disguise that last week was very disappointing for Irish boxing fans.  Two of our own fought for World Titles – unfortunately, both were beaten – however, neither was disgraced.

Willie Casey was always going to find it tough going against Guillermo Rigondeaux.  Despite the advantage of a partisan Dublin crowd, Casey’s inexperience showed against the two-time Olympic Gold Medallist.  Rigondeaux was forced to come to Ireland after his last fight, a snore-fest decision win against Ricardo Cordoba (another man familiar to Irish fans), but in blowing Casey out of the ring in the first round, he is likely to have once again garnered the attention of the US TV Networks.  For Casey meanwhile, it is difficult to see where he can go from here but the Limerick man is affable and can sell tickets, so expect him to return, and possibly again fight for a European title.

Good as RIgondeaux was, Belfast’s Brian Magee arguably faced an even tougher fight when he fought Lucian Bute in Montreal.  Magee survived until the tenth round, before the referee rightly stopped the fight following a massive uppercut which saw him hit the canvas for the third time.  Magee earned a lot of fans with his performance, as he was never expected to trouble the Romanian.  He may now be offered further fights against American and Canadian prospects, against whom he would be expected to provide a stern test.  It’s up to Magee, who turns 35 in June, if this is a road he wants to travel down.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom for Irish fans, with our amateur stars again leading the way, recording two wins over a China this week in Dungarvan and New Ross.  Of the 24 fights so far, Ireland have won 18 ahead of tonight’s third and final meeting in Dublin.  Katie Taylor will look for a third win over former World Championship Final opponent Cheng Dong – the Bray woman won each of their first two fights this week on a 17-2 scoreline – while former Olympic medallist Kenny Egan will be in action at the National Stadium for the first time since his recent loss to Mullingar’s Joe Ward in the National Championships.

Note - Egan was one of four Irish boxers to win on Friday night, but Ireland lost out to the Chinese.


It’s been another good week for Floyd Mayweather.  The man they call ‘Money’ hit the jackpot in Las Vegas, with a massive bet on an NBA Basketball game.  According to his twitter page, Mayweather cashed in a slip worth over $37,000 following the Chicago Bulls’ win over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday. 

No doubt, the money will come in very useful.  It’s reported this week that, for a third time, talks on a proposed superfight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have fallen by the wayside, this time because of Floyd’s financial demands.  It’s claimed he was seeking a ridiculous $100m to take on boxing’s biggest potential fight, making one wonder if he wants it to happen at all.


After last weekend’s plethora of pugilism, this weekend is a much tamer affair though there are some interesting fights ahead.  Tomorrow afternoon, Russian middleweight Dmitry Pirog enters the ring for the first time since he captured the vacant WBO title with a stunning knockout win against Daniel Jacobs last July.  Pirog faces off against Argentine Javier Francisco Maciel in his homeland in a fight that will be televised here on Setanta Sports 1 on Saturday afternoon.

Also this weekend, the under-rated Yuriorkis Gamboa defends his World Featherwieght titles against Mexican Jorge Solis and Albert Sosnowski has an interesting defence of his European Heavyweight Title against Alexander Dimitrenko in Hamburg.  Neither of those fights will be televised in Ireland.

This Week In Boxing History

On March 24th 1975, Muhammad Ali fought the relative unknown Chuck Wepner for the World Title, a fight which lasted the full 15 rounds despite the perceived gulf in class between the fighters.  Wepner was knocked out in the final round, but was deemed to have floored Ali in the ninth, despite the champion’s assertion that his foot had been stood on.

The fight is also notable in that it served as the inspiration for a young Sylvester Stallone, who, after watching it, locked himself in a room to write Rocky.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Nike Probably Not Unhappy Despite Ad Leak

You've probably seen the above video already - it was made by Nike ahead of Saturday's win for Ireland over England in the Six Nations.  Had the English won, then they would have clinched their first Grand Slam since 2003 and this ad, presumably, would have been all over our televisions like white on rice.

The ad popped up online yesterday, and since then has been tweeted about by about a bazillion people and news stories have been made about it, both in Ireland and the UK.  A Google News Search for 'Nike Ad England' brings up over 2,300 results.

Naturally, Irish fans have rejoiced at this while according to The Guardian, the English have been left red-faced.

Somehow though, I don't think Nike will mind too much at all.  There's no such thing as bad publicity, or so the saying goes, and nothing better than free publicity so though the Chariot may have been derailed at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, I somehow think the Swoosh are still smiling.

Another Amazing Tale From The World Of Sport

Just last week, I wrote about inspiration in life and in sport, and how powerful a force it can be for us all.

As if to serve as a reminder, this weekend just gone has given us one of the most inspiring stories you can imagine.

Anthony Robles is from Mesa, Arizona, where he was born in 1988.  He wrestled throughout high school, went undefeated in his final two years (that’s 96 straight wins) and became state and national champion.  He then went on to continue wrestling for Arizona State University, winning a scholarship, and three times he has been the best wrestler in his weight division in the PAC-10 division.  This past weekend, in his biggest achievement to date, he again won a national title, becoming the best collegiate athlete in the 125lb weight division.

Anthony was born without his right leg, and hasn’t worn prosthetic one since he was 3 years old.

To watch this video and to see his tenacity and inability to acknowledge adversity is phenomenal.  It is the definition of inspiration if it ever existed.  Even his words following his victory show humility, level-headedness and courage.

"People have been asking me if I want to try out for freestyle (the Olympic style) or anything like that," says Robles.

"But I've had a great run. Started wrestling when I was a freshman in high school. It's been a great ride.

"Wrestling's been my life for nine years now. I don't know what I'm going to do without competition now. But it's been a blessing in my life. It's taught me so much. It's really helped me to become a man. And I'll be forever grateful for that."

"I really don't see missing my leg as a handicap.  You know, my parents raised me strong and they didn't give me any special treatment. So, I believe I can do anything I set my mind to and wrestling is something I enjoy, I love it and I'm just trying to be best at it."

I wish Anthony all the best, and thank and congratulate him for giving us this amazing story.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Coke, The

We spotted this somewhere near Kilcullen while on our way to Belfast for the Irish Blog Awards on Saturday.  If the night out and Sunday's booze cruise weren't worth the trip, and they were, then this certainly was!

(Note: Blog title refers to this Simpsons joke, in case you were wondering)

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Inspiration Is All Around

In life, and in sport, perspective is everything.

The majority of posts on this site, sporadic as they are, are of the here and now; of the game/match/fight/story of that day. Current affairs are, after all, the most pressing kind.

However, that does not mean that we should not know from where we come. I enjoy watching sports and fights from before I was born as much as I do those happening live on television. Some query this; my better half lists ESPN Classic and the BBC Red Button’s fantastic Classic Formula 1 feature among her pet hates. I also love watching sports documentaries, often about people and events I know little of, and I do this for one reason above all others.


Perspective and knowledge are key, but without inspiration sport wouldn’t exist. Sports stars need a hook to draw them into a sport. Bernard Dunne speaks about the importance of Barry McGuigan, Lewis Hamilton idolizes Ayrton Senna and goodness only knows how many 10 year olds have kicked a ball against a wall imagining they are Pele, or Maradona, or Keane, or Rooney or whoever. As much as sport is about community, and our very existence, it is also something that inspires us, fans and competitors alike, and spurs it on.

I watch those historic events to be inspired, to see great fighters and athletes at their best, creating history. I also watch live events to see history as it is created, so in years to come I can say I was there when Dunne knocked out Cordoba, or when Schumacher clinched a World Title, or at the very least I can say I was sat in front of the television rejoicing with millions others when Bolt ran 9.58 in Berlin, or McAteer scored against the Dutch or any one of thousands of other events. I was alone, or in a small group, but I was one of many rejoicing. Together, alone. We were inspired by the things in front of our noses, something that I get to experience every day.

I am inspired by the woman I love, my Hellie. She took up blogging at my behest, twitter too. She know kicks my ass at both. Tomorrow, we heard to Belfast for the Irish Blog Awards 2011 in which her blog, http://www.anseo-a-mhuinteoir.com is nominated in the Best Education/Science Blog Category. Her’s is the only Primary School blog in the final five. She is also very active on twitter, @anseoamuinteoir, and best of all, she does this not for herself but for others. Blogging and interacting allows her to be a better teacher, something she loves, something she was born to do.

It is her passion, and it is her hope to inspire children for years to come. This passion can be see on her site, and in how she has made friends and relationships and earned the respect of others online. She inspires me as well. I intend to work hard over the next twelce months so that when we return to next year’s awards, we do so as a pair of nominees.

Thanks babe x

Friday, 18 February 2011

After Midnight Musings

It's quite late, and for the first time ever I'm doing this on the phone so this shall be short. Officially, it is now Friday February 18th meaning we are one week away from what will likely be the most important general election of our lives. Even at 25, it's clear that we are living through extraordinary times, the likes of which are thankfully rare. Now I'm not going to endorse anyone here. In part that's be aide of my work. I will cover this election professionally and thus will not endorse any candidate or party, perhaps not even to my nearest and dearest. Also, to be frank, I've no idea what way I will vote. One thing I know for sure though, is I will vote, and so should we all. In 2007, the last General Election, turnout nationally was 66% or thereabouts. This time, I would be amazed if it's not higher and, frankly, it should be 100%. No one has been left untouched by our economic circumstances, we all have a view on how we got here and who has the best ideas to get us out of this mess. For me, the key issue will be emigration not sickens me that so Manu of my friends have left, or are about to do so. It sickens me that at times I've considered doing the same. Other climbs are sunnier, and potentially happier places. Ireland is now too fill with people who are unemployed, and as many more who are underpaid to do work. However, if we all go for better things, who'll stay to improve our home place? I no longer blame or criticise emigrants like I once, briefly, did but I still want everyone who can stay to do just that. I want a better Ireland. I want my generation to be at the fore of this recovery and I'll do all I can to be part of that. However, it's a little soon for that to happen, though we can make a difference in seven days time. For the next week, engage yourself with candidates, issues and policies. Read manifestos, listen to news and watch next Tuesday's debate. Make up your mind. Have a conviction when you cast your vote. Pick the party and/or candidates who you think will do the best for Ireland for the next five years. Vote for the people who you feel will make this a better Ireland, and will give us the best country possible to take over in 10, maybe 15 years, when our generation will have learnt from this mess in which we find ourselves and will make sure it never happens again, and that we will never forget how we got here.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Boxing Fans, Casey Deserve Better Than RTE K.O.

For Irish sports fans, few days will ever eclipse Saturday, March 21, 2009.  It was a day so good, that I didn’t have to look up the exact date to write about it – it’s literally imprinted upon my memory.

It was the day of O’Gara’s drop goal, of Jones’ penalty miss, and of Ireland’s first Grand Slam for 51 years.

It was also a day of pugilism at its finest, of a titanic battle inside a Dublin ring, and of an Irish World Boxing Champion.

Simply, it was the sort of thing that dreams are made of.

Technically, it had happened before.  Rinty Monaghan won his World Flyweight Title on the same night that Jack Kyle and co. won the Grand Slam in 1948 but that was years before I was born, years before most of the people lucky enough to be inside the O2 Arena that night were born.  This was a different era, a different generation, and for both (arguably) Ireland’s finest ever rugby team and one of its most tenacious boxers that Saturday was the culmination of years of work and struggle.

Incredibly, it could happen again this year.  Disappointingly though, things won’t be the same if it does.
For the record, I’m not overly optimistic about Ireland’s Six Nations chances.  Injuries have mounted at precisely the wrong time and for some players, Father Time is catching up.  A rejuvenation of the team ahead of the World Cup this year is great to see, but it seems to be that this team isn’t quite where one would like it to be going into rugby’s showcase event.

However, others disagree with me and for once, I hope I am wrong.  I would love for Ireland to win their opening four games in the competition, and to welcome England to the Aviva Stadium for a Grand Slam decider.  I’d also love them to win, naturally.

That match is slated for March 19 – keep it free – and on that night, Limerick’s Willie Casey will be looking to join Bernard Dunne as a world champion.  He fights Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux in Dublin that night, for the same WBA strap that Dunne held aloft two years ago.  The odds will be stacked against the inexperienced Casey, but he will battle and brawl and give it everything he has, like Dunne did against Ricardo Cordoba.

Over 700,000 people tuned in to watch Dunne win his title – a sports mad nation, already on the high of highs, cheered him on and were drawn into that most absorbing of contests, because they were given the chance to do by RTE.  The national broadcaster screened the fight (and showed a repeat of it the next night) and hundreds of thousands, who had already been celebrating a Grand Slam, were suddenly cheering once again.  However, it appears that they won’t do the same for Casey, should he be victorious.

At a pre-fight press conference this week, it was confirmed that RTE have passed on the opportunity to screen the bout.  The promoters claim they wouldn’t have even had to pay a rights fee.  It’s a disappointing development, and unless things change the fight is now likely to be tucked away on SKY Sports or Eurosport, away from the casual fan.  Sure, it will be on the screens of every pub in Limerick and in many households too, but the nation is being done a disservice by RTE in this regard.  This is an event of national importance, an event which has proven audience-grabbing potential, and an event that one and all should have the right to see.

I intend to be in the CityWest Arena for the fight.  7,000 people will be there, cheering on Casey, and hopefully reeling from thrilling rugby that afternoon.  However, unless things change in the coming weeks, Ireland will be deprived of a potential repeat of one of the greatest days in our proud sporting history.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Home Nations Return Could Spell Ruin For FAI

A report that the Home Nations Championship, last contested over 25 years ago, may be set for a return could spell very bad news for the FAI.

The BBC claims that Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England are set to renew the competition, last contested in 1984, after the four home nations separately agreed to be sponsored by Vauxhall.  The contract with the motoring company, which has yet to be announced but has been mooted for some time now, could be the vehicle through which the tournament, once a mainstay of the football calendar in the British Isles, makes its return.

The English FA is continuing to feel the brunt of the ongoing recession, and the collapse in 2009 of Setanta.  The Irish broadcaster had been paying £150m for its portion of the rights for the FA Cup, a figure which has been reduced by around £70m under the new contract.  ITV, meanwhile, is reportedly paying £275m for FA Cup and England international rights, and this too is expected to fall when their contract comes up for renewal at the end of next season.  Sponsorship revenues have also fallen, while the coffers at Soho Square have also been hit by a poorer-than-anticipated World Cup performance.

Ireland's footballers could be facing further disappointment

Collectively, these factors have brought about what appears to be a change of heart for the bosses of English football.  Initially, they declined the opportunity to appear in what is now the Carling Nations Cup but now, they look set to spearhead this renewed Home Nations Championship, one which could leave the FAI and the Republic of Ireland out in the cold.

Today’s report does state that the Republic may be invited to take part, and for financial certainty going forward, that will need to be the case.  However, the inclusion of a fifth team means that sides will have to play an extra game each, and while this has financial benefits, it will also mean the requirement of two additional international dates in the already congested football calendar,

Therefore, should this competition make it’s suggested return without the Republic of Ireland, then one of two disastrous outcomes appear to be the most likely.  Either the renewed Home Nations competition would exist in tandem with the Carling Nations Cup, or the new tournament between the Celtic nations would be snubbed by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who would swap the Aviva for Wembley Stadium and the extra funds this entauks.  The former appears unlikely at best, as it would lead to a duplication of fixtures for the three other nations, and the latter would mean that one of the FAIs primary revenue streams for the years ahead would be no more, before it had barely begun.

Coming at a time when its own financial situation has come under scrutiny, and, indeed when it has been forced to take corrective action to balance the books, the FAI cannot afford this headache.  Even if it does not transpire, the mere rumblings surrounding this competition have served to undermine the Carling Nations Cup just weeks before it makes its debut.  Should the suggestions become something more concrete, then the FAI must do all it can to get the Republic of Ireland added to the ticket, or else the consequences for Irish football will be much worse than the loss of one friendly competition.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Marshawn Lynch - Beast Mode

"Get off me!" he says to Tracy Porter...

The NFL Playoffs begun tonight, with a shocking win for the Seattle Seahawks over the New Orleans Saints, the defending Super Bowl champions.  It was a win that was capped off by the touchdown run below from Marshawn Lynch.  If you watch one NFL play all year, make it this one.  Staggering.

Note - I don't know how long the NFL will leave this video on Youtube - should it be taken down, it can be viewed on their site here.