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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.