Tag Archives: Rugby

Please release me, set me free!

The All-Ireland club championships are a joy to behold. I heard yesterday that Ballysaggart have 45 paid-up members. For them to find themselves in the field of dreams that is  Croke Park is the stuff of, well, dreams, and while it almost had a nightmarish end as they had to conjure up a late goal to avoid being left with thoughts of what might have been having let a nine-point half-time lead slip, they did themselves and the county proud with a tale of Hans Christian Anderson proportions. And it might have a happy ending yet…

Not for me though. I’m not from Ballysaggart. I’ve never been to Ballysaggart. I’ve could kinda give you directions – there’s a sign post on the road from Lismore to Ballyduff, just as you pass the golf club – but that’s the limit of my acquaintance with the place. Despite this, I was a nervous wreck following the game on Twitter and WLR. Quite apart from the pleasure to be had in seeing a Waterford team, any Waterford team, winning an All-Ireland title, I had followed their progress ever since they had tidily dispatched Tramore in the county final and want to see it through to the end.

That’s the explanation for why I was so concerned for Ballysaggart’s fate. It doesn’t make it any less deranged though. Economists like to assume that consumers make rational choices, i.e. they’ll choose the option that gives them the most satisfaction at the least expense. Following a sports team from home costs you nothing but it can still exact a ridiculous mental toll. In all the years I’ve followed Waterford, there have been only two occasions where the final game of the season ended in glory – the Under-21’s in 1992 and the Minors last year. Every other time you’d end up deflated as they came up short, no matter how well things had gone up until then. That’s the fate of almost every supporter as only a handful of teams can end the season on such a high, which makes following a team completely irrational. If it were a narcotic, government would be expected to regulate it to the point of quasi-illegality.

At least following GAA teams involves relatively concentrated highs and lows. The feeling is nothing compared to the sustained misery that is following a soccer team. Take the case of my addiction to Liverpool. Twelve days ago we – let’s just accept the collective pronoun applies in my case and leave questions of whether an Irishman can ever truly say ‘we’ when it comes to an English team to another day – experienced a spectacular high as the Reds walloped Everton in the Merseyside derby – I prefer the more accurate term ‘Liverpool derby’ but it’s an argument best left to another day. The high lasted all of five days as Liverpool stumbled badly against West Brom. Wind on six more days to yesterday and this time Liverpool were puttin’ on the Ritz against Arsenal, four goals to the good after just twenty minutes. It was great, but already the euphoria is tempered by the knowledge that there is another away games against another team in the relegation zone coming up against Fulham on Wednesday night. Should Liverpool screw up there, it’ll feel as if the mauling of Arsenal had never happened. It’s just not right to be leaving your sense of happiness open to something as capricious.

In case anyone insists on questioning the whole ‘we’ business, it’s very easy to transfer the feeling across to Waterford United. Just over three years ago, as I started out following the Blues in earnest, they pulled off a spectacular come-from-behind win over Shelbourne to secure a home tie in the playoffs. People who were there spoke of an atmosphere in the away end that would put the Kop or a terrace at a Munster final to shame. That’s lovely, except three nights later the Blues were  beaten by Monaghan United. It was shattering, and the sense of ‘we’ being for real can only make it feel worse.

I genuinely think I would be happier if I could be rid of this turbulent way of life, and while I’m too long in the tooth to change tack I wonder whether to inflict such neuroses on my son. In the midst of the ecstasy and the agony yesterday lay the Irish rugby team. I think I’ve gotten the balance right with them. I was delighted to see Chris Henry and co barrel over the line aganst the Taffs, but when they came agonisingly short against New Zealand recently, the sense of dismay faded with the hour. And the thought that the most balanced relationship is with the ruggers buggers is the most depressing one of the lot.

Tramore Hinterland – When rugby singing suddenly stops

(pdf of article)

This week in your IR£1.18 – get ready, it’s coming back – Tramore Hinterland the strange circumstances that created a sense of solidarity around the Irish provinces in the Heineken Cup, and why it might not be what the IRFU were looking for.

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The Heineken Cup semi-finals take place at the weekend and there has been much feverish debate about . . . whaddya mean you didn’t know they were on? I thought you were the biggest baddest rugger-supporting mutha in the land. Oh right. Only when Munster are involved.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. Continue reading

Tramore Hinterland – Simply Six of the Best

(pdf of article)

Jamie O’Keeffe has asked me to write a sports column for his new venture Tramore Hinterland which is about life in Tramore and its environs. With that in mind, my first contribution is about a sport which has no presence in Tramore. This week: why the Six Nations is the business and you must ignore that Heino Cup tripe. The paper costs €1.50 and the stockists can be found on its Facebook page.

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The rescheduled France-Ireland match on Sunday is the latest indignity heaped on the increasingly battered Six Nations championship, bringing back as it does memories of the debacle three weeks ago where the paying customers in the Stade de France first found out the game had been postponed courtesy of texts from family and friends back home.

Neil Francis wrote an excoriating article in the aftermath of the Rugby World Cup where he observed that punters were abandoning the international game with its cobbled-together teams and hopeless mismatches in favour of the freewheeling thrills of the Heineken Cup. And it’s easy to see his point. Continue reading

Free to do whatever I want

Pat Rabbitte has announced what sports are to be protected as free-to-air (h/t to AFR):

Live Basis
The Summer Olympics.
The All-Ireland Senior Football & Hurling Finals.
Ireland’s qualifying games in the European Football Championship & World Cup.
Opening games, semi-finals and final of the European Football Championship Finals and the FIFA World Cup Finals Tournament.
The Irish Grand National and the Irish Derby.
The Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show.

Deferred Basis
Ireland’s games in the Six Nations Rugby Football Championship.

In other words, no change. However, there is a curious coda which merits further examination:

He also noted that the Six Nations will remain designated as deferred but that it is in fact shown live. The Minister stated that he would be prepared to intervene in the event that it was proposed in the future that the Six Nations would no longer be available live and free to air. He also noted that based on GAA assurances, he believes that the events which were considered for designation will continue to be shown on a free to air basis.

Taken at face value, the part about the Six Nations makes no sense. It’s designated as deferred, but should there be a risk that it ceases to be live then he’ll have it designated as live. So why not remove this ambiguity and designate it as live? This status has the IRFU’s fingerprints all over it. No doubt it was sold to the Minister on the basis that this is the way it is in the UK and what a regulatory mess it would be to have a different rule here than there and you can be sure that we as custodians of the great and noble game of rugby union would never ever sell the jewel that is the Six Nations to anything as vulgar as the highest bidder oh and thanks for leaving the Heineken Cup alone have you lost weight my that suit makes you look slimmer Louis Copeland is it that’s where we get all our suits…

Okay, there’s a bit of artistic licence in there but you get the point. Sports organisations like to claim that they would never sell such venerable events as the Six Nations or the All-Ireland senior finals to subscription channels but they would like to be able to maintain full commercial bargaining rights – I recall Jack Boothman making this point quite forcefully when he was President in a radio debate on the subject. And they must think we’re all completely stupid, not least the beancounters at Sky and ESPN. Who in their right mind is going to bid for an event that they know they’re not going to be sold, and even if they were – gasp! Sports administrators have their heads turned by filthy lucre! – that the government will step in to prevent it?

There are two non-insane interpretations, neither of them palatable for the Irish sports fan. The first and the more likely scenario is that even the hint of losing it to Sky will push up the price RTÉ or TV3 bids for a package. Can you ever see RTÉ letting go of the Six Nations? There are no lengths that mandarins at Montrose will not go to get their fix of rugby so we can expect RTÉ’s (read: the licence payers) bid to creep inexorably up at the mere mention of the Dirty Digger. More apocalyptically, the possibility of a British government stepping in to protect the Six Nations from subscription channels has receded greatly in the last year as the Conservatives are not going to be inclined to back up the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation against the hero who broke the power of the unions on Fleet Street. The logic that we should swim against the flow of the regulatory (pun unintended) tide on the mainland (use of outrageous term intended) would still apply should Sky gain control of the other three unions on these islands. And before you know it Ireland’s next Grand Slam can only be viewed by those in pubs or with subscriptions. We also may need pressure suits for the globally-warmed environment of 2070, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

And you know what? I don’t care. The only event I want to see is Waterford win the All-Ireland and I plan to be there in the flesh. Hopefully advances in longevity will be such that I’ll be well able for our next appearance in 2053.

Welcome to the jungle

Jamie O’Keeffe, scribe for The Munster Express, near neighbour and not-so-near-relative by marriage (sez he, to freak the bould Jamie out), has taken the plunge into the blogosphere with Hungforalamb.com. Best of luck with the new venture, Jamie, and it’s great to see new Waterford blood on the scene what with Up the Déise in hiatus. However – and I bring this up for his own good, to toughen him up in the febrile online world, not out of any desire to act the maggot (ahem) – anyone under illusions about Jamie’s first love should remember what he chose to do when Waterford reached the 2002 Munster final – watch the World Cup final. Todos juntos, vamos pra frente Waterford!

Update: Jamie makes a perfectly reasonable response in the comments section. With a bit of luck, our blogs won’t solely consist of the two of us bandying things back and forth 🙂

Tremble in fear, rugby is . . . where?

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Leinster’s tremendous win in Murrayfield yesterday will doubtless bring the usual bout of GAA hand-wringing about the threat of the oval ball game to the association, concerns exemplified by Tom McGurk’s self-satisfied observation aprés match that Leinster had players from “Carlow, Louth, Kildare, Wexford . . . and Dublin” (the last place was admittedly a good quip).

And it would be foolish to deny that Leinster’s success is going to be a tremendous boost to Irish rugby. This time last year, all the egg-chasers eggs had been put in the Munster basket. Now they have another team of winners to look to, and the Grand Slam to boot. As someone whose time and energy in Gaelic games is invested in the efforts of a high profile team – in fact, I’d go so far as to say that if I couldn’t anticipate a few big matches with Waterford during the summer, I wouldn’t be bothered much by the All-Ireland at all – it would be ill-advised to ridicule rugby’s grass roots efforts.

Obviously that’s the cue for some ridiculing of rugby’s grass roots efforts. For while I may be a bandwagon GAA supporter these days, I did at least play the games back in the Mesolithic, something that was essential to the development of any interest later on. Waterford should be fertile ground for the advance of rugby yet with the relegation of Waterpark, the title of being the nearest senior rugby club to the city is a close run thing between Midleton and County Carlow. When the best that Waterford has to offer is managing to lose a mere two of their fifteen games by seven points or less, the GAA needn’t be quaking in its boots.

Pride in the jersey

leinsterbadgekissing

People had questioned our integrity, our pride, our passion, but we produced a big passionate performance today

Brian O’Driscoll, commenting after Leinster’s 25-6 win over Munster in the ERC.

Brian O’Driscoll is one of the classiest acts knocking around in sport. Quite apart from being a genuinely world class player who applies himself with diligence to his craft, he is modest in victory and generous in defeat. When asked a number of years back after another quarter-final disappointment for Leinster who he would be cheering for in the rest of the tournament, he replied “Munster, of course!” and you could see he meant it – it never entered his head to think otherwise.

Which makes the quote above all the more significant. Even someone as mellow as O’Driscoll found the constant cuts at Leinster’s supposed lack of pride to be galling. Imagine if he had read Leinster being described as “those British chaps from Dublin“? Imagine then his thoughts as he went out to face that bould son of Erin, Lifeimi Mafi. Pain? In the words of another fake Irishman, the trick is not bothering about the pain.

I’m generally dismissive of the notion that players can be buoyed up by the words of their opponents (see: Richie Bennis), but that doesn’t mean you should tempt fate. Munster and their boosters have being doing this for years now, and it well and truly blew up in our collective faces yesterday. If nothing else, the embarrassment factor should mitigate against such behaviour.

Of course, some would argue that Waterford are in no position to be lecturing anyone on pompous jersey-kissing antics, to which I’d say that you are right. The embarrassment factor certainly applies when the men who would die for the jersey are as good as their word on the biggest occasion. But at least no one from Waterford has ever said or implied that pride in their county / province is unique to ourselves. When the Irishmen of Leinster take to the field against Cardiff or Leicester in the ERC final, it’ll be interesting how many of the proud Paddies will be rooting for them.

Welcome to Cwoke Pawk

crokeparkunionjack

One of the more nauseating media spectacles in recent times was when Ireland played England in rugby in Croke Park for the first time. The levels of ludicrosity were turned up to 11 when Girvan Dempsey dived over for the first try and some wag noted that it was the spot where Michael Hogan had been shot by the Black & Tans on Bloody Sunday, thus demonstrating that we had finally grown up as a nation. Even more so than when we finally grew up as a nation when we removed the ban on divorce from the Constitution. But not as much as when we will finally grow up as a nation whenever the next requirement for us to grow up a nation hits the collective hack in-tray / inbox.

But speaking of immaturity, am I the only one who upon hearing the words “Croke Park” being uttered by a British accent does an immediate double-take? With the Munster – Leinster clash in the Fizzy Dutch Pilsner Cup coming up this weekend we’ve been hearing it said quite a lot in that accent from the likes of John Inverdale, which is quite separate  from all the times I hear it in, uh, my own house.

It’s not as if it bothers me that soccer and rugby are being played in Croke Park (well, not much). It simply seems alien to have the Brits, who for years were blissfully unaware of the existence of the GAA, to be referring to it at all. It’s like the episode from the cartoon The Critic, when Jay Sherman decided to moonlight as a trucker. He is accosted by a Sheriff Buford T Justice-style lawman and his simpleton goon and, far from being made to squeal like a pig, is lauded for his cosmopolitan city ways from the Mostly Mozart-loving hicks. It just doesn’t seem right, and it never will.

Welcome to Cwoke Pawk

crokeparkunionjack

One of the more nauseating media spectacles in recent times was when Ireland played England in rugby in Croke Park for the first time. The levels of ludicrosity were turned up to 11 when Girvan Dempsey dived over for the first try and some wag noted that it was the spot where Michael Hogan had been shot by the Black & Tans on Bloody Sunday, thus demonstrating that we had finally grown up as a nation. Even more so than when we finally grew up as a nation when we removed the ban on divorce from the Constitution. But not as much as when we will finally grow up as a nation whenever the next requirement for us to grow up a nation hits the collective hack in-tray / inbox.

But speaking of immaturity, am I the only one who upon hearing the words “Croke Park” being uttered by a British accent does an immediate double-take? With the Munster – Leinster clash in the Fizzy Dutch Pilsner Cup coming up this weekend we’ve been hearing it said quite a lot in that accent from the likes of John Inverdale, which is quite separate  from all the times I hear it in, uh, my own house.

It’s not as if it bothers me that soccer and rugby are being played in Croke Park (well, not much). It simply seems alien to have the Brits, who for years were blissfully unaware of the existence of the GAA, to be referring to it at all. It’s like the episode from the cartoon The Critic, when Jay Sherman decided to moonlight as a trucker. He is accosted by a Sheriff Buford T Justice-style lawman and his simpleton goon and, far from being made to squeal like a pig, is lauded for his cosmopolitan city ways from the Mostly Mozart-loving hicks. It just doesn’t seem right, and it never will.

Welcome to Cwoke Pawk

crokeparkunionjack

One of the more nauseating media spectacles in recent times was when Ireland played England in rugby in Croke Park for the first time. The levels of ludicrosity were turned up to 11 when Girvan Dempsey dived over for the first try and some wag noted that it was the spot where Michael Hogan had been shot by the Black & Tans on Bloody Sunday, thus demonstrating that we had finally grown up as a nation. Even more so than when we finally grew up as a nation when we removed the ban on divorce from the Constitution. But not as much as when we will finally grow up as a nation whenever the next requirement for us to grow up a nation hits the collective hack in-tray / inbox.

But speaking of immaturity, am I the only one who upon hearing the words “Croke Park” being uttered by a British accent does an immediate double-take? With the Munster – Leinster clash in the Fizzy Dutch Pilsner Cup coming up this weekend we’ve been hearing it said quite a lot in that accent from the likes of John Inverdale, which is quite separate  from all the times I hear it in, uh, my own house.

It’s not as if it bothers me that soccer and rugby are being played in Croke Park (well, not much). It simply seems alien to have the Brits, who for years were blissfully unaware of the existence of the GAA, to be referring to it at all. It’s like the episode from the cartoon The Critic, when Jay Sherman decided to moonlight as a trucker. He is accosted by a Sheriff Buford T Justice-style lawman and his simpleton goon and, far from being made to squeal like a pig, is lauded for his cosmopolitan city ways from the Mostly Mozart-loving hicks. It just doesn’t seem right, and it never will.