Monday, June 13, 2005

That Was the Weekend That Was

The Lions miaowed to defeat against the New Zealand Maoris on Saturday for the first time in their history and seemingly confirmed to an already ever-so-slightly confident nation the hopelessness of their ambitions to win the Test series over the forthcoming weeks.

Pessimists amongst Lion-watchers have now one shining focal point for their gloom. The failure of the Lions to even compete acceptably at the breakdown against the Maoris, and the resultant effect on the amount of useful possession and momentum they enjoyed, added to the looming presence of Richie McCaw and debilitating absence of Lawrence Dallaglio, would seem to confirm the suspicion that the back row will be from whence the tourists' doom comes. Cue Clive Woodward's selection of Neil Back for the match in Wellington. The aged Leicester man could be Woodward's last throw of the dice in this area.

In truth most of the Lions difficulties stemmed from this area; rarely were they able to generate forward movement, save for the odd Matt Dawson snipe, meaning the talent in their backline never had a chance. It is difficult for Brian O'Driscoll, as a centre, to provide the sort of inspirational leadership a Martin Johnson could in a match such as this. All the same, two miserably struck kicks by the captain at crucial times did nothing to alleviate the Lions' sense of despondency, although his late try almost provided the spur for an unlikely rescue act.

Pass marks for O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell, less so for Gordon D'Arcy, but the real winner among the Irish was Shane Byrne. Steve Thompson's throwing at the line out was disastrous, and to have a key set-piece malfunctioning so badly against the All Blacks would be fatal. Byrne played the last ten minutes, nailed a couple of simple throws, and the Lions achieved an undeservedly respectable score line. Whether Woodward will sacrifice Thompson's physicality remains to be seen.

Saturday could well turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Lions management. All their failings were starkly evident, leaving them two weeks to rectify them. They will hope too for complacency within the All Blacks' ranks, and one suspects the Kiwi nation could well contribute to that between now and Saturday week. *******************************************************************************

Kevin McBride's hulking physique adorned all this morning's papers, the Clones man's unlikely success against the artist formerly known as Iron Mike earning him fame like his hitherto uneventful career had not known.

The Irishman is now speaking confidently of a possible future title challenge. Without wishing to denigrate McBride's achievement, it is only a year ago that Tyson was thumped by another unheralded bum, Danny Williams. You may remember that Williams spoke similarly hopefully about winning a belt, before reality intruded in the shape of Vitali Klitschko's fist.

Even in the currently impoverished heavyweight division, one suspects that the notoriety attached with finally ending Tyson's career will be McBride's only lasting glory.


Hurling is dying. How one can make such a statement when there are exponents of the game like the current Kilkenny team around may seem bizarre, but when a Leinster semi-final is as grotesquely uncompetitive as yesterday's demolition of Offaly was, it is right to fear that the game seems to be withering worryingly in many places.

Predictably, Kilkenny have reacted explosively to last year's All-Ireland loss, and appear to possess awesome goal firepower, an area in which they were strangely deficient last season.

Kilkenny's hot-house hurling development policy means they are now frighteningly far in front of their Leinster rivals. Despite Wexford's unlikely triumph in 2004 the province is now bereft of competitiveness.

The opposite, of course, is true in Ulster football. Brian McEniff almost produced another expertly crafted study in the art of the underdog against Armagh, Oisin McConville's late point denying a win to a Donegal team that would have deserved it. It would have made a joyous companion piece to last year's defeat of Tyrone, which also featured a 14 man Donegal team.

In the long run, whether they progress further in Ulster or through the qualifiers, Kevin Cassidy's almost certain loss through suspension will be a tough blow. I can only surmise that Cassidy was paying tribute to Clones' new favourite son with his haymaker on Martin O'Rourke. Indeed such was its venom, that I feel the Gweedore wing-back has a better chance of winning a Heavyweight belt than McBride ever will!


"Hell" (n)- definition- Watching Ivo Karlovic play tennis for eternity. See also boredom (intense, soul-destroying).


Post a comment

<< Home