Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Ten Big Questions of 2007 - Part Two


6. Will Brian Cody hit Ger Loughnane a good skelp?
One of the few highlights of the GAA All Stars presentation night (uncomfortable men in tuxedos drinking pints - not a good look) came when Brian Cody was asked by one of the RTE chaps (possibly Marty Morrissey, for he's a cheeky one) about the impending return of Ger Loughnane to active hurling duty.

Cody came over all Jack Palance, faintly registering a sneer, and muttered "I'm not worried."


On the face of it, the two men could not be more different: Loughnane all bulging eyeballs, finger-jabbing verbals and the proponence of the 'perceived external grievance' school of motivation.

Cody keeps his counsel, in general; he observes in patrician fashion from beneath the peak of an omnipresent baseball cap, then acts, swiftly and brutally, when necessary. He's been manager of Kilkenny since 1998, an astonishing term in modern GAA, a longevity derived from that ruthlessness in regenerating and reimagining each year's team.

If he meets Loughnane on the sideline this year - and lets hope he does - it should be like a monkey attacking a giraffe. Which sounds entertaining.

7. Will Euro 2008 be a foreign affair?
Talking about monkeys, you know that old maxim about putting a bunch of chimps in a room with a lot of typewriters (it has to be typewriters, mind, they can't abide computers, can chimps) for a while and them coming up with the complete works of Shakespeare?

Well if you put five nations into European qualifying groups for a long enough, someday, will none of them qualify for a major tournament? For all the Macedonias and turnips and Del Amitri songs and other uselessnesses, the final stages of a major international tournament have not been without one of the 'home' countries (including Ireland in that peculiar, warm ale and crumpet-sounding term) since the European Championship finals in France in 1984, back when that tournament was an eight-team affair.

In minimum sixteen-team tournaments you have to go back to the days when militaristic, expansionist regimes bestrode the world (strange times indeed...), 1938 and that year's World Cup, to find a major competition without England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or ourselves participating.

In 2007, however, this record is in jeopardy for the first time since Alan McLoughlin's late equaliser on that hateful night in Windsor Park sent us to USA 1994.

Steve McLaren is making old 'Quarter Final' Eriksson look the very paragon of effortless achievement in taking his team to third in what was regarded an uncomplicated group. With the potential for slapstick embarassment inherent in road trips to Israel, Andorra and Estonia, a home and away double with Russia and the return game with Croatia, Fleet St. might be photoshopping suitable vegetables as we speak.

The North and Scotland are coming off almost unimaginable highs and both look well placed right now. Both, however, have wounded big beasts at their hindmosts, and cannot realistically be expected to qualify. Wales and Ireland, like two scrawny mongrels eyeing up one dusty old bone, should scrap out fourth place in Group D.

Unless those chimps come up with something else in the meantime....

8. Will everyone have heard of Derval O'Rourke this time next year?
There's been a bit of revisionism lately about O'Rourke's achievements in the last year, largely due to the philosophical discussions provoked by the RTE Sports Person of the Year panel's decision to award the top gong to Henry Shefflin.
Should international success (as enjoyed by Paul O'Connell and O'Rourke) always trump domestic achievement, even in the event of someone like Shefflin having his perfect year?

Not for me to do decide - I don't get invited to these things. Anyway, it was still rough on the World Indoor Hurdles Champion for Ted Walsh to say he hadn't heard of her until the previous week, and for that Humphries fella to reveal in the Irish Times on Saturday that the fields she competed against in winning her two big medals of last year were not of the first class, lacking as they were some of the better Americans and Jamaican world no.3 Brigitte Foster-Hylton.

That's slightly unfair, when one operates the "you can only beat what's put in front of you" policy. And she was only beaten in those two events by world no.2, Susanna Kallur of Sweden.

But her world ranking of 8 is fair, looking at her results in Grand Prix, and she needs to consistently run towards 12.6 (her PB is 12.72) to be a realistic contender for a medal at the World Championships in Tokyo in August.

Hopefully, by then, everyone will know her name.

1 Comments:

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