Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hollywood Hurling

In the summer blockbuster season, no CGI beast or shape-shifting robot could possibly have the fearsome durability of this Cork hurling team. In fact the cinematic creation the Red Monster most resembles is the old T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Much like the Connor family's bother with the terrifying sentient machine played by Robert Patrick in the 1991 movie, Waterford are finding that the Leesiders die hard, to borrow from elsewhere in the action genre.

Having frozen Cork in liquid nitrogen in the Munster semi-final and shattered them into little pieces, imagine their dismay as the Rebels reconstituted themselves into an an even more formidable form of red liquid metal for Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final.

Like any good actioner, the big, explosive set piece was saved till the end, and - crucially - the sequel is nicely set up. Unlike most box office franchises, however, the formula these two have reworked repeatedly over recent seasons shows no sign of becoming tired.

In fact, given that box office stars like Messrs ó hAilpín, Cusack and O'Sullivan missed out on the last instalment, and in the case of the first two, returned to take starring roles on Sunday, expect queues round the block for the next big release this Sunday.

Who knows, perhaps Sunday could even end up like The Godfather Part 2 - a sequel which many believe to be better than the original.

....Read more!

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Gaelic Athletic Company is Proud to Present!

Roll up, roll up! The Great Hurling Big Top comes to town FOR ONE WEEKEND ONLY!!!


Come see the Fantastic Shefflor, the Master of Hypnosis, as he makes defenders involuntarily entangle themselves in STRANGE CONTORTIONS!

Witness Loughnane the Lion Tamer, as he DICES WITH DEATH in the lair of the wild beast, using only his TONGUE for protection!

Observe - if your nerves permit - Mark Foley, the INCREDIBLE MANBEAST - hear him crunch on the BONES OF HALF-FORWARDS!

LAUGH till your sides split at Wexford Clown Troupe - fifteen men to get a ball over the bar, an easy proposition surely? Not for these HAPLESS jesters!

Be GRIPPED in awe at Shanahan & Mullane, the fearless acrobats of Old Waterford Town!

GASP with TERROR at the incredible TIGHTROPE WALKERS Cusack, O'Sullivan and O'hAilpín, as they navigate precarious HIGH MORAL GROUND without faltering a step!
PUZZLE in bemusement at Ticketmaster, the illusionist, who makes a paltry sum of 35 shillings transform into 35 shillings and sixpence by simple sleight of hand!



....Read more!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Donegal On The Mend?

The last time we caught up with the men from God's own county, things looked bleak. If the drab and lucky win over Armagh had raised questions, then the hammering by Tyrone had answered them: Donegal were springtime wonders, the most pertinent example of a league competition whose leading lights had faded to black by summer.

Donegal were dead men walking, their existence in the Championship a mere technicality of the qualifier system. They were the last-round, punchdrunk fighter, waiting for either the bell or a fist to put them out of their misery.

Some sages even thought Leitrim would inflict the fatal blow, and pointed 'smart' money Shannon-side ahead of the sides' round one qualifier meeting. Even when Donegal pulled through that one, those who know about these things rested easier with Westmeath in the next round than the fallen-giants of the north-west.

So Donegal went from the status of Sam Maguire Maybes to hopeless qualifier pond-life in, literally, a matter of weeks.

Not that the GAA's chattering classes weren't within their rights to take this view. This sheer descent of esteem reflects the feeling many have about Donegal: like an ex-convict in your employ, you take their rehabilitation at face value, but a couple of misplaced handpasses later and they've made off with the takings.

Truly Donegal's defeat to Tyrone was abject viewing. Those of us who watched it through the gaps in our fingers consoled ourselves by using the other hand to throw garlands at Tyrone. But Tyrone's performances either side of that game - a stodgy and narrow win over Fermanagh, and a business-like, but hardly earth-shattering defeat of Monaghan in the Ulster final - don't help alleviate concerns over the troubles of Tyrconnell.

The direct play which had served Donegal well in the league vanished shortly after their 8th minute goal, to be replaced with the futile funk of the pass-the-buck football that represents Donegal at their worst. Tyrone's half-backs attacked from deep at will, brushing aside the overrun Donegal backs, and midfield (an area in which it is normally felt Tyrone can be got at) was ceded totally. It was as bad as it looked.

But, despite receiving the last rites, a spell in the field hospital of the qualifiers has, it seems, rightly rejuvenated Brian McIver's side. They had the stomach to repel a feisty Leitrim side, and then went down to Mullingar and demolished a confident Westmeath, the 5 point win being, reportedly, a 10 pointer in real terms.

No better test of their health than this Monaghan team, then, who have been one of the coming sides for several seasons now. Having more than held their own against Tyrone and having two weeks recovery time, they should not be experiencing any post-provincial final depression, the curse of many a side at this juncture.

Let's see if Donegal's bandages will hold.

Labels: ,

....Read more!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Age of Padraig?

So can Padraig do it again? Will this year's Open winner go down in history with Paul Lawrie, Mike Weir, Ben Curtis, Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel and countless others as another man for whom the stars aligned just the once?

Or will the irrefutable sheen that only multiple major wins provide soon be applied to his career?

Using Jack Nicklaus' last major win, at the 1986 Masters, as an arbitrary date to begin 'the modern era', and looking at all the players who have begun multiple major winning records since then, where does 35-year-old Harrington fit into the age profiles of those who've done it once, and come back for more?

Clearly Padraig is in the more mature bracket of the list - only Mark O'Meara was older winning his first major, albeit Vijay Singh and Nick Price were only months younger than the Irishman on the occasion of their first triumphs.

While this list includes players who are still active, and therefore might yet push out the age of their final triumph (or in Tiger's case, will definitely push out that age) you can clearly see that the 30s are to golfers what the 20s are to footballers, or the teens are to female gymnasts for that matter.

So if Padraig - 36 next month - is to add to last Sunday's win, it'll very likely come over the next three or four seasons.

Greg Norman
1st: 1986 Open - age 31
Last: 1993 Open - age 38

Nick Faldo
1st: 1987 Open - age 30
Last: 1996 US Masters - age 38

Curtis Strange
1st: 1988 US Open - age 33
Last 1989 US Open - age 34

Payne Stewart
1st: 1989 US PGA - age 32
Last: 1999 US Open - age 42

John Daly
1st: 1991 US PGA - age 25
Last: 1995 Open - age 29

Nick Price
1st: 1992 US PGA - age 35
Last 1994 US PGA - age 38

Lee Janzen
1st: 1993 US Open - age 28
Last 1998 US Open - age 33

José María Olazábal
1st: 1994 US Masters - age 28
Last: 1999 US Masters - age 33

Ernie Els
1st: 1994 US Open - age 24
Last: 2002 Open - age 32

Tiger Woods
1st: 1997 US Masters - age 21
Last: 2006 US PGA - age 30

Mark O'Meara
1st: 1998 US Masters - age 41
Last 1998 Open - age 41

Vijay Singh
1st: 1998 US PGA - age 35
Last: 2004 US PGA - age 41

Retief Goosen
1st: 2001 US Open - age 32
Last: 2004 US Open - age 35

Phil Mickelson
1st: 2004 US Masters - age 33
Last: 2006 US Masters - age 35


....Read more!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harrington the Hero

And so it became a battle of the fretting family members. As Padraig plunged into the Barry Burn twice on the 72nd hole of the 2007 Open Championship, it was Caroline Harrington who wore the countenance of the seafarer's wife, scanning the suddenly stormy seas in hope of her man's safe return.

Then it was the Garcia family's turn to worry, the chipmunkish features they share with Sergio changing from pearly grins to gnashing of teeth as their boy's putting woes refused to abate and the play-off was set up.

In the end, it was little Paddy Harrington who swung it. Only the cruellest sporting god (the Don Fox one, perhaps) could have permitted Harrington junior to ask his father in a few years time, "Daddy, remember that time I ran onto the green to meet you at the Open? Was that the one you threw away with a six at the last, spurning your best opportunity to win a major and forever lumbering me with the schoolyard taunt of being the son of a choker?"

No, Paddy Harrington will now be known as the son of a hero, a man whose sustained excellence at this most challenging of sports at last has the timeless imprimatur that only a major can provide; who will now enter the pantheon of individuals alongside Delaney, Roche, O'Sullivan, Doherty and a very few others who left this isle and conquered the world.

If the gods weren't appeased by the sight of the profligate Irishman's youngster bounding onto the 18th green at Carnoustie, they must have decided to give Harrington a second chance based on reconsideration of that traumatic six on the final hole. While the four shots that preceded them felt like daggers into the heart, the fifth and sixth shots were a miraculous kiss of life for Harrington's hopes. The fortitude he mustered to retrieve that six, and at least ask Garcia the toughest of golfing questions, was truly of champion quality.

Champion is a proper description of Harrington's golf yesterday as a whole. Like he has done in several recent majors, the Dubliner got himself into contention on that last day through three battling, consistent rounds, with only the tricky conditions of Friday dragging him over par. This time, unlike at the US Open last year, or in Augusta this year, he produced a final round which was almost martial in its momentum, and had he managed to negotiate the last uneventfully, would surely be regarded as one of the finest major-winning final 18s ever.

The scoreboard tells of a staccato rhythm of birdies - 3, 6, 9, 11, and 14 (an eagle) - but fails to mention the two lipped putts on 12 and 13 which would have been just reward for the sort of magnificient approach shots he was serving up yesterday with the frequency of a casino dealer dealing blackjack hands.

It was another one of them on the first play-off hole that took him to twelve feet from the cup. Then came the birdie that gave him the lead that he held onto as tightly as he would later hold the famous claret jug when it was all over.

Well done, Padraig.


....Read more!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Entry List Announced for TSA 'Golfers With Funny Or Slightly Rude Names' Invititational

The field has been announced for the TSA 'Golfers With Funny Or Slightly Rude Names' Invititational to take place at Miccosukee Golf & Country Club, Miami. Competing for the suggestively shaped trophy are:

David Shacklady
Brian Gay
Notah Begay III
Dicky Pride
Briny Baird
Bubbas Watson and Dickerson
Frank Lickliter II
Tag Ridings
Tripp Isenhour
Bernhard Langer
Fred Funk
Vance Veazey
Duffy Waldorf
Johnson Wagner
Dick Mast
Boo Weekley
Ben Bunny
Bo Van Pelt

....Read more!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Stick With It Son

It's been getting very heavy around here lately, all the scandal and the vice.

So here's a little light relief. According to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, nostalgia is "a feeling of sadness and longing that is not akin to pain, and resembles sorrow only as the mist resembles the rain."

What, no mention of Bagpuss and Spacehoppers?

Anyway, some bloke called Craig Cullen has detonated a bomb in the Hoover Dam of reason and modernity, unleashing a raging torrent of footballing nostalgia, by creating a website which has the entire, completed Panini sticker albums for 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons, or Football '84 and Football '85 as the understated titles went.

Presumably Craig discovered booze and women sometime during the summer of '86, for the collections which represent the peak of my own sticker career, Football '86 and Football 87, are sadly not included.

While Football '86 was a collection which saw my brother and I finding our feet in the sticker collecting game, by the time Football '87 game round we were at our glorious peak. We swapped doubles and trebles with hard-nosed savvy of Marrakesh bazaar traders; we could sense the presence of precious foil stickers in unopened packs at the newsagent; we could summon the most heart-rending guilt-trips to persuade our parents to stretch to another few packs - food for the baby sisters could wait.

We finished Football '87 by sending off for the final 16 stickers. Neither of us would accomplish anything so profoundly perfect again.

Anyway, check out the '84 and '85 vintages here, including helpful search engines for mullets, taches and perms.


....Read more!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dogged By Trouble

Sometimes, whether it's Craig Bellamy with a golf club or some GAA players on the razzle, it pays to take a step back when in the full flow of a moral outrage. And there's no better agent of perpective than a glance across the Atlantic. Not to say that a footballer on a drink-driving rap is not worthy of condemnation, but yesterday's indictment of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick on charges of running and sponsoring dogfighting sort of reaffirms the fact that everything, even scandal, is bigger in America.

Vick is the owner of 1915 Moonlight Road, near Smithfield, Virginia, a property which was raided earlier this year and found to have been used for both the training of fighting dogs, and the staging of actual dogfights. Approximately 30 dogs, various items of training equipment, kennels and a fighting 'arena' were found in the raid by local police in April.

Vick's response at the time was to protest that although he owned the property, he had no idea that it was being used in this way. He blamed family members who lived in the property for the shocking findings. "It's unfortunate I have to take the heat," he told reporters after the case initially came to light, "lesson learned for me."

However the details of the indictment published yesterday would appear to place Vick very much at the centre of the operation, and named him as one of four men charged by the U.S. District Court in Virginia with conspiracy to commit interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities (the actual trafficking of the animals between states, a charge which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years prison and a fine of $250,000) and to sponsor a dog in an animal-fighting venture (1 year, $100,000).

In 2001 (ironically the same year in which Vick was a 21-year-old NFL draft first round/first pick for the Falcons) Vick and his associates, having bought the property on Moonlight Road, are alleged to have begun purchasing American Pit Bull Terriers for the purpose of starting a dogfighting kennel. According to the indictment, they named their operation "Bad Newz Kennels" and began readying the back yard of the property for their new business, building kennels and training areas, and a fence by which conceal them.

One of the most shocking parts of the indictment, apart from the cooperating witness statements describing Vick and associates sponsoring and providing dogs to compete in savage fights, is the process described as "rolling". "Rolling" is the practice of ascertaining whether a dog possesses the necessary "gameness" for fighting. A young dog is placed in an enclosed area and is then prodded and goaded until it displays the requisite reaction. If the animal responds aggressively, it is considered suitable for fighting; if it reacts timidly, it is not.

While some owners will attempt to find an alternative home for unsuitable dogs, Vick's group are alleged to have killed the rejected animals, or as the indictment states "executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in 'testing' sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

Clearly the barbarism of this subculture - which reports have subjected is significantly popular among elite US athletes - is appalling enough, without being compounded by such horrific treatment of animals who do not even make it to the fighting arena.

Vick is currently in the Falcons' pre-season camp in Flowery Branch, Georgia, where he has reportedly been applying himself more diligently than ever, both on the training field and to the hefty tactical curriculum that quarterbacks must undertake, ahead of what was viewed as a critical season for player and team.

If the shocking charges of yesterday's indictment are true, he could soon have plenty time to study the playbook.


....Read more!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Boum Shakes The Game

It's Tuesday, it must be Bent Football Day on TSA. This week, however, is different. Usually we impoverished commentators must be content to parade around the Sodom and Gomorrah of professional football shouting "Repent!" as the harlots within laugh in our faces.

Now, thanks to the fearless Untouchables of the City of London Police economic crime squad, the long arm of the law picks up a placard inscribed "Ye Shall be Smited", and joins the struggle.

The raids on Newcastle United, Portsmouth and Rangers yesterday are still the subject of cautious reportage, the clubs "extending every co-operation to police" and commenting no further, other than in the case of Newcastle's new owner Mike Ashley, who insisted that the club itself was not part of the investigation.

The stench of corruption in football has been gathering over the past 18 months or so, including, but not starting from, Sven Goran Eriksson's revelation to the News of the World's 'Fake Sheikh' that he had been offered 'bungs', former Luton manager Mike Newell's similar claims, the BBC'S Panorama documentary on the subject and the recent Lord Stevens 'Quest' report into transfer irregularities. Yesterday's actions by the police would suggest that the odour has at last become unbearable.

Of the 17 transfers that Lord Stevens felt unable to "sign off" on, two of them involved the three clubs raided yesterday: Jean-Alain Boumsong's move from Rangers to Newcastle, and Amady Faye's from Portsmouth to St.James's Park, both in January 2005. While Faye's transfer does not appear particularly unusual (he cost Newcastle about £2 million, having been bought by Portsmouth for £1.5 million two years previously, and there were other clubs interested in the player), Boumsong's did raise some eyebrows.

Both players were among Graham Souness's first purchases as Newcastle manager, having taken over from the sacked Bobby Robson in September 2004. Boumsong had moved from Auxerre to Rangers on a free transfer in the summer of 2004, in a deal negotiated by French-based agent Willie McKay.

The transfer appeared to be a major coup for the Scottish club, as, according to Boumsong's own claims, he had been the subject of inquiries from the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Inter Milan.

Shortly prior to his signature for Rangers, McKay had explained the highly-rated defender's decision to plump for the backwater of the SPL in preference to the major European leagues in which he was supposed to have suitors. "Everyone is surprised he is going to Rangers, but I'll tell you why he is," said Mackay. "You have to know the Cameroon people like I do, having worked with the likes of Marc-Vivien Foe and Rigobert Song."

"Jean-Alain was born in Cameroon, he wants security, his contract is up in the summer and he wants to know where he is going to play. He wants to play in Europe. He has looked at what Henrik Larsson has done at Celtic and knows he can earn respect in Scotland. More and more, the top players know if they go to a Chelsea or a Liverpool, they will be in a rotation system. At Rangers he knows he will be king."

After positing this less than convincing theory, McKay also explained the benefits of the deal to Rangers: "If Rangers give him a five-year-contract at£45,000 a week it is going to cost them around £4m in wages for the first two years - and he won't be there for the third because he will be sold on for £8m."

The only flaw in McKay's prescience was in how quickly this scenario would materialise. Just months after joining Rangers, Newcastle's £8 million offer for the player's services was accepted.
Surprise at the size of the fee was exacerbated by the fact that Newcastle were the only bidders in this particular auction, and its timing was perfect for a club in Rangers' financial straits. The player's performances for Newcastle would soon further perplex Magpies fans wondering at the value for money the player represented.

The Stevens inquiry's comments on the transfer were as follows: "There remains inconsistencies in evidence provided by Graeme Souness - a former manager of the club - and Kenneth Shepherd (son of Freddie Shepherd, Newcastle United's former chairman) - apparently acting in an undefined role but not as a club official - as to their respective roles in transfer negotiations." On McKay: "The inquiry is still awaiting clarification from agent Willie McKay".

With the arrival of the Her Majesty's finest at Ibrox and St.James's yesterday, it seems that a the questions arising from this strange deal could soon be answered.

Note: Clarification was also sought by Quest from McKay with regard to the transfers of Benjani Mwaruwari and Aliou Cisse to Portsmouth, two of the other transfers on which Stevens was unable to 'sign off'.

McKay responded thusly: "I'm shocked at the way my full co-operation with the inquiry has been presented in this report. I have not paid any bungs or made any unlawful payments to anyone."

The enquiry later clarified the comments on Souness: "We wish to make it clear that inconsistencies did not exist within the evidence given by Graeme Souness to Quest concerning his role in transfers covered by the Inquiry during his time as manager of Newcastle United FC and neither the Premier League nor do Quest have any concerns in this regard."

The Boumsong deal was not the first time Souness had purchased players from the club at which he began his managerial career. Mark Walters joined Souness at Liverpool from Rangers in 1991, but more recently, in 2001 Tugay was signed for £1.3 million, then in 2003 he paid Rangers £1.4 million for Lorenzo Amoruso and £7.5 million for Barry Ferguson while Blackburn manager.


....Read more!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Boulder and Wiser?

Dublin's struggle to win the All-Ireland is your classic Sisysphean task. Sisyphus, for those who chose woodwork over classics, was a king in ancient Greece who was condemned to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity in punishment for thinking himself cleverer than Zeus. Every time he would get the rock up to the brow of this mythical mount, it would roll infuriatingly back down again.

Sisyphus sounds a bit like the stereotypical Hill 16-dwelling, dodgy-plasma-screen-TV-selling, baseball-cap-tilted-upwards, cocky-son-of-a-bitch Dub alright.
A crafty sort, apparently he was subjected to the perpetual, soon to be eponymous task for conning no less personages than Hades and Thanatos (Lord of the Underworld and God of Death respectively) into chaining themselves up, thereby, er, stopping death, or something (look, this is all vouched for by that most respected repository of classical learning, Wikipedia).

When he got his comeuppance for that and was sent to underworld for his troubles, he even managed to cod the Queen of the Underworld, Persephone, into letting him go back above, after she bought the line that he'd been sent their by mistake. Scamp!

Anyhow, the boulder was soon dug out for Sisyphus, and he was set to work for eternity for his troubles.

I rather think that the gods of Gaelic football (I'm picturing a ginormous Kerryman with a beard as the Zeus-like figure, perhaps an older version of Bomber Liston?) have made a similar judgement on the Dubs as their Greek equivalents made on Sispyphus. Just as his hubris in attempting to outsmart the gods got him in trouble, so the Dubs have been punished for excessive strutting, whooping and taunting in Croke Park on Championship Sundays.

Every year, Dublin push that boulder up the foothills of the Leinster minnows, past the steeper incline of feisty Meath, over the jagged obstruction of Laois, up to within sight of the summit, until suddenly they lose their grip at the sheer cliff-face of another province and then....wheeeee! And so on and so forth.

The torture of Sisyphus's plight is not in the mere fact that the bloody boulder keeps falling down the hill, but rather that he is condemned to repeat the infernal job. Quite frankly, any remotely sane-minded person would have thrown his hat at the thing. Similarly, Dublin come back every year, convinced that this time the blasted rock will stay up, despite repeated evidence of the futility of it all.

However, back at Gaelic football Mount Olympus - which looks like the snug of a pub in, say, Caherciveen, where Bomber Liston-in-robes holds forth with minor deities; a winged-footed Paidí O Sé, Mick O'Dwyer with a trident, etc. - the gods are restless. Some laugh at the poor wretch, pushing the confounded boulder again, the hope of success still not extinguished.

But the Zeus-like figure is concerned. He remembered 1995, when the cruelty of Dublin's perpetual struggle was at its zenith, after repeated scuppering by the slippery peaks of the north, but how they had kept at it again and again until eventually they succeeded.

"Yerra, 'tis likely 'twill happen sooner or later," boomed the Zeus-like figure, smashing his huge fist down on the table, sending pints of divine stout everywhere, "for 'tis quare strong they're looking this year."

The minor deities furrowed their brows at the big man's words, him not being given to unnecessary displays of emotion.

Meanwhile, down below, the boulder inched up another few feet.

Labels: ,

....Read more!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Playing at Home

England prop Julian White has ruled himself out of contention for the World Cup, due to family and 'farming' reasons. White has reportedly purchased a large amount of land in Devon, which is seemingly in more urgent need of his toil than the front row of his country's scrum.

Few would think it likely that a professional sportsman would rather sort out the drainage in the lower field than represent their nation at a World Cup. Still, it's always nice to hear - in these days of 'crucial clashes' and 'must-win encounters' - of someone putting the hidden struggles of private life ahead of sport's overblown priorities.

Could this be the start of a new generation of domestic gods?

Stevie Pulls Plug - Gerrard to Miss Champions League Clash After Plumbing Crisis
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has pulled out of the Anfield club's crunch Champions League meeting with Inter Milan tomorrow, after a plumbing problem bubbled up at the star's Cheshire home yesterday.

Gerrard was forced to withdraw from the Reds' squad upon hearing a strange clanking noise, then a sudden "watery thud" coming from his back boiler yesterday. Plumber John Smedley, of Smedley & Smedley Plumbing & Heating Services has vowed to get to the bottom of the dilemma, but admitted yesterday evening that "realistically we won't get round to it until Wednesday afternoon. And we'll need Mr.Gerrard there to let us in, otherwise we can't come round till next week. And we have work on in Widnes all next week, so there's no guarantees even then."

Gerrard reluctantly accepted the the bad news, revealing that "with the missus away, I suppose it's the only choice. I wouldn't trust the neighbours to let the plumbers in after the thing with their dog doing its business in our garden last year. Don't get me wrong, I'd do anything for the club, but that boiler needs fixing."

That's All She Wrote - Harrington Snubs Open for TV Sleuth
Padraig Harrington has ruled himseld out of the Open in Carnoustie after admitting being gripped by the exploits of a geriatric TV detective!

Rather than hitting the fairways to perfect his game ahead of golf's oldest major next week, the Dublin-born European Order of Merit winner has spent recent afternoons engrossed in Murder She Wrote, the American TV series currently being repeated on BBC 1 each afternoon.

The series, which stars Hollywood veteran Angela Lansbury as crime writer-cum-real life detective Jessica Fletcher, first grabbed Harrington's attention while he was resting a mild wrist injury several weeks ago.

"I'd always been wary of the Beeb's mid-afternoon drama slot, having missed out on vital preparations for the 2002 US Masters due to a particularly absorbing run of Quincy episodes," said the Irishman from his living room yesterday, "but this series of 'Murder' has destroyed my game."

"Just the other day Jessica got to the bottom of a sinister development scheme which had used foul play to turn profits. Today she finds herself on the hunt for a killer at an elite prep school. To be honest, golf comes second at a time like this."

And it's not going to get any easier for Harrington - August's US PGA Championship clashes with a rerun of the classic first series of The Rockford Files.

Fed's Off His Noodle
As he finally placed the chopsticks down, Roger Federer knew he wouldn't be able defend his Wimbledon title.

"I saw all the Chinese leftovers I had, even after stuffing myself," said the Swiss World Number One at a specially convened press conference today. "It quickly dawned on me that I could never focus on defeating Rafael Nadal the next day, knowing that there was half a tray of chicken chow mein and at least three sweet and sour ribs lying uneaten in my fridge."

The five time Wimbledon champion choked back the tears, and the regurgitated chicken balls, as he opened his heart to the private torment that ended his chances of a record sixth consecutive title.

"I was really hungry after beating Roddick in the semi," Federer explained, "and fell into the trap of ordering more than I could possibly eat. Beef in black bean sauce, Szechaun pork, spring rolls - I really pigged out. But then I realised 'hey, you're not gonna finish this tonight'. Well anyone who's played me on the court knows I don't back down easily, so I'm going to come back this evening and finish it off, every last prawn cracker too."

Federer apologised for letting his fans down, then burped.

....Read more!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Go North, Young Man

We don't want to upset anyone during the European club rugby off-season, when the most critical subject for debate is just how grotesque most Irish rugby fans are going to look in the new international team jersey, which reportedly comes in three sizes: 'Brad Pitt in Fight Club', 'Genetic Experiment in Creating the Ubermensch' and 'Superhero'. Far be it from us to arouse concerns about the chilly days of winter when there is a whole World Cup ahead over which to elongate our wafer-thin attention spans for six weeks.

But it needs to be said: my goodness, that's a lot of southern hemisphere types, and particularly All Blacks, that are on their way to English and French clubs, as if they weren't dominant enough over our plucky, rosy-cheeked Celtic contenders.

With the final peep on the whistle in Stade de France on 20th October, whether or not Richie McCaw is at last lifting the Webb Ellis trophy for the All Blacks, many of the leading lights of rugby's most feared international franchise will be staying on in the northern hemisphere.

Prop Carl Hayman (Newcastle), lock Chris Jack (Saracens), centre Aaron Mauger (Leicester), scrum-half Byron Kelleher (Toulouse), winger Rico Gear (Worcester) and hooker Anton Oliver (Toulon) have agreed deals to leave the Land of the Long White Cloud after the World Cup, and it now seems likely that Luke McAlister, the highly rated 23-year-old centre, will sign for Sale.

In addition, many other All Blacks have sent their agents prowling around the big-spending French and English clubs, in the hope of securing lucrative post-World Cup retainers. Of the aforementioned names, only Oliver (32 in September) and Kelleher (30) are in their fourth decade. In other words, most of the talent mentioned are top players, in the prime of their careers, for whom a move north is not the lucrative stopover on the winding road to retirement it has been in the past. McAlister in particular is a player whose loss would be sorely felt by the NZRU and the Super 14 competition.

Several Springboks, including captain John Smit (Clermont-Auvergne), Butch James (Bath), Victor Matfield (Toulon) and Percy Montgomery (Perpignan) have committed their immediate futures north of the equator, with several others believed to be following the lure of pounds and euros.

This mass movement is, of course, being seen as the latest blow to rugby's traditional international order, with the club game in England and France edging closer to being the dominant controlling forces in world rugby, in the way the major European leagues are in soccer. The extra-large slices of the Heineken Cup pie brokered by the English clubs in particular during the recent impasse over the competition's future have only strengthened the power they now wield.

So if the august institutions of international rugby and the southern hemisphere's representative and club tournaments fear denudement of importance, Celtic rugby, that feisty but raggle-taggle entity, must also be petrified at the heavy artillery their English and French rivals can now summon.

Where Irish rugby in particular, and to a lesser extent our Welsh counterparts, have kept some semblance of pace with the clubs of England and France through careful husbandry of native talent via the central contract system, if the world market were to truly open to movement of players to the highest bidder, there could only be one, fat-walleted winner.

In contrast to the glittering names coming north to England and France, Munster and Leinster's main foreign acquisitions thus far are Rua Tipoki (a New Zealand Maori) and 34-year-old former Springbok stalwart Ollie Le Roux respectively. Edinburgh's recruitment of Stephen Larkham, while eye-catching, given the Aussie outhalf's still-glowing talent, is definitely another case of an old-stager's last payday.

Whether the All Blacks will stick to their policy of only selecting home based players for World Cups for 2011, therefore forcing their expatriates home eventually, remains to be seen. But the lure of the English and French lucre is likely to be as hurtful close to home as in the the far-off lands of the south.

Labels: , ,

....Read more!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All The Fund of the Unfair

Football Association headquarters, Soho Square, London. FA big cheese requests meeting with West Ham United to resolve questions over the prospective sale of Carlos Tevez.

FA: So who owns this Tevez guy?

West Ham: Us!

FA: Really? How much did you pay for him?

WH: Er, it was undisclosed.

FA: Ok, disclose it then.

WH: Ummmmm....no.

FA: Ok, so if Manchester United want to buy Tevez, presumably they pay you the fee then.

WH: Yes.

Media Sports Investments: (BURSTING THROUGH THE DOOR) Not bloomin' likely, I think you'll find.

FA: What's this all about?

WH: Oh never mind them, you know these shady foreign sorts coming into English football, can't trust 'em, can you?

MSI: Hey, hey! Hang on a minute! Shady foreign sort or not, we want what's coming to us! We kept schtum during the hearings about this nonsensical "tearing up" of our contract so you could keep Tevez for the rest of the season. Don't think we're going to let you away with what's rightfully ours!

FA: Wait just a moment here! I thought you said that you owned this Tevez fellow, and that was the end of it, and that whatever funny business went on in the past was forgotten. Goodness gracious, we've had irate Yorkshiremen - and their lawyers - banging on the door since May, bleating on about "how it were just not reet!"

WH: We do own 'im guv. Head to toe. No doubt about it.

FA: So any transfer fee paid for his services must be entirely yours then.

WH: Yeah, yeah....(LOOKS AT MSI, WHO STARES THREATENINGLY)...well, not all. Can't we give some to them?(JABS THUMB TOWARD MSI)

FA: What do you mean, some?

WH: A bit, maybe.

MSI: The bloody lot, you mean.

FA: But I thought he was yours, this fellow, in his entirety, no doubt about it. Didn't you pay a transfer fee for him? What was it.....

WH: Undisclosed.

FA: Yes, undisclosed...oh this is most unsatisfactory, I thought we'd gotten rid of this lot.

MSI: We're still here you know.

FA: Who are you anyway?

MSI: We're a London based international investment fund. Led by Iranian businessman Kia Joorabchian, MSI has a number of investors based mainly in Britain and Russia..

FA: Why did you tail off like that, it suggests something shifty is afoot?

MSI: Really? Sorry, that's just the way we're described on our website.

FA: So you're an investment fund, and this website claims that among your "current investments" is this Carlos Tevez fellow, the root of the blasted problem.

MSI: Got it in one. $20 million in 2004 we spent on the lad.

FA: So Tevez is an investment of yours, and you quite fancy that any transfer monies recouped on his sale would be forwarded to you in the guise of, well, a return on your investment.

MSI: You're catching on.

FA: Hmmm, quite reasonable, I suppose. Oh dear, I rather think we have botched this job up somehow. I thought those Sheffield characters were simply labouring under some typical northern chippiness and inbuilt sense of grievance. Seems we've rather shafted them with this endeavour.

WH: Hey ho, all's well eh? Them's the breaks!

FA: Enough out of you, with your shady deals. When you said the agreement with this fund had been "torn up", you had actually proceeded to sellotape it back together, didn't you?

WH: Heh, you've a funny way of putting things.

FA: Right, enough of this. "We are in blood stepped so far that to return would be more tedious than go o'er".

MSI: (TO SELF) Bloody English, always with the Shakespeare.

FA: Let's cobble together a face saving statement which says that West Ham will receive the transfer fee in full, seeing as how they own this player of course, then you can sort this lot out under the table....(TO SELF) so much for our bungs enquiry...and keep this quiet, I don't want Sean Bean picketing my house again!

WH: A wise and sensible suggestion, guv.

MSI: A well conceived resolution.

FA: (TO WH) You, get out of my sight. (TO MSI) So you're an investment fund you say? I'm intrigued, do go on....

....Read more!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Waterford Stay On Course

Everyone happy?

Waterford, ultimately taking Munster in style. Limerick preserving honour through a typically feisty performance, happy in the knowledge that the Tipp-tych of the semi-final took the legs out of them for the last ten minutes yesterday, and holding no fear of (probably) Clare in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

The neutral sees The Great White (and Blue) Hope of hurling dispatch a dangerous foe with a late knock-out, thereby staying on track for a title shot. And the Munster Council watches another provincial championship close with its product in as robust health than ever.
Perhaps only the poor souls getting soaked through on the terrace had something to gripe about.

No doubt indignant Limerick correspondents will claim the right to be peeved at yesterday's events. After all, who loses a provincial final with a smile on their face, especially when 11 years have passed since they last won one? But in reality, they would be merely going through the motions of disappointment.

Limerick displayed the full range of their wares yesterday, and, for roughly sixty-two minutes of the seventy-odd, they proved sturdy and durable. Eventually, however, after enough wear and tear, the seams began to come apart. The denizens in green in Ardán Uí Riain might have cursed the skullduggery of the ref, but there will be few who left Thurles yesterday genuinely feeling their team had been in anyway pickpocketed of their rightful prize.

Yes, they will look at their wides tally (12 to Waterford's 9), and a number of goal chances passed up. But many of their wides were from speculative, long-range efforts, whereas Waterford missed some jaw-droppingly convertible chances from the usually safe hands of Eoin Kelly and Paul Flynn.

Maybe J.P. McManus (whose helicopter landed alongside Mary McAleese's in the greyhound stadium across from Semple, to accompanying cheers from the Limerick faithful for their tireless benefactor) will have been frustrated at the inability of his money to push his beloved county further toward the promised land. But, hey, if he wanted to buy success, the Premiership is that-a-way!

Going back to the neutral (that lowly knave whose ample backside took up the birthright of a deserving disciple of Munster hurling in the stand) and the bigger picture. Had Limerick's guerilla forces derailed the Waterford convoy yesterday, the blow to hurling's self-esteem would have been most untimely, given the tears shed over the past week for the state of things in that godforsaken province to the east.

As it is, Waterford remain the cause célebre for those who are weary of the sales pitch for Liam McCarthy's ribbons: any colour, so long as it's black, amber or red. They won't meet another team who'll challenge them with the close-in ferocity that Limerick did. Most of the scrappy, scrambly squabbles for possession seemed to conclude with a Limerick man emerging with his life and the ball, to the enthusiastic roars from the massed ranks on the town end.

But let Waterford hurl, and hurl they will. When play opened up, the Waterford instinct towards flair and style was irresistible, and where once the Semple field seemed as roomy as a rush hour train, soon its new vast expanses prompted a land grab by Déise forwards. And no man planted his flag more gleefully than Dan Shanahan, whose charismatic and colourful presence makes all the more perplexing the description of him having once been "shy".

The force of personality is strong in Waterford. A good thing too, for it's one thing that any championship winning team needs as much as the prerequisites of talent. A bit of star appeal is as useful in an All-Ireland contender as in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Probably the first time messrs Shanahan, Mullane and McGrath have been likened to Clooney, Pitt and Damon, but you get the point.

Labels: , ,

....Read more!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Déise To Handle Meaty Treaty

Ahem. Munster final tickets procured. And not take-your-chances-with-this-cataclysmic-weather terrace tickets either. The stand, no less. Ahem.

So what kind of Munster final will it be that I have robbed a ticket from a long-suffering Limerick hurling disciple for? What kind of game will the nonagenarian of failing health, whose only wish is to see Limerick win a Munster final before he passes on, be watching on the television? Will it be a classic, the final that the kid who spends every waking moment with his hurl in his hand dreaming of being like Andrew O'Shaughnessy will not get anywhere near?

Enough remorse? Good.

Limerick remain located in the happy, carefree kennels in which the underdog generally resides. They won the hearts of many with the moxie they displayed in coming back so often against Tipperary over the course of that riveting trilogy, and by the end of the third match had developed a force of will that Tipp were unable to quell. But despite growing as a team and finally putting that six-year winless run in the Munster Championship behind them, Waterford can rightfully expect to be considered a superior force.

Not that superior mind you. Rather like Liverpool in the Premiership, Waterford have inveigled their way into being included in "the top three" even though they haven't remotely looked like challenging "the top two" for the only honour that matters. In a hurling parallel to the Three Tenors - Pavorotti, Domingo and the other one - Waterford might share the stage, but there is no doubt who the heavyweights are.

Setting aside Sunday for a moment, many have invested great hope in Waterford this season, seeing them as the only realistic contenders to challenge that Kilkenny-Cork duopoly. However, having watched those latter two last weekend, neither look particular eager to allow the Déise county a slice of the action that has seen the last five All-Irelands greedily hoarded either Noreside or Leeside.

Still, a couple of provincial wins over Cork in recent seasons (including in the classic 2004 final - if Sunday's is half as good I'll care not a jot for expiring nonagenarians and teary-eyed urchins) and a general sense of being just short of at least getting to the céilí mór in September have made their cause a popular one to champion.

The view that this season is a case of "now or never" for Waterford is also a common one, however. With established stars like Paul Flynn, Ken McGrath, John Mullane, Eoin Kelly and Dan Shanahan reaching and passing various stages of maturity, it is probably fair to regard this Waterford side as being at its peak. There has been a self-possession about their two biggest performances this season - the league final win over Kilkenny and the Munster semi-final disposal of Cork - that suggest the many years of hard knocks have provided lessons well learned; a comparison with Armagh on the cusp of their All-Ireland title in 2002 is not too far off the mark.

For all Limerick's fire and brimstone (and to be fair, in the early part of the third Tipp game there was some magnificient hurling in evidence as well), their physicality and ability to prevent themselves being outhurled by making the game narrow and combative, Waterford would have regarded them as an eminently manageable obstacle had they been asked their opinion before the season's start.

Limerick have consistently enjoyed the momentum of positivity throughout the championship so far, due to their outlandish comebacks and also the fact that Tipperary's internal squabbles highlighted their opponents happy state of mind. But Waterford are in a different place than Tipp; beating Kilkenny and Cork over the space of a few months can only breed confidence. If they are men enough to handle Limerick's brawn, they should have the belief to take them through.

And hopefully the nonagenarian will pull through for another year at least.

Labels: , ,

....Read more!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

It's Stephen Roche!

Those who are sprightly of a weekend morning might tune in to 98FM's Now That's What I Call Sport on Sunday at 9am (listen online here). It's 20 years since Stephen Roche won the Tour de France, and to mark the anniversary I'll be interviewing the great man, hopefully to revisit that incredible Tour victory and to find out his thoughts on the current ravaged state in which the sport finds itself.

Here's a clip of his famous comeback on the climb to La Plagne. With his rival Pedro Delgado having taken a minute and a half out of Roche at one point, the Irishman came back to within four seconds of the Spaniard in a dramatic conclusion to the stage. Roche went on to take the yellow jersey in the final time trial of the tour, which he wore through the finish line on the Champs Elysée, where he found a waiting Charlie Haughey eager to provide his benediction.


....Read more!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Taxing Times Ahead For Leeds

The demise of Leeds United has been so prolonged and painful that most have stopped paying attention. Three years since their relegation from the Premiership, the club's plight is now so grave that their fans will greet the start of the club's Coca Cola League One program with relief, rather than despondency, for it will mean that Leeds have survived a precarious summer.

Shortly after their relegation from the Championship was all but confirmed, the directors of Leeds United placed the club into administration, thus incurring the Football League's ten point penalty and ensuring demotion. By going into administration, the club's chairman, Ken Bates, ensured that their £35 million worth of debts could be effectively wiped out.

With the agreement of 75% of the club's creditors, Leeds could then be sold to a new company, Leeds United Football Club Limited (one of the major directors of which is, of course, Ken Bates) via a CVA (Creditors Voluntary Agreement).

The fact that Bates himself was one of the club's major creditors, allied to his offer to pay off 1p in the pound of all debts owed to creditors, helped the sale proposal win the approval of 75.2% of the creditors at a meeting in May. Aside from the small creditors who would lose out (the majority of the funds were owed to Forward Sports Fund, of which Bates was a part), the other major loser in this deal was the Inland Revenue, which was owed £7 million in unpaid taxes. Her Majesty's tax collectors, however, were not quite so enamoured of Bates' plan.

Despite Bates raising his offer to creditors to 8p in the pound, the Inland Revenue announced yesterday that it would be launching a legal challenge to the CVA, therefore stopping the proposed sale until such time as the court case is resolved. The club's administrators, KPMG, will remain in control until then. However, should the courts rule that the club cannot be sold under the terms of the current proposal, and no alternative buyer can be found to make satisfactory reparations of the debts, then it is possible that Leeds United will be forced into liquidation.

As English football's top flight begins the first course of the lavish banquet served courtesy of the new Premiership television rights deals, Leeds' plight seems already to belong to another age. The brief interlude of financial caution that chilled the football world earlier this decade, as it became apparent that clubs could simply not borrow and spend endlessly, has given way to a new fiscal reality. For the top English clubs at least, it seems no longer necessary to have to speculate in order to accumulate: thanks to TV money, most have accumulated plenty before before a ball is even kicked.

Leeds' story now resembles the cautionary tales often told against pyramid schemes or bull share markets. Just at the time when it seems as if everyone is a winner, there usually has to be a loser. Of course, while the massive sums received by Premiership clubs from next season appear to provide insulation against cash flow problems, who would be surprised if the forthcoming seasons throw up another Leeds, a club which borrows on the basis of future good times which prove illusory?

The status of Leeds as the forgotten club of the Premiership's first boom-time might have a little to do with the fact that the club were always likely to be unlamented, given their general unpopularity with supporters of other teams. In fact, many supporters have expressed themselves positively chuffed at the idea that the Yorkshire giants might go to the wall, an extraordinary sentiment given that the club in question are one of English football's major outfits.

But perhaps the lack of attention on Leeds' travails is more akin to a case of a group of wealthy diners, who, when seeing a pauperised former member of their number outside in the cold, turn their faces away and change the subject.


....Read more!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Anatomy of a Transfer

Contract talks begin. Club makes "excellent offer". Agent refuses as "Gerrard has lost more than that down the back of his couch." Contract talks break down.

Manager questioned by media about rumoured bid from big time London club. Manager dismisses rumours as "blatant lies," informs media that "it's a disgrace, some of the rubbish you lot come out with."

Manager overheard on phone saying "tell you what Jose, throw in Geremi and I'll think about it."

Score winner in local derby to keep club out of relegation zone. Run to fans and kiss badge in celebration, but after turning back towards centre circle, do that pointing with thumbs to name on back of jersey thing, reaffirming status as 'the man' at club.

In post-match interview, refer to goal being "for fans". Wife calls, tell her goal is "for her". Agent calls, tell him goal is for him "to get me another 20k on my next contract".

Contract talks resume. Manager and chief executive refuse wage demands, complaining "that's Lucas Neill money you're talking there son!". Contract talks break down.

Tell media that you're sure that something will be worked out, that you love playing for club and are looking forward to winning things "for fans". Tell agent to "get me the hell out of this dump, I should be winning titles at this stage of my career."

Club in 15th place, safe from relegation, no hope of Europe. Manager under pressure after several seasons of underachievement, despite heavy investment from club's local pie magnate sugar daddy.

Questioned about pressure on manager, tell media that "the boys are all behind the gaffer, we have to take responsibility for our performances." Tell agent that "the fucker would have got the sack ages ago if it wasn't for me."

Inform teammates that you are running book on successor. Manager hears of players betting on his replacement. Sticks £500 on Keegan.

Contract talks resume again. This time chief executive accompanied not by manager, but by two men, one in leather jacket and shades, the other dressed neatly but with a scar across cheek. Man with scar translates wage demands to man in leather jacket. Argument ensues between them in strange language, during which man in leather jacket performs throat-slitting gesture. Finally, man in leather jacket removes shades and says "nyet". Contract talks break down.

Local pie magnate sugar daddy announces sale of club to man in leather jacket, informs media that man in leather jacket "supported the club as a boy in Turkmenistan". Manager expresses excitement at "being part of an exciting new era for the club". Man in leather jacket seen performing throat-slitting gesture.

With club now awash with man in leather jacket's money, visit manager's office in hope that inflated wage demands will now be met. Find manager sitting alone in empty office, cardboard box with belongings on desk, drinking whisky while tearily holding photo of himself with Rodney Marsh and Greavsie from 1970s. Contract talks, and manager, break down.

Holiday in Dubai interrupted by call from agent. Informed of Wigan's interest. Tell agent to hang tough, as you would "rather go back to that other shithole than go to Wigan."

Approached by holidaying fans in bar. Inform them that you would "be gutted if the club decided to sell me." Fans claim you are "legend" and vow to start campaign. Call agent. Still no other offers, "not even 'Boro."

Agent leaks rumour that Blackburn, Everton, Newcastle and "one of big four" have expressed strong interest. None deny due to proliferation of too many groundless rumours to deny all. Agent follows up with leaked rumour of enquiry from "unnamed Italian giant," assures you that "frenzy" about to commence.

Mark Hughes, David Moyes and Sam Allardyce meet at charity golf day; Hughes idly mentions their reported mutual interest. All laugh, call agent "shithead".

Sign for Wigan.

....Read more!

Monday, July 02, 2007

They Got Game

Isn't Killarney lovely? All the mountains and lakes you could want. Hotels, B & Bs and diddly-aye pubs as far as the eye can see. Enough Arran sweaters to clothe the entire North American continent. Lovely.

Fitzgerald Stadium? Just lovely too. It looks like a scene from one of the miniature snowshakers sold in the souvenir shops on Main Street. Like someone hand-painted a preposterously picturesque mountainy-lakey background onto a picture of a tidy provincial GAA ground in order to flog it to gullible Yanks.

And lovely football too! Of course, with such a setting, it's no wonder Kerry pride themselves on the aesthetically pleasing nature of their football. Perhaps, during a particularly free-flowing attacking move, the players are being subliminally inspired to create something as breathtaking as the MacGillycuddyreeks that occupy their peripheral vision. Certainly you can understand why the ugliness of blanket defence never truly found a home in the Kingdom; it would have been like putting a MacDonald's franchise in the sacristy of the Sistine Chapel.

If Kerry do feel a certain noblesse oblige to demonstrate the finer aspects of a game of which they are the masters, it's a responsibility that sits easily with their players. The purity of Gaelic football as played by Kerrymen emerges through the innateness of their skills. They are a testament to an uncomfortable truth for sporting ecumenists like me: that true mastery of a sport can only result from complete focus on it, without distraction from others.

Not that Kerrymen don't kick a soccer ball now again. And, of course, Kieran Donaghy has achieved the highest honours in Gaelic football only after initially excelling at basketball (and indeed as brought many of the skills of the latter to the former).

But your archetypal Kerry footballer seems to be spiritually in tune with the game in a way that suggests that call-up to the senior team requires one firstly to spend seven years in a Himalayan monastery with an order of Gaelic footballing Shaolin monks.

Colm 'Gooch' Cooper is, of course, the golden child in this particularly exclusive order. Yesterday was another addition to the long list of Gooch masterclasses. His goal was a classic demonstration of this higher level of understanding of the game that someone like Gooch possesses. His execution is almost always perfect, but the key to a piece of Gooch virtuosity comes in the milliseconds before the magic. The guy is quick with his hands and feet, yes, but also, more importantly, with his mind.

Gooch's footballing brain operates at a speed that goes beyond simple, quantifiable thought or decision-making processes. What he does is instinctive, like the way great songwriters often say that they feel as if they are simply plucking melodies from the air around them, so in tune with their muse are they.

Perhaps Gooch is an exemplar of what Malcolm Gladwell (the journalist and author of The Tipping Point) called "rapid cognition" in his follow-up book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, basically the idea that one's initial, instinctive judgement of a situation is generally the correct one. Gladwell believes that those who are successful can make snap judgements based on the correct evidence, discarding useless or irrelevant factors.

It was there in the pirouette for his goal; in the slide-rule foot-pass along the ground to Mike Frank Russell in the second half; in that moment in the first half when the massed Cork defence froze in front of his serene presence, and he unlocked them with a simple handpass that had been hithero invisible to any normal observer.

Gooch is only the finest exponent of this instinctive 'feel' for the game, but it's everywhere in the best Kerry footballers; in the way on Mark and Tomás ó Sé solo the ball as if it was just a normal part of running, or the way Darragh ó Sé fields, or Mike Frank shapes to shoot.

Lovely stuff.

Labels: ,

....Read more!