Monday, September 12, 2011

Liverpool reborn with the coming of a King

With the arrival of Kenny Dalglish last January, Liverpool FC has begun to show signs of recovery after a number of years in turmoil. The Gillett/Hicks years will be synonymous at Anfield with the demise of the club both on and off the field. A very public bitter feud between the two co-owners, involving former manager Rafa Benitez, threatened to drag the club into oblivion. The eventual forced sale to New England Sports Venture (NESV) and the appointment of Roy Hodgeson signalled a new dawning for the club. But the best laid plans don’t always pan out and, to the joy of the Kop faithful, Dalglish finally got the job he craved.

The acquisition of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, soon after Dalglish’s arrival, and the departure of Fernando Torres marked a changing of the guard at the Pool. The desired impact was not seen straight away. Thanks to the backing given to the manager this term, the shoots of revival have begun to show. Early close season signings of Adam, Downing and Henderson have helped to strengthen a lacklustre midfield and given it a more familiar flavour. All three are hard-working grafters, and although they will not set the world a light skill-wise they are the type of determined players that Liverpool need.
The change in style, attitude and focus that King Kenny has brought means that there is now potential for development at the club. A shot at winning the title may be just out of reach this year but a more realistic target of a return to the Champions League is believable. The reality for many Liverpool fans is that the likes of Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City will be pushing for the title this whilst Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs will be fighting it out for the fourth Champions League spot.

This will be no easy task, as even at this early stage, the Premier League looks to be shaping up for a very competitive season. Liverpool though are showing all the signs of a team on the up. They have signed some decent hard-working players and they have a good batch of young lads like Kelly and Flanagan coming through. But the truth is they are just not strong enough to be title contenders this season. They will push hard and at some stage may even be close to the top of the table. The lack of depth in the squad will eventually mean that when it comes to “squeaky bum time” they will have fallen back. Dalglish has won the league before, one of the few remaining managers left in the league who can boast that achievement. Given enough time he will bring Liverpool back within touching distance of the title thanks to his own inspirational and clever managerial style but also helped no end by the financial backing of the clubs new owners. If he can actually turn all this potential and backing into a league title remains to be seen. What can be seen though by everyone who knows football is that Liverpool are coming back.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ireland suffers world cup meltdown …….again!

After watching Ireland play USA in the Rugby World Cup my mind is immediately drawn back to France 2007. That couple of weeks brought tears to my eyes as we watched Ireland embarrass not only themselves but also the entire country.

Like someone finding out that their lover was cheating on them we felt betrayed. Ireland were at best desperate. It was the same old story of trying to force the game. Moves that at this stage should be cemented into the team’s game-plan are not coming off with no one seeming to know what the next person is going to do. Time and time again whenever a break would be made the Irish player would find himself isolated or at best poorly supported. A lack of belief or a lack of fitness led to the likes of Ferris and co. making line breaks only to find no one on their shoulder for the offload. After watching Sonny Bill Williams and the All Blacks showing how effective the off load can be you would think that the Irish would be a bit wiser.
Next week’s match against Australia is the most important game in Irish rugby arguably since the Grand Slam wining final against Wales in 2009. Victory against the Wallabies means a likely quarter final match up against Wales and then a possible semi-final against either France or England. Any of these opponents are beatable which means that the path to a World Cup final is laid out in its simplest form.
The highs of 2009 have barely been reached again under Declan Kidney and a lot of questions are being asked about this team’s psychological preparedness for this tournament. Ireland do not seem to be playing with any sense of cohesion or coordination. The backs lack creativity, the forwards are not communicating properly and for some reason the half backs are lacking the self-belief that has made the likes of Sexton, O’Gara and Reddan into household names.
Ireland have to rediscover that form. After the disaster that was 2007, rugby lost a bit of bit of its appeal to me. I was like a spurned lover. I didn’t want to get hurt again so I kept my emotions hidden and swore that I would never get too worked up over Ireland’s chances of the Six Nations or even beating France! Then 2009 came along and there is videos of me crying singing Fields of Athenry in the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, hugging two northern lads I had never met before ( and completely ignoring my long-sufffering wife who had actually paid for the trip!). So this World Cup finds me once again back in the same position as last time but with a slight difference; in that I am scared shitless to start believing again in case we get dumped on.
I do honestly believe that on their day Ireland are good enough to beat anybody and even go as far as progressing to a World Cup final. And I know I am not alone in that belief, even if few will admit to it openly. But as far the team getting over this mental block, I don’t know. Ireland will have to look deep down inside of themselves and ask those questions. Lads like O’Gara, O’Driscoll, Murphy and O’Connell and others are probably looking at their last World Cup. If they want to go out with heads held high then it better happen in the six day turnaround to next Saturday.

I swear to god my nerves can’t handle this anymore…..

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pedrosa wins German MotoGP

Dani Pedrosa

I just watched Dani Pedrosa win a very exciting MotoGP Deutschland race in Sachsenring. This was the first time I sat through a MotoGP race as I never really had an interest in the sport before. I have to say though it is very exciting and much more watchable then Formula One. Knowing a few of the big names like Casey Stoner and Valentina Rossi,  meant I paid close attention to their progress. Stoner started at the front of the grid and Rossi started at the rear, due to a fall he had in qualifying.
The race itself got off to a good start and Stoner, on his Honda, swapped places a couple of times, over the first few laps, with Jorge Lorenzo who rode for Yamaha. At the back Rossi was impressively making ground and by the half way mark he had made it up to 9th position. Considering he started from 16th this was an achievement as none of the riders competing at this level are anyway slouches.
As the race continued the primary focus was the duel between Lorenzo and Stoner, with Pedrosa rarely venturing out of third place. Rossi was getting bogged down in a battle with Alvaro Bautista on his Suzuki and Rossi’s Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden, for seventh place. But seemingly Rossi is having trouble with his bike and does not trust it completely. This led to a defining moment towards the end of the race. He had just got into seventh place with a brilliant manoeuvre when he over-braked at a corner which led to his two rivals slipping back in front. Bautista finished 7th and Hayden fractionally behind him, with Rossi then in 9th.
As the war between Stoner and Lorenzo continued upfront Pedrosa was patiently biding his time waiting for an opening. And at the final corner his patience paid off. A big push, on the inside of Stoner, saw Pedrosa fly into the lead and power across the line for the win. This was his fifth win at the eni Motorad Grand Prix Deutschland Sachsenning Circuit - to give the race its full title – and a very deserving win it was too. Pedrosa showed his intelligence and class throughout the race and has ensured that the championship will be a much closer fought affair.
The world standings now has Stoner leading with 168 points; Lorenzo in second on 153 points, as he also managed to pip Stoner to second at the flag today; Andrea Dovizioso is third on 132 points; Rossi fourth with 98pts and Pedrosa fifth on 94pts.
All in all it was extremely enjoyable and well worth watching. As the races are only 30 laps they don’t seem to have the endless banality of Formula One. There is not a lot of over talking from the commentators either. In fact they seem to enjoy just shutting up and listening to riders roar through the corners and straights.
The next race is the Red Bull US Grand Prix in California, next Sunday night at 10pm, our time and to tell you the truth I can’t wait.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Clash of Kings - reviewed

A Clash of Kings Book 2 of A Song of Ice and Fire By George R.R. Martin

Following on from the recent TV series A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings can be described in one word – bloody. This book starts with magic and murder; continues with murder, sex, torture, more murder, mayhem, sex, political intrigue, incest and oh yes more murder. This is the type of fantasy epic that would have Tolkien turning in his grave. Martin, who has frequently been compared to the creator of Middle Earth, spins a tale that draws you into his nets never to let you go.

His tales are told through the eyes of bastards, princes, queens and dwarves. All these tales combine to create a unique story leaving the reader itching for more. In fact no sooner had I bought the second book than out I went and got the third and fourth. Martin’s attraction is that he draws the reader into the lives of his protagonists. You genuinely begin to feel for his characters and yearn to find out what happens to them. That could be his secret and maybe his downfall.

Martin has created a world so large and intricate that at times it feels that he is struggles to get to the point of his story plot-wise. You cannot deny the quality of his writing ability but he seems unwilling want to leave any part out. “Through the steel and padding of his helm, he heard anguished screams, the hungry crackle of flame, the shuddering of warhorns and the brazen blasts of trumpets” This novel itself was over 700 pages long and is only the second book of seven. Book five is out this July having been delayed for many years. Martin’s soap opera type world is so interlaced with cliff hangers, mysteries and unfinished mini-stories that to finish it in just seven books seems like a mammoth task.

Martin does deserve the comparison to Tolkien even if his work is a bit more Hollywood. His creative ability and imagination are much to be admired. But like Tolkien his greatest pitfall could be that he might leave some of his best work unfinished, because of an unwillingness to complete it.

Queens visit

The Queen of Great Britain’s visit to Ireland last month was a landmark occasion in the history of this young Irish Republic.  For 700 years the people of this land lived, laboured and died in imposed bondage to the representatives of the English monarchy. Many times we rose in rebellion and tried gallantly to cast off the boot of our oppressors, which pressed down so heavily on our necks.
An ability to never know when we were beaten, married with the patriotic vision of those rebels who died almost a hundred years ago, eventually won us our independence.  So when the British monarch came and laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance on that historic Tuesday in May, it is hopeful to and necessary to believe that we have finally put the ghosts of our past to rest.
Why is this necessary? Because the future of this worthy land of ours will forever be linked in some way to the country of our nearest neighbours. No more are we the small child in the playground to be bullied and kicked around by the big kid. Small we may be but we turned and fought and more than bloodied the nose of our aggressor. The laying of that wreath signified there is a respect for our prowess and ability to fight when we have to. And what greater cause is there to fight and die for, than the freedom of one’s country? Nationalists up and down the country should rejoiced when that wreath was laid for at last we were being treated, beyond reasonable doubt, as equals by our former oppressors.
The links between our two nations should be nourished and kept strong because of this visit.  No longer do we have the inferiority complex which plagued us; we are a strong but welcoming nation. To see Queen Elizabeth respecting rebels, who fought and died against her predecessors’ throne, should make us all that little bit prouder to be Irish
At this time in our history we should be proud of what we have achieved and the future to which we march towards. We will never forget but we can always forgive.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I have been threatening, for a while now, to start writing a blog but for the life of me I couldn't begin to know where to start so I decided to just throw myself into it and start with one of my favourite topics: Gaelic football.
My own experiences with the game have moved on now from playing to coaching and I have found that my love for the game has not deminished but in fact increased to a level more than I could have conceived just a few short years ago.Coaching I have found is a lot more than just turning up once or twice a week, roaring at a few young lads, getting them to run through a few basic short drills and finishing up with a quick, small sided game. This was in fact the way I did start in first year with my local club Multyfarnham here in Westmeath. But I suppose I was just looking after the Under Tens and the basics was all those young lads needed. Coaching I have found is about developing players to get their technique right firstly, then getting them thinking tactically and finally, by association with the coach, strategic use of players strengths
In my second year I helped out with the Minors and Under Sixteens alongside another couple of mentors( to use the current terminology). The younger lads weren't too bad but I didn't think they had much of a chance at the time, the older lads did show some potential but were a lazy bunch who needed an awful lot more work. The first couple of games we went out with no game plan or tactics and concurrently our training sessions had not been based on playing a certain style. Suffice to say we got hammered in every game, badly. Surprisingly enough though the young lads went on - after losing their first game - to put a bit of run together winning three games on the trot.

We then decided to change the way we coached the lads; concentrating on hard tackling, tight marking, quick passing and basically the long ball this coupled with the fact that in the height of summer we were able to go out and train three nights a week. After about five or six weeks of this the boys were tackling tough, running hard and fit as fiddles. But also they were getting plenty of ball work in training. We didn't know for sure if they had progressed enough but by the time the minor championshiop came around we managed to win our first game at minor level for nearly four years! We then went on to win another game, received the points from a walkover and ended up in the semi final. We didn't win but we gave it a hell of a go. It was all down to the way we had concentrated more on what we were doing in training, we wanted a style of football to play so we tailored our sessions to develop that style.

Coaching lads to play football is a lot more than people think, a lot of work has to go into it and I suppose it helps to have a lot of passsion for it as well. I suppose what I am trying to say is that there is a lot more to it than what meets the eye and that you have to admire the top coaches, no matter what the sport, for their achievements and their all round brilliance because from my own experience it's not easy and bloody hard work!