Sunday, 27 December 2009

Ballinastoe Bruiser

With most folks out of town for the holidays, there was only one other eejit up for a post-Xmas spin to Ballinastoe in Co. Wicklow. It's the only MTB park in Leinster, and I hadn't been in months. Malcolm - Richenda's brother - is a roadie by trade, but not too shabby on the knobblies either. We knew it was going to be cold, so it was balaclavas, ski gloves and layers on at the car park, as a quick snow flurry came through. By coincidence, Richenda's father Roger and other brother, and their crew - the 'Green Monks' - came upon us as we were gearing up and headed off up the track. Hopefully we'd catch up and give them a scare later - the cheek of them, hiking in a mountain-bike park.

So off we went, and weren't 50m. in when I noticed Malcolm and bike on the ground. Not unusual, but was surprised how quickly he'd come off, even for him. Was in mid-chuckle when my bike spun 90 degrees and I was off quicker than I knew what was happening. Half stood up, but the feet went from under me and I was down again, this time flat on my front and cracking my cheekbone off the ground. By now I'd noticed the 1/2 inch layer of sheet ice across the track. Aaaaahhh. Treacherous and completely unridable. This was going to be the shortest spin in history. Back to the car?

We decided to have a go at the single-track instead, that is to try the route in reverse. It was OK to start, then more and more icy patches, not snow which would have been fine. The higher we went the more Malcolm was compelled to get to the top and in fairness we were getting the hang of it now and it seemed worse lower down for some reason. Lots of walkers around, not a single biker yet. Hmmm.

Got to the highest point of the day, having decided to pass on the topmost loop. But still about 600m elevation, and rode out to the viewing point at Pier Gates for great views of Luggala and Lough Tay (the Guinness family estate). Wind was howling and bitterly cold here, no hanging about now. The boardwalks up to Djouce were iced over - surely the Monks hadn't come up here? That looked like them up higher, but we couldn't be sure.

Down now for the next two trails, singletrack - in the trees was fine - no snow or ice. But out in the open, and away from the sun, it was just an ice rink. Climbing was always going to be easier in these conditions. 100% concentration needed, keep the wheels turning, easy on the brakes, no sharp turns or you lost the front wheel. Another silly spill, nice bump on the left shin. Back to the wider forest track and one last climb before the drop for the carpark. Edge to edge was glistening, but still easier to ride than walk having tried the latter.

Came across our first biker of the day, on his own - nutter. Now we were back on the original trails, in reverse so we knew what was ahead. It was straightforward enough and made it back in one piece. Bruised, battered bodies, and happy to be in one piece. 'Enjoyed' is probably too strong a word. We now watched a couple of groups heading off - most looking hopelessly ill-prepared, some even without helmets (jaysus) and watched the carnage at the same spot we'd spilled earlier, having ignored and laughed off our warnings.

Met Roger later that evening - he was the only old-timer in his crew to make it up Djouce, and having made it back down he spilled at the last hurdle literally yards from safety - where we'd creased ourselves hours before. He mentioned he'd be sleeping on one side for a week or two. A tough old boot, they don't make 'em like they used to...

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Women's world champ beats Men's world champ

The women's world snooker champion, Reanne Evans, beat the men's world snooker champion, John Higgins, 4-3, in the six ball world snooker championship in Killarney, Ireland.

John wasn't firing on all cylinders after the week he's just had but you have to take advantage. This is one of my best ever wins. John is world champion, provisional world number one and will always be remembered as one of snooker's greatest players. I was pleased with how I finished it off. There were a lot of people watching but that helped me to play well rather than put me under pressure.
Yahoo Sports

Sunday, 6 December 2009

6 Red Snooker World Championship

The first 6 Red Snooker World Championship, created by Ken Doherty, with seemingly 13 of the world's top 16 players arriving in Killarney for the four-day event, is running from December 15 to 18, right here in Ireland.

Competition details. Eurosport are covering it on the last 2 days, Thursday and Friday.

Jimmy might finally win a world professional title! This is too good a chance to miss - anyone want to join me in Killarney on Friday December 18th?

Irish Independent article

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Can McIlroy pull it out of the fire?

Moving to a sport about as far removed from professional football in every respect. Where cheating is just about unheard of, and players are known to call penalties on themselves as a matter of course. Rory McIlroy leads the European Order of Merit going into the final tournament in Dubai, this weekend. He's had a real ding-dong battle with Lee Westwood this year, leapfrogging him to the top spot only last week. But a triple bogey finish in his 3rd round now leaves him 5 behind the "veteran" Westwood, going into the final round. It's not over, but certainly a long-shot now. It's still been an incredible season from the Co. Down man, earning over €2.5 m in 2009, having only turned pro 2 years ago. (He is 20 years younger than yours truly!). Incredibly, Harrington has only won the Order of Merit once in his career (2006). Before that, you have to go back to '89 for Ronan Rafferty's win. In between, Monty won 7 times in a row, then a 6 year gap to win it again the year before Harrington. Maybe Padraig - level with McIlroy in Dubai now - can do McIlroy a favour by reeling in Westwood, who is guaranteed the Order of Merit if he wins this tournament. The incentive to win the Race to Dubai? A cool €1m prize money to top off the season. Nice.

Irish Times report here

Friday, 20 November 2009

Ban Henry for 8 months - A logical argument

[This was written by my brother Jonathan]

I am an amateur footballer and have played competively every season for the last 24 years. I play both gaelic football and (soccer) football. Being an amatuer means I play the game for the love of the game. To play professionally was always a dream of mine (and still is!). Nevertheless I train hard and play fair every week. I would like to take this opportunity to knock a few holes in the arguments of those who cannot or will not accept the blatent reality that Henry is a cheat, did cheat intentionally, and in the interest of football and sport in general should be banned from competitive action for at least 8 months.
First lets look at his statement and analyse its implications -
“I will be honest, it was a handball. But I’m not the ref. I played it, the ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.”.
Ok, so by that logic Henry is saying it is perfectly acceptable to cheat if you feel you have a chance of getting away with it, and it is the responsibility of the officials to determine who is cheating and who is competing fairly.
Therefore fair play is optional and at the discretion of the player, while justice is ambiguous and prone to misjudgement and human error.
Are we living on the same planet?
Graeme Souness says "it wasn't intentional, we've all done it, if you've been a professional for five minutes everybodies done it"
So by that logic to move from being an amateur to a professional one must accept and indeed practice the art of cheating. This is the same man who week in and week out slates the likes of Didier Drogba for diving, yet in this instance he has shown his true colours. He believes in cheating, he considers it necessary for professional sport.
Kevin Doyle (surprisingly) says "its a natural reaction, i don't blame the player, if he's done it and got away with it fair dues to him"
Perhaps Kevin is being overly generous, he himself is the epitomy of honesty and I do not believe for a second that had he been in that position he would have done the same. However he lives in a world where cheating is clearly endemic and seems to be brainwashed into believing in the logic of Henrys argument outlined above.
Kevin Kilbane says 'its not so much Theirry Henry, its the officials, the official should have seen it"
I am often accused of swimming against the tide, well so be it, I believe that cheating is cheating, it is totally dishonest and is the total responsibility of the perpetrator and not the officials charged with refereeing the affair. Would you excuse a blatant murderer, whom everyone knew was guilty and who admitted the offence simply because his trial collapsed on a technicality, i think not?

Now lets look at FIFA and the 'Fair Play' movement
Quoting directly from the FIFA Fair Play website...
"The Fair Play Campaign was conceived largely as an indirect result of the 1986 FIFA World Cup™ in Mexico, when the handball goal by Diego Maradona stimulated the admirable reaction of the England coach, Sir Bobby Robson" and "the campaign has...the unconditional support of ...current [FIFA] President Joseph S. Blatter"
...and from the Fair Play Code...
"1. Play Fair...Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame. Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly."
"3. Observe the Laws of the Game"
"5. Promote the interests of football ... Think of football's interests before your own. Think how your actions may affect the image of the game.... Encourage other people to watch and play fairly."

Henry has clearly cheated, yet he has laid the blame at the feet of the referee, he has not observed the laws of the game and he has certainly not promoted the interests of football, in fact what he has done is encourage others to cheat if necessary and deflect responsibilty onto others.

He has clearly brought the game of footbal into disrepute.

"9. Denounce those who attempt to discredit our sport ... Do not be ashamed to stand up to anybody who you are sure is trying to make others cheat or engage in other unacceptable behaviour. It is better to expose them and have them removed before they can do any damage. It is equally dishonest to go along with a dishonest act. Do not just say no. Denounce those misguided persons who are trying to spoil our sport before they can persuade somebody else to say yes."

The Fair Play Campaign has the unconditional support of President Sepp Blatter. The argument is therefore clear and unambiguous, he must impose the principles of Fair Play if he is to have any credibility, he must remove Henry from football before he can do any [more] damage'.

The length of the ban is discretionary but at the very least it must include the World Cup, after all what meaning will a few flags with Fair Play written on them have at the greatest show on Earth if the men standing behind the flag are none other than Thierry Henry and Sepp Blatter?

If Blatter does not take the necessary action then it is he who must be removed from football be fore he can do any more damage!!!

Paris, the fallout. What next?

Do any of you really think we should be taking to the streets, and marching on Zurich, to demand a replay? There is nothing in the rulebook to say this is likely to happen - this is not Clare-Offaly in '98. Referees and linesmen make mistakes all the time, it just happens that the consequence of this particular calamity is that France are going to the World Cup, and we are not. Brian Cowen has no place getting involved - this is a populist move by him, just saying what he wants us all to hear. If anything good comes of this, there is now pressure building to introduce video analysis and the Henry incident might be the catalyst. If in addition FIFA condemned what he did, and then put their words where there mouths are by banning him for the next (say) six World Cup matches his team plays - then I think that would be a result. I am as gutted as anyone else at what happened, but let's be honest - there are plenty of other reasons to be taking to the streets in these times.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Football is a laughing stock in 2009

Association Football is now a laughing stock to the world. It's 2009 and FIFA are not using technology like other sports.

Using video replay are: Tennis, Rugby Union, NBA Basketball, NHL Ice Hockey, MLB Baseball, Rugby League, NFL American Football, Cricket, Rodeo, NASCAR motor racing.

The NFL first started experimenting with instant replay in 1986, 23 years ago. In the world cup final in 1966, it was England 2 Germany 2 after 90 minutes. In extra time Geoff Hurst took a shot at goal and the ball hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced down, a controversial goal. It's unfathomable that 43 years later, with so many sports having very successful adopted instant replay, that soccer still has this same problem unresolved.

Henry said he told the ref. Let's set some precedent now FIFA for once, like Liam Brady says let's have a replay on French soil.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Yankees look unstoppable

Andy Pettitte

The Yankees won the last of their 26 World series with a trepeat victory in 2000 under Joe Torre. Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, let Tore go in 2007, going stingy on the contract package, disgraceful but typical Steinbrenner behaviour, dissing Torre's 4 world series, 10 division titles and .606 winning percentage with the Yankees over 12 seasons. Torre now manages the Dodgers and took them to this year's National league championship where they were beaten 4-1 by the current Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, denying him a match up with the Yankees at the big show. Since the Yankees last won there have been 7 different world series winners, including incredibly both sox and the Florida Marlins.

The Yankees pitching won them the American league Championship series over the LA Angels, with A-Rod steeping up as well, batting .438 with five homers and 12 RBIs, to win his first trip to the big show. Andy Pettitte pitched into the 7th inning to clinch the league and now has the most postseason wins in the history of Major League Baseball with his 16-9 record - during the period from 1995–2009, no major league pitcher has accumulated more victories. Closer, Mariano Rivera, added to his legendary status with two saves in the series, increasing his postseason-record to 37 overall. Starting pitcher CC Sabathia, who won the Cy Young with Cleveland Indians in 2007, won the MVP with two victories. Sabathia, who has a career batting average of .300, wants to hit against former teammate, 2008 Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, in the world series.

The Yankees, who won 103 games this season (.636), have home advantage for the world series which begins on Wednesday, Oct 28. Looking through the lineup, they may just have the best team off all-time.

Friday, 23 October 2009

The sky walker

I've known about Dean Potter as an unreal solo climber and one of the last standing it seems with legends dying off.

  • Derek Hersey, a legend in Boulder, died in 1993, getting caught in a flash rain storm soling on El Cap.

  • Todd Skinner died in Yosemite in 2006 when the belay loop on his harness failed.

  • Michael Reardon was washed away by a rogues wave in Valentia, Co. Kerry in 2007
  • This year one of the alltime legends, John Bachar, died soloing in California at the age of 52.

I heard about a current Channel 4 series, Daredevils this week and last night watched "Sky Walker" online, the episode on Dean Potter Slacklining - walking across a tightrope with no pole or safety line at huge heights.

Sky Walker and other episodes can be watched for another 11 days online with Channel4 on demand available to watch in Ireland.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Combined ski-wingsuit-base jumping

Extreme sports: the Rise and Fall of Shane McConkey
Observer, 18 Oct 2009

Irish skateboarding

Irish times article from 17 Oct 2009.

Timeline’ is an exhibition of documentary photographs about skateboarding in Ireland by Richard Gilligan. Through a mixture of portraiture, action and small everyday moments ‘Timeline’ gives an insight into life as skateboarder in Ireland from the inside out. Shot over the past 14 years, this show is a visual journey of one photographers view of life both on and off his board.

The exhibition will open Tuesday 3rd of November at PLANE/SITE Gallery on Lad Lane, Dublin 2 at 7pm and will run until Sunday the 8th of November.

Hurling county medal at 48

Damien Fox (48) won an Offaly senior hurling medal with Offaly today as Tullamore claimed their first Offaly title in 45 years as they beat Kilcormac/Killoughey 2-12 to 0-11.

They beat St Ryanagh's and Birr on the path to the final.

Sunday tribune article on Damien Fox on 11 October 2009

October means one thing

Baseball playoffs.

I was hooked when I saw Cecil Fielder (Big. Very big. Positively Fat. Past it. But still well able to hit the ball) hit a home run for the Yankees in the '96 playoffs on the way to taking the World Series under Joe Torre. Now Torre is managing the LA Dogers in the National League Conference finals against the current champions, Philadelphia Phillies.

More so than any team sport, this is a series of man to man confrontations where there is nowhere to hide. This is when true winners stand up and are counted and average players with good regular season stats are found out.

Yankees game 2 against LA Angels started at 1am last night in a cold, wet and windy Yankee Stadium. Great pitching duel was tied 2-2 after 9 innings to send the game into extra innings. Angels get a run in the top of the 11th - then Alex Rodriguez hits the tying run on a 0-2 count in the bottom of the 11th. No scores in the 12th, Angels fail to score in top of 13th.

Bottom of the 13th, Yankees 1 out with runners on 1st and 2nd. Easy hit to the second baseman Izturis should ensure that the both runners advance and batter will be out. However, in a moment of madness, he throws wildly to second base in hope of getting two outs - flies over the shortstop at second and Yankess bring one home. Cue massive celebrations after a marathon 5 hour 10 minute game.

Just one of the fantastic finishes we have seen in the American and National League Championships. Unpredictable, nerve-racking with key games decided both on moments of genius and schoolboy errors. Only pity is the timing of the games - I just tell myself that I'm practicing for the imminent arrival of the baby!

Monday, 21 September 2009

The sun always shines in West Cork. Eventually.

We didn't head to West Cork - the Sheep's Head peninsula to be exact - for the weather. So three days in, it wasn't the biggest surprise that it had rained almost incessantly. Chilling out after Electric Picnic, and the long drive down, was all very well - but cabin fever was beginning to set in & I was nearly through my first book. Tuesday night, we went for a stroll from the house - was that the sun we saw setting?

Next morning, we awoke to glorious sunshine and blue skies. Big breakfast, made packed lunch, bikes on the car-rack and we headed towards Crookhaven to a spot we'd biked around before. The roads there are fairly quiet & it's not too hilly - Ruby adds 20kg to my load, so it's a good workout.

Up and over towards Barley Cove, beautiful beach, but not safe to swim I'm told. Richenda took this picture of cows being driven across the lagoon, a bizarre sight - particulary the crazed farmer who abandoned his car in the middle of the road - door still swinging open of course - and started chasing what we can only presume (or hope) were his own cattle.

We were getting close to Mizen Head now, but had been a couple of times - it's really just a carpark, so why not try something different? I had an OS map so picked another route. We probably didn't see another car again, good move. Half hour later through spectacular farmland -
with the obligatory crazed sheepdogs - and coastline, we came to this - Dunlough Bay.

Time for lunch.

Saw a huge seal - he came right in to check us out.

There was a slipway here - chatted to a lad who told us that this is where the huge cocaine haul happened a couple of years ago. That'll be the last time yer man puts diesel into a petrol engine.

There was a closed gate here with signs - No Camping; No Cars etc. Spoke to the farmer who had no problem with us biking on through his land. I guess farmers get a bad rap in relation to access - The Bull up at Ben Bulben comes to mind (I think he just shoots hikers) - but shure they're not ALL bad. We soon abandoned the bikes, and the pace slowed as we negotiated the trail which seemed to heading towards a well-known (to tourists anyway) castle. Up over the ridge, and there it was - right on the coast, steep cliffs behind, and in front of a lake. One of the nicest places I've been in Ireland, and not a person in sight. On a bit further, carrying Aster on my shoulders now, and keeping well away from the edges.

Stayed as long as we could, and headed back to the bikes. Knew we'd have to negotiate those sheepdogs on the return trip. I let Richenda go first, knowing that the second bike through had more chance of being chased - sure enough, she was around the corner before the dogs knew what was happening. But, they had me well lined up - very quiet they were too, always a worry. I couldn't really swing a boot at them with Ruby sitting at the back, so it was head down, and a bit of roaring (after trying Nice Doggy first) and we were through. Whew.

If you've never been to Crookhaven, it's probably the nicest village in the country. Set right in a harbour, with views to Fastnet Rock and Cape Clear on one side, and gannets diving in the bay on the other. O'Sullivans pub is on the quayside. A little beach there for the girls to play in, and we settled in for probably the nicest pint of stout I've ever had - I tried ordering a Guinness, and the landlord mumbled something about that "foreign beer". What else could I do?

A perfect day, and it wasn't over yet. I would have been happy with one of these days, but we had four more before leaving on Sunday. Jammy feckers, I know...

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Philip Deignan wins a Grand tour stage

Philip Deignan won the 165km 18th stage at the Vuelta a España on 17 September. He becomes only the 5th Irishman to win a stage in a Grand tour after Elliot, Roche, Kelly and Earley, 17 years since the last, in the tour in 92 by Roche.

He has a while to go before he matches Sean Kelly 16 Vuelta a España stage wins, who won his first at 23 with Deignan now 26.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Bolt repeats Olympic feat

Usain Bolt repeated his Olympics feat by winning both the 100m and 200m at the World Championship in Berlin in world records times. Seemingly his motor bike crash in April affected his 200m training but not his 100m. He was still able to run it in 19.19 seconds — taking 0.11 seconds off his own World Record.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Perfect game

A perfect game is when a pitcher allows no player to reach base, so they can't can't allow any hits, walks, or hit batsmen. So, by definition, a perfect game must be both a no-hitter and a shutout. 27 up, 27 down.

The feat has been achieved only 18 times in the history of major league baseball, 7 of which have happened in the 20 years I've been following the beautiful game.

On July 23, 2009, Chicago White Sox leftie pitcher Mark Buehrle pitched the 18th perfect game in major league history (his 2nd no-hitter). Amazingly it was the very first game he had worked with the catcher. He was assisted by a wall-climbing catch to record the first out in the 9th inning and rob a home run which would have ruined the perfect game.

On July 28, Buehrle followed up with another 5 2/3 innings of perfection to set the major league record for consecutive batters retired at 45.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Waterford city trails

Today was Irish Bike to work day but with the torrential this morning I wendied out. Rime to put the balance right with an evening ride.

After a 4.5 hour Yugma conference with San Francisco finished at 20.30, I wanted to clear the head and taking advantage of the great long evenings, 40 minutes later I was on the bike. Trying to follow McG's example and get a weekly evening ride in, I've been linking up trails I've been walking with Malie by the river and exploring more too. After 8 minutes on the road I'm tucking down into some gorgeous singletrack through Goffs Woods by the River Suir. This only lasts 2 or 3 minutes but leads onto a tasty paved track around the King's Channel peninsula. Past the spot where I recently had a picture taken with John Gormley.

I was promoting Waterford bringing the River Suir back to the people with local election green candidate, Maria Raftis-Kennedy, and she had an opportunity to show John Gormley one thing and decided to go with the river walk trail I was promoting.

However the proposed linear river walk is blocked in a number of places by private residences, including a jetty - e.g. at the west end of Goffs woods, where I started the singletrack tonight is a fence which has been erected for some time, completely blocking the trail.

Actually the Waterford City council have included in the last few city development plans, a riverside “corridor” from the Marina Hotel out to the far reaches of Waterford Castle island. Indeed looking at the current plan it lays out an objective in section 2.4.5 “ To provide for a riverside Walk and cycleway along the southern bank of the Suir from Canada Street to Blenheim”

But I digress. Onto some more nice track through the trees leads onto the approach road for the Waterford Castle Island ferry. I wave at the captain who waves back, for the first time I am the only one on board.

A short 100m off the ferry and I am onto a perfect trail through the trees, immediately on entering the birds are in full song and it reminds me of entering the rain forests in New Zealand, no birds there just an overriding sense of peace. A short section thought the trees on the south side of the island and then up on the west for a bit before it runs out at the golf course and I turn around. Back on the mainland I pass the road I went up last Wednesday night, and ended up with a bloody knee after going over the handlebars riding blind on a short steep bit of singletrack I came across.

I tried another road and this lead me into another section of the track I had walked with Malie. I was on dirt now and passed a short steep dirt drop coming out from some trees above. I kept going 'til the trail ran out in Bleinheim and checked the computer, 10K. Coming back I saw some kids disappear at the side of the fence and turned back to try that way. It lead me to the top of the drop off. I stopped for a look. It was too steep to walk down, bugger it, I'll drop it.....should have lowered my saddle, need to move the quick release off my hard tail. It was the weirdest endo ever. My back wheel was in the air, bike pointing vertically down and my shoe came out of the pedal and as the bike momentarily stopped my toes were in the spokes of the front wheel. Then I came forward and fell on my, now in ice, knee.

The kids must have heard something and appeared shouting down are you all right? I'm grand I said, I just hurt my goolies. Damn that crossbar. A couple of minutes later I was back on the bike and noticed the break lever was pointing straight up!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Stretch in the Evenings

You've just got to love these long summer evenings, and I've been trying to get out for a midweek pedal every week. So last night, left home at 9 for a quick spin. I had in mind to check out a new (walking) trail I'd spotted last time out. It was about half way through my loop, at the highest point. A new 400 m. boardwalk through the trees to an unremarkable peak called Cruagh Mountain. The walkway was built with railway sleepers, two in parallel, climbing with a step more or less on each pair of sleepers. In other words, it wasn't possible to ride up.

So a 10 minute push & lift brought me to the top. Obviously the intention was to turn around and ride it straight down again. Obviously keeping an eye out for any poor walkers who might be about, but I hadn't seen a single person since leaving the house. A couple of tricky corners, maybe a bit too fast here and there, but managed to make it down without stepping off or catapulting into the bog below. I was also counting the steps as I went - I suppose it would have been easier to do so on the way up. 110, for the record. Great buzz, have to try that again. A prime spot for some youtube moments using the new helmet headcam we brought to Wales.

Downhill all the way home now, and noticing that the air was thick with what I first thought was drizzle. But I soon realised that rain doesn't itch and that the entire forest was literally swarming with tiny flies. It was a warm, humid evening, and it seemed that every midge in the Dublin mountains had decided to hatch all at once. Thankfully, I had my Sliders to hand - yellow lenses already in place - and popped them on. In general, handy for protecting the eyes from twigs and branches when in the trees.

It's not unusual to see deer around here, usually small sikas - especially at sunset. But nearly ran over a big stag, just standing in the middle of the track - big antlers on him. A brief staring match ensued, before he thought better of messing with me and scaled a fence, bounding away. No more than a minute later, a fox ran across straight in front of me.

An eventful night in the hills. Enough reason to post a blog? Why not....

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The madness must end

In 1992, Sir Alex bought Keano for £3.75m from Brian Clough. Now Real Madrid have bought Ronaldo from United for £80m. Man City can buy anyone for cash and double their wages. The madness has to stop!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Federer on his own

He did it!! Roger Federer won the French open. There is no doubt that Federer will win another grand slam and have the all-time record, which he now shares with Sampras (14), on his own.

Federer has collected his 14 major championships in 40 grand slam tournaments at the age of 27. Sampras beat Andre Agassi in the 2002 US Open final at 31 in his last match and 52nd grand slam.

Pete Sampras - "What he's done over the past five years has never, ever been done – and probably will never, ever happen again. Regardless if he won there or not, he goes down as the greatest ever. This just confirms it." (source : Guardian)

Federer still has records to chase. The ultimate I suspect will be the golden career slam, adding the Olympic singles title at Wimbledon in 2012. Federer will be 31 then. Agassi won his last Grand slam in Australia, when he was 32. Sampras and Connors won the US Open at 31. After that the only record remaining is to win all 4 grand slams in the same year, like Laver (63 and 69) and Budge.

With Nadal on the scene I wouldn't have thought these additional feathers in his cap possible, but with patellar tendonitis having reared it's head for Nadal, one of sports greatest rivalries might be denied it's expected ongoing culminating battles.

Nadal (seeing a specialist in Barcelona) did not watch the final. "I will send Roger my congratulations," he said. "He deserves to win it more than anybody else." (source : Guardian)

Friday, 5 June 2009

Laver, Perry, Emerson, Budge, Agassi....

Perhaps the writing was on the wall. A couple of weeks ago, Federer, who hadn't won a title all year and had lost five straight matches to Rafael Nadal, including the first major of the year, the Australian Open final in January, beat Nadal on clay to win in Spain.

Last Sunday, 31 May 2009, Nadal was beaten for the very first time at the French Open by 24 year old Swede Robin Söderling, in his 32nd game there. It was the first time he was beaten in a clay court five setter after winning the previous 48. Söderling is still on course to meet Federer in the final, provided both of them win their semi finals.

All of a sudden Federer, who in last year's final with Nadal won only four games, sees his chance to become the sixth player in history to win all four grand slam events. Joining Pete Sampras on 14th grand slams is entirely secondary at this point.

Allez Roger!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Biking etc.

Irish lad just came 2nd in the Tour de Catalunya... to a drugs cheat. Only 15 seconds behind.

"Earlier in the day Alejandro Valverde, who is ranked among the leading riders in the world but could not compete in the Giro because of a drugs ban, took overall victory in the Tour of Catalunya in Spain. Valverde completed the week-long course with a 15-second advantage over runner-up Daniel Martin of Ireland."

More on this and the Giro here.

Also, you may have heard that Garbhán's brother-in-law, Paul Healion, won a stage of the Milk Rás last week. He looks pretty happy crossing the line - scroll down here.

On a related topic, I came 49th of 90+ riders in a mountain-bike race a couple of weeks ago. I think I'll stick to the day job.

Monday, 25 May 2009

United: The Golden Era

"Manchester United is my home. My heart is here. This is where I want to play. The boss believes in this team and so do I."

“We are part of an era that can go down in history for the way we are playing and for the trophies we are winning. The boss believes in this team and so do I. And this is where I want to be.”

“Ever since I joined United the manager has been like a father. No matter how good I become, I know he is a man who will always be able to teach me that little bit more. I don’t just respect him, I have the affection for him a child has for his father.”

Sources: Ronaldo in Guardian & Irish Times

Thursday, 21 May 2009

John O'Shea to start in Champion's League Final

"John O'Shea is an unsung hero like Denis Irwin. We used to say about Denis he was an eight out of 10 every week. But he didn't get the celebrity. John O'Shea falls into that category. Because of the injuries to Gary Neville and Wes Brown this year, he has become a permanent fixture. He takes his place in Rome because of his effort. He's ahead of everyone now."

Source: Alex Ferguson in Guardian

Champions League quarter-final 2003

Updated 26 May O'Shea the man for all seasons - James Lawton in the Irish Independent

Thursday, 30 April 2009

The state of snooker 2009

The four snooker semi finalists have 25 centuries between then, including 8 from Mark Allen. Can he rekindle the spirit of Dennis in '85 this weekend?

Two of the semi finalists, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy are joining Ken Doherty and Jimmy White in Killarney in 2 weeks time, on 17 May, for a World Series of Snooker event. See ye there!

John Higgins beat Mark Selby in the quarters in a replay of the 2007 final. The 13-12 result was as close as it gets. Mark Selby had 10 centuries in the tournament and is surely the best performer ever to go home before the one table setup. John Higgins comments after the match are a great summary of the state of snooker in 2009.

"I really don't know how I won. My concentration has been great, and during the match I was trying to concentrate on how many balls Mark missed. I only counted 3 or 4 during the whole match, the other times he ran out of positon through bad luck, so to beat him I'm flabbergasted because he's such a great player. It's my best win ever, definitely."

"That shows how highly I regard Mark and his performance, I'm not just saying that because it's after the match. When we had the 2 reracks, he said let's call it a draw because there shouldn't be a loser, and I said you're dead right mate. I don't know how I held myself together on that last break."

"If can't take confidence from beating Jamie Cope and Mark, I never will."

"I kept thinking why does Mark always do this against me? Only Ronnie playing great stuff has stopped him winning another Masters, and the UK when he made a 147 in the last frame. It speaks volumes that only Ronnie has been able to stop him. I could tell after the 2007 final, I said he'll come back and win this, because he's improved beyond belief over the last 2 or 3 years."

"I know I'm the oldest player left and I look it with the grey hair! I heard Ronnie saying that we're hanging on with our fingertips, and that's what myself, Ronnie and Mark Williams are doing. Stephen doesn't need to because he's got 150 grand in his pocket. We were the best players of the late 90s, and now in late 2000s we're hanging on to compete, because Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Stephen Maguire, Mark Allen and Jamie Cope, they are the future and that's what happens, it's father time. The likes of John Parrott and Jimmy White were hanging on when we were coming through."

"I kissed my wedding ring at the end, I've seen other people jumping about and going crazy, so that's my way. My wife said me and Mark are both playing great, just carry on and hope to get to 13 first."

"Mark Allen is a breath of fresh air for the game, he's got a bit about him. Under the cosh, to beat Ronnie and Ryan, he just breezed through with no nerves. There's four left and we've all got a great chance, it should be two great semis. There's no tiredness because the semis are spread over three days. I've only played Mark once - at the (2005) Northern Ireland Trophy, and he gubbed me 4-1."

Source: World Snooker

Friday, 20 March 2009

Slam Dunk

If they weren't motivated for tomorrow's game, they are now. Thanks for that Warren. But really, what were you thinking?

I'm expecting a tight (in score) and open (in style) game, and I think we will prevail. There will be nerves & pressure, but they've been here before - as has Kidney - and when it comes down to it, we have better players man for man, and more to play for.

Enjoy the game lads, where are ye watching it? I'll be at home, trying to explain the ELV's to Ruby and Aster (Richenda already knows them...).

P.S. I heard a clip of a BOD sketch from The Emergency which will be broadcast Sat. morning @ 11:30, worth checking out perhaps.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Ballinastoe MTB trail

For the record: Tom 1hr 30min, McG 1 hr 16 min

Right so having been in training since mid January for the April Welsh mountain bike trip, today's spin with McG and Paul would be a measure of how buggered I really was!

Ballinastoe is Ireland's most technical Coillte MTB trail (all designed by Dafydd Davis), much more so than anything in Ballyhoura. Having being riding forest roads in Waterford, the last time I had been on anything this technical was my only other trip to Ballinastoe at the end of May 2008. I did feel the difference, one does just not need the same level of concentration on non technical ground. I'm not sure there had been any more felling since my last visit but all the chopped trees had certainly been gathered and chopped.

The trail is 13.7km long with about 9km of singletrack with one decent boardwalk - which was a lot more fun that riding slippy boardwalks in a storm.

At the western edge of the trail it's well worth the 2 minute ride over to an overview Lake Tay and a great view of Lugnaquilla. Perfect spot for a picnic too.

Right behind this stopping point I got my first view of the Djouce boardwalk. This kind of infrastructure is a great development in Irish hill walking and long may it continue.

My wrist and hands were aching at the end, McG's were grand - I'm not sure how one can compete on the hills with a man who has biked to work every day for the last 4 years or something! I'm not too unhappy with 90 minutes when 2 hours is recommended by Coillte...ok grabbing at straws here!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

McG gets it off his chest

Two bronzes in Euro indoors last weekend, and many other great performances - Ireland can compete to some degree at this level - but Worlds & Olympics seem beyond us now. Of course Mary Cullen should have had at least silver, beaten by an Ethiopian running for Turkey. Deja vu here, having already lost out on bronze in the Euro Cross Country, that time by a Kenyan running in Dutch colours. Most other sports have strict guidelines on international representation - Mafi played a sevens game for NZ - once! - and can never play for Ireland now. It's a shambles, no better than Sonia cheated out of the medals in the World Champs all those years ago....

Speaking of shambles, Gerald McCarthy finally steps down - his statement is well worth a read. It is mostly dignified & honest, with a few swipes too and parting shots - fair play. The Cork hurlers are a disgrace - really, who do they think they are? They wanted to be involved in choosing the manager, which they were. But what they really wanted was to pick the manager themselves, with no involvement from any other parties. I'm sure we'd all like to pick our boss. So then they strike, and refuse to talk to any mediator or enter any negotiations until McCarthy is ousted. I can only hope they have set Cork hurling back many years. Kilkenny will be laughing all the way to their 4th All-Ireland.

Kidney makes 4 changes - certainly some were expected, but no-one would have called these (even Harty?). Great to see him mix it up - this team is just as strong, and those coming in will be hungry and motivated to keep their places for the potential Grand Slam game in Wales. Scotland will be tough- remember the single point win 2 years ago? Out of jail that day. But they should prevail.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Sunday Spin

Sometimes the weekend schedule only allows for a quick spin from home, and with my folks up to visit, this was one of those weekends. A sudden drop in temperature Saturday night, we'd already had some hail & sleet over breakfast, and the hills around were white. Packed & dressed accordingly, leaving the house in cold sunshine. Up the same lane I'd carried my board a few weeks ago - this time the weather was going to be even more varied. The clouds raced in bringing sleet, then hail - horizontal of course. Need I mention the wind? And just to spice things up, a few good claps of thunder. So, climbing suddenly didn't seem like such a good idea. But the upside was that with a mere 35 minutes investment, I was on top of 3 Rock. Not much hanging about here - it might have qualified as a blizzard at this stage - but enough time to appreciate the views - snow to the horizon on one side, Howth and the coast on the other. A quick snack, on with another layer, and then down the other side.

The handy thing about biking in snow is that there are wheel tracks to follow, and I decided to follow some into a trail I'd not spotted before. Nothing better than finding new trails. This one was gentle, winding through the pines, on a soft bed of needles and powder. Complete silence now, like the gliding of a board off-piste - nothing like it. Magic. From this, more tracks led to another new trail, this one much rougher and a bit of a white-knuckle ride. At the bottom, I encountered a "bombhole" with more tracks in and out. This is the kind of thing I just can't resist, and after a brief staring match, decided to go for it. These are never as hard as they look, and so it proved. A strategically placed tree was avoided - man and bike live to ride another day.

Back on the road, past the Blue Light - resisting its temptations - and rolled home. Sun shining again of course. Door to door just over the hour. Perfect.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Ireland v England

Tom asked us to step up. I don't aspire to do a Harty, but here goes.
  1. Ten minutes to go in Stade de France tonight, I find myself rooting for the home team. Not just because it means Wales have less (though at least a Triple Crown) to play for when we play them in Cardiff. But because France deserved to win. They were simply awesome.
  2. So I guess that makes our win against them three weeks ago all the more impressive? Perhaps.
  3. Marc Lievremont is a mad genius. Maybe. Their best performance of the season to date, and this without an outhalf.
  4. France can now win the Championship. Hmmm.
  5. Gavin Henson (did we need further proof?) is an idiot. Three minutes to go. Overlap of 2 players outside him. And he goes for glory. Chance gone. Tit.
  6. We should beat England tomorrow, but not by much and it probably won't be pretty.
  7. Stringer and D'Arcy unlucky not to be starting tomorrow. But they should still play key roles.
  8. O'Gara needs to get his shit together. No better time than against the English. Ditto O'Leary, please stop kicking the ball away.
  9. I think we will win the Grand Slam. Why? One word. Kidney.
  10. John Hayes to score the winning try against Wales.
Enjoy the weekend lads. I'm planning an afternoon pedal, rolling into the Blue Light for 5pm or so to watch the match over a few pints. And then it's stabilisers on and downhill all the way home.

thought for the day

Met this bloke today, used to know at school,
We didnt say hello, cos he'd had his hair slightly permed and I'd all mine shaved off,
He was always a bit of a CLOWN,
But he did his homework, cos he knew that one day he'd be going places.
I knew I should've asked him there and then,
Was he happy, now that he'd finally GOT THERE?
He goes to bed thinking of ways to fiddle ten more pounds on his expenses.
I go to bed thinking of all the reason why...

(Sorry to pollute a sporting blog, but I think it had to be said)

Thursday, 26 February 2009

6+5 rule

Fifa endorsed the 6+5 rule in May 2008. The 6+5 rule establishes that at the start of each match, a club must field at least six players who would be eligible for the national team of the country of the club.

There would be no limit on substitutes and no limit on the number of non-national players that clubs can sign.

Seemingly, the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, is determined to see the 6+5 rule in place by the start of the 2012-13 season. Fifa's plans to limit the number of foreign players do not breach European Union rules, an independent report declared today.

How would Benitez and Wenger cope?

Guardian article

Monday, 9 February 2009

6N 09

Difficult not to get carried away by Saturday night and, overall, the weekend points to a showdown with Wales. Ranking them in difficulty, Saturday's game was #2 out of the five so to get over it with a victory was a great achievement.

I only watched the 1st half of Scotland vs. Wales because the game was over by then. It was a complete mis-match and dreadful for the neutral fan. If Ireland can put more than 20 points on the board, they will beat them, regardless of how much the Scots drag it down. Italy away will be tough, but if the forwards can take the hits and break even , we will win that one.

The one match that could be a bit sticky, if we are complacent, will be England. The English pack is good but lacking form. If they come good and bring in Shaw for Borthwick they will be awkward to deal with. If they bomb in Cardiff and decide to have a back three shoot-out with us in Croke Park, it could be a bit hairy yet.

One worry from Saturday is the amount of lineout ball O'Connell called on himself. I am surprised that Donncha was not used more often and it also seems to be a comment that our back row is not too lineout friendly. Neither Heaslip nor Ferris look light enough for regular lifting. Wallace is used very rarely, even by Munster (though this could be because Quinlan is good option). Having said all that, O'Connell was immense on Saturday in taking clean ball.

Anyway, it is onwards and upwards for now.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Alpe des Trois Roches

One week now since the Snows Came, and our garden snowman is still alive - albeit slightly deformed - and in between, there were ten commutes the like of which I've never experienced. But that's not what this post is about so I'll not bore you (ice, snow, sub-zero temperatures - you get the idea). Yesterday afternoon (Saturday), after a morning minding Ruby & Aster, I was itching to get out into the hills, this time without wheels. So with about 3 hours daylight remaining, my neighbour Adrian and I decided to head for Tibradden. A local hill, 5 minutes in the car, about 440m elevation.

Richenda had already been up 3 Rock with Adrian's wife, and I was rushing so didn't hear how they'd got on. 'Bring Gaitors' was the advice, duly noted. To cut a long story short, we hiked up and down in 2 hours, and it was magical up there, a perfect blue sky day. One foot of snow at the bottom, and - no exaggeration - 3 to 4 feet deep on top, almost impossible to take a step without sinking. This is the Dublin Mountains, I am up here a lot, and have never seen anything even close to this. We noticed that it wasn't just any old snow either - this was powder, dry, fluffy. Would it be too crazy to snowboard this?

That night, it was up to the attic and down with all the gear - bindings on, set back for powder conditions. Boots, gloves, goggles, helmet - this was like packing for a ski holiday. Next morning, it had started snowing again, but visibility looked good. Attempts to round up others were unsuccessful - lame excuses such as lack of snowboard etc. Fair enough. Into the car, happy to make it out of the estate - which is still an ice rink - without totalling the vehicle. A three minute drive, to save 30 minutes walking. Parked and strapped the board onto my rucksack. It was raining now, but I had a fair idea this would turn to snow as I climbed.

Into Kilmashogue forest, up and up, lots of people out and a few stares when they saw the board. They wanted me to pull some moves for them, but it wasn't high enough or steep enough yet. Sorry. Onwards and upwards. It was getting colder now, and wet too but it suddenly cleared and it was time to take the camera out. How else would anyone believe the amount of snow up there? 90 minutes from the car I was on top of 3 Rock, famous for the huge masts and great views of the city and Dublin Bay, across to Howth.

I saw 2 cross-country skiers, a number of mountain bikers, and lots of walkers - it was somewhat surreal. Then it got even stranger - as I was strapping on the board, I see a guy walking towards me with a... yep, snowboard. He was French, on a weekend in Dublin and had borrowed the gear from a friend. He beat me to it by about 10 seconds, so I was at best the 2nd person to board the Dublin Mountains (today, if not ever). Ah well. I followed the forest track all the way down to Ticknock, my first time on a board in 2 years, so not exactly ripping it up - sorry Tom.

Trying not to take out hikers was the big challenge. Some stared, some said Hi or Wow, others pretended to be uninterested like they see skiers and boarders up here every weekend. Got into a groove and only had to stop and push once before the car park. The buzz was only somewhat spoiled by some clown in a Fiesta trying to drive up the mountains in foot deep snow. Muppet.

45 minutes hiking to get back to the car, but spirits were good if unused leg muscles somewhat sore. Overall a big effort to pull this off, for maybe 15 minutes return - not quite ski-in-ski-out. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Once in a lifetime? Perhaps, but there may be more snow on the way so I wouldn't rule out another spin in the week ahead. I had certainly ruled out heading to the Alps for a ski holiday this season, but as someone once said - "you never know what you're gonna get".

Some photos attached for the disbelievers.

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