Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Portumna Forest Park

For the record: Tom rode the Bonaveen and Rinmaher trails totalling 20k, with multiple photo stops, in 2.5 hours.

Having got buzzed from riding in the eye of the storm at Ballyhoura the previous weekend, Saturday was the turn of Portumna forest park.

Portumna forest park is on the North bank of Lough Derg and is only 480 hectares. What a superb job Coilte has done with these 2 trails. There is also a small beginner loop, Woodland Trail. This is a perfect place to start mountain biking. It is only 1 hour drive from UL in Limerick.

Who says bikes and hikers can't mix!

There actually is a golf course in the middle of the forest and both trails cross the car park at club entrance.

Golf course crossing

There is a wooden bridge and some small sections of boardwalk but the terrain does not need it as much as in Ballyhoura.

The previous week's storm was evident with one tree uprooted and fallen on the trail.

As the map shows both trails share the start, where they split, the natural way to go is the green Rinmaher, on a really sweet fast section. There are not really hills but it's not totally flat either.

Night biking!

Coming around a sharp corner I saw some evidence people have been night biking here with a reflector strapped to a tree. This would be the perfect location for night biking and with my new lights recommended by McG I am aiming to have my first night biking experience since Bottle Forest in Christchurch in 2000, soon.

Going south where the trails parts ways leads one towards Lough Derg and circumventing Bonaveen point - just gorgeous riding and scenery, so peaceful.

Note that according to a posted sign the toilets are closed for the Winter and early spring because of water pipe damage. Hopefully these can be fixed sooner rather than later - I had to bury my waste.

Hopefully a trip to Derroura in Galway is not in the too distant future, In the meantime with my in-laws 25 minutes drive from Portumna I plan on visiting frequently!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Munster V Sale, 16 Jan 09

A few observations are worth mentioning.

I will always take the view that more is learned in defeat than victory. I think a good starting point for Munster's preparations would be to look at a video analysis of the Sale performance - as will be prepared by the Sale coaching staff - and realize that no team is going to play that badly or stupidly against them again this season. The Ulster game video should remain on special offer as a reminder of what less than 100% commitment gets you, and not be consigned to the archives.

Sale's approach to defending in the three quarters was a joke. They gave Munster acres of space. If you looks the pass forward pass that Earls threw, and butchered a certain try, the defence is shocking. Not only did Earl's pass land well ahead of Dowling, it also landed well
ahead of the Sale backs which shows you how far they were standing off the Munster backs. Against a team like Wasps with a blitz defence that pass wouldn't have been on at all.

Tomas O'Leary has had a great season but he has to stop stepping before passing and stop getting caught out clearing the ball from rucks.

I hope that McGahan has the confidence to back the Warwick at 15, Earls at 13 experiment. This would be tough on Tipoki but I really think injuries have put paid to his form and his season. Earls is priceless and a real threat at 13 while Warwick is ultimately a very good footballer who slots in to all of the back 5 positions. Kidney wasn't afraid to drop Stringer last season and he brought in Denis Hurley for Shaun Payne. I think McGahan has to aim to get his best players on the pitch in the back 5 positions. With players of natural talent such as Warwick, Earls and Howlett, he can do this. Barry Murphy, too, is already a victim of this policy, he is a specialist, but average, 13 who is not really Heineken standard.

Across last season and this one so far I am struck by how Munster have got into the heads of their opponents. Gloucester blew it by missing three 1st half gimme penalties. Saracens couldn't keep their cool in the last 10 mins in Coventry; and Toulouse lost it mentally in the final in Cardiff. Brock James missed a pivotal drop goal chance 6 minutes from time in December in TP when all Clermont had to do was keep the ball tight. By forcing the issue they handed Munster a chance that was taken emphatically.

Munster are not a Kilkenny, in the sense that they do not gratuitously murder weak opposition, but they are very Kilkenny-like in the business end of the season. More than any other team they seem to understand the fact that six games in a group does not allow you the luxury of losing any game - losing in the sense that you get nothing at all from the game. Therefore, they have developed the ability to go away from home and either win or get a losing bonus point. If you look at the 17 group matches since the start of the successful 05/06 campaign to now, the 1st match - when the lost 27-15 to Sale, is the only time they have failed to take at least a point from a match. Even when they lost to Leicester in January 07, they got a losing bonus point.

People may talk about strength, skill and spirit, but brains are pretty important too.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Ballyhoura Biking Brutal Battering

For the record...

Tom, Kev McG, Conor and Trevor did the Mount Russell loop (17km) in about 2:40, including stops (scheduled and otherwise).

Andy & Dave did the Garrane loop (35km) in about 3:15, and saw at least 3 trees falling.

On balance, a successful outing, despite the Atrocious, Abysmal and Appalling conditions. Certainly not a day for first timers, let alone experienced bikers - I have never experienced anything quite like it, certainly not on a bike. It was the kind of day on which I would normally think twice about going out into the back garden. So, big respect to all for getting yourselves and your machines around in one piece. If it's any consolation, Andy & I were out there even longer, and were in genuine mortal danger when we started to see trees falling in close proximity. Actually, the extra miles we did were no harder than what the others biked and the boardwalks (which we all did) are by far the most difficult part of the trail - Kev witnessed me coming off them pretty hard last year (I'm sure he didn't laugh). So how did it come to pass that we were mountain-biking during the worst 3 hour period of weather in living memory? Tom picked the weekend, and I picked the time and day, so I guess we share the blame. I don't think I noticed the wind or rain after a while, a neat trick of disengaging my brain from my body. What about those hot showers at the end though? Heavenly.

See Ballyhoura website here.

Pics from last year (© Kev McG):

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