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Talking Sport In The Sunday Papers

18th January 2009 By Munster Rugby

Talking Sport In The Sunday Papers

Ideal weather for trawling through the papers particularly anything to do with Sport.

In rugby terms the Heineken Cup is where it’s at this weather and Irish supporters can be happy with their lot. Munster are through to the quarter finals, Leinster will follow them and had Ulster’s revival under Matt Williamscome just a tad earier we would have three sides competing in the knock-out stages when the RBS Six Nations is over.

According to one Sunday scribe, Leinster don’t deserve any credit. And it must be particularly galling for the current squad when it’s a former player who rips into them on any given Sunday. Having come away from Twickenham with a hard-earned bonus point Neil Francis in The Sunday Tribune, claims, “they did not go out to win the game .”!

Now considering they lost the influential pair Leo Cullen and CJ Van der Linde in the opening quarter, had Robert Kearney ridiculously yellow carded, ended the game without their entire starting front row, lost Brian O’Driscoll at the start of the final quarter, Shane Horgan after that,  yet almost had a decisive try from Cian Healy with ten minutes to go. And they didn’t go out to win ??  Francis, while not wishing in any way to “diminish Munster’s achievement – they were outstanding on the night” – wonders about their opponents asking, ” Who were these people coming to Thomond Park ? What was their pedigree ? ” They had according to Francis is his acerbic way, “More passengers than the Queen Mary,” and they were “doomed from the start,” because, “They never really did come to compete.”

Over in the Sunday Independent Damien Lawlor was less than enthused with RTE’s handling of the special GAA programme. “ It was widely flagged as the glamour launch of the GAA’s 125th anniversary celebrations but the Association’s top table were left outraged after last weekend’s below-par Late Late Tribute Show.  While it was a great coup for the Association to have sealed a special commemoration with the country’s biggest chat show, the whole affair turned out to be massive disappointment for officials and ordinary members who could only cringe as the show’s running order unfolded. It must have felt like clinching a date with the hottest chick in town only to find out that she was no fun.

Lawlor goes on to report that, “one of the most popular GAA websites ‘An Fear Rua’ ran a poll to rate the show and 69 per cent of respondents described it as ‘appalling’.” while Tommy Conlan in the same newspaper reports that former Meath player Gerry McEntee described the show as ‘a shambles’ with Conlan proposing the following Memo to programme presenter Pat Kenny: “Pat, you can’t be the school nerd, and one of the lads at the same time; you just end up making a fool of yourself and embarrassing everyone else.”

Former Munster scrum-half Olann Kelleher needn’t have any worries about being usurped in his role as peace broker in the Cork hurling strike by former Kerry great Pat Spillane. Spillane who presents The Sunday Game was speaking at the Southern Star sport awards in West Cork and Eamon Sweeny in his never less than entertaining Sunday Independent Hold The Back Page column gives us Spillane’s take on the current impasse, “The Cork hurlers have not delivered for the last couple of years; if a team has delivered, I can understand them making exorbitant demands, underperforming or underachieving players – as they have been for the last couple of years – cannot or are in no position to make demands.” 

Nor is Sweeney entirely happy with the way GAA players automatically get bad press when violence erupts on the field while rugby players often get off scot free or near enough.  “Public outrage was conspicuous by its absence when John Fogarty decided to beat a tattoo on the head of the defenceless Adrian Flavin in Leinster’s Magners League win over Connacht and Shane Jennings perpetrated a similar cheap shot.

“Insult was added to Connacht injury when Fogarty received a paltry on-match suspension from the IRFU and Shane Jennings availed of the kind of procedural loophole GAA players are regularly derided for utilising to escape suspension altogether thus leaving both men free to play for Leinster in the Heineken Cup tie against Wasps.” says Sweeney and he wonders is it because being , “hit by someone whose father was a member of the legal profession and who went to boarding school is less painful than getting the same kind of wallop from a carpenter reared on a farm.”

In decrying the “moralising tone” that pervades much rugby writing, Sweeney concludes, “It is not enough that Munster players are terrific athletes and competitors, they also have to be portrayed as moral paragons whereas in reality the team like any group of men, probably contains a few good lads, a couple of bollackses and a majority of people who, no more than the rest of us, oscillate between these two poles.” 

In explaining why his Premier Loathing knows no limits, Ron Liddle in The Sunday Times says, “I think this more than anything else – more than the extortionate ticket prices, more than the obscene wages, more than the continual vilification of referees, the all-seater “stadia”, the predictability of outcome, the utter and complete triumph of money over everything – is why I dislike the Premier League. There is not a soupçon of loyalty among the players, just a bottomless pit of hubris and venality. The notion that a player should have a sort of spiritual commitment to his club, to his teammates and to the supporters has long since gone. As a consequence you must surely wonder what it is you are “supporting” as you make your way to Stamford Bridge or the Emirates or Old Trafford. “

And if we can believe Hugh McIlvanney in the same newspaper, Kaka is not exactly enamoured with the idea of moving to Manchester despite the finacial inducements. “So far, the Brazilian’s comments on City’s bid for him – a cash onslaught from the club owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, apparently so unbridled that fairly sober accounts of the offer speculate about figures upwards of £100m for the transfer fee, as much as £500,000 per week in player wages and an even more stupefying total of £28m as payments to the shadowy crew described as facilitators – have tended to emphasise an inclination to resist the magnetic mountain of lucre and “grow old at Milan”.

However, Kaka is now a commodity he may have little about whetherhe remains in  Milan or heads to wet ‘n windy Manchester as McIlvanney continues, ” But the 26-year-old knows he is largely at the mercy of the business calculations of his present employers, and there have been reports from Italy claiming that Milan are already engaged in a programme of propaganda designed to brace their support for his departure.”



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