Sport

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final

Sunday, 18 August, 2019

Kilkenny have won the trophy 36 times and Tipperary 27 times, and yet they keep coming back for more. Today’s installment of this classic between Tipperary and Kilkenny will be a physical affair with more emphasis on fitness and brawn rather than the fine arts of the game but the traditionalist will be pleased with that.

hurling

Cashman: Summing up the state of the game in the year 2000, the laureate critic of hurling, the great Cork hurling writer, Kevin Cashman, put it thus: “In Kilkenny they very notably think long and hard about the game of hurling sometimes to the extent of outsmarting themselves. In Cork we think long and hard, too, except that much of what we think is complacency or cliché; in Tipp it is self-delusion; in Clare paranoia; in Wexford nostalgia; and in Limerick grudgery.”

RESULT: Tipperary 3-25 – Kilkenny 0-20. It ended in a rout for Tipp and the fateful decision was taken by the referee, James Owens, just before half-time, when he red-carded Richie Hogan for an alleged high challenge on Tipperary’s Cathal Barrett. It was a critical moment that ended the game as a contest. Referees need to be very, very sure when showing a red card.


Limerick fans celebrate

Monday, 1 July, 2019

Munster Senior Hurling Championship Final result: Limerick 2-26 – Tipperary 2-14. It was a rout in the end but there were sunny Sunday moments to savour at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Some of the scores were beautifully taken, some of the skills displayed were exquisite and some of the hits that went in were so hard that the spectators felt them. All in all, a memorable day out.

Limerick fans celebrate


Jackie Tyrell goes to war with figures of speech

Friday, 31 May, 2019

The Phoney War is the name given to the period in World War Two from September 1939 to April 1940 when, after Hitler’s Blitzkrieg attack on Poland, seemingly nothing happened. Jackie Tyrrell, the distinguished Kilkenny hurler, who now pundits about the game for the Irish Times, begins his think-piece on Sunday’s Waterford-Limerick match by declaring, “On this Sunday nine weeks ago, we had the ultimate Phoney War take place in Croke Park when Waterford and Limerick met in the league final.” The ultimate (“the most extreme example of its kind”) Phoney War?

And if that wasn’t enough, Jackie Tyrell, who appears to have read history, ploughs deeper into the furrow: “Go back and watch it and that’s what strikes you, how it rivals those early months of World War II for its lack of intensity, savagery and real purpose.” Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed during the 1939 invasion of Poland and millions more were killed in the following years of German and Soviet occupation. During the Waterford-Limerick game Jackie Tyrell refers to, there were minor injuries but no fatalities on a mass scale.

As the hurling season warms up, we can expect mountains of metaphor, heaps of hyperbole, swathes of simile and clatters of cliché from Jackie Tyrell.

Eddie and Ali


Super Bowl Sunday thoughts

Sunday, 3 February, 2019

Super Bowl LIII will take place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta this evening. The contestants are the blue-blooded New England Patriots and the upstart Los Angeles Rams. The paintings of Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber, which are whimsical and witty and honest, offer lots of pre-match food for thought.

House


Ryder Cup time

Friday, 28 September, 2018

Early hours at the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Guyancourt, southwest of Paris.

Ryder Tiger

Golf, like most sports, boxing excepted, has had a hard time convincing the movie-going public that it has a good story to tell. An honourable exception was Tin Cup, a 1996 film about a washed-up golf pro, Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy (Kevin Costner), working at a driving range who tries to qualify for the US Open to win the heart of his rival’s girlfriend. Costner had some good lines:

Roy McAvoy: “Yeah, to the gods. That he is fallible. That perfection is unobtainable. And now the weight begins shifting back to the left pulled by the powers inside the earth, it’s alive, this swing! A living sculpture and down through contact, always down, striking the ball crisply, with character. Such a pure feeling is the well-struck golf shot. And then the follow through to finish. Always on line. The reverse C of the Golden Bear! The steel workers’ power and brawn of Carl Sandburg’s Arnold Palmer!”


Time Trial in France

Wednesday, 11 July, 2018

When it comes to sport these days, all eyes are on Russia, where the World Cup is approaching its climax. For those who aren’t that into football, there’s always tennis and Wimbledon right now offers a more genteel alternative to the mania in Moscow. If neither small ball nor big ball satisfies, the Tour de France ticks the remaining boxes.

Today’s stage from to Lorient to Quimper glides past the citadel of Fort-Bloqué and through Pont-Aven, the city of the painters Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. The focus will be on Ménez Quélerc’h, a famous climb in Breton cycling, and the last 35km includes the medieval village of Locronan and the challenging côte de la chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.

Couch-based Tour fans are treated daily to spectacular landscapes steeped in history but what’s usually missing from the picture is the pain of the participants. Finlay Pretsell, the award-winning Scottish filmmaker, places pain at the centre of his film, Time Trial, and his anti-hero is Scottish-born David Millar, a Tour stage winner, who was suspended for doping in 2004. If the World Cup is ecstasy and Wimbledon is elegance, the Tour de France is human, with all the heroic and horrible facets of humanity exposed. Time Trial is a valuable contribution to our understanding of sport.


Hurling is their song and their verse

Sunday, 3 June, 2018

Splendid evening had by all in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, where Cork and Limerick delivered 70 minutes of epic hurling in front of 34,000 delighted spectators, for whom this uniquely Irish game is their song and their verse.

“I believe hurling is the best of us, one of the greatest and most beautiful expressions of what we can be. If you could live again you would hurl more, because that is living. Hurling is our song and our verse, and when I walk in the graveyard in Cloyne and look at the familiar names on the headstones I know that their owners would want us to hurl with more joy and more exuberance and more abandon than before, because life is shorter than the second half of a tournament game that starts at dusk.” — Dónal Óg Cusack

Hurling


Hurling: Letter from Ireland (1937)

Sunday, 20 May, 2018

For some people in the Northern Hemisphere, summer begins with the start of the Munster Hurling Senior Championship. It’s a cultural thing that has its roots in an agrarian society driven by grass growth and the arrival of better weather. Today, the festival opens at 2 pm with Limerick vs. Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds.

The connection between Munster hurling and Graham Greene would not be known to most attending today’s game, but the great English novelist was the editor of Night and Day, described as a British rival to the New Yorker, in the 1930s and during its brief life he published a piece titled Letter from Ireland by Elizabeth Bowen, the doyenne of Anglo-Irish writing. Snippet:

“Cork left Cork for Killarney when the All Ireland Hurley Finals were played there. Tipperary won. This was a great day for the whole of the South of Ireland; special trains were run and the roads for a hundred miles round streamed with cars and bicycles, most of them flying flags. The Tipperary contingent passed my way. Those who unluckily could not get to Killarney stood on banks for hours to watch the traffic. This is, in the literal sense, a very quiet country: the Troubles and civil war were fought out in an almost unbroken hush, punctuated by a few explosions or shots. Voices are seldom raised, and you can (so to speak) hear a dog bark or a milk-cart rattle or a funeral bell toll two counties away. But these great Sundays of sport galvanise everything; from the moment you wake you know that something is going on.

Hurley is the fastest game, short of ice hockey, that I have ever watched. It is a sort of high-speed overhead hockey, played with sticks with flat wooden blades, and it looks even more dangerous that it apparently is. Though a game that would melt you in the Antarctic, it is, for some reason, played only in summer.”

There are gems of appraisal and style in everything that Elizabeth Bowen wrote. Her observation that “the Troubles and civil war were fought out in an almost unbroken hush,” is revealing, given that her Letter from Ireland was published just 14 years after the conflict ended, and “Cork left Cork for Killarney” is delightful. Today, some 80 years later, Tipperary will leave Tipperary for Limerick.

Limerick vs. Tipperary


One Ring to Rule Them All

Tuesday, 20 February, 2018 0 Comments

“Eight medals he has, a record unbroken
Of Cork hurlers he is surely the king
So now all together, one last rousing chorus
Three cheers for the maestro, the bould Christy Ring”

Christy Ring


Nike and the Breaking2 gimmick

Friday, 16 December, 2016 0 Comments

If you’re interested in running, the news of the year was the announcement on Monday that Nike plans to “enable” a sub two-hour marathon time. Breaking2 is what it calls the project. Sarah Barker of Deadspin isn’t buying, however. It’s a gimmick, she says:

“They’ve identified East African talent upon whom they’re going to thickly apply advanced science, including nutrition, hydration, and shoes (strong retail potential amongst sub six-hour marathoners!), and set them loose on a cool, windless, sea level course with speedy pacers galore.”

And she’s not done: “This isn’t Roger Bannister and John Landy competing to break the four-minute mile; that record was within reach, and attained on a normal track during a relatively normal meet. Nike entering the race only confirms what we already knew: it’s about ego and the tremendous things money can buy, rather than athletic competition.”

Barker’s bottom line: “With details lacking and IAAF standards out the window, a downhill, wind-aided course, genetic manipulation, spring-loaded shoes and other such time-saving factors have been posited to get the job done.”

For Ross Tucker at the Science of Sport, those “spring-loaded shoes” could be decisive and he cites the athletic achievements of Oscar Pistorius to make his case: “Let’s say we could make a shoe with a stiffer material, or a spring, so that less energy is lost on compression of the material and the runner gets more return (remember, for instance, that carbon fiber blades lost only 8% of their energy compared to the able-bodied limb losing 54% of its energy — this illustrates the concept that drives a reduction in the O2/physiological cost).”

In other words, says Tucker, springs in the shoes, “which reduce the physiological cost of running by around 4%, could be enough to help a runner go from a 2:04 to a sub-2 hour marathon.” So, if you’re willing to set aside the rules, and belief in credibility and physiology, a sub-two-hour marathon will happen next year. Nike has the money and it’s persuaded three high profile runners — Eluid Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese — to miss out on the Spring marathons next year to give the barrier a shot. They’ll have a spring in their step, no doubt.

Nike runners


A cheery Spectator and a glum Prospect

Monday, 22 August, 2016 0 Comments

At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Great Britain won 15 medals, including a solitary gold. Team GB finished 36th in the medal table that year. This year, Great Britain finished second in the table, ahead of China, with 67 medals, 27 of which were gold. The greatest credit for this achievement is due to the athletes, but Sir John Major, whose Conservative government set up the National Lottery in 1994, is central to their success. The Lottery started funding athletes in 1997, the so they could train full-time and, by 2004, Team GB’s medal tally had doubled to 30, doubling again at London in 2012.

Andrew Marr credits John Major in his Spectator diary entry written in sunny Dubrovnik amid crowds of contented Croats and tourists. “Team GB is a near-perfect post-Brexit idea” says Marr, inspired by it all and hoping for happy days:

“Imagine a Britain which had seriously invested for the long term, focusing only on industries and technologies where we were likely to be world-class; and where ‘company’ was used in the old sense of being a tight, committed team of friends and allies working together for a goal many years in the future. It would be a Britain shorn of short-term political lurches in funding and direction, whose corporate leaders had a lively sense of how much they owed to their teams and didn’t treat themselves as Medici princelings.”

Prospect But all that is gold does not glisten. Well, not for the “remoaners”, anyway. With a most unfortunate sense of timing, Prospect depicts Team GB stuck on a self-imposed, starting line in its race for a place in the world. Jay Elwes, Deputy Editor of Prospect, argues: “…there is a strong case that Britain’s new settlement with the EU should be put to a further vote. As the economic threat posed by Brexit grows ever more apparent, so the need for parliamentary intervention will increase. Britain needs a new plan — in the end, a decision by the Commons not to proceed with Brexit might turn out to be the best plan of all.”

After a summer of gold for spectators, disgruntled remoaners are hoping for the prospect of a winter of discontent and an un-Brexit.