Sunday Tribune - Malachy Clerkin

Interesting article by this lad in the Trib on Sunday, saying what a crowd of cunts we have become in this country and also that some of his colleaugues are also cunts for the line they take on sports issues to sell papers. Obviously he didn’t use those exact terms, but I’m happy enough with my interpretation of it.

I assume this is it:

Where have all those fun times gone?

A TRAWL for the best memories of the year just gone feels kind of hopeless even before we draw the nets into the boat. Too many flops, too many failures, too many broken hearts in the world (that’s too many dreams to be broken in two, kids). To ease ourselves into it then, maybe it’s best to start off somewhere unlikely. And, well, you don’t get a whole lot more unlikely than watching cricket with Irish racing folk.

We were thronged elbow to elbow in a smoke-filled, pint-spilled pub in downtown Cheltenham. It was the Thursday night of the festival and the place was rammed. The fact that there hadn’t been an Irish-trained winner all afternoon had had no noticeable effect on the revelry, put it that way.

A splinter group of around a halfdozen of us were semi-circled in front of the big screen watching the closing stages of Ireland v Zimbabwe in the Cricket World Cup. We were really doing it out of duty more than anything. Zimbabwe had had the thing pretty much sown up ever since bowling Ireland out for 221 on what was probably a 250-260 pitch but it being Ireland’s first ever World Cup game, the novelty was irresistible. Screaming at the TV for an Irish lbw call . . . and getting it too . . . was a new experience and it was a fun one. We must have been making some sort of a scene because occasionally a stray head would stop beside us on their way to or from the toilets.

“What’s going on there lads?”

“Ireland are playing Zimbabwe in the cricket.”

“Who’s winning?”

“Well, it’s kind of hard to say. Zimbabwe should close it out from here but they’re wobbling a bit and Ireland could nick it yet.”

“Jesus, it’s one sport I could never get my head around.”

“Ah no, cricket’s a great game. There’s only about half an hour left here. It’s very exciting.”

“I’d say it is, yeah.”

“No, really” Still, by the time the last three overs arrived there were maybe 20 or so gathered around. The few who knew or half-knew what was what explained it to the rest. Most people hadn’t a notion what was going on but they knew it was close and it was Ireland and that was good enough for them. When two Zimbabwean wickets fell in the 49th over, the cheers turned the heads of the rest of the pub. Suddenly, Zimbabwe needed nine off the final six balls and only had one wicket left to play around with.

Stuart Matsikenyeri had carried the Zimbabwean innings for most of the way and it was he who faced the beginning of Andrew White’s over. He hit two off the first ball, two off the second, a single off the third. They just needed four off the last three balls. Edward Rainsford managed a single to get off strike. Three needed off two now. Man, it was tense. Matsikenyeri swiped at one that Trent Johnston almost caught but couldn’t quite and got two runs for it and now the teams were at level scores.

There had only ever been two ties in the history of the World Cup but if Ireland could stop Zimbabwe scoring off the final ball we’d have another one and Ireland would have pulled the most unlikely result out of the fire.

White bowled. Matsikenyeri thrashed and missed. Niall O’Brien, the wicketkeeper, whipped off the bails and threw to the other end to run Rainsford out.

The Irish team celebrated like they’d just won the whole tournament. In the pub, confusion reigned.

“Did they win?”

“How was it a draw?”

“Why are they so delighted?”

“Are Zimbabwe any good?”

“Which way to the jacks lads?”

When it all settled down, everyone who had seen the last half an hour agreed that it was the most fun they’d had watching sport in a long time. And sitting here nine months later, it’s still there or thereabouts as the most enjoyable bit of sport watched all year. It’s worth pondering why that should be, for it certainly wasn’t out of any newlydiscovered nationwide love of cricket.

Even with the win over Pakistan two days later and the RTE Team of the Year award a couple of weeks ago, the Irish team remains pretty anonymous.

Quick . . . name five of them in 10 seconds.

See?

So what was so great about it then?

The easy answer, of course, is that we’re a nation of glory-hunting cheerleaders, flitting from event to event on the basis of what is likely to bring us the best opportunities for breaking out the old triple oles. There’s a great story about a prize fight that Don King was at once where he began the evening in the corner of the title-holder and spent the fight moving from seat to seat gladhanding and back-slapping between rounds so that by the time it had ended, he had manoeuvred himself around to the corner of the new champ and was standing at his shoulder as he raised the belt. Maybe that’s us. To mangle an old Groucho Marx line, these are our heroes . . . you don’t like 'em, we got others.

Funny how that’s one of the greatest crimes in sport, isn’t it? Suiting yourself when it suits you. One of the most enjoyable afternoons the Tribune spent all year was with Jerry Flannery a month after the World Cup. We’d talked ourselves out about the rugby and had moved on to his love of Chelsea. Even without me so much as raising an eyebrow, he got a bit chippy about it.

"I’m a Chelsea fan and I get a lot of shit about it and that’s fair enough, whatever makes people happy, " he said.

“Ian Dowling gives me shit about it all the time but I’ve been an obsessive Chelsea fan since I was 11. I can name you the Chelsea player of the season for every year of the 1990s. I’m talking about players like Ken Monkou and Erland Johnsen here, players people never heard of. I know there’s a lot of bandwagon fans out there but I don’t think I’m one of them.”

Ever tried to explain the evils of the bandwagon fan to someone with no interest in sport? It baffles them. If you’re picking a team, then why on earth wouldn’t you pick the one that wins things? If you’re from Cork or Tipp and are getting into rugby, then what’s so wrong with declaring yourself a Munster fan? Why must there be years of suffering for it to count for anything? Why seek misery for company?

And it’s a fair question, truth be told.

The pat answer is that it makes the great days so much more worthwhile but does that really stand up? Maybe Ireland beating England in Croke Park in February meant more to the people who grew up in rugby clubs than it did to the remainder of the population but as anyone who was in Dublin that Saturday night will confirm, the rest of us knocked plenty of craic out of it all the same.

Okay, bad example perhaps.

There were years of suffering involved there and much of it had nothing to do with rugby.

Put it this way then. Those same people who grew up in rugby clubs would for the most part have taken what happened at the World Cup badly.

But that doesn’t make their experience in France any more real than those of the people who flew over for three consecutive weekends and had a high old time. Same with the people who were belting out tunes on the piano in our hotel in Bratislava well into the morning after yet another last-minute goal had robbed Ireland of the full three points against Slovakia. We can dismiss people like that as fun-seeking gadabouts if we like but in the end, who’s the idiot? The guy screaming abuse through the fence at Stan as he gets on the team bus or the guy trying to get the Slovakian waitress to tell him what time she finishes up for the night?

Following sport used to be fun so it’s reasonable to ask when enjoying the ride became such a no-no. In the modern era, we can probably trace it back to Roy Keane in Amsterdam that time, decrying the Irish tendency to have a laugh and a sing-song no matter what the result. Nothing wrong with that, except that Keane was talking about players but the rest of the country took him to mean, well, the rest of the country. Everything became harsher from then on. Nowadays, every failure is a farce and every defeat a fiasco.

Now, we mock Steve Staunton and John Delaney up as muppets on the front of our newspapers. We boo Eddie O’Sullivan as he takes his seat at a provincial match. We slag Waterford off as cry-babies when they finally run out of road instead of cherishing them for their part in a magical hurling summer. We stand on platforms at county conventions and call Dessie Farrell and Donal Og Cusack liars when they say they’ve no interest in tearing the fabric of the GAA apart. We scream bloody murder when even the genius of Paul Carberry isn’t enough to coax Harchibald across the line.

It’ll go on this way, too. Short of hiring Jose Mourinho, the FAI will never be able to shake their reputation as a shower of gombeens. If Ireland manage to win the Six Nations next year we’ll be full of grumbles about it all coming together six months too late. We’ll play show-us-yer-medals come Beijing next year and deride the 40 or so athletes that go to the Olympics for having the temerity to make it there and no further.

If Rory McIlroy takes a few years to find his feet on the European Tour, he’ll be dismissed as a flash in the pan. You can’t have a game without a blame game.

And hands up here . . . the media are the ringleaders. You’re nobody in this profession unless you’re going in hard, taking a tough line. It used to be that we’d laugh and shake our heads at the old story about the English soccer writers who watched the 4-1 win against Holland in Euro '96 and asked each other, “How do we knock this?” Not any more, though. Indignation fills space quicker and easier than everything else outside of match reports so that after a while, you’re angry about everything and you can’t remember the last time you had a positive word to say.

Continues…

Part 2:

There was debate around the time of the Rugby World Cup . . . serious debate, now . . . to the effect that the non-playing of Amhran na bhFiann before the games was a factor in Ireland’s rotten performances. As if a song made a difference to professional rugby players.

As if someone who would allow himself to be affected by its presence or absence had the strength of mind to make it to the pinnacle of the sport. And yet down went the heads and out came the bile, 800 words of hard-hitting stuff to feed the beast for another day and keep the whole show rolling along.

But not everything’s a fistfight. It can’t be. Because if everything’s a shambles, then nothing is. When Ireland lost 1-0 to the Czech Republic in Prague in September, any reasoned analysis of the game couldn’t but conclude that it had been a spirited enough performance from a limited side who at the very least went down swinging this time.

To excoriate them for that display was to make moot whatever criticism had been aimed in their direction after the very real mess of the passionless night in San Marino eight months previously.

But maybe it’s not all the media’s fault. Maybe the public gets the press it deserves. Maybe we’re a tough, hardnosed, humourless society now full of coked-up arrogance and Celtic Tiger entitlement. If that’s true then it’s a shame and it’s a shame especially if it’s true of our attitude to sport and sportspeople. Because for all we give out about them, the majority of sportspeople who reach the point where there’s an audience paying to see them have levels of dedication and talent the rest of us wouldn’t dare dream of having. And, whisper it, but they deserve respect.

The youth of Ireland get a bad enough rap without us dragging the kids of sport into it on top of every thing. Especially when three lads in their 20s can conspire to take a horse to a Grand National win like Gordon Elliot, Brian Walsh and Robbie Power did with Silver Birch back in April. And when a squad of footballers or hurlers . . . again, mostly in their 20s . . . can lift the dormant spirits of a whole county for the length of a summer like happened in Sligo and Monaghan and Limerick this year. And when race-walker Robbie Heffernan (29) and hammer-thrower Eileen O’Keeffe (26) can reach the heights of sixth in the world in their respective disciplines without the help, support or even interest of an apathetic nation.

Padraig Harrington said something interesting recently. He said that he was the luckiest man alive that his teeshot on the 72nd at Carnoustie hadn’t rolled across the bridge and stayed out of the burn. If that had happened, he reasoned, his British Open would have been tainted somehow and people would have dismissed him as a lucky champion. And although you could see what he meant, it was hard to fully accept it as fact.

Because if we admit that we’ve all become so cynical now as to agree that the crowning achievement of probably the most universally liked man in Irish sport would have been poohpoohed because of one lucky bounce, then really we should all go home. That Sunday afternoon in July . . . when by sheer chance there was no GAA on and the whole country seemed to be at home watching in . . . was a reminder of what it is to enjoy sport. It was a reminder of the part tension and caring plays and feeling welldisposed towards the people you’re watching plays. Even had Harrington not come through it, it would still have been one of the best afternoons of sport all year.

Did he save 2007? Well, he did his best. It’s hard to imagine the rest of us being able to say the same.

Yeah that’s it…excellent article.

Yeah it’s a good article alright. Disagree with some parts of it.

He’s saying that the Ireland team shouldn’t have been criticised for losing against the Czechs and therefore implying that they were criticised (I think). I didn’t see that game, so the only barometer I have is the media reports and I thought they were fairly praising of the efforts.

The main thrust of the article is fair enough in that for a nation of bandwagon hoppers we don’t half reserve the right to criticise. I don’t really see the problem with many people I talk to laying into Stan and the FAI over their shambles of an effort, but it is a it rich when some bint rings up Liveline to complain about it.

I wouldn’t give him that much credit for it to be honest. Thsi may have something to do with my wish not to agree with Appendage under any circumstance.

While he deserves credit saying that sport stars give us some great moments (not said enough in the media) he goes off is some stereotypical generalisation rant about us all being spoiled by the Celtic Tiger and we all take cocaine. The Celtic Tiger has nothing to do with it. Bullshit.

And yes people did applaud the cricketers because we have fook all else to applaud on the international stage. And he said himself that people said that they knew nothing about it so what’s his problem?

What is worse are these Munster ‘fans’ from Kerry and Clare and the likes springing up from nowhere pretending to know about rugby just because the team is ‘cool’ to support. Man I really hate those fooks. There is a renowned gobshite from Leitrim (hard to believe I know) who is married to a Limerick girl and lives down there. He now calls himself a Munster supporter and had a Munster top on him over Christmas. Alas I am sure that there are many like him…

I also agree with the main thrust of this particular article but on the other hand Clerkin was vehemently in favour of retaining Stan as manager right up to the shambles against Cyprus in October. His attitude appeared to be, ‘who can we get that’s any better?’ and I couldn’t have disagreed more strongly with that. Clowns following a bandwagon are annoying enough but equally so are those who put their head in the sand and pass it off as being a loyal supporter.

[quote=“farmerinthecity”]

What is worse are these Munster ‘fans’ from Kerry and Clare and the likes springing up from nowhere pretending to know about rugby just because the team is ‘cool’ to support. Man I really hate those fooks. [/quote]

Counties Kerry and Clare are in Munster, hence people from these counties would support the Munster Rugby team, as they are from Munster. Much like the fact that you would support Connaught in rugby (if you followed it), Leitrim in Gaa (and Liverp…oh wait no) as you are from Leitrim.

It’s a common misconception that rugby is only played in Cork & Limerick as they have the big AIL teams, rugby is quite popular in all of the counties in Munster, however it does suffer from the fact that either hurling or football (or both) are the main supported games in these counties.

It is quite similar to the other common rugby misconception that all Leinster players are D4 knobs, when in fact some of them are from other areas of Leinster (Louth, Wexford) and beyond.

It’s slightly different in Leinster I think Wow. Most of the players are probably from outside the southside schools stronghold but I’d wager 75% of the fans are still from those areas. Leinster rugby is still far more focused on the schools than on clubs and that will be to its detriment ultimately.

The problem for Munster longer-term is that it’s based around a strong club culture but those clubs have been shafted by the IRFU and the truth is there aren’t really any big AIL clubs anymore. Shannon, Garryowen, Cork Con etc. are big clubs and do their best and this is no criticism of them - but the IRFU clearly don’t view them as the future so despite their best efforts they’ll eventually degenerate into bars to watch Munster games in and effectively junior clubs.

[quote=“therock67”]It’s slightly different in Leinster I think Wow. Most of the players are probably from outside the southside schools stronghold but I’d wager 75% of the fans are still from those areas. Leinster rugby is still far more focused on the schools than on clubs and that will be to its detriment ultimately.

The problem for Munster longer-term is that it’s based around a strong club culture but those clubs have been shafted by the IRFU and the truth is there aren’t really any big AIL clubs anymore. Shannon, Garryowen, Cork Con etc. are big clubs and do their best and this is no criticism of them - but the IRFU clearly don’t view them as the future so despite their best efforts they’ll eventually degenerate into bars to watch Munster games in and effectively junior clubs.[/quote]

I wouldn’t go that far in assessing the Munster AIL clubs as ultimately becoming mere junior clubs. Limerick does have too many senior clubs (YM, Garry, Shan, UL-Bohs, Thomond) for a city of its size and needs it to be trimmed. Cork has it about right, with one big club (Con obviously being dominant) and the others, (Highfield, Dolphin, Well etc).

Ultimately the IRFU will always need senior clubs to bring players forward and give them game time; acadamies, development squads etc can only do so much. But I agree the IRFU have shafted them in the past (sure jayus they tried to disband Connaught). However the clubs weren’t exactly blameless either especially when they didn’t want a smaller AIL Division 1 when it is needed to keep the senior club game alive and competitive.

Its up to the ‘lesser’ clubs to provide the players too, like Bruff did with Hayes, Quinlan-Nenagh, Buckley-Newmarket, Leamy-UCC & Cashel etc.

Schools rugby is the major problem in Leinster alright, (less so in Munster). The u-19 coach 2 years ago (I forget his name) did slate the schools bias in Ireland, when saying that the schools have the players for 8-9 months of the year and when they come together as an Irish squad, there is no time to mould them properly into an international team to take on the likes of the SH teams, French & English.

The schools focus & schools clique is also the reason a lot of Leinster people hate Leinster rugby (yourself included i assume), because the fans are from the southside rugby playing schools.

On another matter its good to see O’Connell on the bench for tonights match (with Howlett) (Setanta Ireland ko 19:30) against Ulster. Hopefully he gets a good run in Ravenhill, but its probably too near the start of the 6N for him to be involved for the Italian match (2 Feb) and French match (9 Feb) since he has been out since the World Cup.

On the match tonight: I don’t know about O’Connell but I’d expect him to probably be in the squad for those games. It will depend on how he progresses in the meantime but the Heineken Cup matches will tell alot about his level of fitness.

Howlett is on the bench isn’t he? Think he could turn out to be a cracking signing. Has real class and unlike Cullen when he joined he was in excellent form in New Zealand. No reason why he won’t be a huge success.

I agree with your assessment of those clubs but I don’t think enough is being done to bring players through that structure. Munster have done well in picking guys who came through junior clubs originally and the senior clubs seem to do well at picking up the best of the talent among the junior clubs. The problem now is that there’s so little interest in playing club rugby that a guy playing for Boyne or someone won’t be arsed moving to Lansdowne (like Horgan did) because it won’t move him far enough up the pecking order.

The academies have their place but they seem to focus on the schools too and there’s no investment in the provincial clubs. Leinster are particularly bad for this - when Carlow were going strong they didn’t get any of the Leinster players on the provincial contract (so you’d guys given to Blackrock etc where there was already a big enough rugby culture). Why don’t Leinster even consider building a smaller ground in Carlow or somewhere? Not for Magners League games either but just for friendlies. They’re far too narrow a base and the bubble will burst soon enough. The more rugby is developed in Italy and Argentina, the further Ireland will fall.

[quote=“therock67”]On the match tonight: I don’t know about O’Connell but I’d expect him to probably be in the squad for those games. It will depend on how he progresses in the meantime but the Heineken Cup matches will tell alot about his level of fitness.

Howlett is on the bench isn’t he? Think he could turn out to be a cracking signing. Has real class and unlike Cullen when he joined he was in excellent form in New Zealand. No reason why he won’t be a huge success.

I agree with your assessment of those clubs but I don’t think enough is being done to bring players through that structure. Munster have done well in picking guys who came through junior clubs originally and the senior clubs seem to do well at picking up the best of the talent among the junior clubs. The problem now is that there’s so little interest in playing club rugby that a guy playing for Boyne or someone won’t be arsed moving to Lansdowne (like Horgan did) because it won’t move him far enough up the pecking order.

The academies have their place but they seem to focus on the schools too and there’s no investment in the provincial clubs. Leinster are particularly bad for this - when Carlow were going strong they didn’t get any of the Leinster players on the provincial contract (so you’d guys given to Blackrock etc where there was already a big enough rugby culture). Why don’t Leinster even consider building a smaller ground in Carlow or somewhere? Not for Magners League games either but just for friendlies. They’re far too narrow a base and the bubble will burst soon enough. The more rugby is developed in Italy and Argentina, the further Ireland will fall.[/quote]

Douggie is on the bench yeah. The other difference between him and Cullen is that he’s not injured, Cullen was unfortunatley when he first arrived over.

There is absolutely no chance in hell that Leinster would ever think of leaving their D4 home and because of that, they’ll never fully develop a wide fanbase.

I wouldn’t totally agree with you in saying that there is little interest in playing club rugby anymore. It is still strong as people do still want to play rugby. There has been a strong move by the IRFU, in recent years, in having development coaches going into non-traditional rugby playing schools around the country to get the game up and running (my old secondary schol for example where rugby was banned when i was there!!!).

What I do think the IRFU should do is have a better, closer link between the local club and the local schools so that the schools players have a club to go to train and play with after finishing school (along the lines of Old Christians in Cork etc). For example, the players from that Kilkenny school team last year that beat Blackrock (was it?) in the senior cup, should be encouraged to keep playing the game with the local Kilkenny team if they dont go to college, as players do give up rugby when their schools career is over.

The more rugby is developed in Italy and Argentina, the further Ireland will fall.

Agreed, especially if the IRB ever give the Argies a fair crack at the Tri-nations or 6 nations.

From breakingnews.ie…bollocks

Weather hits Munster’s tie at Ravenhill

Tonight’s Magners League game between Ulster and Munster at Ravenhill has been postponed due to a frozen pitch.

The pitch there has been under approx four inches of snow all day, although there was no frost on the ground underneath.

However, the safety of the 12,000 ticket-holders was the main consideration in deciding to re-arrange the fixture.

A new date for the fixture has yet to be arranged by Celtic Rugby, the body that is responsible for running the Magners League tournament.

Thanks for that WoW. Was planning on heading home for that but might be tempted to stay around town now.

Good a place for this as any. Did anyone get last Sundays tribune? Page 2 of the Sports Section of my tribune had a report on Ireland v Bulgaria in the World Cup Qualifiers…

That’s Laois for ya

Gway ta fuck, I bought it in Dublin!

I noticed that also MBB. I was utterly confused for about 5 seconds.

Just scanned through the initial article.

How appropriate that Jerry Flannery from Munster, the team with the most bandwagoner supporters ever, is actually a bandwagon supporter of Chelsea himself.

I had a raging hangover, it fairly fucked with my head.

[quote=“Bandage”]Just scanned through the initial article.

How appropriate that Jerry Flannery from Munster, the team with the most bandwagoner supporters ever, is actually a bandwagon supporter of Chelsea himself.[/QUOTE]

Eh, I think he went out of his way to show that wasn’t the case there bando.