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Sport 10/11 SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2010

2010 out of 10

A Tiger taming, a first major and a Ryder Cup tour de force make it a year to remember for McDowell — P36, 37

GAA: Cork’s video tasty P4,5 ● Photography: Sports Pictures of the Year P13-28 ● Athletics: Talking the Walk P29-31 ● Team Twitter P38,39




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Footballing highlights this year featured Spain, Barcelona and a midfielder common to both. Ben Lyttleton spoke to Xavi Hernandez.

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TER RIFIC TEKKERS They call it “unbelievable tekkers”, and only sports fans could while away hours discussing the merits of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pieces of skill. Alan Good looks back on his favourite 10 moments of individual brilliance from 2010


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John ‘Hotpoint’ Hayes has been tending to the Tipperary hurlers for more than 20 years —- but there was special satisfaction in the county’s 26th All-Ireland in September. He turned the pages of a season with Michael Moynihan.

Pages eight and nine

It’s been a year racing’s Walsh clan won’t forget — from the highs of Chetenham success for both Katie and Ruby to the broken leg that has sidelined the champion jockey in recent weeks. They sat down for dinner and discussion with Daragh O Conchuir.

A FOUR-FOOT opening between the trees, with his ball perched on some straw. Leading the Masters by two shots at the 13th during the final round, Phil Mickelson could have been forgiven for taking the safe option. But Lefty pulled off a stunning effort, which carried 187 yards over water to within a few feet. The subsequent missed putt for eagle diminishes the shot in the eyes of some, but given that Mickelson left Augusta in a green jacket that day, we’re guessing he won’t have minded too much.


goal of rare beauty this year in the All-Ireland quarter-final between Meath and Kildare. The Lilywhites were three points down just before half-time when Kavanagh latched onto Hugh Lynch’s pump downfield and found himself with just Meath netminder Brendan Murphy to beat. A less accomplished player may have gone for power, but Kavanagh had the confidence to take another touch when he looked set to pull the trigger, leaving Murphy in no-man’s land and allowing the simplest of finishes.

are perched at the side of a lake in Killarney’s Gap of Dunloe, attempting to hit a nine-inch gong perched just above the water 200 yards away, isn’t explained. Frankly, it doesn’t need to be, it’s just that awesome. Skimming the ball along the water produces some near misses, but it’s Howell who discovers that a direct hit does the trick; cue hugs, high fives, and jealous smiles. Boys will be boys...

from right to left and facing the sideline as he made a catch, dragging two Cats defenders with him. But one perfectly-placed blind handpass later, the Kilkenny defence was split and Corbett was blasting home his second.

when chasing a through ball. But as the AC Milan defence attempts to clear, Lavezzi improvises and somehow manages to chip keeper Christian Abbiati from short range, despite being in a crab-like position on the ground.

8 DRISCOLL MIDDLE SCHOOL:THEY take their schoolboy American football seriously in Texas, as anyone who has read HG Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights will know. So you can imagine the incredulity of the opposition coach after a trick play by Driscoll Middle School in Corpus Christi went viral on YouTube. Looking to catch their opposition off guard, the centre snapped the ball over his shoulder to his quarterback, who then ambled through the scrimmage. The defensive line stood up in confusion, and the QB then sped off on a cartoon chase to make the touchdown.

10 BRIAN O’DRISCOLL: POSSIBLY the most obvious inclusion, but it’s impossible to ignore BOD’s jaw-dropping try for Ireland against New Zealand. Rob Kearney’s attempted offload to Jamie Heaslip goes to ground, but before the All Blacks defence can react, O’Driscoll steamed in picked the ball up off the deck, one-handed and at full tilt, before switching hands to prevent an attempted rip and blasted through two tackles to score.

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“ As the shout continued, his mouth seemingly got wider and wider, accentuating his passion and determination.” The world’s top photographers explain the shots that made our sports pictures of the year section.

Pages thirteen to twenty eight

When Declan Kidney and Donal Lenihan got to talking, it wasn’t all Six Nations and the World Cup. There’s still some school bragging rights to bicker over.

Pages thirty two and thirty three

2 BEN YOUNGS ENGLAND’S 35-18 demolition of Australia was all the more notable for expansive manner in which it was executed, and the game produced one of rugby’s tries of the year, a length-of-the-field effort from Chris Ashton. The score was pockmarked by blistering long-distance finishing and a sublime Courtney Lawes offload, but it’s the outrageously ballsy dummy, see in the replay, from England scrum-half Ben Youngs, right on his own try-line, which had us gawping — Quade Cooper is sold so badly he almost ends up over the dead-ball line.

4 MATTY BURROWS: A PERENNIAL stumbling block when attempting to adjudge feats of breathtaking skill is that nagging notion that, well, it was a total fluke. Matty Burrows will surely spend the rest of his days protesting that his winning goal for Glentoran against Portadown was completely intentional. Especially if he wins the FIFA Goal of the Year award. Burrows was in mid-air and with his back to goal 16 yards out, when he caught a cross from the left on the volley with a back-heel that looped into the far corner.

Seventeen-year-old Gráinne Murphy is making the right kind of headlines for Irish swimming with the talent to keep doing so until London and beyond. Brian Canty met her for a (very) early morning rendezvous

Pages thirty four and thirty five 3 JAMES KAVANAGH: SPEAKING of brilliant dummies, the GAA world threw up a

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5 DAVID HOWELL: JUST why David Howell and fellow golfing pros Paul McGinley, Marcus Siem and Rhys Davies

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6 SHAUN WHITE: ODDS are you haven’t heard of this guy unless winter sports are your bag, but American snow-boarding phenomenon White deserves his place on this list as much as anyone. During his gold medal run at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, he busted out the never-before-seen Double McTwist 1260. This essentially requires three-and-a-half twists, along with two full board-over-head turns; it hurts to even think about it.

7 NOEL McGRATH: LAR CORBETT may have taken the plaudits for his stunning hat-trick which proved the catalyst for Tipperary ending Kilkenny’s “drive for five”, but many have another abiding memory of the 2010 All-Ireland SHC final. That came in the 42nd minute, with Tipp just a point to the good. Noel McGrath ran

9 EZEQUIEL LAVEZZI: FOR the sake of originality, we’re going to jettison the dozens of Lionel Messi moments of brilliance in favour of a goal you’re unlikely to see repeated anytime soon. Napoli’s Lavezzi looks to have spurned his chance when he is (fairly) shoved to the ground


Honourable mentions The Scarlets’ unbelievable show of handling against Perpignan, the try finished off by Rhys Priestland; Down’s Benny Coulter’s outside-of-the-boot point against Kildare; Kieran Donaghy’s monster catch en route to setting up a Bryan Sheehan goal for Kerry against Tipperary; Miguel Angel Jimenez’s “off the wall” shot at the Road Hole at the Open; Ezequiel Calvente’s penalty kick “switch hit” with his instep for Spain U19s; Chris Maguire’s (Scotland U21) goal direct from a tip-off; Mark Pearn’s route-one field hockey goal for East Grinstead vs Surbiton.



4 BEFORE THE THROW-IN >> WE STUCK to the All-Ireland final timeline in training — doing the warm-up in the same amount of time, having the bench out on the field for the photograph, playing crowd noise on the speakers for the free-takers. No, we didn’t have someone playing the President meeting the players first. Conor (Counihan) didn’t take on that role! But it’s a help, having been there before. You know the dressing-room. You know the routine. It’s worth something to a team.

THE THROW-IN >> AS expected, Shields picks up Down danger man Benny Coulter. Within a minute Cork have a double goal chance through Ciaran Sheehan. I’d known for a few days at that stage that I’d be on him, so I’d prepared myself and just trotted out to the wing to mark him. Ciaran’s chance . . . from where I was I could see the ball bouncing around their square and thought ‘goal on here’, obviously. It was disappointing not to get a goal — you want to take your chances — but it wasn’t the end of the world. Ciaran is level-headed, and there was no need to gee him up after it because he went on and had a massive final after that. It was a chance and he went for it, and even the rebound showed how cool he was — instead of catching it he tried to flick it in. He was probably too stylish, if anything. Compare that to last year, when we were 1-3 to 0-1 up against Kerry after Colm O’Neill’s goal, we probably thought ‘here we go’. We could draw on that last September. Even though we missed the goal we knew there was a long way to go.

8 MINS >> Coulter has two shots but puts both wide.

First Down Then Up

BENNY had that first chance when he side-stepped me but Alan (O’Connor) came in and put pressure on him and made him rush his shot a little. If it had gone over it’d have given him a boost. Not long after, he got that other shot away but it just drifted wide. That shows how tight the margins are, another day the breeze could have brought those shots in and the forward is on the front foot then, the back is under pressure. We got the breaks there. But it’s worth pointing out that I had great support from the others — Alan and Aidan (Walsh) especially — all through the game.

And that’s hard, when there are 80,000 people there. You’ve got to send word through the lines — I’ll tell Aidan or Alan in midfield, or one of the maor uisces when they’re around, to pass on a message.

18 MINS >>

9 MINS >>

Down lead 0-6 to 0-2

Shields breaks upfield and tries to find Donncha O’Connor with a foot pass. I HAD a slightly different job that day, to track Benny rather than to attack if I could, so I followed him around the field. I didn’t do much attacking. One thing you’d notice about an All-Ireland final is that everyone is in peak condition. Every player has been training and conditioning himself all summer, eating well, not socialising — on the day of an All-Ireland I think you notice that, the fact that all the players are at the very peak of fitness, and ready to go mentally as well. Even the following day they’re not quite as fit, but on the day of the game they’re as ready as they’ll ever be.

14 MINS >> Down lead 0-4 to 0-2 WE weren’t worried. It was only two points and there could be 60 minutes left. What you’re thinking of at that stage is maybe where it’s not working for you — kickouts, breaks, whatever — and you’re trying to communicate that to the others.

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Cork’s anguished wait for an All-Ireland football title ended dramatically in September. All Star defender Michael Shields pulled out the popcorn and sat down with Michael Moynihan to relive the final against Down on DVD

I WASN’T worried that we’d lose, but it was a concern that we were creating chances and not taking them. I knew the game was still there. You’re in the zone, focused on your job, but you’d also be conscious that it’s a long time since we scored.

25 MINS >> Down leading 0-7 to 0-2, thanks to Danny Hughes’ point. YEAH, that was a good score from him. Five points down with ten minutes left in the half, and I was thinking ‘we could be in massive trouble here if we don’t score’. They took their chances brilliantly, but we began to match their level from then on.

34 MINS >> Cork have cut Down’s lead to four and then Donncha O’Connor comes out to the wing, turns and scores a fine point from play.


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NICE ‘N KNEESY: Cork captain for the day Michael Shields limbers up in the parade prior to the All-Ireland final cliffhanger against Down at Croke Park. Picture: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

THAT was a turning-point. He came out, took on his man and smashed it over. Even on the screen you can see it swerve out and back in. A massive point. It made the scoreboard a little better for us, but it also gave us huge heart at the back. We’d been under a lot of pressure and that lifted us. We could have gone in at half-time five or six points down and there was only three points between us instead, but there was something about the way Donncha scored that one . . . a class score. We’d been creating chances for the entire first half, and the lads would have scored them nine times out of ten, but when Donncha hit that one, it was just, ‘game on here again’. Some scores are worth more than what you get on the scoreboard. That was one.

HALF-TIME >> IN 2009 we’d been two points down at half-time, so we had that to draw on. In 2007 we conceded an early goal and were six points down early in the second half, so we knew to keep it tight at the back. Anthony Lynch and Frank Cogan spoke to us. They pointed to the stats, said we’d created chances but we needed more composure. To stop rushing things. In 2007 it was all new to us. In 2009 we had the experience but Kerry were better on the day, we had to accept that. But this year we knew it was there for us. We’d created chances, and we had to keep doing that. Conor (Counihan) said

a few words as well and back out we went.

SECOND HALF >> Cork start to whittle away the Down lead, but Shields and Coulter don’t see much of the ball. IT’S not always about blocking a fella’s shot or reaching in to dispossess him or whatever. Down would have been looking for Benny and Martin Clarke all summer when they won the ball further back the field, so it was important to show in front of them, to cut them out as an option and make the player out the field look elsewhere.

45 MINS >>

Ciaran Sheehan for the equaliser, 0-10 apiece. THAT was a good boost for us, that passage of play, but you couldn’t relax for a second, or think you were on top. You’re up against the very best in the latter stages of the championship anyway, and being honest, Benny didn’t get a great supply that day. Also, when Graham (Canty) came on he drifted into the pocket in front of the full-forward line, which people probably didn’t see. That meant there was another body in the way when Down were looking to hit Benny with the ball; they’d have had to get the ball over Graham, and he gave us great protection in the full-back line.

Shields comes onto a ball and wins it — Cork get a point when they surge upfield from Donncha O’Connor to cut the lead to two.

58 MINS >>

WITH those kinds of balls, sometimes you have to gamble. We were three down so there was nothing to lose. Luckily I won it and we got a score out of it, and it worked out — we won the ball at the back to break up their attack and got the score ourselves, a two-point swing.

I WON’T lie to you. You’re focused on the game, you’re marking a top forward, but in the back of your head you’re thinking, ‘In ten minutes, if we hold this, we’ll be All-Ireland champions’. A small bit of that creeps in, despite everything. At that stage you’re also thinking three points is a big enough lead in a game where you don’t have goals flying in and everyone is on their game. Both defences were ultra-protective, ultra-safe, and a goal looked unlikely. Down had time to get points alright, but so did we.

49 MINS >> Coulter makes ground along the end line but Shields and his teammates dispossess him, working the ball up to

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Cork have taken over and edged three points ahead.

68 MINS >> Cork three ahead thanks to Daniel Goulding’s ninth point. YOU’RE sneaking a look at the clock and thinking ‘realistically, we have this game, just keep going’ . . . ouch, Derek gets a right slap there (Derek Kavanagh broke his nose) . . . you’re thinking, ‘if we can battle through this play we’ll waste another minute’. Nearly there.

69 MINS >>

they’d been played. Down got the ball to the left-half-back position and I was saying to myself, ‘take him down, take him down’. I was getting myself set for the attack — sometimes you’d be saying ‘would they ever hit it in’ — when I saw a load of Cork bodies heading in there around the Down player. When I saw Daniel get the ball and go up the wing, and then get fouled, I said to myself, ‘it has to be over now’. By the time he’d have the free taken I knew it’d be well into the 73rd minute . . . I was hoping he’d kick it dead, but knowing Daniel I was sure he’d go for it.

Coulter gets a point, outfielding Shields near the Cork goal. Cork just two up, 0-16 to 0-14.


HE got the position on me — I hesitated, I didn’t know whether to go full belt for it or not. In hindsight I probably should have gone all out for it, but if I’d done that and missed it he was gone in behind me. It didn’t bother me as much to give away the point because we were three up.

I shook hands with Benny and celebrated with Alan Quirke and Ken O’Halloran, who just lives up the road from me. You couldn’t buy that minute or two after the game. It was the best feeling I’ve ever had, anyway, beyond what I expected. It certainly made up for 2007 and 2009.

71 MINS >>


Danny Hughes rises high to fist a sideline ball from Clarke over the bar. One in it. Then Down have a free in their goalmouth.

IT’S been great — people congratulating you, telling you they were at the final, or that they’ve been Cork football supporters all their lives, and what the win meant. I suppose there’s a bit of a change to your life — compared to when we didn’t win All-Ireland finals — it’s a big change to 2009, anyway.

I REMEMBER the whistles at that stage — the whole ground whistling. I knew there were two minutes injury-time and that


Cork win by a point, 0-16 to 0-15




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Footballing highlights this year featured Spain, Barcelona and a midfielder common to both. BEN LYTTLETON spoke to Xavi Hernandez

O TEAM had ever won the World Cup after losing its opening game, but Spain, the reigning European champions and pre-tournament favourites, did not panic when they lost their opener to Switzerland in South Africa last summer. Some of their players said it was a freak result, and certainly the stats backed them up: Spain had 63% of possession and eight shots on goal, to the Swiss three. “Switzerland won by just looking to deactivate us but I don’t know what it is like to win like that,” reflects Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez, the engine of the Barcelona and national team, and one of three men still in the running for nexth month’s Fifa’s Ballon D’Or as the world’s best player. “I like attractive, attacking, beautiful football, and when you win like that the satisfaction is double. I guess you could say I’m a football romantic.” The rest of the world soon fell in love with Xavi and his team’s tiki-taka style of play. Although they only won one match by more than one goal — a 2-0 win over Honduras — Spain’s dominance over its opponents was astonishing. They had more shots, dribbles and passes (over 1,500 more) than any of their rivals; no side has averaged as many passes in a tournament since Italy in 1994; and in every game, Spain topped the possession and shots on targets figures. The main reason for this was Xavi, who reprised the Barcelona midfield with Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. No player made more passes or had more successful touches of the ball in South Africa, but in typical style, Xavi has since tried to downplay his contribuFRANCE IN DISARRAY: After the controversy which saw them get to South Africa, there were few tears shed when France exited the tournament after finishing bottom of their group without a win to their name. French media reports that Nicolas Anelka told coach Raymond Domenech to ‘f**k off’ at half-time of the opening match, a 0-0 draw with Uruguay, kick-started a chain of events that left Les Bleus a laughing-stock. The story, which Anelka still denies, was only published because Domenech and his players had alienated the press so much. Straightaway, the French federation banished Anelka from the camp, and the players then went on strike in protest at the decision — though the camp was clearly split on this issue — and it was little surprise when France lost their next two matches. Despite the players all claiming they had acted unanimously throughout the fiasco, denying other reports that Franck Ribery had bullied Yoann Gourcuff into striking, the bungling French FA singled out four players for post-World Cup bans, among them captain Patrice Evra (five games) and Anelka (18 games). “It’s laughable,” said Anelka, summing it up nicely. “The French FA knew I was going to retire from international football after the World Cup anyway.” THE HAND OF THE DEVIL: It was the most dramatic passage of play in this and perhaps any World Cup: in the quarter-finals, with Ghana bidding to become the first African team ever to reach the final four, the scores were locked at 1-1. In the last minute of ex-

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tion. “Iniesta is simply something else, he’s a phenomenon. The two of us work perfectly together,” he said of his team-mate. Spain’s success was put into context by their opponents in the final, Holland, who eschewed their own football tradition, trying to out-muscle opponents. As the tournament wore on, it became apparent that Germany had been playing like Holland of old (attacking and exciting), and Holland like Germany (grinding out results). The final was a brutal spectacle, in which Spain tried to play their normal game but were held back by some particularly violent Dutch tactics. Referee Howard Webb showed 13 yellow cards and one red, late on to Johnny Heitinga, before Iniesta scored the only goal. “I think it’s worth highlighting the fact that we won the tournament while playing good football,” Xavi says. “I was particularly pleased to hear Fifa president Sepp Blatter when he said that, at last, a team playing good football became world champions. Fortunately in football, talent is still more important than brute force.” Even Johan Cruyff, a Barcelona acolyte but still a proud Dutchman, seemed embarrassed by his nation. “I am Dutch but I support the football that Spain is playing. Spain, a replica of Barcelona, is the best publicity for football.” Xavi is the common thread of both teams: when Lionel Messi struggled for Argentina, it was said he could not function without a player like Xavi giving him the ball; the same Xavi who, when Barcelona thrashed Arsenal 4-1 in April, hit more passes than the whole of the Arsenal midfield combined; whose performances for Spain


tra-time, Ghana sub Dominic Adiyah headed goalwards, past Fernando Muslera and towards an empty goal. Uruguay forward Luis Suarez (above) popped up and punched the ball clear, an instinctive reaction but one that gave his side half a chance. Penalty: Asamoah Gyan takes it, but the ball hits the crossbar. In the shoot-out, you just felt Uruguay would take advantage: but no-one expected Gyan to step up again, and this time score, for Ghana’s first penalty of the shoot-out. It showed incredible bravery. John Mensah and Adiyah again both missed, Sebastien Abreu chipped a winner down the middle of the goal, Ghana were out, and the world had a new villain. “I think every player would have done the same,”

at the World Cup were, according to one La Liga coach, “the personification of simplicity”. The Spanish press loved him after the summer success, each one going further in their praise. “He is gregarious, majestic, an exhibition, his football is a recital that never ends” wrote El Mundo Deportivo. “He reads the game like no-one else, carving out space, moving cleverly, and, like always, building football,” said El Pais.


ITTLE wonder, then, that when Xavi turned up to training with the Barcelona first-team in the late-1990s, Pep Guardiola, now Barcelona coach but then a player, realised he was something special. “This kid is going to push me out of the door here,” he told a team-mate. Bolo Zenden, who was at the club at the time, remembers that training-session well: “This little number four was there, and he was passing just like Guardiola,” he said. “We said, ‘He’s the same kind of player!’ They had this education [at Barcelona academy La Masia] where you just open up a can of number fours. Xavi is a more complete player than Guardiola was though.” It says something that in the year in which his Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta scored the winning goal in the World Cup final, and Messi averages a goal every 75 minutes of action in 2010, it is Xavi who is favourite to win the Ballon D’Or. “I hope that a Spanish player wins said Suarez, “but we still needed some luck as Gyan missed his penalty. But I have always loved playing as goalkeepers.” ENGLAND RUN OUT OF SCAPEGOATS: Normally when England get knocked out of a major tournament, it’s easy to pinpoint the reason why, and therefore anoint a scapegoat. In Euro 2004, it was Urs Meier, and in 2006 it was Cristiano Ronaldo; in 2008, Steve McClaren. In 2010, though, the team had such a wretched campaign that no one knew who to blame. Goalkeeper Rob Green started off the calamity with a huge blunder in England’s opener against USA — but coach Fabio Capello was also attacked for only picking him one hour before kick-off — while against Algeria, the whole team were booed off, after which Wayne Rooney criticised the fans, and took stick himself. Then John Terry addressed the press amid reports he was undermining new captain Steven Gerrard’s authority, and England only limped to the next round as group runners-up, so missing out on an open half of the draw. It was to prove crucial: a terrible start against Germany left them 2-0 down but after Matthew Upson pulled a goal back, Frank Lampard chipped Manuel


it and if not, I hope it goes to my friend Leo,” he said. “He’s indisputably the best player in the world, he is now even better than Maradona was and is going to be at the very top for many years to come, but in World Cup years, the tournament is a big factor.” Typically for Xavi, team awards are more important. “It’s all about trophies for the team for me. I need team-mates, people to combine with. Without team-mates, football has no meaning. I am no one if they don’t make themselves available. For me, being world champions is more important than an individual award.” And that brings us back nicely to the World Cup, at which Spain did not need extra-time in any of its knock-out matches (of the last five winners, only Brazil in 2002 can say the same) and Xavi provided more goalscoring chances than anyone else — 28, 10 more than his nearest rival. Confront Xavi with that, and he will point to Iniesta’s tournament-winning goal, set up by substitute Cesc Fabregas: “The fact that Cesc, Pedro or David Silva were not starting was evidence that we had so much potential,” he said. Fernando Llorente was another substitute that coach Vicente del Bosque also used to excellent effect. “Winning the World Cup was the cherry on top of my career, as it was the only important title that I hadn’t won. It was a privilege to be part of it,” said Xavi. For the rest of us, it was a privilege to watch a player at the top of his game playing football the way it should be played. Spain were deserving World Cup winners, just as Xavi is a worthy Ballon D’Or winner. Guardiola summed it up, telling friends that Xavi likes to pick mushrooms on his days off, before adding: “Anyone who picks mushrooms can’t be bad.” Neuer and the ball crossed the line. No goal, claimed Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda, leaving England stunned. Germany went on to win 4-1. Larrionda was at fault, but so were too many others for it to really matter. HOLLAND CHANGE THEIR SPOTS: Holland built their reputation as a liberal and easy-going nation on the back of their performances in the 1970s, but the world, and indeed, Holland, is a different place now. The manner in which they beat teams in South Africa won them few friends. The opening semi-final goal against Uruguay was a perfect example: Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s (inset, left) brilliant strike only coming after Van Bommel’s foul on an opponent that deserved a red card. “Holland used to regard this style of play as the devil and was always above it,” said David Winner, author of Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football. “The way they played betrayed everything they believe in.” Dutch political scientist Paul Scheffer said that the Holland side played like accountants, reflecting the current sense of caution in Dutch society, while Henk Spaan, editor of influential football magazine Hard Gras, went even further. “In the space of two hours, they destroyed a 40-year tradition, dragged it through the sh*t,” he said. “This was done by irresponsible people who lack any grace, knowledge, intelligence or culture.”





ARROW margins. Close shaves. The curtains were waiting to come down on the All-Ireland hurling semi-final and Galway had their noses in front of Tipp. For the longest-serving member of the blue and gold backroom, the prognosis was bleak enough. “I was kneeling beside Michael Ryan at that stage,” says John Hayes, kitman and general factotum to the Tipp hurlers for nearly quarter of a century. “With two minutes to go and two points down I was saying to him, ‘Jesus, this is looking dodgy’. “But I felt we were hurling okay. We were unfortunate to concede one of the goals but I thought the chance was there, that you’d get the chance of a goal. I didn’t think we’d win it with points. “Once Johno (O’Brien) got a point I thought we’d get the chance to equalise anyway, maybe, in injury time.” Tipperary turned it around: Lar Corbett took another step towards the Hurler of the Year crown with the winning point in injury time and he and his teammates were back in the big show. Ready to reverse the defeat of 2009. Twenty years before that narrow loss Hayes, universally known as ‘Hotpoint’ in the GAA world, had been in the Tipp dressing-room for an All-Ireland final. He’s well placed to see the difference between the old dispensation and the new religion. “The big change is really that it’s nearly gone professional, as has been well flagged. Take training. “There are times laid out, the session is at half-seven, and the whistle would go at twenty-five past for lads to be out on the field. “I’d be there well before that. I’d normally be around Thurles with work anyway so I’d mosey into the stadium at half five, quarter to six, lay out the gear. The lads all sit in the same spot in the dressing-room, so I know where they’ll be. “They might come in around quarter to seven, they’d have arranged with the physios to come in for a rub or a strap, but Liam (Sheedy) insisted that lads be ready to go at half-seven. Ready to train at that stage, not just coming out on the field. They get a programme to do so they’re in shape when they come to training — they’re training to come training, if you like. The days of lads coming back a bit overweight are gone. The clubs play away until September or October anyway, and lads take better care of themselves anyway over the winter.” Food is part of that care. The players are conscious of what’s good for them. “That’s one thing that changed when Babs came in back in 1987,” says Hayes. “They got a meal because they’d be travelling distances to training, but the difference nowadays is with nutritionists, the food is pasta and so on. “Of course, you still have lads who can eat anything they want and they don’t put on weight, it’s just natural. The younger lads, Larry (Corbett), they don’t put on an ounce, they’d nearly be encouraged to put on a bit of weight, while some of the other lads would tell you they only have to look at food and they’ll put on weight.” A slight pause. “We won’t name them, will we?” Back in the early summer, Tipperary had more pressing problems. They were thrashed by Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh by 10 points and there was a much-discussed team meeting a couple of nights afterwards. “That was probably a media thing,” says Hayes. “The win probably worked the opposite for Cork in that I thought there was a bit of a false result to the game. We were four points to two up af-

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‘It’s enjoyable then. You know you won’t be caught. You know you’ll be All-Ireland champions in a minute or two’ John ‘Hotpoint’ Hayes has been tending to the Tipperary hurlers for more than 20 years — but there was special satisfaction in the county’s 26th All-Ireland in September. He turned the pages of a season with Michael Moynihan ter a few minutes and Larry had a chance of a goal but didn’t get it. “If we’d scored that we would have been 1-4 to 0-2 up and the game might have gone differently. On the Tuesday night we were supposed to train but we had a meeting instead: there was no great soul-searching or anything. It was just a meeting, and the players themselves knew how they’d played. They knew what would need to be done to get back, and they were honest enough about that.” They did, once they got over the

criticism within the county. “Lads hear that alright, stuff from people who should know better, but they can use it to motivate themselves a bit more. Within the team they know what’s involved. They wouldn’t listen to outside influences, they’re strong within the unit.” Tipperary dismissed Wexford in their first outing in the qualifiers. Then came the late, late show against Galway. “That was massive. Very good for confidence. The focus was on getting back to Croke Park for the final, and it set the lads up for the remaining games. “I remember last year Shane McGrath saying he couldn’t remember coming out of Croke Park on a winning bus. We lost to Waterford two years ago, then the final last year. . . by now the lads are more used to the regime, the schedule, so that’s a huge advantage.” It doesn’t do to overlook the importance of the schedule, says Hayes: “We used to go up to the Jockey, collect the lads from the south and then meet the others in Portlaoise before heading onto Dublin, but Liam wanted the lads all in Portlaoise, so the bus would meet everyone there. “We’d go in to the Midway Food Court and have a cup of tea, even the day of the All-Ireland, it was nice and relaxed, mingling with the supporters. They’d relax in the Burlington for half an hour before having the food and heading on to Croke Park. “The routine is important — the lads relax because of it, and you can see it on the bus.” The much-discussed Waterford playing style didn’t impinge on Tipp’s preparations for the All-Ireland semi-final. “No, the lads play their own game. We don’t worry about the opposition, and that’s what the management would


BEAT THAT: Tipperary players celebrate around the Liam MacCarthy Cup following its arrival back in the sanctity of the dressing-room after the Premier defeated Kilkenny in this year’s All-Ireland final.

Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

have emphasised — let the other side worry about what we’re doing and focus on what we do well.” Hayes says Kilkenny’s five-in-a-row bid was never a factor in the Tipp camp. “Never came into it. The lads wanted to play as well as they could, to bring it up a little bit from 2009. They didn’t have a little luck that time, though in the second half that day I never saw us losing, it was just unfortunate the way things worked out. They knew they could produce that again. “The chances came off this year compared to 2009. If last year’s chances came around again they probably would have been taken, but it didn’t happen that day. There wasn’t a conscious decision — ‘goals, goals, goals’.” Hayes wasn’t kneeling next to Michael Ryan that day. Hr was suspended for incursions on the field in the semi-final. “Yeah, I was up in the stand. It didn’t affect my enjoyment, though, because I was involved up to the national anthem, then Mick Clohessy took over my job. Up in the stand, sitting beside Hugh Moloney, I had a different perspective. After 10 minutes you could see how well the lads were hurling, and when Larry got his first goal I said we were on our way, we had a fantastic chance. The drive was there. You could see it.” Towards the end Hayes took his chances with the authorities and slipped nearer the action. “I’d said to Eoin (Kel-

ly) I’d take his hurley and helmet off him at the final whistle, so at the end I was down on the sideline with two minutes to go. He was at that side of the field at

that point. “When Larry got the third goal I knew we’d win. I ran in to Eoin at the final whistle but he was so wound up I had to pull the helmet off

his head and grab the hurley off him.” Hayes pays tribute to Kilkenny boss Brian Cody. “He spoke very eloquently in the dressing-room, said Tipp were a

HURLING Seamus Hennessy (Tipperary) THE 2010 season provided a treasure trove of highlights for the Kilruane McDonaghs man as he accumulated All-Ireland senior, All-Ireland U21 and Fitzgibbon Cup medals. He anchored NUIG’s challenge in the spring from centre-back, dovetailed wonderfully with Noel McGrath at midfield for the county U21s and applied the coup de grace to the senior triumph over Kilkenny with a late point when sprung off the bench. Hennessy is blessed with a fierce shot as evidenced by the rocket he dispatched to save Tipperary in the Munster U21 semi-final against Cork last June. Limited senior opportunities so far, his versatility should see his exposure increase.

■ 2011: Keep an eye on ...


For John ‘Hotpoint’ Hayes, kitman and general factotum to the Tipp hurlers for nearly quarter of a century, the late, late show against Galway was massive. “The focus was on getting back to Croke Park for the final”. Picture: John D Kelly

The Sporting Year

Leo McLoone (Donegal) LAST Sunday’s Ulster club final defeat with Naomh Conaill should not diminish his achievements in 2010. McLoone’s intelligent play surfaced during Donegal’s march to the All-Ireland U21 football final last May. Despite suffering defeat in that game, he was drafted into the senior set-up and is set to become a key element of that squad with this year’s U21 boss Jimmy McGuinness at senior level in 2011. For his home club in Glenties, McLoone was imperious as they claimed Donegal senior honours and reached the provincial decider. Comfortable in possession, balanced and a fine passer. — Fintan O’Toole


super team,” said hayes who admits to surprise at the departure of Liam Sheedy and his management team in October. “There was talk of Eamonn (O’Shea, selector) being under pressure, that he’d have to travel, but we were a bit surprised when Liam stepped down. But then again, it’s hardly surprising, knowing Liam — he’d give something 100%, his job or anything else.” Sheedy, O’Shea and Ryan leave a fine legacy. Hayes reckons there was more blue and gold around Tipperary this year compared to 2009: “People seemed readier for it this year.” That’s hardly surprising. Nine years is a long time for Tipperary to wait, given their history. Hayes refers to that when asked for a moment from the season. “Not the final whistle,” says Hayes. “Before that. I remember in 1987 down in Killarney with my three brothers, when Michael Doyle scored the goal in extra-time against Cork in the Munster final replay. We knew we were going to win the game then. “The same this year — when Seamus Hennessy scored a point to put us five up in the All-Ireland final with a minute or two to go, and then Larry got his third goal, you know. ‘This is it, we’re going to win the All-Ireland’. “It’s enjoyable then. You know you won’t be caught. You know you’ll be All-Ireland champions in a minute or two.”




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Racing’s first family


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Ruby Walsh, his father Ted and our man Daragh Ó Conchuir take their cue from Katie Walsh over dinner at Fallon’s restaurant, Kilcullen, Co Kildare.

Picture: Michael O’Rourke.


N HORSE RACING, breeding carries as much weight for the human protagonists as the equine ones. Being a Mullins, Carberry or Taaffe is like having Sadler’s Wells blood in you. The Walsh clan is another example. Ted is the son of Ruby, a trainer who moved to Kill in Co Kildare from his native Fermoy in Co Cork when Ted was just a nipper. The nipper grew to be one of the most fearless and combative jockeys around. Champion amateur 11 times, he rode more than 600 winners, including four at Cheltenham. A Champion Chase on Hilly Way in 1979 was amongst those. He trained Commanche Court to win the Triumph Hurdle in Cheltenham — he was subsequently second in a Gold Cup — while the highlight of his training career to-date was Papillon’s Grand National victory in 2000. Nowadays, he is best known as the most knowledgeable and sensibly forthright television pundit. Ted’s son, also Ruby, was on board when Papillon won the National and has since established himself as one of the most consummate jockey’s in the history of the sport. He is so good that the champion trainers in Britain and Ireland, Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins, are happy to share him. He has won all the big prizes and will be associated forever with Kauto Star, Master Minded, Big Buck’s and more but the fire still burns. Daughter Katie is one of the premier lady riders on the circuit. A winner of the Ladies Derby in 2005 on Cloneden, she has also drove Alexander Taipan, Snowy Morning and Glencove Marina, amongst others, to their debut bumper successes. When she rode two winners at Cheltenham last March — Poker De Sivola and Thousand Stars — her name was cemented in the history of the sport. The three of them agreed to sit around a dinner table to discuss the issues of the day and give us some sort of insight into the dynamic between them. They all like the same starter, but there was more in the course of a two-and-a-half hour conversation. As Con Houlihan might say, now read on... DARAGH Ó CONCHÚIR: It was another incredible year for the family but with all Ruby’s wins, Katie’s Cheltenham was probably the highlight. What did it mean to you? KATIE WALSH: It’s something I never thought

The Sporting Year

It’s been a year the Walsh clan won’t forget — from the highs of Chetenham success for both Katie and Ruby to the broken leg that has sidelined the champion jockey in recent weeks. They sat down for dinner and discussion with Daragh Ó Conchúir in Fallon’s of Kilcullen

manche Court won the Triumph and knows what it meant to us. How important it is to get to an All-Ireland final, or play in Croke Park or a golfer to win the Open? It’s got to be in your system. Katie had been involved in the yard all her life and knew that Cheltenham was a highlight. RUBY WALSH: I was in the kitchen when Ferdy Murphy rang to see if you’d ride the horse. You (Ted) rang Katie to say that Ferdy Murphy had rang and the excitement coming down the phone because you’d gotten a ride… that’s what Cheltenham is. Even on the Thursday morning when I came back up from

was going to happen so it was seriously brilliant and then to come back and follow up in Punchestown as well. I was walking on air by then and I have been all year. Cheltenham is where everybody wants to have a winner. When you’re an amateur the chances are few and far between so to go with no ride and to come home with two rides and two winners is… TED WALSH: … I think the fact too that Katie would realise how important Cheltenham is in your life as a jump jockey. She was there when Com-


the yard and you were outside the house and I said to you ‘I think there’s a chance you might ride one of the horses in the County Hurdle tomorrow’. You were after riding a winner but you were delighted that Willie was going to give you one of his four and you were going to get another ride. KATIE: I was looking forward to going to Cheltenham anyway. I love Cheltenham, ever since Commanche won and then to go and be able to watch Ruby. TED: You have to know what these occasions mean to really enjoy them. You could be going to Cheltenham for 20 years and never have a winner. Willie

MARCH MADNESS: Katie on Poker de Sivola, wins Cheltenham’s NH Chase Challenge Cup on Paddy’s Day. She also triumphed aboard Thousand Stars in the Handicap Hurdle on Friday.

McLernon was a great amateur but he never rode a winner at Cheltenham. Francis Flood never rode a winner at Cheltenham and he was a fine amateur. They were as good as any professionals of their day. Tom Taaffe always talks about having trained Kicking King and Finger On The Pulse but he never rode a winner there, even though his father Pat won 25. There’s loads of fellas who play football all their lives but they never get to play in an All-Ireland final. They’re fine footballers but because there’s a small window of opportunity… Both Ruby and Katie realise how fortunate they are to have experienced that. DÓC: You got as much a kick out of it Ruby as Katie did by the sounds of things? RUBY: Definitely. I can remember it as clear as day. You were well dropped in, sneaking your way in down the inner. I was watching the first down the back and she got a little closer. Then she got another bit closer and I thought ‘she might have a chance’. Next thing she went out of shot, then she came back into shot a lot quicker than I expected. You could see Nina (Carberry) was travelling well but so was Katie and I was thinking ‘this could happen… this is going to happen’. KATIE: The plan was to drop in, sneak around and see what happens which were great instructions because it’s something I love to do. I knew I was getting a good run, down the back I missed one or two but I winged the last down the back and before I knew it I was fifth.

The Sporting Year

He actually came on the bridle when a horse came up on the outside and I got there a bit too soon, which wouldn’t be the first time! I missed the second last, which was probably the best thing that happened to me. I didn’t really know I’d win until I crossed the line. DÓC: Nina and you both got suspensions for overuse of the whip. How frustrating is that and does it take away in any way from the good of it? KATIE: (laughing): I actually hadn’t seen the replay. So when I got down to the stewards’ room Tony McCoy was standing outside and I said ‘what am I going to say?’ and he said ‘just say sorry, it doesn’t matter, they’re going to do you anyway’. So I went in with a smile on my face and tears probably running down my face at the same time and they could have given me whatever they liked. They were asking me to watch and look and see where I went wrong and count how many times (I’d hit the horse) but I was no more counting… RUBY: (laughing) You were watching the replay. TED: (grinning) You were after winning the lotto and some fella was getting on to you about your spelling. More laughs and we take a break to have a bite. It’s a short one though because you can’t stop the chatter on this table. DÓC: Ruby — You broke Pat Taaffe’s record for the most winners ridden at Cheltenham to bring your tally to 27.

The next one is still as important as the first though to you. RUBY: To me the making and breaking of how the season goes is how Cheltenham goes; especially the expectation that’s on me now. If I go to Cheltenham and ride no winner, it doesn’t matter what I’ve done the rest of the year they’ll say it was an ordinary year. DÓC: Would you feel that pressure? RUBY: You would. You’d want to get one out of the way. Then you can say ‘I had a winner at Cheltenham’. The chances are I’m going to have 15-20 rides and chances are that four or five of them will be favourites. TED: If Kilkenny don’t get to the last four, people will say they’re gone. United the same way, if they’re not in the hunt for the Premier League, they’re gone! RUBY: Any year you get to ride a winner at Cheltenham is a great year and I was lucky enough to ride three and ended up doing something I never thought I’d do, breaking Pat Taaffe’s record. It was a great year. DÓC: How important is your sister Jennifer? RUBY: Serious. Very important. She does all the dealings with Paul and Willie, booking flights, what’s running where, what’s happening when; a huge part of it. I’d talk to her once or twice every day… not so often when I’m hurt! DÓC: How did it come about that she became your agent? RUBY: Even when I was in school she was doing a bit of it. She used to work for Racing Services and they’d have the declarations first. She’d know what was happening, what Willie had declared, what was spare. It worked well when I was an amateur so when I turned professional we said we’d keep going and haven’t looked back. KATIE: I’m not in quite as much demand! Jennifer works in the office at home. She’d be doing Ruby all morning and when I come in at 10 o’clock I stand over her shoulder saying ‘go to the bumper, go to the bumper!’ TED: For me, Jennifer’s big plus is that she’s a very good race reader. She has a good strong opinion. It might be a different opinion to Ruby, Katie or myself but she’s able to fight her corner. KATIE: For someone that never rode… TED: … yeah, for someone that never rode she’s a very good race reader. She’d be very slow to put Ruby on a


yoke; she’d be looking for a fancied ride but also a safe ride. She also has to communicate to the owners and trainers. Ruby might say ‘tell them what you like but I don’t want to be on that the next day’. She’d have to do that diplomatically. She understands from a smaller background, how much pressure the likes of Paul and Willie are under. There could be a very wrong time to ring a trainer. You have to understand that. RUBY: She has to be able to read their humour down the phone. Not looking them in the eye. TED: She knows when she picks up that phone to Willie whether things are going well or bad and she might say she’ll ring again in 20 minutes. Same with Paul Nicholls, she’ll know by the sound of him… sometimes it mightn’t suit Ruby to go to Fontwell of a Tuesday and the economics of it mightn’t make sense but she’ll know by talking to Paul how important it was for him to go that day. DÓC: With Jennifer giving birth to Lucy this year and Ruby’s daughter Isabelle, what’s it like to be a grandfather Ted? TED: Absolutely super. It reminds me of when the kids were small all over again. Nothing gives us greater pleasure, Helen and myself, when they drop them off and leave them with us, especially if they’re going to stay a night. One is eight months, the other is 13 months and they’re at a lovely innocent age, it’s magical. I love small kids anyway but I can’t wait ’til they’re old enough to bring them to Eddie Rocket’s and McDonalds, and tell them lies, and bring them to The Curragh. DÓC: Did it make any change to you Ruby when Isabelle was born in terms of your priorities? RUBY: It changes you but with the job I have your priorities can’t change. DÓC: You’ve had two bad injuries this year Ruby. Some guys take it as an excuse to relax or do something else. Not you though. RUBY: It is torture. DÓC: Do ye think he over-reacts in that way? That he is too glum about it? TED: No, I don’t. I’d hate to see him under-react. He’s got to feel the pain of that to feel the gain when it comes to the other side. If you’re not as passionate about it you’re not taking it as seriously as you should. It’d be difficult on Katie as well but Ruby is a professional and that’s what his life is about at the moment. And when that’s taken away from him at this part of his life, that’s huge. KATIE: I do think though… I think when you’re watching Ruby and he gets an absolute pearler, the first thing you think of is ‘what time of the year is it?’ The summer’s the summer. RUBY: Don’t get me wrong, Galway is great but Galway is not Cheltenham. When I was looking down at my leg after falling in the north, I was thinking ‘Next week’s the Paddy Power. Hennessy, Tingle Creek, Cheltenham, Ascot, Kempton, Leopardstown’. I’m lying on the ground thinking ‘fuck’. DÓC: Growing up in that house, you were always going to ride horses? Was your father a hard taskmaster or an arm-around-the-shoulder man? RUBY: (smirking) I’d say arm around her shoulder. KATIE: No, that’s not fair; no way! RUBY: She’s the baby. You’ve to mind Katie. KATIE: (throwing a napkin across the table at Ruby) No, no, no. I get as much, if not more than anyone else. The first person I ring, win, lose or draw, whether I think I’ve given it the worst ride of all time or whatever, the first person I would ring 10





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<< continued from page 11 minutes after crossing the line is dad. I’ll know exactly, what way he answers the phone… RUBY: … what way the hello is. KATIE: If he says ‘well’… RUBY: … take it. KATIE: Just sit there and take it. RUBY: If he doesn’t come out with a ‘that won well’… KATIE: ...‘Hello. Well done!’… RUBY: … that’s your opening line to say ‘I was bad on that’. You need someone to tell you where you’re going wrong. There’s no point having people around you that are going to clap you on the back and tell you you’re great every day of the week. How the hell are you going to get better? You can’t. KATIE: You know yourself if you should have won or gave it a bad ride but I still ring. I don’t know why. There’s often times when I’d come in and say ‘maybe I should have whatever’ and you’d say ‘no you shouldn’t have’. RUBY: That’s the other side. ‘I probably shouldn’t have gone as fast’ or ‘I should have made more use of that’ and then you get down the phone ‘It didn’t matter what you’d done’. That’s reassurance. You need praise, you need confidence too. DÓC: Helen has been mentioned a couple of times. So what’s the deal with her? KATIE: The backbone. Good, bad or indifferent. Give one a bad ride, get given out to by him (Ted). Next person then is mam. ‘I didn’t think you did bad.’ TED: Helen is a mother to the core. When Ruby gets a fall, the first thing he will think about is what he’s gonna’ miss. I might think about what he’s gonna’ miss. The first thing Helen will think about is ‘Will he be alright?’ No matter how bad a day, if the two of them rode stink and had a right bad day, Helen is only glad that the two of them are in the back of the car coming home or everybody’s alright. It’s all about health and happiness and being together. Some people are better at being a mother than others and Helen gets an A+ in that department. RUBY: When you get the silent treatment it’s serious. And you ain’t getting out of it in one day either. DÓC: What are the challenges facing racing now? TED: There’s too much racing first of all. There’s too many people trying to feed out of the one pot. Unless we can organise that we can get our share of the betting industry, we won’t survive. The likes of Dundalk are great but people should be let in for nothing. But the people who own Dundalk should be getting a percentage of what’s bet on the day and racing should be getting a percentage of what’s bet. Those days, there’s no-one there. So if it’s run for the betting public we’ll have to get a piece of it and a lot more than we’re getting now. In the old days betting tax was 10%. Now they’re bellyaching over 1%. The likes of Betfair have absolutely bent the bookmakers. RUBY: They have but it’s the on-course tax that has bent the bookie. There’s no incentive for anyone to go racing now. None. People who punt will tell me I’m talking crap but there’s no incentive. You get better staying at home watching it on At The Races. You get double result, you get best price. What they have to do is tax the off-course and leave the on-course tax free. I’d forget about promoting the middle of the week. I’d let them have At The Races, let them bet off-course but I would take the big meetings away from At The Races. If you want to see them, go to watch them. Now, when we were in the boom, what money racecourses squandered is unbelievable. The facilities in Irish racecourses are… KATIE: … a disgrace. Disgraceful. Some are

The Sporting Year

WHAT A YEAR: Katie Walsh finished 2010 with an Outstanding Achievement award at the annual Irish Horse Racing Awards.

Shane O’Neill

2011: Keep an eye on ... RECITAL TRAINED by Aidan O’Brien, the son of Montjeu has real classic pretensions in 2011. He made a low-key debut in a maiden at Navan in October , attracting mild market support to beat 17 rivals. Recital did his job well enough, staying on to land the modest event by a length and a quarter. About a month later, the colt took a giant step up in class when tackling Group 1 company at Saint-Cloud in France. Recital didn’t disappoint, powering home five lengths clear and having Epsom Derby possibility written all over him.


lovely but nine times out of 10 they are an absolute disgrace. Desperate. RUBY: Not even that but it costs you to go racing. When you get in the door then it costs you twice as much. What they feed you is pathetic. Something I’m only after learning since we had Isabelle — there’s no place at a racecourse in Ireland where you can warm a bottle and they say ‘Come racing, it’s a great family day out’! KATIE: I think it’s ridiculous that at some racecourses, jockeys have to pay F1.50 for a bottle of water. RUBY: Look Katie, that just goes back to ‘We’re the racecourse, we run it, we manage it, you’re lucky we have racing on. Put up and shut up.’ That’s the attitude at management level in a lot of racecourses. ‘Get down there boy and ride the horse.’ And by the way, they’re getting fed At The Races and SIS money because they can’t run a business. Racecourses in England have to survive themselves, get their own prize money, because they’re not getting the cut we get in Ireland. There’s some real good race managers in Ireland, but there’s a lot of… KATIE: Ruby would know better than me but I go over to England in the summer for some of the lady races and they’re unbelievable. Not living in the lap of luxury but just nice, clean, tidy… hot shower. RUBY: Clean is the thing. That’s the one that bugs me over here… the rat playing tennis in the back, holding your nose going into the toilet because it hasn’t been cleaned for a few weeks. And you open the door of a sauna? Holy good God. DÓC: I have it on good authority that Katie had the makings of a brilliant footballer with Eadestown. TED: She was good. She’d stick it in the back of the net quick. KATIE: I loved it. I was very quick… that was Ruby’s problem, he wasn’t so quick! It was great craic but when you’re into racing it’s hard to do anything else properly because everything’s on the weekend. It was hard to keep the two things on the go. TED: She did a good bit of eventing and we went all over with a horse we bred

ourselves. We were in Poland, Portugal, Spain, Belgium. RUBY: I got brought nowhere but Katie gets brought everywhere! I played rugby for Naas at scrum-half. KATIE: He goes on about it forever in the book. When it came to making a decision on what would be his career he didn’t know what to do! And the slagging continues, in amongst discussions about Kildare’s loss in the All-Ireland final in 1998 which Ted still hasn’t gotten over, the magnificence of Johnny Doyle, Ted’s enjoyment of the achievements of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Ruby’s preference for Munster’s rugby team over Leinster, what you need to be a successful jockey, Ruby’s belief that Kauto Star is better going left-handed despite the conventional wisdom that Kempton is his home from home and the fact that Ted is as happy seeing a young lad with an ipod as Roy Keane is seeing a soccer player wearing a snood. We finish where we started though. With Walsh success in Cheltenham and what it means to the family. TED: I’ve had so many good Cheltenhams now with the two of them. I get a great kick out of it. It means as much to me as it means to them. They mightn’t think that but it does. That’s the way I am. RUBY: We have good back-up with our parents but I have Gillian as well and Katie has Ross; someone to go home to when things go wrong. It’s very easy to have friends on the good days. It’s the days when you’re lying in the hospital, got beaten on the favourites, things aren’t going well, that’s when you find out. TED: We’ve a close-knit family. And I must say that Jennifer and Ted (the other siblings) are great too. Jennifer is very much involved so people know her but Ted is in tears when either of those two rides a winner. He’s not saying ‘Pity I grew to be 6’2” and 14 stone’, he’s absolutely as proud as punch. He’s a great scout. He’s made of the right stuff. Like them all.


THE son of Shamardal is one to have on your side next season. He catapulted Curragh trainer, Michael Halford, into the big-time, giving him a first Group 1 success. Casamento, owned by Sheikh Mohammed, looked a potential star from the first day he set foot on a racecourse, scoring with ease at Tipperary. He was then only narrowly beaten by Pathfork in the National Stakes at the Curragh, before making no mistake in the Beresford Stakes, also at the Curragh. Casamento rounded off a terrific campaign to land the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. Currently wintering in Dubai, he will carry the Godolphin colours in 2011.

QUEL ESPRIT CHASING was always going to be his game and it will be disappointing should he fail to take high order among the novices. He is highly regarded by trainer, Willie Mullins, and was simply marking time as a hurdler. Strongly fancied in the Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham, he fell at the second. Then Mullins turned him out again two days later and he could only manage sixth to Berties Dream in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle. Quel Esprit left those experiences well behind on his debut over fences at Limerick in November, where he won easily.

SHANE FOLEY THE 21-year-old would surely have challenged for the apprentice title this season, but for suffering serious injuries at Bellewstown on August 25. He was thrown from French Express before the start of a handicap and the filly trampled him on the ground. Foley (right) broke his left collarbone and right ankle. He returned to action better than ever, however, and was quite brilliant on the all-weather at Dundalk. He rode six winners at the final five meetings there, four singles and a double. This is a young man who will, in time, more than hold his own with the likes of Murtagh, Smullen, Manning and Berry. —Pat Keane



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Picture: Adam Pretty, Getty Images


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I took that ...

WHAT, WHERE, WHEN: This image of Andy Murray was captured during the 2010 Australian Open Tennis Championships, held at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne Australia.


CIRCUMSTANCES: Taken on day 11 of the tournament, Murray was up against Croatia’s Marin Cilic in the semi-final. After starting the match fairly slowly and dropping the first set, Murray and Cilic battled it out in a long rally, ending with Murray stopping Cilic in his tracks with an unbelievable winning shot. I was trying to keep my lens on Murray and captured him just as he let out a huge scream that seemed to last forever. As the shout continued, his mouth seemingly got wider and wider – and louder — accentuating his passion and determination. I think the scream was a deliberate attempt to pump himself up and play better tennis, which evidently he did, reaching the second Grand Slam final of his career. EQUIPMENT: Canon EOS 1D Mk4 (400mm F2.8 lens at 800 ISO). IT WORKS BECAUSE: Murray’s eyeline is one of my favourite elements of the image. He almost seems to be looking directly down the barrel of the lens, which is perhaps why the picture works so well. This, combined with a clean background, and of course the incredibly wide mouth of Andy Murray really come together to make the image!

EUROPEAN UNION: Europe’s Graeme McDowell celebrates his 3&1 win over Hunter Mahan to secure victory for Europe on the 17th with Ian Poulter (right) as the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort came to a typically dramatic climax. Picture: Richard Heathcote

INTERVIEW: Joe Callaghan

FASTEST FINGER: Holland’s Eelco Sintnicolaas leaves nothing behind in the Men’s Decathlon shot putt at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona.

TIPP TOPP: Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy gives full vent to his feelings after toppling Kilkenny in September’s All-Ireland hurling final. Cathal Noonan

Picture: Alexander Hassenstein

TANGERINE DREAM: A next generation Blackpool fan toasts another away day miracle for Ian Holloway’s Premier League new boys, this Picture: Alex Livesey time at Wigan’s DW Stadium.

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AT LAST: Cork’s inspirational captain Graham Canty releases the pressure valve as the final whistle sounds on the Road to September. Picture: David Maher


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VINDICATION?: Britain’s Dwain Chambers put all the controversy behind him to win gold in the Men’s 60m Final at the World Indoors in Qatar. Picture: Ian Walton



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FUTURE BRIGHT: A line-out during the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final, Connacht v Toulon at Galway’s Sportsground. Connacht’s future looks secure now. Picture: Jamie McDonald

INTO THE BLUE: Britain’s best in the Team Technical routine of the Syncronised Swimming at the European Championship in Budapest. Picture: Clive Rose

CIRCUMSTANCES: “I am from Slovenia and having spent a lot of time in Planica I wanted to shoot something different, something that showed the town and some of my country. Most of all, I wanted to get a feeling for the height because the jump in Planica is much higher than most other jumps. I took it by remote control and it was only when I got back to check it on my computer that I saw thought ‘oh, wow’ and I sent it off.” EQUIPMENT: CANON Mark IV: “I am not sure what lens I used for that. I shoot a lot of pictures and it is hard to remember individual photographs.” IT WORKS BECAUSE: “Always I try to make a little different picture. If everyone stays in the same place then everyone takes the same picture. Sometimes the result is good, sometimes it is bad. This time it was good but it was nothing special to take it.”


Interview: Brendan O’Brien

Austria’s Gregor Schlierenzauer at the FIS Ski Flying World Championships, in Planica, Slovenia. Picture: Stanko Gruden

HEARTS AND HOOVES: Everyone’s over, mercifully for the photographer, during a Novice Handicap Chase, won by Saddlers Storm under Davy Russell, at Navan. Picture: Healy Racing.

ITALIAN STALLION: The irrepressible Frankie Dettori is not one to blink under pressure.

Picture: Nicky Johnston

BEAM ME UP: Malasia’s Ing Yueh Tan during the 2010 Pacific Rim Championships in Melbourne, Australia.

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Chinese performers ahead of the free routine final of the team synchronised swimming at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. Picture: Adam Pretty

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Picture: Mark Dadswell

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DERBY DELIGHT: Paul Scholes takes one for the team from extrovert Gary Neville after scoring Man Utd’s late late winner against Man City in April at Eastland. Picture: Paul

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DEAN TREML, RED BULL/REUTERS WHAT, WHEN, WHERE: An Italian couple sits during lunch as Steve Black of Australia dives past their balcony in the lead up to round four of the 2010 Red Bull Cliff Diving world series in Polignano a Mare August 5, 2010. CIRCUMSTANCES: The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series visited this spot in southern Italy and it’s one of the most unusual locations because the diving platform is built outside the back of someone’s cliffside house. The divers have to go into the house and through the guy’s patio to get to the platform. I was looking to try and convey the proximity of the platform to its setting and there was an apartment underneath. The couple in the picture were renting it and quite reluctant to let us in so we didn’t have much time to get the shot. The platform was about four metres above and when I was ready I shouted up to Steve, the diver, and he said ‘3-2-1’ and dived. I saw his hands come into the frame and started shooting. EQUIPMENT: Canon D7 with a Tokina 11-16mm lens. I have lots of cameras in my bag but this one gave me the best frame count — eight per second — that I needed for the shot. The lens was quite a wide one that suited the image I wanted. IT WORKS BECAUSE: There’s the unusual setting, of course, but I also like the contrast of a guy in his Speedos diving past a couple having a very nice lunch in a fantastic location.

THE CHEEK: A streaker momentarily interrupts concentration during the game between Mount Temple and Newpark Comp. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

INTERVIEW: Simon Lewis


BULLY OFF? Cologne’s Mo Mueller lets Ingolstadt’s Ryan Prestin know he’s about during a DEL play-off in Cologne, Germany.

THIRST FOR GLORY: Derry wet the celebrations after their win over Armagh in the AIB Junior Cup final. Picture Dan Sheridan

SO THIS IS OK?: Chinese’s next generation of Olympians, consisting of four- to seven-year-olds, stretch themselves at a sports school in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province. Chinese officials insist new eligibility rules will put a stop to the type of ‘age cheat’ scandal that saw a gymnast stripped of her Olympic medal.

HORSEPLAY: Mark Zahra on Growl (growling to his left) fails to get up on Chris Symons’ Coppervue (hellow and black) in the Chester Manifold Stakes meeting in Melbourne. Picture: Mark Dadswell

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Picture: REUTERS/Stringer

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MR SANDY MAN: Germany’s Martin Kaymer in bunker bother during practice for the Alfred Dunhill Links in Scotland. He would eventually win the Race to Dubai crown.


Picture: Action Images/Carl Recine

SHORT HEAD: Shetland pony racing at Plumpton racecourse So what size are the jockeys for this one?

Picture: Alan Crowhurst

GEE MAC!: What a season for Portrush’s Graeme McDowell, here escaping the sand during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Picture: Andrew Redington


WHAT, WHERE AND WHEN: A Dublin fan can’t bear to look as Donncha O’Connor comes up to kick the winning point for Cork in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park on August 22. CIRCUMSTANCES: O’Connor had this kick at a really critical point in the game, as the scoreboard shows. I was behind the goal line at the other end of Croke Park and at a really lucky angle for the way he was taking the kick. It’s an old cliché, I suppose, but it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. The lens I used, a 70-200mm Canon, would not be one I’d normally use for GAA, it would normally be a longer one, a 400mm or 600mm but this is a

bit different, which is what you’re always looking for. EQUIPMENT: Canon Mk IV (70-200mm lens)

IT WORKS BECAUSE: “He was at a perfect angle for the picture in relation to the big screen and it worked really well. The scoreboard, the fan not daring to look being shown on the big screen, which doesn’t happen very often. It all summed up the state of the game and the critical moment that it was. A lot of the time in GAA, it’s just action, action, action — two men and a ball and that’s it. This tells a story, brings in the atmosphere. As I said, it’s a bit different and the opportunities to do that don’t come very often.”

THE EYES HAVE IT: Sebastien Buemi and Scuderia Toro Rosso prepares for the final practice session prior to qualifying for the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix.

Picture: Vladimir Rys

INTERVIEW: ??????????

THREE’S A CROWD: Down’s Benny Coulter about to be triangulated by Michael Shields (left), Aidan Walsh and Eoin Cadogan in September’s All-Ireland final. Picture: David Maher

PEBBLE-DASHED: Padraig Harrington’s focus on the putt at Pebble Beach’s 7th is total, oblivious to the raging storm brewing at the AT&T Pro-Am.

SPURRED ON: Dallas Mavericks’ Caron Butler battles the boards with San Antonio Spurs’ Richard Jefferson in the NBA Playoffs at Texas’ AT&T Centre. Picture: Ronald Martinez

Picture: Stuart Franklin

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I took that ... ANDREW REDINGTON/Getty Images WHAT, WHERE AND WHEN: Rory McIlroy leaps in the air to discover the outcome of his bunker shot on the third hole during the final round of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin in August. CIRCUMSTANCES: “I was actually working the tee on that hole as it was quite a good area to get early pictures of the players. I saw where Rory’s shot had landed and knew the bunker face was extremely steep and he had a challenging shot. I was some distance away, about 180 yards, but I had a perfect view of him, while he was invisible to anyone positioned on the green.” EQUIPMENT: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV (Lens 500m F4) IT WORKS BECAUSE: “He is so dwarfed by the size of the bunker around him and Lake Michigan in the backdrop. Even though he takes up a small part of the frame, your eyes are drawn to him. I quite like it. It has been used a lot since and it is one of my standout pictures of the year. In fact we have an internal competition here in Getty, which we call the Getty Oscars and this is one of the pictures which I am entering.”

SUNSCREEN: The evening sun casts an autumnal glow on a competitor at the controversy-ridden Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. Picture: Adam Pretty

INTERVIEW: Colm O’Connor

JUST FOR THE QUACK: Uruguay’s Sebastian Eguren carries team-mate Diego Perez as they celebrate their win over Ghana after a penalty shoot-out during the FIFA World Cup South Africa quarter final game in Johannesburg.

Picture: Cameron Spencer

FLIPPIN’ GREAT: Carl Edwards does a backflip as he celebrates victory in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway. Picture: Jamie Squire

RIDING HIGH: Australia’s Luke McNeil during qualifying for the Red Bull XRAY freestyle motocross competition at Razorback Ridge in Australia.

LEAP OF FAITH: Colman Sweeney and So Now So have a difference of opinion as they tackle a fence at Bandon Point-to-Point. Picture: Healy Racing.

Picture: Cameron Spencer

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CROWD PLEASER: San Antonio’ s Manu Ginobili makes a desperate bid to keep the ball in bounds against Dallas in the Western Conference quarter-final Playoffs at American Airlines Centre, Dallas. Picture: Ronald Martinez


THE RED LINE: A view from the bleachers as Philadelphia’s Flyers and the Boston Bruins get red-dy for the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup play-offs at the Wachovia Picture: Jim McIsaac Center in Philly.

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SHOW STOPPER: Felix Machado receives attention from his corner men as his bout with Alexei Acosta slips away from him. Picture: James Crombie



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VALENTINE’S DAY: Biarritz’s Valentine Courrent is dumped by Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu of Gloucester during their Heineken Cup clash. He makes the best of it though! Picture: Warren Little



I took that ... DAVID MAHER (Sportsfile) WHAT, WHERE AND WHEN: July 11, Croke Park. Irate Louth spectators confront referee Martin Sludden at the end of the Leinster SFC final. Moments earlier Sludden allowed a controversial Joe Sheridan goal which secured victory for the Royals and denied the Wee County their first provincial senior crown since 1957.

FLOORED: Biarritz’s Ayoola Erinle is cemented by Munster’s Springbok Jean de Villiers in the Heineken Cup.

CIRCUMSTANCES: “I don’t do that many games from the stands. The last time I did one in Croke Park was when Meath played Mayo in the 1996 All-Ireland SFC final, where the teams ended up involved in a massive bust up. The game was heading for an historic victory for Louth but then came Joe Sheridan’s goal and all hell broke loose. I took 12 images of the goal and thought that was the end of it. But then I noticed the Louth players began to surround the referee and seconds later he

COPA CRUNCH: West Ham’s Scott Parker gives Arsenal’s Brazilian Denilson a London lash during their Premier League clash. Picture: Clive Rose

Picture: Billy Stickland

blew the final whistle. A few fans rushed out onto the field and began to chase after Martin Sludden. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I had never seen a referee attacked on a pitch, never mind Croke Park. It was incredible. Between three of us in Sportsfile we took over 200 photographs in those dramatic final minutes.” EQUIPMENT: Nikkon D3S (lens 600mm). IT WORKS BECAUSE: “It sums up the feeling of the Louth supporters. They were within seconds of a provincial title and then it was taken from them in such dramatic fashion. And they were chasing the man they felt was responsible. The goal, and the incident in the photograph, became the biggest talking point of the GAA year.” INTERVIEW: Colm O’Connor

OH, DANNY BOY: Michael Sprott (right) catches Danny Hughes flush during their Prizefighter Heavyweights bout at York Hall, London. Picture: Dean Mouhtaropoulos

OLD FRIENDS: After their League tiff, Cork’s Eoin Cadogan and Kerry’s Paul Picture: Dan Sheridan Galvin renewed acquaintances in the summer.

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PUHLEEASE: Ulster players react with varying degrees of incredulity during their penalty shoot-out against Munster in the Special Olympics Games in Limerick. Oh, and Ulster won! Stephen McCarthy

CLEAR AS MUD: A competitor emerges from the water during the Tough Guy Picture: Michael Regan race in Telford, England.

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GOLDEN MOMENT: One of the Championship displays of 2010 saw Roscommon’s Donal Shine kick points for fun in the Connacht final v Sligo. Picture: Ray Ryan

otic ........


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CIRCUMSTANCES: “I’m the official photographer for Red Bull and had gone to do some pictures of the trophy. We were in this huge Red Bull motor home which they float in the harbour for Monaco. I had taken my pictures and was returning the trophy to the room as Mark was after getting out of the shower. He was just sitting there and I asked him if he would mind if I took a few shots. He was fine with it providing nothing was showing! I just shot off four frames in a couple of seconds. He is a cool guy, very affable, which helped make the shot work. It is quite a nice picture.” EQUIPMENT: Canon EOS Mark III Bs (Lens 24mm, 1.4 lens)

IT WORKS BECAUSE: “After the chaos and massive celebrations you see this other side of Monaco. This is the race every driver wants to win and Mark had just achieved that ambition. I have had very good feedback to the picture and it has sold very well, which is always a good test. It wasn’t set up or worked out in advance. It was just spontaneous. INTERVIEW: Colm O’Connor

HEAT OF BATTLE: Kerry’s Micheal Quirke lets off some steam after the Kingdom’s win over Tipperary in the McGrath Cup in Killarney. Picture: Stephen


POMS AWAY: England players after losing to Australia in the Womens Hockey semi final at the Commonwealth Games in Delhia. Picture: Graham Crouch IRELAND’S CALL: New Zealand captain Richie McCaw leads his All Blacks during their tradition Haka at Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

Picture: Morgan Treacy

SUN STROKE: All eyes on Munster’s Ronan O’Gara’s effort as he kicks a goal in the Heineken Cup quarter-final with Northampton at Thomond Park. Picture: James Crombie

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WHAT, WHERE AND WHEN: Red Bull Racing F1 driver Mark Webber relaxes in his changing room after winning the Monaco Grand Prix at Monte Carlo Circuit on May 16.


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CONOR QUICKSTEP: Cork’s All-Ireland winning coach Conor Counihan with Kelly McDonald when the Rebels brought Same to the Holy Family School in Charleville. Picture Dan Linehan

THE MOMENT: Contrasting emotions as Tipp empty their bench and Kilkenny manager Brian Cody empties his heart as the Cat’s five in a row dreams die at Croke Park. Picture Denis Minihane

I took that ... DAN LINEHAN, Irish Examiner

WHAT, WHERE AND WHEN: St. Munchin’s mascot The Chicken, gets to grips with Ardscoil Ris counterpart, The Wolf, at a Munster Schools Junior Cup match at Coonagh in February.

CIRCUMSTANCES: “Before the game, the mascots were warming up on the sidelines and getting the crowds worked up. There was a bit of banter between the lads but it all seemed light hearted. At half time, the teams stayed out on the pitch and the mascots went to centre of the field and started again. It was all pretty jovial with the crowd getting behind them. But then there was a bit of pushing and shoving and the next thing a fight broke out between the two. I think mentors had to come in and separate them. It was incredible and comical to see a chicken and a wolf going hell for leather. Someone literally lost their head out there.” EQUIPMENT: Nikon D3 (Lens, 400m)

IT WORKS BECAUSE: “It is such an unusual sports picture. It is something you might see in the United States but never in Ireland. It was on Page One of the paper the next day and was picked up by radio and turned into a major talking point that week. It is definitely one of the strangest things I have ever photographed.” INTERVIEW: Colm O’Connor

AIR AND GRACE: High-flying St Brendan’s defender Cillian Fitzgerald is upended by Coláiste na Sceilge’s Ciarán Keating in their all-Kerry Corn Uí Mhuiri semi-final in Miltown. Picture: Des Barry

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FLIGHT FROM EARLS: Welsh centre James Hook tries to break away from Ireland’s Keith Earls in the Six Nations Championship at Croke Park. Picture: Denis Minihane




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Picture: Dan Lenihan

Even the big freeze couldn’t break the stride of Olive Loughnane. But then, as a world-class race walker who came late to her sport, she’s used to having to do things the hard way. Liam Mackey hears all about the pain and the gain ☛


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RIGHT winter sun streams in through the window as Olive Loughnane steps onto the treadmill and quickly gets into her stride. To my untrained eye, she already seems to be going at a fair old clip. “Not at all,” she says, tweaking the controls, “this is a six-minute kilometre — race speed would be 4.20.” For the first time in many days, I find I’m deeply grateful for the cold snap. It had been the Sport’s Editor’s typically jolly idea that I might go for “a bit of a walk” with Olive Loughane but Olive, as everyone now knows, is an Olympic race walker who won silver at the World Championships in Berlin last year. “No offence,” she’d said kindly on the phone, “but you’d have to run to keep up with me.” Not to mention the risk that my cigarette might get blown out of my mouth, of course. It was the big freeze that finally bailed me out. The Lee Valley might have been spared the worst of it, but the icy condition of some of the shaded stretches of road around Coachford, where Olive lives with her husband and daughter, meant that she had to abandon her outdoor circuits in favour of the spare room in the family home which has been converted into a small but serviceable gym. “It wasn’t like I saw the snow and thought, great, I can have a duvet day,” she smiles. “I don’t mind being a treadmill person, although, during the January cold snap, I was on it about 10 days in-a-row, twice a day, and then you begin to feel like a rat in a cage.” On the other hand, there’s always a slightly higher risk of distraction in the great outdoors, like the time a local man suddenly materialised on the side of the road and helpfully informed her, “You’re going fierce slow today.” Olive took the impromptu coaching in the good-humoured spirit in which it was meant. “People see me on the roads and know that I’m out in all weathers,” she says. “We’re only here five years and it’s great that the community are so good and so supportive.” One thing you soon learn in her company is that, bright and affable though she is, the competitive spirit blazes with a rare and fierce intensity in Olive Loughnane. And always has — even if it took a long time and, ultimately, a simple twist of fate, to help her find its ideal athletic expression.


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vantage simply became another source of motivation, her inner resolve and gutsy determination evident again when it came to running cross-country for her school.

2011: Keep an eye on ... DAVID McCARTHY (Athletics) McCarthy re-launched his international career in style when he led Ireland to team victory in the U23 race at the European cross-country championships in Albufeira this month. It was the most competitive race in the history of the event and it heralded the return of the West Waterford athlete who only returned to Providence College in the autumn after taking a year out. Providence coach Ray Treacy presented him with a programme that will lead him up to London 2012 and he was redshirted for the NCAA cross-country season this autumn. McCarthy will resume his collegiate track career with the indoors in February and then concentrate on the 5,000m outdoors and the Olympic qualifying standard. CARL FRAMPTON (Boxing) WITH former world champion Barry McGuigan looking after his interests it is hardly surprising to see Frampton, 23, racing up the ratings. He was only in his 17th contest when he stopped ambitious Scot Gavin Reid to claim his first belt — the Celtic super bantamweight title — at the Ulster Hall and the Belfast man now wants a shot at Willie “Big Bang” Casey’s European title. His own amazing talents, however, could be the big stumbling block along the road for his record to date would make any of the big guns wary of him and it may take a mandatory shot to get him into the ring with any of them. — Brendan Mooney

NO PAIN, NO GAIN That kind of rigorous self-improvement, underpinned by a huge capacity for hard work and a willingness to seek inspiration and knowledge from whomever and wherever she could, has seen Loughane develop into a world-class athlete with appearances at three Olympic Games and five World Championships to her credit. However, it was her silver medal success at the 2009 World Championship in Berlin which suddenly catapulted her from the back to the front pages. “Other people were surprised when I won silver in Berlin, but I expected to win a medal,” she says with characteristic forthrightness. “Training had


gone well. I was very matter-of-fact about it. You can’t get dazzled by the bright lights. You just have to get on with it. It’s still a process. I didn’t make a huge jump from 2008 to 2009 — I was seventh in the Olympics the previous year.” Still, she concedes Berlin was one of those days when, for the most part, she was well and truly ‘in the zone’. “Afterwards (journalist) Ian O’Riordan said to me, ‘How fantastic was it to go under the Brandenburg Gate?’ I was just like looking at him. And then it was, ‘Oh that’s right, the Brandenburg Gate’. Or, to take another example, I was back in Ireland and watching the marathon the following week and Martin was saying, ‘Oh there’s your course’ and I was like, ‘No, it’s not, that doesn’t look familiar at all.’ Of course, it was. But I had no memory of it. “This sounds so clinical, but if I can hear the world and its mother shouting at me when I’m racing, I’m not focused, end of (story).” That’s not to say, she says, the support doesn’t help her when she’s absolutely wrecked near the end of a race and she can’t put one foot in front of another. “Like, in Berlin, I got a lot of support from a group of Irish people who go to all the races but also from neutrals because I was sandwiched between a Russian girl and a Chinese girl – you know yourself ! – and that one factor kept me going. “But that was at the end; earlier in the race it’s always just my thing. People say to me, ‘would you not sit back and let someone else do the work?’ but, as far as I’m concerned, I do my own thing. Yes, I react when I need to react, but for me, it’s basically, ‘come on if you’re tough enough.’ I just keep the pressure on.” Maintaining an almost ferociously intense focus was one of the keys to her success in Berlin. “My exact phrase in Berlin was: ‘there are not three people better than me here today’. My goal was to win a medal. And I did push myself. It was silver or bronze for a while and I only broke free in the last 2k of a 20k race. And although I was pulling back the leader (Russia’s Olga Kaniskina), I was never going to beat her. And it’s not that I don’t want to win gold — I do — but I’m fairly logical and precise and, all things considered, I wasn’t going to sulk because I didn’t get gold.” Especially not after what she’d just gone through to claim her own glittering prize. “Physically I was exhausted. I won’t say I doubted myself but I hit the wall at 14k and at that point it was like, ‘Oh my God’. I actually didn’t think I could go on any longer. But I had this mantra again: ‘My last 5k is always my strongest’. But


One of seven children, Olive was born in Douglas but moved to Carrabane in Galway at the age of four. It was husband Martin Corkery who would eventually bring her back south. “I met a Corkman and sure they don’t really leave Cork,” she points out. “But my family are still in Galway, so I’d say I’m about 50-50 now.” Growing up, she was always an enthusiastic participant in various sports but her hand-eye co-ordination, she admits, wouldn’t have been the best. “Actually, I was the most shocking camogie player ever,” is how she puts it. “I played loads but I was only making up the numbers. I wasn’t good but I was pretty fearless. A bang wouldn’t bother me. And there was a reason I wasn’t as good — I was tiny. I’m 5ft 4 now — I was actually the tallest on the podium in Berlin — but I used to wear clothes for two and three-year-olds when I was in national school. My mother struggled to find a communion dress for me. Did I get grief from other kids? No. I wasn’t very bully-able.” You don’t doubt it. Her height disad-

‘No offence,’ she’d said kindly on the phone, ‘but you’d have to run to keep up with me’. Not to mention the risk my cigarette might get blown out of my mouth

“I wasn’t the best but I was always tough out, like. But when I joined the athletics club, I discovered that was my thing. We did cross country, relays, 4 x 400 metres. I was decent enough at endurance events. I wasn’t winning All-Irelands but I always made them. “Then when I was about 19 we were doing a competition and we had to cover all the events. They had no one for the walk or the hammer and I did both. The hammer I just about got over the line but I was considerably more successful at the walk. So it just sort of happened by accident — the first walk I did was just to make up the numbers. I liked it, but it was the national coach at the time who said, ‘would you not try training for this’? Otherwise, I was pretty close to leaving it because I was really in athletics more for the camaraderie than anything else.” So not only did Olive stumble, if that’s the not an inappropriate word, into race-walking — she was quite the classic late developer too. “Very much so. I’m 34 now I’ll be 36 in London. But last time around the Olympic silver medal was won by the 36-year-old. There are Russians and Chinese who have been at it since they were 10 and they’re 24 now but it’s like their bodies are actually older than that. And because I always had to work hard to win anything, I suppose your tenacity is greater. And maturity is a big thing too — you don’t panic when you see that’s it’s hot or when there’s a break in the race.” She pauses and grins: “Maturity is such a nice way of putting it, isn’t it?” As one of the less ‘sexy’ athletic pursuits, race walking is also probably one of the less well understood. With its ungainly looking gait, those outside the sport might be forgiven for thinking that it must put an almost unnatural strain on the body. Not so, says Olive, enthusiastically talking the walk. “It doesn’t because it’s low impact. You’re not pounding, you’re gliding along the ground. Where you take the hit is in your lower back because you’re rotating your hips. But I think the reason the coach encouraged me that first time is because it seemed to come reasonably naturally to me. What you need is a good all-rounder, someone who is strong, who is like a middle-distance runner and someone who has a technical eye. Technique for me is a big thing. There’s the obvious legality side and technical efficiency is an area where I can improve. There are two rules: you must have one foot on the ground and you must have your knee straight on contact. I’m within those rules but sometimes I’m a bit ungainly — I move my head for example — and if I can cut out some of that stuff I’ll save on energy and walk faster. It’s all about making yourself more streamlined.”

Sorry, I’m making myself out to sound like some god here but most sports people are the same — pain is something you go through. Our pain threshold is different



it was hell.” But how wrecked is wrecked? Was she in serious pain? She can’t help laughing out loud at the touching innocence of the view from the comfy armchair. “Sorry, I’m making myself out to sound like some god here but most sports people are the same — pain is just


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something you go through. Our pain threshold is totally different. Yes, there’s physical pain, but you tell yourself you’ve trained to go through this. And that’s all it is — it’s the ability to hurt more than the next girl. So it’s like, ‘you’ve only got another half-hour of this, come on’. It’s parking it as opposed to it going away.” Such is the intense commitment demanded by sport at this level, that it’s easy for a person to be almost consumed by it. Olive Loughnane admits that, in the past, she has probably flirted with the obsessive in the pursuit of her dream, but the love and support of her husband Martin and, in particular, the arrival of daughter Eimear four years ago, have proved central to helping her maintain a healthy balance in her life. “Invariably as I get closer to competition I get crankier – apparently,” she laughs. “But, yes, it is a whole lifestyle, not just the training but also the diet, rest, recovery and everything else. So it does kind of carry over but I suppose Eimear keeps me normal. I rang her after I won the medal, on the way to drug-testing, and I said, ‘Mammy won the medal.’ And she just said: ‘I know that Mammy. And I’m going back on the slide now Mammy. See you later’.”

PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE And motherhood affects how she copes with the bad days too. Like this summer at the European Championships in Barcelona when, having experienced stomach problems in the build-up to the event, cramps forced Olive to withdraw from the 20k race at just the 5k mark. “I had a bad time in Barcelona but three weeks later Eimear got sick and had to go to hospital,” she says. “And, again, that put things in perspective. Not that I wasn’t disappointed with Barcelona but when your child gets sick, you realise that’s real life. And when you see what some people have to go through, and how determined they are, a medal is only small stuff by comparison. “The crucial thing is you still have to be hungry. And I still am. When Eimear was a small, I thought that if I was going to spend time out on the road away from her, I was going to make damn sure that it was worth my while. I wasn’t going to waste a minute. And I suppose that’s the way I am now. It’s the perfect balance for me.” There are two landmark events looming large on the horizon for Loughnane – the World Championships in South Korea this coming year followed by the biggest one of them all, the Olympic Games in 2012. Winning gold in Daegu or London are by no means impossible dreams for her but, at the same time, she knows that there is any number of factors which might intervene to deny her the ultimate prize, from age to injury to, well, someone who just races better than her on the day. All she can do, she says, is “control the controllables” and try to take to heart those famous lines about having the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference. “But I will do everything I can,” she insists. “I’ll pull out all the stops.” And if that proves not to be enough, well, so be it. “I enjoy the life that I have. I’m very fortunate to have it. If I never won another thing, I’ve achieved a lot. I’ve travelled so much and I’ve had a great time. “It’s a wonderful career. It’s like I said about seeing snow and not thinking, oh good, I might get a day off work — the thing is, I don’t want a day off work. And it’s great to be doing something I love. I always want to win a medal but — you know what? — if you don’t, the sun still shines the following day and your friends are still your friends. “As I say, you have to maintain a sense of perspective — just as long as it doesn’t affect your hunger. And it won’t affect mine.”

The Sporting Year

World silver medallist Loughnane has two landmark events looming — the World Championships in South Korea in 2011 followed by the Olympic Games in 2012. Picture: Dan Linehan






VEN after training in those early UCC days together in The Farm or the Mardyke, when most of us would head to the Rest for a sandwich and a game of cards, he was always otherwise engaged. Truly, Declan Kidney was born to coach. He had a love of rugby, nurtured from an early age by his late father Joe, and fostered and developed at his alma mater Presentation College. While we were messing about, Kidney was already developing a finely-honed appreciation of the game’s nuances in the unlikely environment of schools rugby. Was he being cute, recognising the possibility of securing a teaching job in those recessionary days while the rest of us hadn’t a glimmer what we wanted to do? “No, I was in second year in college and Brother Canice asked me up to Wilton to help out with the U13’s so that’s how I started helping out on a Wednesday afternoon. Teaching was always at the back of my mind and that was an extension of it. You just went out and gave a hand. I had always been involved in the game with my father, that’s where I learned my rugby. I would, maybe, play on a Saturday morning and then go to three matches over the weekend — a senior match on Saturday afternoon, a minor match on Sunday morning and a junior one in the afternoon”. After 14 seasons learning the trade in Pres with a variety of teams and no little success (incorporating four years at the helm of the Irish schools side), Kidney ventured out into the big bad world of adult rugby, taking over at his former club Dolphin, who were in the All Ireland league. “Yeah, and what did we do? We lost every league game in the first season and then two games before the end they (IRFU) decided not to have any relegation that season.” Well, George Hook often describes Kidney as a lucky coach .... Then again George isn’t always right, is he?

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<<Declan Kidney: “I have learned over the years that I only want to coach sides that want me to coach them. My ambition is to just enjoy my coaching.”

Picture: Billy Stickland

“That first half against South Africa is what put us under pressure for the November series, mistakes that we made trying to play. That’s the way I saw it. Was that naïve? That’s a word that could be used. I try and look upon it that we tried too hard. If you say it’s naïve, then fellows could go into their shells and you don’t want them to do that. I am in it long enough to know that there is a little bit of pain along the way. If we kept playing the way we were, we would be giving the ball to the opposition and defending even more than we are at the moment. There will be growing pains along the way. In November, coming back to the Aviva there was a want to do something good for Ireland and we didn’t get it right. We had to put our hands up and be the first to admit it.” Ireland played some great rugby against New Zealand. “New Zealand defend like Clermont, they give you the outside and it’s easier to go after them and attack them in a certain way. So we did that but then our unforced turnovers were hugely costly to us. So it was a 20- point game. We are still making 50% more turnovers in some games than the opposition. We have to reduce that. There are two ways you can reduce it — try nothing and then you end up kicking the ball and defending or getting fellows more and more comfortable on the ball. “The change of emphasis has put huge pressure on your front five. Not so long ago, a front five forward would get away with making three or four tackles. Now they will be required to make ten or 12. Paul (O’Connell) said rugby has become the decathlon of team sports. They need so many more disciplines to their game as they are going to be caught in the wide channels both in defence and attack. They have to bring more things to their game but you can’t let that go to the detriment of your scrums and line-outs.”


Picture: Denis Mi

When Declan Kidney and Donal Lenihan got to talking, it wasn’t all Six Nations and the World Cup. There’s still some school bragging rights to bicker over ...

THE IRISH JOB The national job brings with it forensic analysis and scrutiny of every comment and decision. It comes in pressurised blocks of time — autumn, the Six Nations, summer tours and the World Cup. But after five weeks in camp for the autumn internationals, what will Kidney be up to from now to the Six Nations? “Preparation really. You have a far more condensed period of time to get across things. Sometimes the trick is to know what not to try and force on the players. There’s the cleaning up after the autumn internationals. You sit down with your coaches and you take a look over all the matches. You get to ask the players how did they find it, are they enjoying it in a competitive environment. “We are trying to build a competitive squad which makes it tougher on the players. Cream rises to the top and you like to think all the players bring one another on but it is tougher to work in that environment rather than coming into a scene where everyone knows exactly where they stand.” Great, no more talk of the Untouchables. On that issue, 26 players started in the autumn with another four off the bench, but did any of the newer faces put their hands up for serious consideration, other than Sean Cronin? “I would consider it tougher because when they were getting their chance they knew they were getting their chance and maybe tried too hard. But you wouldn’t judge them only on one fixture. We go to a number of fixtures. Every weekend there are four games to

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be watched, not once but probably twice by all the coaches. We cover all the matches between us and we try to make sure that each coach gets to each province once in a two-match sequence and then you would have the recordings of the other games. “Mervyn Murphy (video analyst) would break them down, so not alone would you only watch the match in general but you would watch the player and coaches would zone in on their specific area, be it scrums or lineouts or defence to see how fellows operate. You see the different systems operated by the provinces and talk to them about that. Les (Kiss) and Gert (Smal) were watching a province training last week. They will do the same this week. “We explain to the provincial coaches what we are doing but it is up to each province to defend and attack according to their strengths and weaknesses. That’s the way Irish rugby has always been. I don’t think it’s like South Africa or New Zealand whereby you can pick a system and get players who can play to that system. In Ireland you have a specific group of players and you make them as good as you can. You bring forward their strengths and take away their weaknesses. With all the analysis now you have to have enough variations in your play so that

you are not too easily read.”

STYLE OF PLAY On that theme, everyone is talking about the ‘new’ game. Ireland and Kidney encountered it for the first time last summer. Ten months out from the World Cup, does Ireland have a discernible style of play? How far down the road are you with the style of game you want to put together? “Our game is all about trusting players to make the right decisions on the pitch. I suppose I have an innate confidence in Irish people to do the right things at the right time. There is always a bit of learning along the way with that. The changes are more influenced by the change in law interpretation than anything they are doing in the southern hemisphere. I’ve always believed if you just try and copy someone else’s style you are only aiming for second place anyway.” When did you realise that the type of approach that won a Grand Slam in 2009 would no longer suffice? “It comes back to law interpretation. The kick/chase line in terms of putting the opposition under pressure has changed dramatically and that follows on into the new issues surrounding the


breakdown. There are far more opportunities to counter attack. Before, with the kick/chase line it wasn’t even possible to countenance counter-attacking because once you were caught behind, everything was in favour of the defence. Now it is easier to hang on to the ball because the law is more in favour of the team that has possession. “The problem for us in the November series is that we were working off 35% possession and we were defending 65% of the time. We have to get that closer to 50/50. When we won the Grand Slam we were able to work off 30% of the ball and putting pressure on the opposition for the remainder of the time. With the change of emphasis in law, you will not win anything on 30% possession. So we have to look to keep the ball that little bit more, but we need to keep it in an Irish way, not a New Zealand or an Australian way. We need to back ourselves a bit more. My belief is that if we just try and copy everybody we will never get anywhere. “We will still compete for the ball at the breakdown. Your decision making as to when to attack the ball and when to stay off and let them go is the key. That decision in the early part of the tackle is crucial, how to squeeze the ball, how to slow them up from getting fast ball and how to achieve that. The game now is for players who can stay on their feet and


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make key decisions.”

AUTUMN SERIES Going back to the opening game of the autumn series, I thought Ireland were naïve and played right into South Africa’s hands giving them six lineout throws in the opening ten minutes. “The first 40 minutes against South Africa wasn’t good. You use the word naïve, I think we tried too hard. We actually dropped the ball six times. Some of those early line-outs for South Africa came off penalties where they kicked to touch. So they had several opportunities for possession, most of which were presented by Ireland. Those things are fixable. We had been practising for two weeks in the lead- up to it, fellows wanted to try something, there was competition for places. Players wanted to show what they could do. “It’s a question of getting that balance between running everything, which is what Australia are doing, and being cute enough to be Ireland and recognise bad possession is no good to you because you just get turned over and then you are vulnerable defensively. So it’s using possession in a way where you keep it or you give it to the opposition under your terms and that’s the bit we are working on, the bit we have to get better at.

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What was the logic in playing Brian O’Driscoll in all four tests? Were you not tempted to try someone else as cover? “Without a doubt but Keith (Earls) wasn’t able to tour with us in June, he injured his ankle badly after his groin strain, but his fitness lines were down and he wasn’t quite right for Samoa.” By implication then, Kidney sees Earls as a future 13 given that he has played on the wing and at full back? “Without a doubt. Darren Cave was also injured and I wanted to try Luke (Fitzgerald) at full back. When it comes to the numbers game for the world cup do you go 16-14 (back-forwards split) or 17-13”? Ah yes, the World Cup.

WORLD CUP – 2011 Is your scope for experimentation gone or does winning the Grand Slam offer you more latitude in a tournament like the Six Nations than, say Eddie O’Sullivan claims he had, due to the demands of the IRFU? “The Grand Slam is over. The only thing that is important is beating Italy. I will try and avoid being bracketed or giving reasons for what I am doing. What might be seen as experimentation could just be trying to freshen things up and I wouldn’t be

against that. We now have a group of 45-46 players that we are quite happy to call in. We will work off a base of 30 players for the Six Nations and see how they are playing. There could be reasons to change and people will try and bracket that. Every time we play, our job is to win the match.” Given that the preparation for the tournament in 2007 was seen as the major reason for the disappointing performance, how far down the road are you in terms of finalising your plans? “We have had a good look at what the pre-season will be, depending on when the players finish up. The last competitive game of the season is the Magners League final on the 29/30 May and anyone playing in that would need a five-week pre-season before we start into the week of playing Scotland on August 6. We will have to think on our feet. We can’t decide for definite exactly what the routine is going to be until we see what players are involved in the Magners League and Heineken Cup right up to the end. “We will come together for a few days at the start and then we are going to let them train with their provinces because we have four warm-up internationals in August — Ireland play Scotland, France twice and England — and there is going to be a lot of hotel time there. If we travel out ten days before our first game then we will already have had 39 days in hotels. You have to watch for cabin fever and keep as much balance in fellows’ lives as possible. We will need to build momentum. Those matches in August will be crucial. We will need the match practice and we are not going to wrap fellows up in cotton wool. “Once we get there our aim is to make sure that fellows enjoy it. They will enjoy it better if they prepare properly, knowing that they can have a go in the games and if they all feel that they have a chance of playing. Russia and America will be hard games especially now with the extra help they are getting from the IRB. “If you want to play professional rugby then the World Cup becomes the shop window for players from all teams. That gives them an incredible spur. You can’t afford to get snobbish about beating anybody and yet you can’t afford to fear anybody. So that’s where Irish rugby is, it’s that balance. We are actually good enough to take on anybody but we are not good enough to just roll up and beat anybody. That is why sometimes you can get shock results. There are certain things that you just expect to be there from an Irish team in any code and you would be an advocate of that, certain things that we have to hold true to.”

POST WORLD CUP Is there a danger that for financial reasons an element in the IRFU would be happy for the players to move abroad as long as they remain available for international rugby? That would save a lot of money but cripple the provinces in the Heineken Cup. “No. Recent contracts have shown they are not doing that and hopefully they will keep going along those lines. One of the reasons we have been so successful is because we have been able to manage the players. If they go abroad in a way that they have to play more, then they will not last as long. From a medical and strength and conditioning point of view they are exposed to people who are top in their field around the world and the


2011: Keep an eye on ... LUKE MARSHALL (Ulster) Born for the big stage, if his man-of-the-match performance for a combined Leinster/Ulster selection at the Aviva Stadium’s opening game in July is anything to go by. Comfortable at either out-half or centre – much like Ulster first-teamer Paddy Wallace – but it is in midfield where he has been starring. Marshall packs a punch at well over 14 st and has gas to burn, but the 19-year-old is also blessed with exemplary handling and footwork. DOMINIC RYAN (Leinster) MUNSTER may be renowned for its conveyor belt of backrowers, but Leinster are beginning to match them. Sean O'Brien is a mainstay and Rhys Ruddock already a full international, and in Dominic Ryan they have another monster in waiting. The 6'3” former Gonzaga man has made 14 appearances in Leinster blue despite still having yet to celebrate his 21st birthday. Athletically built and powerful in all senses – his crunching blindside hit on Glasgow's Chris Cusiter is a YouTube favourite. MIKE SHERRY (Munster) JUST about the only silver lining to Jerry Flannery’s ongoing injury problems has been his absence allowing some other hookers a chance to shine at Munster. There’s Damien Varley and Denis Fogarty and that’s before you factor in rising star Mike Sherry. The 22-year-old Garryowen man made his debut against Connacht 12 months ago, but it’s the latter part of 2010 that have provided him with some career highlights – a try against Benetton Treviso, and game-time in the famous win over Australia among them. Whether Sherry will get enough opportunities to display the dynamism that’s quickly becoming his trademark remains to be seen, however. Alan Good

provincial coaching is excellent.” Were you a little disappointed that your name wasn’t mentioned along with Warren Gatland recently for the Lions head coach job for the tour to Australia in 2013. Is it something you aspire to? “I have learned over the years that I only want to coach sides that want me to coach them. My ambition is to just enjoy my coaching. The job and the honour I have is just so big it is all I would ever want. I take it very seriously; it’s a way of life rather than a job.” Will it be your last job in rugby? “Who knows? I could be back with the Pres U13’s again. Once I enjoy it, I don’t mind. I heard Jim Telfer is up in the Borders coaching an U18 side. How bad. To have that interest and that love of the game is something else and to have the health to do it, they are the most important things. “I enjoy having matches every week, something I miss, but the honour of doing what I am doing and how important it is to do it right and to focus on nothing else is all that I see.” Had I better put Christians on notice that they need to search for a very good U13 coach? “Maybe not, they might ask me to help out.” Dream on, Declan. The Lions will come calling before that ever happens.





ARY MURPHY still relives the moment with a bewildering sense of shock. Her three-year-old had just committed that most scurrilous of juvenile acts. Emerging from the changing rooms at New Ross Swimming Pool, daughter Gráinne strode confidently towards the deep end, ignoring the stack of arm bands and buoyancy aids en route. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, hurled herself feet-first into the blue abyss. “I just remember poor ol’ Jimmy Houlihan being the only other person in the pool that morning,” explained Mary. “Jimmy played with Rathnure and Wexford back in the 80s and was doing some rehab on an injury. He wasn’t prepared for this. He nearly had heart failure when he saw Gráinne dive in. But she was fine actually. It was amazing. Me? Let’s just say we left it until we got home.” The joke nowadays in New Ross is that Ireland’s latest aqua darling learned to swim in 10 seconds flat. Murphy only turned 17 last March, and that, in a sport where females don’t peak until their early 20s, leaves journalists and physiologists, coaches and competitors with a puzzle: is it her body and the wingspan that propels her through the water so swiftly, or is it her remarkably lean muscle mass that affords her such outlandish buoyancy? Is it the astonishing yardage she devours per stroke when she pulls away from a field and demolishes Irish records by the week, as she did in Budapest and Eindhoven at the European Championships earlier this year? Or maybe it is the regimen of her fair-haired, no-nonsense Belgian coach, Ronald Claes. It be Ireland itself — a country renowned for producing warriors like Seán Kelly and Sonia O’Sullivan every once in a while? To attribute Gráinne’s progress to a single factor, however, would be grossly unfair. “I probably saw her first in November of 2007 when I came over to Ireland,” recalls Claes. “At that stage she’d won bronze at the youth Olympics. I actually couldn’t believe how raw she was when I saw her stroke technique and everything else. “No one had really worked with her before then, she had some coaching and had the very basics. Her strokes were all over the place though, her breathing was totally wrong. I just couldn’t believe that girl won a bronze at those Olympics.”


T’S a little after 6am at the UL Arena. She’s due any minute. “A lie-in this morning,” explains Claes. “We only got back into Dublin airport (after Eindhoven) early Tuesday morning so we’ll be taking it easy today. Rest is sometimes best.” Seconds later, the doors burst open and Gráinne bounds through, barely recognisable behind a swathe of jumpers and jackets, gloves and scarves. Within minutes she’s ready and Claes gives her a welcoming smile before announcing what the morning session will entail. Some 36 warm-up laps, a further 24 at race pace and 20 more to cool down is, by all accounts, an easy session. “What did you eat this morning,” I ask? “Just two Weetabix with some warm milk, I’ll have breakfast later.” When her alarm screeches at 4.45am five or six mornings a week, one has to wonder does she ever retreat to the sanctuary of the duvet covers? “Not once has that happened,” she re-

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Clockwise from top left: 6am and Gráinne arrives at at the UL Arena; all set for her training session; in the zone, making the hard yards; discussing times with coach, Ronald Claes; a bigger breakfast before she heads to school at Castletroy College. Pictures:


Kieran Clancy

Seventeen-year-old Gráinne Murphy is making the right kind of headlines for Irish swimming - with the talent to keep doing so until London and beyond. Brian Canty met her for a (very) early morning rendezvous torts. “I’m doing it because I actually love swimming, meeting people in different countries and making friends. It’s great. To be able to go abroad with

the squad and train with athletes in other countries is just amazing. You learn so much from them. “We’re a very close-knit group down here,” she continues. “Even at that time of the morning, everyone in the squad is always in good form. It makes it so much easier. They help motivate me. It’s so important to have that.” Gráinne and Mary are just like any other teenage daughter and mother. “I’d be the first to hear if something went wrong!” laughs Mary. “The food has to be right and ready, for example. I’m the secretary, the driver and the chef. I’ve been getting up at the crack (of dawn) for the last four or five years but I don’t mind. I never have to wake her though.” Leaving her home town of Ballinaboola, Co Wexford at just 13 was a “difficult” decision, but the correct one. “I was quite young when we left home so I kind of got used to the new surroundings easier, maybe easier than if I moved now, but I like it down here. I knew no-one at the start and that was tough, just the few swimmers. But I go home every weekend to help out if there’s no competition or if I don’t have a double session on a Saturday.” Coming down from Dublin after her silver medal success in Budapest, the phone never stopped ringing. Her precocious talent was just beginning to wash her into a grown-up world of international trips with teammates a


half-dozen years older, of journalists and agents and sponsors. “That’s Mary’s job too,” laughs Gráinne. “I prefer to just concentrate on the swimming. No-one knew who I was before Budapest, but that’s all changed now. It was mad after that, but I prefer to stay out of the limelight and let someone else deal with it. I don’t like people pushing cameras and stuff in my face.” But Mary isn’t complaining. For this is the very reason she and her husband Brendan bought a house in Limerick four years ago — to give Gráinne access to the best facilities. Mary is one of Gráinne’s best friends and her facilitator, her rock. She is the person that pushes Gráinne closer to the world the swimmer hopes to inherit. “I take her down to the pool in the mornings because she’s not driving yet, come home and go back into bed then. If I get so many hours sleep I’ll be okay but that’s just too early in the morning to stay up. And then she’ll ring after and I’ll collect her, I’ll look after her breakfast, make sure she gets her sleep and school and back down again for training. The day doesn’t be long going by I can assure you!” Recognition is hard-earned in a country where scandal has very often occupied the same sentence as swimming, but Murphy’s achievements and down-to-earth manner are helping to change attitudes. Mary often questions the lack of coverage the sport gets. “It’s

not fair at all, the sacrifice that they put in, the training and everything else. Some people would class you as being mad for doing it and it’s only when something extra-ordinary happens that it get reported.” Gráinne interjects: “Well that’s just in Ireland but if you go somewhere else where swimming is big, like England or Australia, they’re like, ‘oh that’s no big deal, the training you do’. Sure you have to do that amount. It’s just the Irish mentality I think.”


HIS morning, I’ve been granted my wish of being allowed swim a length with her. I pretend I’m not taking it seriously when in reality, the contrary is the case. With Gráinne ranked third in the world over 1500 metres, I’m not sure what I expected. She suggested a head-start would even it up, but I’m too proud for that. We line up in separate lanes and are counted down from three. My 17-year-old adversary executes a perfect dive and I’m already 10 metres behind. I thrash wildly, inhale a few lungs of water, expel same from nose, mouth and probably ears during a disastrous length and I barely make the opposite wall. The figures at the finish

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make for grim reading. Beaten by 32 seconds over 50 metres. Gráinne offers a re-match. I offer up the remaining shards of my dignity and surrender. “You started well,” she offered. “You just need to ... never mind.” I’m already towelling off. Murphy will become the first person in the history of the State to be allowed sit the Leaving Cert over two years in June, having completed the first half this year. It’s something she admits has helped her enormously en route to becoming one of the most talked about swimmers of the year. “That was huge and I have to thank UL, Castletroy College and Ronald for all their help in organising that. It just means I can cope with the classes and the training that way and the teachers have been very supportive. With the early training, you are always going to be tired but you kinda get used to them and try to recover in the afternoon. The thing is, I wanted to come here and do this and the set-up here is fantastic and I like Limerick.” Castletroy’s deputy principal Esther Griffin lights up when given the opportunity to speak about Gráinne: “She’s a fantastic girl, you would not believe the commitment from her, and her parents as well. They’ve put a huge effort into this. “She came into the college to collect her Leaving Cert results in August and there was no big deal made about Bu-

dapest, she just got on with it. She’s just a role model for other students, they all look up to her and they’re all dying to meet her and talk to her.” It goes without saying the London Olympic Games remain the glittering prize at the end of the programme that Claes devised upon his arrival. He is certain Murphy has the ability, as well as the environment, that will allow her to continue to challenge the best. “If we didn’t think that, then I think we would stop right now,” he smiles. But beyond that, there isn’t too much to say about London. “I haven’t really thought about it,” Murphy says. “I am just concentrating on the events that are ahead of me, like the Worlds next year in Shanghai.” Ronald, however, is keen to stress her achievements — substantial though they are for her age — are already in the rear view mirror. In fact, he’s banned the words ‘London’ and ‘Olympics.’ “You have to keep everything in context. We only have about four million people in Ireland so, for every Gráinne Murphy we have here, there’s 80 of them in the States and 330 of them in China, population wise. So, it’s a totally different approach to the bigger countries that have the flexibility.” He continues: “We’re a very small country within Europe and must be realistic. But, I do think it’s possible to succeed if you create the right environ-


ment. I think we need to be smarter about what we do and you can see it works because in Beijing for example, all the women’s freestyle events were won by Europeans. So that shows, with the right approach, we are able to beat the bigger nations. I think in Limerick, we do have that right environment.” Stress is one thing Gráinne doesn’t seem to know the meaning of. “You should’ve seen her the night before her Leaving Cert,” offers Mary. “It’s one of her main strengths,” doubles her coach. “You have pressure and you have stress. She doesn’t know the meaning of either. “I keep telling her that pressure is for tyres but of course there’s a certain amount. There has to be, if you can’t perform under pressure then don’t be a high performance athlete but if you think Michael Phelps or anyone else of that standard doesn’t feel pressure then you’re wrong. I think the best performers across all sports perform best under pressure. I don’t think you can even get up to that level if you can’t handle it. “Dedication is a choice that you make, once you get into our squad you’ve made a choice, a choice to push yourself to your limits. Progression is the biggest motivator and as long as they enjoy it, they’ll stay here and if they do what I ask them to do, they will progress. “It is great that people here are enjoying what she is trying to do. I don’t think Gráinne is swimming for anyone other than herself. It has to be that way.”




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bang as he sinks his short downhill putt to halve the 10th

“I’m glad the opening speech is over with, and I only screwed up once. I only forgot one player, it could have been two, could have been worse.” — USA captain Corey Pavin forgets to introduce Stewart Cink

“The adrenaline I felt when I holed that long putt on 17 was incredible” — McIlroy after draining a 35-footer at the 17th to halve

“It was a first-class show up there, and yes, we are 1-up” — European captain Colin Montgomerie on Pavin’s gaffe @ianjamespoulter: Joke of the day Westwood set Mcginleys iPhone alarm to go off at 16.42 half way thru Montys speech. u should have seen the panic. Hilarious @Graeme_McDowell: Me and the Curly Haired Wonder kid @mcilroyrory against Cink and Kuchar tomorrow!!!! 8 am. Can’t wait.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1 MORNING FOURBALLS @mcilroyrory: Come on Europe!! — McIlroy tweets at 5:33am “Fore!” — US rookie Dustin Johnson gets the Ryder Cup under way “There’s only two Molinaris!” European fans get creative on the first tee Team USA springs a leak.... “They were not doing what we wanted them to do so we went out and bought some more waterproofs.” — Pavin after the US PGA is forced to buy rainwear from the merchandise tent. @mcilroyrory: Just have to say our waterproofs are performing very well! “May the team with the best outerwear win.” — USA rainwear supplier Sun Mountain Sports’ pre-tournament advertising. @ianjamespoulter: That 1st tee is truly the most incredible experience ever, the buzz from the crowd shakes thru your body with so much electricity. I love it RAIN STOPS PLAY AFTER TWO HOURS OF FIRST SESSION Westwood/Kaymer 2Up v Mickelson/D Johnson after 5 holes McIlroy/McDowell 1Up v Cink/Kuchar after 4 Poulter/Fisher 1Up v Stricker/Woods after 3 Donald/Harrington 2Down v Watson/Overton after 2 Ryder Cup format undergoes a rain-affected rejig: Six foursomes Saturday morning; Two foursomes/four fourballs Saturday afternoon; then 12 singles with hope of completion on Sunday. “We felt we must do everything we can to finish the Ryder Cup on Sunday, the chosen day, while maintaining the integrity of the match. We don’t have a good forecast for Sunday, but they are not always accurate, and if that happens, we will roll into Monday, keeping the singles sacrosanct, whatever happens.” — George O’Grady, European Tour CEO

The Sporting Year

Once more the biennial golf extravaganza didn’t disappoint — despite the best efforts of Mother Nature. Simon Lewis charts a nerve-shredding four days at Celtic Manor through Twitter and soundbites @ianjamespoulter: We are playing some golf but it’s not on the course. It’s EASports TW 2011 practice is practice PLAY RESUMES AFTER 7hr 18 min DELAY Sports Illustrated’s correspondent soaks up the Celtic Manor atmosphere... @AlanShipnuck: I’m out here w/Tiger’s match and it’s clear many of the fans spent the rain delay getting pickled. There is a strong drunken-hooligan vibe. PLAY SUSPENDED FOR DAY Westwood/Kaymer 1Up v Mickelson/D Johnson after 12 holes McIlroy/McDowell 2Down v Cink/Kuchar after 11 Poulter/Fisher A/S v Stricker/Woods after 10 Donald/Harrington 1Down v Watson/Overton after 8 “When your ball is going to the hole, it feels great, especially in The Ryder Cup. It was fun ... the hole looked big and the ball was rolling nice. I played really well, I really did.” — Cink enjoys the US fightback “We knew it would be a tough match and it has proven to be tough. We just got one back and hanging in there on the ninth. Luke has about a 4- or 5-footer, and he’s got to sleep on that overnight, rather him than me, but an important putt tomorrow morning and then go out all fresh for the back nine.” — Harrington on playing the US rookies


Ryder Cup twitpics


in 140 characters or less, of course!

why we can’t do it again.” — Woods “There have been special days and we are going to need another one.” — Mickelson But Corey Pavin’s end of day press conference is less than inspiring... Question: Ben (Crenshaw) said he had a feeling in 1999; do you got any? Pavin: You know, Ben’s Ben and I’m me. You know, I just — I’m going to put the guys out in the order that I think gives us best chance to win. They have to go out and perform and play, and if they do, I think we have a chance.

“Boom Baby!” — Overton launches a catchphrase after holing out for an eagle at the 8th. Westwood/Kaymer beat Mickelson/D Johnson 3&2 McIlroy/McDowell v Cink/Kuchar halved Poulter/Fisher lose to Stricker/Woods 2Up Donald/Harrington lose to Watson/Overton 3&2 Europe 1½ USA 2½

@AlanShipnuck: I feel ya. RT @ShawnMKeefe never thought I’d say this, but I wish Colin Montgomerie was the American Captain...

“Monty sent us out to get an early point on the board and that’s what we’ve done.” Westwood on sealing the opening point, 25 hours after play started.

@Graeme_McDowell: I’m playing Hunter Mahan in the anchor match tomorrow... Gooooo Europe!!

“Rory’s and McDowell’s game was most important — 2½-1½ is okay, it’s a fraction.” — Montgomerie


SESSION TWO: FOURSOMES Jimenez/Hanson lose to Woods/Stricker 4&3 E Molinari/F Molinari lose to Z Johnson/Mahan 2Up Westwood/Kaymer v Furyk/Fowler halved Harrington/Fisher beat Mickelson/D Johnson 3&2 Poulter/Donald beat Watson/Overton 2&1 McIlroy/McDowell lose to Cink/Kuchar 1Up Europe 4 USA 6 “Stricks played great today, and played great yesterday, as well. Any time he was out of the hole I was in it. We ham-and-egged it pretty well.” — Woods “It was tough. We played pretty good. Got ourselves in a nice position going down 16, and just couldn’t finish it off.” — McIlroy after the 17th comes back to bite with a short missed putt as Cink continues to hole everything. “The putt on 17, in Ryder Cup those are like poison darts.” — Cink “I called this guy a horse earlier; I think the right term would be a thoroughbred. This guy is one stud.” — Matt Kuchar on Cink “The team is certainly good enough to survive this. Not down and out by any stretch of the imagination. We still have 18 points to play for, so game on.” — McDowell keeps spirits up SESSION THREE: FOURSOMES & FOURBALLS “We must get into the singles eight-all, minimum” — Montgomerie



“It was nice to make that, got a great roar.” — Donald starts the day with a

Foursomes: Donald/Westwood 4Up v



Lee Westwood and Steve Stricker get Magnificent Monday up and running on a foggy morning, followed by Rory McIlroy and Stewart Cink, then Luke Donald against Jim Furyk “You’ve got Big Macs, we’ve got wee Mac” — European fans greet Stewart Cink on the first tee ahead of his singles match with Rory McIlory

Paddy Harrington dreams of success; McIlroy gets tweeting; Pádraig dozy again; the sweet taste of success and centre, McDowell feeling all fuzzy.

Woods/Stricker after 9 holes McIlroy/McDowell 3Up v Z Johnson/Mahan after 7 Fourballs: Harrington/Fisher 1Up v Furyk/D Johnson after 8 Hanson/Jimenez 2Up v Watson/Overton after 6 E Molinari/F Molinari 1Up v Cink/Kuchar after 5 Poulter/Kaymer 2Up v Mickelson/Fowler after 4 @Graeme_McDowell: An all blue board in session 3! That’s what we’re talking about. Caaaaaaaaamon!!!!! Go Europe @ianjamespoulter: Great effort from the boys this arvo the board looks awesome, we need to keep the peddle down tomorrow & drive this home. I love Ryder Cups @Graeme_McDowell: This is the greatest golf tournament on the planet. I love it. “Very important two hours of play, and we came through it with flying colours. So the job is half-done and we have to keep going, and maintain this

momentum tomorrow morning.” — Montgomerie “The third session is going pretty nicely for Europe. We are just going to have to go back tonight, rest up, come out and fire at them tomorrow. We are down in all six matches. I have not seen points given for matches that are through four, five, six or seven holes, so we are to go out and try to turn those around and try to turn the momentum back in our favour.” — Pavin

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 3 @ianjamespoulter: Up and about 5.20 am. Getting ready for a big day. The weather is not good rain already coming down. Oh well the show must go on. @ianjamespoulter: It is raining cats & dogs out here. I can see a Monday finish at this rate. Monday forecast is great. Prepare to play & don’t get a shock @AlanShipnuck: That dufus built his course in a bog! RT @EllingYelling Feel sorry for Terry Matthews, who spent 60 million to bring Ryder to his resort SESSION 3: PLAY RESUMES AT 1.30PM Foursomes: Donald/Westwood beat Woods/Stricker 6&5 McIlroy/McDowell beat Z Johnson/Mahan 3&1

The Sporting Year

Fourballs: Harrington/Fisher beat Furyk/D Johnson 2&1 Hanson/Jimenez beat Watson/Overton 2Up E Molinari/F Molinari v Cink/Kuchar halved Poulter/Kaymer beat Mickelson/Fowler 2&1 Europe 9½ USA 6½ “If Phil Mickelson couldn’t chip, he’d be selling cars in San Diego.” — Johnny Miller rips Lefty on US television

On a day of momentum swings, Westwood reaches the 11th 1Up on Stricker, with Donald 2Up after 10, Poulter and Fisher 2Up on Kuchar and Overton respectively, Francesco Molinari leading Woods after four and brother Edoardo leading Rickie Fowler. Westwood loses to Stricker 2&1 Kaymer loses to D Johnson 6&4 Poulter beats Kuchar 5&4 McIlroy v Cink halved Donald beats Furyk 1Up Europe 12 USA 9 “I wouldn’t have said this a year ago but this is the best event in golf, by far” — McIlroy revises his opinion of

“I truly believe that that was one of the greatest days for European golf that we have had. To turn a two-point deficit into a three-point lead was quite amazing today. And all credit to everybody; to stop America winning a match, fantastic.” — Montgomerie

the Ryder Cup as an “exhibition” after an excellent bunker shot and par putt on 18 to halve with Cink Jimenez beats Watson 4&3 Fisher loses to Overton 3&2 F Molinari loses to Woods 4&3 Europe 13 USA 11 “We’ve done it before. Some of the guys that part of that team, assistant captains and players were a part of this team. We have been there; we felt it; we experienced it. Talked to the guys last night, how it all got rolling. And you know, Stricks was down early but he turned it around. It was a good start.” — Woods summons the spirit of Brookline Hanson loses to Mickelson 4&2 E Molinari v Fowler halved Harrington lose to Z Johnson 3&2 Europe 13½ USA 13½

@AlanShipnuck: So the US’s hopes are in the anchor match. Mahan is 2-down thru 10 to G-Mac. Bad news: Hunter hasn’t made a bird, and G-Mac is a tough dude. McDowell sinks a crucial left-to-right, downhill putt from eight feet at the 16th to win the hole and go to the par-three 17th 2Up with two to play. He just misses the green off the tee while Mahan’s tee shot lands short of the green and playing his second shot first, the American fluffs his chip. That leaves McDowell with two putts to win the Ryder Cup and he rolls the first one up to four feet. A shattered Mahan’s putt misses right and he concedes the putt to McDowell, leading to pandemonium on the 17th green as team-mates and fans swarm the putting surface in celebration. McDowell beats Mahan 3&1 Europe 14½ USA 13½

EUROPE WINS THE RYDER CUP “This is crazy. I’ve never felt as nervous on a golf course in my life as I did out there. I mean, trying to do it for my 11 teammates, trying to do it for all these people, trying to do it for Monty, it’s a lot of pressure, it’s amazing.” — McDowell “I’m just proud to be a part of this team. It’s a close team, and...” emotions get the better of a heartbroken Mahan

“They are 12 very special guys. I asked them all to play with heart and passion and by God they did.” Montgomerie

@ianjamespoulter: Now that’s what u call a special day for European golf, everybody was playing from pure heart and pure passion. A hard day 2morrow. Awesome

“We have done it before and no reason


“I think they should all be proud of themselves. As I’ve told them all week, they are playing for each other. We are a team and I was proud of every one of them. There was many points it seemed this week that momentum was going against us, and they kept fighting back and fighting back. And as I said, we nearly got there today.” — Pavin

@Graeme_McDowell: Greatest session in Ryder Cup history!!!! What an effort from Team Europe. Team USA were hit by a Blue Euro Freight train today.



TUESDAY, OCTOBER 5 @Graeme_McDowell: Can I just say one!!!!!

Europe’s Graeme McDowell celebrates holing a crucial birdie putt on the 16th Picture: Cathal Noonan green.


@mcilroyrory: What a week!! Think I’m still drunk! Jaegerbombs out of the Ryder cup! Great banter with euros and Americans last night!





he year spor

OOD news for ex-pros everywhere who say the worst thing about retirement is missing out on the mythical ‘banter’. You might have to imagine the delirious pleasure of cutting the tops off a teammate’s socks, but everything else; the jibes, the showing off, the appreciation of Rihanna has moved onto Twitter and anybody, even if your second touch truly is a tackle, can take part. Sports people have dabbled around the edges of Twitter for a couple of years now. They tried Facebook too, and Bebo for a while, but Twitter caters beautifully for their innate competitive streak. I got more followers than you, bruv. This year has seen a surge in sporting Tweeters. The conversation (right) took place after a Bolton Wanderers training session, in which Ivan Klasnic didn’t excel. You can no longer have a Macedonian in the privacy of your own training ground. Davies is undoubtedly the Bolton ringleader with 40,000-plus followers, gradually introducing and berating the others. kevindaviesbwfc @gretarsteinsson have you ever been to anger management??!! What must the likes of Alex Ferguson make of it all? The network of Manchester spies that led him to Giggsy and Sharpey’s infamous party all those years ago is now redundant. He can just spark up the Commodore 64 and @rioferdy5 will be Tweeting from the kitchen. Arsene Wenger has certainly been able to sleep soundly every Saturday night as his young bucks opt for televised Karaoke instead of the real thing. 53Szczesny53 About to watch the X factor with @jack_wilshere Of course, this new access to sporting heroes is a genuine worry to coaches and agents and especially brand managers. Fans and rivals alike are free to have a pop back at the stars and more than one celebrity Tweeter had landed in hot water this year when phone proved

COUNT TO TEN ENGLAND cricketer Kevin Pietersen earned himself a fine for a heat-of-the-moment reaction to finding out he’d been axed from a Twenty20 squad. kevinpp24 Done for rest of summer!! Man of the World Cup T20 and dropped from the T20 side too. It’s a f**k up!!

The Sporting Year

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2010 was the year sportswriters had to rely on their Twitter accounts for the inside track, writes Larry Ryan smarter than brain. Australian swimming darling Stephanie Rice shed several sponsors this autumn after the excitement of the Wallabies’ two-point win over the Springboks in South Africa saw her channel Roy Chubby Brown without the punchlines. Or, in other words, Joey Barton. ItsStephRice “Suck on that faggots” The thing is; it’s just not natural. After generations of studiously avoiding giving the media anything that could be dressed up as an opinion, give then 140 characters and a yard of grass and a footballer will give you chapter and verse on topics not really their business at all. @jack_wilshere What a bloody disgrace that is! Chris hougton sacked! Is that a joke? I seriosly cannot believe that! After Carlos Tevez’s sulk against Bolton recently, Davies kept the platitudes for Match of the Day and co before conducting his own rather franker broadcast later that night. kevindaviesbwfc Seeing Tevez’s reaction assures me there are problems within City, great players individually, but as a team? All very well until Davies’s teammate Martin Petrov managed an even bigger hissy fit when substituted against Blackburn and suddenly his captain was rather more circumspect. England slapped a Twitter ban on players during the World Cup, FA media relations head Mark Whittle warn-

iviklas All eyes on me today ........ stuholden @iviklas yeah, you were horrible today bro!!! kevindaviesbwfc @stuholden he was terrible!!!

IRISH TWEETERS @McIlroyRory (80,000 followers) Everyone’s friend on Twitter. Likes a bit of banta with Poults. @Graeme_McDowell (60,000 followers) Another member of the Westwood-McIlroy-Poulter Twitter clique. @BrianODriscoll (23,000 followers) Drico talks us through his massages and sponsors’ messages. @Paul_OConnell (9,000 followers) Hardly been seen since this in March: The wire is over. I now have my life back! @DelapSCFC (6,500 followers) Typical tweet: awaiting Mr Trappatoni’s call!! Ha

Bolton striker Ivan Klasnic (iviklas) >>

ing team concerns override players’ personal relationships with supporters. “We embrace Twitter, we monitor it and we use it where appropriate. But ultimately we’re not there to get fans closer to the players, we’re there to win football matches. That’s Capello’s edict.” Leicester Tigers also banned Twitter after Jordan Crane broadcast news of an ankle injury on the network. Leicester’s head coach Richard Cockerill threatened to break both Crane’s ankles if he caught him Tweeting again. “None of our players will be Tweeting or Facebooking anything about Leicester ever again.”

Rory McIlroy: the young Irishman has 80,000 followers on twitter >>

Media commentators too have fallen foul of injudicious Tweets. Pitcher turned pundit Mike Bacsik was fired from a Dallas radio station after getting fired up during the San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks series. MikeBacsik Congrats to all the dirty Mexicans in San Antonio Little wonder then Irish pundits have been slow to embrace Twitter. There’s no sign of Gilesy yet although Tony Cascarino and Matt Holland are regulars. After a tentative start, Richie Sadlier, however, better sums up the Irish attitude. richiesadlier This can’t possibly end well for me. I’m off.

WORTH A FOLLOW @nicholasroche (9,000 followers) Excellent insight into life on the bike. @RohanRicketts (8,000 followers) Plenty of banter but occasional gems.

AT LEAST footballers and rugby players are generally too busy to Tweet during games. Ignoring an NFL ban on “in-game tweeting”, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco copped a fine for telling us this during a preseason game. ochocinco Man Im sick of getting hit like that , its the damn preseason shit! 1day I’m gone jump up and start throwing hay makers , #Tylenolplease.


@THE_REAL_SHAQ (3.3 million followers) Personal motto: I perform random acts of Shaqness. Typical tweet: Y don’t they play some country music during the timeouts!? Black people like country music too. Well the ones fr. tennessee! @RealKaka (2.4 million followers) The Brazilian Jesus fanatic has plenty of time for Tweeting these days. Tweets mostly in Portuguese. @Cristiano (1.2 million followers) Ronaldo boasts Twitter’s answer to the vanity plate; the first name handle. Typical tweet: After Champions league game, it’s now time to work hard for Monday night’s game against Barcelona. He hasn’t mentioned the game since. @IanJamesPoulter (1 million followers) It’s all about the banter with Poults. Typical tweet: @westwoodlee this doesnt count mate you cant sit on the treadmill for 2 hours and eat McDonalds.

@FreddyAdu11 (388,000 followers) Likeable one-time US boy wonder who seemed destined for greatness is picking up the pieces in Greece.


@lancearmstrong (2.7 million followers) One of the first sports people on Twitter. A dedicated brand builder. Typical tweet: Fuel stop in Shannon, Ireland. Great memories of the @LIVESTRONG Global Summit last year and one helluva twitter ride!

@RyanBabel (106,000 followers) Seems rather more exercised by his record label than events at the Pool. @ciarankelly4 (50 followers) The FAI Cup penalty hero is among the first League of Ireland players showing up on the Twitter radar.

Nicholas Roche is well worth a peep now an then for an insight into live on the saddle.

The Sporting Year

WATCH YOUR PUNCTUATION A MISSING comma cost West Ham defender Danny Gabbidon a whole pile of flak from supporters. @TheRealGabbidon Sorry you had to witness that last night West Ham fans need to start showing the dedication that you have & things might start to improve!x @TheRealGabbidon Wow! i have caused a stir today havent i? My punctuation is awful please put a comma after fans and you will see the true message sorry x


Lance Armstrong: cycling legend boasts 2.7 million Twitter followers and counting.




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The Sporting Year


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