Old Friendships: Maintenance Required

“Isn’t that going to be weird?”

That’s the first question asked by your most recent circle of friends when you’re meeting a comrade from days long gone by. And no matter how much you’ve been trying to tell yourself that it won’t be weird or awkward, you know there’s some truth in what they’re saying.

friendship

That’s not to say old friends should be jettisoned like rocket boosters as you hit your mid-20s orbit. Rather, it’s about managing expectations. The party animal who you shared so many nights you’ll never forget and more that you’ll never remember? Chances are that if he’s in a 9 to 5 by now, he may have calmed down somewhat.

The fact is that none of the friends you had at 17 are the same as they were back then, and more importantly, neither are you. Particularly true of arts students, you enter your university years with all sorts of plans and good intentions. You’ll study English literature and in ten years time be the youngest ever editor of a national broadsheet. You’ll master Spanish and Japanese and travel the world working for the UN. You’ll learn how to iron a shirt properly, and cook sausages without the fire brigade being called. You’ll get 7 McNuggets when you ordered 6. All far from unattainable, but much more difficult that the optimistic 17 year old you were had you believe.

So, when you leave university, degree in hand, and go about establishing yourself in the adult world, (let’s not kid ourselves, for the majority college acts as a buffer between teenage years and adulthood), it’s unreasonable to think that this change in parameters won’t result in a change of attitude and personality. It may be slight, even imperceptible, but it’ll be there.

A lot of this is a physical necessity. When you look back at Rag Week carnage you put yourself through in college, you wonder how in the name of Dutch Gold you managed to survive at all. By your mid-twenties, the mere thoughts of the Tuesday fear after a bank holiday weekend is enough to fill you with dread. The very idea of drinking Sunday through to Friday is enough to make you reach for a spice bag and a lucozade.

So, if you’re a different person to what you were when you started college, you can be damn sure so are the friends you made in orientation week and kept ever since, even if you only see each other on a Facebook newsfeed. When you do finally meet in person again, sure it’s a bit awkward at first as you each try and suss what’s changed.

But the beauty of the meeting is how the conversation segues from stilted pleasantries to reminiscenses and forgotten in-jokes. Old friends know more about you than many new acquaintances could ever hope to. They were there for the terrible fashion choices, the questionable hairstyles, the first loves and the first break-ups. You may think you’re a big city slicker now, and you may even be able to get away with that with recently made friends, but that holds no sway with old allies. They saw those frosted tips.

So embrace old friends, meet them as often as your busy lives will allow. Book five days off and re-create rag week, and have another 5 days booked off for recovery. Be interested in what’s going on in their lives and be interesting about what’s going on in yours. Introduce them to new friends, take a step back and watch the web of connections that is your life grow stronger and more beautifully complicated.

But don’t you dare resurrect those frosted tips.

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The World Cup Starts Here! A Preview of Today’s Games

The minnows and the major shocks, the in-house fighting and on-field biting. The ruined reputations and the exceeded expectations. The group stages of the World Cup were as good as we’ve seen in many a tournament, but the knock-out stages are when the fun really begins.

Half the teams that plonked themselves in Brazil at the start of the month have gone home, and yet Greece are still here. Go figure. Nevertheless, the majority of teams left in the tournament deserve to be here. As expected, South American teams have done well so far. Chile and Colombia have been two of the more impressive teams to make it to the last 16, while Brazil and Argentina have been carried this far by the genius of their Messi and Neymar.

Tonight sees the hosts take on Chile in the first of the knock-out games, followed by Colombia’s clash with a Uruguay side lacking some bite. (Sorry)

Here’s a short preview of the two games.

Brazil vs Chile – 5pm

If you get a sense of deja vu from this game it’s because these sides met at the same stage at the last world cup. On that occasion Brazil advanced to the quarter finals but on present form Chile have nothing to fear tonight.

With the exception of Neymar and possibly Thiago Silva, none of the Brazil side has performed at an optimum level so far in this tournament. Chile on the other hand have been a revelation of sorts, with the talents of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez complemented by an intense pressing game which puts pressure on opponents high up the pitch. They may have capitulated to the Dutch in their last game of the group stages but by then they had already qualified, and Juventus star Vidal was rested.

If Chile play in the same manner they did against Spain, Brazil may be leaving this tournament three games earlier than they’d like. However with Neymar in the form he has been in so far, they can hurt Chile on the counter. The Barcelona forward has been magnificent, particularly when you take into account the pressure that rests on his shoulders. Only a superlative performance from the Mexican goalkeeper in the second group game prevents him from being the top scorer so far, but he’ll be keen to add to his four goal tally this evening.

Intriguing sub plots include Real Madrid’s Marcelo being tasked with keeping Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez quiet. Chile fans would be happy to see something like this.

It’s a tough game to call but Brazil have Fred up front so Chile to progress.

 

Colombia vs Uruguay

This fixture is without two of the best strikers in world football, and is all the more intriguing for it. Radamel Falcao was never going to make this game, or indeed the World Cup, but a moment of madness has cost Luis Suarez his role as the the spearhead of the Uruguay attack.

There’s no denying that Uruguay are a weaker proposition without the Liverpool striker, particularly as Edinson Cavani appears to struggle for goals on the international stage. However Colombia seem to be doing pretty well for themselves without Falcao. James Rodriguez has been a stand out perfomer at this World Cup so far, with solid supporting roles played by the likes of Teofillo Gutierrez.

The Colombians had the luxury of resting 8 players against Japan, and without Suarez it’s difficult to see Uruguay progressing against their fresher South American counterparts.

 

 

Munster and Ulster handed tough pool fixtures in inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup

The Irish provinces learned today of their pool opponents in the new European club competitions.

Munster and Ulster face an uphill task to qualify for the knock-out stages of the European Rugby Champions Cup. It’s a big ask for Anthony Foley in his first year as Munster head coach to lead the Reds out of Pool 1, which contains two other Heineken Cup semi-finalists from last season. Clermont Auvergne and beaten finalists Saracens join Munster and Sale Sharks in the pool.

Ulster’s task is no easier. They must face two time and final Heineken Cup champions Toulon, as well as Leicester Tigers and Llanelli Scarlets in Pool 3.

Leinster look to have the best draw out of the 3 provinces competing in the European Rugby Champions Cup, albeit their task is far from easy either. They face Castres, Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins side and London Wasps in Pool 2.

Jonny Sexton’s Racing Metro must negotiate Pool 5, which contains Northampton, the Ospreys and Benetton Treviso.

Pool 4 contains Glasgow Warriors, Montpellier, Bath and former French powerhouses Toulouse.

The first round of fixtures takes place the 17th, 18th and 19th of October.

In the European Rugby Challenge Cup (the remodel of the Amlin Challenge Cup), Connacht will take on the Exeter Chiefs, Bayonne and La Rochelle in Pool 2.

The remaining pools are as follows:

Pool 1 – Cardiff Blues, London Irish, Grenoble, (Italian team TBC)

Pool 3 – Stade Francais, Newport-Gwent Dragons, Newcastle, (Italian team TBC)

Pool 4 – Edinburgh, Bordeaux-Begles, London Welsh, Lyon

Pool 5 – Gloucester, Brive, Zebra, Oyonnax.

Robbie Diack to make his debut against Argentina

Ulster back row Robbie Diack is the only uncapped player Joe Schmidt has named to start against Argentina on Saturday afternoon. The 28 year old Johannesburg native has been at Ulster since the 2008/9 season and can play in all three positions at the back of the pack.

Other players in line to make their Irish debut this weekend are the Connacht pairing of number 9 Kieran Marmion and prop forward Rodney Ah You. Both men start from the bench.

Joe Schmidt has chosen seasoned Irish performers to steer the ship, with Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton occupying the half back positions. Ulster duo Darren Cave and Luke Marshall begin in the centre.

Jordi Murphy wins his third cap, taking his provincial teammate Jamie Heaslip’s spot at number 8. Fellow Leinster man Jack McGrath packs down beside veterans Mike Ross and Rory Best in the front row.

There’s a recall for Simon Zebo, overlooked for the successful spring Six Nations campaign. Andrew Trimble takes his place on the other wing. Felix Jones wins his sixth cap for Ireland at full-back, with Rob Kearney not even included on the bench.

Kick-off is at 7.40pm Irish time Saturday (3.40pm in Argentina) and the game is live on Sky Sports.

Teams:

Ireland: 

F Jones, A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall; S Zebo J Sexton, C Murray: J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; I Henderson P O’Connell (Capt); R Diack, C Henry, J Murphy.

Subs: D Varley, D Kilcoyne, R Ah You, D Toner, J Heaslip, K Marmion, I Madigan, F McFadden.

 

Argentina:

J Tuculet; S Cordero, J De La Fuente, G Ascarate, M Montero; N Sanchez, M Landajo (Capt): L Noguera Paz, M Cortese, R Herrera; M Carizza, T Lavanini; R Baez, T De La Vega, B Macone.

Subs: J Montoya, B Postiglioni, N Telaz Chaparo, M Alemanno, J Ortega Desio, T Cubelli,, S Gonzalez, Iglesias, L Gonzalez Amorisino.

 

Ireland v Italy: 3 Talking Points

Ireland took on Italy in an international friendly in front of a packed Craven Cottage in London last night. With all the speculation surrounding Roy Keane and the vacant managerial role at Celtic, it was nice for Martin O’Neill and his charges to be able to focus on playing football.

It was a fairly even contest which will serve Italy well as they make their final preparations ahead of their first World Cup game against Italy in less than a fortnight’s time. Unfortunately however the night was marred by a serious injury to midfielder Riccardo Montolivo, who has been ruled out of the trip to Brazil after breaking his ankle in a clash with Alex Pearce.

Here are three talking points from last night’s game.

1. Confident play.

Some of the passing and movement at Craven Cottage last night was exceptional, and more importantly a far cry from the long ball tactics of the Trappatoni era.

The ball is utilised better by the whole team, with patient build up play and the courage to play it out from the back. The new management has shown confidence in the team’s ability to play football, and in turn the team has improved with every passing game.

Both Jeff Hendrick and Wes Hoolahan gave a strong Irish turnout in London something to shout about yesterday, as they constantly hassled and harried the sometimes lackadaisical Italian midfield into giving away possession. When either of these creative outlets got the ball for Ireland, something looked like happening in attack.

 

2. Where are you, Robbie?

There is still a worrying lack of a cutting edge in front of goal for Ireland when Robbie Keane isn’t around. The talisman is getting on now, and at a time when he should be taking a back seat, (or at least a seat on the bench) Martin O’Neill need’s his predatory instincts more than ever.

Shane Long offers much in the lone striker role. He has pace, holds the ball up well and occupies opposition defenders with clever movement. Crucially however, he just cannot seem to find the back of the net. When the goal looms large in front of him he either takes the wrong option or fluffs his lines.

Yesterday he attempted a pass to Aiden McGeady when world-class strikers might have been more inclined to shoot. When he did have an attempt on goal he wasn’t clinical enough. One was a weak shot that barely troubled Siguru in the Italian goal, and again with a header that found the keeper when the goal was at his mercy.

With Long, Kevin Doyle, Simon Cox and Jonathan Walters, Ireland have forward players who will run all day and hold the ball up to give midfielders the time to join the attack. Unfortunately however, when Robbie Keane is not in the squad, it’s hard to see where the goals will come from.

 

3. Summer fixtures the ideal shop window. 

For players such as Norwich duo Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan, these Ireland games are a welcome chance to showcase their abilities following frustrating club campaign.

Both players failed to hold down regular places at Carrow Road in the Premier League last season, but they’ve grasped the opportunities that have come their way in the green jersey during these summer fixtures so far.

Hoolahan has been at the heart of Ireland’s most impressive attacking play, while Anthony Pilkington showed deft displays of skill in London yesterday and was unfortunate not to get the goal that this dazzling bit of play deserved.

It goes without saying that the more Irish squad members playing regular Premier League football the better, and a few more performances like this from Hoolahan and Pilkington will do their chances of leaving Carrow Road and the Championship no harm at all.

 

 

 

 

Pochettino named as new Spurs manager

Mauricio Pochettino has become Tottenham Hotspur’s new manager on a five year deal after parting ways with Southampton today.

The Argentinian replaces Tim Sherwood who was let go by Spurs at the end of the season.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy welcomed Pochettino’s arrival in a statement on the clubs website;

“In Mauricio I believe we have a Head Coach who, with his high energy, attacking football, will embrace the style of play we associate with our Club. He has a proven ability to develop each player as an individual, whilst building great team spirit and a winning mentality.

We have a talented squad that Mauricio is excited to be coaching next season.”

Pochettino added;

“This is a Club with tremendous history and prestige and I am honoured to have been given this opportunity to be its Head Coach.

There is an abundance of top-class talent at the Club and I am looking forward to starting work with the squad.

Tottenham Hotspur has a huge following across the world and I have great admiration for the passion the fans show for this team. We are determined to give the supporters the kind of attacking football and success that we are all looking to achieve.”

The Argentinian joined Southampton in January 2013 following the sacking of popular manager Nigel Adkins. Pochettino was a relative unknown in English football circles, however he had previously managed Espanyol in Spain.

He led the Saints to a respectable mid table finish during his first few months in charge, and followed that up with an impressive full season at the helm in which the south coast club finished eighth.

There had been concerns among Southampton fans that Pochettino might move on this summer after Nicola Cortese was released by the Saints owners in January. Cortese had been Southampton chairman and a key ally of Pochettino.

On top of this, last season’s impressive results have led to interest from larger clubs in some of Southampton’s stars such as Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana, diminishing Southampton’s prospects for next season.

Under Pochettino, the Saints played an attacking style of football with an emphasis on pressing opponents when not in possession of the ball. He’ll be expected to bring the same ideals to an arguably better squad at Spurs.

Fans of the North London club will hope that he can be the manager to get the most out of record signing Erik Lamela. The new manager’s compatriot endured a torrid first season at Spurs due to injury.

Pochettino will be joined at the club by the same back room staff he had with him at Espanyol and Southampton.

Ireland v Turkey: 3 Reasons to be cheerful

1. Wes Hoolahan

The Norwich midfielder was the standout performer for Ireland at the Aviva yesterday. After a frustrating season which saw his chances limited at Carrow Road, Hoolahan was at the heart of much that was good about Ireland’s play. It was he who provided the perfectly weighted ball for Jonathan Walters consolation goal.

At 32 years of age, Hoolahan is hardly a long term solution to Ireland’s creativity problems. However for the upcoming Euro campaign, should he see enough game-time at club level, he will be a valuable asset to Martin O’Neill.

2. Plenty of chances.

Hoolahan aside, there was a creative spark to the Irish play that was rarely evident under Trappatoni. Ireland should certainly have been ahead before Turkey’s opening goal, after Aiden McGeady’s inch-perfect through ball to Shane Long led to a penalty shout that was inexplicably waved away.

McGeady regularly dazzles out wide before failing to whip in an accurate cross. Yesterday though he caused the Turkish defence some real concern with his final ball. Twice James McClean could have done better with efforts resulting from a McGeady cross.

Ireland as a team seem more patient under Martin O’Neill, preferring to pass the ball sideways and backwards and wait for an opening rather than just hoofing the ball forward and hoping the strikers can get a head on it. Several times yesterday Irish players attempted defence-splitting passes which were just a little too far ahead of their intended targets. The accuracy might not be there yet, but that’s what this run of four friendly games is for. Ironing out the creases.

3. Far from the finished product.

While O’Neill put out quite a strong team yesterday, there are still some key players and exciting prospects to join up with the squad either for the remainder of these summer friendlies or ahead of the Euro campaign.

Robbie Keane is busy scoring goals in the MLS but it’s a given what he can do at this stage. Richard Dunne and Kevin Doyle are other stalwarts who have just helped QPR attain Premier League status once more.

Most exciting however, is the prospect of seeing what Jeff Hendrick can do if given further opportunities in the Ireland set up. While he and Derby County team-mate Richard Keogh must be devastated following the Championship play-off loss to QPR, Hendrick’s performances for the Rams all season have earmarked him as a dynamic option in Ireland’s midfield.

Championship Playoff Final – The Irish Involvement

There may be higher profile games taking place in Lisbon and Cardiff today, but Wembley is the backdrop for the richest game in football. Whoever emerges victorious in the Championship play-off final between QPR and Derby county will be in line for a potential windfall of £100m as a result of playing in next season’s Premier League.

Derby finished in third place in the Championship after an impressive season under Steve McClaren, with Harry Redknapp’s QPR ending their campaign in fourth, five points further back. The Rams easily disposed of Brighton in the play-off semi finals, while QPR overcame Wigan in an edgy affair.

It’s an interesting day for football supporters from this neck of the woods, as there are six Irish footballers involved. Three on each team.

 Derby County

Richard Keogh

The centre-half will captain Derby in the biggest game of his career, hoping to lead the Rams to the Premier League for the first time since the ill-fated 2007/2008 season. That year Derby broke the wrong kind of records, finishing the campaign with a paltry 11 points.

Keogh has had a solid season at the back, playing the most games of Derby’s Irish contingent with 43 league appearances. He told thescore.ie during the week that captaining his side today will be something that lives with him forever.

Jeff Hendrick

The creative central midfielder hasn’t started as many games as Keogh for the Rams this season, but when he has been on the pitch he has been been a key contributor to the promotion push. He chipped in with 5 league goals, including one in an impressive rout of local rivals Nottingham Forest back in March.

Conor Sammon

Sammon gets a lot of flack from Irish fans but there’s no denying that he puts in a shift when called upon. He’s not the most technically gifted of players but there’s a lot to be said for honest graft. Steve McClaren obviously sees something in him, the Dubliner has made 42  appearances this season, scoring 4 goals and providing the assist for 3 more.

Queens Park Rangers

Richard Dunne

Dunne needs no introduction to Irish fans, and there’s no harm in having another look at what was arguably his greatest performance in the green of Ireland. This video shows a more subtle side to the Tallaght native however, and Derby County will undoubtedly be looking to keep QPR’s greatest creative threat pinned back today.

 

The former Aston Villa defender has been an almost constant presence in the centre of the R’s defence this year with 43 league appearances.

Kevin Doyle

After a disappointing final few seasons at Wolves, culminating in playing in the third tier of English football. A loan move to QPR in January has offered some respite, but Doyle is far from the player he was a few seasons ago. He’s not first choice at Loftus Road, behind Bobby Zamora, Andrew Johnson and top scorer Charlie Austin in the pecking order.

The Wexford man has 11 league appearances and two goals to his name since joining Harry Redknapp’s squad.

His first goal for the club came in his debut against Burnley.

 

Brian Murphy

The keeper was limited in his appearances this season due to Robert Green’s performances between the posts.  Nonetheless Murphy was called into action in two league games, as well as playing in the cup competitions too.

Luis Suarez could miss World Cup after knee injury

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is facing a race against time to be fit for Uruguay’s World Cup campaign after injuring his knee in training.

The PFA player of the year is set to undergo keyhole surgery this morning in a bid to aid his recovery. The operation usually takes two to four weeks to recover from.

If it takes the maximum four weeks, then Suarez would miss Uruguay’s opening game against Costa Rica on June 14th, and possibly the highly anticipated game against England five days later.

For Suarez fans there’s hope yet. He’s shown before that he can come back from the dead.

He’s not the only prolific South American striker struggling to be fit for the tournament in Brazil. Monaco forward Radamel Falcao is still not guaranteed to be match-ready for Colombia after suffering a cruciate injury early this year. He’s back in light training but has said himself that he won’t participate if he doesn’t feel he can contribute.

The former Atletico Madrid striker is someone neutrals definitely want to see at the World Cup.

 

 

Ireland squad for Argentina tour named: Madigan misses out

Joe Schmidt has named the Ireland squad for the two-test tour of Argentina next month.

Leinster out-half Ian Madigan misses out on the trip to the Southern Hemisphere, and instead will travel with the Emerging Ireland squad to Romania.

The move may surprise some supporters as Jonny Sexton could probably do with a rest after a long season. His first campaign as  Racing Metro player was preceded by the victorious Lions tour, and he’s also been on Ireland duty last November and during the Six Nations.

Paddy Jackson has been named as the second out-half on the Argentina tour. Schmidt named four uncapped players for the trip. They are Ulster forward pair Rob Herring and Robbie Diack, Munster front row Dave Cronin and Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion. Herring and Diack qualify for Ireland through residency.

Some experienced campaigners have been given the chance to rest and recuperate after a gruelling campaign. Tommy Bowe, Sean Cronin, Gordon Darcy, Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy won’t be on the plane.

Dave Kearney’s injury he picked up against Ulster at the weekend sees him miss out, with Munster’s Simon Zebo given the opportunity to show his worth to Joe Schmidt after playing no part in the Six Nations victory this spring.

Captain Paul O’Connell travels, but this is the first Ireland squad of the post Brian O’Driscoll era, with the talisman having retired from international rugby following the Six Nations.

In his absence, the outside centre spot is up for grabs. With Keith Earls, Darren Cave and Robbie Henshaw all on the plane and mooted as possible replacements at 13, it will be interesting to see who Schmidt auditions in Argentina.

The tests take place on the 7th of June in Resistencia and the 15th in Tucuman.

Ireland Squad:

Forwards:

Rory Best (Ulster), James Cronin (Munster), Robbie Diack (Ulster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Rob Herring (Ulster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Martin Moore (Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Munster, captain), Mike Ross (Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Damien Varley (Munster).

Backs:

Darren Cave (Ulster), Keith Earls (Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Felix Jones (Munster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathon Sexton (Racing Metro), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster).