Putting the Boom in Bust. Ireland in Euro 2012.

Heart, Dedication, Graft. And that’s just the fans. (Pic:thescore.ie)
Recession. A time for cutbacks, political recriminations, endless dole queues, and for Ireland to qualify for a major football championship.
It seems par for the course that our football team succeed in times of financial hardship, making it that little bit more difficult for fans to travel in support of the players. Not that this deters the dedicated. Credit Unions play their part, rubber stamping “home improvement” loans to lads wearing foam hands. Technically the loans are for home improvements, because if absence makes the heart grow fonder, then when the fans eventually got home from Germany/Italy/USA/Japan and Korea, home looked an awful lot better than it did when they left.
We, the Irish people, follow the Tic Tac philosophy. We all need a little lift from time to time. Our football team has the happy knack of supplying it when our country is at its lowest ebb. Trappatoni may not do Tic Tac tactics, but he and his squad of players have grinded and grafted their way to Poland and Ukraine next summer.
Former publicans across Ireland will be cursing themselves for not hanging on another bit before closing their ailing ale houses. If they had kept the faith, as sure as night follows day and Shay Given is a good goalkeeper, they would have taken in money beyond their wildest dreams. It may indulge the traditional Irish drinking stereotype, but the feel good effect of Ireland in a major championship will mean that those pubs still open will run dry next summer.
Forget the phenomenon of the “Popes Children” Mr McWilliams. The real baby boom happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a woman just mentioning Paul McGrath would have the equivalent effect of a bitch in heat. Mentioning Schillachi, on the other hand….
Ask any supporter. They would prefer Ireland to play dull football and qualify for every tournament than play Barcelona style football and never reach those heady heights. It may not be pretty, it may not awaken the senses, hell it may be nigh on impossible to watch without imbibing some form of alcohol, but it is effective. Greece won the Euros in 2004 playing largely the same style of football appropriated by Trappatoni, and if you had put it to any Greek fan celebrating on the streets of Athens the night of their triumph that the victory was devalued by the manner of play, they would have rightly laughed in your face and continued crying tears of unadulterated joy.
The similarities between Jack Charlton and Giovanni Trappatoni are well documented. Both managers stuck to their own style of play even amidst clamours from pundits and fans alike for the introduction of flair players. Liam Brady and Andy Reid are two of the most notable casualties (Stephen Ireland’s wounds were self inflicted). However, like Tardelli said (or was it Macchiavelli?) , “the end justifies the means”. Both men managed to do what many others have failed to do; lead Ireland to a major championship. There is already a statue of Jack in Cork Airport. Perhaps in the future pigeons will be able to defecate on a likeness of Trappatoni?
Jack Charlton Statue, Cork Airport (windowonwoking.org.uk)
Moving swiftly on to next year, and Ireland are fourth seeds going into the draw on December 2nd. It is unquestionably true that the overall quality of teams in the group stages of the European Championships are a cut above those in the World Cup pots. Because the Euros begin with 16 teams and the World Cup with 32, essentially the former begins with the quality you are likely to see in the first knockout stage (the last 16) of the World Cup. For the neutral observer, this leads to some incredible football. For the loyal Green Army however, it will mean nails bitten to the quick from kick off on day one.
 Ireland will have much to do to even get to the knockout stages next year. Some of the combinations possible in Friday’s draw are worthy of note. If Ireland were to draw Spain, Germany, and Portugal, then it would undoubtedly be the group of death for the boys in green. If however, the squad were to come up against Spain, Italy and Greece in the preliminaries, inevitably this would be dubbed the “Group of Debt”. For the thousands of Irish who will keep Michael O’Leary in gold leaf toilet roll next year, all groups will involve considerable debt.
So will next summer live up to all the hype it will inevitably attract in the coming months? You bet. Do you honestly think that Richard Dunne did his Paul McGrath versus Italy impression in Moscow just to be patted patronisingly on the head and sent home to a celebration of mediocrity in the Phoenix Park? Will Robbie Keane want to arrive onto the international main stage for the first time in ten years and leave without a few goals to his name? Will Damien Duff forget how to infuse confused defenders with twisted blood in the fashion he did in the Far East? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are questioning the character and commitment of some of Ireland’s finest ever players.
Richard Dunne in Moscow (daylife.com)
It took a while to accept, but Trappatoni’s rigid system has gotten us to where we are now. The team is committed to the system and they will leave nothing in the tank in pursuit of a result. Similiarly, the fans are committed to the team and they will leave nothing in their bank accounts in their quest to be dubbed the world’s greatest fans once again. Back in 1988 Joxer went to Stuttgart by van. Next year thousands of this country’s football followers will invade Eastern Europe by air, by sea, clinging to the axles of a truck if needs be. No matter what, they will be there in droves. One problem. Christy Moore is going to have a hard time finding anything to rhyme with Gdansk.

How The Pinch Stole Christmas

Some won’t make it home for Christmas. (pic: reuters.com)
80’s Ireland. Boatloads and busloads take the return journey home for Christmas. From Dublin, from London, from New York City, they return to the fold. Press photographers gather in airport arrivals halls, both hopeful and confident of snapping some tearful reunions.
                Some do not return home. Some because they cannot afford to, either financially or legally, as many are in America as illegal immigrants and leaving will mean never coming back. Some because they don’t see Ireland as their country anymore. Politicians have failed them, their friends have emigrated too, and their parents leave them feeling nothing but a vague guilt for deserting them.
                But for those who do return, two weeks over the festive season leave them feeling like they will never leave home again. They start to feel once more that they belong in Ireland. This emotional attachment is at its most potent as the lights come on in a club, and people stagger to attention for the national anthem. Sinne Fianna Fáil, atá faoi gheall na hÉireann. Soldiers are we, whose lives we pledge to Ireland.
                But they are not soldiers, they are young Irish people living in the harshness of the 1980’s. They may pledge their hearts to Ireland, but perhaps never again their lives, because their livelihoods lie elsewhere. In the cold light of January, bags full of their mother’s cooking, jacket pockets lined with surreptitious tenners from their oul fella, they return to be swallowed up in the anonymity of the foreign metropolis’ where they have found jobs, if not an identity.
                No photographers turn up at the airports in January. There is a significant difference between tearful reunions and tearful goodbyes.
                We do not live in the 80’s anymore, but we do live in a recession that has swallowed up this country’s youth once more and spat them in all corners of the globe. Like their predecessors a generation ago, many will make the trek home for turkey this December, and like their predecessors a generation ago, many will not.
                But in this age of constant communication, is the physical absence of someone felt as keenly as it was 30 years ago? Families across this country can sit down this Christmas Day in front of their turkey and sprouts, and wave happily to their child/sibling as they don surf shorts and a Santa hat on Bondi Beach. Skype, Facebook, and Google + have made this world a smaller place, and lend a hand to lessening the impact of loved ones not being around the house this Christmas.
                But no amount of technology can ever make up for having everyone around the dinner table Christmas day. A full house may mean that – as sure as brussel sprouts will be sneakily discarded – there will be arguments, fights and fireworks. But a house full of the noise of arguments is infinitely more preferable to one where the only sound is the ticking clock, a constant reminder of time spent apart.
                There are reasons why people don’t come home this Christmas that are far removed from the reasons of the 80s. To many the recession is not a hinderance, but an opportunity to broaden their horizons and take in foreign lands before they tie themselves down in a job. The fact that there may be no job to tie them down is not something which concerns some of them unduly as of yet.
                We are in recession much in the same way we were a generation ago. But there are key differences. Ireland back then was never all that prosperous to begin with, and the 80’s recession was akin to jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Now however, there is the feeling that for the Celtic Tiger Cubs it is out of the cotton wool and into the harsh realities of a decimated economy. Why would recently graduated Irish university students stay in this country to become government artists, drawing the dole, when they are offered the opportunities to utilise their degrees in far flung locations like Korea, Japan, Australia. The latter has always been a go-to place for the Irish in times of turmoil, the two Far Eastern countries the recent recipients of an Irish Diaspora simply because they require native English speakers who will teach them the language in return for decent wages. For many it is a no brainer to leave this island for pastures new. And why would they endure the long trek home to be reminded of the harsh realities they have left behind?
                Closer to home, there are Irish people all over the United Kingdom who cannot make the short hop across the Irish Sea because they have to work over Christmas. The UK is in the grips of a recession also, and if keeping your job means having to work Christmas Eve and St Stephen’s Day, then perhaps a Christmas spent alone in a British bedsit is a necessary evil.
                Even those who stay behind may soon find that their reason for doing so will be yanked from under their feet. Many Irish graduates undertake further study, in order to stave off the inevitable fruitless job search and to make themselves more employable to surviving businesses. Yet there are talks of cutting funding completely for postgraduate studies. What the government will save in money it will lose in talent, as some of the brightest young minds of this country will have no choice but to shine elsewhere.
                This Christmas spare a thought for those who will not be home. Spare a thought for those who will be also. For while two weeks will pass as though they have never left these shores, they will nevertheless pass quickly and then it will be back across oceans and continents for our youth. Mothers will weep, fathers will proffer a stoic handshake, then the plane will take off and take Ireland’s youth with it. This is not the country we envisaged a decade ago, but it is the hand we were dealt by those in power and those with power. All we can do is welcome back with open arms those who will emerge through the arrival doors in airports like contestants on Stars in Their Eyes, and keep in our hearts those who can’t.

Enthusiasmus!

Ten years is too long. (Pic: telegraph.co.uk)

Enthusiasmus. Of the many collectible phrases that Trappatoni has coined in his stint as Ireland manager (“Richard Dunne is like wardrobe” anyone?), this one stands out. 
          Generally when watching Ireland under the veteran Italian it is hard to summon any enthusiasmus whatsoever, given the negative way in which they play.However two playoff places in two qualifying campaigns speak for themselves. 
          In Paris two years ago Ireland tore apart a French team full of stars with a performance that was unlike any other under Trappatoni. No longer were the Irish a team of Cinderellas, constantly running away from the ball. Irish supporters thought that the team had turned a corner, and looked towards the qualification campaign for Poland and Ukraine with, here it is again, enthusiasmus. 
          High minded notions of Barcelona-type football quickly fell by the roadside however, and the defeat at home to Russia seemed to send Trappatoni even further into his defensive shell. The team lumbered on, grinding out results and becoming increasingly difficult to break down. An eight game streak of clean sheets was only broken by Armenia last Tuesday.
          And now to Estonia. Somewhat short on Tallinnt (oh the wit!), this team struggled to beat the Faroe Islands at home, and lost to the same team away. This needs to be reiterated. They lost to an island full of puffins. Ireland go into this game as overwhelming favourites and this is worrying.
          Ask and you shall receive. With the Irish team it is more often than not the other way around. In Paris no one expected a result. Dunne and co came within a hand of reaching the World Cup. In 2002 Roy Keane’s departure was supposed to spell the end of Ireland’s meaningful participation. We only lost to Spain on penalties and managed a victorious draw with eventual finalists Germany.
          Thus it is clear that Ireland do better when nothing is expected of them. They need to now be able to perform as favourites, and crush Estonia before they can get any modicum of self-belief flowing. Irish supporters should be able to start planning what believable illness will get them off work for four weeks next summer by the time the final whistle is blown at the first leg in Tallinn.
          Ireland have had an unusual run of good fortune, most apparent last Tuesday with the Armenian defender playing the wrong direction and their goalkeeper deciding that all he ever wanted to be was a Gaelic Football centre-back. After Paris all that was discussed was our lack of luck. Its time to quit whinging, because luck has been on our side recently, and getting the “easiest” of draws for the play-offs confirms this. 
           A combination of luck, grit and some heroic performances have got us this far, none more heroic than Richard Dunne in Moscow. The hard work thus far must not be undone with an unthinkable defeat to Estonia.
          It goes without saying that this nation needs a lift. The rugby team provided that for the past few weeks and now it is the turn of the footballers. It has been almost a decade since we last had a summer of enthusiasmus following the Irish team in a championship, its high time for another.

The Debt We Owe To The O-Apostrophes.

Thanks for the memories (Picture: Irish Times)

It’s well documented how Jack’s Army played their part in lifting Ireland out of the gloom of the late 80’s and early 90s. In Declan Kidney’s rugby warriors we have had a team who have made this recession oftentimes fade to the background as we rejoiced and revelled in their victories. They carried the hopes of a nation on their shoulders, and rarely have they let us slip.

            March 21st, 2009. A great day to be alive and Irish. Celebrations started around 5pm as Ireland claim their first Grand Slam since the Jack Kyle era, and continue well into the night, fueled further as Bernard Dunne claims a world title. What housing crash? What recession? Ireland for a fleeting second feels like a place where anything is possible once again. Tommy Bowe’s version of Black Velvet Band becomes an anthem for a country revitalised. If we could but have bottled the euphoria.
            Fast forward two years. Our country is still in the doldrums, our presidential election is a shambolic affair with perhaps two genuine candidates, and there seems to be no end to economic woes. Every day people young and old leave for pastures new. Ireland is a bleak place, and for many there is no job, no reason to get up in the morning. 
            Enter the heroes of Cardiff once more, with a few new faces. People with no reason to get up in the morning drag themselves out of bed to cheer on O’Driscoll and co. The cobwebs of a poor August are blown off against a physical American team, and then the unimaginable happens. The Wallabies are steamrolled by an awesome Irish pack. A mixture of the experienced and the somewhat raw, from 1 through to 8 their common denominators were pride, power and passion.
            Fans at home and abroad wept tears of unadulterated joy. We were a nation once again. A nation leaking its children at an extraordinary rate. The Irish diaspora is swelling, and the majority of them seemed to be in New Zealand for the last month. They came from within Kiwi Country, from Australia and further afield. Some have been living abroad for years, some since the recent harsh times at home forced them out. Many of the tricolours waved in the stadia were held aloft by people who had spent a large chunk of their savings to follow the team from Ireland. The team never missed an opportunity to praise them, and rightly so.
          When Ireland topped the pool, we dared to dream as a nation. We dared to dream of a final against the All Blacks. We dared to dream of a World Cup Final, of O’Driscoll lifting the Webb Ellis trophy. 
Wales put paid to that, and we shall watch the rest of the tournament with the vaguest of interest. But the memories of a famous win against Australia will remain long after the hurt of losing to our Celtic cousins diminishes.
            We may well have seen the World Cup swan song of some of the greatest rugby players the world has ever seen. Forget Wilkinson or Carter, we had O’Gara. Ice courses through his veins, ice that was sometimes melted by the heat of his passion for winning, but a better controller of a game you would be hard pushed to find. O’Driscoll, universally acknowledged as being one of the greatest centres of all-time. He never shirked a tackle, and rarely missed a scoring opportunity. Three tries in Paris all those years ago, and rarely a downward blip in his performances since. O’Connell. Ferocious, committed, magnificent. Finding a pack leader like him will not be easy. O’Callaghan, his partner in crime. Never gave less than his all for his country, and always willing to stick his head where many would decline to stick their foot. These are the O-Apostrophes who have been the backbone of this Irish side for more than a decade, and if they should depart when the dust settles from this World Cup then they should leave with their heads held high and our unconditional praise ringing in their ears.
            We are a small and proud nation, one which punches above its weight in sport to a level that at times verges on the ridiculous. It is something intrinsic in our nature that drives us to relish a challenge, that makes us often the victorious underdogs. Tell us we cannot do something, that we cannot overcome an obstacle, we dare you. We shall do, we shall overcome.
            If our politicians had half the heart and passion of our sporting heroes, this would be the greatest country in the world. Alas they do not, but because of the feats of those same sporting heroes, there are times when the people of this country feel they could walk on water. For that we thank them.

Bye Bye Bye to Ireland: Tom Jones Sounds The Death Knell Of The Golden Generation

Never has a Tom Jones song sounded more like a funeral march. As “Delilah” echoed around the Cake Tin, Ireland’s golden generation said goodbye.  Ireland fans at home yawned and stretched as they switched on TV sets in bedrooms, sitting rooms and bars all over the country in the early hours of the morning, but it was the Ireland team who could have most done with the coffee.
                A Shane Williams try in the first few minutes set the tone for this defeat. In the preceding phases, a rejuvenated Jamie Roberts steamrolled Donnchadh O’Callaghan. Alarm bells rang. Ireland had been behind for a total of five minutes in the previous 4 World Cup games, but in this game they were never ahead, and rarely on par.
                It wasn’t just parity on the scoreboard that Ireland struggled to achieve, it was in the pack, it was at 10. Ronan O’Gara’s radar was off. Priestland looked like the fly-half with over a century of caps, O’Gara looked like the rookie with a handful. This was not entirely the fault of the Cork man however, it was the result of outstanding tactics from Welsh coach Gatland. O’Gara never got a split second to kick his usual pinpoint ball into touch.
                Gatland likes beating Ireland. In fact, he loves nothing more. He had egg on his face after his open mouth caught flies two years ago when Ireland secured the Grand Slam in Cardiff, but Saturday was the towel with which he wiped the yolk off.
                Ferris and O’Brien never got on the front foot, and this was crucial to how the game progressed. Red shirts were in the faces of any Irish player unfortunate enough to be in possession of the ball. Unfortunate, because they had no chance of offloading, yet misfortune wasn’t the key. It was the utter flatness of play that Ireland perpetuated that allowed Wales to be up so quick in the tackle. All passes were received at a standstill.
                Questionable kicking, not just from O’Gara but from all the backs, allowed Wales to counter at will. The balls were punted straight down the throats of Halfpenny and Williams. In contrast, Earls, Bowe and Kearney were always running backwards because of the near immaculate kicks to the corner from Priestland. Stephen Jones was left in the grandstand for the quarter final, Priestland’s performance on Saturday will ensure the veteran will have his feet up for the semi too.
                This has been a World Cup of several highs and one low. Keith Earls’ finishing has been superb all tournament, and he can be proud of the manner in which he finished in the corner to give Ireland brief hope in the second half. The back row was immense, and O’Brien though leaving the competition early will still surely  be up there when it comes to picking the tournament’s best player. There is a bright future in Irish rugby, but it just seems a little dimmer right now after seeing the World Cup swansong of some of the greatest rugby players this country and indeed the world have ever seen.
                Why? Why? Why?

Rugby World Cup Article: Ireland vs Wales Preview (Unpublished)

Friday night, make sure you’re in bed early. In fact, be in bed before dark. Otherwise, there is a danger you will sleep in and miss the most crucial game in Ireland rugby history. Never before has there been a better chance of Ireland reaching the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup, and dare we say it, the final itself. A win Saturday will ensure that Ireland  achieve their best ever finish in a World Cup, come what may in subsequent games.
                There was a cloud surrounding the Irish squad as they left these shores a few weeks ago. The warm up games had been a disaster, perhaps not in the mind of Declan Kidney, but in the minds of the fans and the media. The common consensus was that Ireland would be on a plane home after the Italy game, or best case scenario after a quarter final with South Africa.
                The USA game did little to allay fears, it was tense, it was tight, and there was no bonus point. There were echoes of the last World Cup, when Ireland failed to put away the smaller fish in their group and got dumped out without even a quarter final to their name. Hopes had been high, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the fall out.
                So with these memories still to the fore in supporter’s minds, it was with heavy hearts that Irish supporters waited for the Australia game. But then, oh glory of glories! It was a barnstorming performance, particularly from the pack, and the World Cup was turned on its head. Now if Ireland won their final two pool games then the quarter and semi finals layout would ensure a Northern Hemisphere vs Southern Hemisphere final. This has been the case in the last two tournaments, but wasn’t expected to be so this year.
                Russia were brave in defeat, Italy underhand, but both were dispatched and this Ireland team stands on the cusp of greatness. In their way is a Wales team led by Sam Warburton, captain at the precocious age of 22. This already world-class number 7 will line up against perhaps the player of the tournament thus far, Tullow man Sean O’Brien.
                There’s no point in speculating on who will prevail on Saturday, it is going to be a tight one either way. Ireland’s backs have started firing on all cylinders in the nick of time, and Wales play a beautiful expansive style of rugby. Expect tries, expect heavy hits, expect an epic. But in the meantime, if you find a quiet moment, dare to dream of Irish hands on the Webb Ellis trophy.

All Ireland Final 2011 Review (Nenagh Guardian)

Usain Bolt lost the chance to regain his World 100 metre sprinting crown last week with a false start in Daegu. If only Tipperary could have been half as quick out of the blocks on Sunday in Croker. To be fair it was Kilkenny’s relentless chasing and aggression that made it difficult for the Premier to gain a foothold in the game, but speaking of footholds, why were Tipperary players so much quicker to slip on the greasy surface than the Cats? If the last two  years of Tipperary Kilkenny finals have shown anything it is that there is precious little room for error of any sort, and wearing the wrong footwear, on a day where the heavens opened pre-match in Dublin, was possibly worth a few scores to the more sure footed Kilkenny men.
                No-one was more sure footed in the Kilkenny team than Tommy Walsh. He doesn’t half get under the skin of the Premier faithful, and he’ll have done little to endear himself to them after Sunday’s performance, where he asphyxiated any decent ball into the Tipperary full forward line. Lar Corbett, so effective this time last year, was reduced to a cameo role for Pa Bourke’s goal. John O’Keeffe on his All Ireland Final debut was made scapegoat for Tipperary’s defensive failings just before the half hour mark, making way for Brendan Maher. However even last year’s Young Hurler of the Year couldn’t stop the rot, as Kilkenny struck with a goal just before half time.
                In the Tipperary forwards, John O’Brien and Patrick Maher were the chief instigators of most decent moves Tipperary put together, with the latter’s tenacity one of the few aspects of the game that the Tipperary crowd could cheer.
                There is little to be gained on being negative however. There will have been post-mortems had in cars and bars all over Tipperary since the final whistle blew on Sunday. Looking forward, there is little reason to worry that Tipperary won’t grace Croke Park on the first Sunday in September next year. The hunger was there this year for sure, but the favourites tag weighed heavy on Tipperary’s shoulders. There’s enough determination in this side to ensure that they’ll be hungry for another crack at the Cats next year. Kilkenny were wounded last year, and were always going to be dangerous. If Tipperary can make like the Cats and  convert the pain of losing into the fuel that fires them to an All Ireland victory next year, then Sunday need not be in vain. And maybe a change of boots would be in order too.
               
                 

All Ireland Final Preview 2011 (Nenagh Guardian)

The Sunday of the first weekend in September. If they make calendars in Kilkenny, it wouldn’t be too difficult to believe that they have this day simply labelled “Day out in Croke Park”. For years now the Cats have cornered the market in All Ireland appearances, and what’s more they had cornered the market in winning Liam McCarthy too. Until last year.
                Lar Corbett’s hat-trick as fresh in your mind as it was when the final whistle blew on September 5th last, you set off with a smile on your face towards Dublin. Your car could nearly drive itself up the M7 now, so often does it make the pilgrimage for Liam McCarthy glory. You turn on the radio to hear what the country is saying about today’s game. The airwaves are buzzing with the anticipation of another Premier versus Cats showdown. When Manchester United or Chelsea win the Premier League year after year, people rightly complain about the monopoly the big teams have, and how monotonous it makes the lives of supporters, particularly of the smaller clubs. However no one who follows hurling could begrudge another Tipperary Kilkenny decider. The last two years have thrown up two of the finest, most dramatic finals in the history of the sport. Hat-tricks scored and red cards flashed, cruciates crumpling and record attempts falling at the final hurdle.
                While you cruise along the motorway, you remember an anecdote you heard a few years ago. Roy Keane back in 2004 gave a motivational talk to the Cork Senior Hurling team, just after they had won an All Ireland. He told them not to think about two in a row, but rather to set their sights on five consecutive All Ireland victories. Brian Cody must have been hidden somewhere listening to the Manchester United man because it was his Kilkenny side who came within a game of doing the never before achieved.
                Since Tipperary’s superhuman effort which halted the drive for five last year, people have been all too quick to write off Kilkenny and their chances for this year. You however have come to the conclusion that people who dismiss this Kilkenny team clearly don’t know their hurling. The winning mentality that Cody has instilled means that the Cats won’t take too kindly to starting today’s decider as underdogs. A slight shiver of fear runs through you as you think of how dangerous these wounded Cats could potentially be. And as soon as you feel it, its gone again, as you focus on the positives. The free-scoring form of the forwards up to the Dublin semi-final. The semi-final itself, which was as good a work out as the Tipperary team could hope for. Lost in your thoughts, you find you’ve already reached the outskirts of Dublin, traffic mounting as you approach Newlands Cross.
                In times of recession, sport and other forms of entertainment suffer as people tighten their belts and prioritise how they spend what little cash they have. As you make your way to the city centre however, you can see that the allure of Croke Park on All Ireland Sunday is too much for people to resist. Throngs of people are gathered along O’Connell street, bedecked in blue and gold and black and amber. You glance in the window of the Kylemore Cafe, see those inside nursing a hangover from Coppers the night before, indulging in a fry in the hope of feeling revived in time for the match. You carry on down past the Gresham, your heart beat quickening with every step in the direction of GAA headquarters. “Hats, flags and headbands” is the cry which greets you when you first lay your eyes on the stadium which suddenly appears, looming above the mass of supporters. You pat your pocket to reassure yourself that your ticket is still there. Time to make your way through the turnstiles.
                Once inside the depths of Croke Park, you make your way up towards your precious seat. You count the steps up to it, and as you do more numbers come into your head. 1950/51, 1961/62, 1964/65. The years that Tipperary have won consecutive All Irelands. Many of those here today won’t remember even the most recent of these achievements. Its time for fresh memories to be made. Another hat-trick today and Lar will have a statue erected in his honour outside Semple Stadium. Roy Keane might have had the right idea, but to get to five in a row you need to start with two. Today’s the day. Up Tipp.
               
                 

Munster Final 2011 Review (Unpublished)

The Clare shout turned to the Clare murmur and eventually to the Clare silence. Silence because by the end of the game the scoreboard didn’t give followers of the Banner county all that much to shout about. A game that started with so much promise for Clare was turned around within 5 minutes midway through the first half with three Tipperary goals. The speed at which the Bonnar Maher and Lar Corbett’s goals flew in brought to mind the D’Unbelievables “One bullet. Bang Bang!” skit. Pat Shortt and John Kenny made their comeback this year and Lar and Bonnar made sure that Tipp made a hasty one on Sunday in Limerick.
                The scoreline flattered Tipperary in the end, as a young Clare team really put it up to the All Ireland champions, particularly in the early stages. They roared into a 1-5 to 0-2 lead, with the impressive statistic of having a different forward take each score. Most notable of the Clare forwards was Conor McGrath, scoring 1-6 on his championship debut, the goal a cracker within a minute of the throw in.
                Focusing on Clare however is pointless at this stage. A Munster Final against Waterford awaits the Premier, and the onus is on the panel and the management to learn from today’s game. Some of the shooting was exemplary, and four goals on any day is a good haul, however a more experienced team than Clare (i.e. Waterford) will make things a lot more difficult. The wides tally of 13 was also something which this Tipperary side can and will improve on.
                Both Padraic and Bonnar Maher gave performances of the highest calibre on Sunday, with the former winning man of the match for both his defensive solidity and his ability going forward, with Bonnar gaining plaudits for his tireless work ethic.
                Waterford will surely pose a stronger threat than either of the relatively inexperienced teams that Tipp have faced thus far in this year’s championship. John Mullane always seems to raise his game to another level against the Premier. However with a tightening up in defence and a sharper eye for scores, the Munster final will surely be Tipperary’s to lose.

Clare v Tipp C’Ship Review 2011 (Published Nenagh Guardian)

The Clare shout turned to the Clare murmur and eventually to the Clare silence. Silence because by the end of the game the scoreboard didn’t give followers of the Banner county all that much to shout about. A game that started with so much promise for Clare was turned around within 5 minutes midway through the first half with three Tipperary goals. The speed at which the Bonnar Maher and Lar Corbett’s goals flew in brought to mind the D’Unbelievables “One bullet. Bang Bang!” skit. Pat Shortt and John Kenny made their comeback this year and Lar and Bonnar made sure that Tipp made a hasty one on Sunday in Limerick.
                The scoreline flattered Tipperary in the end, as a young Clare team really put it up to the All Ireland champions, particularly in the early stages. They roared into a 1-5 to 0-2 lead, with the impressive statistic of having a different forward take each score. Most notable of the Clare forwards was Conor McGrath, scoring 1-6 on his championship debut, the goal a cracker within a minute of the throw in.
                Focusing on Clare however is pointless at this stage. A Munster Final against Waterford awaits the Premier, and the onus is on the panel and the management to learn from today’s game. Some of the shooting was exemplary, and four goals on any day is a good haul, however a more experienced team than Clare (i.e. Waterford) will make things a lot more difficult. The wides tally of 13 was also something which this Tipperary side can and will improve on.
                Both Padraic and Bonnar Maher gave performances of the highest calibre on Sunday, with the former winning man of the match for both his defensive solidity and his ability going forward, with Bonnar gaining plaudits for his tireless work ethic.
                Waterford will surely pose a stronger threat than either of the relatively inexperienced teams that Tipp have faced thus far in this year’s championship. John Mullane always seems to raise his game to another level against the Premier. However with a tightening up in defence and a sharper eye for scores, the Munster final will surely be Tipperary’s to lose.