Sunday 25 March 2007

No pain, no gain

Today I've been hobbling around my house nursing various injuries. I've got severe "stiffness" and bruising on both thighs which makes walking (especially up stairs) incredibly awkward and annoyingly painful. Any and all progress I had made in the rehabilitation of my right shoulder has gone out the window, the "pop" it makes every time I try to elevate it gets more disturbing by the hour. My neck sounds like a castanet, when try to look to my right or take a swift glance anywhere my change in view is accompanied by its own soundtrack of delightful clicking and cracking noises.

Yet today I am happy, almost ecstatic. Yesterday myself and four others took part in a flag football tournament. We were hilariously inexperienced, undermanned and I'll freely admit I thought we were screwed. But I was proved spectacularly wrong. Even though we had to play every minute of every game when every other team were able to change up for defence and offence, even though we had only one game under our belts prior to this game, we still walked away with a 3-1 record and stand joint-top of the newly formed Dublin league.

Chalking up wins against Team 41, the Sharks and the usually dominant Rebels team before fatigue caught up with us and succumbing to the Dragons in our final game was quite an achievement. We found out we could defend netting six picks against Team 41 alone and that we're not that shoddy at scoring either surpassing 40 points in two of our games.

So despite our relative lack of flag expertise and manpower we did pretty well, I may be exhausted and half dead but I'm still happier than a pig in shit. And I won't hold anything against those who pulled out of playing late (Ye Nick 3 am the morning of... cheers... you bastard)
Spartans 26 - 18 Team 41
Spartans 18 - 6 Rebels
Spartans 44 - 32 Sharks
Spartans 40 - 43 Dragons

Tuesday 20 March 2007

Six of the best for Andrew's - 13/1/05 - The Irish Times

Miserable conditions tend to lend themselves to cup surprises and so it proved yesterday as St. Andrew's mastered the difficult conditions at Lakelands to advance to the second round of the Leinster School's Cup.

With a typical Lakeland's howler blowing straight down the pitch into the clubhouse end, it was the Booterstown school who adapted so much the better. With the wind advantage in the first half they used the boot to considerable effect, and on the restart, their ball retention enabled them to protect their lead.

In a real squad performance, involving some 20 players, they eventually frustrated highly fancied Newbridge into submission to ensure a deserved victory.

Their team ethic was phenomenal but the overall impact of Felix Jones at out-half and James McDermott at No 8 were significant in ensuring victory for those in blue and white.

Backed by the powerful gale it took St. Andrew's just eight minutes to get off the mark when McDermott charged down David Ahearne's attempted clearance and forced the penalty. Jones used the wind expertly and stroked the resultant kick in off the left upright from fully 40 metres.

Jones and half back partner Michael Evans continued to probe for position and worked the best oppurtunity of the half, but all-action flanker Darragh O'Connell was unable to release Matthew Byers and the chance was lost.

Newbridge had one similar oppurtunity subsequently when out-half Ahearne, their most accomplished footballer, broke through in midfield before sending John Kavanagh racing towards the Andrew's 22. However, some clever defending by Simon Flett and James Murphy forced the centre back inside just as wing William Ryan, much like Byers earlier, appeared poised to strike.

It was to be the last try scoring opportunity of the game as a second successive penalty (31 minutes) representing the extent of the scoring.

Andrew's excellent defence limited Newbridge to just a single Ahearne penalty which rebounded back off the upright which rather summed up their afternoon and they never looked like producing the converted try that could have snatched victory. For Andrew's, joy was unconfined at the finish but any other outcome would have been a travesty.

Tony Ward

Monday 19 March 2007

Team of the Six Nations

1. Andrea LoCicero (Italy)

2. Raphael Ibanez (France)

3. Martin Castrogiavanni (Italy)

4. Marco Bortalami (Italy)

5. Scott Murray (Scotland)

6. Simon Easterby (Ireland)

7. Mauro Bergamasco (Italy)

8. Sergio Parisse (Italy)

9. Alessandro Troncon (Italy)

10. Ronan O'Gara (Ireland)

11. Denis Hickie (Ireland)

12. Gordon D'Arcy (Ireland)

13. Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland)

14. Jason Robinson (England)

15. Clement Poitreneau (France)

Italy: 6
Ireland: 5
France: 2
England: 1
Scotland: 1
Wales: 0

I think thats fair, I woud like to point out I think while France worked very well as a team, there was a lack of any real stand-out performances from anyone on the French team really bar Ibanez. Poitreneau just squeezes into my XV ahead of "Swervin'" Girvan Dempsey of Ireland too. A worrying thing to think about is how many of the above team could make it onto the All-Blacks team...*tugs at collar in a nervously worried fashion*

Sunday 18 March 2007

My six nations predictions... a review

I think I'm just gonna stop predicting sporting events. As the recent Couture - Sylvia fight showed and as the six nations has just confirmed, I am incapable of making a good call as regards any sporting event... I said

1. Ireland
2. France
3. England (Would like to point out that at least this was right)
4. Wales
5. Italy
6. Scotland (This too)

Now to be fair, Scotland were only consigned to the bottom of the table on the last day and Ireland were robbed of top spot in the dying moments of the France-Scotland game by a dubious try. Still, I had expected an Irish grand slam which was a bit too much to ask apparently.

Another excuse I'm going to throw out there is that every team played the tournament in a decidedly different manner than I'd expected (bar the French). Ireland were at times brilliant (Italy and England) but then dire (Wales and Scotland), lacking a killer instinct that you'd expect from such a talented backline. Rog's kicking radar was worryingly haywire in some games too (Italy and France in particular). Encouraging signs for Ireland would be the fact that Eddie seems to have hit upon a winning back row combo and Dempsey is in incredible form going into the world cup. Worrying signs include O'Driscoll's injury (purely cos I have no idea how serious it is), the ever-present question of the forward's ability to step up to the monstrous French and Argentine scrums come world cup time and that lack of ruthlessness.
High point - in Croke Park vs England, Horgan's try
Low point - Moment of madness against France in Croke Park that cost us the game at the death

England went into the tournament with their antique smash it up the middle policy which was horribly exposed by Ireland in Croker following English wins against Scotland and Italy. That being said Ashton seemed to realise this and aided by some convenient injuries, I feel the English team finished the tournament a lot stronger than when they entered it. The return of Mike Catt is a huge boost to the team as is the eventual realisation that Farrell and Tindall are the worst centre pairing in world rugby. They still have a long way to go but with some encouraging talent at 10 in Flood and Geharty (sp?) backed by the ever present monster of a pack England could yet be a force at this years wold cup.
High point - Beating France in Twickers, and the rise of Geharty, a ray of light
Low point - Being thumped by a record score in Croke park by Ireland

Wales were an absolute shambles and they have no excuse for it. They can point to some strange refereeing decisions that went against them sure, but that's just the nature of the game. The fact is they were outplayed by everybody which was disappointing to see from a team that had somehow won the grand slam two years ago. Back to full strength and under a new coach I think everyone was expecting Wales to deliver and they just fell spectacularly on their faces. An embarrassment to be honest. The emergence of Hook at out-half is probably the only positive to be drawn from an otherwise dismal six nations.
High point - .....probably the first 20 minutes or so against France
Low point - take your pick of pretty much the entire championship

Scotland, poor poor Scotland. Undermanned and outgunned. They were pretty much bullied and beat around the park for 80 minutes by France, England and Ireland, walloped a poor Welsh side and suffered a severe bout of madness during the first 5 minutes of the Italian conquest of Murrayfield which cost them the game. Occasionally impressive but consistently dire, Scotland are in desperate need of a fully fit pack and a competent leader at out-half. No questioning their commitment and their solid defence but in a world cup group that contains New Zealand, Italy and Fiji, Scotland are gonna have to unearth some kind of try scoring ability from somewhere. As accurate a goalkicker as Paterson is, its not gonna mean much when it starts to rain tries against the All Blacks.
High point - I'd say the few minutes they led Ireland in Edinburgh...
Low point - the opening 5 minutes against Italy, 21 points conceded and game over

Italia, Italia, Italia. In a year when football in Italy has been embroiled in scandal and shunned somewhat by the Italian public, rugby has been given a rare chance in the spotlight. And ze Azurri have seized the opportunity and recorded their first ever back to back wins in the six nations over Scotland and Wales. They may have been thumped by France and England in their opening games but to bounce back and then win two matches was an incredible achievement for such a young rugby nation. There is talent in the Italian team in droves, the pack as a whole could quite easily be considered the best in Europe and the backs are beginning to show real skill now as well under the tutelage of coach Berbezier (sp?). Expect them to give Scotland a shock in the world cup
High point - Full-time against Wales, two wins, Italy establish themselves as a European power
Low point - The France game

France were France. Annoyingly unpredictable bastards that could be brilliant one moment and terrible the next. Fresh talent seems to just come completely out of the blue in France with new-half backs Skrela, Mignoni and Beauxais all playing well. The French pack were as solid as ever and their backs sometimes sublime, sometimes all at sea. Laporte needs to figure out how to get his team to play for longer than 40 minutes, the French team have a tendency to turn off at inopportune moments, a problem they need to rectify.
High point - That ridiculous last minute win in Croke Park
Low point - losing to England....

The cricket world cup

Ireland are top of their group following a tie with Zimbabwe and then a frankly historic, imo, victory over Pakistan. Next up is the West Indies, piece of cake, Brian Lara's gonna rue the day he ever played the Irish.
Also England got hockeyed by New Zealand, losing their opening game in hilariously embarrassing circumstances by six wickets. The result puts them bottom of their group behind CANADA!! Which is something I find outrageously humerous

Saturday 17 March 2007

Happy St. Padraig's day

And ye I know they aren't Irish but the song and the departed are class

Thursday 15 March 2007

The Bear neccessities

Lance Briggs is an outside Linebacker currently of the Chicago Bears franchise in the NFL. Lance Briggs was the Bears' top tackler last season recording 117 solo, yes that is more than Brian Urlacher. Lance Briggs turned down a 6 year, $33 million contract to stay with the Bears. Lance Briggs was then designated the teams Franchise player which nets him an immediate $7.2 million in addition to his proposed contract if he re-signs with the team. What would you do if you were Lance Briggs?

You are a fan favourite in a team that prides itself in uncompromising defence. Not only are you one of the most respected and loved individuals in the city, your reputation is only just beginning to grow in the NFL. Your star can only rise if you stay with Chicago, the Superbowl losers last year. To sweeten the deal the Bears' management is throwing money worthy of the US military budget at you just to play football, the sport you love to play. So what do you do?

You refuse the $33 million cos you're better than that, pff its only pocket change anyway. You then proceed to sulk about the Franchise tag thats been slapped on you making it near impossible for you to be traded away for at least one more season. On a bit of a roll at this stage you next alienate your teammates and your fans by speaking to the media about how much you don't like Chicago and playing for the Bears. Then finally, the baby who didn't get his bottle refuses to play another snap for Chicago, even they keep him around for another year. At this stage your pathetically farcical "negotiations" with the Bears is only hurting your career. Its actually embarrassing even to read about any more, its like watching a child argue with its parents in public. Cringe worthy. Even if you do want to leave the Bears who the fuck is gonna want such a whiny bitch who's more concerned about his pay check than his performance/reputation. I've never seen such a concerted effort by a sportsman/woman to jeopardise their fledgling career, what a fool. Good riddance to a bad sportsman.

"The $7.2 million -- although it's a good number, it looks nice -- there's no job security in it," Briggs told ESPN. "I played four years as a third-round draft pick. I played four years as a third-round draft pick at the league minimum, and there've been no talks of a contract negotiation this year. ... In my opinion, there is no intention on a long-term deal here."

AGGHHHH what a fucking idiot!!

St. Patrick's day

This is gonna be awesome, screw the parade, Ireland may actually win the six nations for once. On a day that features all three of the last round matches Ireland open proceedings at the stadio Flamino against an Italian side on a bit of a high following their first back to back victories in the six nations, sorry the first time they've managed to win two games in the six nations full-stop. Despite losing our wee talisman Paul O'Connel to injury to be replaced by the donkey that is Mick O'Driscoll the Irish should have no difficulty in dispatching an albeit confident Italian side. Then again I thought the exact same thing about the Scottish game... but the Italians have lost Mauro Bergamasco and Canale to a citing order and injury respectively and in a team devoid of depth in every position bar the front row for some reason, that's a huge blow for ze Azzurri. On an ideal day Ireland turn up determined to thump the Italians after that shocker in Murrayfield and Italy disintegrate without Bergamasco as we put up 50 points on them and win the tournament. Worst case scenario... well technically Italy can still win the whole six nations....

The second game on the bill is France versus Scotland in Paris... I really don't think anything short of divine intervention is gonna stop the French from racking up a cricket score against this beleaguered Scottish team. Yes, plucky Scotland drove Ireland close but with fairness it was more because we chose, for some insane reason, to lower ourselves to Scotland's standards. The Irish midfield exposed their backline badly at times, seemingly scything through at ease whenever they felt like it. Whereas we didn't finish them off, France are going to be ruthless. Losing to England, the joke team of this six nations, would've hurt that French pride so I'm expecting a backlash against Scotland. Being in Paris, I predict a massacre... but I'm hoping I'm wrong and Scotland do their trick of kicking penalties and somehow boring the French team into submission. I have a feeling that unless Ireland set the bar hilariously high by walloping Italy by 50+ points the six nations will yet again belong to the damn frogs.

The last game of the tournament is Wales against England in Cardiff. By the final whistle in the other two games this could well be just a formality. England, presuming Ireland and France both win, need both of their tournament rivals to win by only three or four points for them to even have a chance of clinching the championship in Wales. That being said they'd still need to win by 40/50 points against the Welsh to then win the tournament on points difference which I really don't see happening. The English are sticking with the same pack that beat the French and have made two changes to their backline, Cueto comes in for Lewsey at full-back and Tait comes in for the injured Tindall at outside centre. Despite the resurgence England seemed to show against France this match is still gonna be very tight. The Welsh'll be determined to go out with at least one win, and they're obviously not gonna want to lose to England in Cardiff. The English are looking to re-establish themselves as potential world cup contenders and will be looking to make an example out of a floundering Welsh team, who are staring the wooden spoon in the face.

All things considered its gonna be an interesting Paddys day, with three teams potentially able to clinch the six nations on the last weekend. I still believe England don't have a snowball's chance in Hell of winning it and if they did it'd be the greatest injustice ever witnessed in world sport, ever. The fact that Italy could win the whole thing is something I find hilarious but highly improbable, they'd need to beat us by c. 80 points. It is really between France and Ireland, and although my heart says we'll do it... my brain says we're gonna bottle while the French'll tear Scotland a new one in Paris. I hope I'm wrong...

Friday 9 March 2007

Scotland vs Ireland preview

1 Marcus Horan
2 Rory Best
3 John Hayes
4 Donnacha O'Callaghan
5 Paul O'Connell
6 Simon Easterby
7 David Wallace
8 Denis Leamy
9 Peter Stringer
10 Ronan O'Gara
11 Denis Hickie
12 Gordon D'Arcy
13 Brian O'Driscoll
14 Shane Horgan
15 Girvan Dempsey

1 Gavin Kerr
2 Dougie Hall
3 Euan Murray
4 Nathan Hines
5 Scott Murray
6 Simon Taylor
7 Kelly Brown
8 David Callum
9 Chris Cusiter
10 Dan Parks
11 Chris Paterson
12 Rob Dewey
13 Marcus Di Rollo
14 Sean Lamont
15 Hugo Southwell

Given the respective teams current form I'm inclined to just simply say Ireland are gonna run away with this game but I'm not sure. Granted the Scottish pack is a mess but the return of Parks at out-half will settle the team as a whole I feel. With Parks kicking for position and just generally mastering the Scottish attack this team could be a very different beast from the one that capitulated so spectacularly against Italy. Murrayfield itself with no doubt play its part as well, the stadium has become a sort of fortress for the team in recent years, that one glaring blip against Italy excluded. Typically shitty Scottish weather could really throw a spanner in Ireland's explosive backline's capability and break the game down into a battle of the packs. But as far as the Irish backs being far superior to their Scottish counterparts, the forward comparison is even more stark. Taylor, Murray and Hines are the only established faces in an otherwise average pack that was bulied around its home field by the Italians. Sure they'll be fired up to make up for the embarrassment of two weeks ago but the Scottish pack has nothing for the Irish to fear. The same can be said of the Scots' backline. There is no shortage of pace or power in players like Lamont and Dewey as well as a solid goalkicker in Chris Paterson but the Scots lack a real playmaker and are going to struggle to break the Irish gainline. Unless a monsoon hits Edinburgh before tomorrow or the Irish simply decide to lose the game on their own accord, tomorrow shoul be a comfortable win for Ireland unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Wednesday 7 March 2007

I reeeeally like your hustle.. thats why it was so hard to cut you [revised]

NFL offseason has begun and as the scouting combine commences and the experts get wrapped up in the miniscule fact that one player can run a split-second faster than another or jump about a millimetre higher, the arguably more important process of cutting and resigning players has begun. As every franchise ditches the duds or just tries desperately to get under the salary cap which is $109 million I think there are sacrifices that have to be made. The rush to get under the cap has inevitably led to some pretty big names being dropped by some teams and the free agency. So far that list includes...

Joey Porter (LB) - Pittsburgh Steelers (taken by Dolphins)

Jamal Lewis (RB) - Baltimore Ravens (taken by the CLEVELAND BROWNS!!!!?? what the fuck...)

Patrick Kerney (DE) - Atlanta Falcons (taken by Seahawks)

Drew Bledsoe (QB) - Dallas Cowboys

Joe Horn (WR) - New Orleans Saints

Brad Johnson (QB) - Minnesotta Vikings

Aaron Brooks (QB) - Oakland Raiders

Jeff Garcia (QB) - Philadelphia Eagles (taken by Bucs)

Corey Dillon (RB) - New England Patriots

Ovie Mughelli (FB) - Baltimore Ravens (who has been picked up by Atlanta NOOOOO)

Adalius Thomas (LB) - Baltimore Ravens (taken by Patriots)

Martin Gramatica (K) - Dallas Cowboys

Jake Plummer (QB) - Denver Broncos (taken by Bucs)

Ahman Green (RB) - Green Bay Packers

Jeremy Stevens (TE) - Seattle Seahawks

Thomas Jones (RB) - Chicago Bears (taken by NY Jets)

Travis Henry (RB) - Tennesse Titans (taken by Broncos)

Those are the biggest names to come out of the pile of duds that were cut at the beginning of the off-season. Don't get me wrong, most of these guys were cut for a good reason but they'd still be a valuable addition to any of the more beleaguered teams in the NFL like the Oakland Raiders... eh Al? The Oakland Raiders ye? They didn't have a very good year old Oakland, not a good year for Raider nation at all
Been some pretty big moves so far, the Bucs seem to be going for a monopoly on free agent QBs signing both Plummer and Garcia, soooo unneccessary. Chicago letting Jones go was a surprise, and he goes to NY to replace an aging Curtis Martin who'll in all probability retire. Defensive end Patrick Kerney is a biiiiiig signing for an already impressive Seattle defensive unit and being a large anti-Seahawks kinda guy, I am not amused by this development, not amused in the slightest. More worrying for me is the fact that the Ravens are leaking players left right and centre. Baltimore have lost a Pro-Bowl LB Thomas and their starting FB Mughelli (who was an absolute revelation last season). I'm just hoping no other team notices that Jamal Lewis is still on the market anytime soon.... (7/3/07 - 9:00 am)
Jamal Lewis has been picked up by the Cleveland Browns... dammit (8/2/07 - 7:03 am)

Tuesday 6 March 2007

The Demons/Aubergines might be back, back in... pink?

Work is in motion at the moment to set-up a national flag football league in Ireland. There are plans to have 4 divisions (east,west,south and north) with playoffs presumably to follow later in the year. No dates have been finalised yet but the preliminary plans are for the season to run through spring (so it'll probably start soon) with a final to be held sometime in May.

We're in the Dublin division... obviously...

Bangor Bucs
Belfast Bulls
Belfast Trojans
Carrickfergus Knights
Coleraine Chieftans
Craigavon Cowboys
Portadown Eagles

Cork Mustangs
Willow Warriors

St Annes Jazz

Galway Sea Devils
Edenderry Soldiers
Roscrea Falcons
Athlone - Flag football forum
Its on baby, its on like Donkey Kong! I hope this actually goes ahead cos it'll be fucking sweet. We need to decide on a name and team colours. So far Ben has suggested Aubergines which I have to admit.. I kinda like. Seb reckons pink shirts, black shorts and again I must bow to the Frenchman's superior sporting fashion knowledge and say I'm all for it. Anyone got any better suggestions?

Icon - Ray Lewis - Baltimore Ravens

"Darkness there, and nothing more.."

A first round pick out of the university of Miami, Ray Lewis has been playing professionally in the NfL for eleven seasons. In that time he has established himself and the defence around him in at the Baltimore Ravens as the most feared and respected unit in the league. Lewis' aggression, bravery and commitment to the game have marked him out as one of the all-time greats in the NFL. Supporting his inspiring attitude as a player are the myriad of awards and impressive stats that speak for themselves. Lewis has amassed 1389 solo tackles in his 11 year career (1838 total), has forced eight fumbles, recovered twelve, has 23 interceptions, 28 sacks and has deflected 79 passes in 148 games. His consistantly large numbers and even larger attitude (he has become famous for the dance he sometime puts on during the team introductions) have seen him selected for eight Pro Bowls, he wasn't selected in his rookie season and has missed two seasons through injury. He has been awarded defenive player of the year twice, one the few who have managed such a feat, and has led the entire league in tackles 4 times (97,99,01 and 03). In 2001 he led the Baltimore Ravens to their first superbowl and won game MVP en route, the only linebacker to have won the award since 1971. A true giant of the game, the day the dance comes to an end will be a black day in Baltimore.

Saturday 3 March 2007

Power rankings - March

England/Scotland over France (pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease)

Randy "The Natural" Couture over Tim "The Maineiac" Sylvia

Spring break!... except with more rain, and less boobies, and college work...shit

Gareth Rees over any other Canuck contact I may have (I anyone can get me a job coaching in Canada this summer its my good friend Gareth)

Cavistons having Felix's jersey from the Welsh game in their shop window, local hero, oh snap!

Classics dept. over History dept.

Injured knee over injured shoulder

Bert over Ernie

Barrie over Ron

Mirko Cro Cop over everybody, ever, at anything
[This is open to alteration, cos I was too bored to think of anything for th last couple... sorry Ron]