Monday 27 July 2009

Update



Apologies for my tardy upkeep of this blog but the last few week have kept me sufficiently busy and as such I have found little time for this enterprise. Some news though; I took a beginners Latin course in Trinity college for a couple of weeks which was surprisingly intensive and well worth the time and effort. Just got my accomodation for Bristol sorted out last week which has really woken me up to the reality of colaiste abroad next year and on inrelation to that any and all suggestions for potential thesis topics are welcome because right now I have absolutely no idea what mine will be on


Reading at the moment

Nelson, Terry Coleman

Stalingrad, Antony Beevor

The Birds, Aristophanes

Friday 19 June 2009

Rugby > Every other sport. Ever


Rugby used to be an Olympic sport but for some reason not known to myself it was ousted from the pantheon of competitions deemed 'worthy' of Olympian status. The main reason for this (apparently) is that rugby was not universal enough of a sport. Which was fair enough then and is probably just as valid an argument against including the fifteen man game nowadays.

Rugby sevens on the other hand has seen massive increases in popularity in smaller rugby nations who now compete well with the more established unions at the reduced game. There is no denying the growing international movement in sevens rugby and given the various qualities imbued in rugby it does seem a crying shame that the sport is not part of the Olympic games

The IRB agree and have been campaigning vigorously to see sevens re-introduced for the 2012 games in London. Below is their video commissioned in support of their bid. I think it makes a stirring argument for the merits of rugby in general and is a brilliant reminder of why people love this sport

Thursday 18 June 2009

Scott Gibbs vs England in 1999


Taken from a time not so long ago, when England could play rugby, this the famous Welsh try on the final day of the 5/6 nations (I can't remember if it had changed at that stage) that denied England a Grand Slam. What makes this result twice as enjoyable to any non-English fan is that sine the Millennium stadium was still under construction at the time of this game Wales played all their 'home' games at Wembley.

So not only did England bottle spectacularly (a feat that was to be a tradition of sorts for a few years, successive final day screw ups against Scotland, Wales and Ireland are fond memories of mine) but they did so a few miles down the road from HQ. ha

The ARC - The E.L.V.s

French beat All Blacks 27-22 in Dunedin


First off I must say France were incroyable in this game, defence was top drawer and their pack were immense. Despite being outweighed by some 80 kilos at scrum time they shunted their black counterparts about the park with hilarious ease. Their lineout functioned well and the back row of Dusautoir, Ouedrago and Picamoles terrorised the All Blacks at the break down. It was quite impressive.

New Zealand, hampered by the ferocity of the French gameplan, couldn't cope. I've seen All Black teams rattled before but I've never seen one so utterly dominated up front. Their forward pack were a timid bunch, exposed for their lack of experience at Test level. Reid and Thompson had a torrid time on the flank whilst Tialata proved (again) his ineptitude at scrum time.

Behind the pack Donald was all at sea, completely failing to impose any kind of structure on New Zealand's play. Ma'a Nonu was anonymous in the midfield, as was Toeva. Such was the lack of co-ordination in attack and the pressure exerted by the French defence that the ball rarely got out wide to Rockococo or Muiliana, the only two players to show any real threat to the French defence

The close scoreline does not tell the full story of this game; New Zealand were dismantled at the breakdown, hassled on the attack and they had no answers. They were helpless, outclassed. As a neutral it was an amazing spectacle, more of the same this Saturday please.

p.s. I apologise if I spelt any of those Kiwi names wrong, I'm not bothered looking them up

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Ireland U-20s challenge Baby Blacks haka


I have been quite surprised by the amount of negative responses to this. The haka is a challenge, why not answer it? The haka is a piece of NZ heritage/culture etc, doesn't neccesarily mean every other team should have to stand around in front of them as they jump about and grunt in their direction, not a part of their culture. New Zealanders should be happy that its afforded any kind of respect/acknowledgement at all in my opinion.

To complain about an opponent making a threatening advance towards your boys as they perform a war dance seems a bit silly.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Dream Team #3 - Pierre Spies


Ever since rugby went pro in the mid-nineties the traditional slow and ponderous forward template has been slowly edged out of the game by the new breed; muscle-bound behemoths that can do the 100 metres in 10.7 seconds like Pierre Spies.

The man is terrifyingly quick and his tendency to rip through a defence with consummate ease has already made Spies a firm favourite of mine. Shortly after he came onto the international scene he was diagnosed with a lung condition that threatened to keep him from playing rugby ever again. He missed the 2007 world cup but recovered and has managed to maintain the form that saw him rise to prominence in Sud Afrika to begin with.

Following an excellent Super 14 campaign this year expect the big Saffer to rampage through hapless Lions' midfields in a few weeks time

Tuesday 9 June 2009

1997 Lions to South Africa - Jim Telfer pt. 2


A fine example of why all sports coaches should either be Scottish or at least speak in a Scottish manner, one of a couple of Telfer speeches floating about on youtube. The man should be an integral of any Lions tour to be honest

Monday 8 June 2009

Dream Team #2 - Carlos Spencer


Carlos Spencer is the definition of a wildcard out-half, brilliance occasionally overshadowed by periods of frustrating inconsistency leaves a question over the legacy of this ex-All Black. Never a renowned goal-kicker or game manager in the ilk of Stephen Larkham or Ronan O'Gara Spencer relied on his skills with ball in hand to win games.

When it came off this style of play was irresistible, defences often torn apart by the mercurial number 10 and the talent outside him during his tenure at the Auckland Blues and with New Zealand. He shipped a lot of the blame for the All Blacks' crash out of the 2003 world cup and falling from grace in his native country moved north to England where he plied his trade with Northampton for several seasons becoming a firm fan favourite for his unpredictable play.

He is currently with Gloucester in England but there have been rumours floating about of an imminent return to New Zealand given the weak status of the out-half post in the All Blacks right now.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

O'Driscoll vs Australia


The British and Irish Lions play the Golden Lions tomorrow and in light of the pathetic display in their opener against the Royal XV I figured the best way to prepare for the game was to remind myself of the Lions's potential. This is O'Driscoll's solo effort against the Criminal Element in 2001. A try which cemented his place as a great player amongst the fans in the northern hemisphere and introduced him to the rugby public in the SANZAR nations in spectacular fashion. Waltzing O'Driscoll

Monday 1 June 2009

Dream Team Pt. 1 Waisale Serevi


The reason I watch sevens rugby today is Waisale Serevi, the Fijian maestro. The man pulled the strings as primary playmaker for Fiji for years, dominating the sevens circuit in the same way players like Dan Carter and Victor Matfield impose themselves in the 15 a side game.

The eye for a gap, the frankly ridiculous hands and the ability to dissect a defence in an instant always impressed me. On top of that he possessed the kind of raw creativity and confidence with ball in hand which is just fantastic to watch. Right now I think he's serving as a coach to the Fijian sevens team.

'The greatest try of all time'


1973 Barbarians, vs New Zealand

I love the Barbarians, best players from around the world (plus one uncapped fella) getting together to play against international opposition. Oh and they play with a throw it about attitude. This generally results in most of their tries being absolute gems involving half the squad and sublime skills. They are a joy to watch and a truly unique aspect of rugby.

I'm posting this now in celebration of the Barbarians victory over Eng-u-lund 33-26 last weekend. A satisfying result as ze English, in their miserly manner, refused to indulge the usual Barbarian exhibition atmosphere, played as though it was a real test match, and still lost. ha.

Unfortunately the Barbarians loose style of play does occasionally result in them getting ab-so-lutely pumped but when it works it is truly a sight to behold. Recent scalps for the invitational XV include not only England but newly crowned world champions South Africa in 2008. Proof (thank christ) that there is still room in the professional game for rugby's grand entertainers

Thursday 28 May 2009

Willie John McBride's 99 call, South Africa 1974


Perhaps more so than in Australia or New Zealand the Lions have a special relationship with South Africa. The Lions have enjoyed their most famous (1974) and recent (1997) success in Springbok country and I guess this must breed a certain desire for revenge amongst the South African team/public.

I read a recent interview (I think it was i the Irish Times) with John Smit, the world cup winning Saffer captain, and he was quoted as saying that the Lions tour meant as much to his team if not more than the world cup. Because the Lions were special, a once in a career opportunity. South Africa has waited 12 years for this chance to avenge the team of 1997, who were also world cup champions and firm favourites.

The video below is from the successful Lions tour to Afrique du Sud in 1974. Determined to match the Springbok's legendary 'tenacity' at the breakdown Lions captain Willie John McBride decided to (literally) beat the Boks at their own game. Whenever a Lions player was in trouble, the call of '99' would be the signal for all 15 Lions players to throw themselves at the nearest Springbok. The idea being that the referee couldn't send them all off.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

A house divided


For anyone interested in US or Irish history, this a wonderful quote from ol' Abe. In a few words Lincoln managed to capture the inherent problem is US society on the brink of the Civil War. Political divide between Republicans in the north, Democrats in the south. Social schism over the slavery issue, Free States in the north versus slave states in the south. Urban versus rural, industry versus plantations. Two completely contradictory attitudes and ways of life existing under the same banner, something had to give.

Monday 25 May 2009

In Bod we trust

The ROCKY road to Dublin... see what I did there?


This has been loooooong overdue. The years of bottling, the era spent in the shadow of Munster, the abuse from the media, hasn't been easy to play for Leinster. Great things are expected, especially when your closest rivals become perennial qualifiers to the knock-out stages

That being said this win is a perfect reward for the team's patience and perseverance over the years. Grounding out the quarter-final win in London showed a self-belief and grit up front, especially in the tight five that Leinster have lacked in the past. Healy and Wright provided a solid base at scrum time along with Mal and Culen in the second row.

They were nicely complimented by the rampaging Elsom at 6, I guarantee every Leinster fan is praying for a return of that ROCKY! ROCKY! ROCKY! chant next year. Along with O'Driscoll the big Aussie (literally) carried Leinster into contact, through the other side and several yards onwards.

Smashing Munster at Croker felt like sweet sweet revenge for the thumping dealt out to Leinster at the same stage at Lansdowne a few years ago. If anything it was an even more emphatic whalloping than the one Munster delivered, it showed just how far Cheika has brought this team on.

The final is something of a drunken blur... but from what I remember we went pretty well

Whether or not Elsom decides to stay will have massive implications for Leinster's title defence next year. Losing Wright, Contepomi and Whitaker too, one could be forgiven for thinking Leinster somewhat screwed but as we found this year there are plenty of talent coming up through ze academy; Healy, Sexton, Toner, McFadden, O'Brien, Fitzgerald. With new signings Redden, Ross etc Leinster already look a good bet for next year

ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!

Ali


Thursday 21 May 2009

For Fitzy


Currently Reading
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto
  • Thomas More, Utopia
  • Aristotle, The Politics
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Saturday 9 May 2009

I should elaborate on this [21/5 edit]


Having a LOT of free time on my hands these days has given me the opportunity to catch up on the pile of books that I have bought but never read (or only skimmed through) over the years as well as revisit some old favourites. A joint degree in history and classics never really left much time for non-academic reading and has left me with a slight disdain for any literary source that I feel will teach me very little to nothing. Much better to learn than simply read as a distraction for a few hours

The above quote from Cicero actually continues to 'and by literature I mean the works which give us an opportunity to understand the world in which we ourselves live, its sky, land and sea'. A noble attitude indeed.

Thursday 7 May 2009

Ah Speak English


From the victorious 1997 Lions tour to Sud Afrika, Scotsman Jim Telfer takes offence to some enthusiastic forward play from the Boks and gets himself embroiled in a verbal exchange with some of the Saffer fans.

God dammit Chelski


Chelski 1-1 Barcelona, Barca go through on away goal rule

92nd minutes... 91 minutes without even a shot on target... god dammit. Iniesta you schvine! Reports on this game seem to be written by those who had witnessed a footballing occasion so enthralling that it should be reserved in historical annals along side the moon landing and the collapse of the Berlin wall.

Barca were small, skillful, Chelski big, powerful. El Spicolos spent the game playing most of the football after Essien's wonder strike in the first half but whilst their short passing game is very pretty to look at when one is trying to negotiate the veritable human wall that is the Chelsea defence a change in tactics may be in order.

Except the lack of height in the Barca camp is somewhat galling. On the (incredibly) rare occasion that Alves was able to whip in a half decent cross the fight for the ball amounted to a crowd of hobbits milling around a bemused defence battling feebly for possession.

Chelski didn't deserve to win, I've never liked the whole 'grab a goal and then defend for our lives' approach and they gave away a frankly ridiculous amount of ball (possession stats were at 75-25 in favour of Barca at one point). Barca for their part should feel quite relieved that the ref never saw fit to award Chelsea at least one penalty from the myriad of claims that were thrown at him in the second period. Don't think they'll beat United in Rome though

Also, that crap the Chelsea players pulled at the end of the game was disgraceful, bunch of saps... especially you Drogba

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Cardiff - Leicester Penalty Shoot-Out


Weirdest end to a game I have ever seen. The game ended 26-26 after Cardiff managed to score two tries out wide in the last ten minutes of regular time which Ben Blair converted to send the match into extra-time. With no further scores after the additional 20 minutes and the teams tied on try count the game was decided by penalty kicks. Best of 5 in front of the posts from the 22 metre line.

Down with this sort of thing.

Quinlan eye gouge on Cullen


Incident from the Leinster game on Saturday which could (should) keep Alan Quinlan out of the Lions this summer. Probably between Ryan Jones of Wales and Tom Croft of England as regards who will replace the Munster flanker

A Beautiful Day


Leinster 25-6 Munster

I don't think anybody could have seen this coming. The odds would have been quite long for Leinster to even scrape a win in Croke Park never mind win comfortably. After Gordon D'Arcy's try but the blue man group in front 11-6 at the half hour mark in the first half I was counting the minutes until the full-time whistle.

Only when the man revered as BOD picked off an O'Gara pass at the Leinster 22 and went the length of the pitch to score did I allow myself to celebrate. The monkey was off the back, daemons exorcised etc etc. Saturday was on upset of a scale only rivalled by Leinster's victory over Toulouse in southern France a few years ago.

In front of a packed Croker (this time with a more 60-40 split in favour of Munster) Leinster smashed the Munster pack about the historic stadium for the full 80 minutes. The fields of Athenry enjoyed a rather nervous early rendition in the first half before Molly Malone drowned out a shell-shocked 'Red Army' for the remainder of the tie.

The win was forged in the work upfront by a tireless Leinster pack. Healy and Wright contested well at scrum time, Cullen and O'Kelly easily matched Lions O'Connel and O'Callaghan whilst the Leinster back three of Jennings, Elsom and Heaslip outplayed their counterparts in every facet of the game.

The backs too had a good day at the office. The Mafi-Earls points machine was marshaled well in midfield by the Leinster backs, only one clean break allowed in the entire match. Jonny Sexton filled in admirably for the injured Contepomi and Isa Nacewa was an inspired choice by Leinster coach Michael Cheika at full-back performing much better under the high ball then expected and cutting a vicious line through the Munster defence to set up the opening score.

A commanding performance from a Leinster team that showed what they can do when not overawed by the occasion, their opponents for the final are the Leicester Tigers who will be making a bid for their third title in recent memory.

Saturday 2 May 2009

British and Irish Lions - The Squad


Not being interested in rugby at the time of the last Lions tour to Afrique du Sud has left me and undoubtedly a considerable amount of my friends with somewhat jaded views on this exhibition outfit. I caught snippets of the 2-1 series loss in Australia back in 2001 and watched every single game played by Woddward's doomed party in New Zealand in 2005 (no doubt to the detriment of my final exams). So whilst I do enjoy the legacy and prestige associated with the Lions I'm still not convinced such an enterprise can be successful in the professional era.

Which is a shame, the concept of taking the best players from the four home unions on tour is the last remaining throwback to the great touring tradition. Anyone that watched the Munster - All Blacks game back in Autumn can attest to the spectacle of provincial sides tackling international opposition.

Coming together every four years makes Lions selection special for the players but considering that the tour alternates every time between SA, Oz and the Blackness means that the locals only get to see (or more importantly play against) the Lions every 12 years. So on the flipside, a chance to play against the Lions is potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity.

On the back of an arguably below par six nations tings aren't looking particularly hopeful for the tourists this year with the Boks newly crowned world champions. Pundits already have the Boks beating the Lions for talent at nearly every position; bigger, faster, stronger, more skillful, better coached, organised and better team spirit.

Though apparently they were saying something similar in '97...

Leinster need a montage, moooooonnnnnnntaaaaaaage


It can be incredibly frustrating to support Leinster sometimes, periods of success are usually wiped from the memory by unparalleled bottling at crucial moments in every season. Consistency is a word that is passed about only to be dropped like a hot potato when it really matters. Whilst playing arguably some of the most attractive rugby in Europe the boys in blue suffer from an unfortunate dose of the 'All Blacks', symptoms present in an unwillingness to fulfil potential resulting in a tendency to exit major tournaments early.

And then there is the gargantuan shadow thrown across the east coast by the insufferable Munster. Ever-present in the knock-out stages, annoyingly efficient at getting themselves out of sticky situations and showing an infuriating cockroach like ability to survive every conceivable punishment one could throw at the swine Munster are (unfortunately) the benchmark by which Leinster short-comings are so starkingly measured up to.

With this semi-final looming large on the horizon, what hope have Leinster of upsetting the status quo? Well, as I'm sure any Munster-man will happily point out the men from the bad side of Ireland have already beaten our cowering petals twice this, conceding one try... ONE try, 5 points, in the process. In the quarter-finals Munster absolutely smashed an Ospreys unit that could easily be painted red and used as the Welsh national team such was the amount of international talent on show while Leinster eked out a 6-5 win over Harlequins in London.

So with history and current form firmly in favour of Munster (never mind the fact that they had 8 of their squad selected to the Lions) the prospect of a Leinster upset look depressingly dim.

Yet... words cannot describe how badly I would love to see a Leinster win. For the bragging rights, to bask in the satisfaction of supporting the best team in the country, for Contepomi to have a decent game, for BOD to do a number on (that incredibly average) Keith Earls, Rrrrrrocky to run amok and Isa Nacewa to... well anything constructive from him would be a bonus.

Please?

Friday 1 May 2009