Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ulster Uncovered!

Ulster football - like its people - has never dawdled in the blandness of the middle ground...

Love 'em or hate 'em, the teams from the six counties have enjoyed astonishing success over the recent years. Such as been the impact of teams like Tyrone and Armagh, an image has been fostered of the Northern Teams, as groups of men, who strive the extra 20% more then the rest of us, because it means more to them!

Everyone has heard the stories of the John Morrisson-inspired Armagh Knights and the rousing rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann by the Tyrone team as they encircled Sam in the dressing room after their historic breakthrough. These all helped build the notion of Ulster commitment, a notion that drove certain men in Kerry to re-think their philosophy on football if not on life itself!

In recent weeks, RTÉ has done its bit to open the door, if only slightly ajar into the world of Ulster football. Scéal Ó Thuaidh is a six-part series on RTÉ Two charting the incredible and at times highly controversial rise of Ulster counties in the GAA. The central focus is on the achievements of Tyrone and Armagh and the astonishing success enjoyed by the province in recent years.

Most interesting of all, the programme gives unprecedented access to young GAA scholarship students at the Sport Institute of Northern Ireland at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown. Scéal O Thuaidh accompanies the students as they are trained and conditioned at SINI in preparation for making it to their Senior County Team Level. This unique institution is first of its kind and offers support training for all professional and amateur athletes, which has produced huge benefits. With a seemingly never ending production line of talented underage teams, the documentary gives a glimpse of the lengths that the teams in Ulster are going to, in order to ensure future success.

To date, forty-four players have come through the SINI system and thirty-four have graduated to the Senior Ranks. This system is supported by the Residential Camps and the Youth Games which are part of the talent identification system. Coaches have engaged with change, and now nutrition, performance analysis, sports psychology, sports science and medicine and recovery and rehabilitation are all part of the preparation of Ulster’s elite Gaelic footballers.

All of this is done, to the backdrop of such living legends as Kieran McGeeney and Peter Canavan; the two programmes so far have focused on these two players, their attention to detail, their preparations and motivations. With McGeeney, in particular, you get the impression of a man who has dedicated his life to achieve everything his body will allow him to give and more besides. It is the McGeeney model that Ulster are now looking to impress upon their young players, perhaps an unattainable condition, but certainly a player with three quarters of McGeeney's ambition, condition and skill is one good enough to grace most county teams.

So where does this leave the rest of the country? Tactics aside, with Ulster having already adopted a virtually professional ethos from the bottom up at intercounty level, the onus is now on the rest of country to follow suit. With rugby, soccer and the rest a more likely distraction in some counties compared to others, the perils in a skills and condition gap being created are great. For the second time in a decade the counties from the Republic may be forced to take yet another page from the Northern syllabus.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

All Star Nominations - A JOKE!

You know Xmas is only around the corner when we start talking All Star nominations! Every year there is massive debate, every year the list is dominated by the teams that made the All Ireland Final...which begs the question, do these people who create this list actually go to football matches round the country or do they simply watch RTE during August and September!!!

Overall there are 13 counties represented on the list from which this year's final All Stars selection will be made at the end of next month. 13 is great, and I was delighted to see some Longford lads included, but why are so many other great inter-county players left out each year....

It reminds me of the line you often hear about Kevin Nolan, that he would def be in the England squad if he played for a top four team in the premiership. Well this years nominations:

All-Ireland champions Kerry lead the way in this year's Vodafone football All Stars nominations list with nine players.

Dublin are the next most recognised county with eight and All-Ireland finalists Mayo come in with six names.

Munster and Ulster champions Cork and Armagh are next with five representatives and as I said earlier, Longford's good run in the qualifiers is reflected in the choice of two of their players, Paul Barden and Brian Kavanagh.

None of last year's All-Ireland champions have been included, a reflection of the troubled and injury-blighted season that Tyrone endured in 2006.

The county breakdown is Kerry (nine), Dublin (eight), Mayo (six), Armagh (five), Cork (five), Donegal (two), Laois (two), Offaly (two), Longford (two), Westmeath (one), Fermanagh (one), Galway (one), Derry (one).

But let us be honest, An All Star nomination should be for a player who has represented his county to the peak of his ability - doing heroric things, and pushing his team to victory....

Eight from the Dublin team...GIVE ME A BREAK...what a joke....where are the players from Leitrim, Waterford, Limerick, Down, Derry, Carlow...I could keep going, there is def one player from each county who shone brigthly this summer, surely they deserved to be recognised ahead of some of the passangers that got in on the coat tails of their team mates.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Heroes Turning the Tide!

Winning is a habit best satisfied through positive results. In four days time Mayo will take the field against a highly fancied Kerry team who are looking to regain the title that seems like the natural birthright of every man, woman and child from the Kingdom.

On experience, the result seems a foregone conclusion, Mayo to start strongly but tragically capitulate as they fail to take their scores. But to judge this current Mayo setup on the failures of the past is an injustice. There is a growing sense of confidence around this Mayo team, and pundits and ditch hurlers alike are beginning to make noises about an upset this Sunday.

It’s hard to but a finger on what has changed in Mayo, years of failure had conditioned the county’s players to almost patent the ability to freeze on the big day. Memories of missed free’s from 14 yards, bad passes and give away goals has dogged Mayo fans for more than a decade.

Mickey Moran and his mind-bending sidekick John Morrisson have certainly played a major role in transforming the current Mayo players into high achievers. Anyone who was lucky enough to be present at the semi-final will testify that there was a more steely resolve about the performance.

However, as good a combination as they are, they can’t take all the credit. The tide began to turn for Mayo the day they captured the Cadbury U21 Football Championship. The victory over Cork finally allowed Mayo fans and players cross that chasm between winners and losers, a chasm which had become Grand Canyon-esque for the men of Mayo.

Current senior players, Keith Higgins, Barry Moore, Michael Conroy, Aidan Kilcoyne and Trevor Howley all played an integral part in All Ireland win. While, Higgins and Conroy are the most likely to take the field next Sunday the impact of this success and the winning feeling these players will have brought to the senior setup is arguably just as important as the return of David Brady or McDonald.

Its all about that winning feeling, winning breeds attitude, where else do you think Kerry get their strut or Kilkenny that unspoken confidence.

As a county Mayo has been slowly but surely turning the tide. Success at Minor, U21 and also by the Ladies of the county has ensured that there is now a generation of players in the red and green who no longer freeze on the big day but rather focus on feeding that winning habit.

On Sunday next Cadburys U21 heroes will take the field hoping that they can be the Mayo men who finally turn the tide and take Sam away from the Kingdom, and who knows maybe found another!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Would you believe it - Dublin win an All Ireland!

St. Brigid’s of Dublin ensured that one All Ireland title would reside in the capital this year when they secured the title of All Ireland champions in the FBD All Ireland GAA Golf Challenge picking up the perpetual Waterford Crystal Dunhill Trophy. The victorious St. Brigid's team took on the best GAA golfers from Ulster, Connaught and Munster over two days at Faithlegg Hotel and Golf Club, Waterford on September 9th and 10th.

The All Ireland champions from Dublin sealed victory with a winning score of 169 and were led by former intercounty football stars Jason Ward playing off a handicap of 13 (Jason played his intercounty football with Leitrim), and former Dublin corner back Martin Cahill playing off a handicap of 9. The pair were ably assisted by Niall Coyne (14) and Martin Prior (19). They held their overnight lead of 3 points over Derrygonnelly Harps, Fermanagh. Dunhill GAA Club, of Waterford were lying in third place, 6 points behind on Saturday and gave a great performance on Sunday to finish as runners up on 154 points.

The Waterford quartet was led by club vice Chairman Donal Murphy (11), former intercounty footballer Derry Kiely (Scr.), former intercounty hurler Martin Murray (14) and juvenile mentor Brian Dunbar (14). Derrygonnelly Harps finished in third place on 148 followed by Athenry GAA, Galway on 145. The overseas champions Barcelona Gaels came in fifth.

Over 120 GAA clubs competed over the last three months at provincial finals to qualify for the honour of representing their province in an All Ireland Final. The winning team received the perpetual Waterford Crystal Dunhill Trophy, with Waterford Crystal medals being presented to each of the individual players, as well as a weekend for four people, plus partners, at the Faithlegg House Hotel & Golf Club.

The FBD All Ireland Golf Challenge was established by Dunhill GAA Club, Co. Waterford in 2000, allowing golfers the chance to represent their GAA Club in an All-Ireland for the first time ever. The FBD Golf Challenge was established with the aim of the young and the not so young playing on the one side. The unique feature of this competition is that there is no senior or junior status, no large or small section and no age restrictions. The smallest rural club can take on the largest urban club and compete on a level basis in an All-Ireland Final.

Monday, August 28, 2006

2006 ICSF World Casting Championships

Ireland is set to become the focal point for the entire angling world as the 2006 ICSF World Casting Championships take place from 2nd-8th September at Carton House, Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Carton House, one of the most magnificent country house estates in Ireland, will play host to this, the world’s largest competitive casting event. This marks the first time that Ireland has been awarded the honour of hosting the ICSF World Championships and it is the inaugural year of the international on-water casting championship, The Emerald World Masters.

A prize fund of €200,000 for the Emerald World Masters will catapult casting to the level of other major sports. Some of the world’s best casters from over 25 nations, will descend on Carton House, including world casting champion USA’s Steve Rajeff, 13 times world champion and multiple world record holder in distance and accuracy events, and Scott McKenzie from Scotland, world record holder at spey casting distance.

The 2006 World Casting Championships is a three-part event. The Emerald World Masters (2-4 September) will kick off the seven day event with five events including on water spey distance, salmon fly distance and trout fly distance. The ICSF World Championships (5-8 September) comprises of nine events and will test casters on a range of disciplines including distance, speed, accuracy and precision. Teams and individuals from approximately 25 nations will compete at the event. The Country Life Weekend and the Angling Trade Show will compliment the Championships.

Angling is increasingly aimed at the younger generation and this event prioritises the attendance and active participation of young people. The Emerald World Masters Youth Trout Fly Fishing Competition, run by and in association with the Dublin Angling Initiative, takes place on the Saturday and promises to be a super competition for junior anglers.

To mark the opening of this world class event, a ‘Country Life Weekend’ is due to take place in the grounds of Carton Estate on 2nd & 3rd September featuring a medieval village, interactive country life attractions such as ‘have a go’ archery, fishing and falconry displays.

Sky Sports will be providing televised coverage of the 2006 World Casting Championships. For further information on the Championships and the Country Life Weekend please visit, for Carton House

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Auf Wiedersehen Pet - The Special One

An Smuigin is proud to deliver The Special One's latest take on The Irish Soccer Team, Stan, Basil Faulty and turning Andy O'Brien into Fabio Cannavaro!!

"Now I know how the French felt back in 1940 when after watching Germany crush Poland they waited for the inevitable invasion and defeat that would soon befall them. Now Steve Staunton faces the same fate.

How are our boys going to deal with the blitzkrieg tactics of aerial attacks from Klose with on rushing ground assaults from Ballack, Podolski ect? Last week the Dutch should have scored eight or nine and made us look like a pub team. Arjen Robben, the Dutch talisman told our media afterward not to blame Ireland for the 4-0 drubbing because our players are not really any good.

Listening to him, I was immediately outraged, where the hell does he get off panning our team what the hell has he achieved? Well he does play for the best club side in Britain and has played and scored at the last two major tournaments so perhaps he does know the standard that is required at this level.

Robben looks upon Ireland as a team in the same category as Cyprus, Latvia and Wales, teams where a one-nil defeat is a victory and where qualification is a dream rather than a goal. Now after Jack Charlton’s glory day’s and even our sojourn in Japan that is a sobering thought.

We are now seen as a poor football team, gone are the days of being a pain in the backside to play against under Charlton and McCarthy/Keane (Depending on your point of view). For me the question isn’t are we a bad team instead its why are we rubbish and what can we do to fix it.

First of all is it the FAI’s fault for appointing Stan? Since the defeats to Chile and Holland members of the media have been calling for Stan’s head. Now I’m not saying I was behind the decision to appoint a man who is the managerial equivalent of Theo Walcott but appointing the Walsall Reserve coach is the kind of thing we have grown used to from Basil Faulty or whoever runs the FAI. We were told we couldn’t get anyone else and that we’re not an attractive proposition for international coaches. Yet how did a bunch of championship journeymen attract Leo Beenhacker, a coach with vast experience at all levels of the game. Guss Hiddink is at Russia now, is Ireland not more attractive that Siberia? Even Terry Venebles was a better choice. Alas we now do with what we have because the simple fact is that Stan is going nowhere at least until the end of this campaign.

So what has Stan brought to the team? Courage, passion, work-rate and commitment were the key ingredients missing in the days of Brian Kerr and where the same things promised by Stan. We reminisced in nostalgic tales of Stan the driven leader while donning the Irish jersey. At least we knew his team would work their socks off and win or die trying, or so we thought.

To be honest I saw no desire or hunger against Holland and that is unacceptable. Some of the players may not have the talent of the Charlton era but on last weeks evidence they don’t have the work-rate either. We need to get right into the faces of opponents and hit them hard.

Often times to get a result you must spoil the other team’s flow, it may not be pretty but it wasn’t pretty in 1990 either. Stan is charged with the job, not of turning Andy O’Brien into Fabio Cannavaro but instead into Mick McCarthy. Who can forget Big Mick’s day out with Hagi, the Romanian wizard who McCarthy kicked up and down the pitch in World Cup 1990. Stan has to get Steven Reid and Graham Kavanagh to launch into Ballack and Klose.

Good footballing teams don’t like it and often can’t handle it, how else can you explain Blackburn, Bolton or Robbie Savage’s whole career. We let the Dutch play last week, when we should have kicked them. Getting strong and running our socks off is our only hope and the best thing is we should be able to do it easily. Slow the game down, break them up and hope duffer or Keane can create something or maybe a set piece will do the trick. It may not be pretty but we are not Brazil and it’s about time we realise that.

To that effect I suggest the following line-up. Given,Carr,Dunne,O’Brien,Kilbane,Finnan,Reid,O’Shea,Duff,Keane,Doyle.

I reckon there’s enough power and strength there to get right in their faces. Stephen Ireland could go in centre with Finnan going left back and Reid on the right, but Kilbane gives the kind of strength and running we are going to need. When we have the ball we’ve got enough quality to create chances and the main thing is the work-rate when we don’t.

So there’s my formula for success it’s simple and effective and all it requires is desire, something Stan must drill into them so rather than wait for the invasion lets attack them and see if Ballack and co fancy it."

Dont mention the WAR!

Young Gaelic Stars Exploding on Aussie Rules Scene

GAA officials have to wake up stop expressing concern and take action over the slow drain of these players from Ireland in recent years and the establishment of camps such as the one held in Limerick last year where AFL scouts can track the best young players in the game.

RISING Down football star Martin Clarke will sign for AFL club Collingwood today. Clarke will put pen to paper on a two-year international rookie contract with an option to extend the deal to three years with the Magpies.

The 2005 All-Ireland minor medal winner spent the month of July on trial at the Melbourne club. The trial and subsequent contract was arranged by former Roscommon footballer Paul Earley.

Clarke and his An Riocht club-mate, James Colgan, were the stars of Down's All-Ireland minor success and his loss will be a blow to the county's hopes of rebuilding under a new manager. Anyone who has ever watch Clarke play football, particularly at Ulster Colleges level will know what a superb footballer he is and what a huge loss his departure will be.

Clarke will become the fifth GAA player to swell the ranks of the AFL. Tadhg Kennelly is an established star with Sydney Swans and a Premiership winner last year, Setanta Ó hAilpín is in his third year with Carlton and making steady improvement while his brother Aisake is still in rookie ranks.

The former Laois minor Colm Begley has made remarkable progress with Brisbane Lions making his debut yesterday, setting a record for the fastest ever Rookie introduction!

Quinn to Sack himself!

The writing is on the wall for Niall Quinn's shortlived managerial career. In fairness to the Mighty Quinn he always knew it was a stop gap measure as he searched for a new manager at the Stadium of Light. Good news Niall...FORMER Charlton manager Alan Curbishley will be available for management once his six-month "break" finishes at the end of September.

Speaking yesterday at the launch of his book Valley of Dreams Curbishley, who announced his decision to step down as manager at the Valley on April 29 this year, made it clear that he had not "retired" and, although he was not actively looking, would consider offers in October.

'Shocked' Jones wants second sample test

Ah Marion, give it up...'Shocked' its time to own up and take it like the EPO hyped superhuman you are. FORMER triple Olympic champion Marion Jones said yesterday she was shocked her initial drugs test from a sample taken in June was positive. Jones added she had requested the testing of her second 'B' sample be dealt with quickly.

"I was shocked when I was informed about the positive 'A' sample," Jones said in the statement issued by her Los Angeles-area attorney Howard Jacobs.

England Have no Balls! Honest!!

Not content with been marginalised politically, England have now managed to isolate themselves on the cricket field with this latest debacle!..Who knew cricket could be so much fun!!

ON THE day Pakistan cast doubt on the rest of their tour, the England management team has been implicated in the ball-tampering row which erupted on the fourth day of the final Test at the Oval on Sunday and ended in the tourists being deemed to have forfeited the match.
It has emerged that on Sunday morning - the only day in the whole series when the issue of ball tampering arose - before the start of the day's play, England coach Duncan Fletcher went to see match referee Mike Procter.

Fletcher's visit was confirmed by an England and Wales Cricket Board spokesman, who said: "It is not unusual for the England coach to meet with the match referee before play, but no complaint was made about the condition of the ball."

The implications of Fletcher's visit could have far-reaching consequences, not only for the rest of the tour, but also for the relations between the two boards and possibly even at diplomatic level between the two countries, given the depth of feeling expressed by the Pakistanis.

Would you be in my Grave as quick!!!

PAT ROE has moved quickly to put his hat in the ring for the Laois football job, expected to be declared vacant soon.

Mick O'Dwyer's departure is not yet official but when it is confirmed Roe, a former defender with the county who recently spearheaded a revival in Wexford fortunes, will be interested.

However, there was speculation in Laois last night that O'Dwyer would consider staying on if support was there for him to do so.

MIKE McNAMARA would be interested in taking over from Anthony Daly as Clare hurling manager but won't submit himself to any form of election.

McNamara, Clare's physical trainer when the county won All-Ireland titles in 1995 and '97 said he would consider a position he has always craved "if it was offered to me".

McNamara was trainer and selector to Ger Loughnane from 1995 to '99 but Loughnane changed his backroom team in 2000 and McNamara was replaced. He had indicated he would be going anyway.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Athenry GAA win FBD Connaught Final


Athenry GAA, Galway landed the prestigious title of Connaught champions in the FBD All Ireland GAA Golf Challenge in Claremorris Golf Club, Co Mayo on Friday 11th August. The team was represented by Jarlath Cloonan (15), Luke Glynn (13), Juno Barrett (10) and Colin Parr (16) who put a score together of 83 pts.

Athenry GAA, Co Galway will now take on the best of GAA golfers from Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Overseas at the All Ireland Final of the Challenge over two days at Faithlegg Hotel and Golf Club, Waterford on September 9th and 10th. Athenry GAA is the fourth team to qualify for the All Ireland finals this year. Competition debutants St. Brigid's of Dublin will represent Leinster following a strong challenge against Round Towers, Clondalkin, Derrygonnelly Harps GAA club from Fermanagh will represent Ulster and Dunhill GAA will represent Munster following their recent great performance to clinch the provincial title at Thurles Golf club.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Don't mention the WAR!

As part of the new and improved An Smuigin - we will now be running a section called Dont mention the WAR! - a slanted view at the last few days big sports stories!!

All comments aired...all other mentions welcomed!!

Liverpool win Community Shield!

I think I preferred it when it was called the charity shield. As a spectacle, it wasn't much to write home about. Shevchenko looks a class act, Chelsea's other big name signing Ballack looks like he doesn't have the stomach for premiership style midfield battle and Liverpool look pretty decent, despite the limited transfer budget their new signings all look the part.

Leitrim Footballers reach Croker in Tommy Murphy

After a 12 year wait at senior level, Leitrim are back in Croke Park in two weeks when they take on the men from the wee county (Louth) in the Tommy Murphy Cup final. Louth have been the most improved team of 2006 and it makes for a great final as recent encounters between the two teams have always been close fought affairs. Many of this current Leitrim senior team were part of the Minor side for 1998 who played Tyrone in Croke Park in the All Ireland Minor semi final so the trip may not be as daunting as many predict.

Is this the end of Clare Hurling?

After defeat by Kilkenny on Sunday many of this current Clare team are now surely looking at closing the book on their inter-county careers. After ten years of hurling at the highest level the lack of decent underage hurlers could spell the end for Clare hurling at least temporarily from hurlings top tier!

European Silver for Derval

After so much failure in athletics over the last number of years, it was brilliant to see Derval O'Rourke capture second place in the European championships in Gothenburg. The home nations continued success at these championships does beg the question why our own country cannot produce a greater number of athletes in Derval's mould who can genuinely compete.

Falling on Sven's Sword

Poor old Beckham, like him or love him. He didn't deserve to have his international career ended as a result of the bumbling Swede. Probably the greatest dead ball expert of his generation, Smuigin wonders will he ever be remembered as a great footballer with a high profile, or a high profile who was a decent footballer.

The Dubs arrive late AGAIN

No other sporting event in Europe would have been delayed for 15mins because of crowd delay. Simple Fact. Yet time and time again, the GAA on the behest of the Gardai are forced to delay the start time of Dublin matches. This is simply not on and is completely unfair on the opposition and their traveling fans. What will happen if Dublin gets to an All Ireland Final..will that be delayed also. An Smugin suggests that Croker fine Dublin County Board for last wkd and maybe then the message will get through.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Looming Battle for GAA Landscape

With the championship season well and truly in full swing at both club and inter-county level, GAA followers can be forgiven for not taking notice of the impending battle between clubs, county boards and Croke Park as cash rich property developers threaten to cement over Ireland’s GAA landscape.

Over the last number of weeks a number of clubs and grounds have come to the fore-front of these developments, namely, Cusack Park, Co. Clare, St Patricks, Co. Down and Killmallock, Co. Limerick.

The most significant of these involves a consortium of developers who are keen to buy the home of Clare GAA for a staggering €80m. The latest figure for Cusack Park in Ennis has emerged as the closing date for submissions of interest passed. A prime town centre site, it is understandable that Cusack Park is an attractive proposition for developers even with the €80m price tag. What makes the deal all the more sweeter for the Clare County board is the promise of a purpose-built GAA stadium close to the town with additional on site facilities.

With these types of figures and additional sweeteners on offer it is easy to see why Clare County board are examining all of the options. What would the much malaigned David O’Leary have given for 80m during his tenure at Aston Villa. In response to these developments been covered by the various media, headquarters issued a statement stating that no club or county board could sell on any GAA grounds without prior consent from Croker. This will have undoubtedly angered many within grassroots GAA, as the type of deal outlined above would literally catapult any GAA club into a very exclusive group with rich coffers and top class facilities.

Earlier this year, Kerry County Board admitted it was considering selling Austin Stack Park in Tralee, after “tentative proposals” had been received from local developers. The trend is expected to grow in the coming months and years, with grounds like Dr Cullen Park in Carlow, Cusack Park in Mullingar, Pearse Park in Longford amd St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge occupying prime development location. But then again, what GAA club doesn’t have the prime development location in most towns and villages across the country?

Most villages grew up around the local GAA club, with the local pub and post office or shop usually in close proximity. The grounds are an integral park of rural towns and villages, however the development and expansion of these towns and villages around the grounds has also meant that any attempted re-development is usually hampered by a lack of space and also crucially by a lack of funds. With many clubs development plans been subject to the lottery of government grants, the opportunity to clinch such property deals as are been reported must be a huge temption for clubs and county boards alike. In contrast, the latest dictate from Croke Park will be viewed as an attempt to control the future of grassroots clubs, taking responsbility away from the hardworking officers and members.

When you consider that Dublin City FC, a premier league team recently went into administration the decision currently facing Clare County Board is a huge one, any accountant worth his or her salt would scream for the deal to be completed, ensuring the clubs future as well as top class facilities for generations to come. On the other hand side, you can bet you bottom euro that the morale compass of every club will be steered by those few hard-line GAA men and women that are resident features in every club across the country.

So as developers are drawing up proposals and identifying potential GAA grounds as sites for desirable apartments and town houses the battle to radically redefine the GAA landscape is well and truly on the horizon. Whatever the future holds, there are undoubtedly some men at headquarters waking up in cold sweats at the thoughts of clubs becoming richer then county boards and god forbid county boards becoming financial heavyweights in their own rights, no longer needing to produce the begging bowl everytime the face the Pale. If the developers get their way, there could be concrete poured on GAA grounds yet, one suspects if Croke Park has its way the only thing poured will be cold water!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Celebrity Counties...can you do better!!

Looking through the last eight teams in the competition one night, we ‘accidentally’ turned on LOVE ISLAND. After four minutes we decided it was far far better Baywatch we promptly turned the sound off. Ten minutes later we began to ask…what celebrities truly represent this years quarter-finalists!!

Donegal: Samantha Mumba (Really popular for a while, keeps coming back when you think they have nothing left, all in all something a little different.)

Armagh: Angelina Jolie (Attitude, strength, the fear factor and amazing consistency. Capable of stunning glamour and kicking your ass. All Ireland Champions elect if you ask me)

Laois: Jennifer Anniston (Ah the nice team. This is the kind of team you would bring home to your parents. Many peoples favourites, look to have gotten over beatings by northern teams both on and off the field )

Dublin: Jodie Marsh (In your face, brash and a real crowd pleaser. Not sure about the accent but appeals to the common man. Knocking on the door of real fame for a while now.

Mayo: Scarlett Johanson (Potential to be a real star. Ability, talent and style all there in abundance. However, not yet the finished article each good performance matched with a horrendous day out. Not really in anyone’s top three but getting there.

Westmeath: Jade Goody (One summer of fame and celebrity, since then nothing to get excited about.)

Kerry: Victoria Beckham (Glamorous, stylish and a champion among rivals. Used to constant media scrutiny and rumour. Very hard to listen to)

Cork: Jennifer Lopez (This woman thinks she is god’s gift to acting, singing, dancing and just about everything else which must mean there’s some cork blood in there somewhere. In addition both constantly remind us where they come from. In terms of chances of winning the all-Ireland well " used to have a little now they have a lot")


Monday, July 10, 2006

Savage Tom & Loads of old bulls

Loads of old bulls

An Smuigin would like to warn readers, that what is detailed below is a true story, Savage Tom did indeed run with the bulls despite his natural frame acting as Gods greatest hinderance. Fair play Savage!

It dawned on me, what I was doing, looking up at the smug people on their balconies. I was packed with thousands of revelers into Pamplona’s central square at about 5.45am. I imagined the Pamplonians overhead taking bets on which one of us wouldn’t survive the next five minutes.

The crowd was fused together with tension. The atmosphere was niggly, like a football match on the verge of violence. Scuffles. Curses in many languages. Everybody afraid and trying not to show it.

We were about to do the bull run - the infamous centerpiece of the St Fermin festival held every year between the 7th and the 15th of July. In three minutes a firecracker will go off and this immovable mass of people would tear down 800 metres of smooth slippy Spanish street pursued by ten half tonne bulls.

They will have one thought racing through their mind faster than they run down this alley – “I’m not faster than a bull!”

I was there as part of a stag weekend. What better way to celebrate a ‘rest of your life’ event by putting yourself in mortal danger. Before leaving many of my friends had helpfully emailed me many pictures and clips of bulls goring people, their horns through indescribable places, trampling people on the hard cobblestone street.

Many of the lads promised spouses, mothers and employers that they would only watch the run. They would definitely not take part. Under any circumstances. No way.

And yet I knew they were in the crowd somewhere, wishing they had room to stretch their hamstrings, nervously awaiting the firecrackers that would signify the bulls’ release behind them.

A young local, who looked much faster than me, cleaves a path through the crowd laughing at us and calling us ‘loco’. The Spaniards in the crowd say a prayer to St Fermin asking that his cloak protects them from the bull. Not wanting to be at a disadvantage I threw down a blend of the Our Father and a Hail Mary – my first prayer in a decade.

It’s unclear where the savage tradition of the run comes from. The tourist literature says its origins ‘reside in the mists of time’. Some people believe it was spawned from a reenactment of the death of St Fermin who was assassinated by atheists in the 15th century. After his murder his body was dragged along the streets by bulls.

It is one of the most popular fiesta in Europe with 250,000 people attending the weeklong party every year. Many of these people will use the kerb for a pillow for one night at least in the week.

The first firecracker goes off: the first bull has left the enclosure. The crowd surges forward. Some at the front sprint ahead. They will arrive in the stadium well ahead of the bulls. The crowd will greet these ‘cowards’ with boos and jeers.

Being at the front has another more practical drawback. The worst panickers are likely to cause a pile-up - target from the bullseye view. Some locals are moving through the crowd towards the bulls. They have sticks they will use to whip the bulls as they run past. Towards us I think with dread.

The crowd frees up and I begin to move. I cannot explain the feeling without reverting to clichés; blind terror. I welcome it; I allow it to wash over me. Terror is the only fuel that will see me through the next 600 metres.

The second firecracker goes off signifying the last bull had left the pen. Every runner now knows that wherever they are the bulls will catch them.

I make it round the first corner; it’s called ‘Hamburger Corner’. Six hundred kilo bulls tend to slide on the slippy cobblestones trying to navigate it. Sometimes people get between it and the thick wooden struts that line the route.

I can’t see the bulls, I can sense them. A wave of panic precedes them like the blast of heat you feel stepping off a plane onto foreign soil. People are now running with their arms, literally swimming through people. I almost surf on the swell of people surging behind me.

There is a great fear that my legs will become tangled up with others and I’ll fall. I remember the advice – lie down, cover your head and don’t ever move. You put your faith in St Fermin’s cloak and hope the bulls or the runners didn’t trample you. I don’t fancy that.

I can hear the bulls now like low-rumbling orchestrated thunder. I catch a Mick Lyons on the cheek from a friendly local. I begin to realise it’s the humans that are the real danger during the run, not the bulls.

I run faster.

But I can hear the bulls behind me, they are running faster.

Amidst the panic I see a fence in front of me. A scaleable fence. Escape. Two of my fellow runners are thinking the same thing and mount it. Two police officers push them back into the run – too many climbers and the fence collapses freeing the bulls.

I realise I will have to run to the end. Or until I’m gored, whichever comes first.

On cue the bulls catch up to me. One passes on my right. That leaves at least six. Maths on the run. They tend to run in diamond formation. In other words there could be two directly behind me.

A couple of metres ahead I see the stadium. I’m gasping and my thighs are burning.

A tourist falls in front of me presenting me with a deadly Multiple Choice Questionnaire.

You’re on the bull-run and someone falls in front of you. Do you:

A. Stop to try to pick them up, risk getting floored, trampled and gored yourself?
B. Do you try to run around them and possibly out in front of a bull?
C. Do you stand on the person using them as a springboard and hope the bulls don’t get them?

The answer I’m afraid is obvious. St Fermin protect and save him.

The bulls overtake me. The danger passes. I enter the stadium in a chariot of elation. Thousands of spectators greet us with roars. It’s over. Gasp. I’ve survived. Gasp.

Looking around as I try to slow my heart down and breathe again. I don’t see many other smiling faces. People – you’ve survived a bull run, smile a little.

Then to my right two people fly into the air. The crowd surges in one direction, away from an unseen terror. A bull has been released into the crowd and is dunting anyone it can. The crowd cheers each time it sends a reveler into the air.

I’ve had enough. I perch on a fence to watch the macho locals and drunken tourists teasing the bull, hitting it with newspapers. This highlights the brutality of the festival.

In the arena, like on the run, humans are the big danger. One tourist pulled the bull’s tail - a sign of disrespect – for which the locals gave him a beating. Hitting a bull with newspapers, rubbing Vaseline in its eyes, and killing it monstrously is fair game it seems, but never pull its tail.

I was told all the bulls involved in the run would be killed by the matador that night and felt a twang of regret. But this was Pamplona. The next day I awoke to run again – the bulls trampled my sympathy into the cobblestones as they chased me up the narrow street.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Reasons to BELIEVE

American rockers, The Counting Crows once wrote a song called 'Long December' in which the refrain goes, "Its been a long December but there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last." It’s a line that sticks with me and as I, my team and our club prepare for another summer of Championship football, we too believe that maybe this year can be better than the last.

Last September, we reached our first Senior Football championship final in almost forty years, for six unforgettable weeks our players, our people and our parish walked with heads held high and a permanent smile as our whole community were buoyed by our run to the final. Looking back, it was an incredible unforgettable time but belief deserted us dramatically on final day. I think, a friend of mine also a player described it best as 'The best and worst day' of his life. We were beaten and beaten badly, but by a team who like us also enjoyed a breakthrough summer. What little consolation it was, at least now it eases the pain.

But as the old adage goes, you cannot really appreciate the good times, until you have suffered the bad ones. I remember the day belief was born in our team, we were on the back of four straight defeats in the league and we faced with an away game with a team we had never beaten. The old May hoodoo of leaving cert and university exams had taken it toll on a young team but we soldiered on. Then facing our fifth defeat on the bounce something stirred, a stubbornness not to be beaten again. This resilience grew and over the weeks flourished amongst the team. Despite our defeat in the final, I don’t believe this resilience has ever left us, we suddenly over the course of last year, moved up a level away from been a 'nice' team with a soft underbelly to a tough team who know how to win championship matches, when all that matters is the conviction in the whites of your eyes.

Its this type of belief that has always typified the great teams, look at Armagh, a team of winners who never relinquish a game without fighting for their lives, examine Cork or Clare in hurling who know the level of intensity needed to win Munster and All Ireland Finals. The funny thing is that belief is not the birthright of the most talented, it can be harnessed by those who are searching to believe. Louth's achievements this season prove this theory, and it’s the one great trick every manager is desperate to pull off. Leitrim play Mayo this Sunday in the championship, on paper, pundits would say Leitrim to give Mayo a fright but the men from the west to ultimately triumph. For me its all down to belief, if the likes of Leitrim, Longford, Limerick etc can find this belief within themselves, believe in each other, believe in their right to win, to succeed, to triumph, well then maybe this year will be better than the last.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Savage Tom - AIB, Badgers and Team Spirit

Savage Tom’s rapid progress up the ranks of Junior D football has stalled. It’s a fecking disgrace what they’ve done to him. Poor auld Tom has put the effort in every week – one kick around match at training every week, he’s cut the drink down and gone to visit a sports headshrinker to get him in the right frame of mind for competitive football. He’s played the League matches, he’s even went between the schticks because he’s a might righty boot on him and can lamp a ball half of the way up the field. He’s done everything they say you should do in the AIB club football ads to be a good team players. You know the one – be good, be part of something, be a winner, just be….Be my bollox.

The minute those bastards got the opportunity they brought in a load of Junior B players and Savage Tom ended up warming the mahogany. A load of young fellas with different woejus uneven haircuts and white streaks who wouldn’t bother their arse going training all year arrived at our Championship match…they look like fecking badgers.

Onto the field they strode happy out – oblivious to the ten brooding resentful teammates that found themselves occupying that horrible space in the dugout. Savage Tom is proud to say he instigated a quiet rebellion. Like Spartacus I lead the gladiator substitutes on journey of rebellion against our oppressors – the team selectors.

When we ran out on the field I whispered ‘you should be on’ to the most surly and delusional subs – generally the older guys who never just quite made it in their hey-dey and are still chasing the glory of GAA. As the first fifteen warmed up the subs defiantly kicked points. When those imposters and blow-ins joined us after their warm-up we acted as one – only passing the ball amongst each other.

We felt no sorrow. Whatever about the blow-ins, we had some begrudging respect for them, wishing we could saunter onto teams like them, how could our old team mates turn their backs on us. Hadn’t we shared the disappointments of many defeats together? The infamous more goals than points conceded defeat at longwood (7-4 to 0-3) hadn’t we bled the pitches red at Ballygrattan, Cortown, Summerhill? Hadn’t we inhaled the alcohol-fuelled stench of defeat after the Mickey Murphy’s wedding where all our full-back line collided giving each other concussion? All of these memories. Nothing to them when it came to the chance of a win in the Championship.

Our rebellion caused consternation amongst the selectors. They were rattled - they just weren’t showing it. At half-time we stayed in the dug-out not running out for the customary kick around – that’ll learn you ye poxes.

During the second half we were winning handsomely – but I knew our rebellion was ruffling feathers. I had the boys well prepped. As we stretched the margin I predicted that they might start to throw the odd sub on for a run. A real sneaky Sasanach move, divide and conquer. Under no circumstances were any of our heroic brigade to break ranks to stretch the hamstrings and do that funny run where you kick your heels of the palms of your hands.

We sat resolute as the minutes ticked by. The odd selector would survey the bench and see eyes set in stone resolutely staring out at the match. Never back at them. Never.

Then came a key moment – the selector huddle. Like three teapots with their handles out they stood and mumbled like I’m sure Judas did before making our lord the world’s most famous pin-up. We were standing firm. We were resolute.

All of a sudden came the call…….a couple of legs twitched. Hold. Hold. Steady. Hold the line.

“Tom, warm-up there”

I came on and kicked a few atrocious wides to the chagrin of my team-mates. When I looked over all the legs on the bench were bouncing up and down rapidly and there were storm clouds under the corrugated iron of the dugout. One of my ex-gladiator subs, one of my friend, who I had led to glory, came on later on, ran over and hit me a dig in the ribs.

That’s GAA for you, no team spirit.

Germany 06 - What have we learned so far…..

Germany are destined to get to at least the quarterfinals

England look great on paper rubbish in real life

Ronaldo is actually gaining weight as the tournament progresses

Kaka is a genuine class act

Any day now the Dutch will have a row

The referees are completely useless, although we do love the Mexican ref…slicked back hair!

The Italians will do well.mainly out of fear, as many are due to be indicted as soon as they go back to Rome

Peter Crouch can't really head a ball

Argentina look unbeatable

Ivory Coast shouldn't be going home

Togo want to go home

Stuart Downing is Steve McClaren's love child - nothing else explains it

Ecuador can play at sea level

23 out of the 26 man Serbia & Montenegro squad are Serbian…best of luck Montenegro!!

Feel free to add…

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

GAA X-Factor -Search for the ULTIMATE FAN

An Smuigin has learned that the GAA & TG4 are about to sink to all new depths..with the first official GAA X-Factor Search for the FAN. The idea been that fans get 90second slots to convince the jury that they are the biggest/most committed GAA fans in the country. No gets worse..guess who is the GAA's Simon Cowell....none other than GER Loughnane!!! This is going to be compulsory viewing..Smuigin has tried to think of a couple of requirements all serious contenders must fulfil before been allowed on the TG4. Cause lets face it, we really only want to watch the lunny tunes!!...

All candidates must at present or in the past have;

Eatin hang sandwiches out of the boot of the car/tractor/trailer on the way to a game

Drank warm tea from and old paddy power whiskey bottle

Know every father and mother of each team member prior to the game, only then does the statement, "sure isnt he of good stock!" truly apply

Asked a dublin publican for TK Red Lemonade

Eatin Choc Ice icecreams without fear of reprisal on the way through Drumcondra

An Smuign dares you to add more!!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Keane - Smuigins Tribute!

An Smuigin wrote this in the immediate aftermath of Keane final match at Old Trafford, I think given yesterdays announcement it is fitting to publish it again.

Almost 70,000 fans packed Old Trafford to say goodbye to United legend Roy Keane. The Reds beat Celtic 1-0 in their former skipper's testimonial on an emotional night in Manchester. It was the perfect way to bid farewell to a man described by Sir Alex Ferguson as his 'best ever player'.

After the game, Keano admitted: "I'm grateful to both clubs, the players and of course the supporters. It surprised me how much I enjoyed it! Coming back finished things off nicely and it was a great occasion."

And with that it was over, Roy left to a standing ovation as every man, women and child stood up and applauded arguably Manchester United’s greatest player and Irish sports greatest export.

Strangely Keano’s reputation is greater in his adopted home then in his native land. There is certainly a generation of Irish soccer fans who were never and will never be able to forgive him for walking out in Saipan.

Personally, I have always stood behind him, I supported him in Saipan and I supported him in October when he tackled his Manchester teamates mediocre efforts. Whether in the grand scheme of things Roy was right or wrong when he walked out of the World Cup it was his actions during those crazy hours that have defined not only Roy as a man but is has defined his legacy to sport.

I could wax lyrical about the many many fantastic performances Keano put in for Ireland and Manchester Utd over the last decade but that would be doing him an injustice. Roy Keane is a winner, a competitor for whom winning is the only result that matters. None of us will ever know why exactly he did what he did in Saipan but I firmly believe that for Roy Keane to walk away from the World Cup he must have reached a breaking point that many of us don’t even possess.

As Alex Ferguson’s commander in chief during the last decade, the demands placed on Roy Keane to achieve were monumental, he in turn demanded perfection, and drove standards at the club to an all time high. For Ireland, this was always going to be a conflict, the shambolic operation that is the FAI were never going to be in a position to even come near matching Keane’s standards and as such it was always a matter of time how long the natural competitor would stand such mediocrity

By saying NO and walking away, Roy Keane screamed at Irish people to wake up and stop playing the content paddy. Why shouldn’t he demand the best from the players and from the Association in charge. Whether people like it or not this created a ‘Keane Factor’ which is evident today in teams across the whole spectrum of sport and across all ages. Players who are individual enough to know their own minds and brave enough to speak them have latched onto the gesture made in Saipan and as a result players and teams are pushing themselves further and higher to achieve success.

This is Roy Keane’s legacy.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tag Rugby - The last great bastion of the sporting inept!

Wow…settle down…I can almost hear the raised voices after people click on the link in anger, ready to vent rage at poor old An Smuigin!. Firstly let me state my position on Tag Rugby, I'm a huge supporter, in fact I am IRFU qualified to coach the game. Why then do I ridicule Ireland's fastest growing sport? In order to explain myself, I think an overview is required.

As stated Tag Rugby is the fastest growing mixed gender sport in Ireland with an estimated 11,000 people taking part over the spring and summer leagues. A basic non contact version of Rugby league (not Rugby Union!) this sport has captured the hearts and minds of Irelands masses generally aged between 20 - 45, although I believe there are seniors leagues as well.

A lot of players both male and female come from non rugby backgrounds, and as such there are a variety of divisions to accompany the level of skills. Its become a real social outlet also, with the after match BBQ just as important as the game itself. Most of all it provides people with a brilliant sporting outlet during the summer evenings, players skills grow with the leagues as year on year, teams improve, move up grades etc.

So why bash this seemingly sporting/social revolution? Despite all the positives…there are also many negatives….

Now correct me if I am wrong, but the idea of tag rugby as stated above is to provide a sporting and social outlet across both genders during the summer months. When oh when did it become a mass marketing/pr initiative. Teams have lost the original idea behind the competition as parent companies insist on mass branding on jerseys, t-shirts, shorts, caps etc. This crass Americanisation of the game have resulted in a number of companies entering 3 and 4 teams in each tag rugby venue, out they come 30/40 people all branded to the hilt, I wont name names but certain banks and certain technology hardware developers are the worst offenders.


Following on the branding issue, companies are really beginning to lose all sense of reason, I recently heard of a group of players to have played for a number of years on a 'friends' team, however some players were politely informed by their place of employment that playing for another team not their companies was frowned upon. GET A LIFE…it’s a game…its all about playing with your mates!!...this is a scary development….

And finally…the last bastion of the sporting inept

Tag rugby has many fine things going for it! (in more ways than one).. But my biggest problem with the game is the amount of gobshites who play the game in such a physical way despite their complete lack of a sporting bone in their body. Im talking specifically about the fellas, you know the type, never played a team sport before, wears rugby gloves (I mean come will be padding next) and thinks that running directly over a girl is some sort of sporting achievement!! I love it see it when a girl batters some of these idiots. I have even heard these morons trash talk girls as they prepare to pass the ball or kick off!!! No wonder the game is the biggest cause of sporting injuries in Ireland. All of these muppets should been banned!!!! would only improve the standard and the enjoyment of a brilliant sport.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Manchester United?

Supporting Manchester Utd has always been a dramatic edge of the seat kind of ride, thankfully much of this was down to the period of unprecedented success as a result of swashbuckling attacking football that dominated the premiership during the 90's.
However lately, the edge of the seat rush has taken a very different focus moving away from the pitch and back into the boardroom. Unrest at the club has gone hand in hand with the downturn in the clubs on the field fortunes as Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have wrestled the crown from the once king of English football.

The decision taken by David Gill and the board to sell to the Glaziers has rightly or wrongly led Manchester United down a path of which there is no return. This has led to the formation of breakaway club Manchester FC and in many respects has taken the spotlight of the teams repeated failure on both the domestic front and more alarmingly on the European front.

A lifelong supporter of the Red Devils, I find it difficult to sit and watch as my club begins to destroy itself from the inside out; the keystone to Alex Ferguson’s reign has been the clubs sense of self…Manchester UNITED. Us against them, it fostered the fortress Old Trafford mentality and as a result the success that came with it. These days the storm clouds seem to gather on a frequent basis as our friends from across the Atlantic struggle to get to grips with the concept of this great football club.

A quick look at the recent headlines demonstrates this…and begins to beg the question is Manchester UNITED???

MANCHESTER United marketing director Peter Draper will leave Old Trafford this week after six years, the second high-profile departure from the club's management side in the past week. The departure of the marketing manager will come as a surprise to many in the game, given that the club has just last month put the ink on a major new sponsorship deal. In April the club signed a new agreement with insurer American International Group (AIG) worth £56.5m (€80m) over four years. The deal replaced a £9m-a-year sponsorship with Vodafone which ran out at the end of the season just finished. Draper's departure comes days after United's doctor Mike Stone announced he was leaving, following a bust-up with Sir Alex Ferguson.

A number of senior Old Trafford figures have now left the club since the takeover by Malcolm Glazer. His sons were installed as boardroom directors in June last year while plc chairman Sir Roy Gardner and executives Ian Much and Jim O'Neill resigned. In August, 25 backroom jobs were shed after a "structural review" following a drop in TV revenue. Off and on the pitch, United have undergone something of a wobble in recent years. Apart from being overtaken by Chelsea on the home front, the club has been eclipsed on the global stage by its Spanish rival Real Madrid, which leapfrogged United to become the world's richest football club.

On the playing side of things, Alex Ferguson has released eight members of his playing staff as he prepares his squad for next season’s assault on the Premiership title. The most high-profile of these is South African international Quinton Fortune, who was told before the end of the season that he would not be offered a new deal. Reserve team captain Markus Neumayr has also been released, as have youngsters Mads Timm, Eddie Johnson, Phil Picken, Tommy Lee and Mark Howard. Speculation continues to surround both 'Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo as AC Milan and Real Madrid track their moods and more importantly their relationship with Fergie respectively.

As any true Red will tell you, you can just never predict where the next twist in the road will lead Manchester Utd. How long will the Ferguson Reign continue? How long will the Glazier restructuring continue? But one thing is for certain with each passing development the club slip further and further away from its once imperious position and for now is no longer Manchester UNITED!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Emmet in Oz - Praying With Pagan’s

It has taken me a week to summon up the courage to write. I join at the end of the que. Every word and cliché has been used up ad nausium at this stage – ‘The holy grail’ ‘The Crusade’. I’m sure somebody somewhere has spat out ‘The D’Kidney Code’. The overriding two words in the papers seem to be ‘emotion’ and ‘relief’. Peter Bills wrote that no team in living memory had collapsed in such fashion onto the turf after battle. The truth is closer to the fact that there are no words to describe this Munster team. The only reason we’ve been able to write about them at all so far has been the pathos of the story that surrounded them.

The ink that formed the articles and chapters and play scripts leading up to last Sunday in Cardiff was squeezed out from the spaces between the lines; the spaces containing the real story - the rabid determination, the gut wrenching need, the silent hunger that only the really starving possess. Paul O Connell and Anthony Foley, or John Kelly or Shaun Payne for that matter, didn’t have the words to express these things. We just knew they were there because what else drive’s men in such fashion? And when the final whistle went, as the ball that left little Peter Stringer’s boot reached its maximum flight path, the kicker and his team mates were already on the ground. Pouring months and years of silent yearning into the holy turf of Cardiff.

That the game should have happened in a house built for a red team, and turned into a cathedral of red was only proper. As a young boy the Arms Park was the place that always caught my imagination. Lansdowne Rd was wet, windy and noisy until the inevitable glorious defeat set in and drunken spirits were drowned. Parc De Prance had its cockerels and bands, but was too fickle with its baying crowds and on/off stars. Twickenham had its chariots and at that time they were wont to run over us regularly, with Rodber and co the carthorses. Murrayfield too was far from a field of dreams in those days, and Rome wasn’t even on the map. In Cardiff however, there were dragons on flags and towering anthems. There was great joy backed by a great need. There was always something special about the Arms Park; it was a rugby ground true and true. That something special lingers in the Millennium Stadium. Thomond’s pilgrims travelled o’er the sea and spray last weekend and there are no words I, nor any, can write to describe it. Nor are there words that can describe not being there.

I watched the game on the red soil of Australia, Insideat Coelis Animo Sed Corpore Terris as my old school’s motto said: with my head in the clouds and my feet on the ground. What the old Roscrea lexicon left out was the heart in my hands bit. Western Australia is Aussie Rules country; it was pretty much simply mining country before the West Coast Eagles and The Fremantle Dockers came alive in recent times. God bless the Australian’s. They might be able to beat us at our national game, but they have no idea of what a Munster day means. It simply does not translate. Their sport is a pagan sport, a hothc potch of bastardised codes that jumps and trickles hither and thither and to and fro. Games of power and skill yes. But games of chance more so. There is no more beautiful and true thing in my mind that two rugby teams battling it out, muscle for muscle, but more importantly (Stringer being the glorious example) brain for brain. Hence my utter joy was coupled my utter despair shouting at a little tv in a house in Margaret River. In a beautiful wooded and gloriously beach laden corner of the world; misunderstood by bemused friends; my head in the clouds, feet on the ground, heart in my hands, but my soul and longing in Cardiff.

To the men of Munster I can only apologise that I wasn’t there. I’m sure you will forgive me, but I never will. At the whistle’s cry, and the heroes’ triumphant fall to torn turf, I shed a tear both for your win, and my own loss. European Champions..It will never be a cliché with those boys.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Savage Tom - The 16th Man

Am fed up listen to all this manure about that shower from Munster and their followers. Jaysus sure there was 60,000 of them rugby boyos over in the hell could it not spur the team on to victory. But ya cannot tell me that this was a 16th man, bollax to that. Its easy when you have hapes of fellas roaring you on. Can you go on and play after someone has shouted out so everyone at a match can hear – look at that windy bollox, he’s afraid to run through a field of daisies.

No no…

I’ll tell what a real 16th man is. I know because he plagues me when I trundle on to the pitch for a Junior D league match. He’s been plaguing me since u-10s. It’s that one oul fan who follows his team around everywhere, home games, away games, training sessions.

He's not always there to support, after thousands of miles travelled and hundreds of ham sandwiches eaten en route to games he has earned the right to criticise and curse the useless shower he supports whenever he feels like!!!

Sceal amhain - In the 40’s he once cycled from Ballivor to Croke Park with his friend – the Meath Goalie Paddy Dixon to Leinster Final Meath were playing in. (That’s right the Meath goalie had to cycle fecking 27 miles before the match, in the boots probably, tog out, screal a load of Dubs during the match, win, have a rake a pints and then cycle home. Them were men!) They arrived at Croker to find that the 16th man couldn’t get in. So he promptly turned the bike around, cycled to Blanchardstown to the only pub he knew had a telly and would show the match.

Every club has a sixteenth man, you know the sort, family holidays are planned are squeezed into the first two weeks in June as there is no league or championships games during the leaving cert. Although it you ask him he cant figure out why young fellas have gone so soft that they cant play and do the exams, sure didn’t the brothers always say to go out and kick a ball before ya did your lessons!!

He's the sort that is critical of all players equally, although never to the clubs one county players face..he is saving that for the big day out in Croker. Best of all you know he always has is own young fella, football skipped his generation and now is son plays every match like his life depends on it….and it does..cause he gets nothing but abuse for three days solid if he so much as puts a foot wrong. God help him if he drops a ball!!

The funny thing is that, this fella becomes an integral part of the club, people rely on him, there's a weight of expectation that he has knowledge and that he is needed as a mascot of sort to ensure the teams success.

He has legendary spakes – like the time one of my teammates in the auld Junior D went to the sideline for a mouthful of water, the sixteenth man shouted out to the water-bottle woman – “Don’t give him none of that water, he’s hasn’t done anything yet. He’ll get water when he wins a ball.” The crowd erupted in laughter. Mary, the water-bottle woman, didn’t know what to do and hesitated. The player did as well and then sheepishly turned and pretended to be interested in the ball at the other end of the pitch.

The 16th man is particularly prominent in the Junior D matches I’ve been playing so far. There isn’t a sinner on the sidelines – so his heckling isn’t drowned out any other supportive voices of the crowd.

He might cut you to the quick but you know it comes from his passion for the club.

You only have to look at him when you win a championship – he’ll be the drunkest man in the pub and he’ll be whispering in awed tones behind the rim of his pint about what a mighty player you are and how if you’d be on the county team if those bastards in Navan didn’t have the whole thing sewn up.

So a salute to the real 16th man.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Munster - A state of mind!

Bono once wrote a ballad called 'One', in it he speaks of how we all have "one life, one love, for each other, sisters, brothers, were not the same but we carry each other", now I don't know if Bono or any of the lads in U2 are Munster fans but I don't think anyone could have failed to been moved by the emotional outpouring that took place in Cardiff and across all of this lovely green isle during the last three days.

Im not going to try and sway you with my opinions on the match, nor will I try to out draft the many scribes who have covered and will cover this famous occasion but what I will try and due is explain what it was like to be there - to experience what I can only encapsulate as spiritual.

Despite the provincial origins of the team, the Munster team and its loyal band of followers has transcended these borders. Munster supporters come in all shapes and sizes, cut across all social strata, men women and children from every corner of Ireland have embraced the Munster mindset, many have direct links with the rugby capital of Ireland, some don't, but all are 'ONE' together as part of the immovable sea of red.

Sitting, standing, jumping, screaming, cursing in the stand in Cardiff as part of the red wave I was struck by a thought..What is it the appeals so much about Munster, the demi-god that is Paul O'Connell summed it up in one word - prevails throughout the team and its supporters. It has to be honesty..only honesty could allow perfect strangers to hug each other and cry with delight as the mighty men of Munster lifted the holiest of grails aloft and with it Irelands greatest ever sporting achievement.

The game almost seems lost to me now, the emotion of the occasion dominated, there will be plenty of time for refection in the days ahead. And then we partied..and oh how we partied - never has Cardiff seen a party like it and in all honesty probably will never see its like again. We didn't leave the stadium for a good hour!

I don't know if anything can ever top this - for now I must suffer the emotional hangover of all hangovers - safe in the knowledge..I am but 'One'

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Savage Tom

Savage Tom

An Smuigin would like to introduce the latest addition to the site. A personal friend of An Smuigin, he is a man of few talents, 4 cows, 2 hens and one dawg. He shoots from the dodgy hip that he injured when he made his fourth comeback in the Junior D championship last week and his views on life are well lets just say Ross O'Carroll Kelly fella would probably get a bit of a hiding if he ever showed his face down this neck of the woods. Yes folks, An Smuigin is proud to present…SAVAGE TOM…

Say hello Savage….

Well, aon scéal for me a chára. I am fierce delighted to be givin this opportunity. For too long those shower of feckers in the big smoke have been talking shite but the broadband has reached me and now I am going to use the interweb to tell ye tales that will make the hair stand up on your back, give ye updates on how the Championship is goin and maybe just maybe give ye an glimpse of the goings on in Savage Tom's social life!!......

Stay tuned!....

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

BIG BROTHER - The insanity of the mundane….

3 days left before Channel 4 and every tabloid newspaper in the western world becomes fixated with the latest set of housemates to be plucked from obscurity and descend upon the Big Brother house. Seven series started off as a niche reality show now seven horrible years later we have Big Brother's Little Brother and Big Brother's Big Mouth and this year latest addition Big Brother's Big Brain: a brand new live psychology show.

My first question while slightly naive is nonetheless relevant, how oh how can you possibly fill 3 shows talking about a show which films a house full of nobodies in real time!! But I appreciate that for some people the summer just wouldn’t be the summer without Big Brother and its house full of societies rejects/freaks and plain old weirdoes.

The Gods smiled down on me as I was travelling the first summer it was aired and as such never became one of the millions of captive audience. Captive is an apt word given the idea behind the show, and in theory I too find the concept interesting, however after 7 uneventful years (yes people shagging under a duvet is uneventful!!) surely today's producers need to take some drastic measure to transform this insanity from the mundane drivel it has become. And NO…the bloody tasks they are made complete are not in any way shape or form interesting.

So in an attempt to provide Channel 4's producers with some insight full suggestions An Smuigin has prepared some thoughts below and would also welcome some contributions…

Eviction -Quite simple approach, 2 nominees, one backgarden, one knife…fight to the death or at least until submission. Then we would see who really wants it most!

Tasks -
I really like the idea of challenging them with having to escape!!...Armed Guards with stun guns on duty..Anyone who successfully escapes gets a cash prize.

Diary Room -
Lie detectors mandatory, chair electrified. Then we will see who really likes who..false bastards!!

Sleeping Arrangements - What sleep..don't let them!!….no beds…lights always on…then watch the freaks come out to play…

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Keane Factor – A legacy of lasting impact!

Almost 70,000 fans packed Old Trafford to say goodbye to United legend Roy Keane. The Reds beat Celtic 1-0 in their former skipper's testimonial on an emotional night in Manchester. It was the perfect way to bid farewell to a man described by Sir Alex Ferguson as his 'best ever player'.

After the game, Keano admitted: "I'm grateful to both clubs, the players and of course the supporters. It surprised me how much I enjoyed it! Coming back finished things off nicely and it was a great occasion."

And with that it was over, Roy left to a standing ovation as every man, women and child stood up and applauded arguably Manchester United’s greatest player and Irish sports greatest export.

Strangely Keano’s reputation is greater in his adopted home then in his native land. There is certainly a generation of Irish soccer fans who were never and will never be able to forgive him for walking out in Saipan.

Personally, I have always stood behind him, I supported him in Saipan and I supported him in October when he tackled his Manchester teamates mediocre efforts. Whether in the grand scheme of things Roy was right or wrong when he walked out of the World Cup it was his actions during those crazy hours that have defined not only Roy as a man but is has defined his legacy to sport.

I could wax lyrical about the many many fantastic performances Keano put in for Ireland and Manchester Utd over the last decade but that would be doing him an injustice. Roy Keane is a winner, a competitor for whom winning is the only result that matters. None of us will ever know why exactly he did what he did in Saipan but I firmly believe that for Roy Keane to walk away from the World Cup he must have reached a breaking point that many of us don’t even possess.

As Alex Ferguson’s commander in chief during the last decade, the demands placed on Roy Keane to achieve were monumental, he in turn demanded perfection, and drove standards at the club to an all time high. For Ireland, this was always going to be a conflict, the shambolic operation that is the FAI were never going to be in a position to even come near matching Keane’s standards and as such it was always a matter of time how long the natural competitor would stand such mediocrity

By saying NO and walking away, Roy Keane screamed at Irish people to wake up and stop playing the content paddy. Why shouldn’t he demand the best from the players and from the Association in charge. Whether people like it or not this created a ‘Keane Factor’ which is evident today in teams across the whole spectrum of sport and across all ages. Players who are individual enough to know their own minds and brave enough to speak them have latched onto the gesture made in Saipan and as a result players and teams are pushing themselves further and higher to achieve success.

This is Roy Keane’s legacy.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Why I love been Irish...

Its one of the funny things about been Irish, we are required by our birth right to always look for the advantage over the ould enemy! For some reason or another, as an Irishman, I cant help it, you always support the team playing England whether it’s the All Blacks in rugby, Pakistan in Cricket or my personal favourite Sweden in soccer, no wonder everyone loves the craic mad IRISH.

Unfortunately in a cruel twist of fate we as a sporting nation seem destined to always fall short…our sporting achievements have never really gone beyond the dizzy heights of Italia 90 when Packie saved the penalty from the guy named after a shampoo.

But all is not lost…no no England will always have a role to play..and boy do we enjoy it…just got their provisional World Cup squad…I think it is fair to say we are safe for another four years!!!

Sven-Goran Eriksson's provisional squad for the World Cup finals in Germany:
Robinson (Tottenham) - solid keeper..but needs to stay away from the dodgy hotel food

James (Manchester City) - …ah calamity…I just hope Robinson gets injured and we can all watch the fun begin...

Green (Norwich) - Ah yes the only other English goalie in England..apart from sicknote

G Neville (Manchester United) - Good old Neveiller…..solid..but he cant cover for Rio all the time...

R Ferdinand (Manchester United) - Consistency in a world gone mad..ha ha ha ha ha

Terry (Chelsea) - Blood & Guts..but you watch his lack of pace will be exposed...A

Cole (Arsenal) - just back from injury..crap defensively

Campbell (Arsenal) - Whats the ditty about Humpty Dumpty….

Carragher (Liverpool) - Best centre half in England..but no chance of a game for the scouser

Bridge (Chelsea) - Totally useless..what is he doing there…maybe he walks Erikissons dogs or something..

Beckham (Real Madrid) - Im still waiting to see what the World Cup haircut will be..will either get sent off or miss a peno!!

Carrick (Tottenham) - Ah Jamie Redknapp reborn..the king of the sideways pass

Lampard (Chelsea) - Quality player..but knackered after a long two seasons

(Liverpool) - Quality player..but maybe one more dodgy backpass in him?

Hargreaves (Bayern Munich) - WHO? Watercarrier

Jenas (Tottenham) - View above

(Middlesbrough) - Untried but clearly about to be the darling of the McClaren era (all ten months of it)

J Cole (Chelsea) - ah the trickster..could be a star…but will be track back when it counts?

(Tottenham) - England better hope its not windy in Germany….

Rooney (Manchester United) - Still Englands best player even on one leg

Owen (Newcastle) - Whats he up to..its almost like he doenst want to go?

Crouch (Liverpool) - View Lennon..confirms that Niall Quinn was in fact skillfull

Walcott (Arsenal) - Thank you David Dein...

Friday, April 28, 2006


TV these days seems to be filled with cosmetic adverts, with fantastic looking women telling you how they are fighting the signs of ageing by simply applying this cream or that cream, then their 'husband' who happens to be a hunk of a man in his mid twenties walks by and couldn’t agree more.

Which got me to thinking..what are the signs of ageing, is the odd grey hair…or the defined wrinkle or two..or is it even the sporadic noises you start to make when bending down or getting up quickly from a chair…maybe its all of these..or simply a combination. But then it hit me…the real sign of ageing of anyone in the late twenties/thirties is drink related or more particularly the length and breath of hangovers we begin to suffer.

Now..I wasn’t the biggest drinker in ruiniversity but I was solid…the odd all day bender after a history tut at 10am was often followed up with a night of feverish devilment in Docs or Charlie Chaplains……saunter off home at 4.30am…curry chip in hand..maybe have a snack (crisps& chocolate biscuit sandwich) the box for an hour..then finally hit the hay at about 5.30/6am….up at around 10ish..not a bother on me maybe even go for a run!!...

These days that sort of behavior would more than likely require at least a day on the couch..desperatly trying to recuperate in time to make work on a Monday…im not quite sure when this kind of torture kicked in rather its been a quite build up catching me off guard. Nobody warns you about just happens…one day you wake up and going on the beer really means going on the shots…no whiskey…no vodka and red bull…oh you fall off the wagon of course..every now and then usually when you are surrounded with people younger than you, you are deceived into thinking that Frank the Tank is back and you can drink petrol out of a welly…but its not reality, the reality is that you cant drink for about two weeks after as a result. There is no cream to help with this…..that wrecked face staring back at you in the mirror is all your own doing…its your body saying hang on a minute mate……your not as young as you used to be..and if you drink any more of that purple stuff you will end up like your great gran uncle Frank by the time your 30!!!

Theses days…a good night out…is having a few beers and laughing at those who continue the proud Irish tradition of binge drinking…as you settle into your third chuckle hungover is the muppet going to be tomorrow…ah the youth of today!!!.....

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Emmet in Oz - THE MATCH

Im not even sure if this post will make it to ye. If it has to travel through the south Munster coast before reaching the rest of Ireland Id say even the computers will be hung over! What a win! How naive I was to feel nervous. The truth was that they just couldnt loose. They wouldnt go home if they did. Legends! Heroes! Tuatha De Dannan in waiting! Surely O Connell is up there with Boru and Cu Cullan. Not to mention Foley at the head of the table with Leamy and Wallace either side.
They tried to shake me over here. Bloody convicts, with an hour to kick off the power went out. Panic from Condon! Rang every bar that served Guinness in Western Australia. They were watching the Celtic game…. the lot of them. Not too many of Limerick's son's setteled this side of the Shannon it seems. 5 minutes to go the stars aligned. God bless the ESB!

Poor oul Leinster looked shocked when they ran out. Most of them weren't that lost in their own house since their 21st was gatecrashed by a bunch of Engineer's and Ag students from UCD.

Drico resorted to shaking his head by the end. When he'd seen Rob Henderson heading for the West stand before the game he presumed it was on the way to the burger van out the back not to the dressing rooms. If there ever was a man to fill a gap it was Hendo. Should he hang up his boots after this the Munster branch should keep him on and rent him out to beleagured farmers with fencing problems.

As for Felipe, the Argentine learned the hard way the real reason his ancestors on the Spanish Armada stayed off Kinsale - a Corkman has as much red blood running through his veins than any Latin Lord, and a Corkman scorned is a dangerous thing - the truth of Kinsale is probably that the Cork fella's wouldnt have the Spanish steal their thunder.

It's surely no coincidence that the final is in Cardiff. A stadium built for a Red Army. I'll still be nervous, but those Mighty Men will surely do it now..

Munster Abú

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ode to CHUCK.....

During a recent beering hour the conversation turned to who really was the greatest action hero of them all...the clear winner was always going to be THE honour of his greatest...I have prepared a the FACTS of Life...CHUCKS Life...all additions welcome...

Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets
the information he wants.

Filming on location for Walker: Texas Ranger, Chuck Norris brought
a stillborn baby lamb back to life by giving it a prolonged beard rub.
Shortly after the farm animal sprang back to life and a crowd had
gathered, Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked the animal, breaking its
neck, to remind the crew once more that the good Chuck giveth, and the
good Chuck, he taketh away.

Chuck Norris lost his virginity before his dad did.

There are no disabled people in the world. Only those people who have felt the wrath of Chuck Norris.

Since 1940, the year Chuck Norris was born, roundhouse kick related deaths have increased 13,000 percent.

Chuck Norris is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are
trademarked names for his left and right legs.

When Chuck Norris sends in his taxes, he sends blank forms and
includes only a picture of himself, crouched and ready to attack.

Crop circles are Chuck Norris's way of telling the world that sometimes corn needs to lie the fvck down.

There is no theory of evolution, just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.

When Chuck Norris goes to donate blood, he declines the syringe, and instead requests a hand gun and a bucket..

In an average living room there are 1,242 objects Chuck Norris could use to kill you, including the room itself.

Chuck Norris is the only man to ever defeat a brick wall in a game of tennis.

Chuck Norris is not lactose intolerant, he just refuses to put up with lactose's shit.

When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up, he's pushing the Earth down.

Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.

Chuck Norris sold his soul to the devil for his rugged good looks
and unparalleled martial arts ability. Shortly after the transaction
was finalized, Chuck roundhouse kicked the devil in the face and took
his soul back. The devil, who appreciates irony, couldn't stay mad and
admitted he should have seen it coming. They now play poker every
second Wednesday of the month.

Rather than being birthed like a normal child, Chuck Norris instead decided to punch his way out of his mother's womb. Shortly thereafter he grew a beard.

If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can't see Chuck Norris you may be only seconds away from death.

Chuck Norris can make a woman climax by simply pointing at her and saying "booya".

One day Chuck Norris looked in the mirror and said "No one outstares Chuck!" He is still there to this day.

Chuck Norris appeared in the "Street Fighter II" video game, but
was removed by Beta Testers because every button caused him to do a
roundhouse kick. When asked bout this "glitch," Norris replied,
That's no glitch."

The quickest way to a man's heart is with Chuck Norris's fist.

Those aren't credits that roll after Walker Texas Ranger, it is
actually a list of people that Chuck Norris round house kicked in the face that day.

Chuck Norris is 1/8th Cherokee. This has nothing to do with ancestry,
the man ate a f*cking Indian.

Monday, April 10, 2006



Some questions on Irish Ruiniversities to test your knowledge!!

Q. Why don't they have Christmas at DCU?
A. They can't find three wise men and a virgin.

Q. How can you tell if a Trinity student is heterosexual?
A. He can outrun his roommate!

Q. What do you get when you drive quickly through the Carlow campus?
A. An undergraduate degree.

Q. What's the first thing a BESS bird does when she wakes up in the morning?
A. Walks home.

Q. How do they separate the men from the boys at Trinity?
A. With a restraining order.

Q. What does a UCD student call a Trinity student after graduation?
A. Boss.

Q. Why do they sell so many button-fly jeans in Carlow?
A. Because the sheep can hear the zippers a mile away.

Q. Did you hear that the library at DIT Kevin Street burned down?
A. Naturally, the students were very upset....some of the books weren't coloured-in yet.

Q. Why do UCD graduates put a copy of their diploma in the window of their vehicles?
A. So they can park in handicap spaces.

Q. How do you get a IT grad off your front porch?
A. Pay him for the pizza.

Q. What do tornadoes and Arts graduates have in common?
A. They both end up in trailer parks.

Q. How many Athlone IT students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. None - Westmeath looks better in the dark.

Q. How many Trinity students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. One - he holds the bulb and the world revolves around him

Q. How many UCD students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Two - One to change the bulb and one more to explain how they did it every bit as well as any TCD student.

Q. How many NUI Maynooth students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Three - One to change it and two to figure out how to get high off the old one.

Q. If you see a DIT student on a bike, why should you never swerve to hit him?
A. It might be your bike.

Q. What do Science students use for birth control?

A. Their personalities.

Q: What do u call a LIT student in a suit?

A: The Defendant

Q:What do u call a UL graduate in a suit?
A: The LIT student's lawyer

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Emmet in Oz - Part 3

Tie Me Snake Chasing Saint down!

Well gang, greetings and salutatations on the eve of a day even greener than a hippy convention. I hope you all find the gold at the end of the rainbow, and get to watch Darby O Gill till the cow's come home.. begorrah!

All is grand here in Perth international school of sitting under a shady tree and contemplating the various and amazing workings of the human body while also hiding under a pair of sunnies and a hat least you be bludgeoned to death by a frenzied group of 18 year olds freaked out by the old guy in the class and simultaneously of course, wondering what the waves are like! Ah no Im only joking about the age bit, there's loads of oldies in my class and Im a good ways away from being the eldest Ewok, which is good indeed. (better than the news that the spuds hadn't rotted in the ground this season!) (being paddys day almost one should make an effort to relate things to irishness).

The course itself is super interesting, but who the hell spent the time to find out all this stuff, that's what I want to know!? I am also starting a petition from this email onwards to have God label the various parts of the anatomy and colour code them more clearly as well, it would make my life that much easier, and don't tell me he cant do it, if he can make cheerleaders and the Hoff's plastic face everything is possible!

So yes getting into the swing of things by this stage, Im still living down in Rocko (or 'The Nam' as it's affectionately know)(Rockingham..'the nam'..well done!) so for this week it's just me and the pup as Brian is off digging for gold, or at least fixing things that dig for gold, so every evening is very much a case of 'no Digby, don't eat that, or that, or that, or me!', he's a legend though I expect him to be the Don Juan of Staffies. Of course I imparted all the knowledge I have in such matters to him, namely 'make them laugh and lean', if it ever worked in Newcastle West it has a strong foundation in the animal world! (since it's paddys day I might arm him with the 'Got any Irish in ya?' line for the walk in the park tomorrow!

Besides lecturing dogs in the arts of 'The Love' im pretty much studying or at least trying to, the ol waves are a bit sparse at the moment due to the summerness, but the water is still a cosy 25 degrees or so which makes a good ol fashioned swim well worth the effort!

Anyways enough of my raving, I hope everyone is well, everyone here is expecting me to go ballistic's hard being the token Irish bloke!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Gin, Lip Gloss and Scrumaging Techniques

The game of rugby has always held a unique position in Irish society, the sport of the landed gentry, the escape route for the working classes and the dreams of the schoolboy. The game once described as a game for savages played by gentlemen has endeared itself to Irish men of all ages and all backgrounds, women have also been long associated with the game of rugby, the proud mother handing her son the Schools Cup probably the most endearing of all images.

However there is a new rugby supporter gracing the Irish rugby scene, one that is re-inventing the basic idea behind a Six Nations weekend and revolutionising supporter behaviour…the rugby mascot! You know the type..female, aged between 23 & 33, private school educated and single minded. They typically gather in a couple of establishments, The Berkely, Searsons, the 51 and of course The Burlington to name a few. Their methods are diverse, their tactics tried and trusted, their aim..always the same….Meet rich men..perferrably of the same social standing and of course of the bearers of considerable wallets!

Like flies to the honey we always fall for the allure of the pretty young things, collars up, long lasting make up on and strategically placed perfume…what rugby man stands a chance. But its not as quick a death as it sounds…the experienced mascot will tell you that it’s a labour of love and that a successful rugby day out comes after hours of groundwork. Firstly…we as men fight a little…three quick pints before the game…laughing at the mascots as they sip their white wines…'silly fairer sex…cant drink to save their lives'. Then with 15mins before kick off…the evacuation begins…men pour out of public houses from all directions…some mascots go also..but generally it’s the girlfriend/wife who is lucky enough to be given a ticket. The others remain…re-apply make-up….and move onto the gin….

80 mins later….an Irish victory that Willie Duggan himself would have been proud of and the slightly frozen men return to the warm embrace of the pub…buoyed by the Irish victory, a certain sense of invincibility flows through every mans veins after watching Jerry Flannery take the best abuse the Scots could muster, smiles and takes some more!! The next hour is crucial…men want to take about the game, who was good..who was bad..why aren't all the Munster team playing for Ireland!…the mascots must now begin to circle..they may be forced to join in the conversation..but with a couple of good rugby seasons behind them..they begin talking about 'how the Bull while an excellent lifter fails in the scrum'….we are done for…beauty…style…and an apparent knowledge of rugby…..what chance did we really stand!!!

As the evening progresses..they collars up small childs rugby jersey is replaced by a fantastic alluring 'going out' now the Mascots have not paid for a drink in about 3 hours..there is talk about grabbing something to eat..que bravado…and a four course meal in any number of restaurants….dosed by two maybe three bottles of wine. At this stage…the poor unfortunate men have reached the point of no return..friends are left to fend for themselves..some cant even remember if they brought their girlfriends/wifes to the game….no no…in for a penny in for a pound and if the mascots have anything to do with it that’s exactly where it will lead…

The end result is of course always the same..Leggs, Lillies, Reynards, 6 bottles of champagne….a couple of bottles of what the barman claims is white wine…shirts are ruined…wallets are empty…the chaps at this stage are now the hunters..waiting for any hint of a slow set to pounce…but then in an instant its over…like the Scottish pack the mascots disintegrate…home safe to the refuge of their manors in Blackrock, Clontarf and Ballsbridge…and the men..well…the Irish man does what he does times of depression…wanders off….finds a chicken burger and curry chips..and returns to base..broke..drunk and well and truly taken for a ride!