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.