Category Archives: Sports

Nadal Slams Djokovic!

Rafa wins US Open Title at Flushing Meadows, NY

Last night World No.1 Rafael Nadal became the seventh man to complete a career Grand Slam, and the youngest to accomplish the feat in the Open Era, when he defeated World No. 2 Novak Djokovic in the US Open Final at Flushing Meadows. Nadal, the reigning Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion, became the first player to win three straight Grand Slam tournaments in the same season since Rod Laver won all four in 1969.

Nadal joins a list of tennis legends who have accomplished a career Grand Slam: Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer.

Laver, Agassi, Federer and Nadal’s triumphs come in the Open Era, which began in 1968 when the Grand Slam tournaments allowed professional players to compete.

If Nadal wins in Melbourne next January, he will become the first player since Laver to hold all Slam titles at the same time. With the kind of form he’s showing at the moment, coupled with the fact that the Fed Express is on the decline, who’s going to bet against that happening?

Republic of Ireland 3, Andorra 1

Image courtesy of RTE

It has been at least twenty years since I’ve been to a soccer game. I’ve attended GAA games in Croke Park, Major League Baseball in Dallas, but not a soccer game. I’ve become lazy in this world of wall-to-wall televised sports. I’ll watch anything with a ball in it, my mother says, even cricket.

I love cricket!

The Aviva Stadium at night. I took this photo.

So it was with a huge degree of excitement and optimism that the Good Lady and I got tickets to see the Republic of Ireland team take on the minnows of Andorra in the first competitive match at the new Aviva Stadium at Lansdowne Road.

And what a marvellous new stadium it is, too. Every seat is afforded a perfect view of the pitch. The open-plan roof provides cover from the elements; but the rain decided to give itself the night off – thank God.

As for the game, it was very enjoyable; fast-paced, with plenty of goal mouth action. Ireland scored three goals, courtesy of Kevins Kilbane and Doyle and skipper Robbie Keane. The downside was the Andorra goal in the dying moments of the first half. But you can’t have everything.

Ray and me.There was the added bonus of a fan photo with the legendary ex-Liverpool, Aston Villa and Republic of Ireland midfielder Ray Houghton. He put the ball in the net against England in Stuttgart in 1988 (our first ever victory over the traditional enemy) and against Italy in USA 1994. Ray happily posed for photos before heading off to his media duties.

Results on the night see Ireland top Group B with Slovakia (who beat Russia, the top seeds in the group, 1-0). Armenia and Macedonia played out a 2-2 draw. Already I’m looking forward to our next home game, against the Russians on 8 October.

Tipperary v Kilkenny: The 2010 All-Ireland Hurling Final By Numbers

81,765 – the attendance at Croke Park for the final. A few seats short of a full house.

8 – points margin by which Tipperary beat Kilkenny. Tipp scored 4 goals and 17 points (29), Kilkenny scored one goal and 18 points (21).

Tipperary Hurling Crest

21 – the number of games Kilkenny played unbeaten in the All-Ireland series.

5 – in-a-row: what Kilkenny were aiming for; an unprecedented number of titles, never before achieved.

9 – the number of years since Tipperary won their last All-Ireland title (2001 against Galway).

Kilkenny Hurling Crest

58 – the number of All-Ireland titles shared by Tipperary (26) and Kilkenny (32).

40 – the amount of money (in euro) my boss had on Lar Corbett to score the first goal at odds of 13/2. Corbett duly obliged.

3 – the number of goals Corbett scored in today’s final.

12 – the number of minutes Henry Sheflin (Kilkenny) lasted on the field before coming off injured.

13 – the number of bar staff working today in Meagher’s for the final. (Yours truly was one of them.)

8 – months before it starts all over again.

Armenia v Republic of Ireland

The Boys in Green are on their way. The road to qualification for Euro 2012 has begun in the best possible way – with a 1-o victory away to Armenia.

Conditions weren’t ideal. The heat was intense in the Yerevan Republican Stadium but Birmingham City midfielder Keith Fahey came off the bench to smash the call past Roman Berezovsky to snatch victory.

Birmingham City and Republic of Ireland's Keith Fahey

No-one will have been more delighted than captain Keane, who passed up a glorious early chance, had a goal ruled out for offside and then hit the post on a night when things did not go for him in the final third.

However, there was as much relief as pleasure as he and his team-mates left the pitch having been put to the test by their hosts.

Keane wasn’t at his best, it must be said. He missed chances he would have buried on any other day. Once again he’s unsettled at his current club, Tottenham Hotspur. The all-time leading scorer for the Irish team finds that he has to fight for his place in the starting XI. The transfer deadline has come and gone and now Keane has to knuckle down and hope Harry Redknapp, the Spurs manager, finds it in his heart to include Keane in his team.

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni

Another Irish player who’s at odds with his club, Manchester City goalkeeper Shay Given, had little work to do during the game. Armenia gave as good as they got and although Given had few saves to make which genuinely taxed him, the home side were quick, direct and technically gifted and were certainly no push-over.

No doubt “Il Trap” – Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni – will be very happy with the result, though. His side head into Tuesday’s home game in Dublin against the minnows of Group B, Andorra, knowing a perfect start would set the up very nicely for what lies ahead.

Euro 2012 – Come On, Ye Boys in Green!

The Official Logo for Euro 2012

The last time the Republic of Ireland’s soccer team kicked a ball in anger during a competitive fixture (as opposed to a ‘friendly’, that is), it was that tragic night in Paris last November, when Thierry Henry’s illegal handball gifted France a 1-1 draw, thus denying Ireland a place in this year’s FIFA World Cup.

France’s resulting failure in that tournament went a long way to salving Irish wounds.

But now it’s time to do it all over again. Euro 2012 is hosted by Ukraine and Poland. 51 teams have been drawn into nine groups: six groups of six countries, three groups of five. The team that finishes top of their group qualifies for the finals automatically. The highest placed runner-up also qualifies. The rest of the second-placed teams (eight altogether) go into a home and away play-off draw, with the resulting winners qualifying for the tournament. Poland and Ukraine qualify as host countries.

In total, 16 countries will play in the finals themselves.

The Republic of Ireland team have been drawn in Group B; alongside Russia, Slovakia, Andorra, Armenia and FYR Macedonia.

These are the fixtures: (A = away game, H = home game at Lansdowne Road)

Armenia (A) Friday, 3 September, 2010

Andorra (H) Tuesday, 7 September, 2010

Russia (H) Friday, 8 October, 2010

Slovakia (A) Tuesday, 12 October, 2010

Macedonia (H) Saturday, 26 March, 2011

Macedonia (A) Saturday, 4 June, 2011

Slovakia (H) Friday, 2 September, 2011

Russia (A), Tuesday, 6 September, 2011

Andorra (A) Friday, 7 October, 2011

Armenia (H) Tuesday, 11 October, 2011

The blond in the middle is the captain, Robbie Keane.

It’s Just Not Cricket!

Have you ever watched a sports event and wondered if what’s happening on the pitch or field is all down to the players and elements of chance?

Have you ever thought that someone down there knows more than they should or has an unfair advantage over their opponents?

Another question to ponder: Is the sportsman/woman in it for the glory of their team or are there more sinister motives abound.

Cheating occurs in all falls of life; in relationships, in work, at home, and in sport. There is money to be made if you play professional sport – loads of money. Just ask Tiger Woods, Brett Favre and any Barclays Premier League footballer.

But what if you decide that you can earn more money by fixing a result or manipulating events on the field? I’m not just talking about doping; I’m saying that businessmen all over the world, particularly in the Far East, use middlemen to approach sports stars, tempting them with vast sums of money if they influence a game.

The British Sunday tabloid, News of the World, is an expert in setting up such stars. You could call it entrapment, but it highlights the greed of some of the world’s biggest stars. Former world snooker champion John Higgins is suspended indefinitely from the sport because he stands accused of “throwing” frames during a tournament.

Yesterday, the tabloid released a video of one such middleman accepting a substantial sum of money, saying he could guarantee when a “no ball” would be delivered during the Fourth Test between England and Pakistan. Events, innocuous in and of themselves, occurred as planned, thereby highlighting the case that if small things like that could be fixed, the overall match result could be in doubt.

The man was arrested (he is currently on bail); England won the game and the series; but the result is tarnished.

This game – any game – becomes pointless to watch if players fall foul to betting scandals and match-fixing allegations. Cricket has been “knocked for six”.

Aardvarkian FC

I can’t remember the last time I played Fantasy Football. I think it was well before the advent of the Interwebs, and I also think it cost me money – the price of a very expensive phone call. Now, with online gaming, I can take part for free. Free is a good price. I’ll do anything for free (but I won’t do that).

The English Premier League is running a competition where prizes can be won every week and month. Details can be found here.

For further advice on how to select your team, check out Tim Liew’s blog – it’s jam-packed with useful information. But you have to know what you’re doing. There’s a lot of pride at stake.

In a nutshell, here’s what Fantasy Football is all about. The “manager” is given a budget to spend on football players. In this instance, my budget is £100m and I’m to spend it on 15 individual players. There are conditions, though: I have to pick two goalkeepers, five defenders, five mid-fielders and three forwards (these are the guys who, theoretically, bang in the goals). I am allowed to pick no more than three players from any one club, I can’t pick players out of their position (I can’t, let’s say, pick a goalkeeper for a forward position), and I can’t go over-budget. With this in mind, I went and picked my team. They are:

  • Paul Robinson (Blackburn Rovers) Goalkeeper
  • Jose Reina (Liverpool) Goalkeeper
  • John Terry (Chelsea) Defender
  • Johnny Evans (Manchester United) Defender
  • Armand Traore (Arsenal) Defender
  • Stephen Carr (Birmingham City & Republic of Ireland) Defender
  • Richard Dunne (Aston Villa & Republic of Ireland) Defender
  • Darren Fletcher (Manchester United) Midfield
  • Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) Midfield
  • Steed Malbranque (Sunderland) Midfield
  • Adam Johnson (Manchester City) Midfield
  • Maxi Rodriguez (Liverpool) Midfield
  • Robbie Keane (Spurs & Republic of Ireland) Forward
  • Carlos Tevez (Manchester City) Forward
  • Bobby Zamora (Fulham) Forward.

I can play 11 of the 15 in any match, as long as I use a 4-4-2 formation (four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards – plus one goalkeeper). If your player scores a goal, you get points; if he keeps a clean sheet (no goals scored against him), you get points, too. If he assists in a goal, bingo – you get awarded points for that, as well. Hell, if he even plays a game, he’s awarded a point. Points are deducted when goals are scored against him or if he’s booked or sent off.

There are other ways to get points, but these are the basic ways. I have called my team Aardvarkian FC and I’ll be giving them a pep-talk soon.

The Premier League kicks off this weekend. Chelsea are the reigning champions; but my beloved Manchester United will do all in their power to get that trophy back. Let the battle commence. Come on you Reds! Come on you Aardvarkians!