Friday 26 May 2017

Down can follow Tipp in defying conventional wisdom

Sean Diffley

In the realms of that higher science, the supposedly arcane world of forecasting the outcome of sporting contests, this column is riding high in hurling.

We added two and two, applying higher and lower mathematics, noted that Horse and Jockey is still on the road to Thurles, recalled that esoteric time when Babs Keating won an All-Ireland playing in his bare feet, contemplated the influence of the genes around Knocknagow, dismissed the desperate pleas from the roses of Mooncoin and came up with the correct solution -- Tipp to win the All-Ireland.

No, of course not, I don't expect a Nobel Prize for outstanding physics, though I notice in passing that one Zhores I Alferov of Russia did get a Nobel award for "the development of fast semi-conductors for use in microelectronics". This is something a bit less on the Richter scale, though, than rightly forecasting that Kilkenny wouldn't win the five-in-a-row.

But what about tomorrow in Croker? My gut feeling, which is an area a bit less than scientific, is that Down will win and the inhabitants of that county will rejoice that after a few short years the Sam Maguire will again return to the United Kingdom.

Switching to a different branch of maths, the Republic of Ireland, or Trap's Troops as they are known to the top echelon of the FAI, have moved up to 33rd place in FIFA's world rankings, thanks to successes against Armenia and Andorra.

France, who were seventh a few months ago, have now slumped to 27th. Slovakia, who surprised Russia recently in Moscow, have climbed to 16th, while the Russians have been deposited down to 25th.

The top-notchers are Spain, Holland and Germany, with Brazil fourth and England in sixth. Overall, I don't believe this rankings affair means a lot.

The International Rugby Board also has its rankings system. At the end of last year they had South Africa leading the All Blacks and Ireland were ranked fourth behind Australia and just ahead of France. The latest rankings are very different, with South Africa now down in the dumps and New Zealand clearly on top.

The IRB world rankings have been in existence since 2003. The system emanating from IRB offices every now and then is calculated using what they call a 'points exchange system' in which the various countries take points off each other based on the result of the match between them and the margins of victory and defeat. The relative strength of the teams and home advantage is also taken into consideration. It's not really scientific is it?

There are so many issues that are not covered in the basic match results determining the ranking. The type of weather conditions, for instance.

Or say, Ireland takes the field without Brian 0'Driscoll and Jonathan Sexton or Ronan O'Gara. That is not taken into consideration in the rankings, or if it is, could somebody in the IRB explain to us loo lahs.

Anyway, do international rankings matter? Unscientific, like playing in your bare feet.

Irish Independent

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