Monday 26 June 2017

A-Rod hits home run all the way to the bank

Here's a teaser. Last week, ESPN magazine published a list of the top-earning sportsmen in 182 countries (no women feature sadly), judged on their base annual salary for the most recently completed season or calendar year. Two athletes share top billing with the eye-popping haul of $32m (€21.5m): New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is one and kudos if you can name the second before the end of this piece.

Although, like any rich list, there's a certain amount of guesstimation involved, it's still a compelling exercise. Soccer features most with 114 entries, way ahead of second best basketball with 18. A whopping 36 of those play in England, including John O'Shea who tops the Irish charts with $6m (€4.6m). To put that into context, it's $1.7m (€1.1m) more than the Major-winning Graeme McDowell and more than Pádraig Harrington earned in his double Major winning season.

Also striking is the gap between east and west. It's interesting to note, for instance, that Pakistan's highest-earner is cricketer Shahid Afridi with $136,000 (€100,000), given that several of his colleagues became embroiled in match-fixing allegations.

And top marks if you guessed Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino destroyer fought twice in 2010 and still managed to beat all bar the Yankees slugger A-Rod. Nice work if you can get it.

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THE death of Sadler's Wells last week prompted the Racing Post to run a poll which asked its readers to name their favourite runner by the famous sire.

It's not an easy question to ask, or answer, when you consider that the son of Northern Dancer numbered Derby winners Galileo and High Chaparral among his progeny, not to mention the likes of Old Vic, Montjeu, Salsabil, Barathea, Opera House, Yeats and Kayf Tara.

The result says a lot for the longer-term appeal of National Hunt runners which are seen season after season, because all those great Flat performers were eclipsed by triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq.

The gelding was selected by 33 per cent of those who took part in the poll as their favourite, ahead of Yeats (20 per cent), Galileo (15 per cent), Montjeu (10 per cent) and High Chaparral (6 per cent).

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WE Irish always like to hear what other people think about us, so it is interesting to note a recent article in Slate, an American online magazine, which took a look at hurling under the heading 'The Craziest Men In Sports'.

In the piece, hurling is described as "a sport famous for its speed and the bravery (or lunacy) of its participants". It paints a scene where "your opponents are waving these same axe-like cudgels . . ."

Goalkeepers come in for close attention, particularly the growing trend of removing some of the bars from the faceguard in an apparent trade-off between safety and vision. The GAA's helmets rule states: 'In all Hurling Games and Hurling Practice Sessions, it is mandatory for all players to wear a helmet with a facial guard'. However, there doesn't seem to be any rule to stop a hurler from modifying his helmet.

As Loren Berlin, the article's author, states: "It's ironic that the players most vulnerable to injury are the ones resistant to provisions designed to ensure safety. These are hurlers, though, and they've survived in the game because of their high tolerance for risk."

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Louth midfielder Paddy Keenan deserves credit for his gallant effort to speak Irish when he was accepting the cup after the Division 3 National League final last weekend.

In fairness to Keenan, he didn't give up easy. He made several commendable attempts to get some words out before reverting back to English. It reminded us of Fulham boss Mark Hughes trying three times to kick the water bottle on the sideline earlier the same day, so close yet so impossibly funny.

Incidentally, last Sunday's live coverage of the Division 1 and 2 finals achieved the highest audience ratings yet this year for the channel at 307,000 viewers, meaning that one in three people watching television in Ireland on Easter Sunday afternoon were watching the Division 1 final.

John O'Brien, Fergus

McDonnell, Marie Crowe

ssport@independent.ie

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