Sunday 22 October 2017

From the Stands: Hawks claw back the Cup and a city

Eamonn Sweeney, Seán Ryan and Damian Lawlor

Not to be outdone by perhaps the most spectacular NBA finals series in history, ice hockey's Stanley Cup produced its own very special finale on Monday night last. With just a minute and 16 seconds left in the sixth game of the play-offs, the Boston Bruins led the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 and were poised to send the series into a winner-takes-all seventh game.

That was when Bryan Bickell of the Blackhawks hit an equaliser before, 17 seconds later, his fellow Canadian and former team-mate at the euphoniously named Rockford Icehogs Dave Bolland pounced for a dramatic winner.

It was a second Stanley Cup victory for the Chicago side who not that long ago were a by-word for total underachievement, being named by ESPN in 2004 as the worst major league sports franchise. When they won the Cup in 2010, the 49-year gap since their last win was the second longest gap in ice hockey history. But the Hawks, once a subject of derision even in their own city, are now the best supported team in the sport.

If you think of ice hockey as just another one of those sports played only by Americans, think again. The final included players from the US, Canada, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Russia and Germany. And perhaps some enterprising genealogist might set to work digging up the hibernian connections of Chicago's MVP Patrick Kane, his team-mate Nick Leddy and Chris Kelly, Shawn Thornton and Adam McQuaid of the Bruins. They're surely as Irish as Barack Obama.

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THE end-of-year statistics issued by the English League Managers' Association offer plenty of food for thought for aspiring managers – and footballers.

For instance, the Premier League was once again the most stable, with eight managers sacked, just up from six the previous season. However, the Championship was a minefield, with 13 sackings and six resignations. Even allowing for Blackburn's three managers and Wolves' two, that was an awful lot of turbulence.

In the average tenure of sacked managers, the Premier League also led the way – 2.81 years – while the Championship's volatility meant sacked managers averaged a mere 1.04 years in office. The total of 43 sackings in the English Leagues was the highest in six years, while the combination of sackings and resignations, 63, resulted in the biggest number of changes in 11 years.

None of this is good news for players who need a stable environment to produce their best, as Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton players enjoyed under Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes.

For managers, it's not all doom and gloom, as the average length of time before a sacked manager gets another job is only 1.63 years.

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WHEN it comes to winning the League of Ireland, it's not just the league games that count – but the ancillaries that crop up during the season, like the FAI Cup, the League Cup and European football.

Last year, St Patrick's Athletic made a bold bid for the title, but were undone by their success in Europe. They played six games in the Europa League and, during that time, they dropped five points that would have made a big difference to their hopes. Defeat at home to Drogheda and a draw away to UCD were results that owed as much to Pat's European travels as anything. In the end, they lost to Sligo by six points.

This week they go into European action in pole position to win their first title since 1999. Somehow, one can't help feeling that Lithuania's league leaders Zalgiris would boost Pat's title hopes if they eliminated them from the Europa League.

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The Thurles Sarsfields International Hurling Festival takes place on July 12/13 and will act as the focal point of 'The Gathering, 2013' in Thurles. All Thurles people have been invited home for this annual festival of hurling which is centred on competitions for the Tom Semple and Carew Cups.

The festival will also include road bowling, wheelchair hurling, camogie, Camán Abú and other events. So far, a large party from Indianapolis, Illinois, are spending a week in the area to take part. A group from London's Kilburn Gaels will also compete, as will Fulham Irish, who will join clubs from Europe and Ireland.

ssport@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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