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. . . And the award goes to . . .

AWARDS are usually dished out in December, not February. But these are desperate times and Curve Ball is determined to do its bit to kick-start the economy. So without further ado . . .

The 'Kick Bishop Brennan Up The Arse' (Allegedly) Award . . . goes to Jerry Flannery. Of course it was daft and potentially dangerous, not to mention very costly. But you've got to laugh. As agricultural tackles go, this was top of the manure heap. The late, lamented Fr Ted, looking down on us from that great big sacristy in the sky, would surely approve.

The 'Understatement Of The Week' Award . . . goes to those various pundits who, through green-tinted glasses, suggested that the bould Jerry had merely been guilty of a slightly late and mistimed tackle.

The 'It's Like A Golf But Not A Golf' Award . . . goes to Andy Powell, who was obviously up all Saturday night watching the new Volkswagen Golf ad, then left his hotel bedroom craving said vehicle only to mistakenly hop into a golf buggy instead. And drive it to a motorway service station. Clearly, the now-former Welsh rugby international was still intoxicated by the excitement of their dramatic victory over Scotland the previous afternoon. Or something like that.

The 'Penalty Points' Award . . . does not, surprisingly, go to Andy Powell. Instead, the entire Tottenham squad will share this dubious bauble for their pathetic failure to (a) convert penalties from 12 short yards and (b) even practice said penalties as part of their lavishly reimbursed employment.

The 'Incurable Optimist Award . . . goes to the Irish Nation. Just because we rarely, if ever, win in Paris was obviously no impediment to the headlong rush of headstrong rugby writers and former players, all adamant that Ireland would beat the French. On RTé Radio shortly before kick-off there was a veritable stampede of Irish experts tipping Les Verts. To which we can only say: thank God for that grumpy iconoclast called George Hook.

The 'George Lee Hissy Fit' Award . . . goes to the Tyrone county board as it contemplates telling the likes of Setanta, TG4 and RTé that their cameras aren't welcome in Healy Park.

The 'Let's Keep This Low-Key' Award . . . goes to the Limerick county board for switching this Sunday's NHL opener from the Gaelic Grounds to Kilmallock.

They had the perfect excuse -- that Portlaoise/Kilmurry club semi-final -- and can now expect a suitably small crowd, mostly comprising GAA 'war' correspondents, as Justin McCarthy's young guns get ready to receive the Jerry Flannery treatment from Galway.