Thursday 14 December 2017

France should tell them to haka off

Eamonn Sweeney and Fergus McDonnell

The fine imposed by the International Rugby Board on France for walking towards the All Blacks as they performed the haka before the World Cup final may very well be the stupidest sporting penalty ever imposed.

It's bad enough that the New Zealanders are allowed to indulge in a prolonged ritual of psyching out the opposition before every game but now it appears that other teams are prohibited by the rugby authorities from making any response at all.

Instead, they have to just stand there like Queen Elizabeth admiring the tribal dance laid on at the airport by the local version of Macnas during one of her commonwealth visits.

The haka got tedious long ago but if it means so much to the All Blacks by all means let it continue. What's not acceptable is circumscribing the reaction of other teams to something which has far more to do with pre-match intimidation than celebrating Maori culture.

Perhaps, given that the IRB's reason for preventing anyone repeating Willie Anderson's famous challenge to the haka is the fear of an aggressive reaction from the All Blacks, other teams should simply stand in a huddle at the other end of the field and turn their backs on the whole silly spectacle.

France must be feeling bad enough about being robbed of World Cup final victory by referee Craig Joubert without having to endure this additional tawdry insult.

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Tommy Conlon's excellent work with Ronnie Whelan on the former Liverpool star's autobiography, Walk On: My Life in Red, has been recognised with a nomination in the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2011.

Whelan enjoyed a thrilling career with Liverpool and Ireland as both club and country enjoyed their finest days and the book takes you right inside the dressing room to share in the triumph and the tragedy of football at the highest level.

The full list of nominations for Irish Sports Book of the Year are:

My Autobiography by AP McCoy (Orion)

Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage (Simon & Schuster)

Walk On: My Life in Red by Ronnie Whelan and Tommy Conlon (Simon & Schuster)

A Parish Far from Home by Philip O'Connor (Gill & Macmillan)

Joking Apart: My Autobiography by Donncha O'Callaghan (Transworld Ireland)

Inside the Peloton by Nicolas Roche (Transworld Ireland)

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DAMIEN RICHARDSON was taught a hard lesson by a decision he faced in the run-up to the 1998 FAI Cup final, as recorded by Seán Ryan in The Official Book of the FAI Cup (Liberties Press, €19.99), which will be launched on Wednesday.

Shelbourne boss Richardson was preparing for the final League game of the season -- away to Dundalk -- and needing only a draw to win the title, when the FAI Disciplinary Committee dropped a bombshell.

"Five days before the Dundalk game, they told us that Pat Fenlon and Dessie Baker were suspended," he recalled. "We kicked up because we were supposed to be given two weeks' notice, and they backed down to the extent that they gave us the option of deciding which game -- the Dundalk game or the Cup final the following week -- the players would play in.

"I spoke to both players and decided to keep them for the Cup final, which turned out to be the wrong decision. We were beaten 2-1 in Dundalk and lost the Cup after a replay. It's a decision I regret, as the next game should always be the most important game."

It was Shelbourne's misfortune to lose out on the final day of all three major competitions that season -- League, FAI Cup and League Cup.

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