Monday 19 February 2018

From the stands: Ball boys leave rivals playing catch-up

Fergus McDonnell and Seán Ryan

As RTE continue to struggle with the basics (last week they suggested that Manchester City play at Old Trafford and had Giovanni Trapattoni announcing his squad for a friendly against Greece), From the Stands is unable to understand why they have made no attempt to bring the finest sports show in Britain or Ireland to the station.

Off The Ball not only avoids all the pitfalls of laddish banter and joshing that nearly every other sports programme or podcast falls into and is the only Newstalk show which regularly beats RTE in its timeslot.

Presumably, Newstalk are also aware of its excellence and should be praised for allowing it to prosper. They have encouraged the development of some of the finest broadcasters on these islands and they must realise its importance to the vibrancy of the station.

It would seem obvious for RTE to make a move for a programme that scores highly in the ratings and, as importantly, does so with wit and erudition and an understanding of sport's importance.

Actually, when it's put like that, it's easy to see why they haven't.

* * * * *

PADDY MULLIGAN, the former Chelsea, West Brom and Republic of Ireland defender, believes that the rotation system used by clubs nowadays has "gone beyond the beyond. Players are on better diets and are supposed to be fitter than ever, so what's their problem?" he asks.

He instanced a week in September 1976, while playing at West Brom, as a contrast: "We played Liverpool away in the League Cup on a Tuesday, QPR away on the Saturday, Liverpool at home in a replay on the Monday, down to London and played for Ireland against England at Wembley (drew 1-1), and played at Birmingham on the Saturday. Our biggest worry was that we might get injured and miss a match. We loved all that playing, because it meant damn all training!"

Five games in 13 days – it seems men were really men in those not-so-old days.

* * * * *

MISBEHAVING journalists. Who'd have thought there could be such a thing?

Well, apparently there were plenty of them from Russia at the Olympic Games in London last year, so much so that they may be asked to sign a code of ethics before being granted accreditation for next year's Winter Olympics, which will be held at Sochi in their own country.

The IOC have appointed Russian press agency RIA Novosti as host agency for the games and they will be sending a team of 240 journalists to cover the events – that's 40 more than Chinese state agency Xinhua sent to Beijing 2008, and 100 more than Britain's Press Association had at London last year.

And as the build-up to the Games gathers pace, it has also been reported that the IOC has asked the Russian government to restore "winter time" to assist in TV coverage of Sochi 2014. The practice of putting back the clocks was discontinued in Russia in 2011.

If you fancy making the trip to Russia, the cheapest tickets will cost $33 while the dearest, at $1,320, will be for the men's ice hockey final.

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JOHN GILL, recently appointed boss of Malahide United, may be the only manager with a UEFA Pro Licence in the Leinster Senior League, but there will be many familiar faces from his League of Ireland days in the opposing dug-outs.

Des and Richie Baker (ex-Shels, Shamrock Rovers) are at Edenderry; Marc Kenny (ex-Hoops) is at Phoenix; Liam Kelly (ex-Pat's and Hoops) is in charge of Glebe North; Andy Noonan (ex-UCD) at Bluebell United; James Keddy (ex-Hoops and Derry) is at Mount Merrion.

It seems as though the LSL is a proving ground for future managers. Gill, who took both Dublin City and Dundalk to promotion from the First Division, takes over from Vinny Perth, who has joined Stephen Kenny at Dundalk.

Malahide, whose excellent facilities are regularly used by the Irish team, also have a first-class youth set-up, being current All-Ireland under 16 champions, managed by former Kilkenny City player Kevin Craven.

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