From the stands: Inter still driven by memory of Toomas
There was a big shock in Irish basketball on Friday when Dublin Inter dramatically defeated Bord Gáis Neptune in the Men's National Cup semi-final. But it was a bittersweet occasion for the winning side.
Toomas Ilves, who in many ways has been the club's heart and soul, passed away suddenly last summer while doing what he loved best, coaching basketball. Ilves had been the side's manager before his untimely passing.
But more than that, he was the driving force in the club, getting it off the ground and pushing its development. Dublin Inter is a multi-cultural team with players from Ireland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and the Philippines. After Friday night's game many of the key players paid tribute to Ilves and spoke about how he had inspired them to victory.
The game was level with just a minute and half remaining but a massive three-pointer from Mazvydas Cepliasuskas put Inter ahead. They added a free throw point in the dying moments to seal a 65-61 victory. Inter will play Demons in the final in two weeks.
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Hundreds of eager sports clubs all over the country are waiting for the green light to go ahead with their application for a grant under the new sports capital programme.
Sports Minister Michael Ring confirmed before Christmas that €40m will be made available to fund eligible developments and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will begin accepting applications from this Friday, right through until February 28.
In a departure from previous years, applications will only be accepted online and in order to do so clubs must also be registered online. For this, they will need a Tax Clearance Cert from Revenue or, alternatively, a Tax Reference Number (TRN). The last date to register on the system is February 7. The Department reminds clubs that if they fail to register in time, they will not be able to apply for a grant.
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As Gaelic games evolve on the field with new rules and ever-changing tactics, off the field the sport is evolving too. Backroom teams, like those with Clare hurlers and Dublin footballers, are expanding as managers strive to win titles.
Emerging from this trend is a demand for strength and conditioning coaches. Each team and manager wants the best in the business and serious expectations are put on those who fill that role. This new demand has given rise to the formation of the Irish Sport Coaches Institute. Some of Ireland's top sports and exercise coaches, including Kildare's coach Barry Solan, Martin Kennedy of the Dublin footballers and Adam Speer who looks after Donegal, have joined forces to provide world-class information and standards of training across not just Gaelic games but all sports.
In March, they will have their first seminar which will see world-renowned coach Mike Boyle from the USA run a one-day event. There is no bigger name in the business than Boyle -- who has worked with the Boston Bruins and Red Sox -- and that is the standard the ISCI have set.
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Telling senior Gaelic footballers to wear gumshields for 70 minutes and thinking that they will comply is a pretty big expectation. Of course all of them will try because the new rule introduced at the start of the year states that they are mandatory. But as seen in the first batch of pre-season competitions, many will fail.
In some cases the gumshields were stashed behind ears, others put in their socks, down their shorts and even tucked into their under armour.
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As online activity increases year on year, action pictures from matches are no longer reserved for sports pages in newspapers. Instead they can now be viewed on sports and media websites instantaneously.
Sports photography agencies like Sportsfile have replaced newspapers as the first port of call for people looking to buy prints. The number of calls to the offices of Sportsfile are on the rise so to make life easier for staff and customers, Ray McManus, owner of the business, bought the domain name, lookitupyourself.com. This directs people straight to the Sportsfile website where all their pictures can be viewed and purchased.