Friday 19 January 2018

From the stands: Net gains for Irish forward exports

THE popular perception has been that while Ireland produces a plentiful supply of quality full-backs, centre-backs and midfielders, we don't produce many goalscorers. For that reason, the football results pages last week made strange reading.

In four of the top seven leagues in England and Scotland, Irish players featured as the leading scorers. In League One, former Longford Town star David Mooney (Leyton Orient) led the way; in League Two, former under 21 star Rhys Murphy (Dag and Red) was top, while in Scotland, the SPL's top marksman was the North's Billy McKay (Inverness), and Dubliner Jonathan Daly (Rangers) was best in League One.

Meanwhile, in the MLS, Robbie Keane finished fourth top scorer and leader in assists. The latter stat will surprise many of his critics, who mistake his singlemindedness in front of goal for selfishness.

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SOMEONE once remarked, in a cricket context, that if he told his wife he was going out to watch a match and didn't come back for five days . . . well, he needn't come back at all.

Rugby hasn't reached that level yet, but the way things are going, watching a game is becoming an increasingly drawn-out experience. The scrum is the main problem. Seemingly endless resets for reasons that are not immediately apparent are in danger of turning people off.

But the opening Autumn Series match against Samoa took the biscuit when it came to lengthy preliminaries. There was a minute's silence to honour Papali'itele Peter Fatialofa and this was perfectly correct, but we also had the Presidential salute, and his introduction to the players, the Samoan national anthem, the Irish national anthem, Ireland's Call and the Haka.

It went on for so long it's a wonder Paul O'Connell didn't pick up an injury.

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Last week, Business Insider website published an article on the top tennis players working on Wall Street and in finance. The list of 45 featured some players who were top-ranked junior players, some who were All-Americans in college as well as a few who played professionally. Included in the 45 were four Irish players – Barry King, Gareth Doran, Eoin Heavey and Rory Green.

All four have high-powered jobs in the world of finance and in the past were prominent players in the world of tennis. The article suggested that the tennis court is a very popular place to do business. Maybe tennis could be the new golf?

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Next Saturday, Milltown GAA club in Kildare will celebrate a remarkable anniversary. Because the little club, situated a couple of miles outside Newbridge, has completed 125 unbroken years as members of the GAA, which makes it the oldest in the county. The club was formed in 1888 and on Saturday at 3pm GAA President Liam O'Neill will be present to unveil a special wall plaque and launch a club history.

Milltown lies in a real GAA hotbed, the parish of Allen which contains no fewer than four clubs including Allenwood and Robertstown, who Milltown defeated in the 2008 county junior football final. Milltown's victory ranked with their 1947 and 1972 Intermediate Championship and 1944 Junior Championship. Ronan Byrne, who managed the team on that occasion and played for many years with Milltown has also compiled the club history.

It is small clubs with big hearts like this which are the essence of the GAA. The trophy cabinet may not be overflowing but staying the course ever since 1888 suggests they are a very resilient breed in Milltown. Best of luck to them on Saturday as they celebrate 125 unbroken and unbowed years.

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THE Wexford GAA Supporters' Club (Dublin branch) will hold a 'Purple & Gold Ball' at the Stillorgan Hotel on November 23.

Organisers want to encourage Wexford GAA people to look for opportunities to do business and consider investing in the county. Guests include Minister Brendan Howlin, Mayor of Wexford George Lawlor, Liam Griffin, Wexford GAA chairman Diarmuid Deveraux, Liam Dunne, Aidan O'Brien and Jim Bolger. Tickets are priced at €50 (€35 for students).

Seán Ryan, Eamonn Sweeney, Fergus McDonnell and Marie Crowe

Sunday Independent

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