Sunday 19 November 2017

Hoban hopes for change in fortunes

THIS time last year, with Galway hurling on the crest of a wave, Pat Hoban was preparing to play for Loughrea in the county final. Today, he leads the Dundalk attack in the Louth derby against Drogheda United at Oriel Park (6.0).

Kick-off time gives him the chance to keep up with happenings in Croke Park, but he is hoping for better fortune than he enjoyed in the hurling.

"I was shocking," he admits. "I was playing wing-forward and got four touches before I was taken off. It didn't happen for me or for us that day," adding with emphasis – "but they'll win it this year without me."

Runner-up last year, he's hoping to go one better with Dundalk this year, while his brothers Thomas and Paul do the business for Loughrea.

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IAN BARACLOUGH, Sligo Rovers' manager, has a special assignment tomorrow morning – taking his five-year-old daughter to her first day at school. The fact that he had to take the weekend off and travel home to England to do so emphasises the sacrifices football people often make in pursuing their careers.

Baraclough has four young daughters, 13, 10, five and four, and apart from a three-week summer holiday in Sligo and occasional trips home, he has been away from his family for the best part of two years. "It's my wife who makes the biggest sacrifice," he says. "We met when I was 19 and she was 16, so she always knew what to expect, and she has stood by me all the way."

Sligo, with Dundalk and St Patrick's Athletic, remain in contention for the league title and each manager has been here before. Baraclough believes that it is the players who are prepared to sacrifice most who are most likely to get over the line, but none of them are making as great a sacrifice as he is himself.

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LIBYA and Shamrock Rovers striker Eamon Zayed took to Twitter to post the England team selected against Moldova on Friday (Hart, Walker, Cahill, Jagielka, Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Wilshere, Walcott, Welbeck and Lambert) and wondered how they might fare in the Premier League.

The general consensus was that they would struggle to break into the top four and few could argue with that.

It got us thinking about our own team that lost so dismally to Sweden on Friday (Forde, Coleman, Wilson, Dunne, O'Shea, Whelan, Walters, McCarthy, Long, Keane, McClean) and wondered how they might fare in the Championship. Any offers?

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When the Cork and Clare hurlers line out for today's All-Ireland final in Croke Park, it will be a first-time experience for almost all of them. Of course, Davy Fitzgerald and Jimmy Barry-Murphy have been there before and won, so they will have plenty of advice to offer their charges. But one man who will be present on the line, and has more experience than both of them, is Cork's long-serving medical man, Dr Con Murphy.

Today will mark Murphy's 25th All-Ireland final. He's served with both the hurlers and the footballers since 1976 and although he's never played in Croke Park for Cork, he's been just as cherished as those who have.

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We've all seen it before – players after a bad performance by them and their team giving a post-match interview to apologise to the fans. More often than not it has left us cold: how genuine are these apologies?

Which brings us to MLB, and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, who is currently seeing out a 65-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

As part of his penance after admitting that he had used a cream and a lozenge containing banned substances while rehabilitating from an injury two years ago, he has taken to personally phoning Brewers' season ticket holders to apologise.

ESPN quoted one fan, Wes Aldridge, who was far from impressed. "I thought it took a lot on his part to call, because that's got to be a very hard thing to do. Did I necessarily believe him? No."

Fergus McDonnell, Seán Ryan, Marie Crowe & John Greene

Sunday Independent

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