Friday 15 December 2017

Pádraig's happy to put Ollie on the spot

In the wake of England's familiar exit from the European Championships, Roy Hodgson compared penalty-taking at that level to facing a three-foot putt for a Major golf tournament.

The notion brought a ready endorsement from Pádraig Harrington, who suggested that what you needed were "five guys who are trying to score, rather than five guys who are trying not to miss." He added: "By the same token, good putters are trying to get the ball in the hole whereas bad putters are trying not to miss."

The three-time Major winner went on: "A good penalty-taker will be prepared to accept the embarrassment of missing. That takes courage. Like a good golfer, you must put your neck on the line. A very average penalty-taker, on the other hand, will sacrifice a good strike in order not to look foolish by hitting the crossbar or the post or hitting it wide."

So, who would be Harrington's top-five golfers to hole a testing putt on the 72nd for a Major title? In the order of a shoot-out he chose: 1 Tiger Woods; 2 Jack Nicklaus; 3 Seve Ballesteros; 4 P Harrington; 5 Jose-Maria Olazabal. "I'd back Ollie to shoulder the pressure of the last one," he concluded.

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Cynical observers of the Irish Open during its halcyon days at Portmarnock 20 years ago suggested a competition might be run to find a patron who had actually paid in. Freebies were the order of the day, courtesy of the marketing people from Carrolls who felt obliged to take care of their outlets and valued customers.

A decade later, the staggering extent of the media car park at Mount Juliet raised quite a few eyebrows, until it was revealed that the majority of the cars belonged to publicans, there as guests of Murphys.

So what happens when the event doesn't have a title sponsor? Gate receipts flourish like never before, that's what. As in the current staging at Royal Portrush, where as high as 85 per cent of this weekend's patrons have paid for admission. According to official sources, the remaining 15 per cent is represented by volunteers, Royal Portrush members, staff, media and European Tour officials.

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Didi Hamann's most recent cameo appearances as a pundit may have freshened up RTE's staid four horsemen of the apocalypse routine but the former Liverpool and Manchester City player has been moonlighting as a tipster with the Racing Post.

Nothing unusual there, as for many footballers it is their only reading material of note, but there is something just a little bit off with having a man whose gambling problems are well publicised offering betting advice. Hamann once lost £280,000 on a single bet.

Anyone following his punting advice last Thursday may have lost money also as only one of his three bets -- Mario Balotelli to score at any time at 7/2 -- won. The other two bets: Italy to score in a German victory at 7/2 and draw at half-time/Germany to win at 4/1 were both losers.

That's expert opinion for you

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Foreign visitors keen to sample hurling and Gaelic football first-hand now have an outlet thanks to an initiative backed by Anthony Daly and Davy Fitzgerald. The Clare pair, who will be at loggerheads next Saturday in the hurling qualifiers, recently helped launch Go Gaelic, an introduction to Gaelic games for visitors to Ireland. Described as a "new tourism service" it will demonstrate the basic skills of hurling and football, provide a history of the games and also put on live matches.

Go Gaelic will operate across a number of centres and employ a mobile unit along the west coast, catering to all categories from individual visitors to corporate groups.

"It's a great idea," said Daly, "and it's brilliant to see the games being exposed to a wider audience."

Fitzgerald agreed: "People are fascinated by the games and given the chance, they will try and pick up the skills. My view is that we don't use this game [hurling] half enough outside of Ireland because, as a game, it's second to none."

Dermot Gilleece, Aisling Crowe and Dermot Crowe

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