Saturday 24 February 2018

The Last Word: Amir back in right spot after five years

Mohammad Amir Picture: PA
Mohammad Amir Picture: PA

Eamonn Sweeney

Mohammad Amir's return to Test cricket in the first Test between Pakistan and England provoked plenty of controversy. Some of the cricket fraternity seem to feel Amir, who served a five-year ban for 'spot fixing', shouldn't have been allowed back into the game.

From the outside, however, the severity of Amir's ban is striking. While athletics hands out one- and two-year bans to people who are caught doping, Amir incurred his much longer disqualification merely for bowling a no ball at a specific time to help out gamblers.

It was essentially a victimless crime, unless you regard the bookies as victims. Only 19 at the time, he'd been obviously influenced by his captain Salman Butt. In the circumstances it was good to see one of cricket's most talented young bowlers back in action and taking the wicket which won the Test at Lord's.

Dubs need Connolly to keep the head

Sybil Fawlty once complained to her husband that he was either fawning over people or tearing their throats out. A similar distaste for the middle ground seems evident in the case of Diarmuid Connolly whose detractors see him as a kind of Anti-Christ who embodies a vicious gurrier streak in the Dublin character.

Nonsense of course but Connolly's fans can be just as bad. After his headlock on Westmeath defender James Dolan, not a red card offence IMHO, those jumping to his defence seemed to be suggesting that the targeting of Connolly is some kind of major problem within the game and that the player doesn't have any responsibility to keep his temper. That's nonsense too. Neither outright villain nor outright victim, Connolly has to try harder to keep the head for the simple reason that he plays much better football when he does.

Apke-Moses keeps good times rolling

Following Ciara Mageean's bronze in Amsterdam, the feel-good factor continued for Ireland at the European Youth (under 18) Championships in Tbilisi with silver in the 100m for Gina Apke-Moses of the Blackrock club in Louth and bronze in the 100m hurdles for Molly Scott of Carlow's St Laurence O'Toole AC.

Apke-Moses is actually the first Irish athlete ever to win a 100m medal at a major championships. Spare a thought too for Kevin McGrath of Bohermeen in Meath who finished just out of the medals, coming fourth in a high quality 800m. Apke-Moses's 11.67 in her semi-final is the second fastest time ever by an Irish woman in her age-group.

The best remains the 11.43 run all the way back in June 17, 1978 by Michelle Walsh, now Michelle Carroll, when she was just 16. Walsh's run is still in the European Youth all-time top 10.

Ko setting hot pace at top of women's game

The British Women's Open, which begins on Thursday, gives audiences in this part of the world a chance to see one of the most prodigious young talents in any sport. New Zealand's Lydia Ko is a country mile ahead at the top of the women's world golf rankings and what makes this all the more impressive is that she is still just 19.

The South Korean-born Ko has finished in the top three in her last five Majors, winning two of them, and already has 14 LPGA tournament wins to her credit, the first of these coming when she was just 15. The main threat to her dominance may be world number two Brooke Henderson of Canada. Henderson is just 18, won her first pro tournament at the age of 14 and won her first Major earlier this year.

Maybe we'll see a Stenson-Mickelson style shoot-out at St Andrews.

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