Saturday 20 January 2018

Shankly timed his arrival to perfection

WE all know that English football has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, but it's amazing to think how different the game was in the early 1960s when Bill Shankly ruled the roost at Liverpool.

Shankly, who died 30 years ago last Thursday, was the subject of an item in John Bowman's excellent trawl through the archives last Sunday morning on RTE Radio 1.

Liverpool were at the foot of the old second division when Shankly arrived, but rather than the locals measuring success by league position, Shankly recalled that "some people said to me, wait 'til you win the Cup before you speak."

At that stage, Liverpool had played 73 times in the FA Cup without success. "The FA Cup is the hardest Cup in the world to win," added Shankly in the interview. "Never mind the European Cup, that's a two-leg affair. You can go and play a Cup tie at Bradford City and get knocked out that day, but in the European Cup you've got another chance because you've got them at home."

Shankly always knew he would be the manager of the best team in England, and Liverpool were blessed that he landed on their doorstep with a playing and training system that was to prove hugely successful. That system was developed in part during his time at Huddersfield where, nine months before he went to Anfield, he guided them to a 5-0 victory over Liverpool with 10 men.

"All it was when I came was potential," added Shankly. But what potential, and what a man to bring it out.

* * * * *

IRELAND is a small country but the difference that exists between perception and reality is huge. Writing in the Galway Independent, Frank Kearney was amazed that Dublin's All-Ireland victory was the leading item on the RTE news that night, a development he puts down to "the arrogance of the Dublin 4 media."

As proof, Kearney cites Galway's first hurling title in 57 years in 1980 and their first football title in 32 years in 1998 as being absent from the news headlines on RTE; but don't worry Frank, it's just a sign of changing times as sport becomes more important in Irish life.

And it's interesting to note that Dublin's All-Ireland football semi-final victory over Cork in 1974 -- the year that Heffo's Army made the breakthrough -- wasn't even covered by RTE because it clashed with the final day of the Dublin Horse Show which is, of course, about as Dublin 4 an event as you can get.

Kearney also suggests that "the authorities in Croke Park always want a Dublin win as it guarantees a full house at GAA headquarters for all the home league games." Really Frank? A crowd of 83,000 in Croke Park for all Dublin's home league games? Now that really would be worth putting on the news.

* * * * *

HOW young do you have to be to wear a yellow jacket and tell people that no, actually, they can't run onto the pitch? According to the GAA, people over 45 are unsuitable for such an arduous task.

Those terrible twins, Health and Safety, who between them have sucked almost all of the joy out of life, have forced Croke Park to instruct the Meath County Board that they must provide 50 trained stewards for each League game.

The board has, in turn, asked clubs to provide at least two candidates for training. "Ideally," the letter states, "stewards should be conscientious, reasonably fit and be of an age profile under 45 years of age." On the plus side, they will accept males or females.

* * * * *

So finally, after much confusion, we here at From the Stands have been able to solve the Sam Maguire mystery. For a while we thought we were seeing double -- how could the cup be in two places at the one time, even three places at one time? Well, as it turns out, there is not one Sam Maguire Cup but three. The GAA Museum keeps one under lock and key, the All-Ireland winners get one and the Museum has another one that they use for emergencies. So now, thankfully, we know how the Sam Maguire managed to be on Up for the Match and at the Croke Park Fever Pitch concert at the same time. Crisis averted.

Fergus McDonnell, Marie Crowe

Sunday Indo Sport

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