Saturday 24 March 2018

Strange but strong bond with the Orient

YOU might think that Turkey's Trabzonspor and our own Drogheda United would make strange bedfellows. Well, you'd be wrong.

The Turkish Süper Lig team are travelling at their own expense to take on the Drogs in Tallaght Stadium on Thursday next, a game which is the culmination of two years' work involving Drogheda, the Turkish government, the Turkish Embassy in Ireland and Turkish Airlines.

The two clubs developed a relationship some years ago because of their shared colours of claret and blue and the star and crescent symbol that features on Drogheda's crest and on the Turkish national flag.

Two years ago, the board of Trabzonspor made Drogheda United its official sister club. The Turkish people place huge significance on such associations, and one need only cast a cursory glance at Drogheda United's Facebook page to see just how important this relationship is to Turkey. The posts in English are matched by as many, if not more, in Turkish from supporters in not only Trabzon but Istanbul, Germany, Holland and across Europe. Trabzonspor have a global fan base of 12 million.

The Turkish government sees Drogheda United as the catalyst that will help open up increased political and trade relations between Turkey and Ireland; the Trabzonspor delegation will include Turkish ministers, politicians, heads of industry and dignitaries from Trabzonspor.

The delegation will fly into Dublin on a specially commissioned Turkish Airlines charter next Wednesday. They will meet their Irish counterparts throughout their two-day visit, culminating in the football match on Thursday evening at 7.30.

The game will be broadcast by Setanta in Ireland and in Turkey. It is an event of which everyone involved in Drogheda United is very proud.

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Ding Junhui lit up the Players Tour Championship Grand Finals in Galway yesterday with a sensational 147 in the opening frame of his quarter-final against Mark Allen.

China's 25-year-old Ding, one of Asia's most famous sports stars, rewarded the tens of millions who have been watching him for the last few days with a stunning exhibition of faultless snooker.

It is estimated that a TV audience of 100 million tuned in to see the Chinese superstar last week – making the tournament the most watched Irish sports event ever!

It was the fifth 147 of Ding's career – only Ronnie O'Sullivan, Stephen Hendry and John Higgins have scored more. The event finishes on Sunday, with the winner to bank the £100,000 top prize.

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THE rush to find even more ways of measuring a player's performance, and at the same time feed the habit of the stats junkies, continues apace.

The latest we came across is 'cross completion', discovered when we enquired of Brighton and Hove Albion's official compiler how former UCD midfielder Gary Dicker was faring.

"Gary's doing very well, and he was tops in the club last year for cross completion," we were told.

All very well, but not much consolation to Gary when, after returning from injury and helping Brighton to back-to-back wins, he was left on the bench for the recent 0-0 draw at Bristol City.

However, he's taking a positive view. With Brighton in the play-off places for promotion to the Premier League, he's hopeful of playing in the big end-of-season games. "Then there's always the chance of Trapattoni coming to see me," he said.

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THOSE cheating, drug-taking, racist, sledging, stamping, kicking, spitting, gouging, diving excuses for sportsmen and women would do well to go to a National Hunt race meeting and learn a lesson or two.

Jump jockeys, amateur and professional, are more than just competitive sportspeople at, or striving to reach, the peak of their powers, they are courageous, decent people who will fight tooth and nail to beat their opponents, but will at all times treat those same adversaries with the height of respect.

They feel no need to insult or physically harm fellow jockeys in order to gain an advantage. Because they know that when the cards fall their way and they pass the post in first place, they are just one slip away from bad luck that can end in more than just defeat.

Fergus McDonnell, John Greene and Seán Ryan

Irish Independent

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