Saturday 21 April 2018

The Last Word: If you're going to rebel, you'd better deliver

Kilkenny's defeat of Galway in the Leinster hurling final was like some odd historical recreation of last year's All-Ireland decider. Photo: Sportsfile
Kilkenny's defeat of Galway in the Leinster hurling final was like some odd historical recreation of last year's All-Ireland decider. Photo: Sportsfile Newsdesk Newsdesk

Kilkenny's defeat of Galway in the Leinster hurling final was like some odd historical recreation of last year's All-Ireland decider. Once more the Tribesmen started well, led at half-time and then faded away when the Cats turned things up a notch in the second half.

It also raises the question of why exactly the Galway players insisted on getting rid of Anthony Cunningham at the end of last season. Cunningham was, after all, the first manager since Cyril Farrell a quarter of a century ago to get Galway to two All-Ireland finals. His successor Micheál Donoghue has so far managed relegation and a provincial final performance which doesn't suggest Galway will be still involved in September.

Of course there are those who'd argue that Cunningham had to go because the players 'just didn't want to play under him'. But players who do rebel, as the Cork strikers well knew in their day, have a responsibility to produce things on the pitch. Results are what matter rather than the happiness of the players.

Delusions of grandeur put Hoops in a spin

Pat Fenlon's sacking by Shamrock Rovers makes him the latest victim of the delusions of grandeur which have bedevilled Tallaght ever since Michael O'Neill steered the club to two league titles and a place in the group stages of the Europa League.

Shams' problem is that they convinced themselves these victories had something to do with some intrinsic 'big club' quality rather than being due to the gifts of O'Neill and the squad he'd assembled. That's why they sacked Stephen Kenny, O'Neill's successor, after just a few months in the job whereupon he decamped to Dundalk and turned them into the finest club the League has seen in decades.

Fenlon's perpetually peevish mien makes it hard to have much sympathy for him but third place in last year's league and fourth place at the moment was hardly a disaster. Good luck to his successor, who'll be taking a chalice which isn't just poisoned but has acid smeared round the outside.

Ex-Gael shows apples don't fall far from tree

Last week at the US Olympic trials, high jumper Vashti Cunningham became the youngest athlete to make the American team for the Games since 1976. Cunningham is just 18 and this year has already won the world indoor title and set a new world indoor junior record of 1.99m. Only her American team-mate Chaunté Lowe has jumped higher this year and Cunningham has an excellent chance of winning a medal in Rio.

She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School, Las Vegas, where the athletics team is consistently ranked as one of the top ten in America. The team is known as The Gaels, so she's one of our own really. Well, we're not going to get any closer to a track medal than that.

It's an apple not falling far from the tree thing. Cunningham's father Randall was one of the most electrifying players in the NFL in the late 1980s and early '90s as a quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles. Vashti's 20-year-old brother Randall II is the American colleges and Pan-American junior champion in the high jump. But he hasn't qualified for the Olympics. There's always one under-achiever in the family, isn't there?

UEFA clamp down on heartwarming scenes

Where did the Grinch go after he tried to steal Christmas? To work for UEFA of course. At least that's the conclusion you can draw from the association's declaration that it wanted to stop any repeat of the disgraceful scenes which followed Wales' victory over Belgium.

What disgraceful scenes? The ones where the Welsh players brought their little kids on to the pitch to share the moment of victory with them. Said tournament director Martin Kallen, "It is a European Championship, not a family party." Of course the two things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive and Kallen seems to be pretty short-sighted about something which provides the cynical world of professional football with a rare heartwarming moment whenever it happens.

In fact players disregarding the old macho code of football and sharing their big moment with their kids is something you'd imagine UEFA would be keen to encourage rather than ban. Bureaucrats gonna bureaucrat I suppose.

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