Thursday, 26 March 2015

Mike McCartney’s Column

All-black on a grey day in New Zealand

Well it’s that time of the year when Seamus Duke heads off with his bucket and spade to take a well earned rest. Like Seamus the week before, I got up on Saturday to watch Ireland’s game with New Zealand.

  It was painful to say the least but the sting in the tail was to be expected due to the criticism that was levelled both by the rugby fraternity, the media out there and the public in New Zealand, when the All-Blacks needed a last minute drop kick to defeat the Irish, the week before. 

  In any sporting code you only have one opportunity against the ‘big guy.’ Had David not killed Goliath and for some reason there was a rematch then it’s almost certain the outcome would have been different. 

  It only seems like yesterday that Ireland was celebrating a grand slam and the rugby world seemed to be their oyster. It was a matter of where do we go from here?  

  Munster had been crowned Heineken cup champions twice in three years, and Leinster were on their way to the summit of Europe. That was 2009 but it was a visibly tired Irish outfit that took to the field at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton at the weekend. 

   Perhaps Donal Lenihan had put his finger on it when a couple of weeks previous he indicated the tour was all about making money. It had been a long year and now that it has ended the tired bodies have just four weeks to recover before preseason training starts in four weeks time. 

  Munster have already begun preparations for next season after training got underway last week. However as Richard Wallace on Sky Sports pointed out, International Rugby and the Heineken cup along with the RoboDirect super 12, are horses of a different colour. 

   Looking at the test series Wales and England have also had forgettable experiences with Stuart Barnes describing South Africa as a huge wave of green power. God knows how he would have described the All-Blacks.  Much had been made of the absence of Dan Carter in the run into Saturday’s game. Then after twenty minutes with Ireland trailing by 21-0, it was as if game set and match had come early. Rob Kearney’s dismissal before the interval summarised Ireland’s miserable day. 

  To sum it up Ireland didn’t come at them and didn’t ask questions. Perhaps more of a case of the cat playing with a mouse, long after the mouse had died. 

  On a brighter note Alan Quinlan is in demand as a rugby pundit and he has taken to it like a duck to water. When I first met him he was beginning to make a name for himself in Munster junior rugby at Clanwilliam but no one was surprised when he joined Shannon and an international career followed. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in for the long haul in his new career.

The cream of the cats

If we didn’t need convincing Kilkenny proved once again that they are the untouchables of their chosen sport. It was widely believed that if there was anyone in the country that would ‘rattle’ Kilkenny it was Dalo’s outfit.

  He was adamant his side would need to ask questions, and even if the Noresiders came out on top, it was important (he said), that questions would be asked. 

  The only question that needs to be answered: Who will stop them now? Even if Galway come out on top in the Leinster final, Kilkenny will have their house in order in time to climb the infamous steps at headquarters in September. 

  For the average Kilkenny player the battle is not with the forthcoming opposition but to stay in the panel. Brian Cody was his usual self afterwards, playing the down occasion. As a champion of the cause Cody said he was hoping to get a few players back, and to learn from the mistakes made. He also tried to convince us that this side has room for improvement. God help the rest of us if it’s true.

  Across the border in the sunny southeast, Wexford will tell you that if you buy a round of drinks in a pub in Kilkenny, chances are they will give you medals back in the change. 

  With the exception of the All-Ireland title in 1996, the Model County has been forced to settle for a home in the wilderness in recent years. Its footballers seems to now be making the headlines and they have the players to cement their place well inside the top ten counties in the country. 

  Already it has been a year for Ben Brosnan to be proud of, but with the advent of the Dublin game next Sunday, and judging on the Dubs performance against Louth, the qualifiers may well be staring Wexford in the face on Sunday evening. 

  Still the Slaneysider’s hurlers impressed against an ever-improving Westmeath side who had claimed the Antrim scalp before compiling an impressive score, in the game with Galway. They would have been disappointed with the Offaly result having accounted for the Faithful County in the league, in Tullamore. They are a long way from being in the same league as Kilkenny but so are most of the rest of the hurling fraternity.

New signing at Manchester United

It must give Alex Ferguson many sleepless nights as the noisy neighbours paint the town blue. With his club in debt and the team in decline, Fergie has gone shopping but its not for anyone we know, or at least the ordinary man on the street would not have been able to tell you anything about Shinji Kagawa. So we went digging and this is what we found….

1. He was born in Kobe, Japan on St. Patrick’s Day, 1989.

2. His preferred position is as an attacking midfielder, playing just being the striker. Though he has been known to play on either wing.

3. His favourite foods are Sushi and Udon, a type of Japanese noodle.

4. He was the first Japanese player, without playing in Japan’s J-League, to sign a professional playing contract before finishing high school.

5. He signed for Borussia Dortmund for €350,000 two years ago, so by selling him for £17 million, Dortmund will make a very small profit of over £16 million.

6. Despite being only 23, Kagawa has already notched up 30 appearances for his country, scoring 10 goals.

7. In a derby between Dortmund and rivals Schalke 04, Kagawa taunted his opponents by claiming he would score twice during the game. Dortmund won 3-1. Kagawa scored twice.

8. He made the Bundesliga Best XI at the end of his debut season in Germany, despite being injured for the entire second half of the season.

9. He scored in Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat against Arsenal in the Champions League last season.

10. His stats are better than those of Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s new signing. Despite costing Chelsea somewhere in the region of £32 million, Hazard has 192 apps, 50 goals and 30 assists. Kagawa has 198 apps, 86 goals and 45 assists, and at half the price.

One for the future

Irish man Alan Dunbar made his way to the Irish Open this week at Royal Portrush as Irish amateur champion. He was one of four amateurs invited to play.

  He claimed victory on the final green in the 36-hole competition at Royal Troon last weekend seeing off the challenge of Austrian Matthias Schwab. 

  The lead changed hands five times and Schwab was one up with two to play, but bogeyed them both.

  He missed a four-foot putt that would have taken the contest into sudden death.

 With Padraig Harrington returning to form, Darren Clarke on the way back after injury, Paul McGinley showing flashes of brilliance, (which he believes is due to the fact that he has stayed away from the gym in recent weeks). Could Dunbar be mentioned in the same breath in the future as McIlroy and McDowell, or be compared to names in the past such as Ronan Rafferty and David Feherty? We’ll wait and see.

Issue dated: 29 June 2012
© Roscommon People