Monday 27 June 2011


It's not easy liking football. It's not something that we can easily justify either; football is, when everything is taken into consideration, an ultimately inconsequential pursuit. Yes, we can turn a blind eye to football's futility and embrace it as a valuable outlet of escape from the 'real world', as if our lives are divided into what exists and what does not. But the myriad evils of football make it harder still to justify taking an interest, even if it is treated as a means of withdrawal from everyday life and all its problems; why subject ourselves to the misery of our teams' failures, the vitriol of opposition fans, the alleged corruption of football's ruling body? It appears, therefore, that not only is football an ultimately pointless pursuit, it is a masochistic one. If this is the case, then it is unquestionably the most popular form of masochism in the world. Football, as you may have noticed, is enjoyed by quite a number of people.

Almost all of these people fell in love, if such a romantic notion can be applied to this cruel game, with football in their childhood. This love is usually instilled by the preceding generation, though many pick it up even without any parental prompting. Only in the naive, innocent years of childhood does the culture of football appeal; you don't hear of people in their twenties suddenly embracing the sport after a lifetime of indifference. Those blessed with apathy to football can never appreciate the agonising life they have been spared. While we wallow in the depraved glory of the clubs we support, they bask in glorious ignorance. Imagine a life not dictated by some perverse desire to keep 'up-to-date' with the latest football news. That means no more hours dedicated to reading yet another piece on why England don't beat good football teams, no more hours spent checking your Twitter feed to see what transfers are brewing, and no more hours parked in front of a television watching football matches (yes, actually watching a game!). Think of the things you could have accomplished with all that lost time. You could have learned another language, you could have read hundreds of books, you could have mastered an instrument. But instead, we chose football and all of its accompanying ills.

It is the lull of a June without an international tournament* that provokes this post. Firstly because there is precious little else to write about due to the dearth of games. (Regardless of my numerous gripes, I can't help but love watching football matches.) But I write this post primarily because of the transfer season.

Of all the sheer rubbish rammed down our throats by the football media that we feel compelled to swallow, paralysed for fear of not being "in the know", transfer rumours must surely sit atop the pile of malignant banality. Fuelled by football agents and football journalists with agendas to further, they are presented to us, the gullible, needy fans, as tantalising morsels of vital information that we cannot do without. The reality, of course, is starkly different; everyone knows that a great deal of these rumours are entirely fabricated, or at least painted with a coat of spuriousness. Yet these rumours thrive; they are an inescapable part of a football fan's life, no matter how we try to ignore them. Media outlets dedicate hundreds of words to stories based on little more than unverified quotes, purported sightings of players at club grounds or incredible (in its most literal sense) claims by agents.

Dawn, I'm fed up. I don't want to be part of a footballing culture of hearsay and corruption any more. Still I know I'm not ready to sever ties with football for ever. How could I turn my back on the game of Puskás, of Cruyff, of Laudrup? Football has us by the scruff of the neck and there's nothing we can do about it. I have no choice but to cast aside my complaints and submit to football, the omnipotent force for good and evil. It will always maintain a stranglehold on my life, no matter what grieveances I have. Acquiscence is the easiest way out. Liking football isn't easy, but I can't imagine life without it.

*The Copa América doesn't start until July. And yes, I'm ignoring this.

Monday 20 June 2011

Emile Heskey, an ode to - An acrostic

Musings on his greatness
Invite only scorn.
Leader of all men,
Even you.

He of skill
Eternally unmatched, though
Some try.
King of men,
Emperor of all mere mortals.
Your leader.


It's the silly season. I was bored. I'm sorry.

Saturday 18 June 2011

Brick by Brick - Waterford's full-back problem

The full-back problem has dogged Waterford hurling for years. Declan Prendergast, Kevin Moran, and now Wayne Hutchinson are just some of the players who have filled the berth to no great success in recent times. It seems that the elusive All-Ireland title will always be beyond our grasp until a solution is found. Kevin Downes' second-half demolition of Hutchinson and then Darragh Fives served only to highlight how far we have yet to go if we are to add to those fabled successes of '48 and '59.

It is no coincidence that today's two hurling giants boast a plethora of quality full-backs. When Kilkenny were shorn of the peerless Noel Hickey due to a serious knee injury in 2009, JJ Delaney was there to take his spot. Current All-Ireland champions Tipperary know that should Paul Curran ever stutter, Pádraic Maher is available to step in. This is a luxury that Waterford can only dream of, as a conveyor belt of full-backs are tested and rejected. Declan Prendergast is perhaps the only player to hold the spot for a prolonged period in the last few years, but his reputation as a full-back was almost irreparably damaged after the All-Ireland semi-final of 2007.

Is consistency the solution? Perhaps if Hutchinson, or even Liam Lawlor, were given an extended run in the side, then we would reap the benefits of their experiences. Unfortunately, knockout format as it is, the Championship is no place to be bedding in players. It is the League, therefore, that presents the best platform for experimenting and developing. But it takes no genius to see the gulf in quality between League hurling and its summertime counterpart. It would appear, though admittedly on the basis of only one game, that Hutchinson's apprenticeship in the League was futile. When Championship day came around, he was comprehensively trumped by Downes. A consistent run in the side does not guarantee good performances by any means.

This is not to say that Hutchinson should be discarded as an afterthought. Clearly he has potential, and given the appropriate application and nurturing, he will have an important part to play in Waterford hurling in the years to come. However, an alternative must be found to secure short-term gain, without sacrificing long-term progress. This much was evidently on Davy Fitzgerald's mind when Michael Walsh was tasked with marking Downes after he had outclassed both Hutchinson and Fives.

Brick is undoubtedly among the finest centre-backs of his generation. His sheer strength is almost unmatched in the game. Truly he is the archetypal centre-back, the dominating figure on which the rest of the team hinges. Yet all signs point to him being deployed as a full-back in the Munster final. Should he line up at number 3, Fitzgerald runs the risk of losing one of the team's most important assets. However, such is Brick's talent and reliability, Fitzgerald can rest easier knowing that Tipperary's (assuming they beat Clare) full-forward line will be quiter than usual.

While I would gently advocate the use of Brick at full-back in the immediate future, Fitzgerald must work on finding a permanent solution as soon as possible. Brick won an All Star at centre-back for a reason, and playing him elsewhere for any more than a couple of matches would be foolish in the extreme. So while Hutchinson lacks that little (but crucial) bit of experience and is perhaps short of confidence, playing Michael Walsh at full-back seems the most viable option. The looming threat of the McGrath-Corbett-Kelly axis would not seem nearly as insurmountable with Brick at full-back (not to mention the highly impressive Noel Connors in the corner).

There are, of course, plenty of causes for optimism. John Mullane showed last Sunday that he is still at the top of his game and the performances of  David and Brian O'Sullivan, and Pádraig Mahony in particular, were encouraging to say the least. Once the issue at number 3 is resolved, there is enough quality throughout the rest of the squad to mount yet another All-Ireland challenge. It may be just beyond our grasp just now, but Liam
may be draped in blue and white yet.

Tuesday 7 June 2011


In tribute to this week's Junior and Leaving Cert exams, here's a "satirical" template for every Irish essay, or aiste, you will ever need to write. Don't forget to thank me when you all get As.

* * *

Is maith is cuimhin liom. Lá amháin bhí mé ag siopadóireacht sa bhaile mór. Bhí sé ag stealladh báistí agus bhí mé fliuch go craiceann. Cheannaigh mé milseáin agus geansaí buí. Bhí áthas an domhain orm. Chonaic mé mo chara, Seán. Is duine an-cáirdiúil é Seán. Tar éis tamaill, bhuail mé le mo chara eile, Liam. Chuamar go dtí an siopa spóirt. Cheannaigh Liam t-léine go deas. Is maith leis a t-léine nua.

Go tobann, bhuail leoraí Seán. Bhí brón an domhain air. Bhí sé ag cur fola. Thosaigh Liam ag caoineadh mar bhí eagla air. Dúirt Seán go raibh a chos briste. Fuair mé mo fhón póca ach go tobann ghoid robálaí é. Rith mé i dtreo na robálaí ach thit mé ar an úrlár. Nuair a sheas mé suas, bhí daoine i ngach áit. Bhí Liam caillte agus fuair Seán bás. Sciorr leoraí eile agus mharaigh sé Seán. Bhí uaigneas an domhain orm.

Go tobann chonaic mé Liam. Bhí áthas orm. D'inis mé Liam faoi Seán. Thosaigh sé ag caoineadh arís. Bhí a chroí briste. Bhí an ghriain ag taitneamh anois. Chuaigh mé agus Liam go dtí an trá. D'itheamar uachtar reoite. Is maith liom uachtar reoite. Tar éis tamaill, thosaigh mé ag snámh san fharraige. Nuair a tháining Liam isteach, fuair sé bás chomh maith. Bhí brón an domhain orm. Chuaigh mé abhaile.

Ar mo bhealach abhaile, cheannaigh mé seacláid sa siopa. Bhí áthas an domhain orm. Go tobann, bhí pian i mo bholg. Bhí tinn orm. Chuaigh mé go dtí mo leaba agus thit mé ina chodladh. Ní dhéanfaidh mé dearmad ar an lá sin go deo.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Football is bigger than Fifa

The events of recent days won't exactly shock anyone with any knowledge of how football's governing body Fifa operates. For years Fifa's inadequacies have been an elephant in the room, wilfully ignored by FAs throughout the world for fear of rocking the boat. Each had their own agenda to further (notably the English FA with their bid for the 2018 World Cup) and giving Fifa cause for concern simply wouldn't do. Ultimately, matters escalated in November when Russia and particularly Qatar were awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in rather controversial fashion.

Supporters cried foul. The drum investigative journalists such as Andrew Jennings had been banging was finally heeded by the mainstream press and by hitherto indifferent fans. Public consensus held that profound change within the organisation was needed and senior officials finally stopped pandering towards the bureaucrats at Fifa. This has resulted in the admirable decision of FA chairman David Bernstein to take a stand this afternoon against the faux-election being held for Fifa presidency. Isolated though the FA may be among the 208 Fifa members (with some exceptions), he has won the respect of the fans who appreciate the need for change at the very top. He risked ostracisation and censure to stand up for what is right and to oppose the dictatorial governance of Sepp Blatter's organisation.

Early indications suggest his efforts will prove to be fruitless but undeniable progress has been made in these past few days. Fifa has been rocked to its core, even if it does still stand defiant, resisting the will of the very people it claims to serve: the football fans. Take away Fifa and football will still thrive; take away the fans and football is dead. And if football is dead, Fifa dies with it. If pressure presists, and the noble crusades of groups such as @FIFA_Boycott and @changeFIFA continue, Fifa must eventually bow to fan pressure.

We can't be certain of how long change will take  but the rising tide of public opinion is growing exponentially. Soon it will be too significant to ignore. Blatter will be ousted and change will happen as long as we fans keep fighting. This is not as much a call-to-arms as a reassurance, for it is simply inconceivable that football's international body can continue to ignore the demands of the supporters who feed their organisation without meeting their downfall. Football will always be bigger than Fifa, and as soon as Blatter and his reprehensible cronies (just look at vice-president Julio Grondona's comments regarding Jewish referees) realise this, football will be free of their poisonous influence.

Do not take Blatter's election as defeat. Revolution is only in its embryonic stages and we, as fans, owe it to the game we love to see it through to the bitter end. The FAs that sided with Blatter today seek only to protect their own selfish interests and are equally deserving of our ire. It's time that they learned that football is not about greed, power or money. Any efforts to get in the way of the will of the fans will be futile. Football will win.

                 "Come senators, congressmen
                 Please heed the call.
                 Don't stand in the doorway,

                 Don't block up the hall
                 For he who gets hurt
                 will be he who has stalled.
                 There's a battle outside raging.
                 It'll soon shake your windows
                 And rattle your walls
                For the times, they are a-changin'."