#Maymac round by round, Awkwardness and Business.

So the biggest fight in combat sports history (until the next one) took place on Saturday night. I thought I should wait a while before reviewing it, partly due to sleep deprivation and also the need to rewatch it.

Upon first viewing there were a few things made clear. Firstly that McGregor got in there with tbe and presented a puzzle that Floyd took longer to figure out than anyone thought he would. Remember, all of the boxing pundits and boxers of all levels where adamant that not a glove would be landed on Floyd. Conor would be dismantled and knocked out very early in the fight. That MMA would be made look foolish.

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#MayMac, Money, Fighting and Opinions

So we are in the middle of fight week, the biggest fight in the history of sport (until the next one) is nearly upon us. Much like everyone everywhere, I have my opinions. Here they are, and open to challenge.

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Protests, Murkiness and the Jobstown 7

I had planned on taking the summer off from furiously writing down thoughts on various topics. The plan was to be thought free for a few months as thinking about and reading the news was overloading my already fragile brain. There was a Trump, a Brexit and a commissioner who appeared to enjoy her commisionary position a bit too much and is willing to do anything to keep it. But there was one issue that made me reach for my vintage dell Netbook (not my best investment) to vent and ask you your opinion on the topic and that was the trial of the jobstown 7. These where a group of people who protested against then Tanaiste and all round unlikeable person, Joan Burton.

The coverage of this trial annoyed me, the way the protest was organised annoyed me and nearly everyone involved in the protest on both sides annoyed me. So I thought I would vent into your brain in the hope that you could either correct or agree with me.

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Leinster rugby, gate keepers and a Summer off

Sitting here at my desk, a week ago I thought I would be writing a very different post to the one that will appear, as if by magic, below.

Leinster came into the business end of the season in fine form. Inventive, tough and confident. Sweeping most aside for the season. The final in the Aviva looked to be a foregone conclusion. All that had to happen was beat a team that was beaten easily 2 times this season. The Leinster brain trust where confident that this would be a procession.

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Leinster, Munster, Semi-Finals and Letdowns

It was a weekend that promised so much. There was so much positivity going in that Munster are back to their fighting best and Leinster are silky smooth with an appetite for a scrap and Saracens along with Clermont would be pushed to the point of possibly losing.

Well 50% of that happened. I watch the Munster match on the big screen thinking that this is where the fight would be. Thinking that Saracens would be flustered by the aggression, the skill and the belief that Munster have shown for most of this season. And absolutely none of that happened. The scene was set, Lansdowne road was red and in massive voice as usual. You couldn’t squeeze another Munster person into that stadium. They did their bit.

The players on the other hand, looked flat and a bit worried about the occasion. The group I was with (while admittedly all blue) were hoping for a big red win. Whilst they may be the enemy, there is always respect for Munster from the Blue side of the island. But the goodwill did nothing on the pitch. The talisman CJ Stander looked to be nursing an injury, but still put himself about the pitch with guts very few have. The team itself showed guts, but not a lot of belief or skill. Saracens are a good team, I can’t say great due to my massive dislike for them. But they probably are great, unfortunately. At the end of the day, Munster didn’t show up. They didn’t believe they could show up and had as many ideas as me during maths paper 1.

In fairness, I send out congratulations to every single Munster supporter who stood and applauded Andy and Owen Farrell when they walked into the pub after the match. Absolute class from you all.

But Sunday was another day.

I woke up positive. I thought Clermont wouldn’t have the gas tank for 80 minutes and Leinster have shown some serious class this season.

Then the game started. Where was Leinster? It was hard to miss them in the bright yellow kit, but they may as well have been invisible. For 32 minutes Clermont looked like the team with 3 Heineken cups. Easy through tackles, sexy offloads and hits that would knock down an RSJ (builder joke that made myself laugh).

Then momentum shifted, word got to the pitch that keeping the oval thing might be a good idea. Run the Clermont team around the pitch and the holes would open. And it worked. The last score of the half was blue and there were more than a few Clermont players blowing so hard that the first 4 rows in the stadium passed out due to oxygen deprivation. Momentum was definitely shifting; Clermont needed half time worse than you need a Kebab after a night out.

9 points in the opening 15 minutes of the second half showed that the Leinster team had made a few mental changes and where bossing the game. Slowly and methodically strangling Clermont. Believing that the points where there and at 80 minutes they would have put the Frenchmen away.  Leinster where bossing the team as they should have started. Clermont didn’t have any ideas and where never going to score a try. Their heads where down. And then it happened, Lopez stepped up and sank a beaut of a drop goal. Absolute top notch. A play that Parra didn’t have the balls to take on plenty of occasions. It was a brief moment of brilliance from Clermont in the second half. In fact there were only 2. Both from the boot of Lopez. At 65 minutes and 72 minutes, he halted momentum and won it for his team. Leinster still thought they could win it, the restart after the drop goal was absolutely imperative to win and it was set up nicely for the chasing pack to win, but it was lost and with that the match. And with that the chance to take on Saracens.

Coming away from this game is tough. Leinster started off like I do on a Monday morning, that being very slowly. It cost them dearly. Clermont didn’t have the gas, but they had 15 points. A Leinster disallowed try didn’t help, but it was a foul. If the jerseys where reversed and Clermont did it then the blue army would be up in arms.

So what now? Well I have been watching that Ringrose try on repeat all day. What a play. He kept the head down much like his predecessor also did. He did it knowing that players are scared to tackle when the body position is low. He showed riverdance like quick feet and acceleration that Usain Bolt would be jealous of, a slight overreaction sure, but let me have this moment. The future is massively bright for Ringrose and Leinster. A summer in green and not red will be fantastic for the lad.

The league beckons; raising the trophy in Lansdowne is the only way the season can end.  Anything else is a failure. That brings a pressure in itself.

Blue v Red in Lansdowne?

50% of that is a certainty, 50% needs to find the spirit that has served them over the years.

As usual, @nkeegan on twitter and @kdubdd on instagram.

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America from the outside, Ireland from the inside – Episode 4

Welcome to a delayed episode 4 of ‘America from the outside, Ireland from the inside’.  Coming to you from a raining Dublin that is recovering from the weekend.

Starting across the pond again this week, there is a lot of craziness from El Prez, but this week let’s look at how it is covered.

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Ireland, the 6 Nations, success and failure

I have come to a realisation as we say good bye to the 6 Nations championship of 2017. That realisation is, I cannot emotionally handle being an Ireland rugby supporter.

It feels better to have said that out loud.

Going into the final match against England, there was no title at steak. There was only pride. The points spread ranged from 3 all the way up to certain pundits trolling on twitter saying there was 7 tries in between the teams. The nation had begun to slowly turn their back on the coach, demanding changes and thinking that they knew more about coaching than a multiple tournament winning King Joe.

I was in a taxi headed towards the designated meeting point for the top notch pundits of Ireland, and I was listening to the end of the Wales v France match. It was a hilarious calamity involving our favourite unfavourite referee Wayne Barnes. He was incapable of giving a penalty try after multiple infractions from the Welsh that the match went longer than the last FA cup final. France winning took some more pressure off Ireland. The 4th seeding for the world cup was cemented with a Welsh defeat.

Immediately I thought this was a positive for Ireland. My coach always said, be wary of the fighter with nothing to lose, and Ireland went in with nothing to lose. Upon arriving at the venue the news that Jamie Heaslip was out with an injury from the warm up meant that O’Mahony started. This was a call I was hoping for, but for Sean O’Brien and not iron man. But needs must. It was a big day for POM along with Kieran Marmion. The player who was kept on the side-lines the previous week while Murray had no feeling in his left arm.

The team started like they hadn’t been fed in a month. They tore into the English with such ferocity that it made the team chasing the world record look like an under 10’s side. It was amazing to see, this was what we wanted from minute 1 of the competition. The far bigger England team where sent back time and time again. They tried gamely to get back into the game early, but they just couldn’t. Their game plan was easily read; aim at J10, aim at KM9 and that would shut down the entire team. This is not a bad game plan, but they underestimated both players. J10 was everywhere, it looked like there where 6 people wearing the 10 jersey at some points. It got to the stage where he was hitting rucks needlessly and you could see the English back row where lining him up for an over the top clean out. When this didn’t work, some late hits came in. It was targeting, fair targeting for the most part. But it got to the point where captain Best had to have a word with the referee, so some of it was over the line.

The aggression was there and it was backed up with technique and belief against a much larger, albeit one dimensional English side.

It took some time, but J10 put Ireland 3 up with a penalty as a result of pressure.  Quickly replied to by Farrell at 18 minutes. The addition of POM meant that Ireland had more options in the lineout which helped with Captain Best and his darts. He didn’t miss one all day, Ireland didn’t lose one all day and there were a few steals too. The lineout set up the only try of the game. The baby faced assassin Iain Henderson scored after a perfectly executed move. It was a throw to the middle won by O’Mahony and that Irish maul trucked over for the try. A strong confident start.

Ireland then began the strangulation rugby. England where contained, looked amateur and Ireland played some creative rugby. Was this because there was nothing at steak or was it because of new orders mixed with new personnel? England where delighted to be at half time only 7 points behind and for the duration of the game they never looked like scoring a try. The teams could still be playing today and England would be depending on the Adidas Predators (other boots are available) of Owen Farrell to win them the game. Ireland where impotent against Wales, this week, England where downright droopy!

The Irish scrum was concrete all day and gave a massive platform for the backs. Ringrose had a huge game and was able to make breaks and tackles that he had no right to make.

Again, England where holding on. They had nothing to offer past being big. We expected a patch where England would come back; they did nothing past a couple of turnovers in the second half. They elected to take the points over trusting their set piece which was a sure sign that they were not up for the scrap on this day.

Ireland played like a team that are world beaters, England played like a team scared of history.

The frustration is that this is not a regular thing from Ireland. This was a performance that no team in the world would want to face, if this performance was up against the All Blacks, I dare say that there would be new world champions. To a man the team played to near peak performance. It really was a fantastic way to finish the tournament……..

But….

Was it a successful tournament? Did we get what we deserve? Well in sport you usually get what you deserve. Based on 40 minutes against Scotland and 80 minutes against Wales Ireland got what they deserved. It is all about what happens next. It is all about the newly capped players (20+ in total since Joe took over) taking forward steps in the big jersey to challenge for the big competitions.

A lot of people are saying it was a failure, they are wrong. A lot of people say that Heaslip is finished, they are also wrong.

What I say is that there is no longer such a thing as a first team for Ireland. There will be days where a certain selection is warranted based on the competition (and of course fitness). So when someone is dropped, they are not dropped. This will bring confidence to the entire panel, everyone will be in with a shout of making the match day squad and this will be hugely beneficial going forward into the world cup and 6 Nations campaigns where injuries could take their toll.

The 6 Nations 2017 is over, and Ireland got what they deserved. But more importantly, no one above them in the world rankings wants to play them.

 

As usual @nkeegan on twitter and @kdubdd on instagram

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