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.

Continue reading

Posted in From the desk of Neil | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in From the desk of Neil, Rugby | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in From the desk of Neil, Rugby | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in From the desk of Neil | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in From the desk of Neil, Rugby | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America from the outside, Ireland from the inside – Episode 3

Welcome to episode 3 of America from the outside, Ireland from the inside.  Coming to you from a sunny Dublin in the middle of St Patrick’s week, the mood is good.

Starting on the other side of the world, it has been another topsy turvy week in America. We have El Presidente’s spokespeople talking about microwaves that can turn into cameras, we have a political pundit click baiting the country as if she was TMZ and we have President Trump being uncharacteristically quiet.

Starting with the microwaves spying on us. My favourite cartoon, Kelly Anne Conway went on the news channels asking questions about Trump towers being bugged. Again, there is no proof and the narrative has changed a bit from phone tapping to general surveillance. While she was chasing her tail on nationwide TV, she mentioned that microwaves can be turned into tools for surveillance. Pardon my stupidity but I thought microwaves where for making super noodles. She is of course talking nonsense again because she is in a role she is under qualified for. In fairness, she is grilled on this which is hugely important when interviewing anyone political.

https://youtu.be/RodRV9pxAL0 is the clip mentioned above.

We then move from red to blue. Rachel Maddow, a political presenter on MSNBC spent all of Tuesday 15th March talking about the mythical tax return of Trump and how she was going to talk about it on her show. Total click bait that wouldn’t be out of place on a sleazy celebrity news site. All the build-up, what for? Well it was a 2005 tax return that showed Trump paid $38 million tax on $158million income, yes there were some dodgy looking write offs but that wasn’t mentioned nearly enough. Not exactly the treasure she was hoping for and a total let down for anyone who tuned in. It was quite sad to see. A massive error made and it brings her trust factor right down. It is exactly the same thing that news channels from the other side do. It was wrong, it was childish and it played right into the hands of Trump who for a long time has said he has paid tax, the click bait TV show showed he did.  Stunts like this and the blue side in disarray is meaning that Trump is becoming even more of a Teflon don.

It is unreal that intelligent people are allowing trump to get the upper hand in nearly everything related to him. Trump is a pro wrestling ring master, and he is out smarting people his mental superior.

All Trump did was release a statement saying the usual, that it was illegal and terrible that his tax return was released. You could hear him cackling while he wrote it; I mean his spokesperson wrote it.

As sad as it is to say, Trump is winning.

As a finish to our trip to America I have a questions. When did the ‘greatest country in the world’ change the word opportunity to choice? Especially when it comes to healthcare. Choice assumes that you have enough money to make one; it doesn’t mean that everyone has the same choice. Whether it is discrimination, sexism, pay gaps or any kind of inequality, it is all about everyone (this is not just in America, for Ireland too) having the same OPPORTUNITY to succeed. At the moment and for a lot of my life time, not everyone has that opportunity.

I was hoping that a trip back to the homeland would help me feel a bit cleaner after being immersed in American politics, but it is just a sick here. We have a Taoiseach who is getting his last few air miles out of the Irish Government jet, we have partners in government not working together and we have local politicians more worried about photo ops than doing their job.

Enda Kenny is currently in America shaking hands and doing the annual Irish thing. He says he will mention the travel ban as it pertains to Irish people, but he won’t get more than a few minutes with El Prez. He is a photo op, and he doesn’t care because he is leaving office with his ministerial pension along with his teaching pension. Normally I would say good riddance, but when you look at the possible successors it leaves me more worried. Endas other business this week was to put forward a plans for a referendum to allow Irish citizens abroad to vote in elections for president and general elections.

This in itself doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that there was a march in Dublin City last week in relation to repealing the 8th amendment. No one has mentioned anything about Irish abroad and their voting rights, outside of the rich Irish people living abroad who came up with the idea while sitting around the brunch table in the country club. Most of the Irish abroad are more interested in paying their bills, living a life and providing for loved ones than who is President.

Another nonsense distraction tactic from a lame duck.

The last part of this week’s episode may have annoyed me the most.

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/minister-sought-good-pr-in-local-papers-after-rural-criticism-35524450.html

 

The minister for jobs (a role she has no business being in) Mary Mitchell O’Connor instructed her advisors to get as many pictures of her at the ploughing championships to as many news outlets as possible. This was due to her not getting on well in rural areas. So instead of going to these areas and instigating conversation with the people, getting in front of them at a meeting and having them air their problems and showing an ability to solve them. She wants pictures taken.

This is a minister who is paid real money. She is paid by the tax payer. And her big idea is to get pictures taken. This annoyed me more than click bait, than devious microwaves or lame ducks. This was the news that had me scratching my head.

With people like this in government s (all of the above mentioned), is it any wonder that 1 – Ireland has a drinking problem and 2-america has an obesity problem. These are both activities done to find comfort when life gets uncomfortable.

 

Until next time, feel free to share this with anyone mentioned above via social media and you can find me @nkeegan on twitter and @kdubdd on instagram.

Posted in From the desk of Neil | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ireland v Wales, England and Rugby Psychology

Week 4 of the 6 Nations in the books and a feeling of calm numbness washes over me.

This won’t be an in-depth blog about game plans, spacing and field position. There are people far more qualified for the jargon. This will be about psychology. The psychology of the match on Saturday was fantastic to watch for the neutral, not so much if you had a green jersey on.

Coming in, Ireland where on a high. A strong win against France while not getting out of 3rd gear left a lot in the tank, but replenished the reserves of confidence and belief. Wales on the other hand, collapsed like me after 12 Guinness (other stouts are available). They were up at halftime, well within themselves and looked to put Scotland to the sword. But it didn’t happen. The big players didn’t perform; Scotland consistently out fought and out worked them and deserved the victory. So both teams came in at opposite ends of the happiness scale.

Ireland started well, much like they finished against the French. Pressure led to an early penalty from Sexton and they looked to be off to the races. Then a knock to J10 and a cold Paddy Jackson came on, resulting in an error (he didn’t get a chance to warm up) and George North scored a try. The same George North who looked frightened of a tackle the week previous. He was back to his frightening JCB best. This lifted the Welsh. North is usually their talisman. If he is playing well, they will all play well and he put a marker down early. Especially when the game plan from Ireland was to kick the ball at him (not to him) at every available opportunity. The Welsh weathered an early storm from Ireland and came back with 5 points. Jackson kicked another penalty which came from more pressure while Sexton was still under HIA. At 28 minutes Sexton was back and the momentum shifted again towards the green side. But 10 minutes later he was binned for not rolling away. It was a tough call, while technically correct. I would suggest that If you had 3 17 stone men on top of you, you would struggle to get out from under them, but rules are rules.

Wales took advantage and scored unanswered points while Sexton was in the bin and Conor Murray suffered a stinger. He was kept on the field while being in obvious discomfort. His left arm was useless. He should have been taken off but it appeared that the coach didn’t trust Marmion to play without senior guidance.

The players saw this. The players felt this and they sank. Subconsciously everything that they had said in the media evaporated. The talk of squad depth disappeared. Marmion was well capable of playing, but instead they chose to keep Murray on the pitch. He was brave beyond measure. Hitting rucks with 1 arm, but he took 2 massive hits while being unable to defend himself. Player safety etc. etc.

Half time arrives and a reset was needed, the team knew it, the coaching staff knew it and every Ireland supporter knew it. Sexton had a few minutes left to serve in the bin so Murray was left on, with a stinger!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stinger_(medicine)    (please read this before continuing!)

Again, the players saw this. It sent a message. Even with a stinger, Marmion was left on the side-lines. Mentally that plays with a team. They know how good the backup is, he has performed consistently well for Connacht but he was left on the side-lines until Murray made the call, maybe it was the medical staff, but it was left too late. Wales where bossing the game.

The reset occurred with the substitutes. Healy, O’Mahony and Henderson came on over the space of 15 minutes and changed the game. Ireland came back. And should have gone in front if not for a midfielder charging into a maul. Again, not his fault, he was just trying to help, but rules are rules.

This dented Ireland’s confidence. They looked to believe that if they exerted pressure wales would crack. Wales where cracking but Ireland came away with nothing. The psychological shift yo-yo’d in that second half. If Ireland score 1 try from a malfunctioning lineout in the welsh 5 metre zone and the Rory best maul results in a try the entire game changes. The Irish lineout was easier to read than the Da Vinci code, just with an even more annoying ending. Bad throws? Not enough options or a mixture of the two.

The plays didn’t come off and a slight miscue from J10 while trying to exit the Ireland redzone resulted in a Jamie Roberts try that hurts the scoreboard.

Going back a couple of paragraphs. If Ireland scores 2 tries then the narrative is completely different. Ireland win, while still not playing well and you all think it is winning ugly and a positive thing. The likes of the great Tony Ward would not be asking for the changes he is asking for, but sport being sport, sometimes it goes against you. If you look at most player ratings in various sporting media, players didn’t play badly. The stats would back this up. But stats don’t win games, people do.

We should have strangled that Welsh team, the players on both teams felt that at the opening whistle. Wales where able to psychologically manage the game much better, take advantage of the mental state of the opposition and grew in confidence because of it and deserved the win.

Wales played well, Ireland played at 50%. That is what happened.

As for the backlash, a lot of people are turning into football pundits with the rash decisions and turning on the coach. Firstly, every single rugby playing team on this planet from under 8s to golden oldies would sell their grandmother to have Joe as a coach. He is brilliant. Anyone talking about Joe out is a fan and not a supporter. The best thing about a fan is that the IRFU get their money. The worst part is the post-match conversation.

The second being that Jamie Heaslip should be dropped for O’Mahony. While I agree O’Mahony should start, it should not be at the expense of one of the team’s top performers. Look at the work load. It is only Stander who compares when it comes to tackles, yards etc. This is reactionary nonsense to sell papers. Do not fall for the hype.

With that out of the way, we welcome the old enemy to Dublin. I would dare say they have never been as tough as they are now. It will be an absolute dog fight on Saturday. McFadden has been drafted in to replace Tommy Bowe. Again people losing their mind over this. But he has big match experience, knows the calls etc. and has performed at the highest level. Gilroy has not. I would have brought Adam Byrne in, which goes against my previous 40 words, but he is worthy of a shot. He is big enough, bold enough and brave enough to battle England.

This will be a dogfight. I would start O’Mahony in place of O’Brien, Payne instead of Kearney and Scannell instead of Best. Massive calls to make, not made with any disrespect and very easy from the couch, but if Ireland want to be in with a shot of winning, last weekend’s mistakes cannot happen again.

I will make a bet with everyone reading this. Paddy Jackson scores the final kick for an Ireland win by 3.

As usual, @nkeegan and @kdubdd on instagram for discussion.

Posted in From the desk of Neil, Rugby | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment