Sunday, February 27, 2005

You'll Never Walk Alone

Well the 'pool didn't take it after all - Captain Fantastic Stevie G managing to head into his own net 12 minutes from time to level things up. Although Liverpool might even have had the better chances (as they were playing on the break and defending so deeply that Chelsea couldn't carve anything clear cut out) I never thought they'd regain the lead and it turned out that way. Gerrard was anonymous, though, and Liverpool seemed to have conceded midfield completely very early on. If there's STG40 million of dodgy Russian petro-money going for him I'd take it (Scott Parker and Xavi Alonso could be an excellent first choice midfield). Damian Duff was immense again for Chelsea, his workrate was exceptional. Steve Finnan did well for Liverpool too - a good day for Irish players. I heard we won the egg-chasing...

The Last Gang In Town

Slate has an article up about the 25th anniversary re-release of The Clash's seminal London Calling LP. London Calling is definitely one of the best rock records of all time (personally I think it wipes the floor with anything the Beatles ever did) but these days the Clash just don't seem to capture the general imagination of the music buying public.

When Britpop exploded in the mid-90s the constant Beatles / London 60s revival references were very clear to all. Yet now, when so many bands are doing well out of the templates laid down by the Clash and subsequently, say, Joy Division (the Killers, Interpol, Razorlight to name three of the better ones) there's still no acknowledgement of how much the post-punks have contributed to new music. Maybe they're just not radio friendly.

Still Britpop died the death it deserved and the new music is definitely better. Who references the Beatles now? "Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust..."!

I'm going out now to watch the match. Not the egg-chasing of course, but the Carling Cup Final between Chelsea and Liverpool. I really think the 'pool can take it - here's hoping.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Pride

I've had the DTs all day yesterday and today - after being out on the beer Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. I went to see Jason Byrne in the Comedy Club in Cork on Saturday night. I was in stitches, which is all you can ask for really! He seemed to move effortlessly between planned material and improvised audience interaction seamlessly. Very impressive. The night club there - City Limits - used to be very popular apparently but very few people hung around after the gig, which is a shame because the setup and music are a lot better there than the busy clubs in town.

Let there be no mistake - Cork is an absolute dump when it comes to nightclubs. Rearden's is the main late night disco bar with "live" music fairly regularly from some of the most pitiful session bands you'll ever have the misfortune to come across. The Qube is a bit better, but not much. Havana Brown's and Cubins are the main pay in, queue for over priced drink and hear all the very worst chart music sorts of places - i.e. shiteholes. For a bit of alternative there was the Half Moon Theatre but that seems to have stopped weekend club nights whereas the Savoy Theatre has reopened after a two-year hiatus. Not sure yet if it cuts the mustard though.

RTE travel show No Frontiers showed a piece from Cork last week. Nine minutes of TV did absolutely feck all for the place. It was so bad that the presenter had to resort to taking a bus to kiss the Blarney Stone. The British travel shows stopped showing such hackneyed rubbish in the '80s. It did absolutely nothing to suggest that Cork is a viable alternative destination to Dublin, Galway or even Belfast or wee Kilkenny. If I was a local I would be raging (their pride in their home town has to be seen to be believed and is quite admirable - even if it's more of an anti-Dublin badge than anything else).

The oddest part of the weekend, though, was Friday night in the aforementioned Rearden's (wasn't my idea!). Towards the end of the night a girl came up to me that recognised me from seeing me talking to a friend of hers (that works with me) out the week before. Anyway she decided to tell me that she heard that I had a big ego and a crush on another girl from work (which is true, although I think I've gotten over the worst of it). She told me that my gay mate from work had said about the crush. I hope it wasn't him who said I had an ego. I'm a little afraid that they might have got that right if they got the crush thing right.

I don't think I can be considered egotistical, though. It's more that I'm opinionated and quite blunt and direct. I'm not trying to professionally psycho-analyse all Irish people but I definitely feel that people in the rural west and south of the country are more evasive and less sincere in everyday conversation than people in the north and east. After all it's they that call it being cute. Does being told I have a "big ego" bother me? Well, it depends on who said it. I don't have much time for a lot of people I work with, but I have a lot of time for some so...

Friday, February 18, 2005

GOTCHA!

The Shinners are in a right mess now and this time hopefully, surely, please God, the mud will stick. As I wrote a couple of weeks back an amazing 1 in 5 Irish people believed that the IRA were not responsible for the robbery. Of course nothing has been proven in a court of law but the fact remains that the Garda Síochana have pulled off a major money laundering bust directly related to the criminal activities of the IRA. A former Sinn Fein election candidate also getting arrested is just the icing on the cake.

I don't ever remember seeing the Shinners under this much pressure before. They've been given the benefit of the doubt so much over the past ten years because everyone is so afraid of a return to "war". They are rewarded for peace yet it is a peace that exists only because the provos in their shadows choose not to kill for the moment. We have had to sacrifice democracy and principles and, worse, we've had to enshrine sectarianism in Northern Ireland. Now one has to class themselves Catholic or Protestant thus reinforcing the image of religious conflict in a battle that was really about national identity and ethnicity.

In what is turning into an Annus Horribilis for Republicans the aftermath of the Robert McCartney murder has also been causing a lot of unwanted attention. The wonderfully brave sisters and partner of Mr. McCartney have managed the previously un-imaginable - they have managed to shame Sinn Fein into effectively asking people to help the police catch IRA men responsible for murder.

Can we really hope that the tide is turning? Is the ten year honeymoon period for Sinn Fein finally over?

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Beautiful Game

I have long suspected Kevin Mitchell of the Observer to be an apologist for rugby. Yesterday he nailed his colours firmly to the mast with his articles Among the Thugs and Rugby Points the Way for Football. The basic premise of the two pieces is that the abuse of officials by players and managers is a cancer on football that does not affect rugby. Now, at that basic level, there can be no argument that the officials in football - at all levels - are subjected to a disgraceful level of vitriol regularly (though I would argue not routinely). It is nasty and unacceptable and it is a wonder that these men and women are prepared to put up with it at all. Similarly it is true that rugby just does not suffer from the same afflictions. Does that mean, however, that rugby is some kind of ideal for football to aspire to? Does it even mean that the articles as penned are completely accurate?

The first part of the former article tells an anecdotal tale of a gun being pulled on a referee at an obscure Sunday League game. Now the implication is very clear - this is a result of bad discipline and lack of respect for officials throughout the game. It is not. A man bringing a deadly weapon to a football match is a crime that could and should be punished with a jail sentence. How can any sporting authority attempt to deal with such an incident, or any incident of assault. The people mentioned in the non-League anecdotes clearly don't reserve such behaviour for the football field - there is obviously a social issue in evidence, of which criminal behaviour on the football pitch is only one symptom.

Almost immediately afterwards Mitchell quotes Alan Wilkie, a former Premiership referee as saying "One of the causes [of abuse], undoubtedly, is that some players have an arrogance towards officials stemming from the fact that they earn so much. It is very common." Even accepting that to be the case, how does it then explain the malaise at all levels of the game that Mitchell has chosen to highlight. Is he suggesting that the root cause is really as simplistic as Sunday Leaguers aping what they see Premiership stars do? Isn't it far more likely that the what Mitchell describes as "For every nutter with a gun, there are thousands with short tempers and vile tongues, spitting invective at referees and linesmen and forcing many of these officials out of football" is part of a society-wide malaise that sees the same sort of agonising over, for example, a binge-drinking culture.

The second article is far more annoying - the lazy (always unfavourable) comparisons with rugby. Now I could suggest that players having respect for officials is slightly undermined by the violence rugby players seem quite prepared to inflict on their opponents. However it may be better to take the arguments as they're presented. Early on Mitchell reminds the reader how "a century ago, beyond all our recollections admittedly, teams such as Corinthians wouldn't even take a penalty, because they thought it unsportsmanlike." Clearly the day of the gentleman footballer has passed, except the often pilloried Robbie Fowler tried to do the same much more recently (and was prevented from doing so by a pig-headed referee, incidentally).

However the reason I find the piece galling is not the principle that rugby players show far more respect to officials than footballers, but because comparing the two is not comparing like with like. Mitchell brushes across the point late in the piece but doesn't explore it at all (wilfully, I wonder?). The first and most obvious is that, in rugby, there is a ten yard penalty for dissent. In a sport where territorial advantage is everything, that ten yards can make a crucial difference. Rugby players are taught from a very young age to keep their mouths shut, not out of respect, but so as not to make the team suffer because of a loose tongue. What would be an equivalent in football? I can't think of one certainly.

A second crucial difference is that rugby is played at a far slower pace than football. The referees are always right on top of the action and are often way better placed to see an infringement than any player and, in fact, are in a position to talk constantly to the players, to virtually remind them of the rules or give a slap on the wrist as the play is progressing. Such a situation means contentious decisions are far less likely and, again, there is no direct comparison with football. Also, due to both the higher scoring nature of the sport, and TV replays to confirm legitimate scores, result-altering contentious decisions are very rare. Lastly, considering the many potentially contentious, match-altering calls football officials do have to make, (and the consequences of a mistake being made) is it really so surprising that adrenalin (or stress) fuelled players and managers can boil over?

A goal disallowed for offside, a last minute cup-tie winning penalty awarded, a player red-carded for a perceived late challenge... the list goes on and there simply is no equivalent in rugby. Football needs to clean up its behaviour and there are a lot of things that need looking at as Mitchell alludes to. However rugby isn't one of them.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

You'll Never Walk Alone

Well we won, so we did (that's a Dundalk-ism, so it is... I'll stop now. So I will). The Duffman was magnificent as usual and only John O'Shea had what could be considered a poor game (although I'm not exactly sure what Matt Holland did all night). It was brassers though, really fecking cold.

In the aftermath, Vincent Hogan is up to his old shite again in the Indo today. Just read this crap. How does he get away with it?

The Duff picked up his 50th cap yesterday while The Man Who Can Do No Wrong has 62. Yet Duff has taken seven years to reach his total while TMWCDNW earned his first 14 years ago. Given that he could be considered an automatic first choice since 1993 it's a surprise that he hasn't earned more (despite his self-imposed two year retirement). I wonder if I'll bother to collate a comparison of games missed for Ireland with games missed for Man Yoo...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

All I Want Is You

Last night at about 3am I was debating posting something. I was lying on my mate's couch trying to sleep but I just couldn't. I started reliving a conversation I had with a girl from work in a club last Friday night. The gay bloke from work was having a night out because he's left to go travelling in Australia (as so, so many Irish people seem to have been doing for the last ten years or so). Anyway this girl is also gay, which I've known as long as I know her, and we get on very well.

She was telling me first about some of the grief she gets and then about her girlfriend and how, even though they've both changed in the five years they're going together, she still knows this girl is the one for her. To my shame, I realised something at that moment - gay people aren't just physically attracted to people of their own sex, they're emotionally attracted too (to the right person, of course). It's not just that, say, a man prefers the body of another man or how he looks or dresses to a woman, he emotionally connects with another man in the way he just can't with a woman. How come that never occured to me before?

What talking to my friend made me realise was that, despite having crushes on a multitude of girls, and going out with a couple of real pets that I'm still in touch with, I've never had that emotional connection with any girl that makes me want to spend every moment with her. Therefore I don't even know how that's supposed to feel or how I'm ever going to find that. Also, complete skeptic that I am, I now wonder how many couples genuinely have that and how many are going out with their partners for more base reasons - comfort, familiarity, peer pressure... short-sightedness?... I mean just how likely is it that in this world of 6 billion people that your soulmate is to be found in your class in school or college? And, seeing as so many people I know that are in serious, settled relationships have been with the same partner since their late 'teens or early twenties, how can you possibly know if you and your partner belong together when you're still too young to fully know your own self?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

You'll Never Walk Alone

Ireland play Portugal tomorrow night in a friendly and I'm heading on the train up today. It'll be my first trip to see the boys in green since that great weekend in Paris back in October. Roy the boy is out, of course. Who ever accused him of feigning injury to miss friendlies?... Still we have to learn to live without him and accept his presence for the big games as the bonus it undoubtedly is. It would still be nice if his prospective team-mates were given the chance to play with him however.

Hopefully we'll get a good game, Portugal under Scolari play good football, even if their flair players are getting on a bit. Depending on who they select I wouldn't be surprised if we got beaten but if we give a strong performance and show that we can carve out chances and compete with any team then we might be set up nicely for the game in Israel at the end of March. I must remember, though, that Ireland haven't won a competitive match away from home against any half-decent side since Scotland in 1987. It would be nice to break that run.

The leader of the Green Party in Ireland, Enda Gormley, reminded me once again why I could never vote for such a party, despite my increasingly left-leaning tendencies, when he actually suggested that Ireland should refuse to play a World Cup qualifier in Israel because of the violence in Palestinian territories. Thankfully the Minister for Foreign Affairs (and my local TD from home), Dermot Ahern, knocked that suggestion right on the head. It didn't go un-noticed in Israel, however.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Operation U2 Ticket Acquisition - Success!

Indeed it was a success - two seated tickets for both the Friday and Saturday night gigs. I wanted standing tickets but I'm not complaining. I was tenth in line having arrived at 8pm (a full 12 hours to wait sitting on the pavement in the cold). The lads around me were all pretty good craic and two sisters - Carrie and Eve - were very good fun considering the majority of lads around them. I spent a lot of the time debating with myself whether I wanted to ask Carrie out or not. In the end I didn't. The time didn't go so badly but I only managed about 40 minutes of shut-eye so I'm in a bit of a heap typing this now. I'll see how long I last.

All standing tickets were sold-out by about 8:07 (just before I reached the counter) and all tickets were gone within half an hour, I think. Queuing was the right thing to do alright - a lot of my mates have come up short and all seem to think I've a magic pot of tickets for them cos I queued. Well I don't!

The only hairy moment was when some drunk middle-aged dude seemed to get a load of blankets from the homeless shelter and dump himself in the middle of us. Then he kept going on about how he'd like to see his wife and kids but the law was preventing him... Blah, blah you couldn't make head nor tale of the chap. But he was then joined by two younger, nastier alcos. There was a sigh of relief when they had all buggered off that's for sure.

Anyway mission accomplished! (thanks for the whooping Mr. American at the back...)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Operation U2 Ticket Acquisition

Tomorrow morning. 8 O' Clock. The time is nearly upon me. I am a man on a mission - I WILL GET U2 tickets tomorrow morning. The mobile phone is fully charged, I have four compadres lined up to assault the ticketmaster site and I'm going queuing this evening with a sleeping bag, a book and my iPod loaded up with 400+ U2 tracks. I messed up four years ago for the Elevation tour, I refuse to mess up again. Also, I solemnly pledge to sell on any extra tickets I manage to get at face value to REAL U2 fans.

Call back tomorrow to see how I did.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Stay Free

To the people of Iraq - well bloody done! A level of bravery and courage, in the face of uncompromising bullying and brutality, I don't think I've ever seen in my lifetime.

Have we seen the path of history changed in the Middle East? Afghanistan, Palestine and now Iraq have had successful elections and each face what is potentially a much brighter future than they were in, say, 1999.

The Americans have made LOADS of mistakes but, in general, it is they who have made this happen and (unfortunately) they have shown the UN up to be impotent and have made the EU (as a group and the big European nations in particular) look jealous, cynical and totally self interested. Europe just does not have a foreign policy, never mind the stomach to implement one.

And to the people of Ireland, who seem to have replaced their anti-Britishness with rabid anti-Americanism, are you even remotely generous of spirit? Can you see what a great thing has happened without collapsing into a sneering contempt for George W? I doubt it.
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