Category Archives: Sport

When will a League of Ireland football club win the European Champions League?

How many hundreds of millions of €€€ would need to be invested (or what % of Ireland GDP) for a League of Ireland football team to win the European Champions League and how many decades would we have to wait?

Amateur versus professional arguments aside, and given the joint Irish, Scottish and Welsh big to host UEFA Euro 2020 wouldn’t an All-Ireland football league featuring teams from both the Republic and Northern Ireland raise competitiveness and Ireland’s footballing profile so we can attract the likes of Messi and Ronaldo to play for Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers…. assuming hundreds of millions of €€€ are thrown at this obvious win-win use of public / private funds?

Perhaps Roy Keane could do for football in Ireland what David Beckham is doing across the pond in Miami… buy the League…. He’s loaded right? The TV pundit stuff is more for satisfying his ego, surely he doesn’t need what amounts to loose change.

All Ireland football league Euopean Champions league

Not even Saint Anthony, known as the performer of miracles, could create an ‘Irish Real Madrid’, no matter how much money was invested. With close to 300 million fans base, the world’s richest professional football club, having just won its 10th European Champions title, is in a high-performance footballing stratosphere of its own.

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Filed under Ireland, Niallism, Sport, weird

Asia Gaelic Games, Manila 1997- Korea’s ‘Kimchi Kickers’

The Kim Chi Kickers of GAAG ’97

It is eleven years ago since I hung up my Gaelic football boots. In point of fact, it’s also eleven years since I first put them on, although I’m having trouble recalling exactly what were on my feet as I played the position of goalkeeper for the Kimchi Kickers, the first team from the Republic of Korea to participate in the Guinness Asia Gaelic Games (GAGG), held at Manila’s salubrious Nomads Sports Club from June 6th to June 8th 1997.

It should come as no surprise that my memories of the occasion are now somewhat fuzzy for it took a team celebration hosted by the Irish Ambassador to Korea two weeks after the event to piece together some semblance of what exactly happened such was the entertainment both on and off the field of play.

From the outset I’d like to let it be known that as our motley squad assembled on the afternoon of June 5th at Seoul’s Kimpo Airport I was very much under the impression I was only accompanying the Kimchi Kickers as one of three official fans (the others being yer man Shay from Unilever, and Yvonne, the wife of Alan Hobbs of Enterprise Ireland/IDA distinction), for I’d never in my life played Gaelic Football (the only preceding Gaelic Athletic Association recollection of note was when as an eight year old being forced to finish a dish of cold cabbage and ham in a dining room festooned by dazzling silver All-Ireland trophies and medals  at the Tralee home of John Joe Sheedy, the Kerry great) and hadn’t a clue about the rules. I’d also never been to the Philippines, and knowing well the band that called themselves the Kimchi Kickers this was one experience I wasn’t going to miss.

Official Poster - Asia Gaelic Games Manila 1997- Korea Kimchi Kickers

I’d also like to let it be known that at a quarter to four the following morning as we all poured ourselves back into the Midtown Hotel lobby, the official GAGG hotel, after an over enthusiastic introduction to Manila’s riotous nightlife, I still hadn’t a clue about the rules. I do recall though one of the more perceptive members of our line-up noting the lobby being very quiet at this time (“all the other teams must be asleep” she noted), that our New Zealand borne goalkeeper was missing, while our star player, Roy, was complaining about a bite on his neck (not of the Mosquito variety) and the need to get some sort of injection.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that one and all had just came together at the airport, were given a rule book, a Kimchi Kicker sports shirt and directed toward the boarding gate. Nothing could be further from the truth. By the time the Kimchi Kickers assembled they were a well and truly oiled team. They (note at this stage I don’t use the word “we”) were comprised of dedicated FAS graduates, Aussie Rules fanatics from down under, in addition to a Canadian and the New Zealand goalkeeper, all of whom had been religiously practicing every Sunday for the previous four or five months. And training conditions were harsh indeed, sure there wasn’t even a decent Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) practice pitch to be found anywhere in Seoul, except those hard asphalt surfaces. And despite some queer looks of puzzlement from the locals as to what sort of ball game was being played by the ginger-haired foreigners with those green tartan hats, the Kimchi Kickers persevered with their training program under the wise, professional, and inspirational guidance of Alan HobbsBritish Airways came in with a bit of sponsorship money, which made possible the fitting out of stylish on-and-off the pitch attire (as in navy blue polo shirts), which, in hindsight, must have been the attraction to join for the Kimchi Kickers’ two secret weapons: Annie from Ireland and Sue from Korea. They’d remain secret until five minutes before the kick-off of the first match when an impassioned argument with the match officials and tournament organisers ensued. Our first win and a first in GAGG history: acceptance of a unisex team that would soon be taking on the might of Singapore Gaelic Athletic Association and Hong Kong Gaelic Athletic Association.

Asia Gaelic Games, Manila 1997- Korea Gaelic Football Team Kimchi Kickers

It was also a committed and confident team raring to go, ready to do Korea proud, that arrived in Manila Airport, where we were bumped into Cathal Friel, a friend from Donegal, on the first leg of a world backpacking trip, who wanted to see for himself what all the commotion was about. While promising he’d be Kimchi Kickers loyal fan #4 it was lightheartedly noted his hiking boots were multipurpose. “You must be joking”, said he.

And so to 8.00am back in the now full of life lobby of the Midtown Hotel, after less than three hours sleep.  In the midst of all the cheery smiles, the hearty mix of Irish county, Australian and many imperceptible accents, the good –natured slagging and banter, as old friendships and bonds were rekindled among Gaels from Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Thailand, Malaysia and Korea, I had the first spine-tingling moment of many I’d experience over the next two days:  Despite the euphoria and the sense of occasion everyone had a single-mindedness. They were here to emulate the spirit of Derek Brady and bring back the Trophy bearing his name to their respective country of temporary exile. It was a great moment to be Irish.

With the outside temperature hitting a sweltering 35 degrees Celsius, by the time we boarded the coach to drive us to the tournament venue we were already covered with sweat. However, it wasn’t just the heat that was concerning the Kimchi Kickers. Our New Zealand goalkeeper wasn’t exactly of sound mind having just returned from a night on the town absolutely the worst for wear.

“But Niall all you need to do is stand there and keep your eyes focused on the ball, we’ll do the rest”.

“But I don’t know the rules”, my second spine-quivering moment.

“We’ll explain”, said the girls, and in one of those “and the way she might look at you” Sally O’Brien moments I was in as goalkeeper for the Kimchi Kickers.

The girls produced a ridiculous looking pair of Nomads Sports Club black shorts, with an outlandish green goalkeeper’s hat, while someone else produced a pair of white runners. I was ready.

We were ready and as we ran out onto the park for our first game the only words ringing in my mind were the conundrum “carry the ball three steps, drop and toe-kick back into the hands, repeat when you’re running up the pitch and then hand-pass”.  I recall we got off to the best start possible. Team Malaysia, our first opponents, had decided they could make their own way to the venue by taxi only to become lost in transit.

For the next two days we ran our hearts out… It was absolutely brilliant.

Asia Gaelic Games, Manila 1997 Korea Gaelic Football Team Kimchi Kickers

Even now I can visualise the stifling heat, bottles of water flying all over the place, newly recruited belisha beacon-like Cathal Friel running around the pitch in his hiking boots, the two girls scaring the living bejesus out of the opposition through their high-pitched screeching and other choice weapons of mass destruction, and the strong presence and savvy footballing skills of Colin, Ray and Alan.  All helped to win the big-hearted crowd over to our underdog status.  The personal high for me on the field of play though was the draw with Singapore and my match saving tackle on their leading light. I just remember telling myself he wasn’t going to get past me, closing my eyes and running in his direction. He didn’t and the ensuing crunch hurt a lot, yet the adrenalin rush from hearing the crowd show their appreciation while my fellow Kimchi Kickers patted me on the back had me up in a jig running back to protect our goal, ready for more of the same.

In the end the Kimchi Kickers lost a few games, won one or two. However, the results didn’t matter. What mattered was the courage, dedication, loyalty to team mates, the desire to win, the humbleness in victory, and dignity in defeat that each and every participant confirmed to be the true unique spirit of the Guinness Asia Gaelic Games.

Asia Gaelic Games, Manila 1997- Korea Gaelic Football Team Kimchi Kickers - Man of the match player of tournament Medal

When it was announced I had been voted the Aer Rianta Player of the Tournament / Man of the Match, another spine-tingling moment, I felt truly humbled, an honour I am still very proud of to this day (a very useful piece of GAA metal to highlight in my CV). The post-tournament celebrations and the camaraderie were equally amazing.”

This personal recollection was written by myself — The Goalkeeper — for the Gaelic Games Association Asian County Board website. It is posted here: 

http://www.asiancountyboard.com/tournaments/asian-gaelic-games-2013/asian-gaelic-games-1996-2011/196-personal-stories

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Filed under 1997, Ability, Gaelic Football, Inspirational, Korea, Philippines, Sport

Gerry Thornley – Credit where credit is due

If someone makes a huge difference in your life it certainly doesn’t hurt anyone to show your appreciation for their hard work, especially if you have never met that person face-to-face: Credit where credit is due.

It’s the middle of the rugby union Six Nations 2008 Championships back home, my favourite time of the sporting year, with Ireland once again battling it out for glory against France, Italy, Wales, England and Scotland, and I know  back home in Ireland everyone is glued to their televisions in anticipation of triumph.  Great craic to be had by all especially when, with two rouds to go, any one of four teams can still claim the Six Nations title.

Wisdom in the shape of a rugby ball

Wisdom in the shape of a rugby ball

And here I am in China… no rugby, let alone Six Nations rugby is broadcast on State-run CCTV television, and the games on the Star Sports/ESPN satellite channels –if you can find a bar that uses the Philippines as opposed to Hong Kong signal to broadcast the rugby matches – are on so friggin late!

Well all is not lost… cue Gerry Thornley, the Rugby correspondent for the Irish Times, who in my humble opinion is the divine being of sports journalism. The way his words illustrate the protagonists, the villains, and set the scenes before, during and after each match is mind-boggling… he really is a master craftsman when it comes to writing and I’d be truly fecked if I couldn’t read his prose in the build up to each game.

So credit where credit is due….

 

From: Gerry Thornley [mailto:gxxx@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, 27 February, 2008 10:16 PM
To: niall_xxx@xxx.com
Subject: Re: ireland .com:All Black blue blood steeped in red

 

Cheers Niall,

 

Much appreciated.

 

Gerry
———————————————————————–
Sat, Feb 16, 2008 at 11:45 PM

From: Niall
To:  
gthornley@irish-times.ie
Re: “All Black blue blood steeped in red” [ http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/sport/2008/0216/1203093377123.html }
———————————————————————–
Comments:
Hi Gerry
As a diehard Irish rugby fan living in China, where the State television monopoly makes it almost impossible to view any of the games Live, the manner of your writing talent only adds to my sense of frustration. Keep it up… I consider you the very best sports writer around.
All the best
Niall

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Filed under 2008, Inspirational, Ireland, Language, Niallism, Rugby, Sport, writing

22nd September: My reaction to the 25-3 thumping by France at the 2007 Rugby World Cup

“We have a rugby squad full of trumped up prima donnas, more concerned about their images then living up to what we expected from them. No excuses, they have played dreadfully. On present form they dont deserve to advance to the next stage. Can’t believe I stayed up until 5.15 am Saturday morning watching such a shoddy performance. Argentina will add the final nail in the coffin. They’ve already beaten us twice this summer. Dreadful!
Niall in China  China”
I am your typical armchair critic. I don’t play rugby, never did, and put me up head-to-head with that hairy and brutish monster Chabal (see photo) and, no doubt in my mind, I’ll run in the opposite direction faster than I have ever run in my whole life.
Sebastian Chabal stuffs Ireland - My reaction to the 25-3 thumping by France at the 2007 Rugby World Cup
But all the hype about this team, these highly paid rugby players…. loads of taxpayers money was thrown at them, for what?   Just like Saipan in the 2002 Football World Cup they’ve blown it. Where to from here? Home to mother lads!
Definition:
An armchair critic is an individual who has a great deal of theoretical knowledge about a subject, with little or no practical experience.

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Filed under Rugby, Sport