Due to sickness I missed most of last weeks usual schedule, but gap allowed me some time to think about some of the stuff I write here. It’s a been a lengthy tradition on this site to spend Monday’s taking about football, both in the League of Ireland and England. However, in the last while I’ve come to some unpleasant conclusions about the quality and focus of my writing on those topics. In the end, I’m just offering brief recaps of matches, with some fairly one-note and oft-repeated lines of analysis to go with them.
I’m somewhat bored of doing that. I tried to be more expansive in order to rev up some of my flagging interest, but in the end my football round-up has become a chore, one that I no longer really enjoy doing, and which does not garner many readers.
So, with that in mind, I have decided to alter the Monday post a bit. It’ll be sports related still, because I love sport and that will never change. But I’m going to open things up to more sports in order to add greater variety, and limit my focus for football to the teams I actively support. So, here’s to the new era.
Limerick looked really off the pace against St Patrick’s Athletic, easily beaten in the end by a team that, by nearly all accounts, are playing the best football of any team in the LOI this season. Limerick have extensive injury problems and Taylor didn’t have as much time as he would have wanted at the beginning of the year to actually form a squad, but the recent run of form is fairly concerning. Considering the resources that have been put into the team, the return has, on occasion, been lacking.
The summer transfer window is going to be a really key test of Taylor’s ability in my eyes, since several of Limerick’s better players in the first half of the season, like Craig Curran, will probably be leaving and will require replacing. Limerick have showed signs of greatness at points in the first half of their top flight return, but a careful look at the table shows them just five points – or put another way, two bad results – from the relegation places. Only the play-off place is a realistic worry, given Shelbourne’s appalling displays this season, and even that would be a bit of a stretch, but I’d like to see Limerick show some progression and try to aim a little higher than survival.
On the national side of things, Ireland eventually came to a 3-0 scoreline against the group minnows, but it took a long amount of time to get there, and the performance was, as ever under the Great and Powerful Oz, disappointing. With the exception of Keane and Hoolahan, none of the team really covered themselves in glory, hamstrung by a system of long ball and lack of pressure that was completely unsuitable for professionals playing a team of fishermen.
Keane is aging and has (or should have) little time left as a starting forward. He’ll be forced into a sub-role soon enough, by the march of time if nothing else. But against a defence of the amateur nature of the Faroe Islands, he’s able to find plenty of gaps and drift into space when needs be, and he deserved the hat-trick. Even if he was up to little els outside the box. Hoolahan was a delight at times, some excellent passing play for the first two goals and a genuine threat all night. The negative is only the depression that will invariably follow when Trap fails to start him for the really crucial games.
Other players let themselves down. Wilson was ineffective and surprisingly nervous for the opposition, Whelan was as unimpressive as ever, McGeady wasted too many opportunities after getting in to good positions, Cox was typically wasted on the right wing (while McClean, an actual winger, sat out a game against 6th seeds) and then there was Sammon.
I don’t want to be overly critical of Sammon, but he’s third tier playing for a national side. People seemed to fall over themselves to praise him for his assist to Keane for his final goal. He received, moved a step and passed it four yards, against an amateur defence that looked exhausted in the final minutes. It’s the only thing I’ve ever seen him add to the Irish effort in a competitive game and it was nothing Cox, Walters or Long could not have done. Trap’s odd faith in him is worrying.
Ireland still have to go to Austria and win, and get something off Sweden too. Yikes.
It’s hurling season again, and praise the Lord we have had a few actual competitive games. This time last season we had the pleasure of watching Dublin slaughter Laois, Galway slaughter Westmeath and Tipp reap the benefits of another Limerick choke job.
This time we’ve seen something different and, in order to alleviate the “Blowout Problem” I really hope it continues. Dublin and Wexford might not have played some vintage hurling, but their draw was at least interesting to watch. Offaly provided a better test than expected against Kilkenny even if the end result was very predictable. And then there was Limerick.
Three years ago, after the Limerick youth team that Justin McCarthy was trying to blood in as a new wave of Senior hurlers (a policy I supported wholeheartedly) was dumped out of the championship in a qualifier against Offaly, I said this:
“The time will come when this team turns around and beats Cork or Tipp or Waterford. And for those players, who went out and gave a “battling display” only to lose over and over again, because they weren’t old enough, fast enough, experienced enough, for those players who had to trudge back to Limerick in defeat, for those players who stood in front of reporters with tears close to bursting out of their eyes, it will be a sweet, sweet moment.”
That moment has come. Featuring plenty of younger players who took part in U21 competition just a week ago, this Limerick team fought hard, played hard and won a great victory in the Gaelic Grounds, which I’m delighted to say I was present at. Rather than offer any specific comments on tactics, I’ll only say that, having seen Tipp score a goal to take a four point lead deep in the second half, I pretty much figured Limerick had thrown away another lead. But rather than fade away as they have at many point over the last few years, they fought back, peppered over points and got the advantage.
It was this period where I most proud, seeing players fling themselves at balls that Tipp were trying to play out from their own half, and battling gamely for any loose possession, any slim chance. There was a clear desire there, not to let this be just another defeat.
At the start of the this season, I would have hoped that, having established themselves as All-Ireland quarter-finalist standard over the last few years, this current Limerick team would go one step forward and reach the last four. Well, following the marvellous victory yesterday, they are one single win away from achieving that, as well as their first trophy in many, many years. This is good for Limerick hurling, and for hurling in general.
Lastly for today, I’ll mention ice hockey. My love of that sport is not something I usually talk about too much, but I’d like to give a shout-out to the Boston Bruins. It would be in appropriate to call myself an avid supporter of the club, since I enjoy the game and their exploits in a casual, distant manner, but I’m still delighted to see them reach their second Stanley Cup Finals in three years, where they will take on #1 in the nation side the Chicago Blackhawks. Having come back in Game 7 against Toronto in astonishing fashion and swept aside the highly fancied Pittsburgh Penguins, we can at least be pretty sure that the underdogs will give us a good show.