The mid-season break is here, and Limerick are flagging a bit in the League of Ireland. A 1-0 defeat away to Shams is just another loss in a very poor period for the club, who now find themselves five points off the relegation places having won just four games in 19. A lot of work to do there.
Elsewhere, St Pats great form of late leaves them top, but the defeat to Dundalk tonight, overshadowed by some form of trouble in the stands leaves things pretty well-placed for the neutral as we look forward to the return of the LOI at the end of the month. Considering the topsy turvy way things have gone this year – like Sligo’s immense winning streak at the start of the season turning into being four points adrift at this point – there is plenty left to play for. I take special not of Shelbourne’s wholly unexpected away win at Bohemians, the kind of perception altering result that could wind up doing an immense amount for Shels’ morale and psyche, while further dragging down the Gypsies.
Down south, way down south, the British and Irish Lions are taking part in their traditional tour of the southern hemisphere, to culminate in a three game “test” series against Australia.
It is, maybe, because I am no big supporter of rugby union that I do not “get” the Lions. The team has its origins in a completely different era – when the associations of the British Isles combined forces to help deal with the cost of tours to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – and for me, lacks any sort of attraction. I can watch Ireland and Munster play with a degree of attachment, but the Lions are a mishmash of nationalities and allegiances, playing in what is, in the grand scheme of international rugby, little more than a group of friendlies with a higher chance of injury for everyone involved.
It doesn’t help that the Lions’ games in the run-up to the real thing amount to little more than a series of blowouts against Australian club teams that field reserves and seem to operate as little more then 15 man injury causing obstacles for the Lions. The amount of withdrawals from the squad is truly eye-raising, and I wonder how much that would be tolerated in another sport.
The actual test games will be much more enjoyable to watch I suppose, but when you compare that to something like the Confederations Cup, currently being played in the realm of association football, for me there is no contest. The Lions seems very much ;like a sop to the traditions of Rugby, one that the British and Irish team has little chance of actually winning outright and which seems to falter a little bit more every year as the club game gains greater and greater prominence on both sides of the equator.
Speaking of the Confederations Cup, tiny little Tahiti take to the world stage for the first time ever today, taking on Nigeria before later playing (gulp) Spain and Uruguay. I read interviews today from the Tahiti manager expressing dread for what is about to happen to his side, as their pre-tournament preparation involved losing 7-0 to a Chilean U-20 team. Now they’re going up against the World and European Champions, the African Champions and one of the best teams in South America.
I don’t really have too much sympathy though. Participation in the Confederations Cup is not a mandatory thing (Germany have withdrawn from it twice, as have France), so if Tahiti don’t want to be humiliated, they don’t have to be. They have a right to compete in the tournament as the winners of the Oceania Confederations national trophy, and I would never begrudge their players the chance to play on such a stage, but when they lose, and lose hard, we shouldn’t rush to pat them on the back. Tahiti won’t really learn much from the coming experience, any more than Nigeria, Spain or Uruguay will benefit much from what is, essentially, the equivalent of Manchester United playing a Sunday League pub team. Amateurs can’t compete on this level, and they know that. Oceania is the whipping boy of the FIFA world, and there is no team from there that could replace Tahiti and actually compete to a much higher level, but that doesn’t mean we have to praise them to high heaven.
I don’t mean to overly criticise Tahiti, or even to tell them that they should go home. I’m just saying that a blowout isn’t entertaining to watch, or in any way helpful to either team competing.