The Sky’s The Limit In A Race To The Bottom on
Sunday November 19, 2017
 The Sideline

“The GAA hierarchy are like the pigs in Animal Farm. Repeating the mantras of volunteerism & community while doing the opposite.” Joe Brolly in the aftermath of the GAA’s deal with Sky Sports.

It was a measure of the changing nature of Gaelic Games that if a story of the GAA selling television rights to Sky appeared in the news ten years ago on April Fools’ Day it would have been instantly recognised as a trick for the day that’s in it. But not anymore, the fact the GAA had already made a deal with Setanta in previous years, the fact that Sky have become incredibly aggressive in the Irish market in recent times and of course the fact that the deal was cynically flighted to the press a week ago to try and restrict the fallout, all meant that once the official announcement came, we all knew that this was no prank. Sky are here and as is their wont they are here to stay.

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In Greek mythology, Sisyphus, being punished for his deceitfulness, was compelled to roll a boulder uphill for eternity only to watch the rock slide down the slope every time he reached the summit. If you want to similarly creatively chasten an Irish person, you could arrange that they must watch the frantic denouement to Ireland’s 2014 Six Nation’s campaign over and over without ever getting the relief of Steve Walsh’s final whistle.

It’s one of the oddities of sport that high stakes occasions like the one we saw on Saturday in Paris (for the invested viewer anyway) is probably one of the least enjoyable experiences there is. The wait while Walsh tried to find any reason to allow France’s late score in the corner was particularly tortuous. Nerves ruin the experience of actually watching the contest. With that much on the line, it’s all about the pay-off once the right result is secured.

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On Sunday, the American footballer Michael Sam in a carefully choreographed announcement, revealed he was gay. Sportsmen being upfront about their homosexuality is becoming a much more common occurrence with Donal Óg Cusack, Gareth Thomas and Thomas Hitzlsperger being some of the more high profile examples.

As many have pointed out, the major difference with Sam is he has chosen to come out before his professional career has even begun. It is disappointing that many within the sport have stated that his announcement will see his draft stock fall, but the reaction publicly from the vast majority of players has been hugely positive and it appears in a few months that the NFL will have on its books, an openly gay athlete.

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Written by Conor Hayes

Growing up watching sport at the beginning of this century the green and gold of Australia was almost synonymous with winning. They captured the Rugby World Cup in 1999 and were a whisker away from retaining it in 2003. Their cricket team were simply the greatest side ever assembled and won three World Cups from 1999-2007 and – 2005 aside – continually hammered England in the Ashes. They hosted a wonderful Olympics in 2000 and finished a staggering (given their population) fourth in the medals table. Also around the turn of the millennium they had the world’s best tennis player in Lleyton Hewitt who in these pre-Federer days looked set to dominate his sport. Ian Thorpe too, long before being eclipsed by Micheal Phelps was all set to be remembered as the Spitzian swimmer of our time.

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There haven’t been many nights quite like it and Borussia Dortmund were savouring it. They might still fail in their quest for a second European Cup but Dortmund’s players, fans and their extraordinary manager will always have this game, a testament to the metamorphosis of a club in financial ruin only eight years ago. Remaining on the field with his players, Jürgen Klopp was jumping around in delight, a happiness which for so long looked as if it was going to elude him. The post match media commitments would have to wait, as his players climbed the barricades of the stands, he looked around in surprise and relief, marveling at what he had helped build.

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Ipsos MRBI Survey Presents Some Diffilcult Questions For The GAA And IRFU

As it comes to the end of one of its most difficult years in memory there was some good news at last for the FAI last week. A survey of Irish adults has shown that football was the most popular team sport in terms of participation in the country last year. 12% of people surveyed took part in the game over the past twelve months. Replicating recent trends, Football was played by more people than both Gaelic football and hurling put together who polled 6% and 3% respectively. Perhaps most surprisingly only 1 in 50 people had tried their hand at rugby during 2011. Swimming at (36%) and jogging (24%) remain the most popular forms of exercise for Irish people.

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Manchester United’s Old Guard Has Become An Ongoing Problem

“I throw the ball as hard as ever, but it just takes longer to get to the plate.” – Don Newcombe, Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, in the twilight of his career.

Ryan Giggs turned 39 yesterday. Time catches up with everyone, it has though been very slow to grab hold of Giggs and his teammate Paul Scholes. Only in January of this year Scholes at age 37 returned to United after a brief flirtation with retirement and led them to a ten match unbeaten run including initiating a three goal comeback at Stamford Bridge. Around the same time, Giggs scored a crucial winner at Carrow Road to give United a priceless victory. The season before, the Welshman was man of the match in both legs of the Champions League Quarter Final against Chelsea.

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Written by Conor Hayes

Headquarters, We’ve Got A Problem

It has been reported (although never with hard figures) that more Gardaí are on the clock at the Dublin Derby between Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians in the Airtricity League than All-Ireland Football final day in September. Given that the number of spectators at the latter more often than not is twenty times that of the former it’s initially quite a staggering statistic, if it is in fact true. Given the nature of the occasions; one a fierce rivalry which often boils over, the other a celebratory occasion where whatever two teams are contesting there is a good-natured atmosphere it’s never really surprised anyone. Yet many recent high profile incidents have shown that the friendly atmosphere off the pitch at GAA games may be changing. There is a more sinister edge surrounding some matches at both club and inter-county level and perhaps more worryingly those in the corridors of power within the Association seem unconcerned by the subtle shift of events.

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Written by Conor Hayes

A Fork In The Road

This week the League of Ireland will come to a close with off the pitch events meaning the competition experienced one of its most turbulent editions to date. Given the general financial malaise that usually settles around clubs during the off-season we’ve probably seen nothing yet. Also this week a British tourism agency released a report which states that despite this country’s grievous financial situation 174,000 Irish football supporters went to see their favourite teams play across the water in 2011, spending €100 million in the process.  One week earlier our national side suffered it’s most humiliating reversal in a year full of humiliating reversals. The FAI, after trying to embarrass their manager into resigning came to a conclusion in an emergency meeting that they couldn’t afford to sack him despite Ireland suffering its worst home defeat in their history. So sums up the state of football in Ireland. The 2012 Airtricity League, VisitBritain’s report and the travails of the national side were all reported differently with massively different emphasis yet they are three sides of the same problem, all explain why despite ever rising participation numbers the infrastructure of the game here and its most important ambassador in this country are in such a sorry state of affairs.

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Written by Conor Hayes

Diving: A Moral Panic

So the news cycle swings around and once again we are back on the topic of diving. Two audacious attempts of the art on Sunday in the Premier League by Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez have brought us here again. But why though does diving debate crop up more than any other issue? Why do the perpetrators receive such vitriol from the media and fans alike? Why is diving worse than tugging a shirt in penalty area, fouling a player while he’s through on goal or time wasting? All the same, all trying to gain an advantage over an opponent unfairly; all cheating. It appears that some perspective has been lost in the ever deafening anti-diving clamour.

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