SPORTSWRITE: Down beat

Paddy Walsh

Reporter:

Paddy Walsh

Two away days in Paris. Unbeaten both times. But you couldn’t have scrummed a consolation out of that if you were an Irish player coming off the pitch at the Stade de France on Saturday - truly, as several members of the squad have suggested, one of those days when a draw felt like a defeat.

Two away days in Paris. Unbeaten both times. But you couldn’t have scrummed a consolation out of that if you were an Irish player coming off the pitch at the Stade de France on Saturday - truly, as several members of the squad have suggested, one of those days when a draw felt like a defeat.

Trotting in at half-time, 17-6 up, the confidence levels can only been heading skywards but this wasn’t lost in the Irish dressing-room. For you can picture the French changing rooms at the interal and the determination of the home players to keep alive their Grand Slam ambitions. In the end they didn’t thanks largely to some heroic Irish rearguard action but the draw was about as useful to both teams as a year’s supply of shampoo to Keith Wood.

In sitting rooms all over the country R.T.E. commentator, Ryle Nugent, declared at half-time that viewers would be shouting “steady” at their T.V. screens as the broadcasters gushed optimistically about Irish hopes for a win.

Not steady enough as far as the visiting team was concerned with the French clawing back the deficit and Ireland unable to respond in any shape or form on the scoreboard.

And now the Scots arrive in town - a team that also give France a run for its money a couple of weeks back and remembered how to score tries again. Andy Robinson’s charges will also have the advantage of a two week lay-off as Ireland attempt to put it up to them on a six day turnaround. And that without the towering influence of captain Paul O’Connell.

Scotland came to Dublin a couple of seasons back and destroyed Irish hopes of a Triple Crown. A growing confidence in the team might see them unhinge us again but you’d hope the green tops would have enough in the tank to record the victory that escaped them in Paris.

Incidentally, was it me or did I sense a much more amicable response from Declan Kidney to the post match interview last weekend on the B.B.C. with Jill Douglas as opposed to the more muted and short answers given to R.T.E.’s Claire McNamara? Has the Irish coach has enough of the panel slaying his team tend to take when displays fall short of required standards?

Ironically, on the very day when George Hook summed up the Irish display thus: “They did bloody well and we should welcome them home and say, well done lads.”

Encouraging opening

Travelling back from promotion favourites, Limerick, with no points after their opening outing in this year’s League of Ireland campaign may have been what many anticipated but by all reports, Finn Harps gave a decent account of themselves and were unfortunate not to return with something in the bag.

Two goals behind after 25 minutes, they could have collapsed completely but instead fought back with a strike from one of the young guns, Adam Clarke to leave the game in the balance right up until the full-time whistle.

On the same night, Wexford Youths thumped in six without reply against a team who would have been considered likely to be in the mix at the end of the season, Waterford United. It may take them some time to recover from that one but for Harps there’ll be a generous measure of confidence stemming from the performance at Jackman Park even if they have to plan for the next couple of months without central defender, Keith Cowan who suffered a hairline fracture of the ankle.

Times like these you need Packie Mailey back in the ranks.

Red Robin

Absolutely no doubt who the English Premiership Player of the Season will be, surely. Step forward Mr. Robin Van Persie - goalscorer supreme and not just your two yard tap-ins.

His strike against Liverpool at Anfield which won the game in the 92nd minute was a joy to behold and not just because it was against Liverpool at Anfield.

Read somewhere over the weekend that of his seven shots on target in his last four league matches, all seven have resulted in goals. Though definitely none better than his angled volley into the corner that clinched the points for Arsenal on Saturday.

A born goalscorer except in the Champions League where he can hit a barn door as long as the barn door’s name is Christian Abbiati, the A.C. Milan ‘keeper.

Glory McIlroy

The star of the County Down is now officially ranked number one in the golfing world (obviously yours truly’s prowess on the crazy golf circuit doesn’t count for some obscure reason) and fairway play to him.

Apparently those who know about these things are predicting that young Rory’s career earnings will break the 1 billion euro barrier. And all for aiming to put a small ball in a slightly larger hole in less strokes than anybody else.

A good walk spoiled, Mark Twain was reputed to have once described the game of golf. Hardly if it’s helping to swell your account into world number one banking territory.

Late query

Have Chelsea appointed this month’s manager yet....?