Christmas and New Year

So it’s that time of the year again, it’s hard to think I was writing a similar piece this time last year. Where has that 12 months gone? Time to spend some quality time with family and friends again, in some cases it will be the first time families will be together since last Christmas.

There a numerous reasons for that, work, strained relationships, living in different countries etc. I am not a massive fan of this time of year as I will openly and often admit but I will put on the shop face and try and take some of the advice I freely pass on to others.

Seeing people arriving home to spend time with family is great and it is great to meet up with people you may not meet for another 12 months. It defiantly brings some sort of a buzz to the place which keeps going from now till early January.

Spare a thought also for people who struggle at this time of year and may not have the family or friends to help them through the next few days. This time of the year can also make old wounds seem fresh and the fact that a loved one is no longer around or cannot be at home for Christmas but with the right approach those tough moments will pass and you can try and enjoy this time of year.

To people who have their loved one at home already, enjoy the next few days, to those who are awaiting loved ones to arrive home to the doorstep I hope the wait isn’t too long.

To those who have welcomed new family members be they sons in law, daughters in law, kids or grand kids congratulations.

To those who have lost loved ones in the run up to Christmas my sympathies or are mourning a loved one at this time of the year. Keep the head up and the chest out.

To all from this author, Happy Christmas and enjoy the coming days and whatever the next few days has to offer…..

Sexton Extends His Stay

Jonathan Sexton has agreed a new central contract with the IRFU and Leinster to continue to play his rugby with Leinster and Ireland until 2021. He will be 34 next year and will hope to go to a third World Cup in late 2019 in Japan.

Since he came back from France after his two years with Racing 92, he has commanded Leinster and Ireland to great effect. He took the captaincy of Leinster this year from the now retired Isa Nacewa.

He was a vital cog last season when Leinster won the double beating Racing 92 in the Champions Cup Final in Bilbao Spain and then was at out half in Dublin when Leinster won the Pro 14 against Scarlets.

Since his debut in 2009 for Ireland against Fiji, he has gone from strength to strength and has been capped 78 times scoring over 700 Test Points. His partnership with Conor Murray has been a hugely important in the recent success of Ireland under Joe Schmidt.

Without those two key cogs one has to wonder where Ireland would be after the defeat at the 2015 World Cup to Argentina. Since then he and Murray have just gotten better and better and have transferred there good form to the red jersey of the British and Irish Lions in 2017 Series against New Zealand that was shared after a draw in the third Test.

Like the other men that the IRFU have recently tied down to new deals, it is important that Leinster look toward to future and they are doing that well with men like Ciaran Frawley , Ross Byrne and Ross’s younger brother Harry who has been capped at A level by Leinster. They seem to be planning for the post Sexton era which is now on the horizon even though he has committed to new deal until the end of 2021.

When Sexton hasn’t been around Leinster have shared around the out half duties with Joey Carbery and Ross Byrne in the past few years but now that Carbery is settled in Munster, Leinster have promoted Ciaran Frawley to understudy Sexton and Ross Byrne with Harry Byrne biding his time in the AIL and at A level with Leinster.

This type of planning is needed as we will now need to slowly see the next generation beginning to come through in all four provinces to put more pressure on the established players across the four teams.

The IRFU has done very well over the last few months to tie down some many key men to new deals across the provinces but that work will continue and also the work at academy, club, school, and the exile programme will need to continue which has provided players like Kieran Marmion and Kieran Treadwell along with home grown talent like Larmour, Carbery, Stockdale and Tom Farrell.

The system the IRFU adopted all those years ago is working at the moment and will need to continue to evolve to keep up with the demands of the modern game….


Jack Byrne – Rover Returns

The name Jack Byrne won’t mean much to many but he has today signed a deal with Shamrock Rovers to come home from the Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock after a short spell with them following on from spells with Oldham , Blackburn Rovers , Cambuur in Holland and of course his time with Manchester City.

He has also a number of caps at Under 21 level with Ireland and has spent time with the senior squad. But things just haven’t worked out for Jack in recent times so one feels the decision to come home and spend a season with Shamrock Rovers isn’t the worst move. It will bring much needed media coverage to the League of Ireland, will strengthen the Rovers squad that will next year hope to challenge champions Dundalk for the title.

It is shot in the arm for a league that is crying out for more investment and better facilities for certain clubs. Also a full season where one team or another doesn’t get into financial difficulty would not hurt either. The prize money on offer to the winner of the league is very poor and will really need to be looked at in the next few months before the new season kicks off next March.

While most people will immediately say the league is poor and I wouldn’t go and  watch the teams involved , let’s just give the league a chance and hopefully the move from Jack Byrne to come home and start again at the age of 22 is a shrewd move on his part. While at home he can try and stamp his authority on a side for more than a few games and see can he put all this promise to good use !!

With Mick Mc Carthy now in charge of the National side to be followed by Stephen Kenny, the league needs to put its best foot forward while Mick is in charge to make it next to impossible for him to ignore the league like the last two men who were in charge of the National side.

Could Jack Byrne be in a position if he puts his head down to get into the senior national side with consistent performances for Rovers and be the first League Of Ireland based player since Glen Crowe to get capped at senior level.

Time now for Jack Byrne and more like him to step up and make the League Of  Ireland great again…..


Kelly Harrington – World Champion

Ireland has a new boxing World Champion in amateur Kelly Harrington who recently was crowned World Champion in India at 60kgs defeating Sudaporn Seesondae of Thailand. This win has been a long time coming for the hard working Dubliner who holds down a day job while still dreaming of Olympic glory at Tokyo 2020.

This victory just goes to show what hard work and dedication can do for you, she has served her apprenticeship and now the fact that she is a World Champion means she will be a marked woman at future Championships be they National, European or World level.

Having won Silver two years ago, Harrington was hoping to go one better which she did and then some. Her plan will be now to focus on the European Championships next June and then hopefully Olympic qualification after that, although the International Olympic Committee has stopped all planning for Tokyo 2020 at the moment while they conclude a number of investigations into the current AIBA President.

Here’s hoping those investigations will be concluded successfully and all our amateur boxers can go back to planning for Tokyo 2020. Kelly is a hard working and dedicated individual who has committed to winning Olympic Gold since the first day she picked up a pair of boxing gloves.

Her victory in New Delhi is another step forward on that long winding road to glory. It is a road that has had several bumps along the way along with several major highs that include World Gold, European Bronze, and World Silver from two years ago.

Kelly Harrington, World Champion has a lovely ring to it and you can be certain Kelly will do everything to make it to the 2020 Olympics and then make her dream of Olympic Gold a reality…..

Euro 2020 Draw

Euro 2020 Draw

So the great and the good of European Football all arrived in the Convention Centre Dublin for the draw for qualifying for Euro 2020 with both Northern Ireland and the Republic Of Ireland in Pot 3 where they could have been drawn with some of Europe’s best sides. Both teams will have differing feelings in the aftermath of the draw where Northern Ireland were paired with Holland, Estonia, Germany and Belarus. A group of death for Michael O Neill’s men but a challenge he is looking forward to none the less.

For Mick Mc Carthy whose second coming as the Republic Of Ireland manager was confirmed earlier this week after Martin O Neill and Roy Keane were relieved of their duties will be pleased as it looked as if Ireland would be drawn alongside Germany and Holland but as only two host nations can be in the same group so the Republic of Ireland were moved from one Group to another and Northern Ireland were put into the group with Holland and Germany.

Mick Mc Carthy will be thankful that his side were removed from that group and they are in a group with Switzerland, Denmark, Georgia and Gibraltar. All those sides are familiar opponents to Ireland over the last few qualifying campaigns.

Given the results throughout 2018, this campaign which begins next March will give Mick Mc Carthy the chance to see can he revive the faltering fortunes of the national side. It has been a tough 12 months for the team and let’s hope that the change in management will see and upturn in fortunes and with Stephen Kenny in charge at Under 21 level, let’s hope to see more co operation and more young players step up to senior level from Under 21 level.

We will have to wait and see how the group will pan out from March 2019 and see can Ireland make Euro 2020 when Dublin will host 4 games in the Aviva Stadium. The slate is clean now and all players will have to impress Mc Carthy and Terry Connor in club colours before next March.