RWC Game 2

RWC 2023

Ireland’s 2023 World Cup campaign got off to the perfect start with an 82-8 win over Romania who look a long way off the pace and according to an ex-coach Michael Bradley who also coached here in Ireland Romania have regressed so far that they are about 10 years behind Georgia in terms of preparation and all that goes with that particular aspect of things !!

Ireland did the needful and scored 12 tries which were evenly spread between forwards and backs. They need to work on the line out and the restart which were not where they need to be if this side can truly challenge at the top end of this competition.

Paul O Connell will need to help them fix the issues that continue to hold them back, losing Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher hasn’t helped with consistency but both men are on the way back with Kelleher making a return from the bench last weekend.

I would be hopeful that the return to fitness of both men along with Jonathan Sexton’s return will have the desired impact. Sexton looked like hadn’t been absent for 6 months through injury and then suspension.

Bundee Aki got the opening chance to play alongside Garry Ringrose and took full advantage, he and Ringrose may make way for both Stuart Mc Closkey and Robbie Henshaw to face Tonga next Saturday at 8pm Irish time.  Henshaw was named on the bench for Saturday’s clash but was withdrawn after the captains run on Friday.

If he is deemed fit enough one thinks that both men will get the chance to stake a claim for a starting role. Not taking Tonga lightly will be key for Ireland next weekend. We have seen how ruthless and clinical they can be which is great to see. Watch the final few minutes and you’ll see a prime example of the clinical and ruthless edge I speak of. An end to end try started by Mack Hansen and finished by Tadgh Beirne.

The campaign started well and now it’s onto game two where Ireland will expect plenty of themselves as well as the travelling masses who will want more of the same against Tonga that was seen and in evidence last week.

Here is the 23 I would select for game 2 against Tonga –

15 Jimmy O Brien

14 Mack Hansen

13 Robbie Henshaw

12 Stuart Mc Closkey

11 Keith Earls

10 Jack Crowley

9 Conor Murray

8 Jack Conan

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Ryan Baird

5 Iain Henderson

4 Joe Mc Carthy

3 Finlay Bealham

2 Ronan Kelleher

1 Dave Kilcoyne

16 Rob Herring

17 Jeremy Loughman

18 Tom O Toole

19 James Ryan

20 Peter O Mahony

21 Craig Casey

22 Ross Byrne

23 Bundee Aki

This is the 23 I would select to play Tonga on Saturday night, time is now for this squad to hit their second marker….

RWC 2023

My RWC team to face Romania in the opening game of the 2023 Rugby World Cup would be

15 Mack Hansen

14 Keith Earls

13 Robbie Henshaw

12 Stuart Mc Closkey

11 Jimmy O Brien

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Jamison Gibson Park

8 Jack Conan

7 Peter O Mahony

6 Ryan Baird

5 Iain Henderson

4 James Ryan

3 Finlay Bealham

2 Ronan Kelleher

1 Dave Kilcoyne

16 Rob Herring

17 Jeremy Loughman

18 Tom O Toole

19 Tadgh Beirne

20 Caelan Doris

21 Conor Murray

22 Jack Crowley

23 Bundee Aki

Here is the 23 I would select to play Romania in next Saturday’s World Cup opener. It gives players the chance to get minutes in the legs namely Jonathan Sexton, Ronan Kelleher to name two who need game time. Not ideal to be building up match fitness in a World Cup opener but such is life.  This World Cup does promise so much and let’s hope the harsh “lessons” of 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and finally 2019 can finally be learned from and although the draw doesn’t favour an Irish semi-final appearance this squad under Andy Farrell have done much to change perception of failure in certain ways and now it is time to lay to rest the shambolic World Cup record of no semi-final appearance.

Yes of course the 2023 version isn’t easy and history says Ireland will be home as normal after the quarter finals but this year might be different as Ireland  won a Grand Slam this year and not forgetting the series win in New Zealand from 2022.

Those wins won’t count for anything if they don’t help lay the actual groundwork for Ireland to break the glass ceiling that should have been broken long before now but now is the turn of this squad with many men who have had heart break along with real disappointment at previous World Cups but we also have a core of players with no World Cup baggage !!

I know rugby isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s our national side in a World Cup and they have genuine claim to win it, they need to break a dreadful record to do it but that’s what breaking records are about, time now to stand up a really be counted……

Mam 7 Years

It’s that time of year, as I mark 7 years since Mam passed away. I know I have said I wouldn’t continue to write of the anniversary as I would most likely keep things private going forward. But I suppose given my life changing move from a few months I suppose another piece was in order.

It will mark 7 years as I say since Mam passed away and in that time I have had several moments where I have felt like I was in this constant head spin that I didn’t feel I could get away from but as I settle into my new life away from home. I can see the rest of the life before my eyes and trust me when I say I didn’t think I’d ever see that day.

Looking to what has happened in that time, I managed to get my act together and move out of the comfort zone and I am now out on my own and planning the next steps of the future I thought I’d never get or have.

Living on my own has thought me to gain a backbone and to tell someone to “stick their advice where the sun doesn’t shine if I need to do so” I have yet to need that backbone but I have come close on one or two occasions in recent times.

My mother always wanted me to get out and live on my own and take that next step. It’s a real shame she isn’t physically here to see the moment she always dreamt of become a reality. But rest assured I can hear her as I speak to people in certain ways or situations. So even though she is not physically here, she is not too far away.

I now need to put that next plan in place and drive on. I know I have written many pieces on what it’s been like to mentally suffer in different ways but I now know what those signs are and the ways to hopefully deal with things as they arise over the coming weeks and months.

Looking at that period back in 2016, I won’t ever forget it as long as my brain will allow of course. Those moments will live with me forever and have left a lasting impression. I have woken up on occasion and went to text Mam or call her to only snap back to reality and say to myself, I can’t send that text or make that call…

For those of you that can do that, do it. As we have seen over the past 7 days in parts of Ireland you never know what may be about to happen, So appreciate those moments with those you love and hold dear.

It’s 7 years since I lost Mother and it really is one relationship you can’t replace. We were very close as many will point out. Every time the Rose of Tralee or Listowel Race Week comes around it is another reminder that she isn’t around. They were two times of the year she enjoyed immensely.

7 years on and Mother dearest has her wish, her eldest has done what she probably thought I’d never do while she was alive and that is I grew a pair and made something happen…. I am out on my own… Mother’s anniversary is on Saturday September 9th at 6pm here in Tarbert.

2023 World Cup Squad

Here is my 33 man squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup beginning on September 8th in France.

Prop – Cian Healy, Andrew Porter – LH

Tadgh Furlong, Tom O Toole, Finlay Bealham – TH

Hooker- Dan Sheehan, Tom Stewart, Ronan Kelleher – 8 Front Row

Second Row – Ian Henderson, Tadgh Beirne, James Ryan, Joe Mc Carthy. – 4 Second Row

Back Row/ number 8 – Caelan Doris, Josh Van Der Flier, Peter O Mahony, Ryan Baird, Gavin Coombes.- 5 – Back Row/Number 8 – 17 Forwards

Scrum Half- Conor Murray, Craig Casey, Jamison Gibson Park- 3

Fly Half- Jonathan Sexton, Jack Crowley, Ciaran Frawley -3

Centre- Robbie Henshaw, Gary Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Stuart Mc Closkey – 4

Wing/ Full Back – James Lowe, Mack Hansen, Keith Earls, Jimmy O Brien, Jacob Stockdale, Jamie Osbourne – 6 – 16 Backs

Here is the 33 man squad I would select to travel to France for the 2023 World Cup injury allowing of course. I have selected a number of players that can play in multiple positions as Andy Farrell has challenged his squads to adapt on the fly since he took the job on after the 2019 World Cup.

“Moving On” Is Apparently Paying Bills

I have finally done what has been asked of me and hinted at and cut the apron string !! Mother of course would be extremely happy to finally see me out on my own and fending for myself. The last number of weeks has been good fun, the settling in period took about 5 minutes…

I know how fortunate I am to be in this position as I felt many times that I’d never manage to move but thank god I have been in a position to take up the offer to move in here.  As I sit here typing I truly can say I am content and happy. There is satisfaction to be able to sit down and write those words down and mean them.

As I have written so many times, I have had many dark moments but for the first time I can really type these words and mean them, I am Happy. I have found that any headaches or feeling rough has been replaced by contentment.

I know it’s an easy word to say contentment but to be able to write and mean it is key. I don’t feel like I want to moan or give out half as much. Life seems like the way it should do. I know too that it isn’t the case for many and trust me when I say there is light at the end of the tunnel.

 I never thought I’d see or reach the light I speak of but take it from the man who reached rock bottom and only for a phone call would not be sitting here, there is help there and things will improve I promise.

Mother’s anniversary falls next month on September 10th. It will mark 7 years since the shit hit the fan on that Wednesday evening. So much has changed no more than her eldest finally finding his feet and her youngest son going down on one knee and proposing.

She would have had a serious amount of good news to deal with over a short number of weeks but she can now say her two lads are standing on their own two feet. I was the one that caused most concern in that regard but Mother and my father didn’t do too bad a job with us.

Those markers of one proposing and one moving on and paying my own bills have been reached so thank you Anne Marie and Rory.  I have been patted on the back and congratulated by so many it’s been overwhelming and has made think deeply, long and hard about what may be next.

I now want to talk to those who told me I was mollycoddled and “minded” by mother in there opinions for far too long. This is me, 33, out of home it took longer than it should have I know that but could you now start treating me like an adult and not the 12 year old you think you see when you speak to me.

Whose son or daughter isn’t minded by their parents, in the words of Roy Keane “That’s their job” Yes I over stayed my welcome at home but I found the knife to cut the apron strings and did so. It’s now time to set myself the next challenge and see how I go.

The change in my mood seems to be permanent and now It’s time to focus on a future that at several points over the last 9 years I didn’t think I’d see….

World Cup Training Squad

Prop : Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Dave Kilcoyne, Denis Buckley – LH

Tadgh Furlong, Tom O Toole, Roman Salanoa, Finlay Bealham,  – TH

Hooker– Dan Sheehan, Ronan Kelliher, Tom Stewart-HKR

Second Row– James Ryan, Tadgh Beirne, Joe Mc Carthy, Kieran Treadwell, Ryan Baird-SR

Back Row– Peter O Mahony, Josh Van Der Flier, Caelan Doris, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes, John Hodnett (22)

BacksScrum Half– Conor Murray, Craig Casey, John Cooney, Caelan Blade

Out Half – Jonathan Sexton, Ross Byrne, Jack Crowley

Centre– Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Antoine Frisch, Stuart Mc Closkey

Full Back / Wing– Shane Daly, Robert Balacounne, Calvin Nash, James Lowe, Jimmy O Brien, Mike Lowry, Mack Hansen, Hugo Keenan – (20)

As people will see, I have gone with an equal split between forwards and backs for the beginning of training and preparations for the 2023 World Cup.

I realise injury may intervene with some of these selections and I am also short of the allowed 45 players to be trimmed back to 33 to go to France. I am leaving it free as I am sure Andy Farrell will have a few players in around the squad as preparations ramp up.  This is only my selection. I am sure I have missed plenty of players.

Team Of The Six Nations 2023

15 Hugo Keenan

14 Mack Hansen

13 Garry Ringrose

12 Gael Fickou

11 Damian Penaud

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Antoine Dupont

8 Caelan Doris

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Peter O Mahony

5 James Ryan

4 Thibault Flaminet

3 Unini Antonio

2 Dan Sheehan

1 Andrew Porter

Here is my team of the Championship, A 4th Grand Slam won after 1948, 2009, 2018 and 2023. Ireland are now officially the best side in the world heading to France next September.

Time to celebrate this success and enjoy the moment, these Championship wins are so seldom.

The World Cup can wait but rest assured this group will do everything possible to break another well known hodoo but that’s for another day. Soak it in and enjoy !! Ireland are the Grand Slam Champions for 2023. Say it quietly and often we may just bring another piece of Gold home from France next Autumn. Just whisper it of course….

My 2023 Six Nations Squad

Prop : Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Denis Buckley – LH

Tadgh Furlong, Finlay Bealham, Jack Aungier – TH

Hooker : Ronan Kelleher, Dan Sheehan, Tom Stewart

Second Row : James Ryan, Tadgh Beirne, Iain Henderson, Ryan Baird

Back Row : Peter O Mahony, Josh Van Der Flier, Gavin Coombes, John Hodnett, Caelan Doris. (18)

Backs :

Scrum Halves: Conor Murray, Craig Casey, Jamison Gibson Park

Out Half: Jonathan Sexton, Ross Byrne, Jack Crowley

Centre: Garry Ringrose, Stuart Mc Closkey, Antoine Frisch, Jamie Osbourne

Wing/Full Back: Jordan Larmour, Shane Daly, Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O Brien, Michael Lowry, John Porch (16)

Here is the squad I would select to take on Wales in Round 1 of this year’s 6 Nations.

Mam- 6th Anniversary

This week will mark 6 years since Mother passed away on September 10th. It’s amazing that we are now back at the point where it will mark the exact days on the 7th and 10th as it did in 2016. I realise this will happen as the years go on but it also shows how time is moving on. 

In the last 6 years I have moved on and although I have changed my approach to life I feel that when I smile it is real. To anyone who has lost a family member or friend you will know what that lost feeling  is in the years after. You go through many stages and it does take a number of years to find your feet again.

I am still crabby fucker from time to time but I’d like to think that some of Mother’s qualities have been passed on and in the last few years I have been told I sound similar and look like you. The one thing that I have become adept at is looking after myself, cooking is still a weak point but that is slowly changing…

The things I never bothered with or in certain people’s opinion I was spoiled by you and in most respects this is true but it certainly is not the case since you passed away. 

Your decision to be an organ donor has come back into view since well-known campaigner Jillian Mc Nulty received that magical call that a donor had been found a few weeks ago. She is thankfully on the road to recovery as I type.

Some characters from Tarbert have joined you in the past few months and I am sure all got a warm reception from you. It’s been a hell of a journey since you exited stage left on September 10th.  As I say I am getting better at moving on and other stuff you’d hoped I have done before you passed away but better late than never I suppose. One or two other things to get sorted in the next while and It will be full steam ahead.

I hope I haven’t let you down and if I have I am sorry, I am trying very hard to improve myself and live the life you wanted me to. It would be nice on the odd occasion to actually have you here rather than having to look to the heavens and wait for divine inspiration to help answer certain questions.

This is the 6th memorial piece and I sit in the same spot writing this as I did on that Wednesday evening when I was called to help… Thank you for looking out for me in the past 6 years and you’ll hopefully do so as the years go on. I will do my best not to let you down.

To all who have lost family or friends this past year my condolences, take each day as it comes and the pain will ease I assure you…. Mind yourselves….

Shannon “Shotgun” O Connell Interview

Shannon O Connell

Hi Shannon, It’s great to have the chance to speak with you about your career to date…

Can you take me back to the start and explain how you got into boxing ?

I got in to boxing when I was 20. My grandparents took me down to a local gym where the owner used to race alongside my dad before he died and I soon got hooked. At that point in my life I was starting to make bad decisions so it was perfect timing and I’m definitely one of those cases

What sort of a diet do you follow when preparing for a fight ?

When I’m in camp I try and just fuel my body fir what I’m doing. I do most of my training early in the day so I have carbs for breakfast and my bigger meal for lunch and just try stick to protein and a light dinner. 

I know you have had a tough childhood, can you tell me about your upbringing ?

When I was 2 years old my dad died in a speedway accident. My mum turned to drugs (heroin) to cope with her grief so I grew up from a very young age around that scene. We had all types of people coming in and out of our house and we moved a lot. My mum didn’t really take drugs as a party scene, it was more to take away the pain so she wasn’t often sober and attempted suicide more than once when I was young. 

You’re a mother to three kids, what do they think of Mammy boxing for a living ?

I have 3 kids now, a 16 year old boy Cooper, 14 year old girl Taylor and a 3 year old boy Felix. My son (Cooper) has been my rock through a lot of my career and I remember when I was pregnant with Felix he begged me not to retire saying that he would do home schooling so that he could look after the baby while I train lol. My kids have been around if their entire life so I guess they don’t know any different but I would like to think that I’m teaching them that if you want something bad enough in life that hard work will get you there. 

Where did the nickname “shotgun” come from ?

My amateur coach gave me the name Shotgun. He was watching from home while I was fighting at the world championships in 2010 and you couldn’t see the fight just the scores changing and he just came up with it at the time and it stuck since then. 

What are your views on social media, is it a help or hindrance ?

Social media has definitely been a good thing for boxing and sport in general to get athletes of all levels recognised for what they’re doing. 

You have called out fellow Australian Ebanie “Blonde Bomber” Bridges, do you think this fight will happen and if so when and where ?

Yes, the fight with Ebanie Bridges for her IBF World title will be happening only next month. Exact details on location and date are still being negotiated but the fight is happening which is awesome news. 

Away from training, how do you like to relax and get away from things ?

Away from boxing I really love spending quality time with my kids and giving them the life experiences and fun times that I never had as a child. 

Lastly Shannon, with surname like O Connell, is there any Irish blood in the family ?

Hahaha the Irish question I get that a lot. My dad was born in England and I believe that his great grandfather was Irish. The name Shannon is Irish too but funnily enough my mum just always liked the name. 

Thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with me Shannon, I really appreciate it, all the very best next month….