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….

Ireland Test Squad For NZ Tour

Forwards – 24

Prop – Andrew Porter, Denis Buckley, Josh Wycherley, Cian Healy LH

Tadgh Furlong, Tom O Toole, John Ryan, Findlay Bealham – TH

Dave Heffernan, Dan Sheehan, Ronan Kelleher – Hooker

James Ryan, Ross Molony, Jean Kleyn, Ryan Baird, Joe Mc Carthy, Ian Henderson- SR

Peter O Mahony, Josh Van Der Flier, Jack O Donghue, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes, Caelan Doris, Nick Timoney – BR

Backs – 21

Craig Casey, Neil Doak, Conor Murray, Jamison Gibson Park – SH

Jonathan Sexton, Jack Carty, Joey Carbery, Ben Healy – FH

Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Stuart Mc Closkey, James Hume- Centre

Keith Earls, James Lowe, Robert Balcounne, Jordan Larmour- Wing

Andrew Conway, Michael Lowry, Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O Brien- Full Back

Here is the squad I would select to tour New Zealand in July. They play New Zealand in 3 Tests and then play New Zealand Maori in 2 mid-week games.

Honesty and Me

I just felt compelled to write this down instead of using Facebook. I have to say if certain people were not there for me, I would have done something harmful.

I have reset the clock several times and after so much soul searching and trying to understand my bloody mind and the workings of my brain. I have to be honest and say I have felt like a burden to so many for a long time.

Maybe it is just me or something else entirely but in my mind I have to keep my mouth shut and just get on with living whatever life is there for me.

Life as I know it is very different and I am now coming to terms with this particular issue. Many people struggle in daily life for different reasons and for that I am so sorry and I hope you will find your way to happiness sometime soon.

Happiness is a state of mind and I hope to reach that place at some point but if I am truthful I am still a long way from that place. Life is wonderful and then life is crap but that is the circle of life and I hope that my idea to reach for the pen and computer will again happen. The burning desire has returned.

Happiness has been found, I always reach for the pen to help in this scenario and write down the tough things that are playing on my mind. I do find things easier now to write down and speak up for those who think they can’t speak for themselves.

My journey has been littered to this point with stupid choices and wrong decisions but I am getting slightly better at making sure I don’t make the wrong choices as time moves on.

The past 14 months has tested so many mentally, financially and physically but the human body and mind is fantastic at being pushed to the limit and finding a way to cope.

I have found my peace and I really hope for those who are currently struggling for whatever reason you too can find your peace from somewhere too…




Lions 2021

Prop : Mako Vunipola, Rory Sutherland, Wyn Jones, Tadgh Furlong, Kyle Sinkler, Zander Fagerson

Hooker : Ken Owens, Ronan Kelleher, Luke Cowen Dickie

Second Row : Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, James Ryan, Tadgh Beirne

Back Row : Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Tom Curry, Justin Tipuric, Toby Faletau, Billy Vunipola.

Scrum Halves : Conor Murray, Gareth Davies, Ali Price

Out Halves : Jonathan Sexton, Finn Russell, Dan Biggar

Centre : Robbie Henshaw, Owen Farrell, Garry Ringrose, Jonathan Davies

Back Three : Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Jonny May, Louis Rees Zammit, Liam Williams. 34 Players

Here is the 34 man squad I would select to face South Africa in this summer’s Lions Series. I know Warren Gatland has previously selected 37 players in 2013 and 2017. Selecting 34 players gives him the wriggle room if need be to bring a few players in through injuries, suspensions….

Well done to the coaching team Gatland has selected with Robin Mc Bryde, Gregor Townsend, Steve Tandy and Neil Jenkins selected as the men to help mould a squad to try a defeat South Africa who like in 97 and 09 go into the series as World Champions.

My Ireland Vs Wales XV

Here is my XV to face Wales on Sunday in Cardiff in Round 1 of the 2021 Six Nations. This campaign is crucial for Andy Farrell as he and his squad went into the final day last October with everything to play for against France in Paris and they were soundly beaten although the 35-27 score line  suggested the game was much closer than it was in reality.

With Paul O Connell now onboard along with Simon Easterby and Mike Catt , Andy Farrell will really need to hit the ground running next Sunday and that is to win against a Welsh side who will have to be much better in 2021 than they were in 2020 under Wayne Pivac.

No better game than a home fixture vs Ireland in the Millennium Stadium after 2 defeats to Ireland in 2020, Wayne Pivac’s charges will hope they can start 2021 on the right note…

Here is the 23 I would select on Friday at Midday would be :

15 Hugo Keenan

14  Keith Earls

13 Gary Ringrose

12 Robbie Henshaw

11 Jordan Larmour

10 Billy Burns

9 Craig Casey

8 CJ Stander

7 Will Connors

6 Rhys Ruddock

5 James Ryan

4 Iain Henderson

3 Andrew Porter

2 Ronan Kelleher

1 Cian Healy

16 Dave Heffernan

17 Dave Kilcoyne

18 Tadgh Furlong

19 Tadgh Beirne

20 Peter O Mahony

21 Conor Murray

22 Ross Byrne

23 Shane Daly

Here is the 23 I would select to face Wales on Sunday at 3pm….

Lions 2021 Tour Go Ahead

The Lions tour of 2021 to South Africa has been penciled in to still go ahead in July and August 2021.  There will be 5 warm up games and 3 Tests with a very tight schedule between each game of 3 and 4 days.

It will be a very tough couple of weeks given how long the new season will be after the suspension of this year’s season where each season will restart over the next few weeks and then you’ll have a short break before the new season will begin.

It is great to see the organisers putting a plan in place as 2021 will be an extremely busy 12 months for sport as a large number of sporting events will take place across 2021, namely the European Championships, Olympics and The Ryder Cup that will now take place after being cancelled in 2020 due to the ongoing Covid 19 emergency.

The chief executive of South African rugby Jurie Roux hopes that the Tour will take place as scheduled in 2021 but one suspects that health experts along with the South African Government will have an impact on that but let’s hope that the original date that all concerned are hoping to use will work out and it will be all systems go in 12 months time.

There will be big opportunities for many players to put down early markers at the end of this campaign and all the way through the new season that will kick off at varying times over the next few months.

Many players have said that they have enjoyed the time off but now want to get back to training and then hopefully playing games in the near future. Warren Gatland has had a tough run in the new Super Rugby Aotearoa thus far and will want to finish that competition with a few wins before he will set his sights on South Africa in 2021.

Over the previous 3 tours, it’s a loss in 2009, a Test series win in 2013 and a draw in 2017 in New Zealand. Gatland will want to end his time with The Lions with a 2nd Test Series win after he masterminded the Test Series win in 2013.

Supporters will want to know exact details for certain as many will want to plan their trip accordingly. Sky will broadcast a 7th straight Tour after securing the broadcast rights.

Now that the current season will come to an end in the next few weeks and then the new campaign will kick into gear after a few short weeks of a break and then it will be full on until the Tour of 2021…



I just felt it only right and proper to put a quick note of thanks together to all who took the time out to wish me a Happy Birthday. Over the last 2 months life as we know it has changed and we will stay with the “new normal” for another while.

Many families haven’t been in a position to meet each other face to face for weeks and from May 18th, the restrictions put in place by the Government and National Public Health Emergency Team will begin to be eased but for the next two weeks we as a nation will need to continue with the restrictions for another while.

Turning 30 in Lockdown wasn’t too bad as with apps like Skype, Face time, House Party etc it is very easy to stay in touch with people. Of course just sending a text or making a phone call is just as effective.

This period is extremely tough for people, this situation doesn’t just affect one age group and so everyone needs to do what they can to help themselves and others. This is a strange time at the moment but also it is a time for people to take stock of their lives and priorities for the future. Maybe make that call or text you wanted to but never got around to doing…

It is a very testing time for so many and as I have so often said when I have written many pieces about my life and the struggles I have faced. There will be light at the end of the tunnel… It is much easier stay in touch with people in 2020 than it was when other crisis happened throughout the world.

Make the most of this time, get to know people by talking to them, we will get through this and get out the far side of it… To anyone who has lost a loved out over the last while, my condolences to you all.

We have always been seen as a resilient nation, it really is time to show that quality and that is easy to write down but let’s just see out this testing time and we will be hopefully be out the far side of all of this soon…. PS To anyone who will celebrate a birthday at this time, from me Happy Birthday !!!