World Cup 2018

Sporting Rivalry

Over the past week I have been surprised by the animosity toward the England football team, moving from the usual banter to the more spiteful. Every few years this continuing talk of what sport is the best on the Planet bring everyone out of the woodwork. Everybody has an opinion about what sport is the best.

England had no real pressure on them in this tournament and although you can be sure there was internal pressure from within the squad. Most pundits were surprised by how far England managed to get by getting to a first Semi Final since 1990. This squad didn’t have as much collective talent as the squads since 1990.

We have seen many people across social media channels giving there opinions on the England performance , many people saying that they wouldn’t follow England because they are Irish  , although if you took a poll , most of those “ Fans “ would follow an English club side. I myself am an Arsenal supporter. It was good to see England finally throw off the shackles and get as far as they did, although they were beaten by a terrific Croatian team that will give France plenty to think about in Moscow.

Back to sporting rivalry, we in this country have no issue playing up to the gallery saying we have the greatest fans in the world in any sport be that Football followers , rugby supporters and any other followers of the numerous sports we participate in.

It is very easy to sit back and scoff at the achievements of England in the 2018 World Cup but we in this country should use it as a motivational tool to see can we put in the same type of performances in try to qualify for Euro 2020 which will of course be held across many cities including Dublin.

It is time we stopped all  the one up man ship and get behind every team that is involved in competition. It seems to be very easy for people to have a pop at certain sports. Rugby is the prime example and although some pundits claim that rugby is now the sport of the people in Ireland which isn’t true at all and never will be the case given that the GAA and Football still hold sway over other minority sports.

Rugby is played in only a small number of countries whereas, Football is played all over the world. Rugby has done plenty of work through the shortened version of the game in 7s, it still will need time to get places. It will never have the same appeal as Football has in a worldwide context.

Let’s hope that the achievements of the past few weeks by the England team will not be lost and from the FA’s position they will give Gareth Southgate more time to continue his work trying to change the way his squad do things.

A World Cup Semi Final was achieved with no expectations , now the challenge will be to try and better that achievement starting with Nations League starting this September in place of Friendlies and hopefully culminating in a place at the 2020 European Championships….

By

Cian Mc Gibney

13/07/2018

Ireland Squad -2018 Oz Tour

Ireland Squad – Trip To Oz

Ireland head for Australia in June for three Test Matches against a Michael Cheika coached Aussies side who will want to bounce back from a poor Rugby Championship campaign. Australia will know what awaits them having faced England back in 2016 and they were Grand Slam winners also.

Joe Schmidt will realise that this is an ideal opportunity for his squad to really put out a statement of intent ahead of November 2018 where the World Champions will come to town for one final time before the World Cup in Japan in late 2019.

Ireland are now 2nd in the World and this a real fill up to supporters but you can be sure that all the players will want to drive forward and this Tour will give them the chance to win a Series in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time since 1979.

The squad has two additions in the form of Tadgh Beirne and Ross Byrne, both men will hope to earn a first cap down South. In Beirne’s case he had to head to Wales to get regular game time and in the two years he has spent with the Scarlets he has developed into a really good quality back row and has also played in the second row. He has turned into a master of the turnover and is also quite adept at the “Choke Tackle” that Les Kiss introduced to the Irish set up during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Ross Byrne has had to bide his time to gain International recognition in the Green jersey having played alongside Luke Mc Grath and Garry Ringrose at 20s level. Both men have graduated to senior level and have been capped on multiple occasions.

Now Ross Byrne will have at least one shot at nailing down the third out half position in the Irish squad. This Tour will be very beneficial to this squad who will want to show the World that they can kick on from winning a Grand Slam and with the way Joe Schmidt has worked his magic since the failure of the 2015 World Cup and build real strength in depth with real quality in each position.

Yes out half is still an issue but we will see the quality of Ross Byrne who has been selected ahead of Joey Carbery many times this year for Leinster. Byrne’s younger brother Harry will steer the Under 20s ship as first choice out half in France this summer. The quality in that family isn’t just confined to one family member.

Micheal Cheika has gotten in early saying it is the ideal chance at lowering the Irish colours since the Grand Slam win in March. Joe Schmidt will have his side well guarded against compliancy and they will go after three wins to seal a very special achievement that hasn’t been done in 39 years.

The time is now for this squad to show that last March wasn’t just a one off and consistency can be achieved until the World Cup in late 2019 where Ireland will try and get to a first ever Semi Final since the first World Cup in 1987……

By

Cian Mc Gibney

24/05/2018

Munster – The Year That Was

Munster – The Year That Was

Munster were defeated by Leinster in the RDS on Saturday by a single point 16-15. Leinster are now on course for the double when they play Scarlets in Dublin this weekend. From a Munster perspective it is another campaign that will end in disappointment, 2 Semi Finals and two defeats like 2017.

Johan Van Graan took the role of Head Coach after Rassie Erasmus left for South Africa last November. This campaign like last year has been disrupted by injuries and upheaval in the coaching ticket. Looking at the way this year ended with Munster in two semi finals but like last year both ended in losses.

The major question will be how can Munster try and gain enough momentum and also make the correct adjustments so they can go beyond just competing in semi finals and get back to Finals. They did make the 2017 Pro 12 Final and were heavily defeated by The Scarlets.

Two tries late on covered over the cracks and the hope was that the 2017/2018 season could be the start of something special but alas it wasn’t to be and now the Munster management committee and coaching staff will have a full summer to stew on what went before and they will need to come up with some new type of game plan to try and break down the mental barrier that seems to block them in Finals rugby.

The attacking game plan has been virtually nonexistent with Munster struggling to get consistency in the out half position this year and to that end the decision to give Bill Johnston a two year deal will hopefully give Munster an opportunity to blood a new 10 and try and build a new partnership between Conor Murray and his understudy Duncan Williams and the 10s that are already in the Munster squad, JJ Hanrahan and Ian Keatley. Adding Neal Cronin to the scrum half department will bring added competition.

Here’s hoping that season 2018/2019 will bring more pleasant times for the Munster squad and Fans

By

Cian Mc Gibney

21/05/2018

Leinster – Champions Once More

Leinster – Champions Once More

Leinster secured there 4th European Crown yesterday after a titanic struggle with Munster’s conquers Racing 92. Isa Nacewa who will retire at the end of the season kicked two huge penalties in the last 10 minutes to help in securing another European crown for Ireland and a 4th European Cup for Leinster.

Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster have had this Leinster side playing a different type of rugby than the rest of Europe this year and the return of Robbie Henshaw has also been crucial add to that the way Jamison Gibson Park has come into the side in the Semi Final and also in the second half yesterday.

James Lowe will know he will get his chance next year and will hopefully be able to add to fine displays in the Champions Cup next year. His focus will now be on a Pro 14 Semi Final next weekend in Dublin.

Back to yesterday, Leinster would have seen the way that Munster struggle to break to a really solid Racing defence and on a few occasions yesterday it looked as if they were going to break through thanks to the hard running of Henshaw and Ringrose , while up front James Ryan and Dan Leavy worked tirelessly in the pursuit of glory.

Although Jonathan Sexton didn’t have a vintage game with the placed boot but was solid and extremely effective with the ball in hand. This winning display was built on hard work and a strong set piece with one or two moments of brilliance.

Racing will know that this game came down to one or two key moments in the 2nd half where there scrum half Teddy Iribaren made one fatal mistake and the Leinster breakdown work managed to win the ball back and get the ball back down the field and from that they got the first of two late penalties.

Racing 92 for their part will be bitterly disappointed that there second Final appearance since 2016 has ended in defeat. Donnacha Ryan worked hard to try and disrupt the Leinster ball at line out time and he managed to disrupt only a small number of Leinster line outs. Racing came to play with a very aggressive line speed and with Vakatawa and Chavancy leading the line in defence.

This game was not for the purist that particular line will be used over the next few days to describe the way this game was played.  Leinster won’t be one bit upset by the way they played yesterday and will now be able to point to the fact that they have now joined Toulouse on 4 European wins in the history of the competition.

The work that Leinster have put in at academy level was defiantly laid bare with the Leinster A team involved in the British and Irish Cup Final although they were beaten 22-7 in that game , a number of those players will be blooded next year. 

Sean O Brien has missed a large part of this year , Jamie Heaslip retired but players like Dan Leavy , Jack Conan , Max Deegan have made up for those losses. Girvan Dempsey and Noel Mc Namara have done Trojan work with the academy and then all those players that were introduced like Larmour , Deegan this season took full advantage and have there just rewards with a European triumph and maybe a Pro 14 Final in Dublin to come although Munster face them in the Pro 14 Semi Final next weekend.

Huge congratulations to all involved with Leinster Rugby , yesterday was a huge fill up for all in Irish Rugby. Saracens have dominated in recent years, Toulon before that and finally after 6 years an Irish team has climbed back to the summit of European Club Rugby.

By

Cian Mc Gibney

13/05/2018

Ireland 2018 Summer Tour

Ireland –2018 Summer Tour

This June, Ireland head for Australia to take them on in a three Test Series and will be full of confidence after winning a Grand Slam back in March. Joe Schmidt will want his squad to put down a marker ahead of the World Cup in 2019 but more importantly before they face New Zealand in November.

Like the tour of South Africa in 2016, Ireland will want to at the very least get a win in one of the three Tests to show that they can win away from home and on a consistent basis. Joe Schmidt has worked extremely hard since 2015 to bring Ireland to a place where they are able to challenge for trophies on a regular basis.

Here is the squad I would take to Australia in June :

Forwards – Dave Kilcoyne , Cian Healy , Jack Mc Grath , James Cronin.

Sean Cronin , Rory Best , Dave Heffernan , Niall Scannell.

 Finlay Bealham , John Ryan , Tadgh Furlong , Andrew Porter.

Billy Holland , Ultan Dillane , James Ryan , Devin Toner.

Jack O Donoghue , Dan Leavy , Peter O Mahony , Jordi Murphy , Jack Conan , CJ Stander. (23)

 

Backs – Conor Murray , John Cooney , Luke Mc Grath.

Jonathan Sexton , Ross Byrne , Joey Carbery.

Robbie Henshaw , Rory Scannell , Sam Arnold , Bundee Aki , Gary Ringrose.

Andrew Conway , Keith Earls , Matt Healy , Jacob Stockdale , Darren Sweetnam.

Rob Kearney , Jordan Larmour , Tiernan O Halloran.(19)

By

Cian Mc Gibney

07/05/2018

Counselling – Thoughts and Feelings

Counselling – My Thoughts and Feelings

I started counselling back in January of this year (2017), I was put in touch with somebody that had worked very closely with Fr Pat Moore over a number of years. I have been through counselling over the last few years for a number of reasons that I have already spoken about through a number of pieces I have written since I began to speak openly about the issues I have had the in the past and still continue to battle from time to time.

It is amazing how counselling works, you are given free reign during each session to express yourself in whatever shape or form you see fit. I have to say I have never had trouble speaking or talking but until 2014 I didn’t really talk about the things that matter, things that trouble you or members of your family

I am speaking from a male perspective of course, I have seen how well most women can express themselves when it comes to the important stuff and I have to say that I am still bowled over by the way women face each challenge that is presented to them.

Not for one minute am I saying that men cannot approach an issue with the same empathy that I have seen from nearly every woman I have spoken to over the last number of months. It just seems to me to be the maternal instincts kick in almost immediately in a time of crisis.

Back to counselling, I have to say I had to take my time before making the decision to seek out the help of a counsellor because I had to get my head around all that went on last September before I could even think about bearing my soul to a person I did not know. But thankfully as soon as I took that step to speak to someone everything became a small bit clearer in my head and my mind.

I have to say that if I decided to try a deal with what happened last September on my own I don’t want to imagine what might have happened. Looking to the future now, I still have a couple of hurdles to clear before the 1st year is over. Do not ask me to explain where that now near 12 months has gone, it has gone by so fast I have hardly had time to blink.

Counselling has saved me from cracking up under the pressure of what has to be the biggest blow of my life to date. I realise it is extremely tough for someone to admit they may need help and support from more than just family and friends but trust me , the support of a good counsellor will help you through the times where you may feel there is nobody out there who understands your pain and suffering.

I have almost 7 months of counselling under my belt and this particular avenue has helped me express the different feelings I have felt, and I have gone through a few stages from pain and despair to anger and laughter. It is truly amazing when you open yourself up what comes out.

To anyone in need of help and support, if you feel that talking to family and friends won’t help then reach out to your nearest counsellor…. Contact your GP for details.

I wrote this late last year and thankfully after a number of sessions I was able to move away from counselling…

I am putting this up as a thank you to Fr Pat Moore who passed away in May 2017 and his 1st anniversary will fall later this week. His support and encouragement was a massive help to me… Thank You Fr Pat….

By

Cian Mc Gibney

 

 

 

Tarbert Fun Run 2018

Tarbert Fun Run 2018

This Sunday will see large numbers of Runners and walkers and all the people in between descend on Tarbert for the First Annual Fun Run that will have three separate races to accommodate all comers with a Ten Mile Run for the experienced runners kicking off at 10am at a cost of €25 and that is for Over 18s only. A medal and a T shirt will be awarded to the first 150 registered participants. Trophies will also be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

The second race will be for over 16s only, This event is a 10km run and like the first race will have trophies rewarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. This race will also have a medal and buff awarded to the first 150 registered participants. Both of these races are still open for registration and will cost €20.

The third race does not have an age limit and will be open to all ages and abilities and as it says, you can walk, run or even crawl whatever takes your fancy…. This race will see a good local turn out you can be sure of that and if the weather is up to scratch it will bring large crowds out to support all the participants. The fee for this race is €10 and will have a 5k medal for the first 150 registered participants.

Huge work has gone into organising this event and let’s hope it is the beginning of something that like all the recent events that have been started up and revitalised in Tarbert can be continued and build upon and made bigger and better into the future.

To all who will take part in any of the three races this weekend, well done and here’s hoping the weather holds up and that this event on Sunday will be a massive success…..

By

Cian Mc Gibney

25/04/2018

Leinster and Munster Fixed Fortunes

Munster / Leinster Contrasting Fortunes

After the weekend we now know the two teams that will contest the Champions Cup Final in Bilbao on May 12th. Leinster and Racing 92 will face each other in what will be a cracking Final if the evidence of the two Semi Finals is anything to go by.

Leinster have proven yet again this year that they can play several different ways to gain victory, they can go wide, go through the forwards or kick for territory. The return of Robbie Henshaw was a massive fill up for the squad and Jamison Gibson Park made light of the fact that Luke Mc Grath was absent through injury.

You can be sure that the Leinster medical staff will do everything to have Luke Mc Grath fit for the Final. He will be given every chance to be fit. James Lowe missed out due to a rule that means only one New Zealand or Australian player can be in the match day 23 of any of the European side.

After the injury to Fergus Mc Fadden, there will be a push on to see can he be fit to take some part in the Final or in the knock out stages of the Pro 14. The Leinster performance on Saturday was very reminiscent of the performances that saw them win three European crowns.

The new breed of Ringrose , Leavy and James Ryan have had a major impact along with Stuart Lancaster. His attention to detail has helped Leinster rediscover the winning formula. He has also helped Leo Cullen and will surely want to see the side he has helped to mould over the last two years beat Racing 92 to win the Champions Cup.

From a Munster perspective, it is yet again more disappointment at the Semi Final stage in the Champions Cup after defeat last year to Saracens. There will be huge questions to be answered about how another Semi Final has ended in defeat !!

While Racing 92 were the better side like Saracens last year , this will still not solve the issues of why Munster started so slowly , this has happened a few times in recent years going back to the 2015 Pro 12 Final under Anthony Foley , then the 2016 Champions Cup Semi Final under Rassie Erasmus along with defeat in the Pro 12 Final in Dublin against the Scarlets.

You can point to all the injuries Munster have suffered losing Chris Farrell , Jaco Taute ,Tyler Bleyendaal  and Chris Cloete to name a few but the team didn’t seem to learn the lessons of last season when they were beaten in the Semi Final by Saracens after being 6-3 down at half time in that game.

“The Top Two Inches” is another cliché that is used far too often in rugby and yes like all clichés it is true but in another knock out game Munster came out second best and it now a new group of players who at this point have been around for long enough to know what they need to do to win a big game.

A massive issue for Munster again this season is the lack of consistency in selection at out half, yes injury again ruled Tyler Bleyendaal out but Ian Keatley and JJ Hanrahan have enough big game experience build up in the red of Munster to know when a big game is required.  Several facets of the Munster game plan faltered yesterday and they yet again were not able to come up with the answers until 20 minutes before the end.

Racing 92 stopped CJ Stander and others on the gain line time and again using the same tactic as Saracens did last year. Time and again we hear that you have to learn from your mistakes but yesterday proved that even in the world of professional sport, this particular message can be lost in translation.

 The lack of imagination in attack has been  another issue that will take time to fix , people can and will say I am just pointing out the negatives and that Munster are doing well to be at this stage every year but as Peter O Mahony said yesterday , he is tired of having to “ learn lessons from defeat”

The players face an interprovincial derby next Saturday against Ulster and they will need to try and find a way to finish the regular season on a high before the Pro 14 play offs begin….

This defeat will leave a bitter taste in the mouth, but the one way Munster can salvage the season is by standing up and being counted and they did that in the final 20 minutes yesterday and that can hopefully be a launch pad for the rest of the year……

Do I know what can get rid of this mental block when it comes to the knock out phase of games in both Europe and the Pro 14, my answer at this moment is no I don’t and it is as it always is up the players, staff and all involved with Munster to stand up and be counted and make sure that this campaign does not just fizzle out.

By

Cian Mc Gibney

23/04/2018

Leinster and Munster Champions Cup Final Bound ??

Munster / Leinster – Potential Champions Cup Final

Munster and Leinster take on The Scarlets and Racing 92 this weekend in the European Champions Cup Semi Finals in Dublin and Bordeaux. Both Irish teams will be buoyed by the Irish team winning a Grand Slam back in March. Given the fact that both sides were in the same position last season before being defeated by Saracens and Clermont Auvergne.

So many times in sport, we hear that teams will learn from their defeats more than they learn from wins and this weekend is the ideal chance for both provinces to show how far they have come in 12 months.

 Leinster are first into action on Saturday afternoon playing The Scarlets in the Aviva Stadium and will hopefully have the services of Robbie Henshaw who may return from injury for the game this weekend. Questions remain over Sean O Brien but the fact that Dan Leavy has played so well along with the return to fitness of Jack Conan , Leinster should be well stocked in the back row.

Leinster played very well against Saracens and have given the majority of that 23 the chance to rest up with one eye on this Semi Final. The strength of the squad has been well documented in recent times even though they were beaten by Treviso last Saturday evening.

Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster have Leinster playing a very physical brand of rugby and they seem to be at the races in defence also this two aspects of their game will be severely tested by The Scarlets like it was in last year’s Pro 12 Semi Final in the RDS. On that occasion The Scarlets managed to win and went on to secure a maiden Pro 12 title win.

Wayne Pivac will demand those same high standards this weekend and if they reach the same pitch as they did against La Rochelle at home, then who knows where they will end up. Leinster  are three times winners of this competition last winning in 2012 and you can be sure they will want to have another crack at winning the title but first they will need to be at their very best to see off the Scarlets.

I feel Leinster will have learned from last year in Europe and domestically and they will book a one way ticket to Bilbao for the May 12th show piece.

Munster who are now under the stewardship of Johan Van Graan will want to go one better than last year and even after all the upheaval of earlier this year where they had to contend with Rassie Erasmus moving onto South Arica in November and Johan Van Graan coming on board with a quarter of the campaign behind them. But they bounced back very well in the few weeks after Van Graan took over. They now have the chance to make first European Final since 2008.

 For the first time since 2009, there is a real opportunity for both Leinster and Munster to get to a European Final  and we can only but hope that both teams will gain victory this weekend and give Irish rugby the perfect finish to what has already been a terrific season that saw Ireland win a third Grand Slam.

All the best to both teams, coaches and supporters this weekend….. Roll on 3.15 Saturday

By

Cian Mc Gibney

18/04/2018

Ireland Vs Netherlands 2019 World Cup Qualifer

Ireland Vs Netherlands

The toughest challenge of the Women’s World Cup Qualifying campaign came in Tallaght last night when the European Champions came a calling to take on Ireland after Ireland managed to escape there last contest with the Dutch with a prized point. They were expecting a tough contest and by god the Dutch delivered a splendid performance build on a solid team performance where possession is king very reminiscent of the Dutch side of the 70s.

The Dutch scored two goals in the opening half with a goal from Lineth Beerensteyn and a penalty from team captain Sherida Spitse were enough to see the Dutch team home.  The Irish side decided early on that they were happy to try and nick a goal on the break but the Dutch kept the ball and made this job extremely tough. Leanne Kiernan led the line and had the hard job of chasing down every ball that came into the Dutch half.

To this end Kiernan was assisted by Denise O Sullivan and Megan Connolly who worked hard to try and pick out the key pass that would unlock the defence and bring Ireland forward to try and lift the siege on the Irish goal. Ireland reverted to 5 across the back like they did in November 2017 with a three in the centre of the defence being Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell and Niamh Fahey. The full backs were Karen Duggan and Sophie Perry –Campbell .

Ireland went with O Sullivan , Mc Cabe and Connelly in the midfield with debutant Amy Boyle Carr being asked to sit in behind lone striker Leanne Kiernan and try a mop up the scraps that  fell there way if any.

This game as was said in the build up was going to be very difficult and any sort of positive result was going to be a bonus but the Dutch showed why they are Champions in Europe by keeping the ball and teasing the Irish team to be pulled out of position and then they were able to get in behind the back four and trouble Marie Hourihan.

From an Irish perspective, they were intent on playing out from the back when they could and although they did use the long ball to try and relieve pressure they also kept the ball on the ground and tried to cause the Dutch some issues and also the tireless work of Denise O Sullivan and team skipper Katie Mc Cabe.

This performance may not have delivered the desired result but what Colin Bell is doing is admirable , he was shorn of a few key cogs and will hope to have them back in harness when Norway visit Dublin on June 8th before an away tie in Norway on June 12th.

They are still in a strong position to qualify for France 2019 and will now just rest the clock for two tough ties against Norway home and away. The support the girls in green over the last week was phenomenal  and let’s hope that support does not desert them for the Norway game.

Players like Denise O Sullivan, Louise Quinn , Katie Mc Cabe and Megan Connelly are the star turns in this squad but all the players who are in and about the National side are working toward the ultimate goal of qualification for a major tournament under the guidance of Colin Bell who is in charge until 2021 at the very least , a good move by the FAI to tie him to a long term deal to build on the work of the last 12 months.

All the very best to all the squad who go back to club commitments, work and college before returning in June to face the next challenge of Norway….

By

Cian Mc Gibney

11/04/2018