Monday, August 28, 2006


The sedentary setting of Belfield Park was a refreshing change from the Neanderthal environs of Tolka Park the previous evening. Limerick FC were the guests for a 3rd round FAI Cup tie in Dublin 4.

I hadn't been to the Student's HQ since my fledgling soccer career hit yet another iceberg at a trial game in the latter years of the last century. But what a treat!

You know that feeling you get when you're on an airplane and it becomes clear that nobody is going to be seated right next to you. Aaah! The space...a seat for my bag, one for my drink, feet on the empty seat in front...heaven.

As Father Felix [Healy] commented 'the Belfield experience is like no other in football.' Sun shining, grassy knoll, the sense that all around you is as new, with one careful owner. It's relaxing rather than invigorating.

The crowd - and you know I use the term loosely - are different here too. A mixture of God's Waiting Room with a sprinkling of eccentricity, and nicely turned out studious types with their girlfriends. There's plenty of suede and denim around; but our money is not being wasted. One student has learned to bang a drum. And some of the others have learned to chant in discordant unison.

There's student music on the PA, prematch- none of those corny oldies they stiff you with elsewhere. It invokes a compelling urge to skateboard along the deserted stand. Then there's the public announcer.

With a voice like the lovechild of Jim Sherwin and Sam Eagle he gravely welcomes all, before reading through the teamsheets with the gravitas of a BBC World Service newscaster. If you closed your eyes you would drift away to the All England Tennis Club for the Wimbledon Championships.

This foolish delusion was trodden on gracelessly when the voices of a baker's dozen or so of Limerick fans began to make themselves heard. I have nothing but admiration, nonetheless, for the staunch support they offer their side - their irrepressible commitment to stoic abuse of the match official in the hope of helping their team gain whatever advantage is on offer.

Their pre match goalkeeping crisis had been well documented and Tommy Barrett was brave enough to put himself in the line of fire. The defection to the nets of one of their better midfielders was a doppelganger to their hopes of progress, not to mention - well now I can't mention it.

But Limerick gave an excellent account of themselves and weren't embarrassed by the 32nd minute lead they took. Pete Mahon was glowing bright red as he exhorted his charges; they didn't seem interested. Lims were playing the football, and they have some nice players.

Colm Heffernan was a constant menace on the left, goalscorer Kelliher showed skill and endeavour; John Lester looks to have the skill but not the hunger. Maybe the change of management will refuel his desire; shit I mentioned it.

The Students were at their most fluid when Ronan Finn was on the ball; and it was no surprise to see him net the equaliser. I was still taking the cap off my biro when he scored his second right at the birth of the second half; so I didn't see it. Steven Hurley's free kick was reminiscent of a Sampras ace; Barrett had no chance. Half time substitute, Conan Byrne offered a new dimension to UCD, and was a painful thorn on the Lims left side. The College seemed to be coasting.

But the Boys of Limerick refused to let them. At times they looked beaten and lacking in confidence yet their neat football continued to trouble the Students; and they were unlucky on a couple of occasions not to add to their tally. Let's say there are positives for the incoming manager.

UCD won the tie, did what they had to do. In Ronan Finn they have one for now and the future; his man of the match performance illuminated the game - long may he reign in our league.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Circus eL

It's been a more bizarre week than usual in the eircom League Big Top. The disciplinary committee, the suspenders, have met again to impose more of their retribution on the league's errant boys.

They issue a document, which is carefully worded in the Queen's Swahili and consequently transparent to all. They take great care to ensure that the relevant parties are informed, though sometimes they just forget. And this can happen, as those of you with five-year-old children know.

So how can there be any problems? Well I don't know!

Maybe it's our multi racial society; maybe we need to have the document issued in various languages. This could be done on a trial basis to begin with. The be's that power could monitor the reception and perceived understanding, nay, interpretations of the multi lingual documents and broaden their scope should it be deemed successful.

I suggest as a matter of diplomatic urgency that we start with whatever language prevails in Dalymount Park and it's environs - for it is in said establishment that they currently seem to have the greatest language difficulties.

Take for example:

Gareth Farrelly (Manager, Bohemians) fined e1,000 for being in the technical area while under suspension v Bray Wanderers (11.08.06).

But when our hero was informed of his indiscretion did he humbly apologise and take the rap? Have a butchers....

Gareth Farrelly (Manager, Bohemians) fined e250 and severely warned as to his future conduct as a result of being removed from the technical area by the referee v Bray Wanderers (11.08.06).

Talk us through that one Gareth, and while you're at it:

Jason McGuinness (Bohemians) suspended for NEXT competitive match for failing to comply with the terms of a suspension imposed by the Disciplinary Commission at its meeting of Wednesday, 26th July.

The beleaguered central defender can at least claim that 'Gareth said it was alright'. This is a renowned tactic of the woefully unprepared. What does Gareth hear when the lobbyists chant FARRELLY OUT? Is it FARRELLY IN?

The Gypsies commander-in-chief needs a crash course in his spoken tongue now. There'll be no more champagne and crisps on the Farrelly coffee table if he has to keep shelling out his easily earned cash on fines.

Send in the clowns!

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Sometimes it's heaven to be an eL fan. I don't include my last trip to Dalyer on a freezing, miserable March night to watch Expunged beat Derry City 1-0. Last night was different though, balmy and mild, unlike the atmosphere inside. But first you had to get inside.

I was going to the game straight from my indoor football exploits; 60 minutes of unparalleled skill and gasping for air. The young Garda wanted to check my bag; his hand came into contact with my freshly sweaty boxers and we exchanged a look - I don't think I was his type, he withdrew his hand after a cursory rummage and I was on my way.

My luck improved once I'd been accepted as a guest of Bohemian FC. A beautiful damsel made her way towards me, smiling; there was no one behind me, I knew this for sure as I was in the heavens with the other hardened hacks. Being seriously dehydrated - there was no time for a post match pint - after my indoor exertions, her offer of Lucozade and a packet of crisps was enough for me.

Dalymount was buzzing, the pitch pristine, the lights bright. No breeze, no glaring sun; the stage was set for a classic. Then the teams entered the arena.

Paul Tuite took a deep breath and blew on his feadog; the barrier was raised and both sides set about each other for 45 minutes of Braveheart-type battle, mixed with no little skill. An reiteoir [I'm trying to help ye prepare for the TG4 games] seemed prepared to let the game flow and he was forced into some tough decisions by flying forwards in penalty area upheavals, looking for a cic pionos at both ends of the pitch.

This was the 3rd meeting of these sides this season with the Gypsies yet to penetrate the Shels rearguard. A weakened Gypsies eleven were easily dismissed in May by 2-0; while the carnage of their recent League Cup tie is still fresh in the mind. The home team were determined tonight. But Shels are a top side in fine form and they've beaten determined sides before. They showed no signs of discomfort.

Ndo was impossibly elastic in a way reminiscent of Mark Rutherford at his peak; even when he seems to have lost control of the orb....There was a titanic struggle in the centre of the park, where Stuart Byrne and Joe were matched up against Thomas Heary and John Paul Kelly.

The opening period flew by in a flurry of tackles, runs and goalmouth drama; Shels possibly shaded it; 0-0.

The second half was entering it's puberty when Glen Crowe reminded the Bohs faithful what he's capable of by turning his marker neatly and finishing with confidence from about 12 metres [EU Rules, sorry]. It seemed like Groundhog Day for Bohs. Repeatedly this season they've come out against the top sides, given a good account of themselves and left the field with 'nil points'.

But both fans and players alike were determined not to be beaten. Thomas Heary was abrasive in midfield, Joxer wasn't letting his lightweight physique inhibit him, but they were losing the battle. Gareth Farrelly sprung stalwart, Stephen Caffrey, from the bench. Stephen Ward, one of Ireland's U21 heroes in a Greek oven just two days earlier was called ashore. Joxer filled his berth on the left and Caffo took a deep breath in the centre alongside Heary, the man who carried the distinction of being first to piss the ref off on the night.

In the meantime Glen Crowe took the time to remind the Shels fans what he's capable of with a glaring miss, when it seemed impossible to do so. O'Brien, in the Bohs' nets, to his credit never gave the ball up and scrambled across his line to save Crowe's tame tap in from all of 75 cms.

Caffo's introduction brought added steel to the home side. Without the pedestrian Arkins up front they threatened. Ironically, it was the deep ball to the back post which troubled Shels throughout the game, the ex - Shels man would have thrived on it. The current Shels men couldn't deal with it; as time after time their goal came under threat. Aside from Harkins goal and later Caffrey's, there were at least 2 occasions when arms were raised in salute by the Men In Black. On each occasion the MC determined that the ball had not gone trasna an line; but Shels' rearguard was at 7's and 8's.

Joxer was finding more space down the left, terrorising Heary and Ryan; Baker was introduced to negate the threat; Crawford was introduced to eliminate Steven Caffrey; and this he did with clinical efficiency as Caffrey had to carried from the field in acknowledgement of a scything challenge from the former Newcastle player.

Full credit - as they say in post match analysis - to both sides, for providing us with a Dublin Derby worthy of the handle. It lacked nothing. Bohemians were deserving winners, a glimpse of what might be if they could lift themselves to this level of performance against the league's lesser lights as well as it's alumni. Shels I hope will sportingly acknowledge that they were bettered on the night.

The more intuitive Bohs follower may privately acknowledge that the Twin Towers of Ferguson and McGuinness sway dangerously under pressure, seldom a game passes without one or both of them incurring a carta bui; but further out the field things are certainly improving as Paul Devlin's influence begins to filter through the side.

And I nearly forgot, Happy Birthday Ma.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Even for a confirmed cynic like myself the sight of the usually innocuous number 6 alongside his bedoubled brethren gives me the willies. And I'm not even Johnny McDonnell.

The likeable [for he's considerably stronger than me and has an air of Sicilian Fraternity about him] St. Patrick's Athletic boss must reel in horror, silver crucifix in hand, when presented with the current league table.

Played 18, won 6, drew 6, lost six. Repeat it slowly, menacingly - it's scary. Were opposing fans to chant it zombie like it would be sure to completely unnerve the Richmond Reds, sending them scurrying to their leader's tracksuit for protection.

Back in the heady weeks of May and early June Pats sniffed scrotums with the top dogs in the Premier division. They looked capable of more as the goals of Molloy and Keegan despatched would be challengers insolently. Twenty points out of thirty-three. Champions Cork arrived in Inchicore and were comprehensively beaten; Derry managed a goal and a point; only Drogheda, who were themselves going through a claret patch managed to deprive the Saints of a point on a filthy night in Dublin.

John was crunching the numbers. A third of the way through the season; multiply the points gained by three and you get...... three times the points I think. Then it was World Cup time; 'see you after the break' as the goofy Bud presenters might say.

And back they came - with heads spinning wildly, eyes gouging, speaking in foreign tongues. No, they'd already had the Cork fans up! The squad was improved. Prodigal Fahey was amongst the incoming.

Then there was the Expungsion; a rarely performed ritual which cost them three points. They failed to score against UCD. They were dismissed like lowly curs by Bohs and Longford; again failing to trouble the scorekeeper.

There were opportunities to remind themselves of happier times when they faced Shels and Derry, but the league's pedigreed canines cocked a leg while each put three past McDonnell's floundering eleven.

Victory against an improving Sligo side soothed any naysayers; beating Bray this season is nothing to brag to your bitch about. Seven out of twenty four!

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Fans of football on our bloated island will have looked wearily up from their cold pizza to absorb the recent news from that icon of Irish language television, TG4.

Na buachailli at the Galway station have saved so much money by not having to buy any more guna nuas for Grainne and her sister that they can offer live coverage of our glorious eL league for four consecutive Fridays, beginning on Sept 1st.

As if this weren't enough beidh na daoine deas ag obair ar na FAI Cup games freisin, with coverage of Rovers and Bohs from the 3rd round, plus 2 quarter final clashes. Go hana mhaith ar fad.

It doesn't embarass me that you are envious of my mastery of my native tongue. But I'm obviously struggling with the Gaeilge! As a generous and thoughtful individual I have taken it upon myself, however, to offer the lazyarsed shites who didn't listen to their Irish teacher in school because they were 'never going to need it', a helping hand. Below is a limited list of essential words, accompanied by a translation and a pronunciation aid.

Referee: Reiteoir [ray-it-ore]
Goal: Cul [cool]
Midfield: I lar na pairce [ih-lor-na-porka]
Red card: Carta dearg [corta jarrig]
Yellow card: Carta bui [corta bwee]
Ball: Liathroid [lee-road]
Corner: Cuinne [coo-in-eh]
Whistle: Feadog [fad-ohg]
Manager: Bainisteoir [banish-toar]
Penalty kick: Cic pionos [kick peen-osh]
Jersey: Geansai [gan-zee]

See, it's coming back to you already.

I realise that some terms of abuse will be necessary but as these are oft associated with our most base emotions it's unlikely that viewers/spectators will take the time to translate their anger into the cupla focail. With some eager listening and basic practise by the time the TG4 games have run their course you may be capable of commentating as gaeilge yourself. Sin e.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


If you were to pass through Limerick anytime soon you are certain to be taken aback at the innumerable amounts of citizens going about their daily business while scratching their heads.

Of course Frank McCourt would have us believe that this is a regular pose of Treatites. And if the galloping telegram boy were to get word of recent events in his 'native' city he would return post haste with pen and paper at the ready.

The puzzled look is the make up of choice; the bewildered expression substitutes conversation. For in the space of two months, the sky has fallen in on the Blues and nobody is talking about it.

Unsurprisingly, they opened their campaign with a defeat at Galway, but the computer's gift of 4 consecutive home ties offered them a turbo boost, which they exploited to the full. Next came an away trip to the Cats, and five wins on the trot.

Then the Jekyll and Hydesters that were early season vintage Dundalk came to Hogan Park and left with all three points. No panic, sure no one knew what to make of the Lilywhites. Limerick immediately got back to winning ways, progressed in the League Cup and felled the mighty Drogheda in an FAI Cup replay at the Drogs kennel.

An unconvincing victory at Monaghan in their last game before the World Cup break was a portent of what was to come. Nonetheless, they sat proudly astride the top of the First Division, five points ahead of Pat Scully's Hoops and any cracks were well covered to the undiscerning.

So we all gorged ourselves on the World Diving Cup, while waiting for the return to action. Fortunately, The Cats were the first hurdle for the Boys in Blue, and they had had star performer Christy Doran recalled to base near the border. 3 points.

Then trips to Cobh and Donegal proved fruitless and the natives were not sleeping well. All fears appeared to be allayed when they broke wind in the faces of Shamrock Rovers with back-to-back 1-0 victories at Hogan Park, earning a League Cup semi final tie with Derry City in the process.

Much wiping of brow and releasing of breath follow...all was as it should be. Those [insert whichever word takes your fancy] Dubliners had been sent packing with their studs up their arses...Lims ruled.

Then there was a dull sound where the Shannon meets the sea; was it the sound of an implosion, or of somebody shooting themselves expertly in the foot? I'm not a manager, so I won't attempt to usurp the hard - learned opinions of football's nomadic people. But the result was 4 defeats on the bounce, and a place in the pack, looking up at the studs they had so expertly placed only weeks before.

But the clouds may be lifting; just when you think it can't get any worse, it usually does. Fr. Joe started to play Monopoly with the lease on Hogan Park, adding to their onfield woes. Then came the sound of galloping hooves, a not unfamiliar sound in the city. So nobody looked around. But if they had taken a closer look at the rider's flowing locks they would have spotted Waterford gaucho, John Delaney. And him sporting two fine saddlebags to bring to Fr. Joe, who graciously accepted the FAI's generous offer, and football in Limerick was saved. In a manner of speaking.

Sceptical fans now have to place their faith in the hands of Noel O'Connor to complete the rescue; to be continued.