Wednesday, July 25, 2007


It feels faintly voyeuristic to spend time interpreting the public statements of managers; but I am comforted by the knowledge that this is as central to the game as a substitution for a full-time boss.

And who is the manager most likely...? Yes, those of you who answered Damo will receive a 'Musings of Doctor Damo' CD. Never short of a word for the jaded scribes of Irish football, el Rico is now manipulating the innocent hacks in pursuit of league glory.

To illustrate the cunning and devious nature of his warblings we have to turn our eyes to the Premiershop. A past and current master of the genre is Alex Ferguson; a manager as ruthless and successful as they come. Not as media friendly as our Damo, he is capable of sending a shiver down the stiffest of spines with a single flash of a false grin in the direction of an unprepared lens.

The Scot's hairdryer treatment is the stuff of legend; the Cork boss also generates hot air with uncanny ease. In one of my past lives I was a Leeds United fan. This was during the Ridsdale years; famously the landing gear began to malfunction at Elland Road. The overpaid players belied their bloated contracts with a succession of apathetic performances; consequently they plummeted with the speed of an overstuffed wallet towards the wrong end of the table.

Meanwhile, the scum ( old habits and all that) were engaged in yet another title pursuit with, I think, Arsenal - although it is an insignificant detail. They were down to the wire and the once mighty Whites were due to face the scum and Arsenal on the run-in. Leeds gave United an almighty scare at Elland Road; fergie was not best pleased. In fact he was indignant; how dare such a lowly pile of sh1t attempt to derail his club's title challenge. He publicly accused the Leeds players of deceiving their manager i.e. if they could perform to such a level against his aristos, why weren't they expending the same effort on a weekly basis?

At face value it smacked of the Manager's Union looking out for each other - even suggesting that the Scot had a humane side; but there was a more sinister motive. With Arsenal due to face Leeds anon, he was demanding the same level of effort from the Yorkshire side when the Gunners faced them. And the smart ****** got it too - Leeds beat Arsenal at Highbury.

If my memory is not going to embarrass me, I seem to recall that Ferguson elicited a similar result from a wavering Newcastle United side on another occasion.

So, Damo.

The Cork City boss has taken to advising Drogheda United supremo Paul Doolin as to how the Louth club should be approaching their league assignments. Generous in the extreme from Damo? A man with a full-time job on his hands taking the time to help out a manager whose side are 8 points ahead of his own. Magnanimous in the extreme, unless of course there is a subtext in this comments regarding the scoreless draw between the sides last Sunday.....

“The reality is you saw that Drogheda will be very difficult to beat, but there are also games that they won’t win. Their complete blanket negativity suggests to me they’re more concerned with not losing than winning. The two previous games they scored goals in the last minute to win both. You can’t keep doing that. They’re hard to score and play against. They’re league leaders, but they should be showing more responsibility with their performances".

Drogheda are averaging 1.5 goals per game, bettered only by Pats at 1.58 and just ahead of Cork at 1.24.

Drogheda have won 11 from 18, Pats 11 from 19 and Cork 8 from 17.

As for 'responsibility for their performances', well Dr Damo is spot on here, if not with his other observations. Paul Doolin is the man charged with responsibility for the performances of Drogheda United football club, the second highest scoring side in the league with the highest points total. Facts like those suggest that the incumbent is a manager who takes his responsibility seriously.

Damian Richardson will have been well acquainted with the facts before his comments, but they were intended to insinuate themselves into the mindset of Drogheda supporters and staff alike in an effort to undermine their belief in the effectiveness of their currently successful tactics. A dodgy result or two and fans would be echoing el Rico's sentiments; fan unrest spreads to team, spreads to results - and Cork come gliding through in the Drogs ever slowing slipstream.

Surely the sign of a manager who is growing increasingly nervous about his club's unused silver polish supplies. Be responsible for Cork City's performances Damo, let Doolo worry about the Drogs.

Still, it's tasty stuff, and another sign of the pressure that comes with our creeping professionalism. Bring it on!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Great Defender

John McDonnell's defensive abilities show no signs of wilting under the increasing weight of years. Like a well aged Angus steak, the St. Patrick's Athletic boss has matured well. He sees the bigger picture, not the one-eyed view of most football managers. Consideration for those with whom we share the planet, our treatment of said orb - these are but two of the issues which he has used his exalted position to address.

First there was the case of the bawdy Cork supporters. Ingrates, who felt that the admission price to the Shed in Turner's Cross conferred the right of judgement upon them. The so called 'fans' turned on whiter than white Barry Ryan. In his post match interview did John talk about the game - no he did not. This is the mark of the man; the concern for the feelings of another human being, and one of his players at that, was precedent in his thoughts.

Obviously addicted to the warm and fuzzy feeling he got from that intervention, our hero was waiting in a phonebox for his next mission. Knowing not the when or where is the lot of such a man. Coincidentally, it was again a crowd of football supporters who irked him. Taking time out from his duties as manager of the Saints, he again took on the role of Moral Custodian with Special Responsibility for Football Fans (or MCWSRFFF to use up a bit more space) . Richmond Park, home of the Saints was the setting - and not a Cork City fan in sight.

This time it was the pesky Saints supporters. Most probably relatives of the Cork shower, they too dwelt beneath the illusion that you could pay and say. Again the Supersaint used the media to extend his message to the world. Pats fans had been brazen enough to voice unpleasant opinions towards members of their own side within earshot of our Football Nuncio. This was not cricket.

Then a dodgy run of results realigned Johnny Mc's crosshair. The recent win over Longford Town has finally seen his side put maximum points on the board again. Unburdened following the win, our hero was left with enough space in his life to take up the cause again. This time he saw green. His charge towards the winsome Longford Town substitutes was reminiscent of the bovine activities in Pamplona.

THE GRASS! - Back into the dressing room Barry - THE GRASS! The young substitutes were astonished - embarrassed even - by such treehuggery; truly this was a man in touch with his innermost feelings, displaying not the vaguest whiff of discomfort with them. A prolonged exchange of unpleasantries ensued; the intensity of this served only to underline John McDonnell's commitment to making the world a better place for humankind to live - and he's prepared to fight for it. So stay out of his way.

So next Monday night when St. Pats and Shamrock Rovers collide on Setanta at 8pm don't dare change channels after the final whistle; there are pearls to be had. The real showdown is the Battle of John and Pat and it promises to be as intriguing as anything that precedes it.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Fruits of Wexford

In stark contrast to the Dublin Derby at Tolka Park a week previously, both innocent and ignorant passers-by would be hard pressed to notice the imminent event in Drumcondra. Wexford Youths were in town; normally such a statement conjures up images of yellabellies wielding hurleys having imbibed heavily and stumbling towards Croker.

Maybe that's what happened to the Youths' support, because they were as difficult to spot as pork ribs at a tree hugger's barbecue on the Richmond Road. It must be said that the players look the part...Mick Wallace's fascination with all things Italian has resulted in an elegant and well-cut black outfit for away occasions. Signor Wallace betrays a more laidback personal style.

This was my first viewing as far as the newcomers were concerned and I was intrigued at the prospect of seeing a First Division side attempt to play the beautiful game. I've long been an admirer of the Italian style of play; Paolo Maldini is a particular hero of mine.

The Reds took to the field with a rash of new signings; just like the last time I saw them. Kieran Harte caused the first flutter in the ground. His rasping volley flew centimetres over the bar, much to the relief of his goalkeeper. The game flowed freely, with little tactical shackling. Both sides made a decent attempt at playing football.

Alan Keely confirmed his lineage with a trademark centre half's tackle - just 14 minutes into his Shels career he had seen yellow. Having inserted a probe into their youthful opponents the more battle hardened Shels began to impose themselves in the physical stakes. The efforts of the men in black regularly ran aground in the opposition half. Two lightweight, and slightly hesitant, strikers were still attempting to find their way with little consideration from their hosts.

Not to say that Dermot Keely's side were rampant in the first half. At one stage three Reds congealed at their own near post to clear a cross - unchallenged. If anything, the quality of the opposition compensated for the lack of cohesion from the newly collated Shels. DK's side have ability, but obviously will need some time to gel.

There is a naivete about the Wexford side; a lack of urgency and tempo in their play and a penchant for losing possession just about anywhere. The streetwise Shels had no reservations about exploiting their opponents' shortcomings. In situations such as these a young side must have a rallying point - Conor Sinnott was more ornamental than peripheral.

He was quick to present himself when there was a dead ball that needed resuscitation; otherwise he drifted lazily about the centre of midfield barely raising a sweat. Very Francesco Totti. Alongside him Patsy Malone did the work of three men, covering every corner of the pitch from the first whistle to the last. Should there be a test for driving force he will pass with colours flying.

Regarding the touchline persona of Dermot Keely - a man who has done it all in the domestic game. He is fly on the wall gold; stubbornly refusing to encourage or compliment his charges throughout. Just like having your father on the sideline; nothing is ever good enough for him. His head flicks from left to right like a panicked pigeon as he seeks out another target for his frustration. Of course, the antics of Derek Tomney soaked up a lot of Dermot's energies last Friday. Here was a man hell bent on abuse; stoically refusing to give anything to the Reds, and causing the faithful to howl at almost every decision.

And faithful they are. It was evident on my previous trip to Drumcondra early in the campaign, and could be assigned to the realms of early season exuberance. Not so at this juncture. The enthusiasm and raw support from the remaining Shelbourne fans exceeds anything I have experienced during the club's wonder years; and I am not the first to say it.

The second half of this encounter will have lifted their little hearts... their red-eared heroes began to produce some flowing football, and the flow was very much one-way. The Youths struggled young manfully to cope - I'm loath to mention the little boy with his finger in the dyke - a Shelbourne goal was inevitable. Lee Roche was sparkling down the right hand side, Harte likewise down the left.

A fine piece of interplay on the left wing resulted in a centimetre perfect cross for Mark Leech. At times he had looked disinterested in his surroundings but mustered a leap for this cross. He was too close to miss, he didn't. Invariably the visitors came close to equalising in the game's flailing moments but they didn't deserve an equaliser.

Mick Wallace was almost silent on the sideline throughout as he watched his side further their education. It's a tough first season for these boys. Every so often they pick up a point or three- enough to maintain their belief in what Wallace is trying to create in Wexford. They will get better, and will be an asset to the league. Whether that means they will provide plenty of talented young footballers for the sharks, or will eventually gain promotion remains unanswered.

So off I trooped to get myself a burger- a burger big and juicy with beautifully a fresh and crisp salad - just like the one in the picture; again the reality failed to live up to my anticipation.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


The fun-filled rivalry between supporters was a treasure to behold at last weekend's coming together of Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians at Tolka Park. The enchanting media build up had featured photos of cuddly young footballers giving of their time at Children's Hospitals and other terrorist targets.

Even the inclemency of the late June weather was becalmed by the atmosphere of love and kindness generated between two aged rivals. A balmy evening was gifted to the healthy crowd - although I observed that not all in attendance appeared to be healthy - a perfect setting for football.

As I eased left onto Richmond Road, licking the salt and vinegar from my fingers, it was clear that the Garda Siochana had not been lulled into a sense of false security by the prematch love-in; after all it is their job to provide such a sense. Hefty horses had their gumshields in and stab vests on, just to be sure.

Within the confines of Tolka Park, the red of the Premier League Champions had ceded to the green and white of the First Division titleholders. Fertile ground indeed! The music on the PA reminisced of halcyon days for the Hoops. The air was punctured by the boys in the Ballybough end. Cleary a diligent bunch, they unveiled their Derby Day project - TALLAGHT STADIUM Home of Thomas Davis - appeared to be the message for the speechless Riverside Stand. 1-0 to the visitors.

Kick off was within sight. The protagonists re-emerged, assembling around the centre circle. A touching tribute to two deceased friends of Shamrock Rovers was broadcast; one minute of silence requested. Heads dropped in solemn reflection and appreciation. There was a general hum from my left hand side; possibly supporters outside the ground, unaware of the hushed proceedings inside.

One Rovers fan decided that his club had been humiliated enough. A flat Dublin accent ran around the stadium; something like 'Bohs come.' The Gypsy fans were deeply touched by this, one so much so that he too broke the silence - 'Rovers thankers', but I could be wrong. The verbal exchange was repeated. The minute passed.

No more niceties - football reigned. It was helter-skelter football in the opening half; neither side capable of controlled passing movements. Rovers looked a little thin at the rear. Mark Langtry and Dean Lawrence are apprentices at this level. Stephen O'Brien was guarding the goal behind them; he has seen the sun setting many times.

Mark Rossiter lined up on the Bohs right against Langtry, but seemed reluctant to test his novice opponent on the outside. Darren Mansaram and Glen Crowe faced up to Lawrence and Barry Ferguson. The more seasoned of the centre backs did Trojan work to compensate for the absence of his regular defensive partners.

Nonetheless, the prospect of picking up Darren Mansaram for the first time must compare to holding on to your soap in the Mountjoy showers. A slippery and unpredictable operator at the worst of times; and if it wasn't him in front of Lawrence it was the cutehoor that is Glen Crowe.

It seemed a strange decision on the part of Sean Connor not to try out Chris Kingsberry against young Langtry. Here is a winger with all the razzle-dazzle and close control of a Jack Russell when on the ball. Akin to the vertically challenged canine, there is seldom a cutting end product. Ger O'Brien is a confident footballer and was only too happy to let the former Linfield winger procrastinate on the ball. That said, Kingsberry was largely anonymous in the opening half, effectively pitting 10 v 11 in the Hoops' favour.

To afford the benefit of the doubt to the diminutive winger - he has undoubted talent, and did not feature regularly at Linfield in the lead up to his move south. He may need games to find his pitch; Sean Connor made quite a show of congratulating him after withdrawing him from the action. In reference to his left-sided positioning - Ger Rowe was causing havoc down that side of the field for Rovers, Mark Rossiter would surely have provided better cover and assistance for Conor Powell.

There were some beefy challenges, eventually we saw yellow. Ferguson's hand of god effort was missed by only three people in the ground - having already been booked, he must consider himself a lucky man. Further on, Pat Scully bemoaned the fact that his side were denied a penalty - these things even themselves out over a season - sometimes a game.

The pre-match publicity had quite an effect on the fans. They were so touched with the tender images that they wanted to come together; so determined were they that the nice men in orange and yellow had a fierce job keeping them where they belonged. Eventually, both sides seemed satisfied to hug and embrace the garishly clad helpers. It brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat to see grown men express their emotions so freely in public. Humbled, was I.

The outpouring of affection was unrelenting. Now the fans were offering each other drinks. Plastic bottles flew from the Riverside to the Ballybough end and back. Where else in football would one experience such concern for one's guests needs'?

Out on the field the second half action was far superior. Pat Scully reminded his players that there was a game to be won. Their performance level upped significantly. We began to see passing movements, creative football, and the odd goal chance. Given the defensive records of the combatants it was going to be difficult to register on the scoresheet. Sean Connor surprised everyone by withdrawing Kevin Hunt and replacing him with Thomas Heary.

As I peered through a veritable Who's He of injured and suspended footballers the game rolled on towards it's inevitable stalemate. Was it nervousness that caused the visiting fans to regress into childhood securities? The Willy Wonka Oompa Loompa song was garnishing an excellent evening's entertainment - after Stephen O'Brien had rolled back the months with a superb stop from Glen Crowe's header the singing inexplicably ceased.

The evening concluded with some good clean family fun. The Rovers fans were to leave the ground first; then when the men in yellow and orange said so, the Bohs fans could come looking for them. I still haven't been caught.

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