Sideline Cuts – Issue 1

Welcome to something a bit different. Firstly, about the name – one hopes there will be no objections to same. Not that there would be liable to be from our loyal and very appreciated readership. However, I am mindful that the sadly defunct and much missed Weekender newspaper used carry a column of the same title and it’s hoped those who were formerly involved with and/or behind that publication won’t mind.

The aim here is multi-faceted. On one hand, to keep fresh content coming as often as possible. Thus maximising the site’s appeal to our readers and indeed increasing the chances of appealing to the widest audience possible. To increase the chances of the latter aspiration coming to fruition, though, there’s a need to cover as wide a variety of topics as is possible.

That’s not as simple as it might sound, in that while there’d be no problem doing bits on a vast array of stuff, there might not be enough in any of them to construct an entire post therefrom. In the very near future there will be a return to doing a Podcast as regularly as is possible and will be a new feature in the form of video content via a new YouTube channel linked to the site. In the interim, mind you, Sideline Cuts will take the form of a bulletin which, by definition, will not be as long-winded as this introduction.

GAA

Obviously the starting point has to be Meath. In football, while there is of course disappointment at being relegated, it would hopefully be broadly accepted that Andy McEntee’s team justified their presence at the top table. They will undoubtedly have learned plenty from competing against a better calibre of opposition. Though it would surely be accepted also that they have further to travel on their developmental journey.

I always think that the biggest asset any team can derive from the National League is the unearthing of new talent. Well, in the case of the Meath footballers it hasn’t so much been the discovery of someone new as the rejuvenation of somebody very talented who has been cursed by injury, David Toner from the Curraha club.

David Toner has impressed so far this season with Meath

Moving to hurling, it has been a campaign of consolidation for new manager Nick Weir and his charges. Which, when it’s considered that it’s not that long ago since their status in the spring competition was elevated. And, of course they have bigger fish to fry in the summer months having attained promotion to the Joe McDonagh Cup.

Being honest, if there are misgivings in this corner about the new hurling setup, they are based solely around the fact that there is nobody from the local hurling fraternity therein. However, nobody can argue when the upward trajectory which has been noticeable within hurling in the county for some time now hasn’t been disrupted.

If anything, retention of status in the summer competition becomes all the more plausible when it’s taken into account that Weir this season has sole call on James Toher, Alan Douglas and, in particular, Mickey Burke, after the trio had been flitting between the small and big ball codes in recent seasons.

Of even greater significance, though, has been the emergence of Ratoath forward Padraig O’Hanrahan as prolific scorer. Gut feeling is that Meath now have a bit of strength and depth in hurling to enable them to look forward to the summer with optimism.

Padraig O’Hanrahan has emerged as a big asset to the Meath hurlers

DARTS

It will be openly admitted that as the evenings get brighter, tungsten tournaments become a tougher watch as it is a discipline more associated with the dark winter nights. In fact, it’s clung to at such times. That said, when it’s taken into account that it’s not all that long ago since it would’ve been one of the fastest things scrolled past, it’s taken in at every available opportunity.

And, as strange as it might seem, especially given comments above, even though the evening are, mercifully, stretching, every week of the Premier League will be taken in either live or recorded. The question is posed every year as to why these wheels don’t park up in the 3Arena when the action is thence.

The genuine truth is that the one seeing eye would take in more of the action here in the office. As per usual, it’s been enthralling entertainment. Adding the ‘Contenders’ has certainly added a bit of zip to things though I can’t understand why there isn’t a way they could give each player some more involvement. For example, if some of the contenders pick up a win or even a draw – as Luke Humphreys and Fallon Sherrock already have respectively – why not give them the points they earned like any of the other players.

Then, if there’s only one player who has picked up points, let them play off against whoever is 8th as the second phase begins. If more than one of them pick up points, could a play-off or round robin let one of them through to the latter stages. Just a thought. Anyway, not surprisingly, to my mind, the action in Dublin was the best thus far.

Not just because Limerick’s Willie O’Connor put up a more than respectable performance against Michael Van Gerwen. On a normal night’s fare, his 4-7 loss to the Green Machine would’ve been undoubtedly the main talking point. Any night somebody hits a nine-dart finish isn’t normal though!

It’s the equivalent of a 147 break in Snooker or a hole-in-one in Golf, or somebody doing a Frankie Dettori at Ascot and going through the entire card. Given the quality of players currently in the top ranks of the arrowsmiths, a perfect finish isn’t the awe-inspiring rarity it once was. Yet it’s no less impressive for that.

What was perhaps surprising was that it wasn’t Van Gerwen or Peter Wright or Gary Anderson or Gerwyn Price who was trigger-happy. Rather, the supremely talented but enigmatic Michael Smith. The ‘Bully Boy’ is without question one of the hotshots on the circuit, but he can be either brilliant or brutal. There’s generally no in between.

His alacrity at doing things right, though, is best demonstrated in the number of major finals he has already contested. Yes, he has yet to get over the line in one, but, that he is competing vigorously with such regularity surely suggests the breakthrough isn’t far away. He certainly got everything right against the equally gifted and tempestuous Daryl Gurney.

Michael Smith is currently on a hot streak

Having beaten Van Gerwen in Exeter, he deservedly sits atop the pile, alongside the very impressive Glen Durrant who has made an exceptional start to his maiden League campaign. With Anderson and MVG both uncharacteristically off form, at this stage, Wright and Price are fancied to join them on Finals night. The entertainment will be in finding out how accurate that hunch is!

Soccer

All good things must come to an end. Only in one case, the Arsenal team of 2004, did that not hold true. Though even that needs clarification because Manchester United eventually stopped the Gunners’ run of unbeaten games at 49 early in the following campaign. The likelihood of something similar occurring again would’ve been deemed slim – certainly in the Premiership, whatever about the likes of Celtic or Barcelona or PSG or Bayern Munich.

Yet, it got a good distance towards happening again this term courtesy of Liverpool. Mind you, once a few bolts were loosened on the wagon, they may not have come off but the conveyance certainly wobbled. But, here’s the thing, whatever about the Champions League reversal, in the case of their expulsion from the FA Cup by Chelsea, it was a case of the victors not getting near enough credit.

In fact, Frank Lampard has been the butt of a ridiculous amount of criticism during his first season back where he made his name at Stamford Bridge. There are few more judgmental employers than he who signs Frank’s cheque every week and that said individual is not up in arms should tell anybody all the need to know. As for the vanquished on the occasion in question, they will still saunter to the league title and that realisation should be enough for anybody to doff their cap to the team who defeated them.

Frank Lampard is doing a great job at Chelsea

RACING

Irish sport has a litany of famed dynasties. From the Brogans and the O’Se’s in Gaelic football to the Dooleys in hurling, the Dunlops in Motorsport and the names Carberry, Mullins and Walsh in Horse Racing. That of the Crowleys also belongs in the latter ensemble.

Sadly, a link in the latter chain was broken this week with the passing of Joe Crowley in his 92nd year. An accomplished trainer in his own right, unfortunately before this corner was properly attuned to such things. From my perspective, Joe was best known as the father of Annemarie and Frances and Angela, father-in-law to Kevin O’Ryan, Trevor Horgan, Pat Smullen and Aidan O’Brien and grandfather to the next generation of luminaries.

Wasn’t it poignantly fitting, then, that one grandson, Donnacha O’Brien got off the mark as a trainer only days before Joe’s passing courtesy of Flower Garland at Dundalk while another, Hugh Horgan, has been making quite a name for himself under the Co Louth lights too recently. Add a certain J.P. O’Brien into the mix and the Crowley legacy seems secure for a long time to come.

Donnacha, Joseph and Aidan O’Brien

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