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first_imgJACK IT IN, YOUNG GREALISH – OR COMMITTalk about a bit of cynical manipulating. Jack Grealish – still not fully committed to the Republic’s cause (has he ever been?) – named under-21 Player of the Year at the ‘3’ F.A.I. International awards.The Aston Villa man has been largely sitting on the fence as regards a senior international career despite the fact that he has represented Ireland up to under-21 level. It was reported last October that he had finally opted to be included in a Martin O’Neill squad but this was subsequently denied by the player himself. Born in Birmingham, Grealish’s father hails from Dublin and he also boasts a grandparent link with Gort in County Galway. by Paddy Walsh, Donegal Top Sports ColumnistWalshyShay Given has become the latest Republic star to urge the young attacking midfielder to throw in his lot with O’Neill’s men, insisting that he would be a positive addition to the squad.But former Irish full-back, Kevin Kilbane, has a different view. Forget about Grealish if he hasn’t committed by now, he argues. Kilbane found himself in a similar position as the Villa player. He was born in Preston of Irish descent but insists that at the age of fourteen he knew which country he would be choosing if the call ever came. It did and he went on to represent the Republic on 110 occasions, travelling over to join the squad even for the most mundane of friendly matches.Such wholesale commitment wasn’t always evident on the part of some of his team-mates with mysterious injuries (not to mention grandparents passing away) occasionally emerging to rule them out of linking up with the squad in Dublin. But this wasn’t Kilbane’s way – turning out in that green shirt was all-important to him and nobody could ever have faulted him for lack of devotion to the Irish cause. Sure, young Grealish may be finding it a difficult decision given that the bulk of his childhood friends and neighbours are probably English and may be continually persuading him to commit to Roy Hodgson’s squad.But surely, deep down, there’s a gut feeling telling him what he should do. If he does decide to go for England, good luck to him, but the fact that he hasn’t committed to the Irish set-up by now is one that is worrying and here’s one football follower who believes he should be told to get with it or get out of it.Even if the F.A.I. do conjure up an award for him to persuade him that the wearing of the green is where it’s at.OUR SHAY TO RETURN The afore-mentioned Shay Given’s commitment to the jersey can never be questioned and while he did retire himself from international duties for a spell, he’s back and raring to win the nod from Martin O’Neill for the starting line-up against Poland in Sunday’s European Championship qualifier. It’s a tough decision for the management team with David Forde having excelled in the position since claiming the number one jersey. The Millwall ‘keeper will be sorely disappointed if he loses out even if he has been conceding goals as his club side struggle at the wrong end of the Championship table.The Lifford man, meanwhile, has impressed for Aston Villa in a F.A. Cup run that has brought them to the semi-finals but league outings have been as rare as hen’s teeth.Shay to start, to concede one to Robert Lewandowski & Co., but the Republic to go on and triumph by the odd goal in three.DERBY DAY Mickey Harte will be facing Donegal.The great Mickey Harte – and don’t let recent mixed fortunes for his Tyrone team fool you – brings his team to Ballybofey this weekend for what promises to be a local derby with some bite.Rory Gallagher’s Donegal came off the back off a dismally poor performance against Monaghan to edging Kerry close in Tralee. But the end result was the same – a defeat and one which leaves them loitering with intent in the bottom rungs of Division 1.They can’t afford another upset and I believe they’ll avoid one with a narrow victory over their bordering neighbours.A SATURDAY LIKE NO OTHEROur hero Johnny has been a warrior this season.So there I am, in the company of thousands of other Irish fans (though obviously not in all my sitting-room), screaming at the television screen and yelling at the French to kick the ball to touch from a penalty and promising them I’d forgive Thierry Henry if they did (listen, when you’re at desperation stakes, you’ll say anything). And then in the split of a second, I realise sure the French have nothing to play for and have every right to attempt to work the ball from their own try line and venture up the Twickenham pitch and look for another try even if the clock is in the red zone and they have no chance of winning. Can’t argue with that but it’s only when they appear to concede possession that I begin screaming again…It had all started so calmly too. Mac’s Mace on Letterkenny’s High Road on the Saturday morning and regular customer, Michael Bouchier-Hayes, asking me to call it. Ireland, I say to him.Half-time in Rome and that confidence is growing. Only 14-13 to Wales and they need a bagful. “Told you Italy would make it tough for them but you laughed at me,” Tom McGurk tells his fellow panellists on R.T.E.But by full-time the story’s turned on its head and a late, late try from the Italians is the sole consolation as Warren’s Warriors run out winners by 61-20, a hat-trick of tries from George North seemingly sending our Six Nations hopes west. “We have a chance,” insists Conor O’Shea. But not a very good one, he concedes.Hopes rise when the big man, Paulie, goes over for an early try at Murrayfield.A couple of years ago (watch out, there’s a name about to drop) I met Sean O’Brien in the foyer of the Mount Errigal Hotel (sound man) and I’m almost certain I told him to wheel off the line-out, wrong-footing his opponents and burst through for a try if he ever got the chance. And that chance came. Half-time, 20-10 to the Irish.“Promised you a cliff hanger but we’re running out of cliffs,” says McGurk. And not even one of the most famous rugby Cliffs (Morgan, the former Wales fly-half and B.B.C. commentator) to provide us with the low-down on his nation’s hopes of thwarting both Ireland and England for the Championship.But the Irish eat into the Welsh points differential and overtake it with a Sexton penalty before O’Brien stretches out a hand to ground the ball for his second score. And then Stuart Hogg appears certain to close the gap as the game enters its dying seconds only for Jamie Heaslip’s plunging tackle to force him to drop the ball in try territory. Full-time, 40-10 to Ireland.Champions again but what a nail-biter. Oh sorry, there’s another match to come. “Anything’s possible today,” says Conor O’Shea. “France could beat England or England could beat them by fifty,” Ronan O’Gara informs viewers from pitchside at Murrayfield.Just before kick-off in Twickenham, Brent Pope back in the R.T.E. studio in Dublin (and not actually in Rome where any Pope belongs) is close to smirking about the prospects of England clawing back the 26 points gap they require. “They’re going to win the Six Nations, I know that”, he confidently predicts success for Ireland.Early try for England but France recover to go 15-7 in front. “Wheels coming off the chariot”, Frank Larkin Facebooks a comment.But some running repairs and they’re back wheeling along nicely. Too nicely, Half-time: 27 to 15 in England’s favour. “You have our permission to hide behind the couch”, Tom McGurk declares. No need to tell some of us, we’re already there.“If England score first in the second half, they could push on,” Brent Pope has lost some of his earlier spark.French try, 42 minutes! English try, 46 minutes. Penalty, France, 51 minutes. England try. And so it goes on and when five minutes from time, Jack Nowell, ghosts in for another five pointer, suddenly the couch isn’t big enough to hide behind.And then that final surge, England needing six points to claim the title; France needing to keep their discipline; and Ireland needing Nigel Owens to spot an infringement – any infringement – from the home side. And he does! Nick Easter (Happy Easter) in over the top, penalty to France! YES, WE’VE DONE IT! But wait, what are they doing? They’re trying to play it out from their own line with half of England camped in front of them? Monsieur Madness.Until, finally, obviously remembering Thierry Henry, they boot it into the Twickenham stands to a crescendo of boos from the home crowd and a cartful of booze over at Murrayfield and other points besides.What a day. A day of ‘ifs’ and ‘what ifs’ when even the term drama couldn’t do it justice. And the Pope was proved – just about – infallible.SIX NATIONS MEDALS FOR DONEGAL THREELarissa in actionAnd so to Sunday and the Irish women’s team attempting to match their male counterparts with a Six Nations title. And a trio of Donegal players to help them do it.The previous evening, France had beaten England and the Irish required a 27 point gap over the Scots to clinch the Championship. Just about squeezed it, they did. 37-3 up at the interval, they continued to blitz Scotland in the second period – running in eleven tries in total to run out winners by 73-3.Hardly any edge of the seat stuff there but a hugely impressive performance albeit against a limited Scottish team who just couldn’t contain the visitors. Or women against girls, as R.T.E. commentator, Ryle Nugent neatly put it.Both Stapleton and Muldoon (hailing from Fahan and Ballybofey respectively) were in the starting line-up and as the clock ticked down, Katie Norris from Moville also saw a taste of the action from the replacements bench.Surely, a homecoming reception in order for the three of them.FINN SPARKGreat start to the season for Finn Harps but, as Ollie Horgan has warned, they had a similar positive beginning last season and look where that ended up?This time, however, the squad looks stronger and with Packie Mailey set to return to action shortly – though he may have to fight to regain his place seeing as his defensive colleagues have kept clean sheets in all three outings so far – things are looking up around Finn Park.Bottom of the table, Cobh Ramblers, travel to the venue this Friday and that should represent another trio of points for Harps.But those of us with both short and long memories know there’s always the possibility of a collapse and we’re not for getting out the maps to Premier League grounds just yet.Meanwhile, in keeping with the favour France did us at Twickenham, it’s only right we give a blast of ‘Allez Les Bleus’ every time Wilfried Tagbo touches the ball…RALLYING TO THE CAUSEA true Joule in the crown for the Donegal International Car Rally with the announcement of new sponsorship for the event. Manufacturers and designers of energy efficient hot water cylinders and solar heating systems, the company has motored in with a three-year deal that will firm up the immediate future of the event.There are some out there – maybe, more than some – who find the rally a pain and just wish it would fold up its tents (and I can recall those days when those canvas covers were dotted all around Letterkenny and surrounding areas as fans of the event geared up for the annual motorfest) and go away.But an estimated injection of 25 million euro into the local economy can hardly be turned away at any time. Not for a county that has struggled to keep pace with many parts of the country when it comes to attracting visitors.Local rallying heroes have emerged over the years including James Cullen, Rory Kennedy, Vincent Bonner and the latest top rated exponent, Declan Boyle, lending domestic pride to the event while from across the border we’ve had the likes of the late Bertie Fisher and the first ever winner of the Donegal Rally, Cahal Curley on many a starting – and finishing – podium. And from overseas we had the greats such as Ari Vantanen and Achim Warmbold burning the rubber on our roads.There have, of course, been tragedies – lives lost when two marshals were killed in 2002, when a spectator died in 2008, and when a co-driver perished after an accident on the Knockalla Stage. As much as those participants who have tasted glory at the Donegal Rally, those victims are also forever inscribed in the event’s logbook and shouldn’t be forgotten.For now, the Donegal Motor Club and the new sponsors, Joule, have injected a new dynamism into the event and that can only be good for the county with rally enthusiasts from all over marking down June 19th to 21st as a weekend away in the Hills and the tourism calendar benefiting as a result.A RIGHT SEND-OFFA top Premiership referee is at the centre of controversy after sending off the right player.Martin Atkinson brandished the red card to dismiss Steven Gerrard during Sunday’s clash at Anfield – leading to outrage among pundits. “What’s the game coming to when this sort of thing happens at this level?,”one demanded.“A referee dismissing the player who had carried out the initial foul? Just when we were so getting used to cases of players getting sent off for things they didn’t do, along comes Mr Atkinson, or is it Archibald, to throw a spanner in the works. He ought to be banned for this incredible blunder.“We can’t have the game descending into farce like this. Mr. Arkwright should be punished severely and not allowed to referee at the top level for some time. He has thrown the Premiership into repute.”PARK YOURSELVES FOR A TABLE QUIZAnd finally…name the G.A.A. club that made history by qualifying for the inter-county Feile competitions in camogie, girls football, hurling and boys football all in the one year?Got it? Okay look away now if you want to continue guessing. For those who don’t, it’s St Eunan’s who will have both the girls and boys under-14 football teams competing at a venue in South Leinster in the last week of June. Before that the Letterkenny club will be one of a number of Ulster clubs hosting camogie and hurling teams from both this country and abroad on the weekend of June 19th to 21st (if that date looks familiar, it’s because the Donegal International Rally is running over the same three days as mentioned previously in this column. Which should mean Letterkenny’s population will just about treble.Fund-raising is under way to aid the participation of the four Feile teams. And that leads to a few more questions – all of them being posed at a specially organized table quiz this Saturday night in St. Eunan’s newly revamped clubhouse. Teams of four (20 euro entry) and a starting time of 9.p.m.JACK IT IN OR COMMIT, GREALISH – IT’S WALSHY ON WEDNESDAY was last modified: March 25th, 2015 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more