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Homegrown Hero: Mick Leech

Article in the FAI’s Republic of Ireland v USA match programme (Aviva Stadium, 2 June 2018)

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In a new series on League of Ireland players who earned caps, we catch up with a Shamrock Rovers’ goalscoring legend.

Before Mick Leech ever got two goals for the Republic of Ireland in Brazil, before he scored 132 times in his long League of Ireland career or got 56 goals across all competitions in the 1968/69 season, and before he ever earned his legendary status at Shamrock Rovers helping the Hoops win half of their FAI Cup six-in-a-row in the 1960s, he was playing with junior side Ormeau.

During that time, a month before his 18th birthday, he travelled to the 1966 World Cup in England as a spectator. He watched Hungary play Brazil and was blown away by the brilliance of that Hungarian team. Within a year, he would join Rovers and win his first FAI Cup and just three years later he would line out for Ireland against that Hungarian side.

“I thought Hungary were the best team I’d ever seen playing when I saw them in the ‘66 World Cup against Brazil in Goodison Park.

“They were a brilliant team with Bene and others who beat Brazil 3-1 that day and a few years later I was playing against them in Dalymount Park. I thought it was an honour to be on the pitch with them,” said Leech about Ireland’s 2-1 defeat to the Magyars in June 1969.

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It was only a month before that Leech had first been included in an Ireland squad. “Outside Easons there was a paper seller with a big poster beside him and it said ‘Leech called into Ireland squad’ so that is the way I heard about it!”

If the way in which he learned about making his first squad inclusion seemed a bit strange, his debut in that game against Czechoslovakia left an even bigger impression. Leech ended up with 10 stitches, being locked out of the Dalymount Park dressing room and having to ring his father to get a lift home after the match!

“I was carried off in the first half. The fella would have got six years for the tackle these days, never mind a yellow card! I got taken in the ambulance to the Mater Hospital.

“By the time I got seen to it was late. I had to walk back up the Phibsborough Road in my football gear to Dalymount afterwards. But sure there was nobody there.

“The bar was at least open so I could ring my Da and go ‘look Da, can you come over and collect me?’ There was no way I could get home with all the bandages on!

“In those days for Ireland you just met on a Saturday morning up in Milltown and we would have a kick around. Some of the players were playing club matches in England and would only arrive on Sunday morning when we would all report to the Gresham Hotel for the game.

“You’d have cup of tea and some toast and the manager Charlie Hurley would name the team and say this is the way we are going to play.”

In 1972, Ireland took part in a 20 team ‘mini-World Cup’ called the Brazil Independence Cup. “We were based in Recife and Natal in the north of Brazil and we did quite well.”

In Ireland’s opening game Leech scored his first international goal in the 2-1 win over Iran. They beat Ecuador next 3-2 before losing to Chile 2-1. Leech got his only other international goal from his eight Ireland caps in the final group game against Portugal.

“The winning team went on to play in two groups of four. If we had beaten Portugal, we would have gone on to Rio for the next round. There were eight Benfica players including Eusebio in the team (who were double winners that season).”

Ireland lost 2-1 with Portugal progressing to the next round and then the final in the Maracana against Brazil. They lost 1-0 only conceding a last minute goal from Jairzinho – a player Leech had seen play in the ’66 World Cup six years previously.

Reflecting on what might have been Leech concludes that “half the lads on the team who were playing professionally in England, didn’t want to play for a couple of more weeks and wanted to go home but for me it would have been about going to Rio to play in, what was as far as I was concerned, the home of football.”

For someone who went on to become a League of Ireland legend, Leech can always reflect with pride his time in an Ireland jersey.

He is a true Homegrown Hero.

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Tour de Force from Lee Grace

Interview with Lee Grace in Hoops Scene No. 10 2018, Shamrock Rovers match day programme v Dundalk (1 June 2018)

As we kick off June with the clash of Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk at Tallaght Stadium tonight, the front loaded League of Ireland schedule means that at the end of this evening’s match we are already a couple of games into the second half of the SSE Airtricity League season.

That is 20 league games completed in the first 16 weeks of the season with the remaining 16 matches due to take place over of the next 21 weeks. Only one Shamrock Rovers player so far this season has played every minute of every league game for the Hoops and it isn’t really a surprise that it is Lee Grace the man from Carrick-on-Suir.

A former member of the Irish defence forces, Grace hails from the town on the River Suir where they are made of hardy stuff. On the Tipperary and Waterford border, it is where Sean Kelly was reared. Kelly is a legendary cyclist who dominated the professional era in the 1980s. His palmares, which is listed on a plaque in Sean Kelly Square in the town, includes nine of the top monument one day classic races, seven Paris-Nice wins, four Tour de France green jerseys and one Tour of Spain overall win.

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The town is also home to Sam Bennett who recently became the first Irish rider to win three stages of a Grand Tour, something even Kelly didn’t manage. Bennett also went one better than Stephen Roche who won two stages en-route to winning 1987 Giro d’Italia. Bennett, whose father Michael managed Waterford in the League of Ireland, mixes it in the rough and tumble of the bunch sprints – something that Kelly did particularly early in his career.

When Grace was growing up he played hurling, soccer and did some cycling and has been following the progress of Sam Bennett closely.

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“I used to cycle as a kid with my uncle who is mad into the cycling,” said Lee Grace when he spoke to Hoops Scene earlier this week. “I was in school with Sam Bennett so I’ve been following his progress. He was a year ahead of me in school but my brother was in the same class.

“He has been doing unbelievable. He is flying. He is the first Irish man to win a stage of a grand tour in over 30 years. Fair play to him. He deserves it. I’ve never seen a man work as hard.”

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Last week, the Hoops went head-to-head with Bohemians in a keenly contested Dublin derby at Dalymount Park that ended in a 1-1 draw. The Bohs fans ahead of kick off displayed a banner ‘The North Side’. With Bohs based north of the Liffey and Rovers south, it isn’t too far off the sporting rivalry that Grace has seen in his home town, although the rivalry is mainly between the two clubs on the Tipp side of the county boundary.

“Carrick-on-Suir is right on the border with half of the town in Tipperary and the other half in Waterford. I’m from the Tipp side. There are two clubs on Tipperary side and one on the Waterford side.

“I played for the Waterford side when I was younger and then moved to the Tipp side. The two clubs in Tipp have a very big rivalry and it is intense in the town every time they play.”

It looked like the Hoops were going to have the Dublin derby bragging rights when captain Ronan Finn put Rovers 1-0 up with seven minutes remaining. However, it was to be another late derby goal for Bohs – this one two minutes from time – that saw the points shared.

“It was a tight game and a scrappy affair,” was Grace’s assessment of the match. “There wasn’t much ball played. There were patches where we tried to play. Those derby games are always like that.

“We caught them on the break. Greg (Bolger) tried five or six of those balls in the game and he said himself that none of them came off until that one for Ronan. He got in on goal and it was a great finish. We scored and I thought we would see it out as there were only six or so minutes to go.”

However the Hoops conceded a free kick high up the pitch, one that most Rovers fans felt was very soft. “A set piece did us in the end and so it was a disappointing result. Ethan (Boyle) said he barely touched him but any contact there and they are going to go down and from the referee’s view it is an easy free kick to give.”

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Last Friday Graham Burke and Shane Supple were rivals on the pitch but both then were part of the Ireland squad that flew to France last Saturday ahead of the friendly against France.

“It is great for the both of them to get into the Ireland squad and it is great for the league as well. It shines a great light on the league. I hope they do well. For Graham he really deserves it as he is such a hard worker but he will go out and enjoy himself.”

Over the years, there have been a couple of occasions when Grace has had to choose between different sports and even different clubs as he looked to progress as a footballer. “I’m a big hurling fan and I used to play but then had to give it up to concentrate on the soccer.”

A couple of years ago there was the option of continuing his career in the Irish Defence Forces with a deployment overseas or to give full time professional football a go with Galway United at the time – an option that he eventually went with.

Whether Stephen Bradley has deployed his men in league action with a flat back four or three centre halfs, Grace has been every present even with all the matches played so far this season.

“The midweek games are grand. You are none stop and there isn’t much time for preparation. Now we have a full week to prep for this Dundalk game and that is great. We can get a bit of freshness into the legs.”

“When we have three at the back we are obviously more stable defensively as we are a bit more compact and we weren’t conceding as many goals but at the other end we aren’t scoring as many. The other way we are a bit more open but we are scoring more. I’m happy in either formation.

“We went back to four against Pat’s and we scored three that night,” said Grace reflecting on the 3-0 win over the Saints in the last home game here at Tallaght Stadium.

“We brought a lot more energy and a lot more legs to the game in Tallaght. Even in Richmond Park, I think the 2-0 defeat to Pat’s wasn’t a fair reflection on the game. The sending off for us didn’t help but even with ten men I thought we were comfortable until a couple of mistakes cost us two goals. In Tallaght there was none of that and we fully deserved the win.”

It was Grace who opened the scoring with a header off a corner and another header by his centre-half partner Pico Lopes late in the game kept a Rovers clean sheet.

“We work on that a lot in training and those clipped balls to the front post are working for us. As defenders clean sheets are what we play for and I think that clearances off the line like that are as good as goals so fair play to Pico for getting back and clearing it with that great header.”

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Going Dutch Groundhopping


As the Shamrock Rovers squad and supporters were taking in the pre-season trip to the Algarve with the Hoops in Atlantic Cup action, there were a few Hoops fans making a football trip of our own.

 

It is a long planned groundhopping football weekend to a country steeped in football history with our trip beginning in a castle, had us standing amongst the Rats and ending up in a tub – this is the tale of a football trip to the Netherlands.

 

Don’t worry we did go to see some of the architectural and cultural sights of Rotterdam but for this group of groundhopping nerds it was the chance to take in some of the Dutch football culture.

 

We began in Delfshaven, a part of Rotterdam that escaped the Luftwaffe bombing of the city in 1940 which destroyed the historic town centre. Built in 1916 Het Kasteel (or The Castle) is home to Sparta Rotterdam, the oldest professional team in the Netherlands. The ground held a couple of matches in the 1928 Olympics but only the Castle element of the ground with its striking two brickwork towers remain from that era.

 

It is as a case of following the floodlights to find the ground which is a short stroll from 18th century windmill amongst Delfshaven’s canals. The old school floodlight pylons aren’t in the corners of the ground, as they turned the pitch through 90 degrees in the late 1990s, and so the floodlights now sit outside the footprint of the stadium.

 

The club’s wonderful club crest stands out on the front of the main stand – a player in an old school red and white striped jersey controlling a ball. One of the club officials in the club shop when we call in is only delighted to not only open up the museum for us but give us an impromptu stadium tour.

There aren’t too many trophies in their trophy cabinet – their last league title was 1959 – but having been promoted back to the Dutch top flight in 2016 and with manager Dick Advocaat in charge they hope good times are on the way back.

 

We can see some European pedigree in the museum with mementoes from matches against Bayern Munich, Red Star Belgrade and even Coleraine – with a match poster on display from their 1970 UEFA Cup tie against the Bannsiders.

 

True groundhoppers wouldn’t really count our trip to the Castle as we didn’t get to see a game in the stadium. While the club official tries to coax us to stay and watch an under 21 game later that day, we have a train to Breda to catch.

 

 

Breda is a town 50km south of Rotterdam, just 10km from the Belgian border. That evening NAC Breda is taking on VVV Venlo at the Rat Verlegh Stadion – named after Antoon ‘Rat’ Verlegh who was involved with the club all his life in various roles (player, coach, board member).

 

The 19,000 capacity stadium is sold out most weeks and we aren’t far off getting the last three tickets available and all in different location in the ground. We arrive to collect our tickets as per the polite ticket office request 90 minutes before kick off. We were wondering why fans were queuing to get into the stadium already but with a large terrace up the middle of the stand behind the goal, this is where ‘The Rats’ or the vocal supporters like to stand and where we squeeze into.

 

The club has a link up with Manchester City, with six players in their squad on loan from City. Spaniard Manu García is one such player with the 20-year-old-playmaker central to all his side’s good play but he couldn’t prevent a 1-0 loss to Venlo.

 

The home supporters don’t seem to mind their team’s poor overall performance as they are focused more on getting the beers in. That could also be due to the fact that a drinks promotion means you get a free woolly hat with a purchase. I don’t pine for bringing back winter football towards the end of the game as the temperature dips below 4 degrees on a cold and wet night in Breda!

The main aim of our groundhopping weekend though is to see Feyenoord play at De Kuip. Their stadium is an old school venue colloquially known as ‘The Tub’, a short tram ride from Rotterdam city centre for us on Sunday afteroon. We are enjoying some fast food outside the ground when the convoy of coaches carrying the Den Haag away supporters drive by.

 

There is all this banging on the windows and when I look up, we are being given the fingers and others gestures as we are mistaken for home supporters! The coaches pull into a car park behind us with the fans walking through an enclosed bridge into the back of the stadium.

Our League of Ireland connection on this day is that Brad Jones is in goal for the home team. He spent some time on loan with Shelbourne back in 2001. The 51,000 venue was close to capacity for a game with Robin van Persie making his return to make a first appearance at home since re-signing for Giovanni van Bronckhurst’s Feyenoord side.

 

With additional ‘temporary’ seating close to the pitch below the permanent lower tier and with the overhanging roof, the venue has a vibrant atmosphere, helped by the strong home team performance.

 

We are at the back of the lower tier with the home fans in front spending much of the game taunting the away fans who are high above them. It is the Feyenoord fans who are singing at the final whistle with a 3-1 win as we filter out of the stadium having ticked De Kuip off our groundhopping bucket list.

 

Published in Hoops Scene 2/2018 Shamrock Rovers v Derry City

 

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – a decade of Hoops Scene contributions

October 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Published in Hoops Scene 19/2017 (October 2017)

On the bookshelves, there they all are. Neatly packaged away in a programme folder for each year is every copy of Hoops Scene from the last ten years. On my computer, there they all are. Neatly packaged away in an electronic folder for each year, are all my contributions to Hoops Scene over the last decade.

 

As we come towards the end of the 2017 season, I realise that it is my testimonial year as contributor to the Shamrock Rovers programme. Don’t worry, I’m not looking for a programme testimonial dinner in the 1899 Suite, with Con Murphy asking me my thoughts on my favourite programme article but maybe indulge me and let me give you some thoughts on penning articles for the programme.

 

A quick flick through my computer and I reckon that this article is number 255 that I’ve written for the Shamrock Rovers match programme. It remains to be seen if this will even be published but more of that later.

 

 

 

My programme contributions began in in 2007 and I hoped to provided Hoops Scene with a bit of colour writing. They began with tales from Tolka Park as the club went into the final season of renting off rivals – Tallaght was on the near horizon for the Hoops.

 

Flicking through the programmes, I see stories on football fashion, football literature and football groundhopping adventures. My very first article was a look at the switch to summer football and how it was faring five years on from the move.

 

In 2010, the then editor asked me would I help out in doing the player interview for each programme. I was a bit unsure but did a bit of homework to develop some questions to run by the editor ahead of doing the first interview. I felt they were deemed to be okay when she said ‘there was some stalker level of detail’ about a couple of the questions!

 

The player interview is the staple of the traditional match programme in Ireland and the UK and so I do view it a privilege to get the access to the players and tell their story to the readers. The aim has always been to make it interesting for Rovers fans but also the away fans who pick up a programme when they visit Tallaght. On each match night, a programme is left for each player in both the home and away dressingroom but I’m unsure if any Rovers quotes have been pinned to the opposition wall as inspiration.

 

As the interviews are for the Rovers match programme, the players are usually fairly talkative, sometimes even too forthcoming. When one former player in a colourful interview described the chairman at his previous club as telling “more lies and more lies” during a particularly different season, the editor suggested maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea to potentially libel the chairman and the quote didn’t make the final cut.

 

When I interviewed one player after a defeat one particular season, he didn’t hold back on the performance. About an hour after I spoke to him, he rang me back and asked actually maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea for those criticisms to be in the programme for all to read. Best left in the dressingroom and so it was.

 

I usually conduct the interview over the phone which sometimes for me means popping into a meeting room in work and making a call from there while recording on phone.

 

When a colleague came into a meeting room recently to quickly grab a jacket they had left behind, they must of wondered who the hell I was talking to that was describing a game in front of “a full house in a concrete bowl open air stadium with army everywhere. There must nearly have been 20,000 soldiers!” It was John Coady discussing a Rovers game behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s!

 

It can sometimes be difficult to track down players. A missed call from me is sometimes returned and if I’ve rung from the landline in work, I’ll get a call from reception saying something like “I’ve Gary Twigg on the line for you Macdara…” That’s something nice to hear!

 

With a Sunday night deadline for the 1,250 word interview, there isn’t much time to turnaround a programme interview if the Hoops have played on the previous Friday but the players are very good about making themselves available.

 

Some stories stand out, like when I asked Billy Dennehy who he swapped his jersey with after playing Juventus in 2010. “I decided to hold on to my own and give it to my Dad,” said Dennehy. “He will be happier than any player to have that. None of the Juventus players will know who I am, so it will be nice for my Mum and Dad to have.”

 

Stories like Stephen McPhail having his phone ring in Cardiff and have Venus Williams on the other end looking to chat with him on dealing with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune issue that McPhail and the tennis star both have to deal with.

 

Or talking to Pat Sullivan a few days after his goal in Belgrade helped the Hoops qualify for the Europa League. “(After the final whistle) I stood on the pitch for 15 minutes trying to soak it up with the few Rovers fans that were there. It was phenomenal. I’m still in a bit of shock.”

 

This year the editor asked me to also help with the ‘manager’ notes, another staple of the standard programme. There was nothing standard about Damien Richardson’s manager notes and in the past manager notes might be cobbled together with little input from the gaffer.

 

We have gone with an interview format with quotes specifically sourced for the programme from Stephen Bradley. The Hoops Head Coach takes a phonecall every Monday lunchtime ahead of each home game for a five minute chat with the copy to be with the editor by late night Monday.

 

 

Every fan wants a home draw in the cup. For programme editors and contributors, it does mean another match programme to add to the workload. However, an away draw in later rounds means a potential requirement for a quick turnaround match programme. With that in mind, that is why you are reading this piece today.

 

I’m sitting here on Saturday evening having attended a very positive club AGM in Tallaght earlier in the day. It is the eve of the FAI Cup semi-final up in Oriel Park between Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers. If you are reading these words, then it means the match in Oriel ended in a draw. A win or loss means you will never get to read this – and my Hoops Scene contribution goes back to 254.

View from the Sporting Director’s chair

October 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Stephen McPhail isn’t the first former Ireland international who made his name at Leeds United and has looked to shape a new future at Shamrock Rovers. Back in 1977 John Giles was appointed the manager at Glenmalure Park. In ‘The Hoops – A History of Shamrock Rovers’ by Paul Doolan and Robert Goggins, the authors summarise the Giles era by noting that “he believed that he could apply professional logic with which he was familiar in England to the League of Ireland. However he was handicapped by the fact that no other club attempted to complement his ideal and as a result he was always going to be fighting an uphill battle.”

So it was interesting to hear from Stephen McPhail when Hoops Scene caught up the Shamrock Rovers Sporting Director this week, that amongst the people he spoke to around appointment was the one time Ireland and Shamrock Rovers manager.

“When I got this job I actually rang Johnny Giles and I asked to spend some time with him,” said McPhail. “We met up for three or four hours and his story was very similar to how I want to do things even though I know it was a long time ago.

“I was able to pick his brain, what he thought went wrong and what he thinks I should do and how I should go about my job. I was lucky I was able to take some ideas from that.”

Rovers’ ambitious plans for the academy at Roadstone are well underway, with a long term strategy at the club for players development. Unlike in the 1970s, other clubs around the League of Ireland are also looking to match those ambitions and McPhail, like Giles before him, thinks that is what is required.

“A lot of clubs will hopefully look at us and look to do similar. That is what we need with other clubs jumping on board to make the facilities in the country better as we are lacking that.

“What both Stephen Kenny has in Dundalk and John Caulfield in Cork is ambition to do similar to ourselves. Limerick have invested in their academy too. You hope that it catches on as there needs to be a change in this country.”

The FAI have brought national underage structures in gradually from top down with u19, u17 and now u15 national leagues in place, with an u13 league to follow – all with the aim of fostering a clear player pathway to the first team within each club.

Last week Rovers secured €180,000 financial support from the FAI to finish phase one and move forward with phase two works at Roadstone. The club hope to get final grant of planning permission shortly to construct four new dressing rooms, a coaching room and gym.

“The Junior academy (kids aged 4 to 7) moved to Roadstone a couple of weeks ago and that is the whole club in the one venue now. It was something we had spoken about with the board when I was a player, to have that feel of everyone under the one roof where we all know one another, all help one another and all look out for one another.

“We are really grateful for the funding from the FAI to help finish these top facilities where our young boys and our first team can work out of.

“For the young kids to see lads like Aidan Price (u19 manager), Stephen Rice (u17 manager), Damien Duff (Under 15 manager) and to be around them on a daily basis is great. Then there is the manager who never goes home – he lives in the place!”

So what is a typical day for the Hoops Sporting Director? “Giving you my daily routine would be mad as it really does vary. Typically, myself and the manager open up in the morning at 8 o’clock. We make sure everything is ready for the lads coming in. We have a staff meeting at 9 o’clock to prepare training and the coaches go through how the session is going to be.

“Some days I’ll be around till the academy come in at 4 o’clock. Most days are quite long but enjoyable. It is a bit of everything. I try and take the pressure a little bit off the manager in picking up some things so he doesn’t need to do them and he can concentrate on setting up his team and the coaching sessions.

“I am really enjoying it. We have a great back room staff from the head coach, first team coaches Glenn Cronin and Damien Duff, Darren Dillon (Strength & Conditioning coach), Tony McCarthy (Physio), Jose Ferrer Montagud (goalkeeping coach) and the kit men Mal (Slattery) and Gerry (Byrne).

“All of us are a really tight knit group. They work their socks off and are always looking to get better. I’m someone who they can lean on and they can pick my brains and I can point out little things that can be better. I try and knit it all together, along with the academy under Shane Robinson.

“Shane has a massive role with the academy from the u8s to the u19s. I’m around Shane on a daily basis. We see quite a bit of each other and we are always on the phone to each other – picking each other’s brain.

“He works really hard. He is really devoted to the academy and has a done a great job so far. Glenn (Cronin) has come into a coaching role in the academy and he has made a big difference.”

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Last week Robinson was with three of Rovers’ teams (u9, u10 and u11) at Premier League club Southampton. “Shane has that connection with Southampton for quite a while. They are a great club. I was over there with him and our team for an u18 game a couple months ago so we have a good relationship with them.

“Me and Shane have been to maybe six or eight clubs over the last ten months and we’ve kept in contact with them. We spent a couple of days at those clubs including the likes of Leeds where I played at. We were at Celtic and we’ve been over in Belgium too. We’ve got all sorts of help in that regard. We try and see if there is anything that we can take back and improve on here.

“Those clubs are really interested when we sit down and speak to them and tell them what we are doing; it is interesting for them to hear about our academy and us having such a young first team. I think they feel we are trying to do things right with the professionalism at the club.”

While McPhail retired from the game last year but the former Cardiff City captain still gets involved on the training pitch along with former Ireland internationals Damien Duff and Robbie Keane (who is still training with Rovers ahead of a move to India next month). Gary Shaw’s tweeted last week saying A goal was scored today in training…it started with McPhail, who played out wide to Duff who in turn crossed for Keane to finish’.

“I love getting my boots on but the body has had enough and is shouting stop!” joked the 37-year-old. When the Gaffer has been short of numbers in training I’ve jumped in.

“We had a five a side competition last week and the staff had a team in it. We won it so there was a bit of stick going around but we probably haven’t walked properly since then so we know our time is done!”

Where has all the music gone? How podcasts have taken over my ears

September 18, 2017 Leave a comment

The Dublin Podcast festival runs from 19 to 30 September and I’m looking forward to taking in a couple of shows beginning on Tuesday night with Criminal and the Memory Palace at Vicar Street.

 

Over the last few years Podcasts have slowly pushed new music out of my life. Gone are the days of listening to music around the house, as the spoken word has mostly stepped in instead. Now live shows for me aren’t gigs in the Olympia but live recordings of podcasts in the Sugar Club, The Irish Times Office on Tara Street or the Liberty Hall Theatre.

 

Music is squeezed into background noise when reading a book but the soundtrack to breakfast, the lunchtime stroll and cooking dinner is 99% Invisible, the Off the Ball Football show or Tales from the East Stand.

 

The Friday night drive to a match is spent trying to squeeze the last of the League of Ireland podcasts in. A Sunday run in the Phoenix Park is with the latest episode of An Irishman Abroad. I’ve even been known to appear on a podcast – The Extratime.ie Sportscast.

 

So many podcasts and so little time and so my podcast App of choice is Overcast. With their smart speed option shortening silences, the App tells me I’ve saved 103 hours since I began using it. If you really want to you can “show the number of unfinished episodes on Overcast’s icon to add stress to your life” but I chose not to.

 

With all this and the podcast festival in mind, I kept a record of what I listened to over the last week. So read and listen on if you want some recommendations on sport, politics, Trump and the wonderful world of design – you may have to sit through some ads for Blue Apron, Square Space and MeUndies.

Monday 11 September

A mixture of sport and US politics are on the podcast menu as I start the week as I mean to continue.

 

The Cycling Podcast is a weekly show covering the professional sport. However, during the three Grand Tours they do daily shows from the Giro, Le Tour and Vuelta. The very knowledgeable contributors Richard Moore, Lionel Birne and Daniel Friebe give great insight into the pro ranks. They also have a monthly Podcast Féminin show covering the stories from the women’s peleton.

 

I also subscribe to their Friends of the Podcast series which for just £10 gives you brilliant bonus episodes on a monthly basis. Some topics this year were 15th Time Lucky (How Aussie Mat Hayman won Paris Roubaix), 1987 Giro according to Stephen Roche (I came away thinking Roche was one sneaky cyclist!) and Inside the team-car with Cannondale Drapac (a dramatic day on the rod on an Alpine stage in the Tour).

 

The New Yorker Politics and More Podcast show hosted by Dorothy Wickenden across its weekly 20 minute episodes looks to discuss the major issue in American politics of the week.

Tuesday 12 September

I’m a big fan of Second Captains. Their two episodes on Monday are free but for content across the other midweek days, you must join me and the other 8,300 or so patrons behind their Patreon paywall. The monthly subscription is $5 plus VAT with exchange rates at the moment works out at €5.67. Well worth it for the wide range of topics covered by “the boys who never go home”. However Ken Early’s monthly political podcast alone is worth the money. You also have the option of dropping out for a month which I did in July as there wasn’t any live football to discuss and I wanted to avoid wall-to-wall GAA.

 

I dip in and out of Crooked Media’s Pod Save America which is a “no bullshit conversation about (American) politics”. The show is hosted by a merry band of former Obama staffers – Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor. This week’s episode was superb as they had 45 minute interview with Hillary Clinton. The former US Presidential candidate was ubiquitous this week across all American podcast platforms – she popped up on my feed from NPR and Longform. However her best interview was later on in the week – see Saturday.

 

Wednesday 13 September

By the middle of the week, the podcasts are beginning to drop quickly into the playlist including two of my favourites.

 

99% invisible is worth listening to just for host Roman Mars’ marvellous mellifluous voice. The show covers the topic of design in short weekly 20 minute episodes. Some classic episodes are Sound of Sport and Structural Integrity. There is loads of great content on their website too.

 

Another US political podcast but this one is a bit different. The West Wing Weekly is an episode-by-episode discussion show of the Aaron Sorkin’s US hit TV show from the 2000s. You watch an episode a week and Joshua Molina (who starred in the show in the latter years) and Hrishikesh Hirway (Song Exploder – see ‘Best of the Rest’ below) dissect it in detail with actors and writers from the show. They’ve just finished season three so “What’s next?”

 

Thursday 13 September

You don’t have to be a Hoop to enjoy Tales from the East Stand but it helps. Gary Parsons and Karl Reilly take a sidewise looks at all things Shamrock Rovers each week. It is required Rovers listening. Check out the Pat Flynn monthly madness episode, I’m sure Cristiano Ronaldo has had a listen to it.

 

If the American 2016 election had been positive in any sense, it has been to raise my knowledge of politics in the US. While we might have President Bartlett over on The West Wing Weekly, we counter balance that with Donald J. Trump on Slate’s Trumpcast. With episodes every couple of days, the 20 minute show covers the Donald in great detail include a review of Trump tweets read out hilariously by John Di Domenico.

 

Irish Independent sport journalists Johnny Ward and Daniel McDonnell host the LOI Weekly hour long podcast. They could just as easily end up discussing Johnny Dunleavy’s love life and the North Korea situation at Bray as well as the usual relegation discussion.

 

Friday 14 September

I’ve subscribe to Slate Plus which for $30 gives me add free episodes across the whole range of Slate podcasts. There is also bonus content on podcasts such as the excellent weekly Political Gabfest with David Plotz, John Dickerson and Emily Bazelon.

 

The Off the Ball Football show is one I sometime listen to live on Newstalk or pick up the best bits on Podcast. The show during the week on the Clough Revie rivalry and their famous BBC interview was brilliant radio.

 

Saturday 15 September

If you want to know what the hot topic on Joe Duffy was during the week, then Playback is for you. The show goes out on RTE Radio early on Saturday morning but the podcast is always up quickly and showcases the wide range of excellent content covered by the national broadcaster during the week. It is thankfully a George Hook/Ivan Yates/Paul Williams free zone.

 

They’ve recently split The New Yorker Radio Hour into two shorter shows. This week’ first episode was a beautifully short episode on origami while the second one was an interview with Hiliary Clinton. Amazing to hear her talk about her personal dealings with Vladimir Putin.

 

Sunday 16 September

The Irish Times Worldview this week was also covering American politics with an interview with former Barrack Obama speech writer Cody Keenan. Some weeks you can be in China, other week’s Venezuela or maybe France.

 

And finally Jarlath Regan’s An Irishman Abroad is a great way to round out a week of podcast listening. Regan’s large range of interviews are with the great and the good of Irish sport, music and drama. You’re a cold person if you can’t listen to his show about donating a kidney to his brother and not have a tear in your eye!

 

 

Best of the Rest

The Irish Times Inside Politics – Damien English was on this week so I gave it a skip.

Off the Ball Panel Show – Usually a cracking listen unless it is a GAA panel.

Off the Ball Paper Review – A look across the Sunday’s sportspages

Song Exploder – Listen to musicians take their song apart and piece by piece tell the story of how it was made. Check out: The National – Sea of Love

WTF with Marc Maron – Take deep dive into the back catalogue of interviews. The Barack Obama one is brilliant!

 

John Coady’s reflections on his Shamrock Rovers European campaigns

September 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Published in Hoops Scene 12/2017 – Shamrock Rovers v Celtic 

With Shamrock Rovers welcoming Celtic to Dublin today as the Scottish Champions prepare for their Champions League qualifying campaign, Hoops Scene spoke with John Coady who was an instrumental player in Rovers’ famous four-in-a-row team who played against Celtic in the European Cup 31 years ago.

 

Coady’s Shamrock Rovers side were the kings of the League of Ireland in the mid-eighties but their results in Europe couldn’t quite deliver on their domestic dominance. The defender, who won six league titles and three FAI Cups in a career that also included a two year spell with Chelsea, is still a huge Rovers fan and is regularly to be seen following his former club. We got Coady’s reflections on not only the Celtic game but each of the four European campaigns he was involved in with the Hoops.

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“I fancied us against them,” said Coady about the first leg of the tie between Shamrock Rovers and Celtic held in Milltown in September 1986. “Anyone who was at that match will testify to the opportunities that went a-begging that night.”

 

The Hoops created a number of chances, only to be beaten by a solitary break away goal scored with less than ten minutes to go. Coady recalled the superb performance of the Celtic goalkeeper, Ireland’s legendary number one international ‘keeper, Packie Bonner that evening.

 

“Packie was brilliant for them that night. I couldn’t believe how big he was. He was a f****** giant of a man. We threw everything in on him and from corner after corner big Pat was catching them all. He was nearly coming out to the edge of his box to do it, swatting fellas out of the way.”

 

Bonner’s dominance in the box played a part in Celtic’s break away goal scored by Murdo MacLeod which came from a Rovers set piece. “I was taking the corner and I decided in my wisdom not to hurl it in on top of Packie. So I tried to hit Mick Neville with a rehearsed move. It didn’t quite make it and the shot was fluffed and they broke and scored. So I always feel a little bit guilty about that goal!

 

“Having said that we should have been ahead by then. Liam O’Brien was immense for us that night and how he didn’t score I just don’t know but Packie Bonner was one of those reasons.” O’Brien’s last game for Rovers before moving to Manchester United was in the second leg in Glasgow that Celtic won 2-0.

 

The demand for tickets for today’s friendly has seen Rovers temporarily increase the size of the stadium – the first time the capacity in Tallaght has gone above 6,000 since Rovers’ participation in the group stages of the Europa League in 2011. It was a similar case when Rovers played Celtic in 1986; having heard Coady’s tale I’m sure the safety of the temporary stand in Tallaght will be better than the one in Milltown.

 

“The Board in their wisdom decided to erect a temporary scaffold stand – it was like they had a few lads throw it up the afternoon of the match! We came onto the pitch from around the back of it but all we could see was this thing swaying with all the people in it. I swear it was moving. That thing looked ready to collapse and I don’t know how but it managed to stay up. I was playing left back along side it and all I could hear was this thing creaking and I was waiting for nuts and bolts to hit the field!

 

“We could have taken a lead to Celtic Park easily and if we had had something to defend that was when we were possibly our most dangerous and at our best. The crowd was fantastic in that great stadium (in Glasgow). Everyone was really friendly but the result was a shame.

 

“We got a couple of injuries ahead of the second leg and we went a bit deflated. I didn’t think they were great shakes at the back at the time but their strength was in midfield with MacLeod and Paul McStay and their strikefore with Mo Johnstone. Paul McStay though was a different animal, a beautiful footballer and one of the best I ever played against.”

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Two years previously Rovers, after a 25 year absence, were playing in the European Cup taking on Linfield. Today’s visitors to Tallaght could be taking on the Belfast club in Champions League qualifying next week if the Blues manage to overcome San Marino opponents La Fiorita. The Rovers loss to Linfield back in 1984 is one that got away according to Coady.

 

“To this day it still hurts me how we didn’t win in Windsor as we missed five or so golden opportunities to score. We played them off the park but we just couldn’t get that away goal. They came down to Dublin and bang got that goal from the corner. It still irks somewhat.”

 

There has been much discussion about security for the potential Linfield v Celtic clash this season so it is interesting to hear Coady talk about playing in Windsor Park in the first leg in Belfast which finished scoreless.

 

“There was security everywhere and something we had never seen before with policemen on horses, police with rifles and dogs. I didn’t mind as I thought we were going to beat Linfield as I thought we were the better team by miles – but I always thought that!

 

“I remember we were warming up before the match and we had these dark green O’Neill’s tops at the time. Dinny Lowry came on to collect all the tops and he went ‘all right lads, let them have it’ and we took off them off to reveal the gleaming green and white hoop jersey underneath. The abuse and venom coming out of the stand was just, well you could feel it, and you could cut it with a knife. The ground was full of hatred.”

 

Linfield scored first in the return leg and while Peter Eccles equalised, the Blues’ away goal was enough to see them through. “It was awfully disappointing and a huge opportunity missed. No doubt about it.”

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The following season the Hoops were drawn against Honved in the European Cup and in the build up to the game, Rovers played a couple of pre-season tournaments in Portugal and Spain.

“Louis Kilcoyne (Rovers’ Chairman) was in UEFA and he pulled a stroke and we went on a pre-season tour in Lisbon. We played Sporting Lisbon and Benfica in a three way tournament and then we travelled up and played a three way tournament against Santander and Atletico Madrid. They were great fixtures for us as part-timers. We beat Sporting Lisbon 1-0 and drew with Benfica in the Stadium of Light.”

 

The Hoops played the first leg against Honved in Hungary, losing 2-0, before being defeated 3-1 at home with Coady scoring the only goal of the game. “We played them off the park in the first half in the away leg but with no reward. You have to put these teams away. Once you get on top in Europe, if you don’t take your chances, the opposition will do you. We were only part timers so we were getting so tired at the end of matches.”

 

The opposition had six Hungarian internationals in their team including Lajos Detari who subsequently played a couple of seasons in Serie A and in Mexico 86 scored Hungary’s last goal at a World Cup. “We saw him later in the World Cup running the show and that took the pain of defeat off a bit when you saw what he was doing to really world class players.” Detari scored three goals against the Hoops in the tie.

 

Last week Shamrock Rovers completed their Europa League First Qualifying Round tie against Stjarnan. The only time other time Rovers played Icelandic opposition was 35 years ago in the UEFA Cup. The Hoops defeated Fram Reyjavik 7-0 on aggregate. While Coady didn’t play in that tie, he did play in the following round away to Universitatea Craiova and it was a memorable journey behind the Iron Curtain to Romania for Rovers.

 

“I roomed with Mick Smyth who was a very famous Rovers goalie from the late 60s but he was second to Alan O’Neill at the time. I was only a young raw fella on my first European away trip. Mick was an experienced player and when he opened his case, it was full of nylon stockings and Levis which he duly proceeded to flog to every servant in the hotel!

 

“The food was rubbish. We flew through Zurich and I remember Louis saying on the plane ‘listen lads, see all the chocolate they are giving, grab every single bit you can as you ain’t going to see food like that till you leave Romania again.’

 

“Myself and Mick decided to go for a stroll around Craiova to see the place pre-match. We saw a big long queue. Mick was really inquisitive and he goes up to the top of the queue and sticks his head in the door and they were selling bread. Next thing a whole load of ‘auld wans’ in the queue were going mad telling us to get back to the end as they thought he was skipping in. It was an eye opener. I just felt so sorry for the poor people. It was gruesome with people in queues for food.

 

“For the match it was a full house in a concrete bowl open air stadium with army everywhere. There must nearly have been 20,000 soldiers! They had this great number 10 playing for them It was 2-0 and the number 10 was doing all sorts of tricks on the ball so Ronnie Murphy just gave him one and was sent off!

 

“We were pretty much stuffed over there. Alan O’Neill played brilliantly. He pulled off a few great stops. 5-0 was a fair reflection on the tie and we were just so glad to get out of the place after and still be over 11 stone!”

 

With six League of Ireland winners medals (four with Rovers and another two with Derry City and Dundalk respectively), there are only four players who have one more than Coady. With Dundalk having come into this season with three-league titles in a row, Hoops Scene asked Coady how he felt about Dundalk’s attempt this year to match Rovers’ four-in-a-row record.

 

“I start to worry when any team wins their second league title! I don’t want to give up our record as it is something that we are just so proud of. Not only that but the three doubles that went alongside as well. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing Cork run away with the league this year!”

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