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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!

 

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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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Ricer of the Rovers

September 10, 2017 Leave a comment

The scoreboard ticked to 90 minutes and no more; it read Shamrock Rovers 3 Longford Town 0. Soon after referee Neil Doyle blew his whistle and the Hoops had got by First Division opposition in Longford to go through to the quarter-final of the 2014 FAI Cup. Rovers fans were thinking that maybe, just maybe, it might be the year for the 25th time to collect that trophy.

 

But before the fans could get too carried away with themselves, there was one of their own to acknowledge. The SRFC Ultras in Block M of the East Stand deployed their banner for a player who always carried the tag of a fan favourite. Former Hoop and then Longford Town player Stephen Rice came over and gave two thumbs up in front of the ‘Thanks for everything Ricer’ banner.

 

‘Ricer’ joined Shamrock Rovers back in 2008 when the completion of Tallaght Stadium was still a season away. Over a six year period he would go on to captain Rovers, win the club’s player of the year award and be part of a squad led by manager Michael O’Neill who brought trophies to the club in quantities not seen since the heady days of Milltown – winning two league titles, two Setanta Cups and a league cup before his departure from Tallaght at the end of 2013.

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Rovers fans – Rovers family

“It was amazing that night when I came back with Longford when the fans held up that banner; it meant a lot to me and my family,” said Rice when he spoke to Hoops Scene ahead of Rovers’ latest first steps in claiming a long overdue 25th FAI Cup.

 

“My family all became Shamrock Rovers fans because of what they saw when I was at the club,” said Rice who is now back at Rovers as the manager of the u17 team. “You don’t just play for the club, you become a fan of the club and part of the club. It is that type of club.

 

“I always had a fantastic relationship with the fans,” said the 32-year-old Rice. “They knew I was never going to cut open a team but they appreciated the work rate. They could see when you played, you gave absolutely everything for the club and they responded to that. They want people who work hard, if they see that they will always be on your side. The relationship from very early was excellent with the fans.

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“When I first came to Rovers we were still in Tolka Park and to go from there to all of sudden playing to full houses in Tallaght, lifting those trophies and playing teams like Juventus within the space of a couple of years, it was an amazing time. So many nights that you would never forget.”

 

In 2011 those nights included putting the Hoops 1-0 against Spurs at the ‘old’ White Hart Lane in the Europa League and that famous night in Serbia when Rovers beat Partizan to became the first Irish side to make the group stages of a major European club competition.

 

 

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“That was an amazing night. It was just meant to be when you think about some of the chances that were missed by Belgrade. It was just phenomenal to beat a club of that stature out there.

 

“Nobody gave us a chance going out there. We rode our luck early on but once Sully got that goal – when you get a goal like that – they were rattled and we knew we had them.

 

“It is a night that I will never forgot playing in what was like 35 degrees. We got the penalty late on (in extratime) to win and the whole experience with the excitement the next morning of the draw, it was surreal.”

 

Rice began his career with Coventry before returning to the League of Ireland with Bohemians. He noted that “after coming back from England, you think that you are never going to get the chance to play in the big arenas and on those stages.

 

“For that to come along, it was such an opportunity. Players are realising that now there are fantastic opportunities here in Ireland that aren’t available in League One or League Two in England – you aren’t going to get a chance to play on those stages.”

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Roadstone

Rice combines his coaching role at the Rovers Academy in Roadstone with working as an FAI development officer in the Lucan area and is very appreciative of the facilities now available to all the Hoops players – both in the senior team and across the Rovders academy.

 

“When I played with Rovers we trained everywhere; we trained in the AUL, Johnstown House and even Stannaway Park when I came to the club. What has been built here at Roadstone gives us a home, a base and an identity with our youth development setup.

 

“It gives the club a real platform to attract the best young players but also for them to be developed and improved in the Shamrock Rovers way. As a coach it is fantastic to have those facilities.

 

“Every single training session we carry out is video recorded so the players can watch and analyse their own performance. Every single game is uploaded, whether that is in Roadstone or in Tallaght, and from that we develop analytical clips so the players can sit at home and watch their performance so they can improve.

 

“Self-analysis is such a big part of their development. There is nothing more powerful that seeing yourself do something and we use it as a training tool.”

 

Coventry

It is all very different from the early days in Rice’s career over in England. “The landscape has changed. It is more about learning and developing rather than being told what to do and if you didn’t do it you’d be hammered! That was the old way when I went as a young boy.

 

“I went on a number of trials from age 12 right up until I moved over to Coventry at 15. I found the first week very difficult and once I settled in it became easier but to be honest I never really enjoyed the experience. I never settled for many reasons.

 

“I did really well in the first year over there when I was playing two years above my age with the u17s but I wasn’t really happy and once it started to affect my performance and my mental state, that was the sign to get out of there. I was waking up dreading going to training. I went up to the academy manager and said I was out of there and I had my bags packed.”

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Academy Coaches

That experience and varied experience of the rest of Rovers’ extensive coaching staff is available to help influence the young players at Rovers. “Looking at our u17 coaching team, I went at 15 to England, Pat Flynn also went at 15 and Keith O’Halloran stayed and went at 18.

 

“Flynny went to Wolves, left there and progressed up through lower level clubs and played a bit, whereas I made a decision to come home, while Keith went later and ended up playing in the Premiership with Middlesbrough. So we can talk to our lads about our different experiences and pass that on.

 

“In the u19s we have Aidan Price who had a fantastic League of Ireland career, John Martin who played in the league and then there is Damien Duff. He is an amazing person to have in charge of the new 15s squad and it is great for the kids to be around him.

 

“We have Stephen Bradley, Stephen McPhail and Shane Robinson. It is an open environment we have in Roadstone. The coaches generally meet every week from the first team coach down, u19s, our team at 17s. It is really important to know what is going on, who is doing well and what areas we need to improve on.

 

“Ultimately we are in the charge of teams but we are looking to develop individuals and for them to progress. We have to give them the structures within the teams for them to fulfil that potential – that could mean moving them to the u19s team or up into the first team. That is the real goal.

 

“I’m on the Elite Youth A licence course at the moment along with Shane Robinson. It is the first time it has been run in this country and it is technically the pro licence for coaches working with elite youth players.”

 

u17

The Hoops u17 team are currently second in the Southern Elite Division table. “We are in a good place. The key objective of the team now is to develop these boys in the Shamrock Rovers way so they are capable of progressing – into the u19s and progressing as young adults as well as footballers. That is what we are trying to instill in the boys.

 

“We get them together on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with a match at the weekend. They also come in early on the training nights to do some strength and conditioning work. Plus some of the more local lads would be in for a gym session on a Tuesday night with Pat Deans – that is solely strength and conditioning.

 

“At Rovers, we are looking to develop players for our first team. That is the ultimate goal. If you look down through the coaching staff that we have right through to the younger ages, there is a real passion for the club and the aim to develop players and get back to winning trophies. Our main objective is for players to come here and we will improve and develop them.”

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Development squad

For a number of seasons the FAI have put together a Future Developers Squad and Rice has taken charge of the squad at the Kennedy cup in recent years. The squad, that plays at u15 level, is selected by FAI Emerging Talent Programme coaches, compiled of players who are technically excellent but are lack the physicality to compete in their age group.

 

“The idea is that over the years too many players get lost in the game in our country because of physicality and the emphasis at times on all about winning. Players can be the most technical and intelligent player that the teams have but physically they can be overrun in games so then they can be left out.

 

“Ultimately we would have lost a lot of players who were late developers. If we can keep them in the game, then develop that strength and power to go with their technical ability and the game intelligence and all of a sudden we have a player on our hands.

 

“The FAI have looked to make sure we keep these boys in the game and focussed and that the international team – although they aren’t quite physically there for them – it is not a million miles away. We don’t go on size but players who are technically astute as that suits how we want to play.”

 

Published in Hoops Scene 16/2017 Shamrock Rovers v Glenville (FAI Cup First Round)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Hendrick – one of Burnley’s Boys in Green

August 10, 2017 Leave a comment

Photo by George Kelly

Published in Hoops Scene No.13 2017 season (July 2017)

Today won’t be the first time that some of the Irish internationals at Burnley have played here at Tallaght Stadium. Back in May 2012, Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady lined out for the Republic of Ireland under 21 team against Denmark, with Kevin Long on the bench, as Brady scored Ireland’s only goal that day with a superb left foot free kick.

 

There were a few other familiar faces in the Ireland squad that day – including senior internationals Shane Duffy, Eunan O’Kane, John Egan, Conor Hourihane and Greg Cunningham, along with former Dundalk player Richie Towell.

 

With some time off ahead of June’s Ireland v Austria match, Jeff Hendrick dropped by Tallaght Stadium to have a chat with Hoops Scene. “Yeah, I remember playing at Under 21 level here a good few years ago,” said Hendrick. “Noel King called up and asked me to play. For me it is about pulling on that green jersey and representing the country.”

 

Hendrick would go on to represent Ireland at senior level for the first time less than a year later under then Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. “It was brilliant to be called up to the first team squad, really unbelievable. I started that season with an ankle injury but when I came back I had a good January and I was scoring goals. I got the call up just after my 21st birthday so it was a great thing to celebrate.”

 

His debut was a friendly against Poland at a packed Aviva Stadium with Hendrick coming off the bench to provide an assist for Wes Hoolahan in the 2-0 win. “I wasn’t taking it as a friendly, it was a game for Ireland. The atmosphere was brilliant and it was great for me to get that chance. I have my jersey framed in my Mam and Dad’s house now and they have all the newspaper clippings! I set up a goal, which was good. You need to impress on your first game wherever you are.”

 

Photo by George Kelly

Hendrick was one of Ireland’s stand out performers in the European Championship in France last year when Ireland qualified for the knock out stages of the tournament. The recent results in Ireland’s Russia 2018 campaign mean qualification for the World Cup is still very much in the hands of Hendrick and his Irish teammates.

 

“It would be unbelievable to qualify for Russia. After playing in the Euros, you saw the atmosphere at the games, it is something we’d love to do again, play in a big tournament. It is a hard old group. We are doing well but we aren’t getting carried away.”

 

Today we should get to see a number of Burnley’s Boys in Green in action – with four of the starters in Ireland’s 1-1 draw against Austria coming from the club – Hendrick, Brady, Stephen Ward and Kevin Long (who was handed his first competitive start by Martin O’Neill in that match). It is a pretty influential Irish contingent in the Clarets’ squad [with Jon Walters also signed ahead of the new season].

 

Hendrick joined the club in August last year and admitted that having so many Irish players at the club helps. “You feel at home a little bit.” In the winter transfer window Robbie Brady joined, meaning Hendrick got the chance to play club football again with Brady. The pair played as kids in the same St. Kevin’s Boys team.

 

“It was great when Robbie came in during January. We keep in touch anyway as we are friends since we were young so it is great to be back playing with him. The likes of Wardy has been brilliant as well.”

 

Although when Hoops Scene reminds Hendrick, that Stephen Ward is a former Bohs player, he says “We won’t big him up too much here (in Tallaght)!”

 

When Brady joined Burnley for £13m, he broke the club’s transfer record which had been previously been set when Hendrick joined for £10.5m from Derby County. Being a £10m plus player can add some pressure to perform but Hendrick didn’t see it that way. “I didn’t really look at it as pressure. If someone is willing to pay that, I just have to use that to give me confidence and try to show that I’m worth that.

 

“From day one they made me welcome. I enjoyed the atmosphere around the place. We worked hard but it was enjoyable. That made it easy for me to settle in. The main thing for me was to play games. I’m always happy when I’m playing.”

 

The 25-year-old midfielder made 32 league appearances for the Clarets last season, scoring two goals, including the club’s goal of the year for a long range effort in the 3-2 home win over Bournemouth. The priority for the player for the season though, was to contribute to the club staying in the Premier League.

 

“It was a nice goal to get but the main thing for us was staying in the league. Everyone wrote us off before the season started and we proved a lot of people wrong. They kept us going all year. The results we were getting with our home form was something that everybody was talking about and I really enjoyed the season.”

Burnley racked up ten home wins in the league – the seventh highest in last season’s Premier League (two more than Manchester United). However they only managed one away win all campaign and that was in late April. So it took some time for them to reach the magical 40 point mark which most seasons, like last year, confirms safety. They got to that stage with a 2-2 draw against West Brom two games from the end of the season.

 

“It was relief (to avoid relegation). We thought we were in a good position, a good bit out from the end of the season but you still have to keep putting points on the board and win games.”

 

Unsurprisingly Hendrick is very happy working under Burnley boss Sean Dyche. “From the minute I went in there, he told me what he wanted from me. I got to know the way his team plays. He tells it as it is and that is all you can ask as a player. You know where you stand and what you need to do to stay in the team.”

 

The player was 16 when he first moved over to England to Derby County where, like at Burnley, there was a sizeable Irish contingent, with five players on the youth team books including current Rovers player Ryan Connolly.

 

“From a very young age, any chance I got I was going over to different clubs. You hear stories of kids getting homesick and so but for me I was moving over to do something that I love – to play football every day. Any kid would love to do that.

 

“Ryan (Connolly) texted me when the fixture came out. We still keep in touch as we were good mates when we were over there together. It will be good to play against him.

 

“We are here for a week, with a few days training, then the game and then back to England. It is always good when I’m home with Ireland that the parents can drop out for a cup of tea and have a chat. It will be good for my friends and family to see me play a game here (in Tallaght). Hopefully we win. It is going to be tough as yous will be half way through your season.”

 

This article was published in Hoops Scene for Shamrock Rovers v FK Mlada Boleslav / Burnley in July 2017.

 

Legends live on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a woman so known for her dramatic acting roles, it is fitting that Maureen O’Hara is buried in such a dramatic setting. In Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC, the burial plot of the legendary Hollywood actress is shaded by mature trees, within sight of the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame.

 

Buried alongside her husband Charles Blair – a former Brigadier General in US Air Force – the p
lot is just below Arlington House, once the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

 

On holiday in Washington over Easter, I found myself at Arlington on Good Friday on the day when Rovers were commemorating 30 years since the loss of Milltown.

 

O’Hara’s father Charles Fitzsimons was a part-owner of the Hoops from the 1930s and so O’Hara was a regular attendee at Milltown and never lost her love for the Hoops.

 

On the morning I’m there, the stars and stripes flag flys at half mast on the hill behind her grave. With a funeral taking place not far away, amongst the startling bright rows of white gravestones, the sound of a lone bugler playing taps drifts on the wind.

 

O’Hara travelled far from her days growing up in Ranelagh. She became the ‘Queen of Technicolor’ in the golden age of Hollywood. While her allegiance to Rovers is not mentioned on the reverse of the gravestone, her lifetime achievement award from the Irish Film & Television Academy is noted just above her honorary Oscar she received in 2014.

 

Later that weekend I swap my fix of League of Ireland football for a slice of something as American as apple pie – a baseball game. The Washington Nationals play in a stadium opened in the same season that the Hoops moved to Tallaght.

 

Playing in Navy Yard, the ‘Nats’ are the latest team to represent the American capital in Major League Baseball. The franchise system in baseball means that many supporters over the years have lost not just their stadiums but have lost their teams to another city.

 

Washington’s original team were the Senators who won the 1924 World Series while playing at Griffith Stadium. The venue also played home to the Washington Redskins American Football team for 24 years. It was a stadium where at some stage every American President from William Taft to John F Kennedy threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Soon after the Senators moved to Minnesota in 1962, the Stadium was demolished and became the site for Howard University Hospital. Just like at Milltown, tere is a monument to the famous stadium at its former location but one that is a bit different than a simple plaque.The Glenmalure Park monument in Milltown is topped off by a football and there is a baseball theme to the Griffith Stadium memorial.

 

If you stroll through the hospital from the main entrance and turn right, you will see the marker. Griffith Stadium may be gone but it is not forgotten as beside the gents toilets, a home plate and batter box is marked out on the corridor watched over by photos of the venue.

 

Published in Hoops Scene – Shamrock Rovers match programme v Dundalk (5 May 2017)

 

 

No Christmas in July – Postcard from the Arctic Circle

With the official home of Santa Claus just a few miles from the venue for the RoPs v Shamrock Rovers match, it was no surprise to hear an old ‘winter football’ Rovers tune being sung by the Hoops fans in Finland.

 

“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to see Rovers win away!”

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For some of the Europa League First Qualifying Round second leg in Rovaniemi, it seemed that Rovers might get that precious away win in Lapland but ultimately it was an early ‘Finnish’ to the Hoops European adventures for 2016.

 

It was quite an experience for everyone involved at the club – traveling to the edge of the Arctic Circle where the sun doesn’t set during the summer months, trailing 2-0 in the tie with a new boss in charge. The departure of Pat Fenlon from the manager’s role after the disappointing first leg defeat, meant it was Stephen Bradley who was the new man in charge.

 

I was lucky enough to be one of the dozen or so club members who got a place on the club charter for the trip. So membership not only gets you a parking space in the Tallaght Stadium Car Park but also gives you the chance of spot on the club charter! The managerial change also meant one fan essentially got the seat on the flight that was freed up because of Fenlon’s departure from the managerial hotseat!

The Rovers squad and ‘entorage’ checked in early on Wednesday morning beside some Welsh fans who were making their way to France via Dublin and Switzerland for their Euro 2016 semi-final later that evening. The lady at airport security said she would light a candle for a 3-0 Rovers win. All help was required for the Hoops as they looked to do what no League of Ireland club had done before and progress in a European tie after losing the first leg at home.

 

With the Rovaniemi runway close for repairs, it was a three hour flight in our 48 seater plane to Kemi. From there it was a further 90 minute bus ride through the Finnish countryside with a vista of trees, water and a few Moose munching grass at the roadside. The players were well fed themselves en-route, on the flight and coach trip; the benefit of having a caterer amongst the Rovers support who was able to provide his services on the trip – with some spare meals making their way to supporters too!

Rumours that the team was staying in the Hotel Santa Claus were true but rumours of the match venue being snowbound proved a work of fiction! Many of the travelling supporters took the chance to sample the local cuisine on Wednesday evening – I can recommend the Fell Highland Reindeer at Restaurant Nili!  RoPS also hosted their pre-match meal with the Rovers Directors and Finnish FA Officials in the same venue, so you knew the food was going to be good!

 

Afterwards most ‘retired’ to Oliver’s Bar to watch the Euro 2016 semi. That match ended close to midnight with Portugal defeating Wales. Midnight came and went with no sunset. We truly were in the land of the midnight sun being so far north.

For Stephen McPhail the Rovers club captain and now player-coach under Stephen Bradley, he knew what to expect. “I’ve been to Iceland and Norway for preseason at this time of year so I knew what was coming. It is still strange though going to bed and it is still bright as a button outside! It was a bit of work to get those curtains to stretch all the way across in the room but got a goodnight’s sleep.”

The next morning quite a few supporters made the 8km trip further north from Rovaniemi to the Arctic Circle. There were plenty of photos taken standing either side of the line at 66 degrees north, 32’ 33’’. The location is surrounded by plenty of shops, with Santa Claus also available to meet visitors, so it didn’t exactly feel we’d travelled north of the wall Games of Thrones style!

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On match night the Rovers support from the charter flight was boosted by about 20 or so fans who had travelled independently to the game. The away section was at one end of the bottom tier of the very impressive steep two tiered 2,000 seater stand built in recent years. The floodlights were on for the 7pm local kick off time, not that they would be needed here at the Arctic Circle!

 

Gary McCabe had the captain’s armband for the game and his first half goal halved the deficit in the tie. His penalty, the third goal he has scored in Europe, moved him to joint third in the all-time list of Rovers European goalscorers.

 

An unfortunate Hoops error though handed RoPS an equaliser and Rovers couldn’t make any additional breakthroughs themselves in the second half despite the impetus brought about by Bradley’s introduction of youth off the bench. Sean Boyd, Trevor Clarke and Aaron Dobbs came on, with the teenagers gaining some valuable European game time, but a couple of late goals couldn’t be conjured up.

McPhail was an unused substitute on the night so was able to give me his assessment from the vantage point of the bench. “When we played over in Finland, the most pleasing thing if I put my coaches hat on was that the lads responded to what we wanted them to do. They gave it everything.

 

“We went 1-0 up and I was confident we would score more. We conceded a goal off an error but these things happen. We didn’t get the rub of the green. Their ‘keeper made an unbelievable save with about 20 minutes to go. It could have been different. Performance wise the boys were spot on.”

 

Everyone at Shamrock Rovers was made feel very welcome on our visit, with the hospitality extended to the away fans after the game with food and coffee supplied by the RoPS American goalkeeper from their women’s team.

 

Following Rovers’ elimination from Europe, inevitably it was a quiet bus ride from Roveniemi. The small airport in Kemi was kept open for our departure midnight departure and it was still daylight when we boarded our flight to Dublin. The end of European football for Rovers for another season but a short memorable adventure all the same.

 

 

An abridged version of this article was first published in the Shamrock Rovers match programme – Hoops Scene 11 (Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians/Leeds United July 2016)IMG_2456

Euro success built from the League of Ireland

“In Ireland there is no league,” were the words uttered in 2013 by the then Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni but at EURO 2016 the League of Ireland was central to some magnificent Ireland performances in France. The results were very much built on the back of players who began their trade in the League of Ireland, with a certain former Shamrock Rovers manager leading Northern Ireland’s success.

 

When Trapattoni’s two former international teams came up against one another last week in the group stage of the Euros, it was the Republic of Ireland team who emerged on top – in a game that had seven former League of Ireland players contribute to that famous 1-0 win over Italy. Robbie Brady’s winning goal in Lille coming off a Wes Hoolahan cross will be one of the sporting highlights of not just the year but the decade!

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Players who were on the pitch for the famous win over the Italians had previously lined out in our league for Shelbourne (Wes Hoolahan), St. Patrick’s Athletic (Stephen Quinn), Cork City (Shane Long), Waterford United (Daryl Murphy), Bohemians (Stephen Ward), Derry City (James McLean) and Sligo Rovers (Seamus Coleman), with former Cork City player David Meyler also named on the bench.

 

In the days following the win over Sweden, the FAI organised a photoshoot with all eight ex-League of Ireland players in the Euro squad wearing the jerseys of their former Irish clubs. Of course, the Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane also played in the league with Cobh Ramblers.

I was lucky enough to be out in France for the tournament, sitting in the stands supporting the boys in green, and with a press pass for a few other matches as I was doing some work with extratime.ie. The day after that photocall, I went out to the Ireland training camp in Versailles.

With Roy Keane up for media duties, I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask him about the photo and was he tempted to pull on a Cobh Ramblers jersey and join in?

 

He smiled and gave a quick “no” but went on to elaborate with great enthusiasm about the crucial contribution of the league in both his own career and the careers of more than a third of the Ireland squad at the Euros.

 

“Over the years people have been quick to criticise League of Ireland football but it played a huge part in my career,” said Keane. “You saw yesterday with those lads that was brilliant, a really nice photograph.

 

“No Ramblers player there” said Keane and I thought in my own mind a pity that there were no Shamrock Rovers players in it but hopefully in years to come! “With the criticism that the League of Ireland gets, it has played a big part in these lads having a very good career, so it was nice to see.”IMG_2017

 

There were a few League of Ireland flags flown at the games during the tournament. Both the Lynch Family flag ‘Hooping since 1984’ and the ‘London Hoops’ flag were visible at the Belgium and Italy games respectively. During Iceland’s battling draw with Portugal, a Galway United Football Club flag was hung down near the cornerflag visible to everyone watching the game.

 

These flags almost seemed a novelty with their support of League of Ireland clubs rather than the novelty ‘whack a funny Father Ted slogan’ on a flag that seems to have become the norm.

 

I was on press duty in the Parc des Princes for the Germany and Northern Ireland game. Former Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O’Neill has done a superb job with his national team. O’Neill took up the role as the boss with the North soon after leaving the Hoops at the conclusion of our remarkable run in the Europa League – the competition we are back in the qualifying rounds of today.

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It is five years since we had that famous 20,000km journey through Europe from Tallinn to Copenhagen, London, Thessaloniki and Kazan. It was Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who said “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. That first single step was taken against Estonian team Flora Tallinn and crucial to that was goalkeeper Alan Mannus.

In the first leg against the Estonian champions in Tallaght, Mannus saved a penalty minutes before Chris Turner would score the only goal of the tie and set us on our way. Those early games would be Mannus’ last for the Hoops as he made the move soon after to join St. Johnstone.

Mannus was part of Michael O’Neill’s squad at the Euros, which also qualified for the knock out stages of the competition earned by their 2-0 win over Ukraine. I got the chance to talk to Mannus after his side’s battling 1-0 defeat to World Champions Germany, on a night in Paris when the North were grateful for a brilliant performance by their number one goalkeeper Michael McGovern.

 

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Mannus has been a regular in O’Neill’s ‘Norn Iron’ squads. The former Rovers boss had a tough opening campaign in a failed attempt to get to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. That meant Northern Ireland were fifth seeds in the qualification campaign for France. However, Michael O’Neill led his team to top spot in their qualifying group – the first team ever to do so from Pot 5 of the draw.

“We worked together at Shamrock and he did very well there,” said Mannus discussing his time with the Hoops under Michael O’Neill. “I’m delighted that he has done so well with Northern Ireland as I knew he was capable of that.

“The first campaign we probably played better than the results showed and in this qualifying campaign we played well and got the results we deserved and got through. I’m sure a number of clubs will be looking at him with a view maybe to take him on as manager.

“I’m delighted for him. He is a brilliant manager and understands football and that has been shown in the way we’ve played and the results we’ve got.”

Going into the last group game, the permutations were very clear for the Republic of Ireland. Beat Italy and qualify or else it was time to go home. The stadium in Lille was a sea of green with Ireland fans taking almost three sides of the stadium. With the roof of the venue closed, the atmosphere was incredible and the tension (and heat!) almost unbearable.

 

In the run up to the match, former Ireland assistant manager Marco Tardelli commented in La Gazzetta dello Sport that Irish players had “trouble handling the game tactically. They don’t get that football is also an intellectual matter, and not just about attacking and going forward.”

 

Seamus Coleman dismissed those comments ahead of the game – “I’m not really bothered what Marco thinks” – and the Irish team dismissed the Italian side with a tactical, hard pressing and physical performance against Italy. Martin O’Neill had made four changes to his starting XI, dropping Glenn Whelan, Wes Hoolahan, Ciaran Clarke and captain John O’Shea. Handed the armband was Donegal man Seamus Coleman.

 

O’Neill brought Richard Keogh and Shane Duffy into the centre of defence and they successfully marshalled the Italian attack. Ireland had left a win behind them against Sweden in Paris and it seemed the same would happen in Lille; Particularly after Hoolahan, on as second half substitute, missed a great chance in the closing minutes.

 

However, he picked up the ball moments later and delivered as good a cross as you will see onto the head of Robbie Brady. 1-0. ‘Who put the ball in the Italian net? Brady, Brady. Who put the ball in the Italian net? Robbie Robbie Brady.’

 

There were emotional scenes after the final whistle on the pitch – have we seen a happier Roy Keane – and in the stands. Speaking after the final whistle, the players were still coming to terms with the win that set up last Sunday’s game in Lyon against France. Coleman spoke about all those hours his father had driven him down to train and play with Sligo Rovers and how they are paying off now.

 

I bumped into the Cork City manager John Caulfield in the hotel I was staying in after the game and the City boss agreed that it was great to see big managerial decisions rewarded with a win! Both Martin and Michael O’Neill had made significant switches to their starting teams, against Ukraine for the North and Italy for our Boys in Green, and these were central to the success of both teams in the group stages of the competition.

 

Article published in Shamrock Rovers match day programme Hoops Scene Issue 10 – Shamrock Rovers v RoPS Rovaniemen  – Thursday 30 June 2016

 

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