Dumping Packie Bonner was a bad move for Ireland

There is good news and bad news on the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) front -- John Delaney and Giovanni Trapattoni are taking a pay cut while Packie Bonner has lost his job -- but first a bizarre tale of the current Ireland.

A week ago, on Wednesday night to be precise, I had reason to meet a colleague and friend and Gavan is both, in my local Arch Bar here in downtown Dunshaughlin.

It was a pleasant and dry night weather wise, unlike now when the snow has us all hemmed indoors and the country is grinding to a physical halt to mirror our economic woes.

It was also the last Wednesday night in November, a Champions League night with the big match coming live from Glasgow which presented us with the perfect excuse for a couple of pints of Arthur’s finest.

Rangers against Manchester United was billed as a Battle of Britain by Sky Sports, but it turned out to be nothing more than a battle between Wayne Rooney and the penalty spot as he scored the only goal of the game after a rather dubious decision.

The match itself wasn’t great, nor was it even close to providing the biggest talking point from our couple of hours in the lounge of the Arch Bar, if you get my drift.

Midway through the first half a couple of women entered the establishment. Nothing strange about that -- we’ve been allowing women into pubs in Meath, never mind Ireland, for years now.

They were carrying plastic bags under their arms and they asked for the lights to be turned up, but that didn’t seem all that strange as they ordered a couple of drinks from the bar and sat away from the flat screen supplying our entertainment.

Then came the shock as they opened said plastic bags and produced knitting needles and balls of wool! The Dunshaughlin knitting club was about to hold court.

By the time the match was over, half a dozen women were dropping stitches and having the crack while my colleague Gavan was in stitches of a different sort and promising I’d never hear the end of it.

Yes folks, things are currently so bad in Ireland that women are now knitting jumpers of a night out, possibly to try and beat the economic downturn.

I’m still in shock at the sight of them knitting away while Rooney was turning away in celebration towards the Rangers fans at Ibrox.

I don’t have a problem with them by the way. Times are hard in Ireland and needs must, which brings me back to the FAI, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and the GAA.

Over the last week, we have learned that all three of our biggest sporting organizations are cutting costs and dealing with the reality of Ireland’s current bailout predicament.

The IRFU have already cut ticket prices for the Six Nations after the embarrassment of the empty seats at the Autumn internationals.

The GAA admitted they will have to do the same when they bid farewell to Vodafone as all-star sponsors on their final junket this weekend, to Malaysia of all places.

And the FAI confirmed on Thursday what we’d known for days -- that 12 of their staff are to lose their jobs, including the great Packie Bonner.

The World Cup hero has done a bloody great job as the FAI’s technical director since 2002, but the foolishness of recent years -- and the huge debt now owed on the Aviva Stadium -- forced the FAI power brokers to make some very harsh decisions last week.

As it -- – and I am told there are more cuts to come -- some of the coaches working at grassroots level have also lost their jobs, and everyone left in the FAI is to take a pay cut.

At first, we were unsure whether or not Giovanni Trapattoni -- currently on a staggering €1.8 million a year, although half of that is sponsored -- would be party to the cuts.

Then, as we went to press on Tuesday, chief executive John Delaney announced that both the manager and Delaney himself would take pay cuts as well.

Those cuts will save the FAI money, but they won’t save face for John Delaney.

He should hang his head in shame after axing a real Irish soccer hero like Packie Bonner and cutting funding to the grassroots after spending over $100 million on a stadium that will never fully belong to the Irish football family he says he loves so much.

We were told the Aviva Stadium project would fund the grassroots for many years to come but now it’s costing the very fabric of our game, the schoolboys and the junior clubs, all across Ireland.
You can guess where I’d like to stick one of those knitting needles right now!


The Real McCoy

Iirish jockey Tony McCoy has been nominated for the BBC’s prestigious Sports Personality of the Year award after finally winning the English Grand National this year.

McCoy has been in the papers here all week, talking about the nomination and the sort of hardship he goes through to keep his weight down.

Breakfast, for example, is a bit minimalistic, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg as he revealed in a number of very revealing interviews.

“My usual day would start with a cup of tea with plenty of sugar. Before I go and ride out, I might have a dry piece of toast,” said McCoy.

“When I get back I’ll have a hot bath -- I can easily lose three to four pounds when I watch TV in there.
“When I get to the races I’ll then go in the sauna for half an hour just to get rid of another pound or two, but really to get rid to the temptation of eating.

“I never weigh myself. I’ve got some expensive scales at home but I never get on them, I know to the pound what I weigh, I know my body so well now.

“What is difficult is stabilizing your weight. If you’ve starved yourself to lose a few pounds, when you do finally eat your body tries to hold on to the food longer and it takes longer to digest.

“I love steak but I only have it once or twice a year as it takes me ages to digest. Some people are lucky and can lose it in a day, but it can take over a week for me.”

Just reading what McCoy goes through to get down to his riding weight of just over 10 stone was frightening.
To push himself that hard is the sign of a real champion, so hopefully he might just win that BBC award this year. By the sounds of it, he deserves it.


Sideline Views

SOCCER: Tony McCoy isn’t the only one who has to suffer hardship in the name of sport. Just last Saturday, the professional footballers who play for Inverness Caledonian Thistle secured a very worthy 2-2 draw away to Glasgow Celtic to maintain their year long unbeaten run on the road.

What you won’t know is that the same players had to suffer a six hour drive through the snow in the Scottish Highlands to make it to Parkhead in time for the game. As manager Terry Butcher, he of Rangers fame, explained, they did bring their duvets and their pillows onto the bus with them. And we think professional football is a glamorous life.

GAA: Many members of the current Meath football team are to get into the boxing ring for a fundraiser in January, one of those white collar shows that are all the rage. The event has been spearheaded by boxing promoter Brian Peters and the new Meath boss Seamus McEnaney and promises to be something different. So far, I’ve had five texts suggesting Meath players are well used to boxing matches -- and only three of them came from Dublin. The other two came from Louth, in case you’re interested.

SOCCER: Kilmarnock’s Conor Sammon and Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s Adam Rooney are the second and third highest scorers in the Scottish League right now. Only Kenny Miller, of Rangers and Scotland, has scored more league games this season. Strange then that neither Irish born player has featured in an Ireland squad all season.


HERO OF THE WEEK

Jonathon Sexton again laid claim to the Irish number 10 shirt for the Six Nations and the World Cup next year with another faultless display against Argentina on Sunday. The 29-9 victory was a record margin against the Pumas, largely thanks to the 17 points scored by Sexton’s trusty boot.

IDIOT OF THE WEEK

Real Madrid suffered a five-nil thumping at the hands of Barcelona in Spain’s El Classico on Monday night when Ronaldo did little or nothing bar his usual diving. He should have been sent-off for punching the ball out of the hands of Barca boss Pep Guardiola. He may consider himself a great player but Ronaldo definitely doesn’t behave like one.

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