Welcome back! Missed you guys and hope you missed me.
It’s been a busy few weeks while you’ve been away, so busy that here’s 20 snapshots of what happened in the wonderful world of Irish sport over the last couple of weeks.
The Aviva Stadium opened
We’ve had the young rugby players from all four provinces through the Aviva Stadium doors since we last met, plus the footballers of Manchester United, Argentina, Ireland and the best players in the Airtricity League. Well over 100,000 people have now seen the new Lansdowne Road in full working order, and it is quite a sight to behold. There are still a few teething problems, but rugby and soccer now have a home fit for kings.
There was no surprise when the Drive for Five produced another semifinal win for Kilkenny, this time against Cork, nor was there any real surprise that the game was already over by halftime. What was upsetting for the Cats on the day was the cruciate knee ligament injury picked up by the country’s greatest hurler Henry Shefflin which means he will miss the All-Ireland final against Tipperary on the first Sunday in September. Shefflin will be missed, but it’s hard to bet against another Kilkenny win.
Giovanni Trapattoni got sick
We’ve seen Irish team doctor Alan Byrne at two press conferences now in the last four months and it’s never good news. This time it was the gaffer himself who was the subject of the latest medical report after a suspected case of food poisoning, thanks to some Italian shellfish, developed into something more sinister. Abdominal surgery was required and Trap missed the Argentina game, but he’s out of the Mater Hospital now and adamant that he will be on the plane to Armenia next month. We hope so.
100 Caps for Keane
Not alone did goal king Robbie lead Ireland out for his century of caps in the Aviva opener against Argentina, he also had his little 15-month-old son Robert Junior in his arms to celebrate the occasion. Some hacks are still taking pleasure in having a weekly go at Keano, but his caps and his goals with Ireland have always been priceless in these eyes.
Ireland left Manchester City
The man who doesn’t want to play for his country made a cool $3 million this week when he finally left Manchester City for Aston Villa as part of the James Milner transfer deal. Ireland was holding out for a “loyalty” bonus before he’d leave the club who brought him to England, which tells you exactly what sort of character he is. We’re better off without him.
Premier League returned
Yep, football is back and the world of football is as mad as ever. Chelsea grabbed the opening day’s headlines with a 6-0 win over West Brom and a Drogba hat-trick, and little Blackpool walloped Wigan 4-0, but Manchester City are still the leading loonies. They have signed players left, right and centre and have reportedly offered Swedish striker Ibrahimovich some $700,000 to move from Italy -- $700,000 a week that is!
Tipperary beat Waterford
Davy Fitzgerald is under real pressure to hang on as Waterford manager and that’s hardly surprising seeing as how he had his nose wiped by Tipperary’s Liam Sheedy in the tactical battle at Croke Park last Sunday. Obviously the fact that Fitzgerald was in the Carton House hotel on a weekend break when Tipp trained there recently didn’t do his own team much good in terms of insight.
Harrington missed another cut
The three time Major winner now needs a wild card pick from European captain Colin Montgomerie to make the Ryder Cup in Wales, but don’t bet against it. Harrington missed the cut at Whistling Straits on Friday but only by a shot and only after a camera man clicked in the middle of his back swing on his approach to the 18. The ball ended up in the water and Padraig ended up at home for the weekend, but he will be back.
A star is born
At last we have a new Irish swimmer to proclaim after 17-year-old Grainne Murphy from Wexford took a silver medal at the European Championships in Budapest on Saturday. Just to prove she has now emerged as a real live overnight sensation, that pathetic Minister for Sport Mary Hanafin was quick to congratulate her. Hopefully Hanafin will be removed from political life with the rest of the Fianna Failures as soon as we can get a general election.
More gold for Taylor
Now here’s a real sports hero who deserves the praise of all Irish fans and politicians. Just two years out from the London Olympics where she will finally get the chance to compete at that level, Katie won yet another European Union championship gold medal in Hungary. What a girl.
McIlroy the great
The Irish links inspired Whistling Straits looked magnificent on television all weekend, and our very own Rory McIlroy certainly did it justice with his third place finish at the US PGA Championship. He was only one shot away from making the play-off which was phenomenal shooting for one so young. McIlroy will win a major -- sooner rather than later.
McGeady went to Moscow
Rather than wait for Aston Villa to finally make their move, Aiden McGeady quit Celtic for Spartak Moscow last weekend and had a right go at the Scottish boo boys as he left Glasgow behind. McGeady will never have to worry about money again after this lucrative deal, but I wonder if Russia is the right move for him even if Spartak are in the Champions League.
Ruby back in saddle
Four months after he broke his arm in a fall from Celestial Halo at Aintree, Ruby finally made his return in the more leisurely surroundings of Roscommon on Monday night, but he had to be content with a third place finish on favourite Hail Caesar. You can bet we’ll be hailing Ruby again very soon.
Given dropped by Man City
The new Premier League season opened with Shay Given on the bench for Manchester City at Spurs last Saturday and he’s not a happy camper. In Dublin for the Argentina game, Given stated he would look to move if he lost his place to Joe Hart and both Arsenal and Fulham are willing to facilitate that move. Watch this space.
Roy had a row
What goes around comes around. Ipswich boss Roy Keane had such a big dispute with his wantaway captain Jonathon Walters, an Irish under-21 international, ahead of Saturday’s draw with Burnley that he stripped him of the captaincy and told him he would never play for his team again as long as he’s the manager. Imagine that!
Cunningham gave up his number
The Galway born teenage left-back got another cap against Argentina at the Aviva and signed a new four year contract with Manchester City on Tuesday, but he still had to give up his number 45 squad number at City because new signing Mario Balotelli wanted the same number he had at Inter Milan!
Kernan left Galway
All good things come to an end, but who could have predicted that All-Ireland winner Joe Kernan’s spell in charge with Galway would last so short a time. Kernan has already been linked with the Cavan job after his unsuccessful time in the west, but Galway still need a Messiah.
O’Neill quit Aston Villa
The new Premier League season was still four days away when Martin O’Neill shocked the football world by quitting as manager of Aston Villa. He couldn’t get on with the American owner apparently, which doesn’t bode well for his chances of landing the Manchester United job when Fergie finally retires.
Kildare storms into semis
Louth fans hardly wept too much when Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare hockeyed Meath in the All-Ireland quarterfinal on the same day that Cork trounced Roscommon. Down are next up for the Lilywhites after their demolition job on Kerry. It promises to be a great semifinal.
Dublin destroyed Tyrone
The Dublin players have finally got to grips with the Pat Gilroy way and proved it with a brilliant display of teamwork as they took Tyrone apart in the All-Ireland quarterfinal. Bernard Brogan got nine points that day, four of them from play, and is already a shoe-in for the footballer of the year title. Cork will need to watch him like a hawk this Sunday.
Just to prove all is not well with Irish sport, some Waterford fans apparently abused Eoin Kelly’s four-year-old son verbally about his father’s performance in the All-Ireland semifinal defeat to Tipperary. The incident which has sickened Kelly, and rightly so, took place outside Croke Park after Sunday’s game. What a bunch of morons.