Sad story to report from the Munster rugby camp as their players come to terms with the death of their strength and conditioning coach Paul Darbyshire.

A year ago Paul was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and died in the early hours of Monday morning.
He passed away just as the province’s top players were engaged in a fundraising cycle from Limerick to Dublin in his honor.

Reports in the papers say that the players involved, top internationals one and all, were numbed when the news broke just as they were preparing to take off on their travels.

A former rugby league player in England, Paul made a big impression in his time with Munster and was rightly regarded as one of the inspirations behind their many successes in recent years.

Just a month the players displayed publicly how much Paul meant to them when they insisted he accompany them onto the Thomond Park pitch as they went to collect the Magners League trophy after their win over Leinster in the final.

Ronan O’Gara pushed Paul across the pitch in his wheelchair to ensure he was an integral part of the celebrations, four years after his arrival in Limerick.

The picture painted a thousand words that night, but little were they all to know how soon Paul would depart this earth after that crowning glory for the Red Army.

He is not the first sportsman to due at a tragically young age and he won’t be the last, but at least those Paul has left behind know he made a very big impression in his short time working with the Munster rugby team.

As a legacy, it’s not a bad one.

Sideline Views
HURLING: The not-so-great Davy Fitzgerald and his foul-mouthed rant at a referee last week finally made it into the Irish media -- but only thanks to Gift Grub. Davy used his column in the Irish Star to defend his four lettered actions in the first half of the Munster SHC win over Limerick, but only because the Today FM crew made a skit of it.

“I was making a point - I felt it should have been a throw-in rather than a free to Limerick. The only thing that was unusual was that there was a microphone right beside me,” wrote the Waterford boss.

“Barry didn’t give the throw ball so I let it go and moved on, but when you’re on the sideline you have to get your point across.

“I got a few phone calls earlier in the week to tell me that ‘Gift Grub’ on the radio had made a skit out of it. I haven’t heard it and I won’t be making it my business to listen to it either.”

Sadly, those of us in TV land watching Davy behave so appallingly on the sideline that day didn’t have the same choice.

GAA: The GAA has reduced ticket prices by a fiver for the rest of the championship, and a big deal they’re making of it too in these recessionary times. Incredibly, at the same announcement, it emerged that ticket prices for the All-Ireland finals in hurling and football this summer have gone up by a tenner, to a record high of 80 or $114 – a 14% increase. How they can justify that in the current economic climate is beyond me, but they know they will get away with it. 

SOCCER: Alex Bruce, who has two under-21 caps for Northern Ireland and two senior caps for the Republic of Ireland and none of them of a competitive nature, is talking about switching his allegiances back to the North. Seeing as how he is English-born, why doesn’t he just wait for Fabio Capello to give him a call and be done with it? Or has Capello no interest in second rate championship defenders?

SOCCER: James McCarthy came out fighting in an interview with the News of the World on Sunday when he claimed he was right to pull out of Ireland’s end of season fixtures, including the vital Euro win in Macedonia. He may be telling the truth, but manager Giovanni Trapattoni should remember the players who did turn up next time he picks a team.

SOCCER: Chelsea are about to appoint Porto boss Andres Villas-Boas as their new manager in a deal worth a staggering $6 million a year. They are also going to buy him out of his Porto contract for a mere $22 million. The English football season is still almost two months away and the madness has started already.

THE Irish team set off for the Special Olympics in Athens this week and good luck to one and all. Whether they win one medal or hundreds of them is irrelevant -- those who will compete in the home of the Olympic movement will do their country proud and serve as an inspiration to us all. They are heroes one and all before they even get to the starting blocks.

THE hurling fraternity in Offaly have their knickers in a twist at the moment over the way their county team is treated in the football stronghold of Tullamore. It’s all a storm in a teacup that is hiding the truth of the matter -- they’re just not very good right now. Neither are Galway as their defeat to Dublin last Saturday proved -- in Tullamore of all places! Must be something in the air.