Wednesday 19 December 2007

Six degrees of separation #19

It's been a while since I posted a six degrees. Partly as I didn't have an answer to #18. Then, my missus swooped in with a three step answer which made me want to give up the game forever. Here it is: 1. Mel Gibson to Heath Ledger in The Patriot; 2. Ledger to Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain; and 3. Gyllenhaal to Jack Palance in City Slickers. Easy(!)

#19: Raquel Welch to Jamie Foxx

Les Mis

I went to see Les Miserables on the West End last week and it was truly magnificent. In general I wouldn't be a massive musical fan but the story of Valjean and co is truly epic. The cast of the current production at the Queens Theatre are fantastic. Drew Sarich excels as Jean Valjean in his battles with Javert, who cut an imposing figure on stage.
That quality was endemic of the whole cast, maintaining the high standards the original Les Mis cast set over 20 years ago.
Here for your viewing pleasure is CT Wilkinson (the original Valjean) signing Bring Him Home from the 10th anniversary concert at the Albert Hall.

Friday 14 December 2007

Capello the right man for the job

I have been watching a bit of Sky Sports News today surrounding the appointment of Fabio Capello as the new England manager. And I can't believe the drivel the producers are putting on the screen.
England fans should be praising to high heaven and not whining that he isn't English. His record speaks for itself.


Seven league titles (AC Milan: 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996; Real Madrid: 1997, 2007; AS Roma: 2001)

He also won back-to-back league titles with Juventus in 2005 and 2006, but the club was stripped of these honours in the wake of the Italian match-fixing scandal.

European Cup with AC Milan in 1994

European Super Cup with AC Milan 1994

Four Italian Super Cups.

David Moyes takes the biscuit with the most inane comment I have heard in a long time, saying: "I dunno how the Italians would feel with Sam Allardyce or Alan Curbishley" getting the Italian job. That's ridiculous David, comparing one of the most successful managers in European history to two guys who have won nothing and never managed a top club. Don't get me wrong, I think both are excellent coaches, but neither would put themselves in Capello's league.

I'd now like to see the FAI panel in Dublin to take this example and find a manager of real quality for the Irish national team. The past few managers have been prime examples of 'paying peanuts and getting monkeys'. Time to change that and try make a major tournament some time in the next five years.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

What do we look for in a candidate?

I am pretty excited about the US primaries. The action has really kicked off in recent weeks with Obama passing Hilary in the Iowa primaries and closing the gap in national polls.
On the republican side national poll topper Rudy Guiliani has been keeping his powder dry while Huckabee has moved ahead in Iowa following his unnecessary attack on Mitt Romney over his religion.

The big story though is on The Onion where we can find out the real(!) things Americans look for in a candidate. Click here for the story behind this crazy headline:
Poll: Mitt Romney Is Candidate Most Voters Want To Get Into Bar Fight With

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Six degrees of separation #18

Another fairly tough one this week. Had it in five at one point before cutting it to just three. Here goes: 1. Greg Kinnear to Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets; 2. Nicholson to Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men; 3. Cruise to Randy Quaid in Days of Thunder.
#18: Mel Gibson to Jack Palance

Saturday 24 November 2007

Perfect end to a tough week for Rafa

Rafa Benitez and his team came through a turbulent week with a three goal demolition of a sorry Newcastle United today. Gerrard opened the scoring with a scorching free kick, to quiet the boos of the home fans following England's midweek failure.
In the post match interview the inevitable question was asked and Rafa wasn't shying away from it, saying that the owners didn't understand the nature of football transfers and the urgency which is needed to secure the players you want in the short transfer window. There is a bit of a worry that Rafa will play this card once too often.
The owners are right in saying they backed Rafa this summer with funds, but the reality is that Liverpool are still short one or two players to be a championship winning side, in particular another centre back. If Rafa gets a centre back, secures the long-term future of Mascherano and keeps Torres fit, then Liverpool will be there right to the end.
But back to tonight's interview. While Rafa seemed magnanimous explaining a cultural misunderstanding for the weeks drama, he still got a dig in at the Americans saying he was going to concentrate on his team winning more games "for his fans".
Truth is, I think he's right - Liverpool fans want Rafa to stay and there are still some doubts over the way Hicks and Gillett are running the club. As a fan myself I worry about them spending so little time in the UK and the fact that nothing seems to be able to progress without them.
Another couple of wins before the two owners return will put Rafa in a strong negotiating position as well as putting the team in a strong position in the league. So heads down from coach and players, get the points on the board and worry about the transfer funds when something can be done about it.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Match Point

Match Point is a movie I was not especially interested in when I first read about it a couple of years ago. There are a few reasons for this.
First is Woody Allen, who I respect as a writer/ director, but find his movies to be a little over-dialogued and drawn out. Then there is Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who - talent as an actor aside - I find generally unlikeable. His off screen antics are the main reason for this.
Notice my surprise to find then, that Match Point was a good show and well worth the watch!
Myers plays a former tennis tour pro (Chris Wilton) who befriends an upper-middle class member while coaching. He is quickly drawn into this rich, successful world of country houses and opera. Despite his immediate spark with Tom Hewitt's fiance Nola (Scarlett Johansson), Chris begins to date Tom's sister Chloe.
This leads him further into their world and the good graces of Hewitt's father, played by Brian Cox.
From here the plot is as you would expect on some points, but in others it twists and turns unexpectedly. Overall Allen maintains the flow of the movie and only digresses once or twice. Here is a clip from early in the movie, the rest I'll let you judge for yourself.

Monday 19 November 2007

Six degrees of separation #17

As I predicted (to myself mostly) last weeks one was tough. I got it in three moves in the end and when, feeling all happy with myself, I logged on to update it, CK from Dossing Times got there first - the b*stard!!! So well done CK and here is the answer for everyone else.
1. Lauren Bacall to Nicole Kidman in Birth; 2. Kidman to Jim Carrey in Batman Forever; and 3. Carrey to one-time wife Lauren Holly in Dumb and Dumber.
#17: Greg Kinnear to Randy Quaid

Arcade Fire

I got Funeral form a guy I worked with almost three years age and loved it instantly. I'm surprised myself that it then took me until this weekend gone, to get to see the band live. But it was definitely worth the wait.
The Alexandra Palace in North London is a bit of a trek but the band acknowledged the efforts of the 6,000 strong crowd and the farcical beer token system was about the only black mark on the night.
When the band hit the stage all thoughts of beer tokens were quickly forgotten as they dived straight in with the opening two tracks off Neon Bible, Black Mirror and Keep the car running, before cooling off with a couple of slower tracks, including The Smiths' Still Ill.
Playing their way through the hits of Funeral and Neon Bible the band played with incredible energy and their own unique, orchestral sound. I'm always impressed by bands who play a wide array of instruments and loved the way the band members interchanged positions and instruments throughout the gig.
The encore was a perfect close, comprised of Intervention and Wake Up. And the crowd, which had been a it quiet earlier, were left begging for more.
I'm not one of those people who holds up a mobile to film half the gig I'm at but someone else did it for me and I pinched it off youtube! So here is No Cars Go and a slightly fuzzy Wake Up from Saturday night.

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Paco for the Hammers???

Paco Ayesteran hasn't been out of the news long. The dust has barely settled on his acrimonious departure from Anfield and he is now being linked to the soon to be created Technical Director of Football role at Upton Park.
Unsurprisingly, Alan Curbishley has thrown water on the rumours. Why wouldn't he, having seen the result of the power struggle across the way at White Hart Lane. These middle roles don't seem to suit the traditional role of the manager in English clubs.
Also, I wonder how Rafa would feel, pitting his wits against his former consiglieri.

Friday 9 November 2007

Six degrees of separation #16

Well I'm not even going to attempt this one. Instead props to Paula with a two move masterpiece: 1. Salma Hayek to Breckin Meyer in "54"; 2. Breckin Meyer to Katie in "Go". Even bad movies count in this game!!!

Previously I have mentioned how female to female tends to be the more difficult. The other thing that increases the degree of difficulty is crossing the generation gaps. This week we are doing both!
#16: Lauren Bacall to Lauren Holly. Enjoy!

Friday 2 November 2007

Fantasy Rafa

I have been a regular participant in fantasy football over the past couple of years, but this week I was sent a great link which takes it to a whole new level - Fantasy Rafa. The premise is simple, the game itself less so - guess the Liverpool starting eleven that Rafa Benitez will choose for the next game.
Just to put into context how difficult this is, of over 34,000 guesses, only 443 have matched Rafa's final selection. So all you Liverpool and football fans get signed up and get guessing here.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Six degrees of separation #15

Last week's one was tough. Tuathal got it in six moves, impressively using Who Framed Roger Rabbit along the way. So hat's off there.
I myself managed a much less impressive five. 1. Diane Kruger to Sean Bean in National Treasure; 2. Bean to Hugo Weaving in the LOTR trilogy; 3. Weaving to Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta; 4. Portman to Jude Law in Closer; 5. Law to Bob Hoskins in Enemy at the Gates.
Next up a couple of ladies. #15:
Salma Hayek to Katie Holmes

Thursday 25 October 2007

Managerial mayhem

It's been a crazy week for managerial changes, not least of all the timing of Martin Jol's inevitable departure from Tottenham. As a football fan I feel very sorry for him as I believe he's a good coach and I think he was hounded out. In my opinion, that's not to Spurs advantage. The loss in the first group game of the UEFA cup tonight was a poor result, but not surprising given the upheaval of the day. The club's decision to sack him prior to the game is a questionable one.

Bolton's appointment of Gary Megson was another strange one. His past premiership record is poor and he only had a short spell at Leicester this season. Paddy Power are offering 15/8 on Bolton going down, which seems decent value to me. I think there are better managers out of work, some of which are being linked to ...

... the Irish job, which became open this week also. No surprise there. Brady, Souness and O'Leary top the bookies list, although Jol might now command fairly short odds. I was very interested to see John Delaney distance himself from the next appointment. There will be a committee of professionals hired as consultants - working within certain parameters re: salary etc - and the name they propose will be confirmed by the board ass the new Irish boss.

Finally Liverpool, where I don't expect a managerial change, but would love to see the assistant role filled. The return of Sammy Lee has been mentioned following his departure from the Reebok Stadium and I do believe the players would welcome that. Sammy was schooled in the Anfield boot room and is a popular figure at the club.
My preference would be a man who watched this week's European match in the Sky studios - Gary McAllister. He's another popular figure who had two great seasons at the club. He's a true professional and only the serious illness of his wife has kept him out of the game in the past few years. I think he could be just the man to replace Paco and re-instill the players' confidence.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

All credit to…

I’m going to sign off the 2007 Rugby World Cup with my best and worst team of the tournament. Also, for me South African flanker Juan Smith was the player of the tournament. He was awesome throughout, always first to the breakdown, available in the loose and strong in the tackle. Notable mentions also, for Victor Matfield (SA), Felipe Contepomi (Arg) and Jason Robinson (Eng).

My best IX

Backs: 15.Montgomery, 14.Clerc, 13.Rabeni, 12.Contepomi, 11.Habana, 10.Hernandez, 9.du Preez
Forwards: 8.Bonnaire, 7.Smith, 6.Collins, 5.Matfield, 4.Shaw, 3.van der Linde, 2.Smit, 1.Sheridan
Subs: 16.Ledesma, 17.du Randt, 18.AW Jones, 19.Longo, 20.Ellisade, 21.James, 22.Robinson
Coach: White

No one will agree with all of my selections but I think it’s quite balanced. Nine South Africans in the 22 is reasonable given they were the only team to play well start to finish. Four Argentineans, three each for England and France and one each for Fiji, New Zealand and Wales, complete the squad.
I think Fiji earned a player in the top team and Rabeni capitalized on an average World Cup by many of the best outside centres on display. While Collins and Alun Wyn Jones were picked as the stand-out players on their otherwise misfiring teams.

And now the other end of the spectrum!!
My worst IX
Backs: 15.Bortolussi, 14.Rokocoko, 13.Muliana, 12.D’arcy, 11.Hickie, 10.O’Gara, 9.Stringer
Forwards: 8.Leamy, 7.Bergamasco, 6.Chabal, 5.O’Connell, 4.Jack, 3.Horsman, 2.Ibanez, 1.Castrogiovanni
Subs: 16.Rees, 17.Horan, 18.O’Callaghan, 19.Popham, 20.Troncon, 21.Skrela, 22.Shanklin
Coach: Henry, but O’Sullivan and Jenkins are equally good calls.

Eight Irish, four Welsh, four Italians, three Abs and three French. Chabal will be a disputed inclusion I’m sure, but I maintain he’s a one dimensional flanker, a terrible lock and he spent most of the tournament on the bench for those reasons. Not because Laporte doesn’t like him.
Other than that I could possibly have included more Irish players, but six in the IX plus two on the bench is probably enough.
And with that, au revoir from France 2007 (and Wales and Scotland…)!

Sunday 21 October 2007

Rugby World Cup 2007: Post mortem

What a World Cup. Not what we expected but entertaining all the same. Under-performers were in abundance, a couple of surprise packages and plenty of incidents to discuss along the way.
The tops:
South Africa, obviously. I think the Boks were the best and most consistent performers and worthy champions.
England. Defied the odds and their own awful form to go all the way to final. A great finish for the many over-30s who won't be around in four years.
Fiji. Well worth their place in the knock-out stages. Beat Wales with some scintillating rugby and the score against SA in the QF was a bit harsh on them.
Argentina, naturally. The Pumas really came of age and fulfilled their game plan (albeit a limited one) perfectly on their way to third.
The flops:
New Zealand. The best team in the world, maybe but they paid the price of a soft group and some dodgy refereeing against the hosts. Graham Henry suffered the ultimate punishment.
Wales. Gareth Jenkins paid the price for a group stage exit at the hands of Fiji. A lot of retirements from that team too, before the 2008 6N championship.
Ireland. The best team in the 6N over the past two years, many would say. I'd love to now what happened in the squad to make so many good players under-perform. O'Sullivan isn't going to suffer Jenkins or Henry's fate, but the wisdom of that will only be seen in the coming years.
The lessons:
1. Kicking is back in vogue. The Argentinians in particular used the kick to great effect. Often deliberately not finding touch in order to gain territory and push opponents onto the back foot. Other teams started to follow this example to varying levels of success.
2. The breakdown. Again the Argentinians typified the importance of the breakdown and fast, hard rucking. Against both France and Ireland they rucked their way to victory. The kicking gave them territory and the rucking gave them space for drop-goals and earned them penalties.
3. What minnows? Yes, Portugal got battered by the ABs and Japan by the Wallabies, but that was about it. Canada, Georgia, Namibia, Tonga all did themselves proud and were good value for both the IRB investment and their place at the tournament.
Ultimately, I think the win for SA is a good thing for rugby. England did well, but given the standard of rugby they played, they would not have been ideal champions.
The Springboks were consistently competitive and played to a good standard all through. The 36-0 v England in the group stage was one of the performances of the tournament. The final was not exciting try-laden stuff, but it was a good finish to a crazy 7 weeks.

Friday 19 October 2007

Time being called for Stan???

So, the FAI have called an emergency board meeting for this Sunday. Things don't look good for Steve Staunton's future as Irish manager, although I won't lose any sleep over it to be honest.

I'm not counting my chickens either. The way the FAI operate I wouldn't be surprised if they were issuing a supporting statement for the beleaguered boss. I must again mention my disgust at John Delaney's 'leadership'.
How much of a langer is Delaney making a statement like this about a 72 year-old with a bad medical history and a 36 year old who never managed a thing in his life. "I would not see the appointment of Steve Staunton and Bobby Robson as the management team as much of a gamble."
And then he tries to turn the attention away from himself saying, in a BBC online piece, "It's unfortunate that I've been personally linked to the appointment."
Newsflash John, you are supposed to be the CEO!!
Anyway, even though I do have some sympathy for Stan, I think the picture sums it all up!

PS - That FAI board meeting now looks set to go ahead today (Tuesday, 23/10), definitley before the end of the week. A chance for Delaney wash his hands of his own mistakes and blame everyone else.

Six degrees of separation #14

This was a real tough one, as is often the case crossing a generation. In the end a family link proved the key for a four move solution!
1. Julie Andrews to Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries; 2. Hathaway to Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain; 3. Jake to sister Maggie in Donnie Darko; and 4. Maggie was in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind with Sam Rockwell.
Next, #14:
Diane Kruger to Bob Hoskins

Thursday 18 October 2007

Angry Fan's Rant

I can't take it any more. The sorry state that the Irish team has been driven into is now a source of national embarrassment.
The group D table makes for painful reading. Cyprus can overtake us and finish third in the group with their game in hand! Mostly down to the four points they took from us! Only San Marino have scored fewer goals. And, depending on the final two rounds of results, we could finish as low as 6th.

Will the FAI please wake the f*** up. John Delaney is single-handedly killing the sport. The man is a disgrace. As for Stan, he has had a go, but it's clear he isn't up to it. Cyprus away was a freak result it seemed, then to nearly lose to them at home? How many players have they in the top flight of any of the five major European leagues??? It's unacceptable.

The management set up was ridiculous last night. He brought on McGeady (a right winger) for Keogh (a striker who was playing on the right). He then put McGeady on the left and switched Hunt (a left winger) to the right. We ended the game with Doyle on the right wing sending in crosses. Just where you want your best striker to be! It all reeked a bit of desperation.

The players have to bear some of the blame too, although not as much. Certain supposed team 'leaders' have consistently underperformed for their country while excelling for their clubs. Richard Dunne should be made the team captain for one thing. His play, attitude and commitment are the kind of qualities a captain should have. Robbie is fine for scoring, but I don't think the arm-band suits him.

I hope Stan steps down. While he may improve in the next campaign I don't think it will be enough. We can't afford to miss a fourth tournament in a row. As for the FAI, I fear we are stuck with them as long as they can keep giving themselves juicy new contracts. Our only hope is the players finding a bit of pride in the green shirt and lifting their performances.

Monday 15 October 2007

Classic Movies #2: The Birdcage

How did I miss this all these years?!?
The Birdcage was on last week and I sat down to watch it with the missus. She had seen it and seemed eager to watch it again. I had heard the name but new little other than that Robin Williams was in the cast.

And what a treat I was in for. Williams was sublime as the gay nightclub owner whose son is marrying (Calista Flockhart) the daughter of a conservative Senator, played by Gene Hackman. The young couple decide to hide the fact that the groom's father is gay, meaning they need to hide Williams flamboyant, cross-dressing partner, played by Nathan Lane.

This movie bears more than a passing resemblance to Some Like it Hot, but it's not just the cross-dressing. The comedy is frantic at times, slapstick at others. The stuffy Hackman is hilariously unaware at times, while the house maid, played by Hank Azaria is nothing short of genius. Lane however, steals the show, not least the scenes where Williams is trying to 'butch him up' before the in-laws arrive.

An excellent and entertaining watch and worth a place in any collection. If you ain't seen it go get it.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Six degrees of separation #13

No guesses offered for #12 but I have it in three moves. 1. Christine Taylor to Ben Stiller (her husband!) in Zoolander; 2. Stiller to Bob deNiro in Meet the Parents; 3. deNiro to Val Kilmer in Heat.

Julie Andrews to Sam Rockwell

Tuesday 9 October 2007

And the shocks continue

It's funny really. All the way through the group stage everyone was talking about the predictability factor. In particular the almost certainty that we would have four Southern hemisphere semi-finalists. It looks a bit different now!!
England beating Australia was an incredible surprise. The Wallabies haven't been amazing - and I didn't expect them to go past the semis - but England have been really ordinary. The truth is the didn't do much out of the ordinary in the QF win either. Wilkinson is king and were anything to happen to him, then I can't see the points coming from elsewhere.
New Zealand losing to France was an upset but not a shock. France at home are always tough, and the bashing they took in the press post-Argentina defeat, has only helped galvanise them. The All Blacks looked unconvincing against a second string Scotland, but I still expected them to go all the way.
Fiji were worn down by South Africa, and the Springboks were certainly flattered by the final score. As for Argentina, they were not as good as previous games but still too powerful for a weak Scotland.
The obvious final is France/ South Africa, but the way things are going an England/ Argentina double could be worth a tenner. If the French back row (Nyanga/ Betsen especially) can get at Wilkinson, then England might struggle. Argentina I feel, will meet their match up front and the South Africa backs will be too good for the Argentina three-quarters. Ireland exposed their weakness there. I'll go for the France South v Africa decider.

Friday 5 October 2007

Another unjust award for Brennan

Colm Cooper won the football player of the month for September. A deserved award after his performance in the final against Cork.
I can't but be annoyed however by the hurling award being given to Eddie Brennan. I can't deny he took his scores well but giving him this award (on top of the man of the match award for the final) is completely insane.
The GAA make a big deal about discipline in cases like the tunnel incident in Thurles, but then they go and reward a player after his actions in the first five minutes of the All-Ireland final. Stop talking rubbish GAA. Apply the rules to everyone or shut the hell up.

Tribute to Jose

I have said before that I think Jose's departure from Chelsea will be as big a loss for the league as for the Stamford Bridge club. Us Liverpool fans have suffered his wrath and genius more than most, but he was always entertaining.
Gift grub, the Irish radio sketch show for those of you who don't now, has parodied him regularly. Recently we had Roman to the tune of Sting's Roxanne, Shaddup a ya face and Sign a little player or two, to name but a few.
My favourite remains the first one however, which I have place here for your listening pleasure. Mr Rosenstock, take a bow, for Jose and his amazing technicolour overcoat!

Six degrees of separation #12

Major kudos to Simon for linking Michael Madsen and Ray Liotta in one move. Harvey Kietel was with Liotta in Copland and with Madsen in Reservoir Dogs. For some reason I totally blanked on that one. When I think of Liotta I only see Goodfellas.
This week:
Christine Taylor to Val Kilmer

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Absolutely gutted

There's no other way to describe the feelings after Ireland were deservedly and unceremoniously dumped from the rugby World Cup on Sunday. Argentina were well worth their win on the day and I fancy the to roll over the Scots at the weekend.
But where did it all go wrong for the men in green. Will we ever find out what was going on in the camp or will we be resigned to unsubstantiated rumour and conjecture. There are lots of reasons being thrown about but I think we can cut them to three (and Eddie O'Sullivan isn't all three!).
1. The team were not prepared mentally. They were not ready for the intensity from the smaller teams (Namibia and Georgia) and as a result couldn't lift their game accordingly. The lost bonus v Georgia was the biggest nail in the coffin. Maybe they started to believe their own hype.
2. A related point this one, but too many players failed to show up on the night. Most teams can afford one or two poor performers on a given day, but All Blacks aside, none could cope with six or seven. In the Georgia game you could say all 15 failed to show up.
3. Eddie's response to the poor performances. Geordan Murphy's lack of game time was a huge mistake. His biggest. For me also, Neil Best and Alan Quinlan would have seen more game time. Brian Carney was worth a run out too.
A lot of attention has been placed on O'Gara's poor performance and he certainly wasn't at his best, but he bisected the Argentinian defence with two amazing passes, on the two occasions his pack gave him a good platform. As for Paddy Wallace, it really would have been a gamble to play a guy who doesn't even get picked at out-half for his province and I understand why Eddie didn't do it.
Anyone who thinks there is bias there should look at how he was willing to play Eoin Reddan, who did well under difficult circumstances.
Ultimately the venture was a bitter failure and all we can do is look forward to the Six Nations with these boisterous fans who revelled on the streets of Paris, despite the disappointing results.

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Ireland v Argentina

Good post here previewing the big game from an Argentinian point of view. Well said guys!

Six degrees of separation #11

Ok, the last one was rubbish. Could do it with one of a few single links. I went from Sam L. Jackson to John Cusack in 1408 and Cusack to Nic Cage in Con Air.
#12, hopefully a bit more challenging:

Ray Liotta to Michael Madsen

Monday 24 September 2007

Time for the Eddie bashers to back off.

I have never tried to argue that Eddie O'Sullivan has been blameless in the events of this World Cup. Of course the coach must take some responsibility for his team. The key word remains some.
It's time to stop this lynch-mob mentality and ask as many questions of the players as of the coach. The players themselves are doing so, as noted by Charlie Mulqueen in today's Examiner (click here to read).

Sunday 23 September 2007

Costly home draw

The good early start to the season for Liverpool, came to an abrupt halt yesterday, with a disappointing home draw against Birmingham. I have been very excited by the team's start to the season and I'm not changing my mind on their chances. They will be in the mix come March / April.
They struggled in Portugal mid-week, however and I think the doubts from that game carried on to yesterday's match. Tuesday's Carling Cup game against Reading should be a good chance for Rafa to start the fringe players and rest the more regular starters. They can get fresh and hit back against Wigan in the league next Saturday.
Draws like yesterday are the games which cost you the league when you look back in May. Let's regain the control we had in the early games.

Saturday 22 September 2007

Change it up Eddie

Following the French defeat, Eddie O'Sullivan has now no choice but to overhaul his struggling team. He could realistically make anything from 6 to 12 changes and he needs to, as his team looked tired and devoid of ideas last night. At least there was some heart and commitment on show, following the opening games.
The Argentinians will provide a very different challenge next week for the men in green. I think it's time to go horses for courses, keep the game tight in the first half and try to control the game better than they did last night. Essentially we need to do to the Pumas, what the French did to us.
For that I want a big, heavy pack to protect the ball (it will inevitably be slower ball) and backs to take the ball moving forward. Sheahan, S.Best, O'Kelly, Quinlan and N.Best to come in for Horan, Flannery, either lock could go and both flankers. In the backs take out Dempsey and D'arcy. Perhaps RoG needs a break too, but I worry about Wallace's lack of experience at #10, both for Ulster and Ireland.
That said my team is:
15. Murphy,
14. Carney, 13. O'Driscoll, 12. Horgan, 11. Trimble/ Hickie
10. O'Gara/ Wallace, 9. Reddan
8. Leamy, 7. N.Best, 6. Quinlan
5. O'Connell, 4. O'Kelly
3. Hayes, 2. Flannery, 1. S.Best
Subs ( big role to be played here):
16. R. Best, 17. Horan, 18. O'Callaghan, 19. Easterby
20. Stringer, 21. O'Gara/ Wallace, 22. Duffy

Friday 21 September 2007

Disappointing night for Irish

The France v Ireland pool match is just over and it made tough watching for fans of the team in green. The French were well worth their win although maybe not by 22 points. It finished 25-3 after two excellent tries from Vincent Clerc on the right wing.

I'm expecting to see lots of negativity on the forums and blogs tomorrow, and lots of calls for Eddie O'Sullivan's head. I'd like to see people be realistic though and accept that we were beaten by a better team. The only thing we could have done better was to keep our discipline and make a few better choices when we were within 30 yards of the French line (which was more than once). Eddie can't stop his players conceding penalties or making bad decisions, no matter what some will say.

Finally, I'll remind people that prior to the tournament the vast majority of people expected us to lose to France and beat Argentina to qualify from the group. While the Georgia and Namibia games have dented our confidence and chances (having missed a bonus point), lets wait until next weekend to make our final judgements.

Wednesday 19 September 2007

The land of the free, eh?!?

Look at this clip for an interesting take on the first amendment by police officers at Florida University. Officers use stun gun on a student who was questioning former Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry.
I'm sure the founding fathers would love to see how their constitution is being abused.
BTW, is this the kind of democracy the US wants to bring to Iraq?

Friday 14 September 2007

Six degrees of separation #10

So CK kicked my ass with a swift three move link on #9. Prince of Tides was a peach! The best I could do was four: 1. Barbara Streisand to Robert deNiro in Meet the Fockers; 2. de Niro to Sly Stallone in Copland; 3. Stallone to Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man; 4. Snipes to Diane Lane in Murder at 1600.

Shoddy! Ok should be an easy one this week.
#10: Samuel L. Jackson to Nicholas Cage

Thursday 13 September 2007

All Ireland Football Final build-up

Kerry have named an unchanged 15 for Sunday's final as they aim to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since their opponents, Cork, did it in 1989 and 1990. Cork meanwhile have had conflicting injury news. Anthony Lynch is almost certain to be out having broken his hand in training, while James Masters is set top return, just five weeks after suffering a broken jaw.
Whatever team Cork select I predict a fierce and close contest. In many ways it is set up as a forwards final. Both inside forward lines have the edge over their full backs lines.
This game may come down to who wins midfield and the quality of service they send in to sad forward lines, as well as the key battles between on one side, Donaghy v Canty, and on the other side, O'Se v Masters/ O'Connor.
Up the rebels!

Time Ticking for Sorry Stan

Painful! The only word an Irishman can use to describe the recent European Championships qualifiers. And again, the root cause of our woes has been the ineptitude of the FAI and their poor decisions regarding the management of the national team.
In 1996, as Big Jack stepped aside, having lead the country into a golden era of unprecedented success, they got it wrong by appointing Mick McCarthy his successor. McCarthy's only management history at that point was with Millwall, who were relegated under his leadership. A top player for us, but never the right man for the top job.
McCarthy's reign was patchy, failing to qualify for the 1998 and 2000 tournaments, yet gaining new contracts in spite of failure. I was anti-McCarthy from the outset and I still believe we could have been a force in 2002, had we had the right leadership. Even on his way out the door he managed to screw up our start to the 2004 European qualification campaign. A start we never recovered from.
So who next. Many names were bandied about. Some household, some international pedigree, but who do the FAI go for? The cheap option, again! Brian Kerr was a legend in Irish football for his success with under age teams and I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
When he failed, most notably during the Israel games, and we missed the 2006 World Cup, he got the sack. Harsh when you consider the rewards McCarthy received for his failures. I also think he had the less to work with of the last four men to hold the job.
Enter Stan and the ailing Bobby Robson. I recall the day they were unveiled and 'stunned silence' was the feeling from everyone I spoke to. "Great player, but what the f***?" was the general consensus.
Despite having a good bunch of players to pick from Stan has failed again and again to select the right 11 - it's the results that have suffered. Lots has been made of Duff's absence in recent months, but truth be told he - like Robbie Keane - save their best for their respective clubs.
The last two games summed up Stan's reign and I suspect (and hope) have ended it. Aidan McGeady, though hugely ineffective in both, played the vast majority of the games. Shane Long and Steve Hunt hardly got a look in, despite the fact they are playing premiership football week-in week-out. Hunt in particular has been a fixture in Steve Coppell's team, yet only injury got him on the pitch last night. I can guarantee he wouldn't have given up the chase in injury time in Slovakia on Saturday!
In defence, Stephen Kelly is a liability - he has no pace and despite a good year for Birmingham in the Championship, will be found out by the big boys this year. There is a reason he's not still at Spurs. Finnan was a huge lose and forced a re-shuffle, but surely Kilbane should have played left back (as he is with his club) and Hunt on the left side of midfield (yes, I did make this comment prior to the Slovakia game).
Ultimately there is only so much blame we can lay at Stan's feet. He is, I'm sure, doing his best, but I want to know why he was put in there. My beef in recent years is mostly with the FAI. While Delaney and co. are paying themselves top dollar, they are subjecting the country to a manager who has little or (in Stan's case) no real management experience. It's time to pay someone the big bucks, then we can reasonably expect to get the big results.
Until then, sadly, 45th in the world (or whatever we are ranked) is where we belong!

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Six degrees of separation #9

Tough little one, even though it only took 3 moves. 1. Jeff Bridges to Joan Allen in The Contender; 2. Allen to James Marsden in The Notebook; 3. Marsden to Famke Janssen in the X-men trilogy.

Two ladies next; #9:
Barbara Streisand to Diane Lane

Monday 10 September 2007

Sorry Ireland add to Northern hemisphere woes

All six of the major northern hemisphere teams have a lot to do, following an awful opening weekend in the 2007 rugby world cup. Scotland Wales and England all managed less than convincing wins following the defeat of France by the hungry Pumas.
Seeing Argentina beat the hosts should have been a tonic for the boys in green, but instead they were arguably the worst of the lot - England might just nick that award for failing to gain a bonus point versus the USA.
Eddie O'Sullivan was frank as always in his assessment and while the buck often stops with the coach I disagree in this instance. No coach should be held responsible for his team - of supposed professionals - being incapable of even holding the ball. I lost count of the number of Irish knock-ons early in the second half.
This team knows how to play and knows how to win. It is inexplicable how they could perform so badly against a team of part-timers.
I think a number of changes are needed for the Georgia game for two reasons; 1. to rest up the key men before playing France and Argentina in consecutive weeks and 2. to give the reserves a chance to stake their claim and raise the competition for places within the squad.
I'd bring in Flannery who I still think is our best hooker, S. Best at prop, N.Best and Quinlan in the back row. The pack will still be strong at this.
In the backs, Murphy at FB, Horgan and Carney in the three-quarters, but most importantly a run out for a new half back combination. Wallace needs a game under his belt or he'll struggle if he has to replace RoG at short notice, also I'd play Reddan. He's a Heineken Cup winner and the natural successor to Stringer.
That said my 15 for the Georgia game:
15. Murphy
14. Carney
13. Horgan
12. D'Arcy
11. Trimble
10. Wallace
9. Reddan
8. Leamy
7. Quinlan
6. N.Best
5. O'Connell
4. O'Kelly
3. Hayes
2. Flannery
1. S.Best

Friday 7 September 2007

I don't think so, Charlie

I am truly gripped by World Cup fever at this point. I just read an article in the Irish Examiner by Charlie Mulqueen, entitled 'Eddie’s decision to start with big guns a cause for concern'. I must disagree, but not entirely.
Charlie claims that playing the big names in the first two games is a mistake by Eddie O'Sullivan and that it will result in lots of our best players being involved in games 5+ weeks in a row.
My feeling is that we need to play our best team in the opener and rest them for the second game, to maximise both sharpness and freshness heading into the crucial France and Argentina games.
My reasoning:
  • The Irish and European seasons have been over for some time and players have not had a lot of competitive rugby.
  • Players returning from injury - O'Driscoll, Wallace, Horgan - need some game time, so they are not going in to the big games 'cold'.
  • Points difference could be crucial and our starting fifteen are undoubtedly more dangerous than our reserves.

I would agree with Charlie in so far as I wouldn't want the big names playing all of both. With seven subs capable of playing 20-30 minutes, no one should have to play more than 90-120 minutes of rugby in those two games. Over a two week period with a controlled training regime I don't see that being a problem for any of the squad.

I'm not staying in the office to add any more to this, so c'mon Ireland!

Rugby World Cup 2007

The rugby World Cup kicks off tonight with an exciting clash between France and Argentina in Paris. This is a crucial game in the ‘pool of death’ which sees 3 of the world’s top 6 (add Ireland) battling it out for 2 QF places. An upset tonight would really through the cat among the pigeons, although I can’t see it happening. France are always good but they are virtually unbeatable on their home sod.
Going into these finals it is difficult to see the winner not coming from the big 3 southern hemisphere nations. Home advantage will bring France closer to Australia and South Africa, but I still can’t look past the All Blacks. New Zealand have been hurt by recent World Cup failures and will be eager to rectify matters. I think their preparation over the past couple of years has been superb and, while they have won tri-nations and beaten the Lions in that period, the focus has never shifted from the Webb Ellis trophy.
As an Irishman I go into this tournament with cautious optimism. We have a 15 to match any in the world, but the Kiwis have 30 players as good as each other, while the other big teams have 22-25 they can call on. Ireland have a couple of good reserves, notably Neil Best at flanker and Geordan Murphy at full-back, but a number of crucial positions have not got the same amount of cover.
I have read a number of articles – including one by Zinzan Brooke on – which mentions O’Driscoll, Darcy and O’Connell, who are all key men. He missed one name however, Ronan O’Gara. Rog is, in my opinion, the best fly-half in the world when it comes to kicking from hand and he uses it to control games, out the opposition on the back foot and move the pack into good field positions.
My fear is that he or O’Driscoll are going to be targeted and possibly taken out of the tournament.
Everyone remembers the spear tackle incident from the 2005 Lions tour, and lets not forget the vicious assault on O’Gara by Duncan McRae in the 2001 tour (click here for a reminder).
That said, not making the quarter finals is unacceptable. If we face New Zealand, as runners up in our group, and lose, then we will have played the best team in the world. If we top the group we will likely face Italy or Scootland and should definitely be making the semis. From there, who knows….
For me it’s a New Zealand V France final according to me head and a New Zealand V Ireland final according to my heart!

Thursday 6 September 2007

Beastie Boys

New York's finest, Beastie Boys, rocked the Brixton Academy last night with the middle of their three London gigs. Mix Master Mike opened the show with a mesmerising display of scratching before the three MCs bounded on stage.

Mike D was on top form belting out classics such as Body Movin' and No Sleep Till Brooklyn, before they settled into a number of instrumental tracks from their new album. MCA brought out the upright bass and Ad-Rock switched between keyboards and guitar. Very funky stuff. They are playing an all-instrumental gig at the Roundhouse in Camden tonight.
Mix Master started off the encore also, which included Intergalactic and Sabotage, finishing off an excellent 90 minute set.
I have never been a massive fan, but they are definitely one of those must see acts and venues like the Academy are tailor made for them.

Tuesday 4 September 2007

Six degrees of separation #8

Last week's links took me a little while, as tends to happen with a relatively new actor like Paul Rudd. In the end it took me four moves and about 20 minutes.
1. Paul Rudd to Brittany Murphy in Clueless; 2. Murphy to Sean Bean in Don't say a word; 3. Bean to Brad Pitt in Troy; and 4. Pitt to James Gandolfini in True Romance.

#8: Jeff Bridges to Famke Janssen

Monday 3 September 2007

Sly cats win #30

Kilkenny cruised to a 30th All-Ireland hurling title yesterday, dispatching a game Limerick side at Croke Park, by 2-19 to 1-15. Truth be told the game was settled after 12 minutes as the Cats had racked up an impressive 2-3 to no score lead. Limerick managed three unanswered points in the next five minutes but the rest of the half was fairly even, meaning the cats lead by double scores at the half.
It could all have been so different though. I for one did not particularly agree with Ger Loughnane’s suggestion that Kilkenny are a dirty team. By in large I think they go out to hurl – unlike some teams Loughnane managed. In the opening exchanges of yesterday’s final however, he was proved right.
Eddie Brennan – who went on to score 1-5 and claim 'man of the match' – should have been sent off in those opening moments for the dangerous and callous use of the stick on Limerick full back Stephen Lucey. Shortly after, he also connected with corner-back Seamus Hickey. Again, he went unpunished.
Though little was made of this at the time, it could have been a major turning point in the game.
From there however, the game was done and those incidents aside the Cats were deserving winners, adding a nice touch by dedicating the win to the memory of Vanessa McGarry.
30 each for Cork and Kilkenny – Odds on that final next year???

Friday 31 August 2007

Paco leaves Anfield

Big news coming out of Anfield today as it has emerged that Rafa's #2, Paco Ayesteran is leaving Merseyside. This will be a blow to the team as Paco has been an integral part of the coaching team for the past three years.
Prior to coming to Liverpool he worked with Rafa at Tenerife and Valencia. It is unclear whether his move is for personal reasons or whether he has had another job offer.
No news either on possible replacements although I for one, would like to see Gary MacAllister return to Anfield.

All Ireland Hurling Final 2007

Unsurprisingly, Kilkenny return to Croke Park this Sunday to defend the title they reclaimed from Cork a year ago. Big surprise, it's Limerick who they face in this year's decider.
Earlier in the season it seemed likely that Cork or Waterford would be the Cats' opponents, but it's the Shannon-siders who fought back from a Munster final defeat to gain their revenge on the Deise in the All-Ireland semi.

I'm a bit torn as to the outcome on Sunday. My head screams Kilkenny all the way; that they are too experienced; that they have too many All-Stars in their team; that Limerick have only one player who has been this far before; that the semi-final win was the best Limerick could have hoped for; and on and on.

At the same time I can see them do it. They are riding a crest at the moment. Confidence is high and the team is hurling very well. Andrew O'Shaughnessy is obviously key, as well as goals. I don't think the men in green score enough points and I can't see them matching Kilkenny point for point (the Cats regularly score 20+ in a game).
Also, I think five finals in six years may actually be a disadvantage. Looking at last years final I couldn't help but feel Cork were a tired team - it must be incredibly draining on both the body and mind to play at that high a level, year in, year out. Limerick are hungry and that will be important, equally so how they deal with the nerves.

My head says Kilkenny by six, but if limerick can stay in it, they may just nick it at the death.

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Bush and Cheney: Last men standing

The Bush administration has fallen further into ruin with resignation of the controversial Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. This now leaves Bush with just one of his 2001 team in place, VP Dick Cheney.
Gonzales has been one of the most controversial figures in US politics over the past few years. His role was summed up neatly on Political Gateway: “Gonzales has been under fire for his role in the treatment of "war on terror" detainees, domestic surveillance, and has been accused of lying to lawmakers over the sackings of federal prosecutors last year”.
Bush has maintained his support for Gonzales, claiming he was merely a victim of a Democrat smear campaign. Ultimately the pressure told and the AG walked, just weeks after Karl Rove did the same.

Six degrees of separation #7

I had a good week on #6, only 2 moves! 1. James Woods to Kirsten Dunst in The Virgin Suicides; Kirsten Dunst to Alfred Molina in Spiderman 2.

#7: Paul Rudd to James Gandolfini

Friday 24 August 2007

Star gazing with Google

Google have now made star gazing even easier for those so inclined with the addition of Google Sky to its Google Earth offering. The company have described it as turning Google Earth "on its head". Read more here.