Tuesday 29 May 2007

Nowhere to turn for eager voters

It's being declared as a stunning turnaround, a lazarus like recovery, the biggest comeback since the 2005 Champions League final. With his party polling just 34% in the Irish Times/MRBI poll (Fine Gael were at 31%) with just weeks to go to the Irish general election, it seemed Bertie Ahern's ten years at the top were going to end unceremoniously in last Thursdays ballot.
At the end of the voting Bertie and Fianna Fail sat pretty with over 41% of the popular vote and fell just five seats short of an overall majority. Politicians all over the world will be wondering what piece of Machiavellian brilliance turned the tide so quickly.
The reality is - I'm afraid - much less exciting. What it ultimately boils down to is the lack of a viable alternative. Yes, Fine Gael increased their lot, but the confidence in their proposed coalition with Labour was low. So too, dare I say it, is the confidence the Irish people hold for Enda Kenny as Taoiseach and international representative.
The voters have returned a minority FF/PD government, saying "we hold reservations, but the others haven't done enough to sway us" and a slightly more robust opposition, saying "show us what you are made of". Enda Kenny's claims that his party won the popular vote are nothing short of bizarre - 27.3% Enda!
I found some of the individual races very interesting . In the Cork South Central constituency, Fianna Fail polled one and two with Michael Martin and Michael McGrath elected on the first count. However this was not enough to keep the third seat in the constituency. Down the ticket voting was weak and Dennehy failed to capitalise on either the Martin/McGrath surpluses or the votes of eliminated PD John Minihan.
Equally interesting was Enda Kenny's constituency of Mayo, where Fine Gael took over half the vote and three of the five seats. Sadly for the party, this Kenny for Taoiseach impetus failed to inspire the rest of the country.
I don't hold out much expectation from the next Dail. I'm sure it will be more of the same. The real interest will be Bertie's move. I doubt even he expects to win a fourth term; could we see a Blair-like exodus mid term? Whatever he does, he won't be slipping quietly into the night. It's just not his style.

Friday 25 May 2007

Heartbreak in Athens

It was a tough watch on Wednesday. Knowing your team deserve the result but can't quite get it. That's the reason that, even for a Liverpool fan, it is hard to begrudge Milan their victory. Just like in Istanbul, the best team lost on Wednesday and that's very tough to take. Milan were favourites, as you would expect following the previous meeting of the teams. On the night, however, that tag was washed away as the reds intensity and impetus pinned Milan back throughout the first half.
The Liverpool performance was fantastic and a clear indictment of the Rafa revolution, which has been trundling along for the past two years, but which now needs an injection of pace. Liverpool made the chances but couldn't finish them and here in lies the reason Rafa has called for the club to spend big and spend now. United and Chelsea have both splashed out big money on match winners and Liverpool need to follow suit. Eto'o or Torres would be ideal plus a second striker, perhaps Michael Owen. The rest of the team is pretty solid although I'm sure there will be a midfielder and a defender added too. A game turning striker is key however.
To finish up on Wednesday's game, I think it's worth mentioning the players. They should be very proud of their performance. The distance the team has come in two years is phenomenol. The new finance in the club should help bridge the final divide between Liverpool and the other top teams, both in England and Europe.
Player Ratings:
Played very well and unlucky to be done by a wicked deflection. Commanded his box well.
Steady as always. Not sure why he was subbed. My player of the year.
Not one of his more prominent games but fairly solid. Legs were gone when Inzaghi got away from him to score the second.
Finished off a great season with a solid performance. Could be a reds great for many years to come.
Not had the greatest season. He played fairly well.
Bargain of the season. Did an great job on Kaka and may have stopped the second.
Not quite the same player this season. Had a reasonable game though.
Great first half. Everything good about Liverpool went through him.
Just not up to it. Time is right for him to go.
Played well and tried everything. Should probably have done better with the one-on-one. Still looks best suited to the free role.
Hard working as always, but shy on invention. His goal was just rewards for a good season. He'll be an invaluable partner to a new striker next year.

Tuesday 22 May 2007

Nervous times ahead!!!

I don't think I was nervous before the 2005 Champions League final. I think shock was the predominant emotion - shock that a team of about four footballers and a bunch of misfits managed to get through to Istanbul. This time out I'm all at sea and the concentration is waning for the past few days. I think the expectation this time around is harder to deal with than the carefree "we're just glad to be here" attitude of 2 years ago.

I believe the Liverpool team this time can match and beat Milan. There is a strong squad there especially in midfield. Rafa also has a lot more to work with in attack. In 2005 he only had two out and out strikers in the 16 man squad and of those two, Cisse was only half fit. This time he has Kuyt, Crouch, Bellamy and Fowler. None of them have been prolific this year, but any of them can win you a game.

I am going to call it as an odd goal victory for Liverpool. Could be 3-2. I'm also backing Harry Kewell to exorcise his Istanbul demons and be a positive influence on the game. Second guessing Rafa's selection is tough but here goes:

Finnan Carragher Agger Riise
Mascherano Alonso
Pennant Gerrard Kewell

Come on redmen!

Wednesday 16 May 2007

MoD sees sense

I was glad to see the MoD turn around their position on sending Prince Harry to Iraq. Credit to Harry for wishing to fulfil his duties as a soldier, however to send him would have been immensely irresponsible.
Enough have died in this dubious war without putting an additional target on a specific battalion.

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Robbing the poor to pay the Bates'

Leeds United have been seemingly clever about the decision to go into administration and be relegated this year rather than risk going down and potentially start in League 1 minus ten points.
Little, however, has been made of their long suffering fans (not that sympathy for Leeds fans is a natural tendency), many of whom bought ten and twenty year season tickets which are now null and void. As the most minor of the clubs creditors these fans will be the last to get anything back and at that it will be a tiny fraction of what they paid only a year or two ago.
Leeds should take a note of Charlton's behaviour. The south London club are offering a free season ticket in 2008/09 (Premiership they hope) to fans who sign up for a Championship one now. Bravo.