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.