Archive for July, 2010

Lance Armstrong, Sports White Knight

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

As strange as it may seem an eerie parallel may run between the legacy of cyclist Lance Armstrong and that of the fictional Harvey Dent from the latest instalment of the Batman series, “The Dark Knight”. After the popularly proclaimed white knight of the piece, Harvey Dent is psychologically crippled and his previously upstanding character altered by the games of the villainous Joker, he loses his way and becomes consumed by a bloody revenge for the troubles he has endured. While he is ultimately killed off in the midst of his attempts to extract vengeance by murdering a member of the lieutenants family whom he believes to have failed him, the decision is made to protect the reputation and preserve the legacy of Gotham’s White Knight blaming his death instead on a rogue act by Batman the Dark Knight and never revealing the severity of the character degeneration the joker has imparted on Harvey Dent. The pretence is that what Gotham needs at this time is the reassurance that their popular hero was the man they thought he was, even if it was not the truth. The image of an infallible Dent and what it stood for was far more important then the truth about him. In a sporting context maybe the same is true of Lance Armstrong.

Last week’s admission by disgraced former Tour De France winner Floyd Landis that he had doped for the majority of his career as well as the sensational if somewhat tired allegations that he was not alone and that scores of other elite cyclists had been involved in similar elaborate practises of consumption and evasion have yet again thrust Lance Armstrong into what can only be described as an increasingly suspicious limelight, bringing the legitimacy of his career heroics into question. Of course people will for the most part discount Floyd Landis’s specific accusations because in reality his credibility is about as high as Jamie Redknapp’s IQ and not only that but the allegations reek of an ugly desperation to have others fall on cycling’s increasingly jagged sword along with him. All this considered do, Landis is far from alone in attempting to incriminate Armstrong, who has seen a significant number of his former US postal team (Landis amongst them) either be caught for or admit to taking performance enhancing drugs throughout their careers. Paul Kimmage at the Sunday Times has long been suspicious and even accusatory, while other former riders as well as Armstrong employees have also chimed in. In other words Landis’s accusations really only carry any weight at all because they are not made in a vacuum. Yet it still has to be pointed out however that Lance Armstrong has never been reprimanded for a failed doping test throughout his prestigious career (he did offer one positive sample in 1999 but was cleared on a medical exemption). However given that Landis himself was definitively caught only once over a career of persistent drug use, this lack of a guilty conviction alone does not prove his innocence.

From a personal point of view where I stand on it all is largely irrelevant but yet may be indicative of an admittedly illogical position held by more. We may all want truth and justice but it depends as to at what price. Who benefits if Armstrong is guilty? Floyd Landis? A disgruntled group of investigatory journalists? Where do we stand on the costs versus the benefits? Personally, I’ve generally been inclined to root for Lance Armstrong both on his bike and in his constant struggle to preserve his good name. Mostly this is derived from the fact that as the man we are presented with there is very little not to admire? Winner of the world’s premier cycling event, The Tour de France on seven consecutive occasions (1999-2005) in an admittedly murky period for the sport is one thing. A dating history that includes musician Sheryl Crowe and the gorgeous actress Kate Hudson is something entirely different. All these things aside however, what is undeniably the most obviously impressive and endearing of all Armstrong’s achievements, and what sets his legacy apart from those of his contemporaries is his much publicised yet undeniably heroic battle with testicular cancer.

In truth the outside world cannot and should not but marvel at the sheer willpower and determination with which the unconquerable Texan battled a prognosis which was originally quite bleak. His character in this time was simply inspirational. By the time Armstrong was diagnosed and began to receive treatment, the disease had spread from source and ended up with Armstrong enduring operations to remove tumours both from his brain and testicles as well as extensive chemotherapy. Having entered remission in 1997, Armstrong immediately set about establishing the Lance Armstrong Foundation as a way of promoting cancer research and supporting the medicinal fight against the disease. His continued work in this regard has been incredible while the impact his foundation has had in promoting and furthering the cause has been resounding. For the mainstream his work was probably greatest noticed by the popularity of the bright yellow Livestrong wristbands which adorned the wrists of millions of people in support of the cause a few short years ago. Even today although the wristbands have mostly disappeared, Lance’s commitment to the cause is as unwavering as ever.

Clearly all these bits and pieces feed into the makings of a man who frankly demands our reverance and resultantly, makes us want to believe that he is clean. That he achieved greatness in a noble fashion only. It might be in contradiction to the logic our minds suggests but it is undoubtedly what most people want to believe.

Ignoring however what we want to believe for a moment do, stripping away the sentiment and focusing on the cold hard logic of it all raises the question of what we should believe about Lance. Unquestionably The Tour De France as an event is a concept so gruelling that the very idea seems like it could only have been conjured by the devil himself. Run over the course of three tortuous weeks, the tour in its entirety comprises approximately 3600 kilometres of cycling, significant parts of which take place up and the down the steep inclines of the Pyrenees Mountains. Given the physical demands surely the whole event compromises the sporting manifestation of where performance enhancing drug users and non drug users should be separated the most. An advertisement for their potency. What do I mean by this well, think Michelle Smith the shameful Irish Olympian who won three gold medals in Atlanta having cheated her way to new heights from what had until then been a fairly mediocre international career. Or further back think of notorious American swimmer Shirley Babashoff often acclaimed as one of the greatest swimmers of all time who was robbed of individual gold medals at the 76 Olympics in Montreal by a team of pharmaceutically enhanced East Germans who had trailed in her wake only months before. Endurance sports such as swimming, athletics and cycling it would seem should be the arenas where drug use stands to be the most beneficial. Drugs such as EPO or HGH make you run faster, last longer, lift heavier, jump higher, recover quicker etc. The scientific process how they individually achieve this is irrelevant, the fact is that in endurance or physically based sports they offer a distinct advantage. Here therefore is where Landis’s testimony is most incriminating of Armstrong, the theory of guilt by comparable deeds if you will. Put simply, the very fact that Landis amongst others cheated for sustained periods of time and yet still lost to the supposedly clean Armstrong raises quite the few eyebrows. Personally, I find it seemingly impossible to believe that any athlete could have overcome the odds of beating the world’s greatest cyclists, enhanced by the worlds greatest pharmicists for seven straight years. This is not football or something where the use could be quantified to an extent by saying player A will not necessarily be better then player B if he takes drugs. In such contests, individual impulsive decision making, as well as subtleties like skill and touch are imperative to success and thankfully can not yet be replicated in the lab. Cycling however is almost purely an endurance sport whichever way you look at it.

In the wider context of drugs in sport how we should even view these things anymore is debatable. Things have almost now reached a stage where as an audience we are naturally suspicious of every seemingly amazing achievement. It’s not our fault however. Our cynicism has been hard earned, developed by years of shameful confessions and disheartening test results from former heroes. In a strange way certain people’s tolerances to them may be increasing. It varies across sports, baseball despite seemingly fostering an acceptance of drugs for a long time has so far abstained from enshrining suspected or confirmed drug cheats with hall of fame calibre careers in their hall of fame. The premise being that these players cannot stand in the same place as those who went before and achieved what they did in the spirit of fair competition while simultaneously upholding their sports integrity. This is a culture that should be applauded and upheld across all sports if the seeming trend towards a tolerance for doping is ever to be reversed. However the fact that critical legacies may need to be torn down for this to happen makes it a thankless and exceptionally difficult battle.

As icon after icon continues to falter in different ways all around us, from Tiger Woods to John Terry the wisdom of ever humanising these mock heroes comes into question. The heroes we need and therefore the heroes we know compared with how our heroes may really be is an important distinction. Put simply, what would it do for us and perhaps more importantly for the impressionable sporting youth to find out that a man so popularly revered for his sporting exploits, cancer struggle and charity work was in fact a manipulative doped up mercenary? Across the current sporting stratosphere, young millionaires are anointed as role models often before they are ready, and always whether it is appropriate or not. However this is not the case with Armstrong, he is different, a cancer survivor, and an ardent philanthropist as much as he is a cyclist. Again a distinction can even be drawn between the most recent and notorious example of a sports star miscast in our eyes. Tiger Woods, whose Dorian Gray like double life forced a completely different picture to be painted of Tiger then the one we had previously been presented with for an entire career is not really comparable with Lance. What Tiger was and is as a transcendent generational athlete most likely will not be sullied by personal issues. He rightfully remains a hero to many even still. After all, the lies we were told (or at least which we know to date) were personal, not professional. The same cannot be said of the charges brought against the similarly transcendent Texan. One has to feel that any conviction of or admission to guilt would be far more damaging than anything Tiger has so far plead guilty to. And maybe in truth that’s why we’ll never get one, despite how much our logic may demand it.

While there may be no Dark Knight to shoulder the collective burdens in this sporting reality, the image is still pertinent. After all as Lieutenant James Gordon recounts Batman “is the hero Gotham deserves but not the one it needs right now”. That after a tumultuous year for sporting heroes so far, appears to be a clean Lance Armstrong, the sporting world’s White Knight.

Tipp’s Youngsters

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

After watching the U/21 Munster Final on TG4 last night, it was fitting that they should show the 2002 All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Tipperary subsequently, one of the great games of the decade.

I couldn’t help but compare the current Tipperary team with that Kilkenny team.  Noel Hickey (21), JJ Delaney (20), Henry Shefflin (23), Michael Kavanagh (23), Derek Lyng (24), Martin Comerford (23), Eddie Brennan (23) are all still part of the Kilkenny set-up eight years later.  Three of these (Kavanagh, Hickey & Shefflin) started against Offaly in the 2000 All-Ireland Final, while Brennan came on as a late sub.

Tipperary’s 2010 senior panel includes Pa Bourke (22), Michael Cahill (21), Seamus Callinan (22), Michael Heffernan (21), Seamus Hennessy (20), Brendan Maher (21), Padraig Maher (21), Patrick Maher (20), Noel McGrath (19), Brian O’Meara (20) and Gearoid Ryan (22).  Seven of these started against Galway last weekend, whilst two more were brought on as substitutes in the last ten minutes.

Brendan Cummins, John O’Brien, Benny Dunne Eoin Kelly and Lar Corbett are still playing for Tipperary, from that game in August, 2002.  But these lads didn’t have the underage success that the current bunch of youngsters had.

Tipperary won the All-Ireland U-21 in 1995, but never competed in an All-Ireland final in that grade again until 2004; indeed ‘95 was their last All-Ireland U-21 win.  Tipp won the All-Ireland minor in 1996 after a replay, but didn’t win another one until 2006; then followed this up with another win in 2007.

All bar one of those youngsters have All-Ireland Minor and Munster U-21 medals (Brian O’Meara wasn’t part of either minor panel in 2006 and 2007).  Indeed, eight of them were beaten by Kilkenny in a very tight U-21 All-Ireland final in 2008.  Antrim, and Dublin or Galway now stand in Tipperary’s way of making amends for that slip-up.

Underage success doesn’t guarantee senior success however, and the inverse is also the case.  Kilkenny only won one All-Ireland U/21 title between 1995 and 2003.  They won no minor All-Ireland between 1993 and 2002.  Yet, between 2000 and 2009, they amassed seven All-Ireland Senior titles, reaching the All-Ireland final eight times.  Limerick won three All-Ireland U-21 titles at the start of the decade, but couldn’t follow them up with as much as a Provincial title.  Galway reached six out of seven All-Ireland U-21 Finals in a row at the turn of the century, losing every one of them.  They haven’t won a Senior All-Ireland since 1988.

Last night’s win for Tipperary was made all the greater by the fact that so many of them are producing the goods at senior level as well.  It can be difficult to come down off the high of beating Galway in a high-intensity senior quarter-final in Croke Park, to play an U-21 match on a Wednesday evening, three days later.  They were caught out last year in Dungarvan, when Waterford blitzed them by ten points in the Munster U-21 semi-final, just three days after winning the Munster Senior Final, of which four of them played a part, and three more were unused substitutes.  Lessons must have been learnt from last year.  It’s not so much the physical draining, as much as the mental.  It was looking like it was too much for them after three minutes when Waterford raced into a six point lead, but in fairness to them, they resolved the problems, settled down, and took the game to Clare for the remaining 55 minutes.

This young Tipperary senior team are unfortunate in that they are coming of age in the era of arguably the greatest hurling team of all time; Kilkenny.  But rather than this being a deterrent, it can be a blessing.  To beat this team, they will have to reach an extraordinary level.  They almost reached it last year in the All-Ireland Final, but were out-gunned and out-thought in the closing few minutes of the final.  To use an analogy, the King was not quite dead yet.

A year on, they overcame another harsh lesson in Cork on May 30th to defeat Wexford, Offaly and Galway, and have now set-up a semi-final clash with Waterford on August 15th in Croke Park.  This exam should be enough to gauge if they are finally ready to defeat the King, and become the King themselves.


Whirlwind Hayes

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

THERE are some people – and we all know one or two in our own lives – who are workaholics, balls of energy. In their whirlwind world the word ‘relax’ doesn’t exist.

Galway hurler Damien Hayes is such a man. You see it on the field every time he plays – he’s a buzz-saw, the road-runner, the guy who’s popping up everywhere, looking for the ball if the ball isn’t finding him. damien-hayes

As he is the maroon-and-white of Galway, however, in the blue-and-gold of Portumna, so he is in life.

A couple of hours in his company this week, even as he prepared for the All-Ireland quarter-final against Tipperary in Croke Park tomorrow, and you’re left gasping for air.

He jumps from the car and rushes across the forecourt of the impressive Al Hayes Garage forecourt where he works as a salesman (Al is his Dad). He’s running slightly late and you’re about to tell him that there’s no hurry, to slow down, when you realise it is pointless. Damien isn’t rushing – this is his natural pace, fast-twitch muscles forcing him into a walk that wants to break into a run.

“This is the way I am, and that’s the way I want it,” he explains, “I’m always on the go and am very seldom back at the house.”

Between work and play there are no breaks. In the hurling, for example, he’s training through the pain barrier. “I’ve been unfortunate in that I’ve got belts on my kneecap in three club games which has caused a lot of swelling. I got that sorted but I now have cyst on the kneecap – (and he rolls up the trouser-leg to display the problem).”

That will require an operation to remove, surely? “I don’t know, I haven’t asked that question, but I’m getting physio at the moment to try and get down the inflammation. Will I be playing on Sunday? For certain! I’ll soldier on, I’ll battle on. Something like this wouldn’t stop me anyway.

“It’s partially locked there at the moment, I can only flex the leg so far. After I warm up I get the full mobility but within hours of training finishing it stiffens up again.

“The knee would be sore after a competitive match for about three days. I’ve been taking time off work, no point saying I haven’t.”

Which brings us to the question of holidays – and the reply shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“I don’t take any. I took four days last year, went to Edinburgh from December 26 to the 30th with my girlfriend, that was my holiday. We stayed in a hotel on the main street, and walked everywhere. It was a great way to see the city and we loved it.”

The pair didn’t even stay for Hogmanay, the biggest date in the annual Scottish social calendar. Again the Galway star had more pressing issues on the home front.

“No, and I’ll tell you why. You can start registering cars on New Year’s Day, and we do, just to take the pressure off. Then we were back training on the second, with Portumna.”

Registering cars? Isn’t there a recession on, sales of new cars slumped – what’s the rush? And then, true salesmen that he is, with a trained eye for the kind of opening he has never eschewed on the field, he’s in! “We’re very fortunate in that we have Volkswagen, we’re Main Dealers. Volkswagen is a brilliant car to sell, new and second-hand. Last year we suffered big-time in the commercial sector but we continued to sell cars in the private sector. The recession didn’t hit us there. We had a great selling season, and this year started off very well also.

“We have our hire- drive cars coming back next month and that generates another boost in the market. Some people hold out for those cars that are coming back with eight or 10 thousand miles on them. And we retail everything, no matter what the age of the car we don’t trade to another garage. We have our own workshop, labour costs, mechanics, body-shop, and as long as we’re selling, that keeps everything going.”

He’s in second-hand sales, is Damien, and loves it, enjoys the interaction with the public, enjoys the sale especially. Well most of the time.

“Sometimes it’s hard. After losing the Leinster final, for example, you’re meeting people and they want to know – ‘why didn’t ye do this, why didn’t ye to that, were there problems in the camp’. And you have to answer all those questions, and answer them as politely as you can. But there’s a thrill in selling, a buzz when you close the deal.”

Bigger than when you score a goal? “No, definitely not. There’s a lad in the club and he’s great with stats and he tells me I’m after scoring 3-9 in the four championship games this year, which is good going. People often ask – how do you put up with it? I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve had some great days. Things are going well – I just hope that it continues, that we’ll meet the challenge of Tipperary this weekend.”

By Diarmuid O’Flynn

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kirby In Line For Limerick Manager Post

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

LIMERICK GAA chiefs last night had received four nominations for the position of county senior hurling boss ahead of today’s deadline for submissions by clubs across the county with former playing legend Gary Kirby the only confirmed candidate after being nominated by his club Patrickswell to succeed Justin McCarthy.

But a leading county board official last night revealed that the future intentions of McCarthy, whose two-year term ended after the All-Ireland qualifier defeat to Offaly in Tullamore earlier this month, were unclear.

McCarthy would not be drawn after the loss to Offaly on whether he would seek to be re-appointed. But even if his name is not submitted to the Limerick county board by this evening’s 5pm deadline, McCarthy could still be interviewed for the post as it is within the remit of the three-man sub-committee that was appointed last week to select the new manager, to interview candidates that were not proposed by Limerick clubs. The committee is comprised of former Limerick players Damien Quigley (Na Piarsaigh) and Paudie Fitzmaurice (Kileedy), and Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe. It is understood that the committee held separate meetings this week in the Deerpark Hotel in Charleville with the 2009 panel, and the squad that competed in the league and championship campaigns this season. It is also understood that the 2009 players at this meeting again reiterated their opposition to working with McCarthy.

The developments mean former Limerick attacking star Kirby is a frontrunner. Kirby served as a county selector under Richie Bennis between 2006 and 2008, before the Board called on McCarthy to take charge on Shannonside. During that period Kirby worked with the 24 members of the 2009 panel that did not feature this year, during his time as part of Bennis’s managerial setup and it is likely that Kirby’s appointment would be viewed in a favourable light by those players and would entice them back to the inter-county fold.

Kirby is also ideally placed to blend players from the 2009 and 2010 panels together into one squad given his current involvement with Patrickswell. Goalkeeper Brian Murray, who was one of the players to withdraw their services last winter after McCarthy’s initial decision to drop 12 players from the squad, and midfielder Thomas O’Brien, who struck 1-7 during that qualifier defeat to Offaly a fortnight ago, are both clubmates of Kirby.

Patrickswell secretary Máirtín O Riain feels that Kirby is an ideal candidate for the job.

“Gary’s the manager of our own senior team this year and has given great service to Limerick senior hurling both as a player and a selector. We feel that Gary is a suitable candidate.”

Despite speculation that former Carlow manager Jim Greene had also been nominated, he confirmed last night that he had received no notification from any Limerick club about putting forward his name. Greene, who departed the Carlow post in 2008 and also enjoyed success in charge of his native Mount Sion in Waterford, revealed that he would consider the proposal if he was approached.

Fintan O’Toole

Irish Examiner

Louth Meath replay looks less likely

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

LEINSTER SFC FINAL: NO REPLAY – not yet anyway. Whatever hopes Louth may still harbour of being offered a replay of Sunday’s controversial Leinster football final appeared even more remote last night when the executive committee of the Meath County Board failed to reach any decision on the issue, claiming instead that “they need more time”.

Time, however, is of the essence here, because unless a replay is fixed for this weekend then it almost certainly won’t happen at all.

The executive committee did discuss their options for over two hours in Navan last night, but when they then took those thoughts to the full board of delegates, county board chairman Barney Allen merely declared that no decision had been made, nor would he allow any further discussion on the night.

“We need more time to discuss the issues here,” he said, and that was that. Clearly, Croke Park’s statement earlier in the evening that under GAA Rules, a re-fixture cannot be ordered as the referee’s report of the full time score is final had further complicated the issue – this despite the fact that, in his referee report, Martin Sludden had admitted his error in awarding Meath’s winning goal.

In the end, the only question that was raised from the delegates came from Pat O’Neill, former chairman of the Meath County Board, who asked if the executive had themselves received a copy of the referee’s report. He was told they had not.

The Louth county executive committee also met last night to review Sunday’s incidents, and released a short statement: “On behalf of Louth GAA we wish to condemn the unsavoury incidents after the match. We will provide full co-operation with the relevant authorities to deal with the offenders.

“We are also seeking a copy of the referee’s report for clarification purposes to enable the Louth executive committee to consider all options available.”

The Leinster Council will now inevitably be consulted by Meath, and indeed Louth, given they are the ones who must still approve any replay, rather than Croke Park, but the Council has so far declined to make any comment on the potential outcome.

The issue was further complicated when it emerged members of the Meath team and management met separately in Gormanston last night, where reportedly there were “mixed feelings” on offering a replay – although it’s unclear what influence, if any, that might have had on the county executive.

The fact that a couple of Meath players had been assaulted by irate Louth supporters in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s game didn’t help draw full sympathy.

So, the fall out from Sunday’s final continues, which had seen Louth leading 1-10 to 0-12 with injury time effectively up, before Joe Sheridan sent the ball into the Louth net – illegally, on a couple of counts – and with that all hell broke loose. The GAA’s brief statement issued earlier yesterday first of all “condemns the actions of a small number of supporters who entered the pitch enclosure in an effort to remonstrate with the match referee Martin Sludden at the end of the Leinster senior football final”.

It added that An Garda Siochána has been provided with the television footage of the post-match events and Croke Park post-match security procedures will be reviewed in light of yesterday’s unacceptable incidents.

But crucially, the GAA confirmed also “that the referee’s report has been received and the referee has stated that he made a mistake in awarding the Meath goal. However, under GAA Rules, a re-fixture cannot be ordered as the referee’s report of the full time score is final.”

However there was no indication the GAA had made any attempt to influence the Meath county board ahead of last night’s meeting: “No, our stance is, if you back people into a corner you don’t always get the response you want,” said GAA press officer Alan Milton. “But it’s also a Leinster fixture, so it would be up to them to deal with it, if so.”

Earlier yesterday, Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick reiterated his severe disappointment at how events concluded on Sunday: “It’s just wrong, what happened. It took us 50 years to get here.

“The GAA are looking back at player discipline and everything else. I just think they should look back at this, if they have any decency at all, and do something.

“Because it was pure and utter daylight robbery. I don’t get a penny in this job. The players don’t get a penny. And we work so, so hard. For the referee to do what he did on us was totally out of order. All we want is fair play.”

Louth forward JP Rooney admited yesterday he had little sympathy for Sludden.

“I’m still waiting for somebody to say we’ve been the victims of a bad joke,” said Rooney, who has been a Louth senior footballer since 1999. “How could he give it?”

Three minutes into stoppage time, Rooney was booked for kicking the ball away as Louth tried to slow the game down and hang on for the win.

“I’m absolutely raging,” said the 30-year-old. “What’s the point in training all year when that happens? How he could give that goal, I don’t know.

“Aaron Hoey was pleading with him to consult with his umpires, but when he went in, he told them to put up the green flag. We had chances to shut out the game so in ways, we only have ourselves to blame. But a bit of fair play would be nice.

“You don’t want to see what happened afterwards but it’s heat of the moment stuff. A lot of the Louth people that went on are not violent people but when your blood’s up . . . I know it’s wrong people running at the ref – it’s an amateur game and he’s not getting anything out of it.

“But you can see why Louth people did it. He brought it on himself and I wouldn’t feel sorry for him.

“It always seems to be the minor counties that get the bad luck and the bad decisions at the end of each game. If it was the other way around, it definitely wouldn’t happen.”

Ian O’Riordan

The Irish Times

Play it again, Sepp

Friday, July 2nd, 2010


When Nailed On missed the bit in The Big Lebowski where Walter desperately calls for a ‘medic’ while Donnie lies helplessly in his arms having suffered a massive heart attack, we simply skipped back a few frames and hey presto! How we laughed. Not at Donnie, of course. We missed Donnie, part of us still does.

So, last week when the English and Mexican football teams (and Nailed On – despite a panic stricken bet on Germany at 9/5 just before kick-off) were shafted, we felt that the suits at FIFA should take a leaf out of our book and take another look. After all, it took a little under 20 seconds to find Walter’s battlefield plea, take it all in and watch it again; all with minimal disruption to our enjoyment, despite the personal complaints that we touched on last week.

We now find ourselves at a crossroads. Should we stick to our guns and see our sparse World Cup fund dwindle even further, especially when left in the lap of Sepp, or should we look elsewhere for our gains? We’re staying where we are of course; it only happens once every four years after all. This week we’re doubling up on Uruguay and Germany to make it through to the last four. Uruguay can get past the United States of Africa, as ITV’s Mr. Tyldsley refers to them – the rest of us proletariat folk know them as Ghana – while last week, Germany looked like, well, Germany. A solid unit with a killer instinct when it matters most – just like our Walter.  

Aware that we went against Argentina in 90 minutes last week, one might think that we’d have learned a valuable lesson by now. Obviously, that’s not the case. There’s still a lot of ill feeling between these two sides after meeting at a similar stage in 2006, but we can’t shake the feeling that when truly tested, Argentina will come up short. Podolski and Klose, the stalwarts of this German side, seem to come alive at major tournaments and both have been excellent so far. Ozil and Schweinsteiger will cause problems for the Argentine midfield and supply Podolski, Klose and Mueller with all they need to put an end to Argentina’s hopes.

Eur10 double on both Uruguay and Germany making it to the last four with Paddy Power will return Eur33, go with Boylesports and collect a slightly better Eur33.75, while Ladbrokes will leave you in the black to the tune of Eur32.50. Our charity bet is on with Boylesports.

Shot in the Dark

Miroslav Klose may be getting on a bit, but a price of 5/2 with Ladbrokes to score at any time against Argentina is tempting.

Spreading the Wealth

Sporting Index have bucket loads of specials on this weekend’s World Cup quarter finals but one which catches the eye is in their “Bankers” section.

We’ve plumbed for Uruguay, Brazil & Spain all to qualify (in 90 minutes). The spread is 8.5-11.5 with 50 points awarded if this happens and a further 10 points awarded for every team that scores four goals or more. We’re buying the spread at 11.5 which will land a minimum of 38.5 times the stake.

For the GAA lovers among you there are two interesting spreads for this weekend’s matches.  After Galway’s miraculous comeback on Sunday against Sligo, Sporting Index is offering a 1 point supremacy for the replay this Saturday. Galway can’t be as bad again and although the game is in Sligo, they’ll be too strong for the home side and should win with more to spare than just 1 point. So, we’re lumping Eur10 a point on a Galway win.

Kilkenny will be far too strong for a Galway team still far too reliant on Joe Canning and with a supremacy spread of 3 – 4.5, Kilkenny are a good buy at 4.5. Five quid a point for us.