The Weekly Rant

Week 11

Glenswilly were unlucky today, losing a fiercely contested Ulster Senior Club Football championship final to Balinderry, champions of Derry. A Michael Murphy goal inside the first 30 seconds gave Glenswilly a platform to keep Balinderry at bay for the first 20 minutes. Balinderry’s Michael McIver’s fisted goal from a deflection plus some well taken points left Glenswilly four points adrift at half time.

A strong comeback at the beginning of the second half with 1-1 scored in the first minute with a couple more points tacked on saw the Donegal men led by the slimmest of margins briefly. However, Balinderry had time to settle and regroup. The remainder of the game was controlled by the Derry men and unfortunately it wasn’t to be Glenswilly’s day. Final score, 1-13 to 2-6.

I have fully supported Glenswilly throughout their Ulster campaign and was disappointed with today’s result. After all, they were representing all the clubs of Donegal and their club contains three of the stars of our county team so, support should have been unanimous around the county. Alas, this is the real world where inter-club rivalry, a good thing in general, often boils over into vicious hatred. Sometimes all it takes is one incident to spark a reaction which escalates into a cycle of hatred between some supporters and players of opposing clubs.

Of the supporters who attend matches only a very small minority actively display over-the-top aggression. This behaviour often tars the reputation of an entire club in the eyes of others looking for a reason to dislike a successful club. Every club in the country has its fair share of louts on the field, the side-lines and in the stands. These guys, thankfully, are tiny in numbers but unfortunately big on vocals. The County Board really should look at disciplinary action for supporters found to be bringing the reputation of their club into disrepute.

I’m reminded of an incident at the end of Naomh Conaill’s exit from the 2011 Senior County Championship at the hands of Glenswilly. A Glenswilly Maor Uisce confronted a Naomh Conaill player, who was quite obviously dejected having lost the game, and proceeded to squirt water in his face and followed up with the quip “There’s your Ulster Final for ya now ya… insert multiple expletives” -Naomh Conaill had been beaten in the 2010 Ulster Final by Crossmaglen- there followed a mass brawl which saw broken noses, jaws, fines and player suspensions. Since then relations between the two clubs have been strained to say the least and matches, boiling cauldrons of tension.

This incident stemmed from that horrible trait some of we Irish seem to have of resenting the success of others then revelling in their failure when in comes. A mutual professional respect between athletes and coaches from every club, you would think, should be automatic given that the level of sacrifice and hard work put in week in and week out is virtually the same. In the main it is but it’s the few who spark trouble when self-control is lost.

When I was reminded of the aforementioned incident yesterday, as a Naomh Conaill man, I did consider my support for Glenswilly today but it’s sport and I love it and I will always roar for the people representing my county whether it be football or tiddlywinks. We all should. We do it at inter-county level so, why the hell not at provincial and national club level?

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The Weekly Rant

Week Ten.

In September of this year the governing body of amateur boxing, AIBA, the International Boxing Association (amateur) rejected claims made by Katie Taylor that amateur boxing is “going backwards” Taylor (2013). Taylor, as we all know, is reigning Olympic Champion and is now preparing for a fifth World and sixth European title. It is fair to say that Katie is the greatest female boxer of all time. She made the claim after the lack of fighting opportunities following her success in the London 2012 Olympic Games. The tipping point was the fact that the European Championships, this summer, were held in a tent with a 100 seat capacity!

When Taylor clinched the Olympic title in London her immediate response as to her possible future as a pro fighter was an emphatic no, her focus was on retaining her gold medal in Rio 2016. The professional game was not for her.

AIBA responded by disagreeing with Wicklow woman’s claims on the regression of female boxing “far from it in fact”

Our development work at grassroots levels along with the inspiration offered by boxers like Katie Taylor, Nicola Adams, Claressa Shields and others is visibly taking effect on the number of young women who are engaging with the sport. AIBA (2013)

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                                                 Golden Wonder: Katie Taylor

So, how has grassroot development shown fruition?

Well.

Last night in London’s Excel Arena, in front of a non-sell out audience of hundreds, saw Taylor’s first fight since July. It was, as ever, a concise efficient performance with Taylor overcoming a last minute replacement opponent, Canadian, Caroline Veyre. Tonight, less than 24 hours later, Taylor fights again, this time in the Community Centre in Bray against Mira Potkonen from Finland. No doubt this will be a huge night for Taylor as it takes place across the road from her estate but to go from no fights in nearly six months to two, small time, under publicised events inside 24 hours, hardly constitutes going forward.

 

Watterson, J. (2013) Amateur boxing’s governing body Aiba rejects Katie Taylor’s claims, Available at: http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/other-sports/amateur-boxing-s-governing-body-aiba-rejects-katie-taylor-s-claims-1.1534992 (Accessed on 30th November 2013).

O’Donnell, D. (2013) Katie Taylor set for first professional fight, Available at: http://sportsnewsireland.com/boxing/boxing_irish/katie-taylor-set-for-first-professional-fight-2013-05-23/ (Accessed on 30th November 2013).

Kelly, N. (2013) No hype or fanfare, but Katie still setting the same high standard, Available at: http://thescore.thejournal.ie/katie-taylor-dublin-bray-1199620-Nov2013/ (Accessed on 30th November 2013).

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The Weekly Rant.

Week Nine.

The barefoot running movement looks to be in decline even though more and more shoe manufacturing companies are adopting the trend. The movement got a huge boost in 2009 with the release of Born to Run, Christopher McDougal’s seminal book on the subject. The book argues that the human foot should not be encased in a shoe laden with support systems and cushioning because how can fifty years of shoe design compete with the many tens of thousands of years of evolution which has given us the biomechanical wonder that is the human foot? McDougal claims the instances of lower leg and foot injuries has risen dramatically since the mid 1960’s coinciding with the introduction by Nike of the sport shoe. vibram_fivefingers

Humans evolved to run with a midfoot strike while running that is to say the impact of a midfoot strike is absorbed through the arch of the foot and the flex of the Achilles tendon with minimal vibration to the lower leg. The modern running shoe has, among other problems, heavy cushioning on the heel which promotes a heel strike while running which negates and by-passes the arch and its shock absorbing qualities. This sends the shock of the impact right up the tibia and fibula into the knees. One of the more common injuries resulting from this is shin splints. This stride pattern also means that the leading foot makes contact with the ground forward of the hips instead of directly under the hips which causes problems for the knees. These are just a couple of examples of the litany of problems caused as a result of these types of shoes. Barefoot running has proved popular in recent years as people are looking for alternative ways of healing reoccurring injuries.

video_vert_hp

The barefoot movement promotes running in a shoe with no support where the sole of the shoe is generally just 4mm thick and is only there to protect the foot from sharp objects. Most models of these shoes house the toes in separate compartments to encourage strengthening of the toes which improves balance and drive in the push off part of the run stride.

It can take as much as a year to fully adapt the body to running in these types of shoes. Many people rush this process and end up injured. I would consider myself an advocate although I don’t use the type of shoe described or pictured I do use a minimal shoe with no support. Although it has to be said, I never see barefooters winning races but they do rave about the health benefits.

What seems to be happening now is a lot of the big names in sportswear have versions of the barefoot shoe on the market. Unfortunately through product design, and no doubt marketing design, each new updated model seems to be gaining weight and support. Back to square one it seems.

 

McDougall, C. (2009) Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. New York: Knopf.

Doc, S. (2013) Why the Minimalist Footwear Trend Won’t Last, Available at: http://sock-doc.com/2013/11/minimalist-footwear-trend/ (Accessed on 18th November 2013).

Image links below.

http://myfightingwords.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/barefoot-is-best-vibram-five-finger-footwear/

http://www.vibramfivefingers.it/default.aspx

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The Weekly Rant

Week Eight

Back to Ironman this week and the “controversy” surrounding 2013’s Ironman World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae. Carfrae’s performance in Florida last weekend came under the spotlight as she, according to critics, used the occasion of Ironman Florida to “sandbag” the race. Sandbagging is a somewhat insulting American term for deliberately going just fast enough and no more to gain a qualifying time. In Carfrae’s case or Rinny as she is better known it was done to qualify for the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii next year without taxing her body as she would in a highly competitive race. In so doing, critics claim she has disrespected the Florida race and the very essence of sport which rewards honest effort.

Critics are missing the big picture here. Carfrae is a professional athlete Ironman is her job, her income. Kona is the be all and end all of Ironman especially for the defending World Champion or any professional. Ironman affiliated races around the world, including Florida, are part of the Ironman World Series with qualifying slots up for grabs for the final. They are seen as heats and as harsh as that may seem to people passionately involved in the organisation of these races that is the view of the two thousand who do and the many thousands who aspire to qualify for Kona each year.

Would you expect Usain Bolt to race at maximum effort in all of the qualifying heats at a race meet be it the Worlds or the Olympics? No. You would expect him to take a sensible approach which would see him do just enough to qualify and save his energy and best performance for when he needs it most, in the final. Call it sandbagging if you will.

Racing an Ironman takes a hell of a lot out of the body but the real toll is taken in the long hours, 30 – 40 a week, in training. We all know an athlete needs to be at their optimal level of physical and mental fitness when they toe the line at any race. In Ironman, endurance levels needed to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and run 26.2 are huge and if you intend to be world champion those levels rise to almost astronomical heights. Can you really blame a world champion for doing “just enough” to qualify at the very beginning of the season in order to focus training on the world final?

As Carfrae tweeted “#Konavalidate that is all”

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Carfrae, M. (2013) Mirindacarfrae on Twitter, Available at: https://twitter.com/DavieJCizzle/status/396771533852774400 (accessed: 09th November 2013)

Castello, P. (2013) Crowie, Rinny & Boom Boom Reed answer your questions, Available at: http://www.chicagonow.com/going-the-distance/2011/11/craig-alexander-mirinda-carfrae-answer-your-questions/ (accessed: 09th November 2013)

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The Weekly Rant

Week Seven

It’s golf this week and the ridiculousness of its rules and sanctions. Last week at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, Yorkshire man, Simon Dyson was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. The possible sanctions and the way in which the offence was brought to attention is beyond silly.

Dyson, a winner of six European Tour titles denies deliberately using the ball to tap down an obstruction between his ball and the hole as he marked his ball on the eighth green. See for yourself here (was the divot even on the putting line? Looked a bit to the left to me.) . At this point if the player deliberately flattened the obstruction he would have had to mark a two-shot penalty on his card. Dyson did not and was in breach of rule 16-1a which forbids a player touching the line of the putt. The possible sanction is a three month ban from the European Tour! Three months for absent mindedly tapping down a spike divot!

Upon viewing the footage afterwards Dyson said he was “bitterly disappointed” and that he had no way of explaining why or how he came to do what he did “I can’t even remember doing it.” Dyson (2013) “I have never deliberately broken the rules, either on this occasion or in the past.” Dyson (2013). He immediately accepted that he should be disqualified. I do believe it was a genuine case of his brain taking a holiday as even a woefully useless and impatient pitch ’n’ putt hasher such as myself knows you don’t do that! Especially when you know the world is watching and watching they were.

European chief referee, John Parmor was alerted by television viewers of the infraction which could see the golfer banned. To save possible embarrassment Dyson has withdrawn from next week’s Turkish Open fearing an announcement of his punishment during the competition. These viewers really should get out more, get themselves a life. I can imagine the situation. Two or more (probably more, mob mentality…) prats at the bar after a round at the local club are now full of brandy and engaging in the heated argument over Dyson’s misdemeanour. After yet more brandy and pontificating they now see it as their duty protect the integrity of “our” game and to Google the referee’s name and call him up to report this reprobate. Get a life!

References

Dyson, S. (2013) Dyson disqualified in Shanghai, Available at: http://m.bbc.com/sport/golf/24682552  (accessed: 03rd November 2013)

Dyson, S. (2013) Tour to consider Dyson punishment, Available at: http://m.bbc.com/sport/golf/24756215 (accessed: 03rd November 2013)

 

 

 

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Thinking Outside The Box

Immediately after the training session we are going to start an active recovery session. This will begin with lengths of the field with the following exercises included.

  • 2 lengths – slow jog to settle heart rates.
  • 1 length – Butt Kicks. Alternatively kick your right and left heels towards the butt as quick as possible for a count of 20 (on) with a count of 20 (off) recovery then repeat. All the while maintaining progress down the field.
  • 1 length – High Knees. While maintaining forward momentum quickly lifts the knees to a point where the thighs are parallel with the ground. 20 seconds on 20 seconds off.
  • 1 length – Strides. Exaggerate the running motion swinging the arms loosely away above the head in time with an elongated leg stride almost long jump like with a slight pause in all movement while in the air between each step.

Line up the athletes in rows all facing the coach. Start some light stretches focusing on the leg and back muscles.

  • Hamstrings. Feet slightly more than shoulder width apart with knees locked, bend over letting nothing but body weight control the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds. Stand upright, push the fists gently into the back just above the buttocks, push the hips forward, lean the shoulders back slightly until a light stretch is felt in the upper section of the quadriceps/hip flexors. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat entire exercise 3 times. Each time gently reaching a little further towards the toes. Do not stretch through pain.
  • Stretch the quads by lifting the right heel towards the right hamstrings. Grasp the foot with the right hand. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Alternating between left and right legs. Do not stretch through pain.
  • Find steps, a kerb, a low bench or have a row blocks or thick (5-6 inch) planks spaced out on the ground. Have the Athletes stand on the edge of the step with feet a few inches apart and both heels just at the edge. Bring the right foot back so that the ball of the foot is on the edge of the step. Slowly ease the bodyweight over onto the right hip while slightly bending the left knee keeping the right knee locked lower the right heel a few inches towards the floor. All the while maintaining an upright posture. A stretch will be felt in the right calf. Do not force this stretch. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times alternating between left and right sides. Do not stretch through pain.

Week Two

Every now and then an athlete can get tired or lose the fire that has kept him or her going through all the hard work of training, early morning starts and sacrifices that has kept him or her at the top of their game.

If I had a choice of motivational speakers to introduce to a team of athletes in this situation or indeed at any point along the way especially before competition it would have to be Dick Hoyt. If half an hour in the company of this man wouldn’t get you motivated then you’re made of stone.

Dick’s son Rick suffers from Cerebral Palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak he communicates via specially designed computer on his chair. Some years ago Rick wondered what it would feel like to take part in a marathon so, his dad, Dick ran the marathon while pushing Rick around the course. This continued for a few races until the Ironman triathlon caught the attention of the young Rick. So, the inevitable happened. Swimming 2.4 miles with Rick being towed in an inflatable dingy, cycling 112 miles Rick sat at the front of a specially adapted bicycle and finally Dick slogged through a full marathon pushing his son in an adapted wheelchair.

Much of this event was captured on film and became an internet sensation when it was put to music. It was even used in the dressing room of the Donegal Senior football team before the beginning of the successful 2012 championship season. It has inspired me and I’m quite sure it will continue to inspire. Have a wee look.

Week Three.

As Inter-county training often takes place on various different club grounds around the county this week’s wind down will involve a visit from the local clubs under tens team.

The plan is for each of the senior lads to pair up with one of the kids playing in the same position as themselves and mentor him or her through the training session. The idea is to have the session in the same format as the county session, obviously not as difficult, to give the kids a taste of what their idols do in training and to give them a major boost of confidence not to mention excitement.

The seniors should have a think about what advice they would impart to the kids on topics such as sportsmanship, fair play, dedication, enjoying the game, diet etc. A game should be organised at the end of the session and managed by the seniors. The county management set up could also take part in the exercise to by having a workshop with the underage management at all levels within the club. In particular paying close attention to the differences between managing young adults and children.

As County teams usually have a surplus of gear it would be a nice idea at the end to hand out jerseys or gloves to the kids.

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The Weekly Boost

The Brief

Rea, a 12 year old girl, is in serious need of help. Her weight is becoming an issue and whilst she spends an extraordinary amount of time online chatting to “friends” on Facebook, nobody calls at the house or invites her to their house. She has just started in a local secondary school. She is the youngest in her class by 8 months. Her self-confidence is very poor.

The Task

Her mother (Mary) has asked you to advise her on doing something positive for Rea. Every week for the next 12 weeks, think of simple things that you believe could help Rea in a positive way. You will send a weekly update to Mary which she will then do over the following seven days. The objective is to get Rea active and prepared to join in. You will never actually get to meet Rea!

The Plan

Over the next twelve weeks we will look at and address what I feel are the three core issues causing concern here.

  • Diet.
  • The issue with social isolation both in and out of school.
  • The lack of physical activity related to the excessive amount of time spent on the internet.

Together we will put in place a plan of attack for each of these three areas. Each plan will weave together in both of your daily lives over the course of the twelve weeks gradually forming a smooth transition to what will be a new lifestyle for both of you and in particular, Rea. Every week we will address an aspect from one or more of these three areas giving you a weekly task/s to be carried out as best as possible.

The first thing that can begin immediately is amending the diet in particular the amount of sugar in the foods we eat.

Sugar not used up by the body for energy will be stored as fat.

When this is coupled with a lack of exercise weight gain is almost always inevitable. So much of the food we eat contains way too much sugar in particular processed foods. Processed foods are foods which have been subjected to anything between one and possibly dozens of processes to get them to the stage they are at when you pick them from the shop shelf. Each of these processes usually include adding sugars, chemical preservatives among other unnatural ingredients which takes the food item further away from the form in which nature intended it to be in and the form in which our bodies have evolved to digest it.

Try as best as possible to begin a “whole food” diet. That is, foods in their natural state such as whole veg, fruit, freshly butchered meats from the local butcher, eggs etc. Think of food on a scale of 1 – 10.

10 – Heavily processed such as confectionary and biscuits

1 – An apple picked from a tree in your garden or freshly dug organic potatoes.

Think about every food item you buy and how it was produced. What processes do you think were involved, what was added and can perhaps a shop bought ready-made meal be made with fresh whole ingredients at home? Get Rea involved in food preparation. Take her grocery shopping with you. Introduce her to the healthy foods available. At first it can be a difficult and expensive task to source food which is low on the scale but you will find it easier as the weeks and months go by.

The goal for this first week is to work towards getting everything you eat from now on as low down on this scale as your budget will allow. As well as the long terms effects of a healthy diet more immediately this new approach will give both of you more energy to approach the challenges ahead.

Week Two.

We’ll begin this week by addressing the excessive time spent by Rea on the internet. First of all you are not unique in this regard. Here is an interesting article which may shock you but ultimately may alleviate some concerns. We need to accept that the internet is here and here to stay. Its positive and negative effects will continue to play a huge role in the lives of everyone. Negative effects include missing out on physical exercise, time spent with family and friends, failing to do homework and chores around the home but it is also a rich source of information which can enhance Rea’s education and it is fun. So, let’s not dismiss it from your lives completely.

The long term plan with Rea is to eliminate the negative effects ending up with a situation where on week days’ time online is reduced down to an hour in the evening after dinner and when all homework is finished and two hours a day at the weekend. The daily weekend hours can be divided into two or more blocks as long as it does not interfere with daily activities or chores. All internet sessions will take place on a device which is permanently based in the main living areas of the home, either the living room and/or kitchen. No more internet access in the bedroom. This will be non-negotiable. You will have control over the security and safe search settings and regularly monitor search history.

You need to think through your approach to this and what you are going to say. Beware of the possible responses from Rea. If she is becoming addicted to the internet or perhaps already is, an unpleasant emotional response is likely. Acknowledge her responses but do not get drawn away from the issue of internet usage into an argument over disrespect. ikeepsafe. (2013)

Let Rea know your concerns about her spending too much time on the net. Let her know that over the next few weeks the length of time online will be gradually reduced in line with the long term plan above.

This week, together with Rea begin a logbook. In This logbook keep track of the time spent online, the log on times, the sites visited and the time spent on each site. It should be fairly obvious if Rea is being honest with you on this. The idea of this logbook is to build trust and also to come to an agreement on which sessions could, without too much confrontation, be shortened, cut out or condensed into another session.

Gradually begin cutting some of these sessions out and replacing them with activities such as, helping to prepare meals, the shopping trips we discussed last week or give Rea the responsibility of walking the dog on a regular basis. Because Rea will no longer have internet access in her bedroom she should be out spending more time with you. She will most likely be moody for a few days or more but will eventually settle into this new routine.

Reference list

http://www.ikeepsafe.org/be-a-pro/balance/too-much-time-online/ [accessed 27/09/2013]

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/7118354/Children-spend-7-hours-38-mins-a-day-online.html [accessed 27/09/2013]

Week Three

A lot of schools across Donegal have adopted or are looking at a branch of a strategic plan developed by Donegal Sports Partnership called Schools Active. The Donegal Sports Partnership mantra is that they are committed to working with children and young people. They believe that increasing participation at a young age is the basis to a lifelong engagement in sport and physical activity and the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Equally as important I would add that it is also a place where lasting friendships are made.

As part of this plan Donegal Sports Partnership has a programme available to schools called Girls Active in-which schools partake in a huge range of sports and physical activities. Include are field trips to places like Garten Outdoor Education Centre where activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, orienteering, archery, raft building and most importantly, fun are the order of the day. Often, sharing in exhilarating new experiences such as these new friendships can develop and flourish.

This week contact Rea’s school. Ask the PE teacher if the school has signed up to the Active Schools Programme in particular the Active Girls. Recently a PE teacher told me about an on-going and widespread trend where a majority of secondary school girls can always produce a parental note excusing them from PE class. Is this the case with Rea? If so, we can look into that in the coming weeks. Also this week speak to the parents of other girls in Rea’s year. Are they concerned about their daughters’ low levels of physical activity? Inform them of the Girls Active programme. Maybe they could add pressure to the school to implement it. This is a link to some information on the Sports Plan which may be useful when talking with the other parents.

You may have noticed the advice this week has been orientated towards you rather than Rea. The restrictions on internet usage has probably been a sore point this week so, let’s not add more fuel to the fire by laying down even more demands. In saying that, there should now be a considerable reduction in time online. Keep going with the logbook and keep working towards the daily allowances. Hopefully Rea is putting this new free time to use as prescribed, helping you with chores like cleaning, preparing meals, shopping, walking the dog and importantly spending less time in her room and more with you.

Week Four

The amount of time Rea spends on the internet should now be coming close to the recommendations from two weeks ago. She should now therefor have plenty of free time which we will now try to fill with more social activities with exercise in mind. This week we will begin by getting Rea out and about perhaps meeting up with her classmates or even new kids her age that may not necessarily be in the same school

Are there any hobbies or passions Rea may have or are there classes or local clubs whose aim is physical exercise and fun for kids her age that she may be interested in? An important point here is to not force Rea into doing an activity if she is not eager about. She will lose any feigned interest very quickly with feelings of resentment possibly rising if she is forced to keep attending. Instead, have an informal chat with Rea about activities she might like to try out.

There are lots of groups and clubs around Letterkenny. There are bound to be something out there to grab her imagination. A quick search of the internet will throw up a range of activities that might be of interest. Among them are various different classes available in the Letterkenny Community Centre including Karate on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at €5 per class and Irish dancing on Fridays 4.30-8.00pm and Wednesdays 4.00 – 5.00pm. There is also Recreational Gymnastics available for kids who have never tried gymnastics. These classes are not competitive, just for fun. Introductory courses are from €30 – €40 for 8 weeks with classes lasting 60 – 90 minutes. There’s also the Fox N Crew Dance Academy who do hip-hop, street and modern dance.

This is just one example of centres around town where there are a wide range of activities on offer. Encourage her to try all the activities she is interested in to see which ones she is happiest with.

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The Weekly Rant

The weekend just past saw the culmination of a season’s work by the men and women of the International Triathlon Union. London was the venue for the world championship finale in which the sport’s top triathletes covered the Olympic distance of 1500 metres for the swim, 40kms for the bike and 10kms for the run. Saturday hosted the women and Sunday the men attracting huge crowds in the ever growing sport.

Derry girl, Aileen Reid nee Morrison took a very impressive silver on the day which bumped her up into 8th place in the world for 2013. A wee bit more recognition from our national broadcaster is more than deserved. But for a crash on the bike during the London 2012 Olympic race there is little doubt that she would have been on the podium and would now be a household name around Ireland.

On Sunday England’s Brownlee Brothers finished off a somewhat disappointing day with a reoccurrence of an ankle injury for Alistair and a second place finish for Johnny, beaten to the line in an all-out sprint by the ever popular Spaniard, Javier Gomez. Further down the course Alistair’s misfortunes this season with injury left him hobbling along the run discipline, a sight which was a green light for Spain’s Mario Mola to put the foot down and seize the overall bronzed podium step from Alistair. Johnny’s tactics in the run were later criticised by Alistair in a way only a brother can “I’ll be giving him a lot of stick for that.” “He’s thrown a world title away today for being a complete tactical numpty.”

Elsewhere with just four weeks to go to the World Ironman Championship in Hawai’i excited racers are tapering down and thinking about shipping bikes and the infamous hot winds on Kailua-Kona. More on that in the next few weeks.

Week Two

An Ultra Marathon is defined as anything over the traditional distance of 26.2 miles. It’s all pretty vague when you consider races can be from 160 miles or more downwards. Walking parts of an ultra is acceptable and more often than not economic in energy conservation particularly when the race is off-road and you are confronted with extremely steep mountain sides.

Is the mystique surrounding the marathon distance deserved? Does this mystique scare people who would otherwise be well capable of finishing the distance? Is it possible to run a marathon or longer on minimal or no marathon specific training? Let the experiment begin!

I have ran a few mountain marathons this summer but unfortunately ended up injured after my last one at the end of July. Since then the only training I have had was two five and six mile runs and my last run, a 15 miler a few weeks back which put me back on the physio bench and square one. It would be fair to say I’m in the worst shape I’ve been in for a number of years.

My friend, Micheal on the other hand is in great shape, a phenomenal cyclist but never ever runs. Over the last four weeks he has got his running distance up to 15 miles in preparation for the purposes of this experiment.

At an ungodly hour on Saturday morning I found myself on a chilly beach at the start line of a 41 mile ultra. Micheal, a couple of hours later at the same event would start his first ever marathon, an off-roader to boot. Over the following hours a mental and physical battle took place over beaches, crags, headlands and mountains. After the 26 mile point was passed I was in new territory in-terms of running, gradually the body started to break down. First the knees, then the ankles, then my right hip followed by my lower back, all old niggles come back to bite me on the bum. At 39 miles two miles short of the finish for the first time in my life I withdrew from a race. I was barely able to walk for the final few miles. The body had finally overruled the mind. Micheal stormed the marathon finishing in 13th place out of 150 entrants.

Is the mystique deserved? Leaving aside the wonderful history and lore associated with the distance I don’t think so. It’s just a distance like any other achievable by anyone who is prepared to put the work in.

Does the mystique of a marathon scare people away? Just ask someone would they ever consider running one.

Is it possible to run a marathon or longer on minimal or no specific training? Yes if your mission is just to finish but only if you have a reasonably high level of fitness gained through another sport or yes, if you haven’t trained for a couple of months but had a high level of fitness before and are mentally used to pushing the body through all sorts of torture for extended periods of time.

If you have stairs in your house forget about it, it’s not worth it!!

Week Three

There is now just over a week to go until the 2013 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawai’i. “By qualification only” it proudly boasts on its website. You qualify by either putting your name in a lottery pool, with those having completed 12 or more full Ironman races getting the first shout at 300 places or true qualification meaning you have to be placed in your age group in one of the World Series races which take place each year around the globe. Not a chance! But I have tried a couple of times to no avail. I’m not giving up. I’m two years into a 44 year plan. I am figuring by then my age group will be full of aul bucks and I may have by then learned how to swim properly.

Kona, as the race is more often simply referred to as has almost a holy grail like status among long distance triathletes, held sacrosanct by all who dream, “one day.”

Sadly, Ironman organisers have begun to let rich or bankrolled celebrities take part in the world final! Gordon “f%(king” Ramsey and former American footballer Hines Ward to name a couple are toeing the line on the 12th of October without having gained a qualification slot. Last year Lance Armstrong thought he would have a go. Thankfully he was finally exposed as the quare hoor he was before he could disgrace yet another sport though not before the Queen of Kona, Chrissie Wellington, legend, made no bones about it in an interview “he would have to qualify like everyone else.” Fair play to you Chrissie. Sadly it seems the spirit of the Big Island is open to suggestion and the greasing of its backhand. All in the name of promotion of course.

Week Four.

Senior Gaelic football star, Michael Murphy has been put into a rather stressful situation where he has to choose between club and country this week. Murphy’s club, Glenswilly, of which he is captain will contest the Senior County Final against Killybegs on Sunday October 20th after a narrow victory over Ardara last weekend. The following day an Ireland Select is due to take on Australia in the first leg of the International Rules Series where Murphy has been given the captaincy of the Irish side.

An appeal from Glenswilly to the County Board to change the date of the county final to allow Murphy, one of the biggest GAA stars in the country to play in both games has been turned down. The County Board did apply to the Ulster Council to postpone for a week the first round of the Ulster Club Championship which would facilitate the County Board’s changing of the county final date. This was turned down. A further appeal from Glenswilly to The County Board to change the final date to Friday October 25th was also shot down.

This has been accepted by Glenswilly and Murphy will now play both games. He will in no doubt play a quieter role in the International game. Hopefully he will start the game which means he will hold onto the captain’s armband.

There has been lots of sympathy for the dilemma Murphy has found himself in. Most, including myself, have been deriding the County Board for not accommodating the biggest star in the county to captain his country and in so doing give a full-on performance. Instead, he will have to mind himself for the final which of course is hugely important to him. Others, in particular Martin McHugh, not known for his support of the International Rules Series commends the County Board in their decision to stand their ground against “a made up game” McHugh. M (2013) Hoganstand, Available at: http://www.hoganstand.com/Donegal/ArticleForm.aspx?ID=202527 (Accessed: 12th of October 2013) Championship football should not be undermined by frivolities such as this silly game, right?

My gripe is how the County Board now look like they have done all that possibly could be done could to accommodate Murphy and how they can now wash their hands of blame by saying the Ulster Council turned our request down.

But wait a minute!

This International Rules Tour has been penciled into the calendar now for TWO YEARS. Yet after Donegal’s exit from the All-Ireland Championship this year on August 4th the County Board decided not to pick up the club championship matches again until the weekend of September 14th-15th. Why? Clubs objected because players were going on holidays in August. More Frivolities! How many championship-free weekends was that? Five! Five weekends where the County Board knowing that it was highly likely that Donegal players would feature strongly in the International Rules Series could have stood their ground and said no. Thus by now we would have a county champion and have the pleasure of watching one of the greatest exponents of Gaelic football on an international stage.

Week Five

This International Rules contest is, as the week goes on, gaining a large amount of detractors. The game itself was enjoyable once the players it seemed caught up with the rules and that primal competitive edge in us all finally began to emerge from the holidaymakers. It’s the notion of the ideals and the point of the game that is causing most of the fuss. Originally it was designed to remind both Ireland and Australia about shared heritage; how the Australian game is a direct descendant of the Irish game and also cough cough a wee holiday for the lads. A progressive an innovative idea in the main.

The backlash on the web forums however is probably a fair reflection on the general lack of support in the wider community with people referring to it a sham of a game and a drinking holiday for the Aussies. They’re pondering whether anyone even knows the rules or how to define the tackle (that old chestnut), the round ball is unfair on the Aussies etc. If your knickers are twisting over this switch over to the XFactor! Nobody is forcing you to watch.

The end of this game must surely be nigh though as even the GAA can’t agree if it’s a good thing or not. Headquarters seem to be on one side of the choir with the clubs on the other both singing from a different hymn book. Last week I mentioned Michael Murphy’s dilemma. Now this week, it emerged, Eglish Football Club in Tyrone refused to budge when Tyrone star, Sean Cavanagh’s club, Moy asked for a league relegation decider, set for the same evening, to be rearranged so Cavanagh could line out for Ireland. Big deal I hear you say. Yeah, it is because Eglish GAA club is the club of the late Cormac McAnallen. The same Cormac McAnallen the International Rules Series’ trophy is named after! This kind of intransigence stinks of begrudgery, thick headedness and downright disrespect to McAnallen’s memory. Eglish, with the trophy named after such an illustrious clubman could spin this in such a positive light instead choose to mire it down with negativity and petty jealousy. Down with this sort of thing.

Week Six

Slavery it seems is living and well alongside corruption in the richest country in the world Kunad (2013) and by awarding the 2022 World Cup to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar FIFA has effectively turned a blind eye. With FIFA president Sepp Blatter claiming the situation “is not FIFA’s primary responsibility”. Scott-Elliot (2013)

70 Nepalese construction workers have died on building sites connected with the tournament since the start of 2012. Workers have been forced to work in summer temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius without drinking water. Employers have also been accused of keeping the workers’ passports, preventing them from leaving the state and forcing them to live in what are essentially shanty towns. Manfred (2013) The International Trade Union Confederation estimate that as many as 4,000 construction workers could die before the tournament starts if action is not taken. Scott-Elliot (2013)

The very fact that the summer temperatures are so incredibly stifling in Qatar should have been reason enough to rule out their hosting of the event.  As part of Qatar’s bid, which estimates put the final spend at 220 million US dollars, Manfred (2013) was the promise of air conditioned stadia. After the success of the Qatari bid this idea was scrapped because of its unsustainability and expense on large scale arenas. Associated Press (2011) The city which will host the actual final is still a baron, desolate expanse of burning sand because the city, Lusail does not exist yet.

When it comes to organisations or nations who try to solve seemingly insurmountable problems by flinging money in that direction it is hardly surprising corruption seems to be at the core. FIFA Executive Committee (ExCo) voters have always been subject to a certain degree of political lobbying particularly when it comes to World Cup hosting. This lobbying of voters is strictly against FIFA rules with expulsion a punishment. However the Qatari bid carried with it unprecedented levels of political influence particularly around Europe because of major economic interests in Qatar. ExCo member Michel Platini has publically stated he was asked by the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to vote for Qatar. Harris (2013) It is not known if Platini received an incentive for voting but there are numerous reports on other ExCo voters elsewhere around the world asking for and receiving sweeteners. Lord Triesman of the England 2018 bid claimed FIFA Vice President Jack Warner suggested in return for his vote a fee of 2.5 million pound sterling be paid through him for a school in Trinidad. Paraguay’s ExCo member, Nicolas Leoz asked Triesman for a Knighthood. It is claimed by The Sunday Times Cameroon and Ivory Coast ExCo voters each received 1.5miliion US dollars in return for a 2022 Qatari vote. The Sunday Times also claim that Qatar hired a fixer to deal with the voters in the African nations. Press Association (2011)

The beautiful game it is not.

Reference list and Bibliography

Kunad, K. (2013) The Top Ten Richest Countries in the World 2013, Available at: http://www.clicktop10.com/2013/05/top-10-richest-countries-in-the-world-in-2013/ (Accessed: 28th October 2013).

Scott-Elliot, R. (2013) Sepp Blatter washes hands of workers’ plight at 2022 Qatar World Cup, Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/sepp-blatter-washes-hands-of-workers-plight-at-2022-qatar-world-cup-8858946.html (accessed: 28th October 2013).

Manfred, T. (2013) 11 Reasons Why The Qatar World Cup Is Going To Be A Disaster, Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/11-reasons-why-the-qatar-world-cup-will-be-a-disaster-2013-9 (accessed: 28th October 2013).

Associated Press. (2011) Qatar urged to scrap air conditioning in stadium, Available at: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=soccer&id=7206958 (Accessed: 28th October 2013).

Harris, N (2013)World Cup could be TAKEN AWAY from Qatar after Blatter probe unearths unfair political voting influence, Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2427853/Qatar-World-Cup-2022-taken-away-political-voting-influence-claim.html (accessed: 28th October 2013)

Press Association. (2011) Lord Triesman accuses Fifa executives of ‘unethical behaviour’, Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2011/may/10/lord-triesman-fifa (accessed: 28th October 2013)

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