The current state of Irish football, the late, great David Rocastle, and the week’s best sportswriting

September 14, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

1. Like all tight games it was decided in a couple of key moments. The home team dominated the ball without carving out many openings; they created a couple of big chances and missed them. The away team pressed well and scored a belter off a half-chance. It could have gone either way: that’s football.

So why is this rather humdrum defeat being portrayed as some kind of historic disgrace? For no better reason than one of the teams is called Ireland, and the other is called Luxembourg. This apparently qualifies as a QED. Ireland once played in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, Luxembourg is a postage stamp on the map of Europe: what more is there to say?

‘Theatrical displays of outrage to Luxembourg defeat will get us nowhere,’ writes Ken Early in the Irish Times.

2. Behind every great sporting triumph there is often an untold story of struggle. Take Emma Hayes: the day before the Chelsea manager watched her side win the Women’s Super League title in 2015, she had to go to hospital to have a procedure to remove a contraceptive coil, which she had inserted to help relieve symptoms of endometriosis. 

This is not an easy subject to discuss – even for someone like Hayes, whose glittering CV, which includes three league titles, two FA Cups and two League Cups and brilliant coaching brain give her an aura of invincibility. She knows she is not superhuman, which is why, in her first major newspaper interview on living with endometriosis, she wants to talk so openly and in often disarming detail about the reality of life with the condition. 

The Telegraph’s Kate Rowan and Molly McElwee interview Chelsea manager Emma Hayes and Paralympian Charlotte Henshaw on their experiences of endometriosis.

3. The scars of that fateful night remain. For the Forristals. For the O’Grady family – “it’s a flame that never goes out,” says Martin’s brother Pat. “It was in a way a mini Stardust.” For the Costellos who gave their approval to this piece but politely declined to contribute.

‘Remembering Waterford GAA’s darkest night 40 years on,’ by The Irish Examiner’s John Fogarty.

A general view of hurls.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

4. Hipster has become a term of mild abuse in the football media and it is being bandied about in the current debate between Stephen Kenny supporters and those who dismiss his suitability for the job, the battle lines for which have been drawn along entirely predictable lines.

A legion of ex Republic of Ireland pros is lined up against Kenny, an individual who they do not know, nor probably wish to know, and probably won’t need to know if results continue along the present dismal path for too much longer.

Another comment piece after a dismal international window for Ireland, this one written by Paul Rowan for the Times (€).

5. David Rocastle’s family are huddled up on the sofa sharing stories and all his qualities shine through them. Waves of happiness, humility, humour — the way he lived his life — course through the conversation. His three children, Melissa, Ryan and Monique, carry the baton beautifully. 

It is not just the physical resemblance but the spirit that is unmissable. “I can look at each one of them and see David in them,” says their mum, Janet. “They all have a nice nature. He has left a lot here behind. Ryan is so much like David in his mannerisms and his character. He is kind just like his dad. As for the girls…” The family all crease up in a burst of hysterics. 

Monique has a determined glint in her eye as she picks up the explanation: “We are like how dad was on the pitch.” 

The Athletic’s Amy Lawrence profiles the late, great David Rocastle (€).

6. It’s perhaps, though, worth pausing and going back to basics, perhaps the most basic question of all: what is sport? Football boomed in the English public schools in the 19th century. It was partly because, with its demand for physical endurance, courage, strategy and calmness under pressure, it was seen as a tool for honing the skills required to run the Empire. It was also partly because Muscular Christianity, the prevailing doctrine of most of those schools, saw physical activity as worthwhile in itself, not least because it prevented what they euphemistically called “solipsism” (for it is a “truth universally acknowledged” that a boy left to his own devices will masturbate, a practice that at the time was thought to be not just a moral fault but to be physically debilitating; the sermons of the Reverend Edward Thring, headmaster of Uppingham School, contain numerous references to the belief without ever actually naming the practice that so concerns him, and he was far from alone).

Jonathan Wilson of Sports Illustrated on the future of the Champions League.

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