Keeping tabs on home from afar

I am in Chicago for a week's holiday, visiting my daughter Tressan and some friends so I didn't get to see any of the club action last weekend. However, while out at a rather quiet Gaelic Park last Sunday I was given a detailed run down on all of the club championship games by a very enthusiastic Ballintubber native, Vincent Finnerty.

Incidentally, he is convinced now that it is almost a certainty his home club will not be stopped from a three in a row which, if it happens, will be a fantastic achievement. However, that kind of talk is a little premature at this juncture as Crossmolina must be bang in form after their emphatic victory over Westport. Castlebar Mitchels will, understandably, be extremely disappointed not to have advanced to the semi-finals and, for the third year in a row, for failing to beat Ballintubber in the Championship. I spoke with Pat Holmes, the Castlebar Mitchels manager, before I departed and he was reasonably confident that his charges could not be in better shape for the challenge. To be perfectly honest I wasn't as convinced, not because I didn't think they were good enough, but because this Ballintubber side have really matured into a very good team and are proving very difficult to beat. Their success has clearly demonstrated that they are as hungry now for this year's title as they were three years ago. Watching them over the last few years, what has become evident is that not alone have they a number of key individuals to turn to when the going gets tough, but their trade mark cohesiveness and manic-like work ethic for one another are still to the fore. This kind of camaraderie is not unusual for 'country' teams and it is clear that the Ballintubber lads have a great unity of purpose when the pressure is at its greatest. They really do look formidable again this year and with the minor adjustments made to their style of play by successive managers, one would have to agree that they will be the favourites to land another Moclair this year. However, I know from my involvement with Crossmolina over the last few years that they (Crossmolina ) will not be in any fear of playing the two-time champions in a couple of weeks time. They have made an enormous improvement over the last two months and, having progressed to a quarter final by the skin of their teeth, maybe lady luck is smiling down on them in 2012. They were savaged by injuries to a number of key players for a couple of the earlier rounds and having watched how poor they were in the defeat to Ballinrobe during the Group stages, the spot light will undoubtedly focus a little more closely on them at this stage of the competition. Ballaghdareen's progress to the semi- final stages of the championship is not a surprise and their clash with Knockmore in the other semi-final will be equally fascinating.

How times have changed on the GAA scene Stateside

I mentioned I was in Gaelic Park last Sunday. There is nothing like the big crowds visiting this venue as there would have been down through the years. It was a hurling Sunday out there with just a handful of footballers floating about the place. I instantly recognised Ritchie Connors, son of the former All-Ireland winner from Walsh Island. He was out for the summer on a J1 visa to play football and was one of the lucky ones to get a couple of days work each week through his connections with McBrides GAA club. Alas, the towering young Offaly man has only played three matches since he arrived three months ago.

The other two scheduled games were conceded as the opposition couldn't field a team. We chatted about the newly appointed Offaly football manager, Emmet McDonnell, who, incidentally, is the third manager to be appointed in what has been a turbulent year for the county. This 33-year-old has no inter-county management experience, but has guided St Mary's of Edenderry to Hogan Cup success. He has a huge task to turn the fortunes of a county who only a few years ago were more than capable of competing with the big boys. Young O'Connor did not know who he (McDonnell ) was when the appointment was announced, but nonetheless is excited about Offaly's prospects of progressing out of, what he described as, a sorry state of affairs. Elsewhere, I see where some of the Kildare players have come out in support of retaining the services of Kieran McGeeney as their manager. It is a difficult decision for the Kildare county board as the big spending county has nothing of significance in the trophy cabinet after five years under the Armagh man. But this is the conundrum. Will they be any better by changing their manager. I don't think so.

Bolt lit up the Olympics

Like many of you, I spent quite a bit of time watching the Olympic Games over the past couple of weeks. Also, with the benefit of excellent and reliable internet coverage, I was able to enjoy watching the triumphant return of 'Team Ireland' with its collection of medals. I read a headline a few days ago where British prime minister David Cameron stated 'You only need two words to sum up these Games. Britain delivered’. The 2012 Games did benefit by having great weather, a modern tourist-ready city (15,000 well-trained cabbies who knew their way to the various venues ) and all the perks of being a stable, first world, and English speaking nation. But these Games also benefited from having two all time superstars competing, namely Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.

That was Britian's good fortune, not its doing. Bolt spent exactly 28.95 seconds ( add another 9.5/10 to include his leg of the spectacular 4 x 100m relay race ) in the Olympics spotlight and he owns the world. This guy lit up the Games by winning the 100m final in an Olympic record time and followed that performance up with a season’s best as he blazed to glory in the 200 metre final. This guy’s stride is so gigantic that he covers almost 40 feet per second. Indeed, at 6'5 and long- legged, Bolt takes 10 to 12 fewer strides to cover 200 metres than do shorter men. Tall men are usually not good at sprints. They do not have the explosive power of shorter men. That is until Bolt. The "living legend" as he has declared himself, lit up the Olympics for this viewer.

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