Politics Sport

Ireland 16 – New Zealand 9. A New Metaphor for Brexit.

God, we needed that.

For so many reasons we needed to beat New Zealand but not least, may I submit, as an antidote to all this Brexit bullshit we’ve been enduring for what seems like the last fifty years.

We needed our boys to make a statement on that field at Lansdowne Road — I will never use the A-word when referring to that place — and by Jesus they stood up and gave the world a big, loud message.

It’s over. We’re no longer satisfied with being second. We’re here and it’s time to get used to us.

Oddly, this is the same message we’ve sent out in regard to Brexit, to the utter incomprehension of the smug, superior Tory toffs who have been goading Britain over the cliff edge for the last two years. How ironic that this is  the centenary of the bloodbath when the Brexiteers’ antecedents goaded poor British people over the walls of the trenches in France and Belgium to be slaughtered.

Our message to them? Precisely the same: We’re here, it’s time to get used to us and no, we don’t do what you tell us. Ireland’s victory in rugby demonstrates a different kind of independence. A new, self-confident freedom that doesn’t rely on anyone else to define it and that doesn’t exist in opposition to anything.

New Zealand’s captain, Kieran Read, to his credit, came straight out after the game and said “They were better than us”. No bullshit. No messing around. Just a straight acknowledgement that a superior opponent prevailed on the day.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Fromage, the cheesy con-man of Europe, on the other hand, trapped in a centuries-old bubble of incomprehension, aren’t quite able to process the ugly fact that the annoying neighbours refuse to do as they’re told, no matter how plummy the vowels one adopts.

Can you believe that Nadine Dorries (MP!!!) is today complaining that Theresa May’s deal with the EU means Britain will no longer have any MEPs or EU commissioners?

That is the  level of stupidity that exists within the British governing party.

Imagine leaving the EU and having no MEPs. Who’d have guessed?  That is the level of crass ignorance we have to endure every day in this country when we listen to the ruling party of our nearest neighbours and that is something we have finally decided to stop engaging with.

We have decided to move on, be the adults in the room and let the toddlers at the other end of the playschool slap each other. Let the parents take over. They’re not our problem.

Yes, they’ll leave a mess, but we’ve cleaned up messes before and we’ll get this place nice and tidy too, when the playschool management decide enough is enough and they’re no longer prepared to put up with ill-mannered brats.

There’s too much talk these days about existential issues. When I was a lad, existentialism was all about trying to look moody and interesting while reading French authors you didn’t really understand or enjoy. But these days, everyone likes to warn us about existential crises and I don’t like it. An existential crisis should involve being unshaven, wearing a vest and smoking a Gauloise. It should not be about countries collapsing.

Let me make a prediction, which as everyone knows, will probably be wrong, but why break the habit of a lifetime?

I predict that even if the Tories completely fuck up Brexit and crash out of the EU, we here in Ireland will be just fine after a bit of a bumpy ride.

Britain will try, disastrously, to trade on WTO rules, the only country in the world to do so.

They’ll quickly run out of Mars bars and mushy peas.

Spain will send all their train robbers back home.

Provence will eject all their authors manqué.

And then, after a few months of food riots, they’ll apply to rejoin an EU they didn’t understand in the first place, even though it was their idea.

They’ll be refused of course but we’ll welcome them into the new Irish Commonwealth, as long as they accept our rules. And they’ll have to wear a green shirt when they play New Zealand.

We’re decent like that.


Munster vs Castres

Right.  All out to Thomond Park tomorrow for the Munster – Castres game.  A win there would secure qualification for the play-offs but needless to say, we won’t be so presumptuous, even though the visitors seem to have brought over a second-string team.  As always, the domestic league comes first with French clubs and who could blame them?  Money talks.


Having said that, these guys are no pushover, and Munster will need to be sharp to nail this game.  As always, of course, the trick will be to try and close out the game early in the hope that they’ll decide to pack it in, but they might not.  They might decide to dog it out and make life uncomfortable right up to the final whistle.  Time will tell.

If they choose to dig in, the late Colm Tucker would approve.  I imagine there will be some sort of gesture for him before the game, a minute’s silence, perhaps, or even a minute’s applause as the new custom dictates.  Colm was one of the outstanding figures in Munster rugby and he will be sadly missed by his comrades as well as his family and friends.

The Munster players will all be aware of symbolism, and keen to give Colm an appropriate send-off but one way or another, I’m looking forward to a good day out.  Bullet and myself will probably drop into some city-centre hostelry for a pint or two before strolling out to the stadium.  With any luck, we might enjoy a Munster win, although that’s by no means a foregone conclusion, and after that, who knows what the evening might bring?  We have all sorts of possibilities open to us, with a range of musical friends gigging in venues right across town.



Munster 26 — Castres 10

Close, but no cigar.  Although today’s win guaranteed Munster’s appearance in the knock-out stages, the squad  will have nobody but themselves to blame for failing to secure a home draw in the quarter finals.  Although they defeated Castres, it was a perfunctory affair, with many lost opportunities, and crucially, no bonus point.  Now, in order to get a Thomond Park quarter final,  they have to go to Northampton and try to sneak a win against a team with a strong desire for revenge.  A Northampton team seeking the consolation prize of a place in the Amlin Cup if they should beat Munster.

The crowd weren’t happy.  The knew that Munster were capable of far better than this, and indeed there were flashes of the real Munster right through the game , but it was destined to be patchy.  James Coughlan sent out that signal in the first five minutes when, after a beautifully-executed passage released him with the ball, he developed tunnel vision and failed to offload to Hurley for a certain try.

That became the template for the day, with chance after chance squandered following finely-worked sequences as Munster wasted one opportunity after another.  They should have had the bonus point in the bag at half time but they didn’t.  No doubt they’re already going over the videos, but what they conclude from watching them is anyone’s guess.  It would be easy to say that there was a failure of leadership.  It would be just as easy to blame management, but what it comes down to is a general looseness throughout the squad and perhaps the managerial structure, a laxity that has manifested itself throughout the season.

Let’s be honest.   Munster are very lucky to be here, having been saved at the last minute in two consecutive games by drop goals.  And with the greatest respect to O Gara’s nerves and kicking skills, a top-flight team should not be relying on that sort of thing to win a match, exciting though it was for all of us to watch.

On the positive side, Conor Murray continues to be a revelation.  He had a wonderful all-round game, and his contribution was highlighted all the more when Tomás O Leary came on to replace him after 70 minutes with a ponderous Gaelic-football performance that reminded everyone why Peter Stringer held his place for so long.

Donnacha Ryan continues to play innovative, incisive football and Paul O Connell, as always, is a rock, although his captaincy didn’t set the world alight today, when  so many opportunities were kicked away.

All in all, a mixed bag.  I suppose we should be glad to have qualified, considering how patchy the performances were in the pool stages, but at the same time, it’s frustrating to know that the quality is there to achieve much more.  Right now, I don’t think I could compare Munster with Leinster, or even with Ulster after last night’s clinical demolition of Leicester, and yet, on any given day, nobody would say for certain who might win.

I suppose that’s what was always so enjoyable about Munster — pulling it out of the fire at the last minute.  If they did it any other way, maybe we wouldn’t have so much fun following their adventures.





Niall Ronan out with knee injury



Munster’s Good Friday Rugby Game

Drink and sport. On the one hand both are incompatible, but by proxy they go hand in in hand.

For instance if Paul O’Connell or Brian O’Driscoll were to arrive back at the team hotel in the am’s before a European Cup final bug eyed from Heineken offering the excuse that they was merely out endorsing the sponsors product, they’d be dropped.

Paul and Brian are allowed to talk about the Heineken Cup, dream about the Heineken Cup, give high falutin interviews in which they get all misty eyed about the exploits of Heineken Cup teams past, but they are not allowed drink from the Heineken Cup, until they win it, by which stage their alcohol tolerance is so low it’s all over after one pint and they’re carted out into the Paddy Wagon feet first.

In Mexico City they refer to the Paddy Wagon as a mother’s heart – cos  there’s always room for one more.

Meantime, note the sheer genius of the marketing men at Heineken.They spotted years back that the vast majority of the population are woeful at all sports. We’re beyond useless, as bad as that full back that used ply his trade in the lower echelons of the Football League.

Said defender, a man responsible for three heart attacks and a general sense of unease and foreboding in the ground every time his name appeared on the starting eleven on the match programme, was so harebrained that when the ball would arrive at his feet thousands of anxious fans would scream one word in unison – “concentrate”.

The marketing geniuses at Heineken correctly identified that there are tens of thousands out there, millions even, that are good at drinking and pontificating about sport but absolutely hideous at playing it.

They also correctly identified that a tiny minority, freaks, are actually good at this sport lark, but useless at drinking. It was a no brainer. They used the latter as the vehicle to get the former on board and correctly anticipated that we’d do the drinking for them, whilst they provided the backdrop to our nights out courtesy of winning and training, discussing tactics and other such distractions.

But clever and all as the clever marketing men at Heineken are (and only men can combine drink and sport in such harmony) they didn’t factor Jesus Christ being done in by the Romans and the Irish judiciary into their equation.

Likewise, Limerick’s publicans may be left with no option but to prostrate themselves in front of M’lud and our learned friends in the hope of arriving at a Good Friday Agreement.

Publicans in the Treaty City are up in arms because rugby chiefs, (Celtic League arseholes I believe) in cahoots with TV, rescheduled the upcoming Munster v Leinster Magners League fixture for Good Friday (April 2) – the day the bars are closed.

One Limerick publican said that he was very incensed, while a second bar owner said he was more than very incensed. A third said that while he was incensed that he wouldn’t go as far as to say that he was more incensed than someone that was very incensed.  Nevertheless, he confirmed that he was incensed and would remain incensed, going forward.

Cllr Gerry McLoughlin, taking a sabbatical from exchanging pleasantries with match officials, stressed that he was the first to become incensed, adding that staging the game on Good Friday was a disgrace.

In further reaction from Limerick’s elected representatives, Mayor Kevin Kiely said – to tell you the truth I can’t remember what he said. No one ever can.

But why would anyone endorse a fixture that would deny a local economy millions?

We saw this recently when the FAI were offered a home game against Brazil but took the game to London, denying fans the opportunity to see their country at home, fancy that, and the local economy in Dublin millions.

Now rugby chiefs, and surely the IRFU have some say in this matter, are denying the local economy in Limerick an estimated 5m.

Then again, the IRFU is an organization that had no problem selling 80,000 tickets for their games at Croke Park but went away and built a virtual new Stadium at Lansdowne Road with a capacity for just 50,000. This takes quite a bit of forward planning and concentration.

Anyway, an RTE report suggests that some sort of special licence could be granted to the pubs in Limerick so rugby fans can get rodent pouted on the night of the match. Pubs in the rest of the country will be closed – unless they can arrange a rugby game?

So there you have it. An arsehole reschedules one of the key matches on the domestic calendar for the one other day of the year (along with Christmas Day) when the pubs are not allowed to open and watering holes in Limerick may now have to wait on the discretion of a judge to be allowed trade off the 26,000 thousands fans who will attend a game that was originally fixed for Saturday April 3rd – until above arsehole got involved and changed it back to April 2nd.

If the judge is a Catholic, and this decision could come down to one person and his emotional attachment to a Christian deity who was executed by the Romans a few thousand years ago, then Limerick’s publicans could end up losing millions in the teeth of a recession, and all because we have not fully separated Church and State in this country.

The Romans are also to blame for killing Jesus. What did the Romans ever do for us by the way?

The law banning the selling of alcohol on Good Friday and Christmas Day was first introduced in 1927, back in the days when the crozier hovered over the land, back in the days before the clever marketing men at Heineken spotted an opening in the market.

But hold on, I have a solution. Why doesn’t the arsehole that rearranged this fixture pull it back another 24 hours to April 1st, a date that would be entirely appropiate given the almighty fuck up they’ve caused by interfering with the original date in the first place.

Another solution would be to drop all of this Good Friday lark and start behaving like a liberal European democracy. But that would be just mad in a 21st century society, wouldn’t it Ted?

Incidentally , drink will be on sale inside Thomond Park on the night of the match but not outside the ground. Try explaining that to Johnny Foreigner.

Meanwhile, from a sporting perspective, what fuckwit pencilled in this fixture – face it, if Munster and Leinster meet in tag rugby game at this stage they’ll be trying to murder each other – a week before both provinces are involved in crucial European Cup games?

Did above fuckwit imagine that Munster, who’ve qualified for the knockout stages of the European Cup for the last two thousand years, and defending European champions Leinster, would not reach the business end of the blue riband tournament of European club rugby?

Only in Ireland.


Elitist Rugby Journalism

Sniffle : RTE… wasters, mumble, mumble, idiots *

Bock : Cappuccino is it Sniffle?

Sniffle :McGurk, smug, sanctimonious, D4, blather, blather……………. Two sugars please Bock.

Bock : You talking about NAMA? Cappuccino and an Americano please, Nancy.


There are voices we tune into, voices we like. It’s a lilt, an accent or a melody inviting the listener into the story. And like good poetry, before we ever understand the verse, we know we like the piece just from the sound if it. There’s a dearth of such voices reporting the modern game and especially the Irish game, either in the narrative or written word. The game here is still elitist for the most part, excepting those few blue-collar places where it is played equitably. Consequently, we get elitist voices with narrow prejudiced views and afterwards, we talk among our friends about our truth, our version of events and test out our theories amongst peers.


Sniffle : Ryle bloody Nugent, Gerry bloody Thornley… God give me patience.

Bock : Hook is it, Big George you mean, his harrumphing holiness?

Sniffle : *sigh*



Tom McGurk is smug. His practised composure and accent are for somewhere else, somewhere not me. I could never have a conversation with this man about anything — never mind the game. Does Ryle Nugent sound like an adoring school-boy and breathless Tracey, what is she bringing to the table? Are they like a couple of excited and privileged teenagers let loose in a world they struggle to comprehend? George Hook is idiosyncratic which in itself is interesting but the game is a raw and simple thing and just doesn’t hold up to his type of fussy scrutiny. He seems to best articulate that elitist voice within the Irish game, a voice which still echoes in the halls of Blackrock and Clongowes. Brent Pope tries his best and coming as he does from a hard place, where actions and not words count, he uses one, where George and Tom use hundreds. But RTÉ are stitched into this elitist fabric, along with Gerry Thornley’s Irish Times. Ireland is their team and they are reporting to their constituency delivering their mandate through a George conduit in a George mantra.


Bock : Howareya Dodo, sit down there girl. Sniffle, make room for the dogs and mind that pram a minute till I get her a cup of tea.

Dodo : S’up Sniffle?

Sniffle : RTE, Gerry forking Thornley, Tracy bleeding Piggott… You’re looking well Dodo darling.

Dodo : Shower of, total and utter. Remember that kerfuffle at Lansdowne Road? Same thing again at Donnybrook. Wouldn’t let the dogs in when I went up to meet Marion.


Classy music from somewhere

One of the Brookes or Buck Shelford described the game as being “the ebb and flow of spiritual momentum”. I can still hear Bill McLaren’s voice talking about John Jefferies, the “White Shark” from Kelso or a hundred other tit-bits of information (a lá Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh) about players, their clubs and families. When Len Dineen asks on 95 FM “who have it?” it makes me smile. Before the miracle match, when Munster won 33-6, Eddie Butler asked incredulously if we realised what was needed from Munster that day. (We’d skived our way into a couple of high-vis vest jobs in Thomand Park). Eddie was one of the few who’d worked out the four tries and points difference needed by Munster, he knew the final conversion was critical even if O’Gara didn’t. How many times before RTE sold out because the Government didn’t ring-fence fixtures at Thomand Park, like they did at Croaker, how many times did you turn down your TV and tune into the two Lens? I did most times. Mercifully, we can still do the same and silence the Rupert Murdoch muppets.


Bock : There you go Dodo,

Dodo : Ta Bock. A saucer for the dogs love, they like a sup of tea.

Sniffle : *sigh*


Rant Part II

This is not a democratic argument about them having a different opinion and me disagreeing but defending to the death their right to articulate it. No, this is about RTE and broadsheet coverage being total and utter shite. Unlike the renaissance in Leinster rugby, there has been no transformation within the inner sanctum that are broadcasting and reporting our game. The people who dissed Warren Gatland when he was Irish Coach, who failed to grasp the reason behind Munster’s gradual ascent and labeled it instead as an it factor, the people who dissed the Bull Hayes and Tomás O’Leary, these are the same people reporting the game now.


Dodo : Munster Cup Sniffle, remember, the pipe band, the place heaving, the crack?

Sniffle : Not anymore Dodo. *sigh*

Bock : Cop on Sniffle…


Rant End of

The colour of rugby is a passionate and bloody red, not dull grey or shrouded in black and white statistics about possession and missed tackles. Of course it’s the man’s game and the man needs to measure stuff so that eventually he can first suffocate rugby and then, choke it to death. Ryle and Co lend their compliant voices here. These drones provided the backdrop to the emergence of the most successful club and national teams in our history but failed to understand why or what the differences were between the old days and now.


Epilogue Elbow’s “One day like this” as background music.

When Declan Kidney was interviewed, I think first time round in the Munster gig, he spoke about the humanity of the players, that players turn up to training with baggage just like the rest of us. It’s difficult to place that in a statistical chart.

There is a voice for rugby, a voice which reflects the vibrancy and passion in the game. It’s multi-faceted and colorful, energetic and enthusiastic, well informed and in touch with emotional swings. It is not Neil Francis, it was never Fred Cogley or Jim Sherwin, it’s not RTE’s own cosseted fun-boy-three and definitely not Ryle, not Tony nor Tracy.

Last season I watched Ireland win the Grand Slam on radio with Michael Corcoran. He’s good. Donal Lenihan has a solid weekly column in the Examiner. The two Lens are a joy to listen to. Conor O’Shea has an excellent chance if he can lose the others. There’s hope.

I remember Tommy Creamer juggling with the pronunciations of French and Italian players which was a giggle, and I remember him explaining the reverence for the kicker which was not. Or that time we played Stade when Claw and Didier introduced themselves to each other early on, the crowd growled and the newbie Cork fella next to me said to no-one in particular “ tis like a bear pit here”.

It’s not difficult to improve on the current crop and probably, at half the price.


Bock pulls his robes around him, beckoning Dodo and the dogs to follow.

Sniffle : *sigh*


The Scrapper

rives001He’s never the biggest, strongest or most talented player. No, and probably not the fastest either. He lives in the margins and sees the game differently. If you’re looking for a superlative then he’s the bravest, prepared to put his head where the rest of us wouldn’t put our hands or boots.

Remember Jean Pierre Rives ? The blond head of him always with a rusty patch from someone’s boot. But that’s not all. The scrapper knows the rules better then the referee or coach know them. He also knows which side “our” linesman is working and the opportunities for robbery this affords him. The opposition hate him, hurt him at every breakdown but would have him as first name down on their team, if he was their player.

Around here, sometimes we let our bias inform our opinions. We know this game; we know the players and their families. There are pictures of our brothers, fathers, uncles and grandfathers with folded arms and funny hair on the walls in Greenfields and Dooradoyle. We’ve soaked it up from the pram to the pub. We’ve met our wives and girlfriends because of rugby. We talk to our friends about every last detail, every subtle nuance, every missed kick and every dropped goal. We can’t consider a life without the game. We turn twenty-eight or thirty and try to stop playing but a yawning chasm appears and the vertigo forces us back to our clubs for one last arthritic season, when we move up to second row or out to the wing where we can do less damage, with the thirds .

BOD003And because of this immersion, this religion and passion, we think of Brian O’Driscoll as Bonoesque. We use words like… words like… well… words about the length and colour of his hair, or his accent or his recent appearance on the Late Late or his celebrity girlfriend. We invent reasons to dislike the peroxide little fucker and those funny finger triangle signs he made when he scored that hat-trick in Paris. But Drico is the arch scrapper and had he played for the red madness, there would have been another couple of European cups. This year he scored two tries for Ireland that should never have been scored, two tries no one else would or could have scored when he dived low and fast into a sea of legs and gained the last and vital fraction of an inch.

The scrapper understands inches.  He’s not much for the big applause-winning hits, the showy lifting and driving back in the centre of the field as the crowd oohs and aahs when the crash test dummies go through their patterns and sequences. He works on the inside, in that grey place where the referee can’t see and the ball is marginally on their side but still reachable. He works within the tangle of arms and legs, always knowing where the ball is and what the referee can’t see. When he leaves the field he is always marked.  His head, his arms, and his back. For him a 50:50 ball is a no brainer; he excels when the odds are against him, when the situation seems impossible.

keith woodBefore Ronan O’Gara kicked that conversion to beat Saracens at the death, that last match before the fire chief reduced the capacity in Thomond Park from 18,000 to 12,000, when Francois Pienaar brought the harrumphing Fezzes and his quarter million sterling contract to Limerick, before Ronan kicked the conversion, Keith Wood scored an impossible and implausible try. The Fezzes were defending Ballynanty from the red chaos.  Time and time again players picked and went but to no avail.  The forest of knees and thighs held out. There was a smell of wet dog around the place as we huddled against the cold, the rain and the darkness. It had become a game of inches, of centimetres, a game played in the margin. There was as much room on the suffocating terraces as there was in the never-ending sequence of rucks and mauls. The bleak Balla back wall matched the impending gloom of the final score, so near yet again.

You’ll never see how he does it. He works under the nearest available cloak,keith_wood whether that’s the referee’s blind side or the indistinguishable colours of mucky wet jerseys. Keith Wood comes up with ball, the referee has his hand in the air and the cheer goes up. We scratch our heads and wonder what the fuck, how did he get through? We never ask if he actually scored as opposed to moving the ball an inch further when the players started to celebrate a little early and we don’t care that the opposition are a chorus of indignation at the awarding of the try.  In the game of inches the scrapper is king.

The modern game makes it more difficult for the arch-messer, the fourth official with his replays and his multiple cameras, the pockets, platforms and patterns which define a strategy. But it doesn’t matter really, you’ll never stop him working the periphery, challenging the rules and playing the referee right up to the limit of his ability, experience and patience.

Rives was a classical pianist and played for the only straight rugby team who wore pink. They talk of him now as being the successful captain of a dominant French team but they forget the frustration and torment this non-conformist caused the opposition, the way he turned a game with the flick of a wrist or slowed progress by just being in the wrong place.

Sunady morning scrappers

If you look close enough on Sunday mornings, you’ll see the scrapper out there among the hundreds of other kids learning the game in fields around Ireland. He won’t be the one putting his hand up with a question; he won’t be wearing gloves or shoulder pads either. He won’t be winning sprints or being the best at drills, but if you wait for the game at the end and look even closer, he’ll be fabricating a game of inches where winning the ball from an implausible situation is the only thing and then, feeding it to a fast kid when there’s another more obvious recipient that he knows is slower. We’ll cheer the fast kid as he dives over for “his” try, but we’ll also know that we have a real one out there, a real rough diamond.



Previously by Sniffle: Neglecting the soul of rugby


Lions 28 – South Africa 9

That was a fairly comprehensive demolition of the Boks, salvaging a little bit of pride, but unfortunately not enough to win the series.  I can’t escape the feeling that Flannery, Quinlan and O Leary would have made a big difference, especially in countering the Boks’ physicality in the previous two games

A pity, but there you have it.  What is, is.

I enjoyed the game yesterday and I’ve enjoyed the three commentators as well.  Paul Wallace, Ieuan Evans and Will Greenwood.  Have you noticed that they were all completely drunk for the entire tour?

You recognise that look people put on when they’re trying to appear sober even though, deep down, they know they’re as drunk as a busload of bingo grannies.  Wallace’s collar gave the game away, all pulled over to one side and his tie half open.  Greenwood’s glassy stare and his death-like grip on the arms of his swivel seat were a good clue as well, but the real giveaway was Evans talking utter, unmitigated shite non-stop throughout the game.

They were all fucking drunk, and I don’t blame them.

Dewi Morris must have been on something else completely because the quality of nonsense he projectile-vomited from his sideline perch was without doubt of Test Match standard.  World class drivel, which is probably why Sky Sports called Dewi’s contribution Special Comments.

Special?  Utter fucking tosh.

I loved it.

Stuart Barnes, on the other hand, is an absolute wanker, and his commentary was the most appalling example of English chauvinism you ever heard.  He couldn’t believe his luck in having so many Irish players to blame whenever something went wrong.  And while I’m on the subject, did anyone else notice the sniffiness of the British media in general concerning the large representation of Irish players in the squad?  They can’t understand why you’d pick most of your players from the country that won every major competition in the northern hemisphere this year.  What about that English reporter who was caught off-camera complaining about all the “potato-slashers” on the team?

They haven’t gone away, have they?


South Africa 28 – Lions 25

I was sure the Lions had it in the bag but no rugby team can operate effectively when it loses four key players to injury: both props and both centres. And how can you win against a team whose manager sees nothing wrong with trying to physically blind your players, as Schalk Burger attempted to do to Luke Fitzgerald? He should have been handed a red card for that incident, and the citing official thought so too, but the referee for some reason couldn’t. Burger has been suspended for eight weeks and will take no further part in the series.

Five Lions players went to hospital after Saturday’s game. Gethin Jenkins has a fractured cheekbone and Adam Jones has a dislocated shoulder. Jamie Roberts has a strained wrist and Tommy Bowe has a strained elbow, though these are the sort of injuries that can easily be picked up in a tough match, and they’ll probably be all right in time for the third Test. Brian O’Driscoll will have to take responsibility for his own concussion after putting in a huge tackle on Roussow.

I don’t blame O Gara for losing the game, but he is going to attract most of the criticism, and this incident could even mark the end of his days as Ireland’s number 10. It’s unfair. He got hammered within minutes of coming on the field, and looked utterly confused for the rest of the game, with a very nasty cut above his eye. He had no business being on the pitch in that condition, but I suppose the team was in such disarray following the loss of so many vital players, there was nothing for it but try to hold on until the final whistle even though everyone was playing out of position.

He was responsible for the Boks’ try and he made the wrong decision in kicking a Garryowen, but I don’t think he was in full control of his faculties. O Gara isn’t the bad guy here. That honour has to go to Peter de Villiers who decided from the outset that his players would deliberately try to injure their opponents even at the cost of ending people’s playing careers, or taking away their eyesight.

It was a great game for about 65 minutes, and an utter shambles for the Lions in the end, partly due to a strong rally by the Springboks and partly due to dirty play, punching and gouging, and targetting individual players with a view to injuring them.

That isn’t sport.

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Munster vs Leinster in Croke Park

I know that Limehouse Dick is a rascal.  I know he’s an incorrigible corner-boy and dodger.  I realise old Scrotum can’t stand him, and yet, for all his uncouth manners, his shuffling, mumbling shiftiness and his surly manner, he has always responded well to a sound thrashing and a small bag of sovereigns.

This time is no exception.

Once more, at the appointed time, Limehouse Dick has presented himself at my study door with a brace of the finest tickets for the forthcoming encounter between our fellows and those British chaps from Dublin.  One for me and one for my young lad, who has accompanied me on these journeys since he was but a babe in swaddling.

Bless him, Limehouse Dick.  I almost feel affection for the scruffy old devil.  It was a most unfortunate business when he fell from the ivy outside my window.  I do hope that limp clears up eventually.


Oh, by the way, I should perhaps mention that Munster have won the Magners League.  A minor matter, I know, but still.

Previously on Bock:

Limehouse Dick

Limehouse Dick Delivers The Goods
Limehouse Dick comes good again
Heineken Cup 2008 – Pictures
Munster v Leinster
Munster 25 – Leinster 11
Rugby Sport

Wales v Ireland

Hasn’t it been some transformation?  Isn’t there some difference between the Ireland team of today and the overtrained, squabbling, factional rabble who crashed and burned in France during the 2007 World Cup?

Now we have a team that hangs together, with players who fight for each other instead of trading punches in the dressing room.  For me, nobody exemplifies this better than Brian O Driscoll, who has reinvented himself as a humbler, more respectful man, and a courageous player willing to give everything for his team-mates.

This is a team where everyone has earned his place, and everyone knows there’s somebody at his shoulder ready to move in.  Not only that: it’s a team where everyone accepts that he must fight for his place and step down if he doesn’t perform.

I think we all agree that the uniting factor has to be the new manager, Declan Kidney, who brought Munster to two Heineken Cup victories, and who has imbued the Ireland team with something of the same all-for-one ethos.  No more preening mannequins.  No more Munster versus Leinster with a token Nordie thrown in for politics sake.

Despite all that, I don’t know who’ll win this afternoon and I won’t even try to predict the outcome.  Wales are formidable opponents and we must show them respect.



While I’m on the subject of respect, Welsh supporters have made a great tradition of coming to Limerick to watch internationals and they have always been the best of supporters, welcome wherever they go.  I hope that somebody will explain this tradition of respect to the Welsh supporter I witnessed yesterday evening pissing on the floor of my local pub.

Note to Newport Gwent Dragons supporters.  There are two things we disapprove of here in Limerick: making noise during a penalty kick and pissing on our floor.  This is something we tend to frown on.

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Heineken Cup — Munster vs Gloucester

Forget Bertie Ahern.

Forget Iraq.

Forget global warming.

Forget the banking crisis.

Tomorrow, Munster meet Gloucester in a make-or-break crunch game that will either see us progress to the semi-finals or crash out of the competition.

Already, we’re wondering why Tomás O Leary is in and Peter Stringer is out.  Why there’s no place for Shaun Payne. If Paul O Connell is up to a full game.  Why Foley isn’t in the starting fifteen.  If Quinlan will keep his discipline.  What magic Dougie Howlett will produce.

Make no mistake: this is a serious business, and folks around these parts are serious about it.  The travelling multitude of Limerick people have already left for Gloucester, and those left behind are starting to wear that tell-tale anxious frown.   Two years ago, when we beat Biarritz in the final, Bullet and myself were among that travelling host, and perhaps if we make it through this year, we might go again, but tomorrow we’ll have to settle for the telly, along with a hundred thousand other Limerick people.

Tomorrow will be a grim day of cheering and Guinness and  hands over eyes and more beer and more cheering and hiding behind chairs and screaming and looking through your fingers and jumping up and down and with any luck everybody hugging each other and more Guinness.  And a party one way or the other.

Grim work.

Serious business.



Munster 16 — Gloucester 3

Well, that was a comprehensive win, wasn’t it?  I take back everything I said about Declan Kidney’s selection.  I was wrong.  Tomá¡s O Leary had a fine game at scrum half and so did Denis Hurley at full back.

Outstanding stuff.

There were no passengers on the Munster team.  Everyone pulled their weight and some were absolutely faultless.  Doug Howlett gave everything and was as effective in defence as he was in attack. The back three were simply beyond comparison, and Tipoki at number 13 was terrifying. Ian Dowling returned from injury at number 11 and showed the kind of skill as a winger that would earn him a place on any team in the world.

And that’s only the backs.

Do you want to talk about the forwards?

Paul O Connell?  Massive.

Freddy Pucciarello?  Savage as ever.

Donncha?  Do you need to ask?

Denis Leamy? Maniac.

I could go on with this shit all night, but you wouldn’t listen.   Look.  Let’s just confirm that Munster went to the cauldron of Kingsholm, the home of Gloucester rugby, and dismissed the home team summarily.

But let’s not show disrespect to the Gloucester side. I was proud of Paul O Connell when he gave the post-match interview, because he didn’t gloat, nor should he.  Paulie acknowledged that we were lucky when Chris Paterson missed the three penalty kicks, giving us momentum, and without that it could have been a lot different.

But it wasn’t, and now Munster march on to the semi-final.  Keep the faith.



Munster 19 ââ€â€ London Wasps 3

Munster 36 – Clermont 13

Limehouse Dick comes good again

Limehouse Dick

Carer wanted

No More Heineken Cup?

Oh Yes, He’s the Great Zucchini



Bruff RFC

Gloucester Rugby Club




Limerick Leader