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Bolger battles on the streets of Belgium

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by Seán Moriarty

Rising Killarney cycling star Sam Bolger spent much of the summer on the pro-cycling scene in Belgium.

Earlier this year the 18-year-old was selected as one of four riders for the Belgian Project – one of the most prestigious stepping stones for Irish riders with ambitions to turn professional.

Over the last 15 years Northern Ireland-based Belgian Danny Blondell selects between four and six Irish riders and sends them to Belgium where they stay with local families and contest pro and semi-pro races.

Bolger was selected for the Belgian Project while racing the Junior Tour of Ireland with the Munster team in July. He then travelled to Austria with the Munster squad to race in a three-day event before making his own way to Belgium by train.

The Lewis Road man spent three weeks living with a Belgian cycling family in the village of Moorslede in Flanders. In that part of the world cycling is bigger than the GAA in Kerry.

“On my first day, I went with the family to watch a pro-race,” Bolger told the Killarney Advertiser. “There were 40,000 people lining the streets. In Belgium the locals use these events as social occasions and go out and meet their friends.”

This criterium race in Roeselare – on a Tuesday evening – attracted entries from Tour de France stars like Tom Pidcock and Green Jersey winner Wout Van Aert.

During his three weeks there Bolger contested seven races – known locally as Kermesse – each with over 100 junior starters that ran over three or four laps of a town centre course.

“A Kermesse is a short circuit through a town or village which must include a pub and a church,” he added.

“It is all part of the social scene – always loads of people out watching. Even the pro races have bookies on site.”

Races are run over much narrower roads than Irish events. It took a bit of getting used to as any rider trapped in the bunch would find it very hard to get back to the front of the pack.

“Irish races are run on main roads. Any trouble and you just go over to the wrong side of the road and power your way back to the front. There is no wrong side in Belgium, either the road is too narrow or it’s lined with people.”

The road racing season has now closed in Ireland. Bolger’s last outing was the Charleville Two-Day in Cork a few weeks ago where he placed sixth overall in amongst senior riders. He moves to off-road Cyclocross for the winter season.

Sam paid tribute to Killarney Cycling Club and his teammates for all of the support and encouragement throughout the year.

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Adam Moynihan: Culture of lawlessness is partly to blame for GAA violence

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Why are so many GAA matches turning violent and/or abusive to the point that they need to be abandoned?

In Kerry, two underage fixtures had to be called off this past month alone. One, an U11 hurling game in which scores weren’t even being kept, was ended prematurely by the referee who was apparently on the receiving end of persistent verbal abuse. Another, an U15 football match in Kilcummin, came to a halt after a Cordal mentor was allegedly physically assaulted. The man in question ended up in hospital.

The spate of violence has not been confined to Kerry. Far from it. Matches in Roscommon, Wexford and Mayo have also been blighted by attacks on match officials. And some referees are rightly saying, “no more”. After a ref was attacked at a minor game in Roscommon last month, referees across the county briefly went on strike in solidarity.

If GAA officials are not concerned about the same thing happening again, quite conceivably on a wider scale, they should be.

Where does it all come from, this abuse and this violence? Why is it so prevalent in Gaelic games?

While it’s true that there is invariably a negative public reaction to instances of violence at GAA matches, I actually think a significant percentage of stakeholders are too accepting of it as a phenomenon.

Take the Armagh-Galway incident from this past summer for example. When Armagh sub Tiernan Kelly waded into a melee and gouged Damien Comer’s eye, the video footage enraged the vast majority of people who saw it. Kelly was widely condemned for his actions, even by outsiders like media personalities and politicians.

But then came the counter-reaction from within GAA circles. They said that Kelly was being vilified. The response was over the top. He was a good guy who simply made a mistake. These things happen.

As a GAA lover I personally can’t stand it when people who don’t follow the sport weigh in on these issues (politicians especially) but, for me, most of what was initially said about Kelly was justified. Sticking your finger in someone’s eye doesn’t just happen. It’s a despicable act of violence. In the end he got a six-month ban, meaning he misses a grand total of zero intercounty matches. Does that punishment fit the crime?

Surely a stronger message needs to be issued that people who engage in violence are not welcome.

When it comes to anyone entering the field of play – be they a supporter, mentor or some kind of hanger-on – and physically assaulting a referee or a player or another coach, they must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. I’m talking about lifetime bans.

As a further deterrent, clubs and teams who fail to control their members should be punished appropriately. This should include expulsion from competitions for repeat offenders. As long as violent individuals are getting away lightly thanks to disciplinary action that doesn’t go far enough, these things will continue to happen.

GAA rule-makers have to get serious about the scourge of violence before referees pull the plug. Or before someone gets severely injured. Or worse.

I can’t help but feel as though our broadly lax attitude towards the laws of the game is a significant factor also. I’ve written this sentence on numerous occasions before so you may be sick of reading it, but I’ll stop saying it when it stops being true: so many rules in the GAA are so poorly enforced, you wonder why they bothered writing them down in the first place.

You have to hop or solo after four steps, but you can get away with seven or eight. You have to wear a gumshield, but you can tuck it into your sock. You have to be 13 metres away from the referee when he throws in a hop ball, but two metres will do. Managers have to stay off the pitch, but five yards over the line is grand. You have to make a clear striking motion when executing a handpass in hurling, but you can throw it too.

Whatever suits.

There is a culture of lawlessness in Gaelic football and hurling that I don’t think exists in any other sports of their kind.

It makes the games impossible to referee “properly” because every participant and observer has their own interpretation of what’s allowed. The referee can’t be right in everyone’s eyes if the rules have multiple nebulous interpretations.

So, with that in mind, should we be surprised that referees are getting it from all angles? Is it any wonder that people who should never even dream of entering the field of play feel as though they can?

Handing down proper punishments for violent attacks is really important but we must also have far more respect for the rules on a wider scale. No more half measures.

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Golf fundraiser set to exceed expectations

By Michelle Crean  Good weather and 50 participating teams made for very successful charity days at Ross Golf Club on Friday and Saturday.  The final count of the proceeds and the presentations for […]

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By Michelle Crean 

Good weather and 50 participating teams made for very successful charity days at Ross Golf Club on Friday and Saturday. 

The final count of the proceeds and the presentations for St Francis Special School and Kerry Cancer Support Group will take place in the near future.

Captain Donie Broderick was amazed and delighted with the excellent response and wants to thank the main sponsors, Independent Irish Health Foods, Killarney Race Co and M D O’Sheas. He also wants to thank all teams and tee box sponsors and the sponsors of the prizes for the fundraising raffle.

“The big winners over these two great days are both charities who are so deserving and we are
delighted to be able to assist them,” Donie said.

The winning team was made up of Aidan O’Connor, Mary Cronin, Ger Lenihan and Dermot Roche.
The runner-up team was from Kilcummin PO included Muiris Healy, Philip O’Connor, Eugene Kennedy and Dermot O’Sullivan.

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