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Grealish is winning over the Irish… Rice? Not so much

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Adam Moynihan gives his take on the Irish public's "complicated" relationship with Jack Grealish and Declan Rice, while also asking the tricky question: can a person be both Irish and English?

Without wishing to resort to bottom-of-the-barrel “you know you’re Irish when…” humour, you know you’re Irish when, at some point in a major tournament, you are utterly consumed by the giddy anticipation that precedes the English national team’s newest implosion.

Annoyingly, it appears as though that joyous moment of self-destruction might not actually happen this time. Which is weird.

Nevertheless, hating the English is undoubtedly one of our favourite things to do, even if that hate is becoming more playful and less actually hateful as time goes by.

There are still some proper hate figures when it comes to Anglo-Hiberno relations, though. The Royal Family. Cromwell. Churchill. Thatcher. Grealish. Rice. And not necessarily in that order.

The latter duo could help to bring football “home” on Sunday evening, a feat which will no doubt make them eternal heroes in the country of their birth. But back in the home of their forefathers (Grealish has four Irish grandparents and both of Rice’s parents are Irish), winning Euro 2020 will do little for their popularity, which plummeted when the pair separately decided to switch allegiances to England having represented Ireland at underage level.

Rice actually played three times for Ireland’s senior team before defecting.

The decisions (Grealish’s in 2015 and Rice’s in 2019) left Irish football fans absolutely furious. Not only were we losing two desperately needed high-potential players, we were losing them to England. It left a very sour taste. There was a time in Ireland when the mere mention of Grealish’s name was sure to incite furrowed brows and some fairly choice expletives. He was well and truly hated.

They say time heals all wounds, however, and an informal poll carried out on my Instagram this week seems to suggest that, in Grealish’s case at least, all is forgiven.

Over three-quarters (77%) of the 250 respondents said that they now “like” Jack Grealish, with the remaining 23% standing firm and stating that they still “hate” him.

The poll itself can’t claim to be a completely accurate reading of the entire room – most of my followers are from County Kerry and roughly from my own generation or younger – but it’s a remarkable figure nonetheless, especially when you consider how despised the Aston Villa player was following his change of heart.

Perhaps the fact that Grealish has blossomed into such an exciting talent has impacted Irish soccer fans’ perception of him. He has lit up the Premier League in recent seasons and is now a target for a number of clubs, including Manchester United - one of the most popular teams on these shores.

He does also seem to come across as a genuine guy and whenever he speaks about the controversial transfer, he is respectful to Ireland. The Birmingham native, who played Gaelic football as a boy, clearly has legitimate ties to both communities and, considering how well his career is going, no Irish supporter can seriously claim that he made the wrong choice by opting for England.

Rice, on the other hand, still divides opinion. There is a well-founded perception that the West Ham midfielder did not handle his defection as well as he could and, perhaps, should have, and that he strung Ireland along for longer than he needed to. Maybe he always wanted to play for England? Maybe Ireland was just a stepping-stone?

The poll revealed that 60% of my followers still “hate” Rice, which is lower than I would have guessed but is still in stark contrast to the positive approval rating achieved by Grealish.

BOTH

Another question in the survey threw up an interesting figure. When asked if it is possible to feel both Irish and English, as Grealish and Rice apparently do, three out of five people said no, it isn’t.

Can one be both? To get a better grasp of the concept, I spoke to a number of locals who have mixed Irish and English backgrounds.

One, a woman with an English mother and an Irish father, said she has loyalties to both countries. “I feel a sense of belonging in both places,” she explained. Another, a man who was born in London before moving to Ireland with his English father and Irish mother when he was five, explained how he has “grown attached” to both Ireland and England.

Despite spending most of his life in Ireland and feeling Irish, another man, who was born in England, “admitted” to supporting England in the Euros. “Who else am I going to cheer for when Ireland fail to qualify?” he asked. He still feels a connection to the place of his birth.

The majority of English/Irish people I interviewed were not at all shocked that such a high percentage of Irish folk apparently believe that you have to pick a lane, so to speak, when it comes to nationality.

“Irish people are fiercely loyal to Ireland,” one pointed out. “So it makes sense that they struggle with the idea of someone feeling both Irish and English.”

But that’s exactly where Grealish and Rice fall. They were never simply Irish. They are not, now, simply English. They are both.

Of course, most of us will understandably stop short of supporting our neighbours in the final on Sunday. I’m fairly sure the right to enjoy watching England lose on penalties is enshrined in Bunreacht na hÉireann.

But, if the English do bring it home, maybe we can take some small bit of pride in knowing that they couldn’t have done it without a little help from the Irish.

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Fleming and Doherty top Killarney crew at Boggeragh

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The Boggeragh Rallysprint, organised by Cork Motor Club and based in the forest complex of the same name, took place over the Christmas break.

Based near the village of Nad, the event attracted a strong 60-plus car entry and was won by West Cork driver David Guest and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan in a Ford Fiesta Rally 2. The latter is a member of Killarney and District Motor Club.

The first all-Killarney crew to make the finish were David Fleming and Kieran Doherty in their Honda Civic. The Killarney-based crew finished 20th overall on what was only their second time competing on a gravel rally.

World Rally Championship launch

The new Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid that Craig Breen and Paul Nagle will drive in this year’s World Rally Championship is set to be unveiled on Saturday in Austria.

The World Rally Championship will undergo major environmental changes this year when new technical regulations drive the series towards a more sustainable future.

The season launch takes place at Red Bull’s headquarters near Salzburg ahead of the first round of the WRC, next week’s Rallye Monte Carlo, as a new era for the sport dawns.

Breen and Nagle will be in attendance and the launch will be live streamed on WRC.com

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Killarney Valley athletes rubbing shoulders with the best

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Killarney Valley AC continued their upward curve last Sunday when they entered men’s and women’s teams in the prestigious National Indoor Track and Field Championships, which were held in Abbotstown in Dublin.

Despite going up against the best of the best in terms of Irish athletics, the Killarney Valley contingent gave a good account of themselves at the state-of-the-art National Indoor Arena, with coaches Tomás Griffin and Con Lynch coming away with plenty of positives to reflect upon.

The women’s team was comprised of Sarah Leahy, Ciara Kennelly, Alison Butler, Grace O’Meara, Ellen Moloney and Melissa Ahern, while the men’s team included Conor Gammell, Oisín Lynch, Kevin O’Callaghan, Sam Griffin, Jason O’Reilly, Dara Looney and Darragh O’Leary.

The nature of the team event presents a number of challenges and opportunities for the forward-thinking club, as coach Tomás Griffin explained to the Killarney Advertiser this week.

“The indoor league is senior elite level so you’re competing against really strong athletes, including some Olympians,” Griffin said. “Part of the criteria is that you try to cover as many of the events as you possibly can within all of the athletic disciplines. You compete as a team, as opposed to normal athletics competitions which are very much based on the individual.

“If you are 16 or you turn 16 in the year of competition, you can participate. That allows us to give our up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to compete as part of a representative team alongside our more established, older athletes.

“There are two rounds with half the events in all disciplines covered in Round 1 and the other half in Round 2. Last week in Round 1 the track events were the 50m sprint, the 200m sprint, and the 800m, along with the 4 x 400m relay. So, for those events alone, you have to have sprinters and you have to have middle distance athletes all stepping up to compete against one representative from all the other clubs.

“The field events were the shot putt, the long jump, and the pole vault. You can see there you’ve got to have a pretty diverse club that is trying to focus on as many disciplines as possible on the development sides of things.”

POINTS

Individual athletes earn points based on where they finish in their event (12 points for first etc.), with points tallied together to make up the team’s overall total. There are 12 clubs vying for the women’s title and 13 fighting for the men’s. After Round 2, which takes place on January 23 in Athlone, the top six clubs will advance to the finals.

The demands that such a competition place on a club mean that it is a major achievement to be able to take part at all. Apart from Killarney Valley, Leevale AC from Cork were the only other club in Munster who fielded a team.

“For us to have enough athletes of that age or above, that are competent enough in their disciplines to be able to represent us and compete – and score – is a significant breakthrough. We scored quite well across some of the events. There were some events that we struggled to cover because we’re still trying to develop the full range, but as a club we know that we need to develop those disciplines.

“And we have some younger athletes who are 13 or 14 and they’re now learning pole vault, for instance. If we can maintain the momentum then we will have pole vaulters in a couple of years’ time.”

ENJOYMENT

Griffin says the Killarney Valley competitors really enjoyed the experience, while also putting in some impressive performances.

“They loved it. The bigger powerhouse clubs have very high-profile athletes at their disposal; there were four Olympians whom our athletes got to compete against and interact with.

“Our own Sarah Leahy did exceptionally well in the 60m sprint. She ran the joint fastest time in the league, a personal best of 7.61 seconds, which is the fastest she has ever run 60m indoors.

“In the men’s 60m sprint, Conor Gammell made the top five and ran a personal best. We also had Sam Griffin, who is normally a long jumper, who ran a personal best of 7.58 seconds. He finished third in his race. Dara Looney, another long jumper who was doubling up on sprints, finished fifth and also had a personal best.

“Melissa Ahern, an up-and coming sprinter, ran 8.43 seconds, and Ellen Moloney, who was a first-timer at this level, ran a personal best as well. We have a good batch of sprinters competing and it’s good to expose them to this level.

“Alison Butler scored some valuable points for us in the 800m, and in the men’s 800 Oisín Lynch ran a massive personal best. Our shot putt thrower Kevin O’Callaghan is new to athletics; he had to throw an adult shot (7.2kg) for the first time and he did well, scoring five points for us. In fact, he threw the heavier weight nearly as far as he had been throwing the lighter weight.”

Griffin was keen to stress the importance of each individual team member to the overall group effort and whatever happens in Round 2, he is convinced that entering the competition will have huge benefits in the long run.

“We set ourselves of goal of having a team at National League level by 2023 so we’re a year ahead in that regard. It shows that we’re on the right trajectory.”

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