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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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Eileen rewarded for her dedication to athletics

By Sean Moriarty Well-known Dalton’s Avenue woman Eileen Switzer has been named as the Honorary President of Killarney Valley Athletic Club in recognition of her work as a volunteer. The club held its annual awards night on Friday night last. As well as presenting awards to club members in recognition of their achievements at home […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Well-known Dalton’s Avenue woman Eileen Switzer has been named as the Honorary President of Killarney Valley Athletic Club in recognition of her work as a volunteer.

The club held its annual awards night on Friday night last.

As well as presenting awards to club members in recognition of their achievements at home and abroad they decided to honour Mrs Switzer for her “lifetime of volunteering to the community, to sport, to youth and for championing diversity and inclusion”.

“Eileen has been an advocate, a coach and an administrator in the sport of athletics for over 60 years in the town of Killarney, Kerry and beyond,” said club chair Jerry Griffin.

Eileen and her husband Frank have dedicated their lives to the community games and athletics in the greater Killarney area.

“I enjoy, but I don’t like, all the limelight,” she told the Killarney Advertiser.

“I like to watch newcomers as they come up through the ranks, many of the Community Games people of the past are now running the committee.”

In a life time dedicated to volunteerism in Killarney Eileen has helped sports like golf, pitch and putt and badminton grow.  She was also heavily involved in the local Irish dancing scene and remains a great supporter of Kerry Parents and Friends.

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Eamonn Fitzgerald: How to improve the modern game

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Fixing the tackle, binning the bin and cutting the numbers… Former Kerry goalkeeper Eamonn Fitzgerald puts forward a number of measures that he feels would rejuvenate Gaelic football

In recent weeks most of the discussion on Kerry football has centred on the appointment of Jack O’Connor as manager of the Kerry senior football team. The Sam Maguire hasn’t returned to Kerry since locals Kieran O’Leary and Fionn Fitzgerald lifted the Holy Grail in 2014. The domination of the Dubs with the six-in–a row and the disappointments of the past three years, when Peter Keane was very unlucky not to manage Kerry to victory, has led to a deeper frustration among the Kerry supporters.

Some followers of football are losing interest in the game as it is played today. Some say they don’t bother going to games anymore, because the style of football has deteriorated into a mixture of basketball and athletics.

The romanticised recollections of the high-fielding of Mick O’Connell and the marking your own man, thou shalt not pass type of football is largely gone. Joe Keohane, Teddy O’Connor, Paddy Bawn, Paudie O’Shea and a host of others made sure that the opposition’s attackers never got a chance to have an unchallenged shot at the goalkeeper. Zonal defence, how are you?

THE  TACKLE

Mick O’Dwyer always said that there is no really clearly defined tackle in Gaelic football, and I agree fully with him. He saw it from three sides: as a defender, attacker and manager. I talked to him many times about this.

There are three basic types of tackle in Gaelic football: (a) the side tackle, the most common one, (b) the front tackle, (c) the tackle from behind. The referee is the sole judge and has to decide if it is a free in or a free out. Types (b) and (c) don’t pose any real difficulties in decision making. Both are fouls. But a shoulder to shoulder is allowable. However, if a player gets a fair shoulder and falls to the ground, invariably the referee favours the fallen one.

One Kerry football defender of the past perfected the ideal ruse. When he was slowing up in his latter days with Kerry and he faced a jinking speedster, he ushered him out towards the sideline, gave his customary right belt of a shoulder, and then assisted the forward with a helping hand to ensure he stayed on his feet. Free out. Over-playing the ball.

The rule regarding tackling states that you must use one hand and one hand only, but the problem is: what does a defender actually do with that one hand, as opposed to what he is allowed do.

Tackling in Gaelic Football is confined to tackling the ball. It is illegal to trip, punch, hold, drag, pull or rugby tackle another player.

For defenders all you can do safely without conceding a free in is to shadow the opponent with both arms outstretched, doing a sprightly dance like David Rea’s Riverdance, hoping you can entice/force the forward out to the sideline where he is least likely to score. Two hands draw the foul. Of course, some defenders play to the optics using the one hand and raising up the other hand so that the ref thinks he is not fouling. What is the defender doing with that hand? Playing the ball trying to punch it out from the attacker? If that hand delivers a punch to the solar plexus, so be it, as the referee is usually unsighted. Or, as happens too often in club games, the referee is not up with the game and cannot see what is really happening. As he makes his way to the scene, I believe that he is unduly influenced by the roar of the crowd. “Free in, ref!”. Thank you very much says Seánie O’Shea and Dean Rock.

Rugby is very clear-cut when it come to the defined tackle and to some extent in soccer, where the sliding tackle is not acceptable.

While there is some credence in the perception of these disillusioned football followers, who long for the Kerry football style of the good old days, I don’t see it through the same rose-tinted glasses. Too often in the past the hard man was lauded for his physical prowess and not for his skills. I can see the merit of the modern possession game, but not endless lateral hand-passing, the fulcrum for launching a successful game strategy, which was one good reason why Dublin won six-in-a-row. They were also a great team.

You’re a loser all the way with Dean Rock and Seánie O’Shea delivering almost 100%. Take a recent game as an example. Seánie kicked 15 points versus Dr Crokes and 14 of those were frees, from any distance from 45 metres inwards. The winning score was 17 points. So a reliable free-taker is essential on any team.  He repeated the performance on Sunday last by scoring 11 points to squeeze past Dingle. The scoring in football games nowadays is very high and even more so in hurling.

PITY THE REFEREE

I have great sympathy for the referee in football and have never commented on the performance of the referees in these pages, unless I attended the game. Second-hand accounts are biased, unreliable and unacceptable. When I attend games in person, I comment on the performance of the referee, but never personalise these comments. It is a judgement on performance not on the referee as a person.

Quite simply, I respect referees. I believe they have an impossible job. It’s tough enough at intercounty level but pity the ref in some local game where he does not have neutral umpires or linesmen. The ref should apply the rules, but also apply common sense, knowing the difference between a deliberate intentional foul and body contact where the player is playing the ball, not the man. No free or card for such, even if the player falls to the ground.

The modern game has evolved and there is much to recommend it, but I believe that it can be made much more enjoyable for players and spectators by making necessary changes

IMPROVEMENTS

Some of the he rules are not clear-cut, particularly the tackle.

Rid the game of the mark. The idea was that it would reward high-fielding, a wonderful but fast–fading feature of the game. It has not done that, particularly around the middle of the park. Midfield is often bypassed today and worst of all a mark is allowed for a player near goal, who manages to catch a low ball stumbling to the ground and raises his hand within a few seconds to signal his achievement. Did he, or did he not, raise his hand? Invariably the referee awards the mark and a simple tap over for a certain point, which may be the winning score.

Learn from the women’s game. The LGFA has got it right with the clock (in major venues) taking the timing of games away from the referees. The same happens in basketball. The clock stops when there is a hold up in play. Then there are no grounds for dispute. I have seen too many games where the referee played too much overtime, or too little, and the winning scores came during the extended time. Recently I witnessed 13 minutes added on by a referee. There is a lot of stoppage time in 13 minutes.

Spectators have watches and stopwatches/timers on their phones, so then the arguments commence. That time added on is at the discretion of the referee. He has too much to do already and more advisory discretion should be given to umpires and linesmen. In the absence of a clock, let the other officials bear that responsibility.

Get rid of the water-breaks too. Too often they influence the flow of the play. Pardon the pun, but too often they also change the run of play.

13-A-SIDE

I would love to see the teams reduced to 13 players. Take out the full back and the full forward, create more space and set the scene for more open football. I have seen it used very successfully at colleges level and it is a joy to watch. Also, it would help rural clubs in particular, who are hard pressed to have 15 players available due to depopulation and other factors. It would help clubs to field their own team instead of being forced to join up with their neighbouring parish, probably their greatest rivals for many years. Amalgamations are undesirable, but often necessary. I think of South Kerry clubs in particular.

There is an argument to get rid of all referees’ cards, red, yellow and black. For a start dump the black card. As it is, some players feign injuries, waste time and run down the clock. The 10-minute penalty and 14 players effectively means the sin-binned player returns after seven, six or dare I say five minutes. The timekeeper is the ref. He is not God almighty and he has enough to do.

The modern game of football has plenty going for it, but there are responsibilities on the GAA authorities, the referees, the managers and the players to improve the enjoyment of the game. Ditto for the spectators, the hurlers on the ditch, or in this case the footballers on the terraces. Too many are not conversant with the new rules. It is hard to blame them; there has been too much tricking around with the rules governing football that it can be hard to know the updated position.

That situation with local club rivalry and natural bias leads to misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the facts and rules that leads to difference of opinions, to put it very mildly.

Pity the poor ref having to make instant decisions, de facto on his own. Video analysis is not confined just to The Sunday Game. Many club games are also filmed. The ref can’t win. Who would want to be a referee? Certainly not for the money – a very modest €40 for a local senior game.

Is it a just reward for running the gauntlet of some players, or a few officials who spend half their time encroaching onto the pitch, and the tirade of abuse from spectators, usually personal, misguided and unwarranted?

Who’s reffing the game on Sunday next?

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