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General discussion / Hare Coursing
« on: February 08, 2019, 09:50:42 PM »
Denis Walsh has a very interesting and thought-provoking piece in today's Times Ireland about a huge sporting event that gets no coverage - coursing. What do people think? An ancient and thrilling rural sport which no townie can ever really understand, because townies' just don't understand the animal world, or a barbarism that still exists when it should have been swallowed by progress long ago, like the church or binary gender identity?

february 8 2019, 12:01am, the times
Hare coursing is ignored, but at least it has not been driven underground

One of the biggest sports events of the Irish winter concluded on Tuesday. You may not have noticed. Media coverage of the National Coursing meeting at Clonmel was more or less confined to the trade papers and one national broadsheet that values its rural audience. An exception to this general shunning by the mainstream media, however, was Tuesday’s Six One news on RTÉ which carried a package from Clonmel in its sports segment. The piece touched the usual nerve about the welfare of hares but in tone it was essentially a sports report about a sports event. Take it or leave it.

It is a peculiar phenomenon. The crowds in Clonmel this week were comparable to anything that Leopardstown attracted for their big Christmas fixtures and if your curiosity had carried you through the gates of Powerstown Park you would have witnessed all the sights and sounds of a major race meeting: heaving bars, a thronged betting ring, packed stands, places to eat, a selection of hawkers selling their wares, everything from religious pictures to dog collars. All the fun of the fair.

Walk through the crowd and you would have picked up accents from all over Ireland and the UK, like turning the dial on a radio. Sir Mark Prescott, the famous English horse trainer, was in attendance for the 49th consecutive year. Everything about it appears mainstream: except the action around which all of this revolves.

How could you explain hare coursing to the uninitiated and expect a neutral response? How could you pare it back to its essentials and not make it seem barbaric? In the field the dogs look fierce and predatory and the hare seems hopelessly small and vulnerable. It is easy to understand why people would be repulsed by the spectacle, just as there are people who can’t stomach UFC or boxing or the sight of tumbling horses on Grand National day. It is raw and elemental and a matter of taste.

When coursing was debated in the Dáil nearly 26 years ago it was described as “one of the most emotive issues” to come before the house. It was a grand claim given the other affairs of this state. Moving the motion to have hare coursing banned the late Tony Gregory invoked Padraig and Willie Pearse. From the other side of the argument Brian Fitzgerald of Labour returned fire with echoes of Wolfe Tone: “The coursing fields of Ireland,” he said, “have brought Catholics, Protestant and Dissenter together.”

In that debate Alan Dukes, of Fine Gael, struck the key note. He warned the house against falling into the trap of “an anthropomorphic approach” which, he happily explained, meant “viewing the world of animals through the eyes of human persons.” If Deputy Gregory, he continued, would stroll through the woods of Kildare he would see how nature dealt with hares.

To accept coursing requires an unsentimental view of nature and the wild. Among country people you will find it; a twin capacity to love pets and yet be dispassionate about those animals that are bound up with the commerce of farming. Cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry and the like are reared and minded and ultimately slaughtered. Rabbits and crows are shot for interfering with crops; foxes are shot for disturbing the hen house. The cuddly status that these animals might enjoy in children’s books or animated movies has very little in common with their day-to-day life in the countryside.

In the wild only about one in 10 hares live long enough to die of old age. Why should coursing add to their suffering, say the protesters? That question was partly addressed by a House of Commons committee report on hare coursing in the early 1990s which concluded that if animals of prey were psychologically damaged “by reason of being chased” its capacity to escape would be impaired and the “species would risk elimination by the process of natural selection.”

That argument didn’t hold water more than a decade later when the Hunting Act was carried in the House of Commons after taking up 600 hours of parliamentary time. Evidently, it had been an emotive issue in that house too. Hare coursing was outlawed in Northern Ireland in 2010, six years after it was banned in England and Wales and eight years after Scotland had taken the lead on this matter in these islands. Apart from here, Spain and Portugal are the only European countries where the practice is still legal.

Criminalising hare coursing in the UK, though, has not only driven it underground but given it a sinister character. A cursory trawl through UK regional papers reveals a handful of arrests in the last couple of months alone. The Oxford Mail reported that two men were arrested and six dogs were seized in Uffington last weekend. On the previous weekend the Biggleswade Chronicle reported a further two arrests in Great Barford.

Before Christmas the Swindon Advertiser carried a quite stunning story about hare coursing in Wiltshire where police “caught a gang and seized their dogs, phones and vehicles.” The report quoted David George from the National Farmers Union: “Hare coursing is a considerable nuisance to farmers in the county as it can cause a lot of damage to property and crops, and violence and intimidation is often involved,” he said. “Farmers can find large gangs of coursers descending on their property and keeping them out is a real problem.”

A local farmer shared his experience: “They come in the early morning or late evening when nobody is about,” he said. “They cut the fences, break the gates and drive across the farmland, causing huge damage, leaving a trail of destruction. It’s not just the cost of it but also the mess. There are not enough rural police to deal with it.”

“Farmers in the area were reluctant to identify themselves when talking about the issue,” the report continued, “for fear of retribution from what one described as hardened criminals.”

All of that stuff would be completely alien to the crowd in excess of 10,000 that descended on Clonmel for the Derby and Oaks finals. In Ireland anti-blood sports protestors have often demonstrated peacefully at coursing meetings but it was reported, strangely, that none showed up on Tuesday, the biggest day of the coursing year.

Maybe the whole thing is being managed better than in the past. Muzzling of greyhounds was introduced in Ireland in the 1990s after one chaotic meeting at Clounanna where 50 hares were killed over three days. Coursing people will explain that the kill was never the thing and that the welfare of hares is a primary concern. Why wouldn’t it be? Without hares there is no game. By all accounts none were harmed in Clonmel.

According to the Irish Coursing Club 5,044 hares were caught for coursing last season and 5,017 were released back into the wild when the season was over. If you are outraged by the very existence of this sport all you will take from those figures is that 27 hares lost their lives. On this issue there is no middle ground or room for persuasion. Take it or leave it.


Last year we were told this thing would cost €983 million. The current ticker reads €1.7 billion.

How did the cost nearly double in so short a time? Was the original estimate a joke? If it was, why are we continuing with this contractor? If you were getting the kitchen done in your house and the builder told you before Christmas it'd cost ten grand, and then he bowls up and says the cost is now twenty grand, you'd run him.

There's a question to be asked as well about why this is being built in the first place. There will be no new beds - the number of beds in this new 1.7-billion-Euros'-worth of hospital will equal the total number of beds in the existing children's hospitals. Where is the money going? The Phoenix magazine speculated last year that the thing is only being built because the consultants want more, or better, or larger, private consulting rooms so they can make more money. If that's the case, why aren't they run out the same road as the builder?

I'm baffled how this isn't a major story.

General discussion / Forgiveness
« on: August 21, 2018, 09:48:02 PM »
I'm very impressed by the tolerance shown over on the Mickey Harte RTÉ boycott thread. A lot of people seem to think it's time for Mickey to move on and do interviews with RTÉ. Indignation has a sell-by date, as Syferus pithily put it.

One of the reasons I'm so impressed by this is that I personally am a bitter man, from a line of bitter men. If my family were of noble rather than peasant stock, a lemon would feature prominently on our coat of arms. This ability to forgive and move on has really got home to me how shallow my life is, and my own lack of emotional maturity.

It's got home to me so much that I encourage all those who have been healed by time, whose indignation has passed its sell-by date, who are now mellow and useful members of society again, to share their experience. What was the biggest thing that happened to you and you got over? Your wife having an affair, perhaps? You were annoyed but look, time heals and maybe it was partly due your own selfish neglect of that good woman. Or maybe you lost a packet in the property market at the time of the crash ten years ago but looking back now you think: it's only money. Don't we have our health? Isn't that the most important thing?

Or maybe your daughter was murdered on her honeymoon and someone took the piss out of her on the national airwaves isn't very remorseful at all. You know, whatevs.

Away you go, friends.

I would have thought the answer obvious myself, but a tweet from Des Cahill today made me wonder, not for first time lately, if I'm cracked or if the world as I knew it has turned on its head.

As you know, Dunboyne GAA stalwart Seán Cox was horrifically assaulted before Liverpool FC played FC Roma in the UEFA Champions League in Liverpool during the week. Liverpool and those associated with the club have been outstanding in their reactions to the crime, and we all pray Seán Cox recovers.

Des Cahill commended Liverpool for their gesture in hanging a Dunboyne jersey in their dressing room today, but went on to qualify his remarks by describing the gesture as:
a gesture that wouldn’t be carried out by county #GAA teams in Ireland.

Here's the link to the tweet itself, which I can't get to embed properly in this post:
This would be outrageous from some of the anti-GAA people in RTÉ, but hardly surprising. But from the presenter of the Sunday Game? Does Des Cahill needs to explain himself and then some, or am I missing something?


Right. Let's see who can do the best poor mouth about winning this and staying up.

I saw a Mayo poster remark on another thread that going down would be no big deal, as our veterans need a rest and D2 would be a chance to blood new players. Sadly, no. D1 is where you blood players. If you're in D2 your only aim for the year is to get out of it.

The League is more important than the Championship when you're not in in D1 because if you're not in D1 all you are is summertime cannon-fodder anyway. Look how long Galway were down there. Meath are still there. Cork didn't bounce back immediately.

Nervous times, boys and girls. Nervous times.

GAA Discussion / Colm "Woolly" Parkinson
« on: July 07, 2017, 09:01:42 PM »
Well. What do ye think?

GAA Discussion / Kerry v Mayo, February 11, Austin Stack Park, Tralee
« on: February 07, 2017, 08:18:44 PM »
Hard to see anything other than a Kerry victory here.

Kerry won their opening game in the League for the first time since God was a boy last weekend in Donegal, and won pulling up by all accounts. By contrast, Mayo had their lunch money taken and their heads dunked in the toilet boil by the Farneymen in not-quite-Fortress Elvery’s.

Paddy Power has Kerry priced at 2/1 on, and you’d have to say that’s your nap for the weekend. Kerry’s young guns were blooded against Donegal while the biggest cheer of the night in Castlebar came when the venerable Andy Moran came in the last ten minutes. Rochford ought to give youth its fling in Tralee. What’s he got to lose?

GAA Discussion / Money, Dublin and the GAA
« on: October 04, 2016, 07:27:37 PM »
Typically polemical article by Ewan McKenna in The Times today:

Dublin’s predictable win makes GAA the big loser

Ewan MacKenna
Gaelic football commentary

It was in 2014 that Joachim Löw sat in a press room beneath the Maracana, the Germany football coach’s face and his words hiding just what he and his nation had achieved in Brazil. With Germany just proclaimed world champions, it was a title that should have allowed the mask to slip, letting us into the very soul of victory. Only he saw it differently.

“We started this project ten years ago, so this is the result of many years’ work,” he said matter-of-factly, as if talking about erecting a garden fence. “We’ve continued that work and our strength has been our constant progress. We’d not made this ultimate step before.”

After the colour and chaos of the World Cup that was a beautiful representation of the nation that hosted it, that seemed the wrong ending. Yet, it was a moment that came to mind in the aftermath of this All-Ireland final replay. The game itself may have been brutally brilliant with Mayo showing that the well is deeper than we could ever have imagined and Dublin digging far beyond the frontline to get over the finish, but this too seemed cold and mistaken. Money had bypassed passion.

There are many similarities between Dublin and Germany, the most obvious being a perfect use of endless resources to get to the top, but there are many key differences as well. For instance, some countries can get near to Germany’s financial wealth, some countries can match their playing and coaching numbers, and crucially for all Fifa’s flaws it never favoured any one nation to the detriment of the game it rules. Consider that for a moment. In the role of director-general since 2008, Paraic Duffy is often heralded and given an easy ride as a productive sports administrator, but think too about the years he’s been in the job and the fact he’s overseen the biggest case of doping in modern Irish sport. The financial doping that destroyed Leinster and is now destroying our greatest tournament.

By now we know the figures. Last year after a long and similar trend the GAA handed over €1,460,400 to the capital in a games development grant, more than any province combined with only one other county getting even six figures. That is before the €1 million a year special grant given over via the taxpayer and the Irish Sports Council. That is before we get to the fact that their population not only means a player base that dwarfs all others, but it also means a market that allows its sponsorship to dwarf all others. You can be sure that unlike in many places Bernard Brogan and Stephen Cluxton will not be on O’Connell Bridge in the coming months with a bucket asking for loose change to fund their efforts to be the best.

Of course none of this is Dublin’s fault, they hve merely excelled off the field as they hve excelled on it. But it is the GAA’s fault, for shame.

Therefore, strip away the emotion and fascination of Saturday and what essentially happened was a professional team in almost every way won a trophy contested by amateur opposition. We do not get excited when Manchester City brush past lower-league opposition in the cup, we do not get excited when a Mercedes whizzes past a Force India, so why is this different? When the Simpsons drew Homer in the ring with Drederick Tatum it was comedy yet what we have here is tragedy.

Dublin’s players and management are not in the business of entertaining us, they are in the business of winning and they are exceptional at it. Yet, in the aftermath of this latest victory, there was something representative in their dull and carefully dusted words. Brogan could well have been speaking after an O’Byrne Cup game; Dean Rock used more clichés than the points he had kicked in a defining performance; Cluxton ticked the corporate boxes on the steps as he received the trophy. It was a representation of the machine they have become, overtaking the sport they play.

Deep down Dublin fans know this but have long had safeguards. They mention Kilkenny and Kerry when there is no numerical comparison. They mention how close Mayo got, when they have not been beaten in 29 games, most of which are akin to the Harlem Globetrotters humiliating the Washington Generals. They mention how this is a special generation and while it is, so is the next one and the one after that – indeed this final was telling as it was not the special generation that won it, it was instead the next generation with the likes of Rock and substitute Cormac Costello proving decisive. If you find the facts negative or bitter, then you problem is with the facts and with reality and if you do not money makes a telling difference, you really don’t understand modern sport.

This is not difficult stuff. In fact after that 2014 World Cup final, sitting on a beach with soccer journalists, they asked about football. From a sphere of monopolisation and big bucks, they laughed at what the GAA had done and what they had made Dublin. But no one who truly cares about and loves the game is laughing now. Sadly, it is fitting that in these years of boom for the minority and bust for the majority in Ireland, the national game has been subjected to the same sort of ultra-capitalism in a ruthless form. The governing body jumped straight into bed with its cash cow and closed the door. All we can now see is the result of what went on.

Still the GAA expect us to lap up relatively tiny projects here and there, such as their €125,000 a year offered to Kildare, Meath, Louth and Wicklow to help with coaching. But smaller counties than Dublin actually need much more money than Dublin to balance out demographic disparity. This is merely loose change being flung at a homeless man to lighten the wallet and change perception. Do not buy that for a minute for they have long since chosen their partner. Aogan O Fearghail may have physically given Cluxton the trophy at the weekend, but his organisation long ago gave it to them.

In 1989 economist Francis Fukayama wrote an essay titled The End of History in which he described the collapse of communism and the triumph of capitalism as the end of mankind’s ideological evolution. Across the 2000s though we saw the triumph of capitalism in what is supposed to be an amateur sport, and the result is the end of football’s history. Dublin may have predictably won, but the game is the huge loser in all of this.

The odds at time of posting are Dublin 4/11, Mayo 11/4 and the draw at 10/1. It's a reflection of Dublin's current dominance that the 4/11 seems generous.  :-[ Sure please God Mayo will keep it kicked out to them for a half, anyway.

GAA Discussion / Search for New Mayo Manager
« on: September 28, 2015, 11:17:28 PM »

Cat, meet pigeons.

GAA Discussion / The Marty Squad
« on: June 05, 2015, 09:06:24 PM »

This is RTÉ's latest effort at a six o'clock on Sunday evening Championship radio show. Last year the show was presented by Eoin McDevitt and Ciarán Murphy. The "Uncle Jim" segment was awful, but the rest of it was great. Players trust McDevitt not to make a fool of them and they respond by opening up in a way that they don't for other interviewers. Anthony Moyles and Oisín McConville were very good on analysis.

This won't be as good. This will RTÉ's bog-standard fare, relying on clowns to provide the weight of the content by ringing in with their opinions. A Mayoman will ring in to say that Mayo were ridden by the ref, and then Marty will balance that out with a Galwayman ringing in to say no, actually, if anyone was ridden it was the brave men from Dunmore, Tuam and Corofin. And then Marty will slather each of them with cliches ("that's what the Championship is all about!") until the time is filled out.

McDevitt tweeted that he and the rest of the Second Captains were "unable to commit" for the summer. I don't know the man from Adam but it's very rare that freelances turn down work. I hope I'm wrong. I hope McDevitt and co have plenty of work and that the Marty Squad turn out to be the A-Team. But I'll be surprised by one and stunned by the other.

GAA Discussion / Is Darran O'Sullivan a Professional Gaelic Footballer?
« on: January 28, 2015, 10:02:21 PM »

Finding a cushy job to help prolong an intercounty playing career is one thing, leaving a secure job to help save it is another. Yet Darran O’Sullivan says he would have “cracked” had he not left his job with Ulster Bank to effectively become a full-time Kerry footballer.

Am I missing something here? I remember Jack O'Connor catching heat for writing in his autobiography that the school had him on half-days when he was he managing Kerry. Now Darran O'Sullivan is living on air and nobody bats an eyelid? Someone is being taken for a fool here.

Interesting selection:

  • Brendan McVeigh (Down)
  • Sean Marty Lockhart (Derry)
  • Barry Owens (Fermanagh)
  • Joe Higgins (Laois)
  • Aaron Kernan (Armagh)
  • Glen Ryan (Kildare)
  • Kevin Cassidy (Donegal)
  • Dermot Earley (Kildare)
  • Ciarán Whelan (Dublin)
  • John Doyle (Kildare)
  • Eamon O’Hara (Sligo)
  • Dessie Dolan (Westmeath)
  • Declan Browne (Tipperary)
  • Matty Forde (Wexford)
  • Benny Coulter (Down)

FIR IONAID: Gary Connaughton (Westmeath), John Keane (Westmeath), Anthony Rainbow (Kildare), Aaron Hoey (Louth), Brian Lacey (Kildare), Paddy Keenan (Louth), Enda Muldoon (Derry), Paddy Bradley (Derry), Ciaran McDonald (Mayo), Trevor Mortimer (Mayo), Danny Hughes (Down)

Slightly stunned there isn't a thread on this. Friend of mine reckons Galway can sneak it.

Is anyone else struggling with this? From the games I've seen so far it's better for a player to get a yellow than a black card, which was surely never the purpose of the thing in the first place. I thought the black card was for persistent fouling, but this is clearly not the case. The pulled to the ground condition of the black card rule is, frankly, bizarre.

So, what do I have to do to get a black, a yellow or a red card? Put him crying, put him bleeding, put him in hospital? Is that how it goes? I'm totally confused.

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