Monday, 20 June 2011

McIlroy - the class act driving golf's global powerhouse (Northern Ireland!)

Rory McIlroy – what can you say?  Northern Irish golf has been in great shape in recent years and he is its David Healy

It’s not just the record of astonishing, trail-blazing achievement: although Rory spent the week demolishing practically every US Open record (Sir David did much the same during the 2008 European Championship qualifying group).  It’s also in the way the two players conduct themselves.

McIlroy has self-confidence - he buried any notion to the contrary this weekend, with a relentless march towards his first major golf championship – but he’s also pleasingly grounded.  What’s not to like?

He plays a great sport and he’s mastered it at a young age.  He shows sportsmanship and poise on and off the course – even in the teeth of a supposed “melt-down” at the US Masters earlier this year.

He’s a proud and enthusiastic ambassador for Northern Ireland.  No-one’s keener than Rory to fly the colours in the wake of a victory and he backs all of our other sports stars and teams to the hilt.  You’ll find him following the fortunes of Ulster rugby and Northern Ireland football daily on Twitter.

The only chink in the young man’s armour is the fact that he’s a Manchester United fan – but hey, nobody’s perfect. 

So here’s to Rory McIlroy and to the world’s golfing superpower – Northern Ireland.  Home of back to back US Open champions.  

Monday, 13 June 2011

Invigorating pre-season for Kopites as Dalglish and Comolli look to the future

Kenny Dalglish made the first big signing of the close season last week by bringing ex Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson to Anfield.  Now, I’ve got to be honest, I know very little about this player. 

I don’t even know, for instance, whether he is principally a defensive or attacking midfielder. 

The Liverpool team which last made a serious attempt at the title had two members who have never been adequately replaced.  There was silk – the peerless passing ability of Xabi Alonse – and steel - from the rugged Argentinian Javier Mascherano.

I suppose it’s too much to hope that a 20 year old could immediately fill the shoes of either man.  But although critics will imply that £20 million is too high a price for an unproven player, Liverpool’s new owners, the FSG group, have made it clear that they are prepared to spend big wherever they see potential.  Damien Comolli, the director of football, has been charged with overseeing recruitment.  

Their strategy is unlikely to be successful in every instance, but it is a hugely refreshing transfer policy.  Kenny Dalglish is the right man to take charge of matters on the field and bring out the best in his young charges.

It is rumoured that Liverpool will announce more high profile signings this week, two of whom also operate in the centre of the park.  It might seem like the club is currently loaded down with players in that department, but some of the less convincing midfielders from recent times will surely soon make way to accommodate brighter prospects.  Expect Poulsen, Cole and Aquilani to head for the exit

There also remains a doubt about the capacity of Steven Gerrard to see out a full season injury free, at the same intensity which drove Liverpool to a Champions League triumph 6 years ago.  An influx of fresh midfield talent can ease the pressure on the captain.   

In Dalglish, Liverpool may have reappointed an illustrious figure from their past as the new manager, but in league with a progressive ownership team, the club is looking to the future.  It's a high stakes gamble, but time will tell whether it will bring rewards.  In the interim Kopites can expect an invigorating pre-season.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

With friends like Blatter ......

It's good for Northern Irish football that Jim Boyce, former president of the IFA, has been elevated to football's top table.  In a turbulent week for FIFA he has been named vice-president, representing the four UK associations.

Northern Ireland has long punched over its weight in the world governing body.  The late Harry Cavan occupied the role which Boyce now fills for ten years, between 1980 and1990.

It can't hurt to excel in football politics and it can't hurt to have friends in high places.  You have to wonder, though, about Boyce's contention, however diplomatic it may have been, that FIFA president Sepp Blatter is a 'friend' of Northern Ireland soccer.

Blatter's high handed and ignorant treatment of the eligibility issue has been one aspect of his presidency.  Then we have his ill-concealed preference for a single British football association and one UK team.  The question must be asked, with friends like these who needs enemies?