Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Same Story, Different Year

The League of Ireland has been getting to know the Justice system a little too well these days. More and more fans now have pocket law terminology phrasebooks, the phrase 'winding up' given a far less amusing connotation, and Irish clubs find themselves in courtrooms more often than a crack affectionate serial killer with bad parking habits.

Another in the long list of creditors
to League of Ireland clubs
Following in the footsteps of clubs like Cork City, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians (literally, they could barely afford shoes), Waterford United have joined the illustrious list of clubs in the courtroom. The latest creditor looking for his money was ex-Blues manager Stephen Henderson, formerly of Cobh Ramblers (yet another team wound… oh you get the picture), who was owed exactly €37,600 from the previous December, due to unpaid compensation following his sacking.

That is seven months to come up with 37,000 euros, for a football team. Notwithstanding that, the side sold one of its brightest talents, Sean Maguire, to Premiership club West Ham and received compensation. One must presume with a club of West Ham’s stature and finances (Paying over £4 million annually for the services of Andy Carroll remember) would be obliged to cough up a lot more money than required to pay off Henderson, especially when one considers the Blues snapped up two Cork City players at the start of the season in the shape of Gavin Kavanagh and Vinny Sullivan.

This season most certainly hasn’t matched expectations on the field for United. Having only missed out on promotion in a playoff tie last season, the Suirsiders started 2013 disastrously, losing to Ramblers in the League Cup and then a shock 4-0 defeat at the hands of Mervue United. Following that was a trip to the High Court in March which reminded the Waterford board of their responsibilities towards Henderson, but as in the case in all of the examples we’ve already spoken of, this warning was not heeded.

Henderson was probably wondering where the money was being spent himself, before finally losing his patience and turning the screw. This started the chain of events we’re so used to seeing in the league: The initial breaking news followed by the tut, sigh, and murmurs of ‘same old story’ etc. Then the social media campaigns to keep the club going with fans inevitably called on to dig into their own pockets and bail out the inadequacy of those at the top (where have we seen that before?). The case goes to court, gets adjourned a few times and tests the patience of the judge and the creditor, the bottle of the club officials, and the nerves of the fans. Texts and calls fly around from agitated supporters while hearsay and rumours keeps everyone second guessing before a decision is eventually made.
The League of Ireland
Courtroom Cycle

In the end Waterford were saved by the dedication and generosity of their fans. Once again the ordinary punter is left to clear up the mess by those in charge; that generosity combined with the patience of both Henderson and Judge Laffoy (Not the first time for the latter party either) saw another League of Ireland heartbreak avoided.

That’s not where this story ends though, as Waterford have just signed yet another Cork City player, Danny Furlong, on loan for the next six months. So two days after being bailed out by the skin of their chomps at the last minute, the team has now taken another wage on board. The club has tried to justify it through the sale of another youngster overseas, but surely with a payment, so apparently substantial they waited seven months before being forced to pay it in the high court still hanging over their shoulders, the thought of taking on another expense would be ludicrous. Obviously not in the heads of these directors.

The fundraising will go on, and people will continue to dig deep into their own pockets for the causes they love, but the gross negligence at the top must stop. Only by standing up and refusing to accept the status quo can we eventually see the League progress, and for people to finally say ‘Different story, different year’. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Betting Challenge Day 2

I didn't think there was going to be much to say as the England game crept towards a final day, but with the Aussies valiant final wicket survival undone by Graeme Swann a few balls before the end of the day, it gave me an opportunity to put down some money on the second day!

Scrolling through in-plays I decided to opt for Flora Tallinn's reserve team, who were 2-1 up on bottom placed Kiviõli Irbis in the second tier of the Estonian League with about a half an hour left.

Flora Tallinn to win @ 2/11 - 5.65 returns 7.05

Thankfully my Estonian friends scored right at the end to settle my nerves heading into injury time, and my record remains intact!

Next up was an in-play from Belgium between Cercle Bruge and OFI Crete. As I clicked Crete had a corner, but the wait to see it peter out cost me from 1/9 to 1/11.

Cercle Bruge & OFI Crete draw @ 1/11 - 7.05 returns 7.69

Crete then put a total spanner in the works, having a man sent off in the 89th minute, and now they had to hang on. After a pulsating few minutes they just about did, leaving me up again.

Next it was to Mexico, to back Pumas UNAM to hold onto their 1-0 lead against Pubela in the first game of the new season there.

Pumas UNAM to win @ 2/11 - 7.70 returns 9.10

Alas an 88th minute goal from Gustavo Alustiza cost me my money, and this challenge. Ending prematurely unfortunately but worth a go none the less!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Betting Challenge Day 1

So here it goes!

I've finally opened up an online betting account to put my money where my mouth is, and I've decided to take up a challenge of some sorts.

Take five euros and win back TWENTY TIMES that amount.

I know what many long time betting sufferers are thinking, in a business where losing is the order of the day, surely that is near impossible, and yes, you're quite right it is. But I have a plan to try and overcome this.

Starting with five euros I will put on a bet which is either 1-10 or lower, basically near bankers. With the money I make I will put it back down on the next bet, so my bets get gradually greater as I keep winning. Obviously I'll need a winning streak but with the odds being so high there's a much better chance of that happening than usual. I will update you day by day on my proceedings.

FC Kansas City Women to Win, in play - WIN = 5.50

So my first bet was a 10-1 shout for Kansas City women to see out the remaining five minutes of the game with their one goal victory. Not only did they do that but less than a minute into the bet they scored a second having been on 12-1 before the goal went in. That went rather nicely and I won myself a meagre fifty cents to start with!

On a sidenote, that took me to a profit of almost three euros from a tenner bet, not too shabby!

Tomorrow's Bet: England to beat Australia in Ashes 2nd test - 1/12

Apart from one or two hiccoughs, England have been rampant in the Ashes so far. A brave Aussie fightback in the first test saw a very close finish indeed, but it's been a completely different ballgame this time around.

Despite taking quick early wickets in both England innings, Australia find themselves 566 runs down, needing to take five more England wickets to stem the run tide. There's also two more days for England to bowl them out, on a pitch that on today's play will suit Graeme Swann perfectly. The Aussies capitulated in the first innings and have very few quality batsmen. England can take the lead to at least 650 and still have four sessions to bowl out the Aussies which I think will happen.

Throwing down my 5.50 wins me back 5.95

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Testing the Waters

As John Mooney saw Michael Rippon smash a hook shot off his short pitched delivery for six, securing a most unlikely draw for the Netherlands against his native Ireland, he’d have been feeling a bittersweet emotion which is all too familiar in Irish cricket. That feeling of disappointment despite success has lingered in the Irish camp for the past number of years, who, despite being leaps and bounds ahead of their fellow associate nations (That draw saw Ireland crowned as World Cricket League champions with two of the fourteen games left of the tournament), having beaten a number of test nations (and tied with Pakistan earlier this year), and having developed a brand new cricket facility in Malahide, have still been denied test status notwithstanding several applications.

Eoin Morgan playing test cricket with England
Without a test status, Irish players must move to England and play for the Three Lions if they are to complete every cricketer’s ultimate ambition. In one bizarre incident a few years ago, batsman Ed Joyce played against his own brother for England against Ireland in an attempt to get into their test side. Current England players Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin are the latest Irish recruits to an English team which is benefitting from the ICC’s stubbornness.

Since that famous St. Patrick’s Day of 2007 in which Ireland beat Pakistan to qualify for the Super 8 stage of the Cricket World Cup, Ireland have beaten Bangladesh twice, Zimbabwe, and England, in a famous run chase which saw Kevin O’ Brien smash the record of the fastest One Day International century, as well as the Pakistan result. The side have won three Intercontinental Cups (The precursor to their latest title), the ICC Six Nations Challenge, two ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers, two European Championships and have qualified for four World Cups in a row (Three 50 over and their second Twenty20), and currently lie 8th in the Twenty20 rankings (Ahead of test nations Bangladesh and Zimbabwe).With eight Irish players currently playing in the English County system, one in the ICC Top 10 ODI batsmen, two in the Top 10 ODI All-Rounder ranking and their u19 side heading to the World Cup in Australia there’s no doubting Ireland’s cricketing talent.

The country already has two ICC approved International grounds, and now with the Malahide complex being updated, they have a third, bringing them only one behind test country Zimbabwe. The Irish have been pro-active about securing their test status in other ways, introducing central contracts and a four-day inter-provincial tournament which mirrors the current cricketing system in England, one of the ICC’s strongest test nations.

An Inter-Provincial Tournament is
another step in the right direction
Despite all of these changes, as part of Ireland’s plan to become a test nation by the year 2020, there is still much uncertainty. Having, in most people’s eyes, prematurely promoted Bangladesh to the highest level in 2000, the ICC are now wary of doing the same with another country, and in one of the great failings of the sport, there is no clear pathway to reach the highest status. Instead Ireland are trying to develop what they can and hope that, when the time comes, they can be considered by one of the most politically charged governing bodies in sport.

This leaves the current Irish team a problem with a shortfall in fixtures. While test teams play each other in series, and the other main associate nations play in County competitions, much the same as the Irish did years ago, Ireland are left without teams to play. Now, like it was over 40 years ago when Ireland used benefit from touring sides against England (Once famously bowling the West Indies out for 25 in 1969), the Irish are left with the International teams who have a gap in their schedule. This lack of time in the middle is hurting Irish players, who need international experience in order to develop.

Bearing these problems in mind, and the haemorrhaging of their best players to England, it’s easy to understand why Ireland’s recent World Cricket League victory felt like a hollow one; their affirmed dominance of fellow associate nations teasing the fact that test cricket remains elusive. Ireland’s push for that status in 2020 is seen as ambitious by some, but with the right steps already being employed and the Irish appetite for giant killings, there’s no reason why the biggest underdog in world cricket cannot reach their goal.


A Batsman's Game?

Sport, like life, has its fair share of sheep.

Not of the literal kind (although sheep were used for the upkeep of grounds before the advent of modern groundsman's tools), but more of the metaphorical kind. Opinions that were fresh a few weeks ago get regurgitated to the point where you feel like you're a baby bird eating mushy opinion soup (Okay, a bad metaphor, but you get my drift).
What a load of rubbish

These sweeping generalisations are an easy way out in a world in which most journalists are there based on their ability on the pitch, rather than their ability to analyse. With millions buying into analysis which can, very often, contain nothing but clichéd drivel, common perception can be completely changed due to lazy research by people who are getting paid large amounts to do what they do. This is the same across many different kinds of sport; in football (Sky so far in denial about the Premier League 'being the best league in the world', they're next live broadcast will be from Egypt), in Rugby (#JusticeforBOD quite possibly the shortest sporting trend ever) and this worldwide agreement that Cricket is a 'batsman's game'

As I sit here having watched England wobble on the first day of the Ashes, I find myself wondering if it really is a batsman's game after all. Regularly we see capitulations in batting lineups during test games (most recently New Zealand's pathetic 68 in the first test against England at Lord's), and with a few inches separating the edge and middle of the bat and one miscue ending your game, it can never be considered that batting is too easy.

Yes advances in technology have made bats better, but they've also made balls swing and grip more, wicket keeping gloves more effective, and training equipment that allows every kind of fielding practice possible. Add to that tactics progressing and the use of video technology at the highest level to scrutinise every batsman's moves and idiosyncrasies, it can easily be argued that 'getting in' is harder than ever before.

Passing out from exhaustion on another flat pitch
The problem with batting dominance in many parts of the world, is the evaluation of pitches based on their aesthetics rather than playability. Unless a cricket pitch is picture postcard perfect it is seen as a failure by the groundsman, outside of England and some pitches in New Zealand, there is very little in the way of swing or seam for opening bowlers (Yes, I know overcast conditions only usually occur in these regions during the season, but with irrigation it's surely possible to leave some green on the pitches?) which means the first day is usually a boring batting fest, with scoring and wickets low as the batting side build a base.

Nobody goes to a match to see a draw, and with many recent series, particularly in the sub-continent, finishing in a deadlock as a result can't be reached in any of the games, test cricket is beginning to fall foul of its Limited-Overs younger brothers. What's supposed to be a true test of skill, is fast becoming simply a test of stamina, as teams field for two days at a time under blistering conditions.

So perhaps in certain regions cricket is most certainly in favour of the man with the bat, but when the conditions are even and the playing field is level, the gulf between bat and ball can be truly viewed. With England's performance today, along with the fact that the biggest score in the country so far this year has been 354, a little more analysis shows you that cricket is most certainly not a 'batsman's game'.