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'The beginnings of the sexual revolution in Derry’ and more of the week's best sportswriting

Plus Sue Ronan banned from street football and ‘Dear Football Gods, we need to talk’.

1. ”11 games, 11 wins, 25 goals scored, 2 goals conceded, from 8th place and 8 points off the pace to 6 points clear at the top of the table. This is, of course, Chelsea’s record since Conte changed to a 3-4-3 formation. These results are impressive regardless, however, they become even more impressive when the quality of the opponents are taken into account. On this stellar run the Londoners have beaten, Leicester, Man Utd, Spurs, Everton, Southampton and Man City amongst other tough challenges. Formations are, of course, merely a starting point; this piece seeks to analyse the finer details of Conte’s system and why it has been so successful.”

JD analyses Conte’s tactics being the focal point of the Premier League leader’s recent successes on spielverlagerung.com.

Britain Soccer Premier League Source: Frank Augstein

2. “A disco in Slaughtneil, at the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains. The suggestion, pitched by one of the younger members of the GAA club’s committee, got the short shrift it deserved.“Everyone just looked around to yer man and said, ‘will ya wise up. That’ll not work up here’,” recalled Sean McGuigan. “Then the floor went quiet for a while and the next thing someone says, ‘well, hold on now, maybe we could try it’. Necessity, in effect, gave birth to invention in the early 1980s in south Derry. Surrounded by hills as far as the eye could see, and not a shop or a pub in sight, Slaughtneil had just built a terrific new hall – reputed to be the biggest in Ulster GAA – and were starting to get a little queasy about how they might actually fill it. “So it was decided to give the disco idea a go, a junior disco for teenagers,” continued McGuigan, now the club chairman. “I think the success of it was that parents were content because Slaughtneil GAA people were stewarding the buses in and out and looking after the thing all night. And sure we only charged a pound a head for years so it quickly became a roaring success.” McGuigan recalls driving back from Maghera to Slaughtneil one night maybe a decade later. The disco was on and he had a passenger with him as he carefully navigated the winding roads up around the Glenshane Pass towards home. Guy Pearce, the actor from Neighbours who featured in Hollywood blockbusters like LA Confidential, had agreed to come out for the night. Word had got back from another club chairman that Pearce was in Northern Ireland and sure it couldn’t hurt to invite him out. Mightn’t it bring a few hundred more through the door than normal?”

Paul Keane takes a look at Slaughtneil GAA club from a different angle in the Irish Examiner.

3. ”Jurgen Klopp did not introduce his Liverpool players to the woman who would subtly change their lives right away. When she joined the team, at the club’s preseason camp in Palo Alto, Calif., last summer, Klopp waited a couple of days, eager to see if her actions would win them over more easily than his words.”

Rory Smith of the New York Times wrote an in-depth piece during the week entitled “New Head of Nutrition Gives Liverpool a Taste of Premier League Success”.

4. “Dear Football Gods,

We need to talk.

Colts Raiders Football Source: Daniel Gluskoter

I’m not trying to be a jerk, or openly combative, or unnecessarily dramatic, but I gotta know: Who do you think you are? Oh right, you’re gods. Congratulations. You exist on a higher plane of existence than the rest of us. Must be a tremendous feeling. I’ve been meaning to write you for some time, but the events of Christmas Eve finally compelled me to action. It’s not cool that you broke Derek Carr’s leg. What the hell was that? It didn’t make sense from a logic standpoint. That dude loves God. But instead of Carr and his upstart Raiders vanquishing the Patriots in the Tuck Rule Revenge Game we’ve waited 15 years for, you have the man down on the turf pointing to his formerly functional appendage and barking “it’s broke!” six times. Was that one for each of your gods? How fun that must have been for you.

Head’s up: You’re all terrible.”

Dan Hanzus sat down and penned an open letter to the American football Gods.

5. “Since its first appearance in 2002, the gossip column has consistently ranked as one of the most-read pages on the BBC website. In the most recent transfer window, it averaged almost one million browsers per day. But can you believe a word you read in it? To mark the 15th anniversary of its introduction, we have looked back at every gossip column from the summer transfer window to see how accurate the rumours were, whether stories about some clubs proved more reliable than others and to discover which sources were the most trustworthy.”

For the week that’s in it, John Staunton took a look at transfer rumours and how accurate they’ve been in recent times for BBC Sport.

6. “I remember from quite an early age standing at the gate watching boys playing football on the road and wanting to join them,” she recalls. “Eventually, I either plucked up the courage or they asked me, but I was always playing football on the street from then on. I was the only girl playing, but I was accepted by the guys and, it’s funny, but I remember that whenever a neighbour called the guards to complain that we were playing football on the street, the lads would all run and hide in the gardens when they saw the squad car coming. But I’d just stand there because I knew they’d never think I’d been playing. 

Ireland form two lines to applaud Sue Ronan off the field on her last game Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

She reckons she was about 12 when she first came up against the glass ceiling, and it was crushing. There was a street league organised, but I wasn’t allowed play,” she remembers. “It wasn’t that the boys I played football with didn’t want me, it was either the opposition or the organisers who objected. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t allowed to play, but as far as I was concerned it was because I was a girl and girls weren’t supposed to play football. I just remember feeling awful. And it left something in the back of my mind. When you’re a child, you don’t think strategically, obviously, but, later on, I remember saying that I never wanted any other girl to feel like that again. I was called a tomboy, of course, and I’ve seen a lot of research since which shows that calling a girl a tomboy can have a huge psychological impact on them to the extent that it can turn them off sport.”

Liam Mackey of the Irish Examiner caught up with former Ireland WNT head coach Sue Ronan.

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Emma Duffy

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