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NFL civil war, entering free Derry and the rest of the week's best sportswriting

Get the kettle on reflect on a huge week of sport.

1. “‘Look,’ barks O’Doherty, ‘There’s James’ mother now.’

He points to a couple coming out of a shop and getting into a car. O’Doherty flags the vehicle down and introduces McClean’s parents, Patrick (Waxsy) and Shauna, to the stranger from Dublin.

He asks if they would be open to a chat with a journalist looking to learn about their son’s background. Waxsy pauses. ‘Aye,’ he says, gruffly. ‘Bring him up to the house.’

It turns out that O’Doherty, a mentor to the young footballer as he climbed the ranks, is a man who can quite literally open doors.”

The Irish Independent’s Daniel McDonnell heads to Derry to learn more about Irish talisman James McClean and access isn’t a problem.

2. “I can’t remember when we first met, but we fought each other a load of times when we were younger. We didn’t really like each other at the start. Paddy punched me out of the ring at the Balmoral Hotel one night and his ma went nuts. She was cheering like mad.”

Andy Watters of the Irish News sits down with old friends Carl Frampton and Paddy Barnes for this very enjoyable Q and A ahead of this weekend’s big Belfast card. 

3. ”There was a pause. It was Aug. 9, inside Roger Goodell’s sixth-floor office at the NFL’s Park Avenue headquarters in New York City — down the hall, past the executives’ offices and his assistant’s desk, and through a large, thick wooden door that is both imposing and usually left open to serve as a welcome. Goodell huddled over a speakerphone with general counsel Jeff Pash. On the other end was Jerry Jones. Adhering to the protocol of giving owners a 48-hour heads-up before a major disciplinary issue involving their team is announced, Goodell and Pash informed Jones that after a 13-month domestic violence inquiry, the Dallas Cowboys’ star running back, Ezekiel Elliott, would face punishment — a six-game suspension.

The line went quiet.”

Don Van Natta Jr and Seth Wickersham trace the roots of the Roger Goodell-Jerry Jones civil war which is threatening to tear the NFL apart. 

4. “It’s not the same as in men’s football. If I watch my brother’s team, they have 25 people around the team and they only have 20 boys. If you compare what we have, and we are one of the biggest clubs in the world, even that difference is there. He’s just a boy who’s 17 years old, he’s not even at the top. It would be amazing if the girls have the same chance as the boys.

“I played with two other girls in my team when we still played with the boys. They were quite good as well but they didn’t have the support from their families. One of the girls got called up for the national team but her parents didn’t want to drive her there because, for a woman, you don’t get enough money out of it.”

Jacob Steinberg of the Guardian speaks to Vivianne Miedema who calls for better conditions in women’s football. 

5. “In early 2015, three members of the Liverpool scouting department visited the offices of I.S.M. Academy, a small soccer training school in Corciano, just west of here, to speak with a promising teenage striker.

At some point during the visitors’ pitch, Barry Hunter, Liverpool’s chief scout, casually name-dropped Steven Gerrard, the longtime Liverpool captain, perhaps as a way to impress the young player. The reference was met with a confused stare.

“Who is Gerrard?” the teenage striker said.

Now it was Hunter who seemed confused. As the other men in the room fidgeted in their seats, Hunter reached for his computer and pulled up images of Gerrard, one of the most famous players of his era, and attempted to explain who he was.

“This is a bit of an awkward situation,” Alessandro Dominici, 50, the director of the academy, said as he recalled the meeting.

But maybe it should not have been a surprise. Most of the time, the striker, Han Kwang-song, seems like any other teenage soccer prospect, from any other country. But from time to time, there are moments when it becomes strikingly clear that he is not.”

The New York Times’ Andrew Keh on North Korean soccer and the challenges facing their players.

6. “Three weeks on, baby steps continue to be taken. The initial shock of temporarily losing total function from his neck down, he says, has only recently worn off.

Cian still doesn’t have full feeling, nor does he have full movement. He has limited mobility around his shoulders, while he continues to grapple with his hands for control.

On sick leave from his job at the Permanent TSB IT centre at Cork Airport business Park, McWhinney passes the time with a few donations from a nearby creche.

‘I am playing with Lego at home to get the dexterity back in my fingers. It sounds silly but that is what has to be done. I can’t even play the PlayStation. The hands are the main problem.

‘The lego is fantastic but it takes me ages to do. I put pegs in holes, as well. It is simple dexterity, good for the hands.’

It is, to put it simply, like being a child all over again.”

Eoghan Cormican talks to Cian McWhinney of Nemo Rangers for a piece in the Irish Examiner.

7. “While much of the focus on the NFL this season has been on the African-American quarterback who is not in the league, it is also important to give attention to the ones who are. As much as Colin Kaepernick deserves to be on a team based on his talent, we can safely say that if he’s been blacklisted from the NFL it is not because he is black. And we can assume this because many of the players who are in the league instead of him – in spite of being worse at football – are also black.

Which is a strange way to make a point of the league’s progress in integration over the last 50 years, but is nonetheless true. Even if the main thing driving the league in this direction is the undeniable fact that African-American quarterbacks can help their franchises win games and make money.”

Rolling Stone’s Kenneth Arthur on Colin Kaepernick and ‘the NFL’s problematic treatment of black quarterbacks’.

  • And a podcast recommendation…

Bill Simmons talks to The Atlantic author Ta-Nehisi Coates about the writing process and more in this episode of his The Ringer show.

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The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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The42′s first book Behind The Lines is full of great Irish sports stories… and out now

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