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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 24 October, 2019

An emotional plea to help 2010 All-Ireland winner through illness and the week's best sportswriting

Stick the kettle on and get stuck into some of our favourite pieces of sportswriting from this week.

1. By that stage he had a tumour removed and battled through chemo. He had improved. Baby James had arrived as a brother to Isabelle (7) and Ava (5). He was ready to go back to work.

Then over the past few months, the pain came again in his leg. Something was back. This time, all bets were off. The leg was amputated but the pain had shifted. His back was now sore too. Inter-county footballers know the difference between ‘normal pain’ and ‘not normal pain’. The news was devastating. As of last week, Kieran is now battling cancer for the third time in 18 months. He is in big trouble. He has all of the hard work done. He has had the honesty to face it all head on. This has still not been enough to allow him to deliver for his own group, his family.

If I put myself in Kieran’s position or my own wife in Sinéad’s position, this would be the most frightened we could ever imagine ourselves to be. The time has come when he needs our help and I don’t think the group is enough this time. We need more.

Any help would be appreciated, more than you could ever know.

Kieran O'Connor Former Cork player Kieran O'Connor. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Writing in the Irish Examiner, Cork’s 2010 All-Ireland winning makes an emotional plea for people to give whatever help they can to his former team-mate Kieran O’Connor, who is battling cancer.

You can make a donation here.

2. “No, big picture,” he replied. “Who do you admire most in this world.”

It took me half a second.

“Does he know?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Have you told him?”


“Why not?”

“I don’t . . .”

“Tell him,” he said. “Go home and write him a letter.”

Andy died of prostate cancer in June 2010 but I’ve thought of him a lot these last few days. To be honest, it’s been the only consolation. I took his advice, you see. I went home that night and wrote the letter and delivered it by hand four days later:

Dear Raphael,
There is no one is this world that I admire as much as you.

Paul Kimmage Sunday Independent writer Paul Kimmage. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Sunday Independent’s Paul Kimmage writes a tribute to his brother Raphael, who passed away recently.

3. Once more, most of the field has crossed the line. Now cars have to pull off and dangerous situations arise. Motorists are angry. The public is angry with cycling. So, as the race rounds a bend a police car pulls in front. The race is stopped by stern-looking policemen, wanting to know why cyclists can’t obey the law.

This scenario has happened more than once in Colorado, but my friend seemed particularly upset this time. “Stupid rule,” he said. “We weren’t in danger! Man, I love that race, and now it might not happen any more. I only crossed the line for a second maybe once, or twice, because I had to.

“The pros never have to deal with stuff like this,” he said. Then I told him that maybe all cyclists have to deal with stuff like that. He shrugs and says, “Nah, not you guys,” and then asks me how I think I’ll do in this year’s Tour…”

Andy Schleck Action from the 2010 Tour de France. Source: Reuters/Action Images/INPHO

Jonathan Vaughters tells a story in Cylcing Weekly about a race being stopped in Colorado due to cyclists breaking the centre line rule on the road. 

4. I’m glad I hurled with Paul for four years in UCC and that I was able to call him friend. I remember so little of games I played in but I remember one wet match in Maynooth (the words ‘wet’ and ‘match’ go together in Fitzgibbons like the words ‘pride’ and ‘jersey’) and Paul was surrounded and I called for a pass and he dummied a pass to me and then turned and hit the ball over the bar off his left from fifty yards – and it was so beautiful.

It was so beautiful, and so was he. I was grateful for the memory, as I stood under floodlit rain that night in the Mardyke watching this generation of young men hurl, because in that memory and on that sideline, I felt that Paul was close by.

Tadhg Coakley writes a beautiful piece on his blog remembering his former UCC teammate Paul O’Connor, who died in 2012.

5. Pogba likes to set him “little challenges” – requests for rare luggage, long-sold-out sneakers or designer children’s clothing. He’s sprinted into Camden Market to find a PS4 charging cable for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who sent him the request two hours before leaving on Arsenal’s pre-season tour to Singapore.

A player from West Ham recently approached him, “just to introduce himself.” Nathaniel Chalobah, the Watford midfielder, contacted Sam recently. “I hear good things about you, I hear you’re The Plug.” He said by way of an introduction, before setting Sam the task of hunting down a Louis Vuitton bag from the Parisian brand’s 2015 collection. “I’ve found one from America. I’m hoping it’s brand new, if it’s not I’ll just keep going until I do.”

“Once they [the footballers] see you with the big dogs, the others take notice because they know you’re serious. Plus, being the only personal shopper in England with a blue tick helps. It means you’re serious. Not that that blue tick means anything in the actual outside world, but in terms of business it helps a lot.

Manchester United v Southampton - Premier League - Old Trafford Man United star Paul Pogba. Source: Martin Rickett

Esquire’s Deputy Style Editory Finlay Renwick interviews a 17-year-old Londoner who can source everything from clothes to rare items for some of the best footballers in the world.

6. But pretty soon, just like before, he found his own words, his own voice. It was a blend of prairie-twang and ranch-hand nasalness softened by and cultivated with a surprising lilt of sophistication. He was willing to be funny, but only if it was true.

“Missouri’s Dan Devine looked like a man who just learned that his disease was incurable. He was leaning against a table in the silent gloom of his locker room, a towel around his neck, a paper cup of water in his hand, whip-dog tired, and his large brown eyes fixed vacantly on a lot of things that could have happened.”

Sherrod called Jenkins “a news dog” and “the most effortless writer I’ve ever known. The most confident, too. Most writers, they’re insecure to the point of hiding under the bed. Dan always had the attitude of a competent athlete—and he was a good athlete. Golf. Basketball. Pool. I think he could’ve roped buffaloes. Nothing in the world spooked Dan except snakes.

Just a picture of a reptile would crater him. We spent a lot of time rolling snake photos into his typewriter. He’d come sailing in, smoking his 19th cigarette of the morning and drinking his 12th Coke. When he rolled his typewriter carriage, out would jump this hideous rattler. And Dan would beat and thresh and fall down in wastebaskets. Then he’d sigh and sit down and, once he quit trembling, write you the best 800 newspaper words you ever read.

General view of golf Dan Jenkins passed away at the age of 90. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Golf Digest Contributing Editor Tom Callahan writes a lovely tribute piece to golf writer Dan Jenkins, who passed away recently at the age of 90.

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