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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 November, 2019
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Why Jamel Herring keeps fighting, City's costly turkey shoot, and the week's best sportswriting

Boil yourself a cuppa and put the feet up.

1. The strangest moment of Saturday’s FA Cup final came in the seconds after Manchester City’s sixth goal, when the camera cut from the mob of celebrating City players to Pep Guardiola, who was slumped on the bench with his head in his hands.

Manchester City v Watford - FA Cup Final - Wembley Stadium Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on the bench prior to the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium. Source: Mike Egerton

Pep looked less like a happy football coach watching his side make history and more like an anguished scientist whose prototype civil defence robot has just run amok at a trade show, slaughtering several bystanders. It looked as though he understood that the very scale of the victory had begun to devalue it, that City were now in the territory of negative marginal returns, that the reaction to this turkey shoot would go beyond appreciation and congratulation, towards accusation and perhaps even condemnation.

In the Irish Times, Ken Early examines how Manchester City are paying the price for buying their success.

2. One way, in a more global game, might be for such clubs to indeed increase the local aspect. That is one thing Tranmere have done while also developing a symbiosis with their neighbours, Liverpool.

Forest Green Rovers v Tranmere Rovers - Sky Bet League Two Play-off - Semi Final - Second Leg - The New Lawn Tramere Rovers' Jay Harris and James Norwood celebrate victory with fans after their Sky Bet League Twp play-off second leg. Source: Nick Potts

“It’s about building businesses that exploit the club’s potential based on its position in the local community but which are agnostic as regards performance on the pitch [says Tranmere owner Mark Palios]. We compete with Liverpool and Everton in two ways. One is affordable live football. Two is making the match experience great, creating the environment, that’s what we’re trying to do with the supporters groups. We’ve done simple things, we’ve brought a drum in! The atmosphere is fantastic. This has been generated. We’ve got an SWA2 campaign, we’ve got pictures of kids on the billboard outside the ground. It’s really taken off.

“The other way we compete, against the big clubs, is access. We, as a local club, have opened up the boardroom, we use it as a network hub. We give them access to the manager and players. You can’t get access to Premier League clubs because it’s corporatised and their size mitigates against that.

“It’s possible you can have your local team, and your favourite English club operating globally.”

It’s just going to take a lot of thought. Because, right now, the game is only going one way: in favour of the top end while eroding so much underneath.

In the Independent, Miguel Delaney writes of how English football outside the Premier League is on its knees.

3. Some fighters you love for what they can do in the ring — a sublime skill, perhaps, or an aptitude for devastation. Then there are others, even more rare, you come to love for what they represent. On Saturday night, Jamel Herring should be recognized as the latter.

At 33, he’s not young, certainly not for his first title shot (he’ll be fighting Masayuki Ito for the WBO junior lightweight title Saturday night on ESPN). Herring has lost more than time, though. While his contemporaries were winning amateur tournaments, Herring was a Marine in Iraq, where he served two tours. He left as a kid from Coram, New York, on Long Island, and returned as an adult, ostensibly unwounded but unaware of the ways in which he’d been internally disfigured. Herring’s is not an uncommon story in a nation that’s basically been at war since 2001.

But it’s not just Memorial Day weekend. Saturday is also his first daughter’s birthday. Ariyanah would have been 10.

ESPN’s Mark Kriegel profiles one of American boxing’s true gentlemen, Jamel Herring.

4. The WNBA’s 23rd season looks like it will provide a watershed moment for the league, its players, and perhaps women’s sports as a whole.

WNBA: AUG 01 New York Liberty at Connecticut Sun New York Liberty guard Sugar Rodgers (14) and Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams (10) in action during a WNBA game between New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun in August 2018. Source: Mingo Nesmith

Last November, the players’ labor union, the WNBPA, exercised its right to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement after this season rather than waiting until the deal expired in 2021. From now until Halloween, the new CBA deadline, the WNBA and its players will work to hammer out a new understanding of the league’s economic structure, and in the process present a referendum on the state of women’s professional sports in North America.

‘Professional’ is the operative word here. The WNBA is a professional basketball league, which is a jarringly obvious statement and at the same time the controversial crux of the league’s labor struggle. The WNBA’s players are paid, of course, but the past 12 months have produced one story after another that undermine the idea that they operate under what most male athletes would consider “professional” conditions.

Last year, the New York Liberty were moved from Madison Square Garden, where they’d played since the league’s inception in 1997, to the Westchester County Center in White Plains, 30 miles from Manhattan. Despite drawing nearly 10,000 fans a game at MSG, the Liberty were shuttled out to the suburbs to play in a 5,000-seat facility; as a result, their attendance dropped by 70 percent.

The Ringer’s Michael Baumann delves into a crucial juncture not only in women’s basketball, but women’s sport generally across the pond.

5. It wouldn’t be stretching it to say that for a certain vintage of Dub, no matter how many All-Irelands the current Dublin team win, they won’t be revered quite as much as Kevin Heffernan’s men.

Anton O'Toole c1984 Anton O'Toole in full flight. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Their legacy is measured as much in moments and memories as trophies and medals.

They weren’t just a team, they were part of a movement.

Going to watch the Dubs wasn’t a thing before the ’70s team came along. Then it became an Irish sporting phenomenon when they won in 1974.

And for a lot of people, it started a love affair with Dublin and football and the GAA in general that they have continued and passed on.

As Jim Gavin always says ‘we stand on their shoulders.’

Then, as the ceremony came to an end, and each of the players from that team gathered around Anton O’Toole’s coffin and sang ‘Raglan Road’ together, the incredible bond that those men have struck me hard.

Forty years after they played, three generations after coming together, they’re still a brotherhood. More so than any team I ever played on or have witnessed.

Writing in the Irish Indepenent, Alan Brogan is joined by his dad Bernard to discuss their predecessors in blue following the funeral of Anton O’Toole.

6. The next day they flew by Concorde to the peaceful seaside resort of Sitges. Ferguson always placed huge importance on preparation for a cup final. He was ridiculed by some when, in his most recent autobiography, he said one of the main reasons United lost the 2009 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona was because they picked a poor hotel. Yet 18 years earlier, when they beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Cup Winners’ Cup final, he said the quality of their Rotterdam hotel was a major factor in their victory.

firo: 26.05.1999 Football, 1998/1999 Champions League: Final Manchester United - FC Bayern Munich, Munich, Munich Ole Gunnar Solskjaer nets a famous winner in the 1999 Champions League final. Source: firo Sportphoto/Jürgen Fromme

He was equally happy with the Meliá Gran Hotel in Sitges, and everyone agreed the atmosphere was extremely relaxed. Beckham later said it felt like they were there for a fortnight. There were a few minor stresses – Nicky Butt’s main memory was of having to write 50 names and addresses of people who wanted tickets, and Ferguson had to discourage Beckham from sunbathing a couple of times – but that was all. “The mood,” said Andy Cole in Andy Mitten’s book Glory Glory!, “was almost like the preparation for a third-round Milk Cup tie at some third division club.”

Ferguson’s good cheer was briefly interrupted when he administered the hairdryer to a group of fans who were around the hotel and, in his eyes, interrupting the players’ preparation. He later apologised.

On the Monday night, the group who would later become known as the Class of 92 sat on the hotel balcony discussing the historical significance of what would happen in 48 hours’ time. Giggs was the eldest at 25, Phil Neville the youngest at 22. It wasn’t even four years since they were told kids couldn’t win anything; now they had the chance to win everything.

Writing for Eurosport, Rob Smyth goes deep inside United’s treble success in Barcelona 20 years ago.

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