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Normal People, Clare hurling and uncomfortable questions for Liverpool - The week's best sportswriting

Plus – what it’s like the be sent off in an All-Ireland final.

Anfield, where the Liverpool women's team rarely play.
Anfield, where the Liverpool women's team rarely play.
Image: Peter Byrne

1. Obviously Normal People has caused a stir. There’s been too much national debate about all the solemn sex, way too little about the nifty soundtrack, almost nothing said about the dreamy interior of Killoran’s bar and a criminal neglect of the true theme of the show.

Normal People is nothing if not a devastating study of how the uncertainty of the GAA club championship fixtures calendar can reap havoc on a young’s man life. If this show doesn’t convince them above in Croke Park to ‘fix the calendar’ for once and for all, then nothing ever will.

It’s made clear that Connell, the hero of what is essentially an old-fashioned love story featuring gloomy youth, is a GAA man. He’s Young Werther – but with a handy left peg. You can see it is his wardrobe, in the gym-crafted physique and the slight look of perpetual worry of the big-lunged attacking-defender who knows, deep down, that he hasn’t got the work done to face Tourlestrane in the first round of the Sligo championship.

He’s basically facing the same dilemma as hundreds of west of Ireland lads. He’s loyal to the club and devoted to the parish. He knows that he is probably too good to be dropped from the team. He’s away at college. Part of him feels like a clown for even being at college – studying English!!! – instead of staying home and keeping it real.

In the Irish Times, Keith Duggan grapples with the complex, tortured relationship that is truly propelling Normal People. 

2. Scallan was in his own world. “I remember nothing from the second half. My whole system just shut down once I got sent off. People asked me that question a week after that game and it was the same, you were just there, you were looking at the match, I suppose selfishly feeling sorry for yourself. But the bigger picture was that Wexford didn’t lose that game and they didn’t thankfully.

“What would it be like? It would be like going to an interview for a job that you are dead sure you are getting and then next thing you don’t. It is like a match you are playing that you are dead sure of winning and next minute you don’t. I just felt there was nothing I could do.

“But for me looking at it, I just felt completely detached. I didn’t offer anything. I almost cost a lot of loyal servants to Wexford their chance of winning an All-Ireland. And still to this day while I have my medal and all that, it doesn’t feel like I won it, if you know what I mean.”

Dermot Crowe of the Sunday Independent explores what it’s like to be sent off in an All-Ireland hurling final. (€)

3. Johnny Callanan had lit the fuse in his column in the County Express beforehand by saying Doora-Barefield weren’t the “real” All-Ireland champions because they hadn’t beaten Clarecastle in the 1998 championship.

I remember Fergie Tuohy saying in a team-meeting in Powers that day of the game: “These are the golden boys. They’re loved — Jamesie (O’Connor), Seánie (McMahon) (Ollie) Baker. We’re hated. We’re nobody’s friends.”

We tried to bring that siege mentality with us into that match. Drainage work was being done in Cusack Park at the time so the game was played in Shannon, which we were excited about, because we thought we’d drag Joseph’s into a war in a tighter pitch. There was massive hype in the build-up because everybody knew the background.

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People came from Galway and all over Munster. Close to 12,000 turned up.

There was no stand, just banks of grass, and the atmosphere was electric.

The Shannon pitch is at the end of a lane and it was chaos beforehand. We travelled a back road trying to steer clear of the traffic gridlock and we still got caught up in the jam.

I was demented to try and win that game. It was an epic match. It was one of the best games I ever played in. We all realised how great that Joseph’s team was but it killed us that they had done what we didn’t — win an All-Ireland.

In the Irish Examiner, Anthony Daly looks back at the local wars of the Clare hurling Championship. 

4. Neil Redfearn was tasked in 2018 with steadying the ship of a side that had lost their way since breaking Arsenal’s dominance of women’s football to earn back to back titles in 2013 and 2014. Three months after he had joined, and one league game into the season, he quit. Jepson stepped into her first senior managerial role in his place. Blaming Jepson for the poor results would be easy. The real blame lies at the feet of disinterested owners who have allowed their women’s team to implode while their men’s team thrives.

The mess of their women’s team is unlikely to tarnish that first shiny Premier League trophy in 30 years, but it should.

Following their relegation from the Women’s Super League, the Guardian’s Suzanne Wrack asks Liverpool’s owners a few uncomfortable questions. 

5.. A daily drumbeat of furlough announcements, retirements and layoffs. “It really sucks to go on Twitter every day and see all these amazing writers without jobs,” said Marisa Ingemi, who was laid off from her job at the Boston Herald covering the Bruins.

The hope for many is that as organizations from the NFL to Major League Baseball begin to plan, however tenuously, for some version of a return that the jobs come back, too. As Chad Millman, the former head of editorial at ESPN turned head of content for the Action Network, a sports gambling media company, said, “The appetite for sports when they come back is going to be incredible, and you’re going to need people covering it.”

But with budgets depleted, corporate consolidation among newspaper chains accelerating and the structure of sports’ return up in the air, it remains to be seen how — and also by whom.

“There are more important things going on in the world, but I think we’re f—–, honestly,” said Chicago Tribune sports columnist Paul Sullivan, who is about to start a three-week furlough. “Whether sports come back or not.”

The Washington Post issue a downbeat diagnosis for sportswriting in the age of Covid-19. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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