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Dublin: 14°C Tuesday 20 October 2020

Remembering Pat Smullen, the home support for Sam Bennett and the week's best sportswriting

Stick the kettle on and get stuck into this lot.

The late Pat Smullen.
The late Pat Smullen.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. “Last May, as we sat in the kitchen of their beautiful Brickfield Stud home on the banks of the Grand Canal in Rhode, where he had found great solace since his diagnosis, Frances was minded to temper the talk of Pat’s bravery.

Conscious that so many, not least their late friend John Shortt, had been similarly brave, they were both keenly aware that courage and fortitude aren’t always enough.

If they were, Pat would surely still be with us. He will live forever in our hearts.”

Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen passed away this week at the age of 43. The Racing Post’s Richard Forristal penned this heartfelt tribute to the Offaly native.

2. ”The footage feels so familiar, if you’re a certain age. Dubbed to a hazy old VHS tape, it’s shot with a hand-held camcorder. The narrator, as in all of these home movies, is the person holding the camera. He’s wandering around a locker room peppering questions at anyone who appears in his viewfinder. It feels like any birthday party or Christmas morning caught on tape in the ’80s or ’90s. A timestamp on the footage gives us a more specific frame of reference: September 2, 1996.

The camera shakes as it pans from player to player. All are seated at their lockers, making their final preparations for the night’s match. They offer a thumbs up, or an embarrassed smile. A player points to the crest on his shirt and exclaims: “Toronto Italia, baby!”

(€) – Pablo Maurer, for The Athletic, on the night Diego Maradona played in Canada. 

3. “I get asked some very odd questions,” says Cathal Joyce.

“No, I don’t look at life differently. No, there was no white light.

“That would always be the the first question anybody that meets me brings up: ‘Do I look at life differently?’ When I say no, they’re gobsmacked.”

The remarkable story of Westmeath GAA player Cathal Joyce, who is back playing five years after suffering a cardiac arrest before a club match, was recounted by PJ Browne on

4. “It was during last season’s high-scoring early wins that Abramovich felt energised. There are stories of him watching Chelsea games no matter where he is in the world, trying to ensure the perfect satellite signal on one of his yachts, and he certainly wasn’t missing those matches.

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These were young players he’d personally been tracking from their days in the academy, in the hope they’d come through. This was a manager, in Frank Lampard, who’d been a personal favourite. This was clearly an “identity”, an attractive way of playing he’d always craved, but that he felt Chelsea had always lacked. Abramovich was quickly sanctioning the spending we’ve seen this summer.”

Chelsea take on Liverpool today. Miguel Delaney took an in-depth look in the Independent at Roman Abramovich’s reign to date and where it is going at Stamford Bridge.

5. “The Kilcoynes, former owners of the club, inscribed 1899 as the date of foundation on the gates of Milltown; the latterly spiritual home of the club for 65 years from 1922 to 1987, so treacherously abandoned in the 1980s during one of the club’s occasional upheavals. Understandably, many quibble with a Kilcoyne version of history.

A Ringsend fisherman, Larry Fitzpatrick, is sometimes credited as being a founder member – again, there is conjecture, with Lar Byrne also name-checked.

Tradesmen certainly founded AC Milan, three butchers in fact, Alfred Edwards, Herbert Kilpin and Samuel Davies. Within a year they had won their first title, backboned by English lace workers enrolled in winter the of 1899 in Milan’s Fiaschetteria Toscana bar.”

(€) – Dave Kelly in The Irish Independent took a closer look at the history of Shamrock Rovers and AC Milan before last Thursday’s game in Tallaght.

6.  In a moment just before, a neighbour pulls into the house opposite, and there’s a child that cries out, “Come on Sam Bennett, come on Sam Bennett…” They were, his mother says, drawing up posters of Sam Bennett at school today.

Already too on every approach to Carrick-on-Suir, from the TipperaryWaterford or Kilkenny side, there are signs and images that read “Allez Sam Bennett”, “Bring it home Sam Bennett”, many more in the shops and pubs still closed up in the face of Covid-19. These are hard times in the country town of just under 6,000 people, and Bennett’s success in the biggest bike race in the world feels like a kind of magic.”

Ian O’Riordan visited the family home of Sam Bennett this week for the Irish Times as he’s about to win the green jersey in the Tour De France.

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