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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 13 December, 2018

The decline of Ireland's elite footballers and why Remember the Titans is a lie; the week’s best sportswriting

Also, a revealing Brendan Rodgers interview and a spectacular look at boxing in Cuba.

It is widely agreed that Ireland no longer produce players of Roy Keane's calibre.
It is widely agreed that Ireland no longer produce players of Roy Keane's calibre.
Image: Andrew Paton/INPHO

1. “Upon its release, Remember the Titans was hailed for its elevating message and, to a lesser degree, chided for its posturing as a historical document. “History is written by the winners,” went the tag line on Titans posters, and Disney promoted the movie as a true tale about a high school football team. But screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard couldn’t cull enough material from T.C.’s dominant state championship run in 1971 for the parable he wanted to tell. So he recast Alexandria circa 1971 as Birmingham circa 1963. And he posed the 1971 consolidation of Alexandria’s high schools, which turned three full-sized high schools into one giant high school, as the racial integration of the city’s schools, though in reality all three schools had been racially integrated years before their merger. The real record shows that T.C. had black and white students when it opened in 1965.”

Deadspin’s Dave McKenna superbly deconstructs the 2000 Denzel Washington-starring American Football movie Remember the Titans

2. Robson put together a team with flair and many people thought they could genuinely challenge for the title. Sadly, it was to end in the bitter disappointment of relegation in May 1997, but not before they wowed fans across the country and made Clayton Blackmore and Robbie Mustoe seem that little bit more exotic than they were.

They were a team for the day and they took it one match at a time. Perhaps this is why they made three appearances at Wembley between 1996 and 1998. They may have lost the finals, but on their day they could mix it with the very best. It’s easy to sit here as an admirer looking back almost 20 years later but I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for Boro fans at the time.

Remember the Juninho-led Middlesbrough footballing revolution in the mid-1990s? This piece in The Guardian describes how it changed football.

3. “As the plane touched down at Jose Marti Airport I still wasn’t sure I would be allowed to enter Cuba in the first place. I had spent my last trip a few months earlier conducting illegal interviews with the country’s most famous boxing champions, men who had turned down millions and were only willing to discuss it if I paid them under the table. Of course there was no official way to have these interviews given the sensitivity of the topic. The state security had started following me after the first interview. All the Cubans I was working with couldn’t understand why we weren’t being arrested. But we kept going until we landed every interview on my wish list. Then it was just a matter of getting that material out.”

Writing for The Rumpus, Brin Jonathan Butler’s profile of boxing in Cuba is a spectacular read.

4. “It’s not every day that the manager of a Premier League football club cuts short a lunch with the Queen to accommodate a journalist’s request to interview him. But this is what happened when, shortly before the end of last season, Brendan Rodgers made his excuses and left a Diamond Jubilee civic banquet held at Swansea’s City Hall in the presence of Her Majesty to drive back to the Liberty Stadium as quickly as he could.

“A rather embarrassed Blizzard contributor had explained that, his train ticket being non-exchangeable and non-refundable, not mentioning First Great Western Trains’ pitiless fare policy for late bookers, changing the date of the agreed rendez-vous would entail gigantic costs neither he nor his employer could justify.”

A typically excellent piece by The Blizzard’s Philippe Auclair on Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers.

5. “Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs—hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn’t tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted “We want Ted” for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.”

Slate’s Longform Guide to baseball history is essential reading for aficionados of the sport 

6. “From Giles to Belfast’s George Best, Liam Brady to Paul McGrath, Roy Keane to David O’Leary, Irish players have been among the most successful and, for some, best footballers of their respective generations. The great Liverpool and Arsenal teams (pictured, the Irish contigent at the Gunners in the 80s – O’Leary, Stapleton, Jennings, Nelson, Devine, Rice, Brady) of the 1980s had a strong Irish contingent, as did Manchester United during the same period. Ireland once had a healthy representation at Arsenal and, during the Premier League era, the all-conquering United, captained by Keane, featured stalwarts Denis Irwin and later John O’Shea. In 2014, the largest Irish Premier League contingent is at strugglers Hull City.”

These Football Times’ Robert Redmond looks at the dramatic decline in the number of elite Irish footballers in recent times.

Read any memorable articles from this week? Let us know in the comments section below.

‘The worst part of my epic 45-day Pacific Ocean excursion? When the iPods stopped working’ 

A view from outside: Does LOI need to be stronger for Ireland to thrive at international level?

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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