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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019

The Rumble in the Jungle, Stephen Kenny's rise and the week's best sportswriting

Stick the kettle on and get stuck into this lot.

Boxing - Kinshasa - Muhammad Ali v George Foreman George Foreman is knocked to the canvas by Muhammad Ali in their famous fight 45 years ago. Source: DPA/DPA/PA Images

1. “He said so more than once in that muted time early on Wednesday afternoon when the turmoil detonated by his achievement had subsided for a few hours. Lying back on the thick cushions of an armchair in his villa, with the windows curtained against an angry sun that was threatening to evaporate the Zaire River as it slid like a grassy ocean past his front door, he talked with the quiet contentment of a man whose thoughts were acting on him as comfortingly as the hands of a good masseur.

“I kicked a lot of asses – not only George’s,” he said. “All those writers who said I was washed up, all those people who thought I had nothin’ left to offer but my mouth, all them that been against me from the start and waitin’ for me to get the biggest beatin’ of all times. They thought big bad George Foreman, the baddest man alive, could do it for them but they know better now.”

Hugh McIlvanney, a giant of sports journalism, passed away this week at the age of 84. Here is one of his greatest pieces, when he headed to Muhammad Ali’s villa a matter of hours after the Rumble in the Jungle in 1974.

2. “There were no reservations sitting down with Stephen Kenny. He was more than twice Murray’s age, had never used Clearasil, and enjoyed a reputation as one of the nicest and most interesting men in football. He talked politics with John Hume and read books on Jim Larkin. He was a friend to the homeless and celebrated fair play and values. He wrote a column in the match programme at Dundalk that was often required reading.”

Paul Kimmage sat down with Stephen Kenny for a fascinating chat in The Sunday Independent on growing up in Tallaght, his love for Derry and his future role as Ireland manager.

Stephen Kenny Stephen Kenny will succeed Mick McCarthy as Ireland senior boss. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. “Oxtoby’s more intrepid exploits stalled abruptly when she turned 12 and her parents suggested she apply for boarding school in Perth to broaden her horizons. She promptly won a football scholarship while her parents remained in Wickham to care for Michael.

“I was like, ‘Don’t send me there!’ I was kicking and screaming.” She lasted just over a week. “It was horrible. I rang my dad crying every single day. The amount of people at high school was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I ate my lunch in the toilet, just because I couldn’t deal with that many people.

“I went to doing whatever I wanted to having to be in my room by a certain time. To be removed from my family set up and to be told just to get on with things, not have that freedom – it was definitely one of the hardest periods of my life.”

Australian native and Bristol City women manager Tanya Oxtoby spoke to The Daily Telegraph about sporting life in England and the passing of her older brother Michael.

4. “Rory Best, Ireland’s captain, just like McBride, is a Protestant from Ulster. Yet even amid these fraught days of Brexit, seething with talk of Irish backstops and hard borders, Best does not face the pressures McBride endured during the Troubles. “You always got the cracks against you,” McBride recalls. “That bloody Ulsterman. Why is he captain of Ireland? Up here they’d say: ‘Why are you captaining that crowd?’ I was pretty headstrong so I ignored it.”

Donald McRae journeys around Ireland in search of answers as to how the country has become the Six Nations favourites and a contender for the World Cup.

Joe Schmidt and Rory Best Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

5. “In running the entire Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in 83 hours, carrying a 5.5kg backpack containing her emergency supplies and 3,000 calories of snacks required by the rules and barely sleeping three hours across three nights, the 35-year-old vet from Edinburgh evoked the ghosts of Sir Edmund Hillary and Roger Bannister and other legends of the heroic age.”

The Guardian’s Sean Ingle on the remarkable feat of endurance of Jasmin Paris.

6. “It is lunchtime in the canteen at Ajax Amsterdam’s training ground and youth academy. This is where the future, present and past all meet.

“De Jong is chatting to passers-by while, at the next table, some of the under-17 players are inhaling plates of lean meat and potatoes. Michael Reiziger, now coach of Ajax’s second team, and the club’s CEO Van der Sar stroll through, greeting players who hope to emulate their 1995 Champions League success.

“There is a photograph of Johan Cruyff in a glass cabinet, alongside silverware from their trophy-laden spell in the 1970s when they were the best team in Europe. Everything comes back to Cruyff, the man who inspired a footballing revolution but whose philosophy is as influential as ever in all areas of the club.”

ESPN’s Tom Hamilton takes a closer look at the football structure of Ajax after a week where the transfer of Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona was confirmed.

Netherlands: Ajax vs SC Heerenveen Barcelona's new big money signing Frenkie de Jong. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

7. “I had to break the relationship up a bit with them. They are the guys you are close with. They are the guys who if I was going for a coffee, I’d go with, or if I was meeting to talk about things from a player’s point of view, we’d be the ones coming up with things and thrashing things out. I had to be away from that group.

“At the start when we were away on training camps it was hard because I’d see the lads heading down the town for coffee and I wasn’t sure if I should go with them, but you have to separate things. You still have your relationship with them but it’s just different.”

Karl Lacey meets Marie Crowe of The Sunday Independent to talk about moving on from his playing days with Donegal to steering them from the sideline.

Karl Lacey Karl Lacey was a key part of Donegal's 2012 All-Ireland senior triumph. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

8. “Haslam exits the locker room and walks toward a Mercedes-Benz van surrounded by a police escort. He made a fortune expanding the Haslam family business of Pilot Flying J truck stops and saw it come to a halt in an FBI raid in 2013, which left him looking for redemption as the owner of the famously hard-luck and comically inept Browns.

“For the past six years, as Haslam’s former life dissolved, he tightly gripped every aspect of the Cleveland organization, often creating as much chaos as he inherited, according to more than two dozen interviews with current and former Browns executives, coaches, lawyers, scouts and staffers, as well as league executives and other team owners and executives, most of whom requested confidentiality.”

ESPN’s Seth Wickersham on the clash of the Cleveland Browns.

9. “It can be no consolation to those in South Wales and in Los Angeles who are red-eyed with anxiety about Johnny Owen to know that the extreme depth of his own courage did as much as anything else to take him to the edge of death.

“This calamitous experience reported on Page One could only have happened to an exceptionally brave fighter because Lupe Pintor, the powerful Mexican who was defending his World Boxing Council bantamweight championship against Owen, had landed enough brutal punches before the twelfth and devastatingly conclusive round to break the nerve and resistance of an ordinary challenger. The young Welshman was, sadly, too extraordinary for his own good in the Olympic Auditorium.”

Finally another brilliant article from McIlvanney, a report in 1980 from Los Angeles on the tragic end to Johnny Owen’s challenge for the world bantamweight title.

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