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Dublin: 5°C Wednesday 3 March 2021

Conor Murray on Anthony Foley's death and more of the week's best sportswriting

Plus, Paul Kimmage takes a unique look at some of the most celebrated figures in the world of Irish MMA.

Then-Munster head coach Anthony Foley with Conor Murray in 2015.
Then-Munster head coach Anthony Foley with Conor Murray in 2015.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

1. “Fast cars, Mediterranean yachts, private island getaways – just a few staples of a professional footballer’s glamorous lifestyle. Or so the perception goes. The same perception dancing through my imagination as a starry-eyed teenager at the Manchester City academy. The same perception shattered by every contract I have signed since.”

Laurence Bell looks at the harsh realities for many professional footballers.

2. “It is a clear, crisp day in north London and Emmanuel Eboué is sitting in an empty bar at Enfield Town Football Club, across from the park pitch where he trains most days with a local semi-professional player he has befriended in a bid to stay fit while he serves a one-year ban from Fifa over his refusal to pay an agent. Over the course of the next two hours, the mood is mostly sombre as the former Arsenal, Galatasaray and Sunderland defender paints an anguished picture of a footballer denied the opportunity to do what he loves best and the heavy toll it is taking on his mental state.”

Speaking to The Telegraph, ex-Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboué is brutally honest when discussing the difficulties of his footballing life of late.

3. “As a boy Murray had worshipped Foley – the home-grown captain who lifted Munster’s first European Cup in 2006. Foley had also coached Murray from the under-20s to the first team over the past seven years. “When you lose someone,” Murray continues, “you go: ‘Let’s really take life for what it is and enjoy every day.’ After a while you forget and just go back to worrying about things. But Axel’s been dead more than two months and it’s still there for me. Little things don’t stress me any more. It’s had a profound impact and you learn new things.”

Ireland and Munster star Conor Murray remembers the late Anthony Foley in an interview with Donald McRae.

4. “Oakland’s Khalil Mack can get into the backfield with ease. “That shit is self-explanatory,” fellow Raiders pass rusher Bruce Irvin says. Mack, the third-year outside linebacker and defensive end, is more powerful than most and faster than the rest. Those aren’t the skills that Mack wants to rely upon on every play, however. Picasso could have painted sunsets and beaches, but that wouldn’t have been the best use of his specific talents.”

The Ringer’s Kevin Clark looks at how Khalil Mack is outsmarting his way to legendary status.

5. “There is about an hour to go and much to do before kickoff when the players begin to arrive, bleary-eyed and heavy-legged, squinting in the cold sunlight.

“The night before was a late night. Hugh Town, the village of a thousand souls that serves as the capital of St. Mary’s, the largest of the Isles of Scilly, is a bustling place in summer, its population swollen by the throngs of tourists who descend on this archipelago off the southwestern tip of England, 30 miles or so out into the Atlantic.”

Rory Smith of The New York Times documents two teams who are quite literally in a league of their own.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace Paralympic cyclist Mark Colbourne after receiving his Member of the British Empire (MBE) medal from the Prince of Wales at an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, central London. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

6. “Mark Colbourne, Neil Fachie, Anthony Kappes, Philip Hindes, Peter Kennaugh, Steven Burke, Callum Skinner, Owain Doull, Joanna Rowsell Shand, Elinor Barker, Katie Archibald, Kadeena Cox, Sophie Thornhill, Lora Turnham, Steve Bate, Megan Giglia, Karen Darke, Louis Rolfe, Jon-Allan Butterworth.

“These are the names of just some of the British cyclists who have enjoyed success at the Olympics, Paralympics and Tour de France since the turn of the century. Many of these are now household names and I doubt that there are many people in the UK who are unaware of the astonishing watershed that occurred after the turn of the century when Sir Dave Brailsford, building on the foundations laid by Peter Keen, his predecessor, became performance director of British Cycling.”

The Times’ Mathew Syed explains why the Bradley Wiggins saga shouldn’t taint others.

7. “Jan Tian stood in nervous silence in the departure hall of Beijing Capital International Airport. Beside him, his sister held an envelope containing a thousand yuan, close to her entire year’s wages. It was May 1993 and China’s capital was humid, its parks ablaze with tulips, crab apples and red azaleas. But Tian, who had graduated from Beijing University a decade earlier and now worked in Vancouver for the video game company Electronic Arts, had not come to sightsee. The previous week, he had received a phone call to say that his father had suffered a stroke and Tian’s bosses had booked him an emergency flight to China.”

Simon Parkin on the video game that changed football.

8. “You can argue about climate change or what causes it, but you cannot argue with hail. It hits Wylie like something out of the Bible: stones that could slay Goliath breaking through roofs and landing in living rooms, shattering windows and destroying cars. The storms typically last less than half an hour, but a home can be wrecked in less time than that.

“Jonathan Hernandez is about to climb a roof in nearby Plano when his phone starts ringing. He has been a roofer for less than a year; he has owned his company, High Rise Roofing, for just a few months. But it doesn’t matter. Word spread in Wylie after a smaller storm hit one month ago: Call Jonathan. He’ll take care of you.”

Aaron Hernandez’s brother retraces the NFL star’s path to murder in a superb Sports Illustrated piece.

9. “A crushing moment from the turn of my 15th birthday: Staring at the ‘create-a-player’ screen in that year’s Pro Evo, having made a virtual wish-fulfilment version of the player I imagined I would be when I grew up, I saw that the game now let you enter an age that was younger than my own. This moment killed my sole childhood dream, and by extension, me.”

Football Manager scouts brutally assessed a crap kickabout to see how bad Shortlist really are at playing the game.

10. “The month was December, 2015. Conor McGregor was going head-to-head with Jose Aldo in Vegas that weekend and the fight was top of the agenda on UTV’s now sadly defunct Friday Night Sport. Jody Sheridan, the producer, sent me an email with the details:

“Part One will be a look ahead to the McGregor fight and a chat about the legitimacy of the sport in general. The other guests will be Ash ‘The Bash’ Daly and Trevor Hogan, so plenty of scope for a good barney. In Part Two we’ll touch on the night’s rugby and then have a decent chat on the sports books of the year. Any questions just give me a bell.”

“The question was where to start?

“Who in God’s name was Ash ‘The Bash’ Daly?

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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