Dublin: 5°C Sunday 23 January 2022

A brilliant column from Tokyo, the career of Ger Canning and the week's best sportswriting

Plus, an interesting read on cheating in sport, which was shared in our The42 Members’ Behind The Lines WhatsApp group.

1. All Ireland finals soon beckoned. They were followed by World Cups and the Olympic Games. And, suddenly, four decades have passed and he’s still in the bunker putting faces to names, digging out stats and getting that same kick out of it all.

ger-canning RTÉ's Ger Canning. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I had no thought whatsoever of doing All-Ireland finals or World Cups. It was as far removed from my thought process as becoming the president of the United States. It just wasn’t part of it. It was part of my thinking.

“I was thinking much more in terms of operating out of the Cork area, maybe if I’m lucky, or any area. I was going to present sport. I was going to discuss sport. And I think radio was the thing for me.

“Television was something removed, something different, something that happened up there in Dublin. It wasn’t part of my life at all. It wasn’t even remotely part of my thought process. None whatsoever. Pure chance.

“I’ve been very, very lucky. RTÉ is a station whereby everybody is given opportunities to see what they can do. In the Olympics I’ve done basketball, volleyball, soccer, rowing a couple of Olympics back, hockey in the last one. I’ve done a complete mix of everything .

“And I absolutely adore what I do. I love a challenge.

“With live sport you’re flying by the seat of your pants and you’re hoping to God that you land safely. And I’ve relished every minute I’ve had of it.”

RTÉ commentator Ger Canning discusses his 40 years in the job with Aonghus Ó Maicín for The Irish Times.

2. I had the following reverie before the final: what if Southgate and Mancini agreed they wouldn’t let penalties decide the game? That if it came to penalties they’d just say, no thanks Uefa, we’re not going to do it – we’ll share the title. Dreams … idle dreams …

Let’s gloss over what happened in the last game itself. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the most important thing ever to have happened is England qualifying for the final of Euro 2020. It’s a truth not quite so universally acknowledged that the semi-final against Denmark was won by the amazing Raheem Sterling taking an equally amazing dive to earn a penalty in extra time. It’s the kind of action that draws furious condemnation from opponents (sorry Denmark!) and neutrals (sorry world!) but gets laughed off, glossed over or celebrated in the winning country.

Does cheating in sport matter? It depends on what you consider to be cheating.

One which was shared in our The42 Members’ Behind The Lines WhatsApp group this week, John Lanchester on cheating in sport features on London Review of Books.

4. It’s not often that Football League managers quit their jobs to become a youth team coach, yet that is precisely the path that Brian Barry-Murphy has taken.

The Irishman resigned from Rochdale at the end of June and has now been named Manchester City’s Under-23 coach.

He had actually applied for the job last summer and had got down to the final two candidates, eventually losing out to Enzo Maresca. City considered both to be excellent candidates for the role, in slightly different ways, and while they initially plumped for Maresca, they always suspected that they would cross paths with Barry-Murphy again.

A year down the line they have their chance, and his new employers consider the appointment a real coup.

‘Why Brian Barry-Murphy quit managing a Football League club to coach Man City U23s,’ writes Sam Lee for The Athletic.

3. Some Olympic Stadiums strike you first with their sense of place and history. No matter how much you’ve read or heard about it, nothing can fully prepare you for the moment you first walk inside the old Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

a-view-of-fireworks-after-all-of-the-competing-nations-entered-the-national-stadium A view of fireworks after all of the competing nations entered the National Stadium for Friday's opening ceremony. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If the ghost of Adolf Hitler doesn’t get you first then the ghost of Jesse Owens will. As if 1936 will be inside there forever, as well it should.

Other Olympic Stadiums strike you first with their sense of scale and design. No matter how much you were told or tried to imagine it, still nothing topped that first walk inside the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. It was as if all artistic arenas had been painted into the one single masterpiece.


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Others strike you differently again, in a forgettable or even meaningless way. What has happened to the Athens Olympic Stadium now? Did Rio de Janeiro ever even happen?

Then there are those that strike you first in unexpected ways, with a shivering chill like ice water in the veins even in the searing heat and humidity of a summer evening in Tokyo. Because this is exactly what happens when I first walk inside Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony 57 years after their last one, for the then 1964 Olympics, where among the then 93 nations was an Irish team of just 25 athletes, my dad among them.

He turned 84 earlier this month, and one of the last things he said to me before coming out here was to look out for that spot somewhere on the backstretch where in his heat of the 5,000 metres he got dropped for the first time, with three laps to go. He didn’t make the final, and 57 years later – not quite yet to the day, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics staged in October – he still talks about that experience with love and regret and some other things in between.

So it somehow felt like I’d been inside here before.

The Irish Times’ Ian O’Riordan pens a brilliant column from Tokyo.

5. Ask Lenny Woodard about a match he played in 20 years ago and he will be able to furnish you with every detail and describe every try he scored.

But ask him to recall something which happened last week or the name of the person sitting opposite him and he will struggle.

Aged just 45, the former Wales rugby international was diagnosed with early onset dementia just a matter of weeks ago.

As well as causing short-term memory loss, the condition has also left him frustrated and prone to bouts of uncharacteristic rage.

Lenny Woodward opens up to Wales Online’s Simon Lewis.

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