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Dublin: 1°C Thursday 3 December 2020

How Jack Charlton's 'carpet-baggers' qualified for USA 94 and more of the week's best sportswriting

Stick the kettle on and treat yourself to this lot.

alan-mcloughlin-17111993 Alan McLoughlin celebrates after the Republic of Ireland's game against Northern Ireland in November 1993. Source: INPHO

“In the end, and despite a bomb threat on their hotel, the Irish players insisted on playing. The pride of many of them had been pricked by legendary Northern Irish manager Billy Bingham, who was taking charge of his last game, as he described Ireland’s stars as ‘carpet-baggers’. Many of the fans on the night were willing to say worse.”

The Independent’s Miguel Delaney recalls the dramatic climax to qualification for the 1994 World Cup.

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“Even more so than usual, these past few weekends have felt at times like somebody has made a mistake somewhere along the way and at any moment there’s going to be a hand on the shoulder saying it’s time to go home. It isn’t that the games have been amazing – this dispatch is coming from Croke Park in the wake of Dublin v Laois, which might just have been the least engaging sporting event in recorded history. But we’re allowed to go to matches when virtually nobody else can. It feels like a gift. Some of it is surreal. It feels vaguely illegal to be able to park on Clonliffe Road and leave yourself a 70-yard walk to the front door.”

(€) For the Irish Times, Malachy Clerkin on the privilege of being present for behind-closed-doors sport. 

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“In case you may have missed it, the good Dokter, upon the appointment of Jonathan Hill as the new FAI chief executive that he’ll be reporting to, duly produced a 15-slide player development document in his own capacity as the sport’s high performance technical director. The document claims its proposed ‘elite player pathway’ is based on ‘best international practice’ when actually almost all sports and international research suggests that the thrust of it is anything but.”

An FAI document calling for ‘elite’ 12-year-olds to specialise in football isn’t evidence-based or child-centred, writes the Irish Examiner’s Kieran Shannon.

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“Fifty years along, we are still talking about how we need to do more research. Fifty years on, it feels as if we’re discovering this problem all over again. But what if people have been talking about it, writing about it, studying it, suffering from it, all the time? Right there in plain sight. The question, then, is why it took so long for us to notice.”

Andy Bull of The Guardian addresses the historical research and testimony linking brain damage with football.

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