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A nod to encouraging sporting parents, a journey from prison to the podium and the week's best sportswriting

Stick the kettle on, it’s that time of the week.

NATURALLY, THOUGH, IT’S much easier to bang tribal drums and recite tribal chants and bathe in the warm and familiar water of populist rhetoric than it is to engage with the cultural preferences and identity choices of others.

Wrap the green flag around me, lads, and ask no questions.

Paul Rouse asks if the Cork commemorative jersey is the right fit, in the Irish Times. 

On this occasion, however, it is not the who or what that is being commemorated that raises questions – that much is straightforward – but how it is that Cork GAA felt that it was its place to lead the commemorating and what, beyond mere revenue raising, it hopes to achieve with it.

That the MacCurtain and MacSwiney families have expressed pride in the jersey is entirely understandable. But what is clear from the publicity accompanying its launch is how little serious thinking lies behind the commemoration or any sense that it might, as Croke Park’s plan for the year does, form part of a deeper, more reflective programme of activity.

And ‘Why Cork GAA is wrong to wrap €70 jersey around War of Independence,’ writes Mark Duncan for the same publication

The common thread running through all of those games was of course the presence of my father alongside me, nurturing the interest and answering the non-stop stream of questions, some perceptive and a lot just inane. He deserves my unending thanks, though of course, you, dear reader, might be blaming him for sowing the seed which has brought me to this page.

So here’s to him and Noreen Kingston and parents all over West Cork, the county and beyond, traipsing around the countryside to help breed the dreams of their children. While we might struggle to pay it back, we can at least pay it forward to the next generation.

A lovely column from Denis Hurley for the Southern Star: A nod to all parents who help breed the dreams of children

Full disclosure: I don’t really have a position on VAR. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t share it in public. Occasionally I have been asked on to a podcast or television show where it is tacitly explained that some sort of opinion on VAR will be required and I have just about managed to feign the required outrage.

It’s quite easy, once you practise a bit: just tick off as many of the following words and phrases as possible – “Stockley Park”, “Mike Riley”, “not what the technology was brought in for”, “armpit”, “killing the emotion” – while gradually winding your voice into ever tighter coils of fury. Finally you let a big, exasperated sigh into the microphone and observe, with a tinge of theatrical sadness: “It’s just a mess, Geoff, it really is.”

At which point – if you’ve done it right – your “viral rant” will almost certainly get clipped up and posted on social media, where people will leave lots of applause emojis and comments such as “Jonathan Liew SPEAKS FACTS!!!!” or “this needed saying”, a statement that these days is almost never true. In an age when rage increasingly feels like the only valid emotion, VAR is basically free rage: an opportunity to vent without consequences, at an enemy that to all purposes is nameless and faceless.

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The Guardian’s Jonathan Liew explains why we should focus on tacking football’s real problems rather than ranting about VAR.

wolverhampton-wanderers-v-leicester-city-premier-league-molineux VAR checking a goal. Source: Mike Egerton

Asked about the extent of their support for their favourite team, many respondents said it is largely limited to looking out for results or watching games on television but almost a third (32 per cent) say they occasionally attend games and three per cent say they are season ticket holders or very regularly go to matches.

That figure rose to eight per cent among League of Ireland supporters but in terms of Premier League supporters, it was also three per cent, something that would equate to some 40,000 Irish people travelling on what they consider to be a “regular” basis to see football in England.

Most are men with almost twice exactly as many males as females describing themselves as supporters (62 per cent compared to 31 per cent). Among those women who do, though, Manchester United and Liverpool fare particularly well with 35 per cent and 32 per cent support respectively.

An interesting football fan survey from The Irish Times’ Emmet Malone 

When he was in jail, Hiko Tonosa had one request for the officers who would beat him with large wooden sticks.

Hit me anywhere, he’d say, except the legs.

He could deal with a bashed-up arm, or bruises and scars across his face or body. But his legs? He needed them for running.

Then and now, the sport has meant everything. A way to make a living, an escape that kept him alive.

From an Ethiopian prison to the podium of the Irish National Championships, Cathal Dennehy speaks to Hiko Tonasa for the Irish Examiner.

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