Dublin: 12°C Monday 26 July 2021

Dean Rock on 'you know who', the rise of Colombian cyclists and the week's best sportswriting

Plus a 41-year-old inter-county footballer’s heartbreaking but inspiring story.


You couldn’t blame the player, stuck as he was between the proverbial and a hard place for a pre-arranged Aer Lingus promotional event that reportedly caused the team’s brains trust all sorts of palpitations after Connolly was landed with a proposed 12-week ban the night before.

Aer Lingus Dublin GAA Autumn Transatlantic Offers Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

The usual finger food and beverages were on offer for the assembled press but it was the tension you could have cut with a knife as Rock was directed to a seat behind a top table which created a figurative and a literal distance. The interview equivalent of pulling up a drawbridge It started with the usual soft balls.

Good win at the weekend? How would you rate the team performance? Yada yada. Five questions in and the first bit of mildly appealing bait was cast into the water.

Did Connolly’s suspension take the gloss of that 12-point defeat of Carlow in Portlaoise?

“No, not at all. We were just focusing on our own performance and we went down there to get a win and that’s what we did.”

Has there been much talk among the players about the ban?

“No, nothing.”

Alan Brogan says any possible appeal could have a negative effect on the squad, though. What do you think?

“As I said, in respect to Diarmuid I won’t be speaking about it. I don’t think it’s an issue.”

Be thankful: This is the edited version.

The Irish Examiner’s Brendan O’Brien colourfully describes a press conference featuring Dean Rock following the news of Diarmuid Connolly’s, or ‘you know who’s’ ban


Golden State center JaVale McGee may loom large at 7 feet, but he never really had a growth spurt. “Always just tall,” he says, sitting in the Warriors locker room on Sunday night after his team’s 132–113 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of McGee’s first NBA Finals. “Born 11 pounds, 11 ounces.” For his mother, Pamela — a two-time NCAA champion, 1984 Olympic gold medalist, and WNBA player and assistant coach — the ramifications of having such a big boy didn’t end after delivery.

When she took 4-month-old JaVale to baby-and-me classes that were designed for kids 13 months and younger in her hometown of Flint, Michigan, he was so big that other moms wondered what the McGees were doing there. (JaVale suffered from “big discrimination,” Pamela says with a smile.) When she brought the 9-month-old JaVale to Europe, where she played in France and Spain and was a four-time Italian League All-Star, she frequently found herself arguing with airline employees. “They would never believe that he was younger than 2,” she says now, relaxing on a sofa in the family lounge inside the Warriors’ Oracle Arena and referring to the age below which kids can fly free.

‘Like Mother, Like Son’: Katie Baker’s long read on The Ringer on JaVale McGee and his background


CURTIS STRANGE: When it was over, the deep feeling I had was disappointment. This is our national championship. And it was hijacked by the governors of the game. The USGA clearly admits this: They should have told Dustin on the spot. That’s why I say it was hijacked. Because nobody knew what was going on.

Memorial Golf Source: Darron Cummings

DAVID WINKLE (Dustin Johnson’s agent): Mistakes are definitely made because there are humans handling all this stuff. But Dustin’s never been one to hold a grudge about anything. Someone asked me what was the most gratifying part of Dustin finally getting his major. And I said, “Well, for obvious reasons I’m glad the monkey’s off his back.” And I’m glad that the dialogue around him will change a little.

The rules controversy that marred Johnson’s first major win doesn’t slow him down. Two weeks later he wins his next start, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as well as the BMW Championship. 

Josh Berhow explores the rules controversy that rocked the 2016 US Open, and Dustin Johnson’s sterling play on www.golf.com


But nothing prepares or inures you from that kind of grief.

“Someone asked me the other day when Odhrán crawled and I couldn’t remember. I don’t remember so much that happened at that time,” Flanagan reveals.

Football, eventually, provided a little respite but it was far from easy.

“The club started back in March, Mam was here with the kids so I went but there were nights I cried all the way up the road and back.

“It took all my energy to get in and train but it was an hour of your mind being turned to something else rather than thinking you were going to go mad.”

Not even a woman of Flanagan’s application and fortitude could face inter-county at first.

When Sligo boss Paddy Henry persuaded her back in 2015 she lasted just one session.

Cliona Foley shares 41-year-old Sligo footballer Etna Flanagan’s heartbreaking, but inspiring story in the Irish Times.


After President Juan Manuel Santos congratulated Colombian cyclists who rode in last year’s Tour de France, Winner Anacona, a member of Quintana’s Madrid-based Movistar Team, tweeted, “We did it ON OUR OWN in this difficult and beautiful sport with very little help.”

Italy: 2017 Giro d'Italia - Stage Five Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Such comments anger Colombian cycling officials who assert that their efforts have helped produce the most gifted crop of Colombian riders ever. They include Fernando Gaviria, who sprinted to four stage victories at this year’s Giro, and Esteban Cháves, who finished among the top three at last year’s Giro and Vuelta a España.

These riders “are not made all by themselves,” said Jorge Ovidio González, president of the state-run Colombian Cycling Federation. “They can’t just jump on a plane and go to Europe” and win races.

John Otis of The New York Times writes about the meteoric rise of Colombian cyclists


Other than the wind whipping from the south, you couldn’t have asked for a better scene. Crisp California sky, vast green outfield, iconic names and numbers on tarps covering the upper deck in left: HENDERSON 24, JACKSON 9. . . . A few nights earlier I’d dreamt of hitting a baseball up to those names, some 600 feet away—but right now I’d settle for one that hooked inside the foul pole at the 330 mark, the shortest distance to a home run at Oakland Coliseum.

I’d traveled from L.A. to the Bay to go yard, to take one deep, to hit a baseball so hard into the sky that gravity couldn’t push it down before it cleared the fence. I wanted to do what major leaguers such as Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton do routinely, and what NFL stars like Calvin Johnson and Julian Edelman have done taking guest BP before games. I wanted to do it for the same reason that that latter group stepped to the plate: to see if I could.

Except I’m not an NFL receiver in his 20s. I’m a 45-year-old father of three who hasn’t played baseball since middle school.

‘It takes 1 swing to hit a home run. Or, as a 45-year-old writer found out, it more like 38,000′: Michael McKnight shares his experience on Sports Illustrated 


Who is bothered if a small English one that has spent the last three decades in League One or Two could be wiped out by a shady Italian businessman, who looks and talks like an extra from The Sopranos?

Leyton Orient File Photo Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Football is booming, it does not need Leyton Orient. They are irrelevant, a relic. A small community club in a capital city that stopped paying attention to the wishes of small communities a long time ago. Call it gentrification, call it globalisation, call it what you want, Orient are not part of it. Orient are the equivalent of the family-run bakers, put out of business by a 24-hour supermarket. They just don’t know it yet. This is capitalism, this is economic Darwinism. Orient are victims, but there are always victims of progress. There is always collateral damage. Get on with it. Tottenham are building a new stadium, Arsenal already have one and West Ham are just down the road, so why would you need to go to watch a team that plays poor football in a poor stadium in a poor part of London?

Luke Edwards writes about Leyton Orient’s slide out of the football league and why it matters on the Blizzard

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