Dublin: -2°C Tuesday 18 January 2022

Clare make hurling history, Zizou at Dalyer and more of the week's best sportswriting

Stick on the kettle and settle in to some of our favourite pieces from the last seven days, including a stunning Bohemians oral history.

soccer-nottingham-forest Roy Keane receiving the Barclays Young Player of the month award in 1991. Source: EMPICS Sport

1. IN HIS EARLY teens, Roy Keane found himself confronted with failure at every turn. He failed his Intermediate Certificate at school, a source of shame and embarrassment, but worse still — in his eyes, if nobody else’s — was the ongoing indignity of rejection by the Republic of Ireland development teams.

His coaches told him it was because the national selectors in Dublin looked down their noses at people from Cork. But four of his team-mates from Rockmount got further than him when it came to the trials for the national under-14 team, so there had to be more to it than that. He did some digging. The word from Dublin, he was told, was that he was too small and needed to control his temperament.

A year later, more to his relief than excitement, he was summoned for trials for the under-15s. This, he felt, was make-or-break. If he had any hope of a career across the water at one of the big English clubs, he had to be in the national under-15 squad. He took the train to Dublin with four of his Rockmount team-mates. Again he was the one who missed the cut. In his 2002 autobiography, he calls it “the worst disappointment of my life. The door to my dream slammed shut in my face.”

The rejections kept on coming.

Oliver Kay puts Roy Keane under the microscope in The Athletic’s The Premier League 60 series.

2. As legend would have it, Zinedine Zidane was a mere prospect when he stepped out onto the Dalymount pitch on a miserable evening in September 1993. Three players who would go on to write footballing folklore by winning the World Cup with Les Bleus less than five years later had arrived in Phibsboro for a first round Uefa Cup tie against Bohemian FC. Another member of their squad, Márcio Santos, would earn a World Cup medal with Brazil at USA ‘94.

The term ‘football hipster’ would not be uttered until decades after this quintessential ‘before they were famous’ moment played out before 5,000 rain soaked and unassuming Bohs fans. This is the sporting equivalent to a dingy music venue with the support act that makes it big.

Ciarán Priestly pens an oral history of the Uefa Cup first round meeting of Bohemian FC and FC Girondins de Bordeaux in September 1993.

anthony-daly-1995 Anthony Daly lifting the Liam MacCarthy cup. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

3. One episode stands out: a midday coffee with Daly, who’d nipped out of the bank for a few minutes, the week of the Munster final. He sounded quietly confident. As the West County lunchtime rush began we had to squeeze over at the table to accommodate a family from Limerick on a day trip to Ennis. The man recognised Daly and announced that everyone he knew back home reckoned the following Sunday was a foregone conclusion. He wasn’t bragging, not at all; his tone suggested he realised this was Not A Good Thing. Daly tried not to smirk. A nice piece of tinder for the fire.


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The Irish Examiner’s Enda McEvoy marked the 25th anniversary of Clare’s breakthrough All-Ireland win earlier this week — and reflects on when they  ended a record 81-year wait for Liam MacCarthy glory.

4. There were whispers at this point over whether the quirks of the fresh face might turn out to be somewhat problematic.

Dundalk lifers had listened to warnings when the consortium led by Peak6 took over the club in late 2017.

Scepticism was borne out of the belief that a private equity firm would view Dundalk as a quick hit and head for the hills if they found that 2016′s Europa League run was hard to replicate.

Previous horror stories relating to League of Ireland clubs and overseas investors were cited as evidence, the tales of faceless backers with questionable pedigrees who promised money that didn’t materialise or possibly never existed and left a trail of debt behind.

Dundalk’s backers are from another bracket altogether. 

‘How Dundalk’s American dream turned into a nightmare,’ writes Daniel McDonnell for The Irish Independent. 

5. Harder smiles into her laptop from the London home she now shares with her partner and Chelsea teammate, Magdalena Eriksson. This is the first time this week she has paused for breath. On Sunday, she played against Lyon in the Champions League final - Lyon marched to their fifth successive European crown - in San Sebastián, Spain. Then she flew to Germany to clear her apartment. She arrived in England on Tuesday morning, and was unveiled at Stamford Bridge at 5pm. 

“It has been going fast this week,” she says, “but for me, the thing is being present.” She watched Chelsea’s Community Shield win knowing she would be joining them in three days’ time and told her former teammates of her departure before the Champions League restarted. Did she think about the final being her last for Wolfsburg, where she has spent the last four seasons? Her voice goes higher, as if just realising. “No, I didn’t. I just had this big game in front of me. And after, I didn’t really understand it, either, that it was my last game. Because everything went so fast.” 

In the first major interview since her move to Chelsea, Pernille Harder — the world’s most expensive women’s footballer — speaks to Katie Whyatt for the Telegraph.

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