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Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 18 May 2021
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The Sunday Papers: some of the week's best sportswriting

Take a load of and get the kettle on… here’s your morning sorted.

Katie Taylor: in the spotlight.
Katie Taylor: in the spotlight.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

1. “Strange the way football fans can be both hugely logical and vastly illogical all at the same time. I’ve a friend from Navan who has been heavily involved with St Patrick’s – that great nursery of Meath football – down through the years and there is no one better to watch a game with.

“He’s calm and sensible and articulate, is a great reader of tactics and trends, and has a superb knowledge of players and managers and circumstances. He’s ideal company for 70 minutes and you never fail to learn something from being in his presence. But consider this. Back in the early 1990s, shortly after his county had been involved in the most violent rivalry of the modern game, that same man was sitting in the neutral territory of a Kilkenny restaurant when he overheard a table of Cork people taking a swipe at his team.

“Sufficed to say he didn’t stay seated, a heated argument broke out and management kindly and rightly asked him to leave.

The lunatics have run the Meath asylum for far too long according to Ewan MacKenna on Eircom SportsHub.

2. “The similarities are striking: Form that crumbled in March, big money signings failing to perform, and back page stories questioning whether ‘King Kenny’ could still cut it as a manager. If Dalglish was to reflect on that run amid growing pressure at Liverpool he may find some reassurance at how quickly things can change. The run ended with a draw, Liverpool’s last result. Three years later, his team won the Premier League.”

The BBC’s Ian Singleton reach into Kenny Dalglish’s past to glean a lesson for his present and future: Blackburn in the old Division 2.

3. “Cluxton is fiercely protective of his privacy. In his profile on the Dublin GAA website, he says that the best piece of advice he’s ever received is “Don’t talk to the media”. Sure enough, when the whistle blew, he celebrated briefly with his colleagues, commiserated with some of his opponents, and headed straight to the changing room. The man whose action had just won the biggest prize in Irish sport for arguably the biggest team in Irish sport departed the scene without a word to us: no platitudes, no poetry, no nothing. As the players did the media rounds in subsequent weeks and months, Cluxton was invisible. Well, almost invisible: he did make one brief and awkward telly appearance on behalf of a charity, in which the only question he was asked was on how he kept himself to himself in the wake of the All-Ireland. And he gave a short quote for a book on Dublin’s triumph; the very fact that he had done so was news. Other than that, nothing: he even shuns endorsement deals, a big call for an amateur (he teaches for a living)”

Fredorrarci introduces the idiosyncratic Dublin goalkeeper to the readers of The Classical. Which is nice.

4. “During our last conversation, over espressos in an Arnhem hotel, I had several “Aha” moments. I have watched Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona umpteen times, but only now am I finally beginningto see. Guardiola’s Barcelona are great not merely because they have great players. They also have great tactics – different not just from any other team today, but also different from Barcelona teams pre-Guardiola. Barça are now so drilled on the field that in some ways they are more like an American gridiron football team than a soccer one.”

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The always excellent Simon Kuper explains why Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona are sooooo good.

5. “What would happen, though, if Mad Men kept going indefinitely? If it just kept charting the slow disintegration of Betty Francis’s universe, year after year, decade after decade, on into what we think of as the modern world? A couple of days ago I was listening while Jim Nantz crooned something warm about azaleas and it hit me that the Masters is essentially Mad Men, Season 51 — that practically the entire remaining Draperverse is now concentrated on one Georgia golf course, four days a year. For those four days, the old cornball patriarchy once again gets to pretend that its lawn is the entire country, and everything else — women, Pepsi, not being ambiguously racist — is part of some beatnik unreality on the wrong side of the border. Riots, you say? Oh, it’s terrible, and of course the police have hardly been any help.”

Brian Philips. Grantland. Mad Men and the Masters. Get it done.

6. “On an early spring afternoon, a torn advertising banner flaps in the wind. A rectangle of grass sits netless and unlined, the groundskeeper let go when the team folded in December. I climb up to Benito Juárez Olympic Stadium’s one luxury box, my sneakers slipping in the dust. The door to the box is unlocked, and the room has been looted. Gone is the cooler that chilled beers and sodas on game days. No glassware remains in the bar — everything of value has been hustled away. Or almost everything.”

The New York Times’ Robert Andrew Powell traces an unlikely success story in Mexican soccer.

7. “Prelapsarian. This was the afternoon of the evening when Michael Owen scored that hattrick against Germany that made Sven Goran Eriksson rich beyond his wildest dreams. It was ten days before September 11. It was the old Lansdowne Road and Mick and Roy were still talking, just about. I’ve never sat down since and watched this game through. I might just about be able to bear the tension now. The only thing that mattered that day, and indeed right up to Saipan, was that we had Roy Keane and he was the best there ever was.”

I subscribe to this point of view. If you heard the enjoyable chat on Newstalk last weekend with the likes of Conor Deegan and Malachy Clerkin, you’ll know this piece by host Ger Gilroy on Balls.ie, complements it nicely.

The players’ story: how Ireland’s cricketers won the World T20 Qualifying Tournament

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