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Dublin: -3°C Sunday 24 January 2021

A terrifying crowd crush at an Old Firm derby and more of the week's best sportswriting

Stick the kettle on and treat yourself to this lot.

rangers-v-aberdeen-scottish-premiership-ibrox-stadium A general view of Ibrox stadium [file photo]. Source: PA

1. ”I slid down a few stairs on my backside and tried to stand up. There were blinding lights. The floodlights. A handful of uniformed workers had extricated several bodies. I gazed at them. Some had mouths and eyes wide open. Some were chalk-white, others grey.

“I pressed on one man’s chest, trying not to look at his face. His trousers were soaking. Other corpses were stained wet, whether through fear or the tremendous pressure, I didn’t know. I thought I saw small stirrings of life in another chest and pounded again. I pulled a youngster from the jumbled pile of bodies. An ambulanceman was kneeling over two inert men, beating alternately on each chest. He showed me how to do the kiss of life. It didn’t work.

“The deep, wide stairway was a war zone, bodies splayed all down the steps and on the dirt platforms between flights. The metal rails that divided the stairs into several open passages were mangled, flattened and twisted out of shape, but not broken. It was those who had followed Rangers who were broken.”

In The Guardian, John Hodgman recalls the day he survived a terrifying crush at an Old Firm derby in Ibrox, which claimed the lives of 66 people in 1971.

2. “In the match programme, someone noted that a home defeat would be “the biggest disaster since the sinking of the Titanic”. Down she went… The period from about 2009 to 2012 was the worst.

“I remember my first time in Cork, for a qualifier match in 2010 against the All-Ireland champions in waiting. The night before, I sat in the hotel, rain hammering the window, watching the rolling TV coverage of the Raoul Moat stand-off in Newcastle. On Saturday, Cavan took to the field. Neither ended well.

“That night we drank too many pints in Dan Lowrey’s. I woke up the next morning with a headache from hell and a flat tyre. With nowhere to get it changed on a Sunday, I drove the long road home on my space-saver spare at 35 mph. Cheers, Cavan.”

Writing in the Irish Examiner, Paul Fitzpatrick recounts the barren days endured by Cavan fans before their recent Ulster final victory.

3. Having had trials with Aston Villa, Kelleher was recommended to Manchester City by their scout in Cork but no move was made. When he impressed with Ireland, another City scout wondered why he wasn’t on their radar but by then, it was too late as Liverpool had pounced.

Seán Fitzgerald, the secretary of Ringmahon, wasn’t surprised that the former outfield player advanced at such a rate.

“Because he was a striker himself, he was able to anticipate what a striker was going to do,” he said.

“He had no fear, either – a ball would bounce in the six-yard box and he’d pounce on it. You just knew straightaway that he was one of these naturally gifted fellas.”

He hasn’t forgotten his roots, either.

“Like any former player who’d come down, he throws in his €2 if it’s a senior game and he’s just one of the lads, there’s no airs or graces about him,” Fitzgerald said.

Denis Hurley charts the rise of Cork’s Caoimhín Kelleher to becoming a goalkeeper for Liverpool in the Irish Times. 

1986-fifa-world-cup-argentina-england-21 Source: DPA/PA Images

4. “During that 1986 World Cup, Maradona one day walked from his bedroom to the dinner table while juggling a ball, and never once let it hit the ground even when seated. More regularly, he used to carry around a favoured water bottle, and “would do things with it that teammates couldn’t do with a ball”. As goes without saying, he could execute the “Maradona seven” – both feet, both knees, both shoulders, head – with that bottle.

“He was extraordinary,” says Olarticochea, who famously cleared Lineker’s header off the line in that 1986 match. “It was even the way he struck the ball. He had a control no one else had.”

In the Independent, Miguel Delaney speaks to former team-mates of Diego Maradona to understand the depths of genius since his recent death.

5. ”I was always a little crazy – most photographers don’t hang around the magazine’s photo labs, but I would go to make sure they didn’t mess up my film. I remember seeing this photo come out like it was yesterday.

“It was still wet, heading for the drying machine, but even then I knew it was special. Today, fighters come into the ring looking like wrestlers. But back in 1966 it was the old tradition: the champion in white trunks, the challenger in black, no logos or sponsors on the ring apron. The symmetry was perfect.

“Look closely at the picture and you can see two television microphones hanging down, one near Ali’s head and one near Williams. All Ali had to do was be one foot forward, or Williams could have fallen a yard to his right, and it would have been a lousy shot.”

Speaking to Tim Jonze of The Guardian, Neil Leifer talks about his famous photo from the Muhammad Ali v Cleveland Williams fight.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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