Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

15 October 1998 Edition

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Sportsview: Aussie strength wins out

If one thing was learned from - or confirmed by - last Sunday's International Rules match between Ireland and Australia at Croke Park it is that professional Aussie Rules players are much, much fitter than Irish amateur gaelic footballers. In an eighty minute match, Ireland lost a big lead in the last ten minutes to lose by a single point, 61 to 62.

In those last ten minutes Ireland gave the ball away and made other, tired mistakes. Australia tackled them with ease and swept to victory. Up until then Ireland looked well able to keep up with their bigger opponents.

This Sunday, that defeat will weigh heavily on the Irish players' minds. At the back of their minds throughout the match will be the fear that they will once again be dead on their feet by the end.

The match was certainly a thriller and that should guarantee a large crowd for this Sunday's fixture. It's very unlikely that the game has a future outside these type of post-season internationals but it certainly is worth watching.


BBC's Spotlight on Tuesday night dealt with the latest twist in the Wimbledon saga. Journalists and sports pundits used up plenty of ink and hot air when the English Premiership outfit tried to move to Dublin last year. That scheme seems to have hit the buffers but now they are trying to move to Belfast. They have the support of the Northern Ireland Office - which should immediately raise suspicions - and they have picked a name, Belfast United.

Members of the consortium behind the deal appeared on the programme and substituted the word `product' for `football' throughout. So it isn't that fans don't support the Irish League because the football is crap. No, it's because ``the product isn't up to standard'' and because sectarianism ``ruins the product''. All of which business-speak should alert everyone to the real motive behind the move: money.

That's no surprise, but the NIO is also pushing the line that a Premiership club in Belfast will reduce sectarianism because it will be supported by people from ``both sides of the community''.It's the type of NIO-nonsense that makes me want to throw up.

In reality, this type of thing is the continuation of the British normalisation policy. It seeks public relations images to paper over the cracks in a rotten state. It will do nothing for the underlying structural sectarianism in the Six Counties. Instead of saying that an English Premiership match in Belfast every two weeks will end sectarianism, the NIO would be better served looking at the beam in their own eye. Changes in the civil service, the judiciary and a new policing service would do more than all the Man Uniteds and Liverpools in Belfast.

That is not to say that soccer in the Six Counties isn't deeply sectarian. It is. Why else is soccer the only major sport not organised on an all-Ireland basis? But introducing a business-led, hype fest from England is not going to do the sport of soccer any good in Ireland.

By Brian Campbell

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1