When Bob Dylan Met Manny Pacquiao

Originally published by Entertainment Ireland on Thursday 20th March, 2014. To read the original, please click here

Hurricane: Music legend Bob Dylan visited LA’s Wild Card Gym to meet Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao

So what exactly would anyone do if music legend Bob Dylan showed up at their place of work?

Such was the dilemma for eight- division title holding boxer Manny Pacquiao, according to a report from Rolling Stone.

The Filipino welterweight was sparring in trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in LA- where our very own Bernard Dunne once trained- ahead of his April 12th bout against Timothy Bradley when ‘Hurricane’ legend and longtime boxing fan Dylan strolled into the gym.

“He called ahead and showed up with a friend,” says Fred Sternburg, a spokesperson for Pacquiao who spoke to Rolling Stone. “I’ve never seen the place take an aura like this, and I’ve been going to that gym for nearly a decade. We were all awestruck.”

Sternburg continues: “Manny sparred eight different rounds with two different fighters while Dylan was there,” says Sternburg. “He stayed for an hour and sat on a bench that you’d use to lift weights. Before and after the sparring, Dylan posed for photographs with anyone that asked and signed autographs. Some of the other fighters took selfies with him. He accommodated everybody and smiled the whole time. But, my God, it was Bob Dylan. It was like seeing one of the apostles.”

Meanwhile, Irish music fans can expect a visit from Dylan on Tuesday 17th June, when the great man plays Dublin’s O2.

Sport: 5 of the most clumsy, cynical and downright awful tackles we’ve seen in sport

Originally published by Entertainment.ie, Thursday 8th August, 2013. To read the original, please click here

Sean Cavanagh’s rugby tackle on a goal- hungry Conor McManus during last weekend’s All- Ireland SFC Quarter Final between Tyrone and Monaghan was a new low for An Cluiche Álainn.

 so the debate on Sean Cavanagh’s rugby tackle in Croke Park during last weekend’s SFC All Ireland quarter-final rumbles on.

RTÉ pundit and All- Ireland Senior Football medalist Joe Brolly sensationally tore Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh to shreds after the Tyrone man performed a typically cynical tackle on Monaghan’s Conor McManus, dragging the Monaghan forward down to the ground during a potential goal- scoring opportunity. Cavanagh’s tackle, which, sadly, we have now come to expect from Tyrone, would have been more at home on a rugby pitch rather than a GAA pitch.

All that said, such cynical tackling isn’t unique to GAA, unfortunately. Here, we look at some horrendously cynical tackles across other sports.

The Spear Tackle on Brian O’Driscoll

Cynical tackling doesn’t get more cynical than the spear tackle performed on Brian Driscoll during the 2005 Lions tour. At the very top of his game, O’Driscoll was, at that time, undoubtedly the world’s best player. Targeted from the outset, the spear tackle executed on O’Driscoll must be one of the worst incidents ever recorded in the game. Forever a talking point among supporters and pundits, it’s an incident in O’Driscoll’s illustrious career, which the star centre refuses to speak about, to this day.

Roy Keane’s tackle on Alfie Håland

Perhaps the worst tackle seen in Premiership history. The notoriously tough and ruthless Keane, without doubt the best midfielder of his generation, sullied his stellar footballing career with this horrendously high tackle on Håland’s right knee. Keane, it seems, was gaining revenge after Håland accused Keane of an attempted foul and feigning injury after Keane damage his anterior cruciate ligament in Elland Road in 1997. Håland never played a full, 90- minute game again and he has since implied that Keane’s tackle was, ultimately, responsible for his retirement from football. Keane, for his part, admitted in his explosive autobiography that he fully intended to injure Håland.

John Terry’s Tackle on James Milner

Perhaps not as vicious, John Terry’s tackle on James Milner was an incredibly excessive and clumsy tackle by, perhaps, the single most controversial Premiership player of the modern era. Recklessly sliding in and catching fellow England international player Milner on the shin with his studs, Terry’s excessive challenge landed him a yellow when, perhaps, a red would have been more than deserved.

Leonardo elbow on Tab Ramos, 1994 World Cup

Bizarrely, the some of the most cynical tackles in sport happen in the glare of the World Cup. Arguably the most watched and closely followed sporting event outside of the Olympics, almost every World Cup has had a cynical and controversial tackle that has proved one the talking points of the tournament. Leonardo’s uncharacteristic flash of anger towards Tab Ramos during the Brazil resulted in a red card for the Brazilian while US soccer player Ramos lay on the ground with a fractured skull.

Benjamin Massing’s tackle on Claudio Caniggia, 1990 World Cup

It’s easy to forget, but Claudio Caniggia was one of Argentina’s finest players in a country that seems to consistently churn out fast, skillful, world- class players. Unsurprising, then, when Benjamin Massing tried to take him out of the Argentina – Cameroon game after two players had already attempted to take him out. An inevitable red card for Massing in the final minute of the game.

Sport: 5 Cases of Doping that Shocked Sport

Originally published by Entertainment.ie, Monday 15th July, 2013. To read the original, please click here

The greatest cheat of them all: Lance Armstrong

The recent news that Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell are among a string of athletes who have recently tested positive for banned substances brings to mind the many doping cases that have blighted sport in recent years. Here’s a look at 5 doping cases that shocked the world of sport.

The Dirtiest Race in History

In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Canadian 100m runner Ben Johnson smashed his own world record with a time of 9.79s, cementing his standing as the fastest man alive. Within 24 hours, a post- competition urine sample given by Johnson tested positive for anabolic steroids; within three days, he was stripped of his gold medal. American 100m runner Carl Lewis, who was awarded the 100-meter gold in place of Johnson, British silver medalist Linford Christie and fourth-place finisher Dennis Mitchell all tested positive for one substance or another that year, but were not disqualified as they did not test positive during the Olympic games. Only two out of the eight athletes in the heat remained clean for the remainder of their careers; the other six athletes all tested positive for banned substances at one point or another in their careers.

The BALCO Scandal

In 1984, Victor Conte founded BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co- Operative) to develop five Performance Enhancing Drugs- Erythropoietin, Human Growth Hormone, Modafinil, Testosterone cream, and Tetrahydrogestrinone- that were all difficult to detect in blood and urine tests. Conte has admitted that he supplied PED’s to many athletes, including American shot putter C.J. Hunter and his ex- wife, Marion Jones.

Marion Jones

Plagued by accusations of doping and cheating from as far back as high school, Marion Jones seemed an unstoppable force of nature in track and field events. She excelled in the Sydney Olympics, winning three gold medals and two bronze medals. Like Lance Armstrong, Jones denied for years on end that she had been taking PED’s, despite fevered rumor to the contrary. In a 2004 televised interview with Martin Bashir, Victor Conte of BALCO revealed that he had administered five different PED’s to Jones before, during and after the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Jones’ ex- husband, C.J. Hunter also publically claimed that he had witnessed Jones injecting steroids into her stomach. In 2007, Jones surrendered all five of her Olympic medals from the 2000 Summer Olympics; shortly after, the International Olympic Committee stripped Jones of all five titles.

Michelle Smith

Responsible for one of Ireland’s largest ever medal hauls in the Olympic games, Smith’s form, seemingly, came from nowhere. Suspicions were raised by fellow competitors and journalists alike when Smith went from being ranked 90th in the world to being ranked 1st within the space of three years. Suspicions swelled to the point where Sports Illustrated featured an image on the front cover of their magazine of an athlete’s bicep being injected with a syringe, with the sub- heading: Irish Gold Medalist Michelle Smith: Did She or Didn’t She? In 1998, Smith was served a ban by FINA after she was found to be tampering with a urine sample with whiskey, effectively ending her swimming career. Smith has retained her medals, as she never tested positive for substances during the Olympic games.

Lance Armstrong

What can be said about Lance Armstrong that hasn’t already been said in recent years? Not much, only that the Texan will surely go down in history as the most notorious doper in sport, largely due to the extent to which he protected his lie at the cost of the reputations of a host of people within his circle over a period of almost two decades. Armstrong has admitted that his doping- his use of EPO and testosterone- began in the mid- 90’s and boosted his performance throughout his seven Tour de France victories in a sport riddled with doping. Armstrong’s interview with Oprah, flawed though it was, remains the television event of the year; it may even be the television of the decade.

Sport: Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell test positive for banned substances. Can sport ever be free of doping?

Originally published by Entertainment.ie, Monday 15th July, 2013. To read the original, please click here

American 100m champion Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell both tested positive for banned substances in out-of-competition testing.

TYSON GAY AND ASAFA POWELL test positive for banned substances. Can any sport ever be free of doping?

The news that American 100m sprinter Tyson Gay and Jamaican 100m sprinter Asafa Powell – two of the fastest men on earth – are among those who have tested positive for banned substances in recent out-of-competition drug tests, makes one wonder if any sport can ever be rid of doping.

In what is the latest doping scandal to rock the world of sport, 30-year-old Gay was informed by USADA (US Anti- Doping Agency) on Friday that his A sample, taken last May, tested positive. Powell, meanwhile, tested positive at June’s Jamaican Championships for oxilofrine, a banned stimulant for which fellow Jamaican Sherone Simpson also tested positive. Usain Bolt, however, is clean – a fact confirmed by Bolt’s agent – Donegal man Ricky Simms – in an interview, this morning, on BBC 5 Live.

In a statement, Powell has claimed that he had “…never knowingly or wilfully taken any supplements or substances that break any rules,” and asserted that he is “…not now – nor have I ever been – a cheat”.

Gay, currently the fastest man in 2013, is awaiting results of his B sample and has already withdrawn from next month’s World Championships in Moscow.

“I don’t have a sabotage story…I basically put my trust in someone and was let down,” he said. “I know exactly what went on, but I can’t discuss it right now. “I hope I am able to run again, but I will take whatever punishment I get like a man.”

USADA responded to the scandal by releasing a statement that read: “In response to Mr Gay’s statements, USADA appreciates his approach to handling this situation and his choice to voluntarily remove himself from competition while the full facts surrounding his test are evaluated. The B sample will be processed shortly, and as in all cases all athletes are innocent unless or until proven otherwise through the established legal process, and any attempt to sensationalize or speculate is a disservice to due process, fair play, and to those who love clean sport.”

Crusades against doping in sport have, in recent years, focused almost exclusively on cycling and justly so; cycling, as we all now know, has been riddled with doping. However, the spotlight seemed to have shifted away from other sports where doping is just as endemic. True, athletics has come a long way from the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where the 100m event was won by Ben Johnson, who later tested positive along with other athletes in the event, and which was the subject of Richard Moore’s book The Dirtiest Race in History.

Gay and Powell’s futures in the sport are, as of yet, unclear, though one wonders if the relevant disciplinary bodies will deliver a punishment that rids the sport of doping. Should life bans be served to athletes who test positive for any banned substances, under any circumstances, to rid all sport of doping, once and for all?





The Week Wot Was, Monday 1st July, 2013

Captain Fantastic: A suited and booted Brian O’Driscoll winning the Lions tour

IT WAS A WEEK dominated by sport, sport and more sport. The story that flooded print, broadcast and online media was Lions rugby coach Warren Gatland’s decision to drop Lions centre Brian O’Driscoll from the squad’s final test against Australia. The public outcry made one glad and relieved that social media had not been fully developed and widely used during the Keane – McCarthy saga in Saipan.

The palpable disappointment from fans stemmed from the news that Brian O’Driscoll wouldn’t have the sentimental end for which supporters wished. If anything, this underlined the average sporting fan’s desire for fairy- tale endings. It is misguided, however, to assume that glittering sporting careers demand sentimental endings; some of the most remarkable careers in sport have ended under controversial and, ultimately, memorable circumstances. One immediately thinks of French footballing genius Zinedine Zidane walking past the FIFA World Cup Trophy on his way to his team’s dressing room after being sent off in a moment of madness that cost him, and his players, the World Cup.

WIMBLEDON, too, dominated the news, for reasons that are not limited to the field of play. British hopes were high for Scotsman Andy Murray, to point where one wondered whether the Scot would be referred to as “Scottish tennis player Andy Murray” had he lost the men’s final, or if he would be referred to as “British Champion Andy Murray” had he won. Though Murray started to bottle it in the middle of the match, letting his opponent Novak Djokovic, Murray pulled through in an impressive victory, which was long- overdue for the Scot and for British tennis; 77 years of hurt laid to rest. Perhaps “Henman Hill” will now, once and for all, be referred to as “Murray Mound”.

Unfortunately, Wimbledon– long characterised as the ultimate middle- class sport and one in which etiquette is as important as attire (casual being an open- neck shirt without a tie)- was dragged down to a level of pig ignorance more commonly associated with soccer. John Inverdale, the usually polished and classy BBC sports presenter, provoked the ire of many, yesterday, after making a disparaging and insensitive remark about the physical appearance of Women’s singles champion, Marion Bartoli. Speaking on Radio 5 Live, Inverdale posed the question: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, “You’re never going to be a looker? You’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight”?”

Inverdale’s ill- judged comments were made an hour before Frenchwoman Bartoli’s match against Germany’s Sabine Lisicki and sparked widespread criticism, forcing the BBC issue a grovelling apology. Is John Inverdale a member of the same boy’s club as Andy Gray and Richard Keys? Quite possibly so. An unnecessary lowering of tone for a tournament steeped in class.

While Andy Murray was busy etching his name into the history books by ending a 77 year wait for Wimbledon’s first home champion, DUBLIN HURLERS ended a 52- year drought by winning today’s Leinster Hurling Final in fine style. Clare man Anthony Daly has brought a level of speed, skill and class to the Dublin hurling team that has seen them beat hold Kilkenny to a draw and beat The Cats in a reply and, today, winning Leinster. Is it possible that a  double for Dublin is on the cards? For more on this, read here.