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Mooney ready to shake off the shackles

15 Dec

Published by TheScore.ie, 15 December 2012

JOHN MOONEY WAS at home while his Ireland team-mates celebrated at the World Twenty20 Qualifier in Dubai. When those same team-mates were willing the rain clouds to fade faster than the Sri Lankan daylight so that they could fight to the last at the T20 World Cup, Mooney was at home again.

Injured again.

The man who hit arguably the most important shot in Irish cricketing history, the final boundary off England’s James Anderson at the 2011 World Cup to spark a party the likes of which Bangalore will never see again, has been a bystander for most of the team’s recent milestones.

Mooney almost laughs as he reels off his injury list. “As long as I’ve been playing cricket, I’ve never seen anyone with a grade two hamstring tear from playing cricket,” he says of the injury which cut short his involvement at the T20 qualifiers.

That was only the beginning. Add in a thumb dislocated in taking a catch against Afghanistan and then a snapped tendon in the middle finger of his bowling hand, the latter of which sidelined him for 12 weeks and ruled him out of the World Cup, and you could understand if he feels a bit sorry for himself when asked to reflect on 2012.

That’s not Mooney though. He sees the bigger picture, both in terms of what the team has achieved without him and in setting his most recent disappointments within the broader context of his career as a whole.

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Ireland’s ‘Green Machine’ prepare for more twists in an unlikely tale

1 Dec

Published by TheScore,ie, 1 December 2012

IT’S FUNNY HOW things work out.

It’s summer in Quilmes, a day which should peter out into a mild Saturday evening, but Ireland will face some local heat when they take on hosts Argentina in the Champions Challenge I semi-finals.

It’s a tournament that they very nearly didn’t make it to. But for an against-all-odds fundraising blitz which tapped into a small but feverishly committed hockey base, they wouldn’t even be here.

Yet now they are 70 minutes away from the final, from valuable points to further their rise up the world rankings, and from a statement to underline the power and potential of an enduring, engaged grassroots.

Back at the beginning of October, the road to Quilmes hit a dead end before the Green Machine ever got its engine started. There was a worrying hole at the top of the senior men’s structure left by the departure of Paul Revington, the 2011 FIH Coach of the Year who guided Ireland up to 15th in the world as well as to the brink of a historic place at the Olympics.

Their London dream dashed by a cruel swipe of a Korean stick in the final minute of the final qualifier — on home soil in Dublin, no less — Revington left for pastures new and took up an offer to coach Malaysia. The need to find a candidate with the vision to build on his good work became more urgent when long-serving team manager Peter Jackson also stepped down.

But what followed stunned Irish hockey when, in a move that was as sudden as it was unilateral, the Irish Hockey Association withdrew the team from Champions Challenge I. The players were as shocked as anyone — they had not been consulted in advance — but the IHA explained that “after much soul searching,” they could not see how they would be suitably prepared in time to compete.

When the fog of confusion lifted, it became clear that financial reasons as much as any other consideration lay at the heart of the decision. An extra €108,000 had been allocated earlier in the year to give both the men’s and women’s teams every chance of qualifying for the Olympics (the women’s team were also beaten in their qualification final). The disappointment had faded but the gaping budget deficit remained.

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‘He’s still our wee brother’: Conlan family welcome their bronze medal hero home

13 Aug

Published by TheScore.ie, 13 August 2012

IRELAND’S BABY-FACED bronze medallist won’t stop until he’s at the top, the family of Belfast boxer Michael Conlan said as they welcomed their hero home on Monday afternoon.

One of the youngest members of the Irish squad, 20-year-old Conlan punched his way into the national spotlight by winning flyweight bronze before losing to eventual champion Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana in the Olympic semi-finals.

His father and coach John said that he was “over the moon” with Michael’s achievement while older brother Jamie, himself a professional boxer, joked: “He’s still our wee brother so we can still beat him up.”

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A nation holds its breath again as Katie strides towards gold

8 Aug

Published by TheScore.ie, 8 August 2012

IT HAPPENED SHORTLY after two o’clock. Ireland ground to a halt and again watched as one. In offices and in pubs, in shopping centres and on street corners.

The slow road into an afternoon filled with history could hardly have been further removed from the action on the ExCeL Arena canvas. A nation stood still, bursting with pride, but it was speed and agility that won the day in London.

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Nothing else matters for Natalya

24 Jun

Published by TheScore.ie, 24 June 2012

ASK NATALYA COYLE about the personal sacrifices, the early training sessions on wet winter mornings, the feeling that she’s living her life out of a travel bag in hotel rooms, and each answer invariably begins with the same response. A shrug of the shoulders and five words that make it all worthwhile.

“I’m going to the Olympics.”

Coyle is no ordinary 21-year-old. While her Trinity College classmates stressed over the results of their first-year BESS exams, the Tara native was waiting for a different type of call.

On 16 June, two agonising weeks later than expected, it finally came. She became the first Irish athlete to qualify in modern pentathlon — a multi-discipline event which combines fencing, swimming, riding, running and shooting — and the country’s first representative since Moscow 1980.

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Kenneally feels his best is yet to come

23 Jun

Published by TheScore.ie, 23 June 2012

THE LONELINESS OF the long-distance runner isn’t a quip; it’s a reality. When a TV crew approached Mark Kenneally in the autumn of 2010 and asked if they could film his attempt to qualify for the London Olympics, he had an idea of what they might be looking for. Long solo training runs at unsociable hours multiple times a week may be cathartic but they aren’t the best way to make friends.

“They were trying to show the fact that you’re out on your own a lot of the time. It makes you think about it a little bit more,” Kenneally told TheScore.ie after the first episode of London Calling aired on RTÉ earlier this week. “It’s an interesting experience to think about what you’re doing.”

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Evans not interested in making up the numbers

2 Jun

Published by TheScore.ie, 2 June 2012

IT’S A CLEAR sign of the times we live in that Scott Evans first learned about his Olympic qualification while scrolling through his news feed on Facebook.

Ranked number one in Ireland, eighth in Europe and 74th in the world, Evans came agonisingly close to an automatic qualification place for the men’s singles badminton at London 2012, missing out by just one spot at the end of a year-long ranking process.

The Dubliner’s near miss guaranteed that he would be the first reserve for the tournament and at the top of the queue if any National Olympic Committee turned down a place.

While the whispers on the grapevine suggested that Evans would get a golden ticket to London this summer, he had to wait until yesterday morning for official confirmation. When it arrived, he wasn’t even expecting it.

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