Category Archives: Sport

Ireland’s First Test Match: Going from making up the numbers to full members of the cricket world

Irish Cricket will be fully encompassed into the cricket world as they prepare to play their first ever test match in Malahide on Friday.

The historic moment has been 10 years in the making since turning the national side professional back in 2009, to concentrate on the 2011 World Cup in India.

Middlesex player Paul Stirling spoke to WNOL’s Lee Pearson about being a part of the journey as well as looking to the Friday test.

“There is bound to be immense pride, representing my country in our first ever test match will definitely be up there in my career achievements.”

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“It has been a long time coming, there will be some nerves we all want to do well, but hopefully once that first session is over we can settle down and enjoy the game, the atmosphere and play some good cricket.”

But as Paul says this moment has been a long time in the making with cricket being firmly in the background of the Irish sporting hierarchy.

“It’s difficult, it’s not a particularly popular game with other sports like Gaelic football, rugby and football being the mains,” he said. “It was hard to find opportunities to play, luckily I found a place to play in Stormont.”

His country soon came knocking after promising performances.

“I think I scored two 50s and a couple of hundreds in my first 12 games. It wasn’t the best of returns but the national side in those days was an amateur organisation, it was about two years later they started handing out incremental contracts to allow us to focus on cricket full time.”

Having a stable footing in the game allowed Paul to enjoy the sport more. In the same year as becoming a professional player he signed a contract with Middlesex, joining fellow compatriot Eoin Morgan – now England’s One-Day captain.

“Having Morgs there helped, having an Irishmen in and around the club help me settle quite well. Eoin was a huge talent, if not technically correct, he has a good cricketing brain and we get on well. I don’t see him as much thanks to his English exploits but we find time for a trip to the golf course once in a while.”

But it was on the international scene where Stirling really began to make an impression. A career highest score of 177  Toronto against Canada came before a memorable World Cup in India in 2011.

“Nothing could beat that day in Bangalore. We were dead and buried at a hundred and something for five, then big Kev (Kevin O’Brien) strolls out and plays one of the best innings I have ever seen.”

“It was a monumental effort, and to do it against England made it a little bit sweeter, especially as we were the little nation turning up to make the numbers.”

Unfortunately for the Irish they will not be taking part in next year’s World Cup held in England and Wales, as they failed to qualify earlier this year, something Paul says will hurt the game in Ireland.

“Of course it will hurt. It is the biggest tournament we can play in the sport. To miss out by a narrow margin is hard to take, it’s one of those things where we couldn’t get over the line and the Windies’ experience got them over it in the end.”

Asked whether this was down to the ICC reducing the number of teams for next year’s tournament he said: “To an extent yes. We wanted the chance to show of our talents on the world stage. You Only have to look at Bermuda in 2007, us in 2011 and Bangladesh back when they started to see every nation can pull off an upset.

“Reducing the numbers narrows the attractiveness of the game to other nations, even though the qualifiers are competitive.”

But for now, the first Test match is the full focus of the day, as well as other opportunities.

“We can only look forward to establishing ourselves as a competitive test nation, and hopefully getting that first win sooner rather than later.”

Women’s FA Cup watched by record attendance

The Women’s FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea was watched by more than 45,000 people, the most for a women’s domestic cup competition in the UK.

A repeat of the final two years ago, watched by just under 33,000, saw Arsenal edge a tight affair 1-0, but this time it was Chelsea who celebrated, coming out 3-1 winners.

Two goals from player of the match, Romana Bachmann, and a Fran Kirby effort sealed an emphatic victory for the Blues, with the only hope from the Gunners coming from Vivianne Miedema’s low strike in the 73rd minute.

But does this mean women’s game is becoming a prominent force in British sport?

Not quite. WNOL’s, Lee Pearson and Adam Kirkman went to Wembley to ask the general public whether they knew about the final.

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Only two of the ten people they asked knew the game was going ahead with Luke, 23, saying, “I do know it is be playing played this weekend, I didn’t know it was tomorrow.”

Tickets sales are expected to increase, with sales continuing until kick-off. Prices for the game are £15 for adults, £5 for concessions and free for children, with the FA trying to expand the prominence of the women’s game.

Henry, 24, said of these prices “If I knew it was £15 or even a fiver for me I would go down for something to do on a Saturday afternoon, but I have made plans for tomorrow.”

Asked why this was he said; “He said I think the women’s game doesn’t get enough media attention, if this was the men’s final people would know a month in advance, I think they could do something where the women play closer to the men’s final.”

Another first will be carved out to celebrate both teams journey’s to Wembley, in addition to the record attendance, with the first ever all female Subbuteo game being produced.

Lindsey Robinson Refereed the derby who will be celebrating her tenth year as professional.

Speaking to the FA website before the game she said: “To perform at Wembley is a dream for a referee as much as it is a player. I’ve enjoyed my season and I think I’ve done all right so I guess that has been reflected in this appointment.”

Both teams joined the competition in the fourth round, with Arsenal beating Yeovil, Millwall, Charlton and Everton, whilst Chelsea have overcome the London Bees, Doncaster Belles, Liverpool and Manchester City on their respective roads to Wembley.

Chelsea, who won the cup in 2015, got their revenge on their London rivals with game  shown on BBC One at 17:30 BST on Saturday 5th May.

 

Cycling in London: how is it going?

Cover photo by Roman Koester on Unsplash.

“It’s as easy as riding a bike” is a common phrase used to say that, well, something is easy. But just how easy is it to do it in London, one of the most congested cities in the world? Transport for London’s 2017 Analysis estimated that 730,000 journeys are made daily with bicycles in the capital.

The Mayor of London recently announced a commitment of an average of £169m per year over the next five years to improve London’s cycling conditions, contributing to its target of 70 per cent of Londoners living within 400m of the cycle network by 2041.

Cyclists and campaign groups, however, want more than that. Yes, appropriate infrastructure is needed, but that also requires a transition of established societal and institutional ways. A study done by the Portland State University showed that changing cycling infrastructure won’t change culture.

Having blue lanes segregated from cars and other motorised vehicles won’t do anything if people don’t know how to use them. Bruce Lynn, from the London Cycling Campaign, says the infrastructure is there but people won’t use it.

There are bigger issues TfL and the Mayor of London have to consider to make cycling a possibility for every Londoner. Today, there is a common idea of the typical cyclist in London: young white men, environmentally-friendly and mostly liberal. This is supported by various studies that argue people who don’t identify as any of the above, feel less inclined to try cycling.

Who is cycling today

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Graphics by author

In TfL’s 2016 report, the fact that people are highly against changing their routines was assumed to be one of the main reasons they don’t try it. Their 2015 Attitudes towards cycling report also showed that safety concerns, fear of collisions, too much traffic, bad weather, lack of time, health reasons and lack of confidence and accessibility are some of the most common deterrents that put Londoners off using bikes.

Just last Saturday, around 4,000 riders took the streets of London for the #BikesUpKnivesDown demonstration led by the #BikeStormz movement to raise awareness to the rise of knife crime and murder rates in the city. They rode from London Bridge to Oxford Street in one of the biggest youth-led rides against knife crime, showing that the use of bikes has turned their lives around.

Current cycling network

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Central London’s cycling paths mapped by Route Plan Roll.

The current cycling network is made up of quietways and cycle superhighways for the most part. TfL defines them as “cycle routes running from outer London into and across central London. They give you safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city and could be your best and quickest way to get to work.”

Existing ones go from the City to Tottenham, Stratford to Aldgate, Barking to Tower Gateway, Oval to Pimlico, Merton to the City, and Wandsworth to Westminster. The east-west and north-south ones are the newest additions with proposed ones to go from Tower Bridge to Greenwich, Kensington Olympia to Brentford, and Swiss Cottage to the West End.

 

 

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Graphic by author

 

Safety

Safety concerns is probably what discourages people from riding the most. A study done recently by Cambridge academics found that changes in behaviour and policies is what is needed to keep the system moving, and tackle these concerns. A change in work hours, in the number of cycleways and docking stations, and in how people cycle together are factors that will contribute to that.

Another study done by Injury Prevention found that the more number of cyclists and pedestrians, the less likely motorists are to collide with them. This is partly because they are more visible, but also because the so called “safety in numbers” makes riders feel more comfortable.

14.6 per cent of casualties in Greater London while travelling were of cyclists in 2016, according to TfL. However, only eight, out of 4,424, were fatal, a decrease of 11 per cent from the year before. It certainly shows how, compared to the car, the transport mode responsible for 39.3 per cent of the casualties, cycling is less likely to get people injured. The study by Cambridge academics, however, also points out that an increase in cycling traffic also means an increased risk for cycle coalitions.

Not every rider has the same experience levels, specially in urban area conditions. ‘Bikeability’ is something most of the campaign groups advocate for, because they know that is where it starts. The London Cycling Campaign offers free ‘bikeability’ training to anyone interested and the have regular group sessions. Everyone, not only cyclists, should know how to share a public road.

How is London doing compared to the rest of the world?

 

Not good. It isn’t even on the top 20 of bike-friendly cities in the world. Infrastructure, safety and diversity (or lack of) are some of the reasons why the British capital is not considered in the 2017 Copenhagenize Design Company Index.

Tokyo, Munich, Helsinki and Oslo are new to the list because they have worked to fix issues that didn’t allow their cycling levels to grow. Closing the center to private cars, bike sharing systems, growth of network, parking facilities, and the creation of the Cycling Embassy (Tokio) and the Cycling Federation (Helsinki) are some of the things that are on place in this cities to improve the levels of cycling urbanism.

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As much as it is common thinking that more and better infrastructure will make London a top bike-friendly city, if Londoners don’t learn (or don’t want to learn) about ‘bikeability’ and cycling urbanism, the city won’t see any major changes in the years to come. The Mayor of London is committed to increase the use of bicycles in the city as it has been demonstrated that not only will it help with air pollution, but will also provide better quality public spaces.

 

Formula 1 cancels practice

Poor weather Conditions have led to the cancellation of the second practice at the Chinese Grand Prix.

The medical helicopter was unable to land due to a lack of clear visibility.

The weather conditions forced Formula one to cancel practice but conditions are said to become worse on race day, with the rain expected to return.

Source: YouTube

Lewis Hamilton reacted on twitter to the postponing of the second practice:

 

Grand National Donate 10k

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Grand National – Source: Manchester Evening News

Saturday the 8th of April marks the return of the biggest horse racing event of the year, the Grand National.

Rule the world won last years race, with the Last Samuri finishing in second place.

Although the runner-up will look to rectify last years defeat. The Last Samuri is not considered to be clear favourite with odds of winning at 14/1.

Vieux Lion Rouge seems to be the clear favourite in winning the Grand National with odds at 10/1.

Below are the list of the top ten favourites to win the Grand National:

Horses Jockeys No. Odds
Vieux Lion Rouge T Scudamore 16 10/1
Definitly Red D Cook 17 11/1
More of That B Geraghty 2 12/1
Blaklion N Fehily 10 12/1
The Last Samuri D Bass 1 14/1
Cause of Causes J Codd 14 14/1
Ucello Conti D Jacob 18 14/1
Pleasant Company R Walsh 21 14/1
One for Arthur D Fox 22 16/1
Saphir Du Rheu S Twiston-Davies 5 18/1

The Grand National on Twitter:

 

Can Southgate bring England to international triumph?

England’s national team still needs work despite the young talent coming through.

Why the current national team still needs work to bring them the all-important glory?

The England football team in recent years has had some of the greatest players representing the nation.  The likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gary Neville and David Beckham. Yet, they never fulfilled their full potential on the international stage and it has been a long time coming.  Wayne Rooney being sent off in the quarter final against Portugal in the 2006 World Cup for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho. At the time, it was inevitable the loss would soon follow.  The defeat back in 2006 could have been the year for England to rectify a 40 year wait for the World Cup.

Current England Manager, Gareth Southgate has a handful of players who could become world class. The likes of Marcus Rashford who has been sensational for Manchester United last season scoring two goals against Arsenal.  He managed to score on his debut for England’s U21’s, which has given the fans something to look forward to in the future. Harry Kane is another player who has the potential to become world class for both club and country, scoring 19 goals so far this season for Spurs.

The embarrassing loss to Iceland in the Euro’s still showed some weaknesses in the side; one thing is for sure the mentality of team needs lots of developing. Some tactical decisions made by Roy Hodgson at the time, were questionable throughout the tournament. Harry Kane, a centre forward, yes a CENTRE FORWARD taking corners in the tournament will always be something that will haunt fans.

Why Captain Wayne Rooney, should no longer be a starter for the side or even in the squad?

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Source: Reuters

Wayne Rooney in his recent years has lost his fighting edge that we all grew up with and adored about the Manchester United skipper.  England’s record goal scorer is not the goal machine he once was, the man who you could rely on to get you the last-minute goal. Simply put, he is no longer the game changer.

Rooney has settled as a leader of the side and with his midfield role. But, his playing style has proven to be a liability for both club and country. The fact that he is no longer a regular starter for United could mean that should England qualify, he might not make the list.

His goal tally has dipped in recent seasons, with only managing to score two goals so far this season for Manchester United:

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Source: Asllan Gecaj

England have always had the players to compete in the top level, but do the regular fixtures cost the players?

Many managers in the Premier League, have had their say on the fixtures in critical times of the season. Jurgen Klopp, in the festive period discussed his issues with Liverpool’s schedule: “I would never say Boxing Day is not a good idea as I love it and I have absolutely no problem. But now having a match day with two days between there should be another possibility.”

Jose Mourinho, current Manchester United manager has expressed his views on United’s upcoming run of games: “It’s difficult to play Monday night, it’s difficult to play with ten men, it’s difficult to play Rostov. It’s difficult to play 12 o’clock on Sunday.”

The FA Cup, the EFL cup and the league itself as well as teams playing in Champions League and the Europa League, all have a mountain of fixtures to deal with on a monthly basis. Which could be taking a toll on English players who want to compete for their country on the international stage.

Where should Southgate focus his efforts?

Gareth Southgate has only managed three teams throughout his managerial career, the current England squad, the England U21s and Middlesbrough FC.

Southgate has a win percentage of 82% with his England U21s. Which is higher than his current squad and his time at Middlesbrough FC.

The manager quite bluntly, needs to win matches for the side. Whether it is against countries like San Marino or France. The only way the team will improve and grow in confidence is if they beat every team they face.

Southgate needs to ensure past experiences with the England side does not affect the players. The previous loss to Iceland, the devastating defeat against Germany in the 2010 World Cup. Let’s not forget the defeat against Croatia on home soil where the side lost    3-2,  costing them the opportunity to qualify for the Euro’s back in 2008.

Countries such as San Marino and Iceland should be team’s fans expect to win against. Whereas teams such as France, Germany and Italy especially in the international tournaments are the greater challenge for the side. A win against teams like that will always prove to more beneficial.

The teenager who coaches 70 year olds

Whilst many teenagers spend their time sitting in front of a console. Some are busy training 70 year olds.
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Meet Ben Wesson, a young 17 year old lad studying electrical installation at Bromley College, but what makes him different from your average teenager?

Well to start off with, he is far from a typical teenage boy. Ben’s represented Bromley in the London youth games in Judo, winning multiple awards in the process. Not only has he taken part in the youth games, but he’s managed to begin coaching Judo classes.

Whilst drinking his hot chocolate on a Sunday morning, he caught me off guard with the age of one of his students he has coached: “The oldest student I have had was a 70 year old man. He still comes to train.”

He began to criticise the thought process of a modern day coach by highlighting their lack of experience in competition: “The problem with some coaches, is that they have never competed and they will go based on their word. They will stick by it as if it is gospel.”

So where did the interest for Judo begin? Sitting back, slouching in the chair he began to share his personal anecdote: “Originally, I started off with Karate. My mum got me into it. We was looking through a booklet and we just decided I should go and give it a try. I’ve been doing it for about ten years. I got one off a black belt, then I decided to transfer into Judo.”

After his Karate coach recommended that he should transition into Judo, it was inevitable he would find success. Ben managed to complete three gradings in the space of four months: “After I got introduced to Judo, there was a point where I took it more seriously than Karate.”

After discovering Ben has won bronze all the way up to gold in the youth games, which is a great achievement in itself. I began to wonder, how does someone at a young age prepare for a huge event? For most people his age and many older than him, music seems to be the key: “On my way to a competition, I listen to my music which is metal, different for some but works for me. When I’m warming up I listen to fast sort of metal, so the drum beat is going to be fast and I will do my exercises to that.”

Despite winning multiple medals and having such a huge number of achievements at a young age, what is the ideal future plan for this particular teenager? Not many of us, at his age had a clear plan, but Ben is considering to become an official rather than a competitor in Judo: “If I was going for the Olympics I would look to be a referee and not a competitor.  The competitive aspect, especially in judo means you will never have a long competitive career. So it makes more sense for me to be an official.”

Although becoming an official is still part of his plans, he has not completely removed coaching as an alternative option for his career path: “It has a lot of commitment involved in it, there is a lot of stuff that I am required to do so I have less time for competition and whatever. At the start it is quite a balancing act with school work, judo and coaching.”

Judging by his previous success, whichever path he decides to go on. It is obvious Bromley will have a name to remember.

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