Welcome to Red Five Standing By, the new home of our collective ramblings. In saying that though, I've been terrible when it comes
to blogging lately. As usual I'll promise to write more, but who knows if that will actually happen. I've got some spare time this evening so I thought I'd do a little bit of writing. And seeing as that the only interesting things that have occurred lately have been in sport, I thought I'd write about that.
There wasn't much going on this past weekend in the land of Recoyle. Nobody was around Letterkenny to go out, or if they were they were working or some such. All that I really had to look forward to, with the exception of trying to finish the side missions on the brilliant Assassin's Creed III, was a bumper weekend of sport, where teams I follow in 4 codes were in action. On Saturday we had rugby and football, with the Irish national team taking on the Springboks of South Africa in Dublin in the rugby, and Manchester United travelling to Birmingham to take on Aston Villa in the Premier League. Then on Sunday, Letterkenny's own, recently crowned Donegal gaelic football champions, St. Eunans traveled to play Crossmaglen in the Ulster Club Championship Quarterfinal. This would then be followed by the standard binge of NFL, starting at 6pm, when my New York Giants were taking on the Cincinnati Bengals.
I'll start with the rugby. I was worried about this game, after the poor 6 Nations display earlier in the year, and a disastrous summer tour to New Zealand (which ended in a 60-0 hammering) morale within the Irish squad must have been at an all time low. Couple that together with injuries forcing key performers like Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, Sean O'Brien, Stephen Ferris, Rory Best and Rob Kearney out of action and I wasn't expecting great things. Imagine my surprise then, when Ireland started off with a brilliant intensity and all the changes didn't seem to make an impact. Ireland raced out to a 12-3 lead by half-time. South Africa looked tired and jaded after a long year, and a pretty poor display in the southern hemisphere's equivalent to the 6 Nations, the Rugby Championship. At half time everything looked good for the boys in green and the less experienced players were really having a good impact, particularly in the forwards. Guys like Peter O'Mahony, Chris Henry and Mike Mc Carthy were really solid, and the recently eligible to represent Ireland, South African Richardt Strauss had a good game as well.
So it was all the more disappointing when all that hard work was undone in the second half. Early in the period, first-time captain Jamie Heaslip was sin-binned and Ireland proceed to concede 10 points while they were temporarily down to 14 men. With Ulster's Ruan Pienaar pulling the strings for the Springboks they managed to handle everything Ireland could muster, and killed the game off with another penalty with about 10 minutes remaining, to give themselves a 4 point lead, which they ended up maintaining until the very end. A four point defeat to the Springboks isn't the worst result in the world, but considering how important this match was for the world rankings, and how much Ireland dominated early on, it was difficult to accept such a loss. Still, there are some good things to take away from the game, particularly the performances of the less experienced players, and the 2 debutantes who recently declared for Ireland. The previously mentioned Richardt Strauss was solid at hooker and Kiwi prop Michael Bent steadied things up in the scrum when he was introduced late in the game. Their progress over the next few weeks and months will be watched with interest.
The other 2 matches in the November series see them facing Fiji and Argentina, both of whom they really should beat. Fiji were trounced by England over the weekend and Argentina, after their first season since being introduced to the Rugby Championship are merely a shadow of the great team that starred at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
The only real bright spot of the weekend came with Manchester United's 3-2 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday evening. Now, this match was on the same time as the rugby on Saturday evening so I only saw bits and pieces, but it appeared to follow in the same vein as much of United's season has so far. I've got an app on my phone that alerts me every time there is a goal scored in a United match. It always seems to go off when I can't see the game, or if I'm on way somewhere to watch the game. Recently it's made me want to throw the thing against the bloody wall, because it's always telling me that united's terrible defence has conceded another goal and the team are behind, only for my face to light up when it tells me later that Robin Van Persie or Javier Hernandez have got United back into a winning position. Such was the case on Sunday when second half substitute Javier Hernandez brought United back from a two nil deficit. It's a story that seems to have existed since God was a boy, Manchester United scoring vital goals late in games to make sure they're still relevant in the football world.
On to Sunday, and I was disappointed not to be able to attend the St. Eunan's - Crossmaglen game in person, because I had followed the black and amber in every game (bar one - the recording an upcoming EP by HumanShield is to blame) in this years county championship. But alas, I had no way of making it to the game, and in the end it was probably for the best because Crossmaglen proved once again why they really are a powerhouse of club football in their 3-11 to 1-7 defeat of the Letterkenny men. Crossmaglen's record, particularly since 1996 is staggering. In 16 years, they've NOT won the Armagh county championship on only one occasion (2009) and along with that they've added 9 Ulster Club, and 6 All-Ireland Club Championships to their haul. As disappointing as it is the fall at the first hurdle in Ulster, St. Eunans can be proud of what they achieved this year in Donegal. Team stalwarts like Mark McGowan, John Haran, Rory Cavanagh, Eddie Brennan and Michéal Martin all performed well, and the emergence of young talent like Conor Park,Conor Gibbons Lee Mc Monagle and Peter Devine bodes well for the future.
Probably the most disappointed thing about this week's sports was the performance of the New York Giants in the NFL this weekend. Up against the promising Cincinnati Bengals, the consensus was that the Giants would beat the Bengals. I wasn't as convinced, as I had seen things in the defeat to Pittsburgh a week earlier that really worried me, namely a sluggish offence and the propensity of the Giants secondary to give up lots of big plays. As it happened, the Giants were slaughtered 31-13. To make matters worse, 7 of those 13 points were scored in garbage time, and did little other than boost the stats of those playing and make the scoreline look more respectable. They were so bad and so out of touch in this game that even the NFL Red Zone Channel stopped following it, which is only a good thing if your team is winning.
The Giants have a bye next week, which is just as well. They need to figure out how to fix things, FAST. They're 6-4, which is still good enough to give them a healthy lead in the NFC East, as the only team with a winning record. But... they've played a game more that the Dallas Cowboys and their schedule post-bye week is hellish, which makes me wonder if they're even going to make the playoffs, something I never thought I'd be saying 2 or 3 weeks ago. With tough games coming up against the Packers, Ravens, Falcons and Saints coming up, it's hard to see where they get wins to send them into January.
There you have it, a summary of all the shite things that happened in sport this weekend. Though, if you're a Cincinnati Bengal, Aston Villa supporting South African living in Crossmaglen, you're probably delighted.