Jumpthefence may have overindulged in some activities for various reasons over the weekend, but here’s what learnings were made clearer over the last few days of sporting activity…
1 Liverpool are passing up their chance to pull away in the league
Okay, it may well be that all the top sides are dropping a few more points than expected in the last few weeks. It may well be that the Pool are still top of the league by a point heading towards Christmas. It may well be that Chelsea don’t look anywhere like as invincible as people would have you believe, Arsenal are as likely to crumble under pressure as revel in it and Man Utd’s attack still isn’t gelling with Berbatov, Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney not quite clicking into gear as a force. But United have played away to Aston Villa, Man City and Spurs in the last month. Liverpool were at home to Fulham, West Ham and Hull over the same period. Yet United actually gained two points over those six games. It’s hard to escape the notion that Rafa Benitez’s men have missed their best chance to make a statement and pull 5/6 points clear at the top and the main reason is they’re simply not good enough. (We’ll get back to Robbie Keane’s increasing outsider’s role soon here.)
2 Munster are Munster, Leinster are Leinster
For all Eamonn Sweeney’s thoughts in the Sindo yesterday, and I agree with him largely in that the chastising of Leinster as some kind of rich man’s pastime while Munster are paraded as the working man’s team is complete tosh, there’s no getting away from the difference in mentality between the two sides. It seems no matter the personnel or ability, there’s a large gap in how they approach games. Munster grind wins as naturally as FAS execs blow money. Leinster, on the other hand, keep living up to their windy reputation. Swap the sides around over the weekend for a minute – there’s no way Munster would have let a game in Castres slip away and I couldn’t see Leinster pulling that Clermont game from the fire when under the cosh. I may weep occasionally when I see Munster wins being lauded as some kind of miracle and I grit my teeth at the overhyping that accompanies every single act from the crowd at Thomond but I won’t begrudge that there’s something special in their make-up.
3 Crossmaglen are some club
Ulster football mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea and truth is, it’s damn ugly on the eye a hell of a lot of the time. Handpass, tackle, turnover, handpass, handpass, tackle, foul, and so on tends to be the pattern of things. It’s not free-flowing stuff and yesterday’s Ulster final replay between Crossmaglen and Ballinderry was no different, with hit after monstrous hit going in and frequent foul and illegal stuff happening on and off the ball. Yet that’s just why you have to admire a side that continue to come back for more year after year. They’ve won 13 Armagh titles in a row and now they’ve negotiated through three Ulsters in a row, despite having to constantly see off sides from the toughest province of the lot. Oisin McConville is remarkably still inspiring them, as are the McEntees and of course the Kernans are the energy and pace of the team. Note to footballing connoisseurs: don’t tune into their All-Ireland semi with Drom-Broadford expecting a classic.
Other things we liked this weekend:
Eamonn Sweeney again on the crazy money pumped towards horses in Ireland
The Guardian on the two big European clashes over the weekend - El Classico of Barca-Real and the Juve-Milan match-up in Italy