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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 27, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

    One small step for man, one giant leap for the Sports Dept

    Noel O'Reilly

    When our Dear Leader canvassed opinion on how irishtimes.com could be improved earlier this week the message coming from the masses was loud and clear. The single, most effective way to enhance the website for each and every one of our readers was simple. The answer, it appeared, was Metedata. And plenty of it. 

    Not having an inkling what metadata was – hey, who does? – the online editor scrolled further down the page where his eye was drawn to a solitary, lonely voice calling for a sports blog. Always one to champion the cause of the little man, the online editor’s interest was piqued. Plus it ticked boxes on so many levels.

    Cheap? Tick. No problem to produce? Tick. Easily foisted upon the layabouts in the sports department? Tick. A handy way to stick this metadata stuff on the long finger? Tick.

    And so it came to pass. What the boss man wants, the boss man invariably gets and from today various members of the sports team will be bringing you their take on all things, well, sporting. Having previously dipped our toes into the blogging waters during the Six Nations and World Cup, we’re going full-time. As always, these things don’t work without some healthy debate so any and all (within reason) comments are welcome.

    • Chris says:

      Excellent news. Nothing like a bit of healthy sports debate, provided it is not just the standard bland fare. There is more to sport then just football.

      Care to reveal which of the layabouts in the sports department we can look forward to?

    • There’s plenty of football to go around Chris, but yes, we will be covering more than just soccer in this blog. As for the layabouts, as many as we can press gang into action.

    • Larvely. Looking forward to this…

    • orieldude says:

      Is ‘more than just football’ a euphemism for wall to wall egg-chasing interspersed with wall-to-wall GAA during the summer?


      Don’t mean to be mean up front, but hopefully your football coverage (seeing as it is by far the most popular and widely played sport on the planet) will be a little more substantial than the Irish in Britain coupled with stuff lifted off the Guardian website.

    • robespierre says:

      About time is all I can say. You will soon find this is by FAR your busiest blog.

    • Mark Dennehy says:

      Will this new blog finally see the Irish Times cover one of Ireland’s most successful Olympic sports, namely target shooting?

      We’ve seen the shotgun team win the World Championships outright once and take the bronze a few years later, and individuals from the team have won the individual silver in the World Championships, and several gold, silver and bronze medals in dozens of European Championships and World Cups in the last decade; and the Times has consistently ignored them.

      We’ve seen Irish seniors and juniors take medals at home and abroad in air rifle, in smallbore rifle, in air pistol and in several other Olympic disciplines, all to deafening silence from the Times.

      We’ve seen the Irish Sports Council refuse to recognise our NGB when they were forced to withdraw from the target shooting umbrella body, making ours the only Olympic Sport NGB who are not recognised by the Council, even though they are fully recognised by the Olympic Council of Ireland, the Department of Justice (who consult with them on firearms legislation), the International Shooting Sports Federation (who govern Olympic target shooting), and several others. And yet, despite the coverage the Times has afforded lesser crises in the AAAI, we hear nothing from the Times about our problem.

      It’s not even as though the Times has never heard of us; I’ve been personally hung up on by the Sports Editor when I tried putting all this to him a few years ago when I was on the committee.

      So will this blog be bringing in a change in this policy of “We don’t do guns” (the Sports Editor’s actual words at the time) so we can see the world’s largest Olympic sport finally covered by the Times?

    • The Shooting Sports in Ireland, whereas they may indeed be but a minnow beside the behemoths of the GAA, Rugby and Soccer, are a flourishing sport in Ireland with participants in every county.

      My learned colleague has outlined that these are some of the most successful Irish Olympic sports – which is true – but there is also much to target shooting besides the Olympics, as there is much to Football besides the Champions League.

      There is a very healthy domestic competition calendar in Shotgun, Rifle & Pistol Disciplines and we regularly have representatives in many major International Competitions with Ireland taking medals in a number of European Opens and indeed the European Championships this year alone and a number of World Championships coming up in 2011.

      Many people would be of the impression that it is of no interest to the general public but then who would have thought only a few short years ago, the heights that sports such as Cricket would have reached.

      The Shooting Sports have been here a very long time. Ireland has both a rich history and a promising future in these sports all the way from humble club matches to National, International and indeed all the way to the Olympics.

      Hopefully this Blog will provide an opportunity for these sports and the people who support them, to get the recognition they deserve

    • sean says:

      An exellent idea..It is high time that the shooting sports in Ireland get some recognition. It has always been considerd the “dirty orphan child” in Irish sports. High time it is included in this new all equal multi cultural society.

    • Pedro says:

      I trust you’ll be covering a variety of sports if this is indeed to be a sports blog.
      Because when you say “sports”, I’m worried you really just meant Hurling, GAA, football & Rugby.

      Expectations are a bastard but I myself am one horrible bastard and therefore fully expect to see Golf blogs and Tennis blogs and Formula 1 blogs and NHL blogs and Athletics blogs and especially NBA blogs.

    • orieldude says:

      No way Pedro.


      It’s vital that NFL of the American kind is also discussed – a sport that is evolutionary superior to Rugby Union in the same way humans are evolutionary superior to gorillas

    • Chris says:

      Great, one day in existence and there is a debate about what qualifies as a sport. Will competitive leapfrog be featured? How about three legged racing?

      On the plus side, more sports means more readers, which means more debate. I am looking forward to this.

    • Pedro says:

      Great, one day in existence and there is piss-taking already.

      On the plus side, more piss-taking means more laughs, which means funny comments. I am looking forward to this.

    • Pedro says:

      Orieldude – NFL, MLB and MLS are the diseased abbreviations.
      We don’t like them.

      NBA & NHL on the other hand…..

    • Chris says:

      There was no need for piss-taking about my post, Pedro.

      On second thoughts, yes there was. Carry on. Friendly banter never hurt anyone.

      As for the diseased abbreviations. I am quite a fan of Major League Baseball (St. Louis Cardinals fan). As for the others, I agree completely.

    • Pedro says:

      Only messing about Chris.
      Too many of the other blogs have commenters who take themselves and opinions way too seriously.
      Would like to think that the Sports blog will be a bit more lighthearted.

      Although, I was genuinely serious about talking about the NBA.
      Celtics beating Heat was a fine result – Wade, Bosh & LeBron are going to be unstoppable together though.
      And in a few more years, Kevin Durant might take over the mantle from Kobe.

      Also, any truth to the reports of United eyeing up Guardiola?

    • Thanks for all the interest. As I’ve said before, this will be a forum for any and all sports. That said, we’re not in the business of covering sports simply for the sake of it and have no plans to start a regular petanque column because it might be considered a worthy thing to do.

      On the other hand, if we get wind of something interesting/amusing/controversial that is deserving of a mention, it shouldn’t matter what sport is involved. That goes for shooting, lawn bowls, NFL, tiddlywinks, whatever.

      As for the assertion that shooting is one of “Ireland’s most successful Olympic sports”. Is that really the case? To my mind, simply having multiple disciplines within a sport called “Olympic” doesn’t automatically translate to success at the Games themselves. Or am I wrong?

    • Chris says:

      I know you were messing around, Pedro, and I think it is good to not be too serious in the comments.

      I was going to mention the *looks around nervously* OTR blog, but didn’t want to incur the wrath of those above, who know where we are.

      Let’s bring on the lighthearted tiddlywinks debate.

    • Dan says:

      5 words: Regular Sean Kenny posts


      The world cup blog was hilarious.

    • Chris says:

      I second what Dan@18 and Some Guy@19 said.

      All in favour post a gaffe by a pundit.

    • Mark Dennehy says:

      As for the assertion that shooting is one of “Ireland’s most successful Olympic sports”. Is that really the case?

      Yes, it is, from several points of view.

      In terms of cost/benefit, Euro for Euro shooting is probably *the* most successful Olympic sport. The shotgun team have brought home dozens of international and world level medals (from the European Championships; the World Championships – which is both larger and of a higher competitive level than the Olympic Games, as in most sports; and from dozens of World Cups). The high performance director of the shotgun team has so impressed the ISSF that they’ve put him in charge of high-level shotgun training at the ISSF academy. We’ve sent athletes to every Olympics since Atlanta.

      All this was achieved despite the lowest funding of any Olympic sport.

      All this was achieved while labouring under draconian legislation which prevents athletes starting their training until six to eight years after all their competitors will have started theirs, which cripples the Junior side of the sport; as well as the hampering in day-to-day training that legislation introduces, compared to every other EU state.

      All this was achieved by pure amateurs – there are no shooters in Ireland who don’t have a day job to pay the bills.

      All this was achieved by both men and women – shooting is the most gender-agnostic sport in the Games, and has a claim to be the most gender-agnostic sport anywhere.

      All this was achieved by athletes of all ages – shooting is as free from prejudice over age as is physically possible.

      And all this was achieved with a very small cadre of shooters. Because of the legislation we have to operate under and other restrictions, we can’t start training as early as the Big Five, and we can’t have as many clubs as the Big Five, or have people start off in our sport as easily as in the Big Five; the end result is that we’ve had only twenty to thirty international level shooters in the past decade on the Olympic side of things, compared to the thousands the Big Five have had in that time. So on pure medal count they can beat us; so long as you ignore their funding, their freedom from legislation, their freedom from age limitations for training, their freedom in setting up new clubs and their freedom when it comes to starting people off in their sport.

      But when you have to resort to an unfair comparison like that to win… well, it’s not really sporting, is it?

      To my mind, simply having multiple disciplines within a sport called “Olympic” doesn’t automatically translate to success at the Games themselves. Or am I wrong?

      I don’t know if you’re wrong, but I think you might want to talk to Swimming about that. They’re usually the first sport highlighted when people lay this particular charge.

      In shooting, by the way, it’s not the case that one discipline is exactly like the others. They all use different equipment over different ranges at different targets requiring different training. Events are either shotgun, rifle or pistol-based; in shotgun the Trap and Skeet events are wildly different in terms of the rules, the speeds of the clay pigeons fired, and other factors; in Rifle you have both air and smallbore rifle which are completely different animals, and in Pistol as well. It’s almost unheard of for anyone to shoot more than one kind of firearm at international level and do well (you do hear of people shooting different kinds of Rifle or different kinds of Pistol, but not Rifle *and* Pistol, or Rifle *and* Shotgun, and certainly not all three, not at this standard).

      So the idea that we have one sport with artificial divisions to boost medal counts doesn’t really apply. The disciplines are as different from each other as Soccer, Tennis and Golf and we’re only really all put together as one because of administrative laziness – it’s very similar to referring to the GAA, IRFU and FAI as “Ball Sports Ireland”.

    • Peter Connolly says:

      Noel O’Reilly in your post “16.October 28, 2010″ you truly have displayed your ignorance of the sport and the disciplines within. I would urge you to at least research the sport before dismissing it or any sport, especially one I personally love. I would like to thank Mr. Dennehy for explaining the sport of shooting.

    • Mark@21

      I have no doubt that Irish shooting is a major player on the world stage, as can be seen by the success in European and World championships. The only issue I have is the notion that the sport is hugely successful at the Olympics when it quite clearly isn’t. Surely to be regarded as successful, you have to bring home medals now and again, regardless of the restrictions you have to operate under or the advantages your competitors have.


      I’m certainly no expert, nor have I claimed to be, but I fail to see how I’ve dismissed shooting in my post. I merely disagree with Mark’s claim that shooting is one of Ireland’s most successful Olympic sports, nothing more, nothing less.

    • David Franklin says:

      I believe the contention was that it is an Olympic sport at which we have had some demonstrable success, rather than a sport at which we have had some demonstrable success in the Olympics. This statement is true, as you note. However, in your last response you state that success or otherwise should not be viewed against the backdrop of the way your sport is treated by your country and your opponents’ countries. This is obviously not possible. Regardless of legislative restrictions placed on would-be competitive shooters in Ireland, it is the financial burden borne by our competitors which is the most difficult to bear. As Mark has noted, per unit of investment, the Irish shooting fraternity abroad has delivered results far and above those which might otherwise be expected, and the reason is that it has resulted in considerable financial hardship for the individuals concerned.

      I would love to see greater public engagement with the sport, more portrayal by national media and the publication of results and features on our lesser-known sporting personalities. It is no secret that India is emerging as a power in the shooting sports, and this is entirely down to massive public engagement with the sport and its adoption by Indian media. When Abhinav Bindra won India’s first Olympic gold medal in Beijing, he became the national hero. There are numerous interviews available with Gagan Narang in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games which can be viewed on Youtube.

      If the sport is to prosper, we need to see interviews with Derek Burnett and Philip Murphy in national newspapers and on television on a reasonably regular basis. There should be features on the lower-end international successes of our shooters and on domestic development. The sport needs exposure in order to grow. As things currently stand, what we find is the very occasional segment, two minutes of distracted footage immediately before the Olympics featuring two shots and an extremely superficial interview. These athletes have operated out of the public eye, at enormous personal and financial expense, and brought success far beyond what their funding might otherwise expect to bring. In other countries, successful shooters are national heroes, some of the best known personalities in the country. As athletes, our shooting representatives deserve better than they get.

    • Mark Dennehy says:

      The Irish Defence Forces Shooting Team is competing in the 45th World Military Championships right now: http://bit.ly/gbtk4l

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