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Sports Review 2023: Mary Hannigan picks the best quotes from the sporting year

Pat Spillane, Eddie Jones, Joe Brolly and Donald Trump among those to give their take on sport’s highs and lows

Funny Old Game(s)

“The Tailteann Cup has a lot of resonance in Meath because the Tailteann Games were held there. You had chariot racing, spear throwing, pig wrestling – a bit like Dunderry on a Saturday night.” – Colm O’Rourke after his Meath team won the competition in July. Sounds like Dunderry is worth a visit.

The Silent Treatment

“It’s exactly the same as talking to your microwave – you get no response.” – Jurgen Klopp on it being pointless complaining to referees, while revealing that his microwave oven refuses to chat with him.

Walking Wounded

“If we get any more injuries during the week, we might have to look at Old Belvedere under-12s.” – Andy Farrell anticipating having to play quite a youthful team in the Grand Slam game against England after a bruising battle in Edinburgh.

Harte Attack

“What in the name of ****? It’s the worst thing to happen to Derry since the Plantation.” – Joe Brolly just a touch unhappy with Mickey Harte’s appointment as Derry manager.

Border Crossing

“I could never have seen Alex Ferguson sitting in a Liverpool dugout managing against Manchester United. It’s just really, really bizarre.” – And Tyrone old boy Seán Cavanagh was struggling a bit too to take in his former manager’s switch across enemy lines.

A Dog’s Life

“He’s a French mastiff and he’s 70 kilos. He drools and slobbers everywhere. I don’t know how she puts up with the two of us because I’d be a bit weird and Bane is equally as weird – and she’s quite normal. So, it’s yin and yang.” – Finlay Bealham on the challenges his wife Sarah faces living with two pooches.

Bubbly Bother

“Ladies and gentlemen, if you are opening a bottle of champagne, don’t do it as the players are about to serve.” – Tennis umpire John Blom with the most Wimbledon-ish admonishment imaginable.

The Last Laugh

“This could come back to haunt me before the end of the summer, but right now I regard Stephen Cluxton’s return as a joke.” – Come August the joke was on Pat Spillane when Cluxton won his ninth All Ireland medal.

Down, Down Under

“We’re a bit like a broken car. My first car was a Datsun 1200. You’d fix the handbrake and the next day the windscreen wipers would break. We’re a bit like that [at the] moment.” – Eddie Jones concluding that his Australian side was in need of a good servicing after they lost to Argentina in Sydney in July.

Party Time

“You’ll find me tomorrow in north London on a park bench with a bottle of gin.” – Chelsea manager Emma Hayes on how she planned celebrating her team’s fourth WSL title in a row.

Hurler on the Ditch

“A sort of Gaelic football Grand National for disappointed also-rans.” – Donal Óg Cusack ending his hopes of a Christmas card from Colm O’Rourke with this description of the Tailteann Cup.

Messi Mania

“Before, not even my grandmother came to see us play.” – Inter Miami’s Josef Martínez on the impact Lionel Messi had on the team’s attendances after his arrival, even Josef’s granny turning up.

Hard Luck

“The loss to Sweden is fully emblematic of what is happening to our once great Nation under Crooked Joe Biden. Many of our players were openly hostile to America. WOKE EQUALS FAILURE. Nice shot Megan, the USA is going to Hell!!! MAGA.” – Donald Trump offering heartfelt commiserations to the United States after they were beaten on penalties by Sweden at the World Cup. He was particularly sad for Megan Rapinoe after she missed in the shoot-out.

Reds Bedevilled

Gary Neville: “You do NOT get beat 7-0 at Anfield if you’re Manchester United.”

Jamie Carragher: “You do today.”

Gary: “Do one.”

– The Sky lads after United were mullered by Liverpool back in March.

Puzzling Punditry

“It’s like going to the house of your new girlfriend and there are six people living there and all of them want to kill you until they find out something about you. It’s the hostility. You expect it, but you turn it on its head and it becomes love.” – Austin Healey explaining – and we’re using that word loosely here – to ITV viewers the size of the challenge Exeter Chiefs faced when they took on La Rochelle in Bordeaux. We’d decipher it for you, but we have no clue.


“My god, that was the closest I’ve ever been to standing up.” – Dylan Alcott, the retired tennis player, after Australia beat France on penalties in the quarter-finals of the women’s World Cup. (Alcott has been in a wheelchair all his life).

On Cloud Nine

“Ah, you couldn’t make it up. It’s like living in a dream, I’m actually worried that I’m going to wake up in the morning. We didn’t play our best but, bloody hell, what a team.” – Johnny Sexton after it was Mission Grand Slam Accomplished.

Young Blood

“The girls said something about Gary. I hadn’t a clue who Gary was.” – Abbie Larkin (18) on being told she had taken over from Gary Kelly as Ireland’s youngest ever World Cup player. He was 19 at USA ‘94 . . . 11 years before she was born. Good Lord.

In All Modesty

“Johnny Sexton reminds me of Michael Jordan, Roy Keane and myself – born winners . . . I was captivated by The Last Dance, the Netflix documentary on the career of Jordan, arguably the greatest ever basketball player. It struck that he and I were cast from similar moulds.” – Oh Lord it’s so hard to be humble, especially when you’re Pat Spillane.

World Cup Blues

“Qualifying for our first major tournament will always be sweet, but it’s all over now and we’ve nothing to show for it. I won’t lie – it’s pretty pish.” Republic of Ireland midfielder Ruesha Littlejohn – yes, she’s a Glaswegian – after a World Cup campaign that left her feeling less than merry.

In Aki’s Head

“He thinks they’re singing ‘Bundee, Bundee’, but they’re definitely not.” –Ireland’s Conor Murray after having to break it to his team-mate that those World Cup crowds were bellowing ‘Zombie’, and not ‘Bundee’.

Parting of the Ways

“We are absolutely fine with each other. I love Katie. Without spark no fire. And without fire no performance. No hard feelings to her at all.” – After a less than harmonious relationship between them at the World Cup, Vera Pauw insisted all was good between her and Katie McCabe – but they went their separate ways, the FAI opting not to renew Pauw’s contract.

Babbling Bryson

“We gotta look towards a pathway to peace, especially in forgiveness, especially if we’re trying to mend the world and make it a better place. I think this is what LIV is trying to accomplish.” – No, Bryson DeChambeau wasn’t kidding. What about 9/11 and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi? “It’s unfortunate what has happened . . . nobody’s perfect but we’re all trying to improve in life.”


“Liverpool were my team, but things change. I used to love Happy Days too but I don’t have posters of The Fonz on my wall anymore either.” – Ange Postecoglou insisting he’s grown up since his Liverpool-supporting days, although after Harry Kane left for Bayern Munich, he’s taken his poster off his wall too.

Alive and Kicking

“I didn’t retire. I’m just leaving Shels. I’m not dead, thank God. But I’m getting closer to it.” – Noel King, ahead of his final game in charge of Shelbourne, insisting there’s life in him yet.


“It definitely feels like the greatest night of my career so far. It was the longest six months waiting for this rematch. I’d just go to bed thinking about it. I can’t believe so many people were writing me off, to be honest . . . don’t ever doubt me.” – Katie Taylor after her epic November triumph over Chantelle Cameron, avenging her defeat by the English fighter back in May.

Muhammad Mangled

“What a performance from all of them – float like a buffalo, sting like a bee. They stampeded the Cats.” Dónal Óg Cusack’s tribute to Limerick after their All-Ireland triumph over Kilkenny, an array of animal life mentioned, but no butterflies.

No Magic Wand

“I’m not Harry Potter.” – Erik Ten Hag, still struggling to cast a useful spell over Manchester United.

Kissing Your Career Goodbye

“The spontaneity and happiness of the historic moment led us to carry out a mutual and consensual act, a product of great enthusiasm . . . there was overflowing joy from both of us.” – Former Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales’ take on that kiss with Jenni Hermoso after Spain won the World Cup. And he said it with a straight face too.

Cap in Hand

“Hats off for your bank account.” – After suggestions that he was refusing to wear the official US cap in protest at players not being paid to play in the Ryder Cup, Patrick Cantlay got a somewhat rough ride from the Europe-supporting crowd.


“Japan are on the verge of extinction in rugby because Eddie Jones is likely to be their next coach, so he is going to do more damage to them than the atomic bomb.” – George Hook with a measured take on rumours about Jones’ post Australia gig.


“We had a note from the Football Association saying we needed to pay £10,000 for the VAR …. I’d rather we put it in an envelope and give it to the referee.” – Grimsby Town chairman Jason Stockwood on how he’d rather spend the club’s loot ahead of their FA Cup game against Southampton. Which they won. The ref left the ground wearing a new Rolex. (Kidding).

A Fond Farewell

"Sometimes you have to eat shit for others to eat caviar further down the track.” – Eddie Jones bidding adieu to the Australia job as only Eddie Jones could.

German Jibes

“You’re shit and you know you are.” – Bayern Munich’s multilingual fans when their team knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League.

Broken Dreams

“Sport can be cruel sometimes – I guess that’s why we love it.” – Andy Farrell after New Zealand left Ireland’s hopes of going beyond the World Cup quarter-final in smithereens.