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Compiled by PHILIP REID

Hack raises Sharapova's hackles

VENUS WILLIAMS and THAT dress, designed by the tennis player, may have had the camera shutters on overdrive at the Australian Open – but for tennis’s real glamour girl, Maria Sharapova (right), who has her own line of clothing accessories to augment what she earns on court, the real worry at the first Grand Slam tournament of the year was an unwanted media-accredited “stalker”.

It seems the New Zealand journalist has attended Sharapova’s post-match press conferences at various tournaments over the past month, asking her questions on whether she required a personal shopper because he had “excellent taste”.

In Melbourne, after Sharapova’s first round win, the hack arrived into the media room holding a placard which read, “I am not a stalker”. Sharapova – and Australian Open officials – failed to see the funny side.

Horse of a different colour to suit Leinster faithful

WHAT’S THE primary purpose of a terrace anthem? Is it to inspire a team, or to goad the opposition? A bit of both, perhaps? Anyway, that recent television documentary on Pete St John’s Fields of Athenry and how it has been adopted by teams far removed from that corner of Galway reaffirmed the belief that those supporters on the terrace or in the stands have a duty to stimulate those around them as well as those on the field of play.

For sure, soccer supporters seem to have the edge on other sporting followers when it comes to chants, especially those of a derogatory nature. For some reason, adapting hymns for their own devices seems to be a popular pastime for soccer lyricists, with different versions of Lord of the Dance featuring prominently, among them a rendering from Hearts fans during their successful Scottish Cup campaign in 1998 which culminated in a win over Rangers.

That adaptation went along the lines of, Drink, drink, wherever you may be, We are the drunk and disorderly, We don’t give a damn and we don’t give a f***, We’re coming home with the Scottish Cup!

Not to be outdone, Manchester United supporters have come up with their own version in homage to their South Korean import Park Ji-Sung which goes – Park, Park, wherever you may be, They eat dogs in your country, Could be worse, Could be Scouse, Eating rats in the council house.

In fact, these terrace anthems – to be found around the globe – tend, a bit like a Limerick, to lean towards the cruder side of life . . . although gentler souls have been known to adapt children’s nursery rhymes, including Liverpool’s supporters worship of Fernando Torres to the tune of The animals go in two by two.

For some reason, these sporting anthems haven’t really taken off in Gaelic games – perhaps due to the speed and intensity of the games, which hardly gives supporters an opportunity to catch their breath.

Sure, Dublin fans break out in to renditions of Molly Malone but, as Leinster rugby supporters have discovered in also adopting that anthem on occasions, it lacks something when taken away from Hill 16 and, given that many of that province’s support base nowadays come from outside of the capital, it seems to have only half-hearted appeal when it is sparked occasionally into life.

Leinster were aware of the fact their supporters lacked the terrace passion – or was it the singing ability – of opposing teams as far back as 2006.

Before that year’s Heineken Cup semi-final, the Leinster branch went so far as to hold a competition to unearth new chants. The fact the winning lyrics of that competition (which included an ode to Keith Gleeson to the tune of Greased Lightning and another which adapted the lyrics of I’ll Tell Me Ma haven’t survived to this day tells its own story.

Now, though, in the true spirit of terrace anthems, it would appear a breakthrough has arrived for the hot whiskey brigade who trek religiously to the RDS – and Munster folk, and especially Limerick folk, won’t like it. In the great tradition of these terrace anthems, Leinster have gone into the lion’s den and, well, how shall we put this, stolen (in the most ingenious manner) the hit single Horse Outside by the Rubberbandits.

Rugby blogger JL Pagano gets the credit for coming up with the adapted lyrics that could finally give them a terrace chant in the true tradition of such anthems: it inspires the team (in a good-humoured way) and provides a slight (in the best possible taste) to their most bitter opponents.

Jonathan Sexton is cast in the role of singing narrator and Gordon D’Arcy is portrayed as the hero of the song which could finally give Leinster supporters a genuine retort to Munster fans singing their own imported anthem.

Of course, it will only work if Leinster fans can ignore the prawn sandwiches and get their tongues around the required tonality and rhythm . . . but here’s a sample of what could be in store.

C’mon Gordon D’Arcy, cross that loine. Let’s play those fockers off the pork for yet another toime. And if you think my taunting makes me sound a cruel bloke

“Don’t worry; when we all wear green we’ll laugh and have a joke Cos if rugby had no banter, it wouldn’t be the same

Its fans know how to keep control unlike some other games! And if Munster thinks they own this tune, they don’t and here is why – I’ve just got these four words for them – The Fields of ATHENRY???!!!

Fock your Strings Warwick I’ve got Dorce outsoide

Fock your Tuitupou I’ve got Dorce outsoide Fock your Earls Mafi I’ve got Dorce outsoide When I’m lookin for a try I’ve got the Dorce outsoide He’s gonna move inside...

“He’s gonna cross that line...

“He’s gonna beat yiz down in Thomond Pearrrrrk (Limerick accent).

Striker casts a Long shadow over Keane

ROBBIE KEANE’S purported transfer to Birmingham may never have been a possibility, as the player himself has claimed. We will have to take him at his word on that one – but the reality of the matter is Keane, Ireland’s record goal scorer, is the one who comes out of the whole affair as the loser regardless of whether a transfer was a probability, a possibility or simply daydreaming on the part of Birmingham boss Alex McLeish.

Keane has lost out on a number of fronts. The public perception that a player would prefer to sit on a bench at Tottenham Hotspur and pocket an estimated €78,000 a week without kicking a ball in anger rather than take a drop in wages to secure regular first-team football in the Premier League goes against the grain, especially in these times of economic cutbacks where everyone else is feeling the pain.

On another front, Keane’s continuing lack of first team football is likely to impact most glaringly when the Republic resume competitive action. Sure, he is Ireland’s all-time record goalscorer and, at the age of 30, he should still be very much in his prime. But while Robbie is twiddling his toes on the sideline or frequently in the stands, he is being passed out by younger guns – most notably Shane Long – who know that nothing impacts more on watching eyes (especially for prospective buyers in the transfer market) than actually playing regularly.

Of the two strikers, Long, a steal when moving from Cork City to Reading, looks the better value and could usurp Keane in the transfer market as well as on the Ireland team.

Dublin Spring Series a sure-fire winner

HATS OFF to whoever came up with the recession-busting scheme for a package of Dublin matches at Croke Park.

The so-called Dublin Spring Series – aimed at getting bodies through the turnstiles for Dublin’s league matches – seems to be a sure-fire winner in these cash-strapped times.

The pricing structure is attractive – with the added knock-on benefit of also providing fundraising for GAA clubs in the capital – and, what’s more, there’s gigs featuring Jedward (left), Damien Dempsey and perhaps Imelda May. The four-match deal for one adult and one child comes in at €55, which includes the hurling match with All-Ireland champs Tipp and the football game with Down, part of a double-header also featuring Kilkenny’s hurlers.

Tour take a hard line on Saltman

IF YOU examine the contrasting treatment of two golfers – one a legend of the sport, the other an aspiring tour pro – when it comes to when and where a golf ball was replaced, it would seem to be a case of one rule for the legend and another for the wannabe.

Earlier this week, Elliot Saltman was handed a three-month suspension by the European Tour for an incident dating back to last September on the Challenge Tour when he was accused of improperly marking his ball on a number of occasions during the Russian Challenge Cup in Moscow, something corroborated by his playing partners who refused to sign his card.

Saltman was disqualified from the tournament but allowed play subsequently, which included him winning his full tour card at Q-School (along with his brother Lloyd).

The elder Saltman must have felt the issue was dead and buried as he resumed his playing career for the rest of the season until, some four months later, after a website board kept his transgressions alive, he was summoned before the Tour’s tournament committee and sanctioned with the suspension.

Saltman is likely to appeal, but – in truth – the damage has already been done, his reputation tarnished, and he’ll know his playing partners will forever more keep a close eye on how he marks his ball on the green.

In contrast, Colin Montgomerie escaped without any such censure when he replaced his ball beside a greenside bunker after a weather delay in the Indonesia Open in 2005. In what became known as “Jakartagate”, television pictures clearly showed the one-time kingpin of European golf playing his chip shot from a much easier lie and stance after the interruption. Monty – or his guilty conscience? – donated his prizemoney from the tournament to charity when the affair was highlighted.

The Saltman affair is a sad one, with his reputation in tatters. Golf has a reputation for producing honest citizens when it comes to the playing rules – but Saltman’s is the first suspension handed down since 1992. Don’t tell me no-one else on tour has nudged the marker a little closer in all that time!