It's no consolation Joe, but you're not the first nor will you be the last to suffer sporting injustice


HOLD THE BACK PAGE:OH DEAR, here we go again. Why does it always seem to be us, the oh-so-sporting Irish, who are the victims? As if some under-world council of sporting anarchists have identified something in the Irish gene that requires an injustice to be inflicted upon the race? For pure spite, is it?

Young Joe Ward, stand up and be punished. It’s your turn.

So, who’s next? Yep, it was that kind of week when we were left watching our backs. The world and its mother, it would seem, is out to get us. This time, we’re to believe some conniving went on to ensure the hometown Turk – Bahran Muzaffer – was given a thumbs-up of a nudge-nudge, wink-wink variety over the lump of a lad from Moate.

Ward has our sympathy, but that’s about it, and the unfortunate thing is the only other place he could run to – life as a pro – is even murkier than the amateur game. What hope is there for these pugilists who work and train hard and then get slapped in the face?

Boxing may pride itself on its Queensbury Rules but, too frequently, the evidence base is that of a sport that is as shady and seedy as ever. If we’re to believe all the reports – newspapers, radio, etc – an injustice was done but no amount of crying or whingeing or appeals will change the outcome.

The bizarre thing is why anyone is at all surprised it happened? It’s not the first time boxing has aired its dirty linen in public, and it won’t be the last. Indeed, greater injustices have occurred than that which befell Ward or the other boxers who fell victim to decisions in favour of Turkish boxers in Trabzon.

Ward will have more chances, he’ll be back. Just as Roy Jones got over the shocking miscarriage perpetrated on him at the Olympics in Seoul in 1988. Jones cruised through to the final where he met – yes, you’ve guessed it – a local boxer, a south Korean by the name of Park Si-Hun.

In the final, Jones landed 86 punches to his opponent’s 32 in a one-side bout and was all set to have his hand raised as the victor only for Pak to get the verdict. Jones went on to become one of the greats of the sport. The American boxing writers’ named him their fighter of the decade from the 1990s.

Life, as it always does, went on.

Of course, sporting injustices have become an all-too-common theme for Irish sportspeople in recent years. Any recall of the Thierry Henry handball affair in the France-Ireland World Cup qualifying play-off will still lead to agitated discussions about the injustice of it, while there are rugby folk who still haven’t forgiven the Welsh players (or the officials) involved in the Six Nations match at the Millennium Stadium last year.

If you remember, Scottish touch judge confirmed to referee Jonathan Kaplan the decisive try scored by Mike Phillips should stand, despite the fact the disputed try infringed three laws: 1), Matthew Rees had failed to use the same ball that was kicked into touch for the quick lineout; 2),  the ball picked up by Rees had been handled by a ball boy; 3) the Wales hooker had clearly stepped into play when throwing the ball to Phillips from an incorrect position.

Once decisions are made they are virtually impossible to overturn, as the Louth footballers discovered with that Joe Sheridan goal in the Leinster Championship final a couple of years ago.

But just in case there’s a feeling there is a vendetta against Irish teams or individuals, it should perhaps be pointed out that these things happen all over the world. Even to superpowers. At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the basketball final between the USA and the Soviet Union ended in controversy. The final horn sounded on two separate occasions but, each time, the clock was reset and, at the third attempt, the Soviets landed a basket from the full length of the court to win. The US refused to accept their silver medals.

And if we thought we could get all high and mighty about the injustice of the Henry incident, how do you think the Ghanaians felt in the World Cup finals in South Africa where Luis Suarez did a pretty good goalkeeping job in using his hands to keep out a goal-bound shot from Adiyiah in the last minute of extra-time. He denied Ghana a certain goal and salt was rubbed into the wounds when Asamoah Gyan missed the resultant penalty that would have put them into the semi-finals.

The harshest sporting injustice of all, though, was the one perpetrated on Polish sprinter Ewa Klobukowska, who helped her country win the 4x100m relay in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. She followed up with a 100m world record in 1965 and two European golds in 19966. However, in 1967, Klobukowska’s career ended after she failed the newly-instigated gender test and was banned. There were calls that the US should be awarded the gold medal from Tokyo etc, etc. But there was one problem: the test was wrong, which Klobukowska – who had disputed the results – proved in 1968 by having a baby.

So, when Joe gets around to thinking about where his future lies, either in the amateur or the pro game, he should be aware he wasn’t the first – and won’t be the last – to be at the wrong end of a sporting injustice. And that it doesn’t just happen to the Irish!

Counting cost of Dublin's absence

NO MATTER what way you look at it, the shockingly bad attendances at last Sunday’s double header for the National Football League semi-finals in Croke Park didn’t reflect well on the GAA – and only served to reaffirm how important a successful Dublin football team is when it comes to getting bums on seats!

To be honest, much of the sympathy for the paltry crowd – the combined figure officially came in at just over 11,000 – goes to the league sponsors, Allianz. The insurance company have been on board as league sponsors since 1993 and their current arrangement takes them up to the 2015 which, by any stretch of the imagination, and especially in these economic climes, is a magnificent commitment.

But last Sunday’s “showpiece” games were certainly not what they bargained for. Despite the presence of four of the country’s top teams, including recent All-Ireland champions in Cork and Kerry, the lack of numbers in the cavernous stadium made for a rather eerie and uninspiring setting.

The decision to play the games at Croke Park in the first place was questionable. The old argument that teams like as many run-outs at HQ as they can get once held sway; but with Dublin’s home matches played there, and the fact the likes of Kerry and Cork (if not their supporters) can get there with their eyes closed, means such an argument doesn’t hold up any longer.

It would have been better to give the top-ranked team home advantage  . . . or maybe the suggestion of a winner-takes-all from however the points tot up at the end of the league campaign is the way forward.

Either that, or pray that Dublin get to the knockout stage.

Mum's the word as White blows whistle

ARSENAL defender Faye White has encountered more than her fair share of injuries in a nevertheless impressive international career with England which has seen her captain her country at two World Cup finals and two European Championships.

When White suffered further serious injuries last year, which required keyhole surgery on both knees, she might have thrown in towel and believed the opportunity to captain the UK team at the Olympics was gone. But she battled on, worked hard in the gym and the physio table and recovered from the injuries . . . and was announced as captain. Except, she won’t be playing. During the week, the 34-year-old announced she was pregnant.

“This will more or less signal the end (of the international career),” she announced. “I’m pregnant and I’m going to be a mum for the first time in October.”

All of which brings perspective to the madness of the Olympics. Better than any gold medal.

Ronaldo's boots 'with a brain' prove a steal in Bavaria

NOBODY likes to be the victim of a robbery, but that story about Cristiano Ronaldo’s boots – three pairs, apparently – being stolen from the Real Madrid dressingroom prior to the Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich will, even subconsciously, have raised a smile on many faces. After all, aren’t these supposed to be intelligent boots?

Ronaldo – who sports Nike footwear – and Lionel Messi, who wears Adidas, have been involved in a marketing campaign from their respective manufacturers aimed at convincing players they’re boots “with a brain.” In the case of Messi’s, the boots record player-specific data with a microchip placed in the cavity of the outsole which captures 360-degree movements and measures key performance metrics.

Still, it was nice touch from the local radio presenter who arranged for a pair of Bavarian brogues – size 43 – to make their way to Ronaldo to replace the stolen merchandise.

In the meantime, police in the Munich area are on the look-out for thieves wearing Ronaldo’s footwear. It shouldn’t be hard to find them: just look for young men with flaying feet and a propensity to dive.

Harrington's fund-raising gesture pays off

THE FINAL STRAW:PÁDRAIG Harringtons gesture to free up space on his shirt and cap for the three recent tournaments – the Houston Open, the Masters and the Heritage Classic – to raise funds for the victim of a road traffic accident who was left paralysed has yielded a nice dividend. A sum of almost €200,000 was raised – through the player’s charitable foundation – for Kildare resident Gerard Byrne who was left paralysed from the waist down in the accident. Harrington’s decision to free up space – endorsed by his primary sponsor Wilson – resulted in the branding of IdentityX, Clune Construction and getting a profile on his clothing through one of the busiest stretches of the season.