ULSTER RUGBY WOES

ULSTERLOGOThe casualty list is long. After the exertions of the European Cup match in France against Oyonnax which produced a great win, it’s not surprising that there are so many injuries. No further news yet on Tommy Bowe who was a spectator at the annual Christmas Day swim at Emy Lake near his home in Emyvale, Co. Monaghan. So here’s the long list and I hope it’s not too depressing for Ulster rugby fans…..

An injury update on Cave, Payne, Olding, Williams, Arnold, Herbst, Ludik, Bowe, Tuohy and Henderson…

Ireland internationals Darren Cave (shoulder) and Jared Payne (foot) have returned to training following their injuries and are in contention to play against Saracens on Saturday. Nick Williams was concussed during Sunday’s win over Oyonnax and will follow the return to play protocols. He will be unavailable for selection this weekend against Saracens. Sammy Arnold strained his hamstring in the first half of the Oyonnax match and will be sidelined for approximately three weeks. Louis Ludik is having treatment for an adductor strain he suffered in the same match and he is likely to be rested this week.

Wiehahn Herbst has recovered from a calf injury and he is likely to feature against Saracens this weekend. Stuart Olding is recovering well from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury suffered against Cardiff last March. He is in full training and is likely to return to competitive action in the coming weeks.

Tommy Bowe (knee), Iain Henderson (hamstring) and Dan Tuohy (ankle) are recovering well from their respective injuries. A return to play date has yet to be determined for the trio.

 

CHRISTMAS SWIM 2013

Emy Lake, Emyvale, Co. Monaghan  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Emy Lake, Emyvale, Co. Monaghan Photo: © Michael Fisher

A visit to Emy Lake near Emyvale in County Monaghan a year ago provided me with one of the first stories for my daily blog, which I began on January 1st 2013, as well as providing a beautiful photo for the cover page. A nice 4km walk has been developed alongside the lake and the path has been improved so that it is accessible for buggies. Great work done by a dedicated committee of volunteers.

Christmas Day dip at Emy Lake  Photo: ©  Michael Fisher

Christmas Day 2013 dip at Emy Lake Photo: © Michael Fisher

This is what I wrote last year:  EMY LOUGH SWIM: Congratulations to all who took part in the annual Emy Lough Christmas dip for charity near Emyvale in County Monaghan. Organised by the friends and parents of people with intellectual disability. I spotted Paul Bowe father of the rugby international Tommy who is recovering from injury and also Sammy Leslie from Castle Leslie in nearby Glaslough among the participants. My car temperature said 8C but I’m sure the water was considerably colder, even though the sun shone and it was the mildest such day for the dip in many years.

3-2-1- and they're off for the Emy Lake dip  Photo: © Michael Fisher

3-2-1- and they’re off for the Emy Lake dip Photo: © Michael Fisher

After the wind and snow yesterday morning on Christmas Eve (Tuesday), the weather in 2013 was almost better than last year with a good deal of sunshine. This time Tommy Bowe was able to take a dip along with his younger brother David and sister Hannah and their father Paul. Sammy Leslie from nearby Castle Leslie in Glaslough was back again wearing a red Santa top!

Tommy Bowe after his Christmas dip in Emy Lake  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Tommy Bowe after his Christmas dip in Emy Lake Photo: © Michael Fisher

Mark Leslie was also there, easy to spot with a Japanese bandana. He was one of two hardy swimmers who swam out as far as a small island in the lake and returned safely to shore, with two volunteers on standby in a rowing boat in case anyone got into difficulty.

Mark Leslie finishes his Christmas Day swim at Emy Lake  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Mark Leslie finishes his Christmas Day swim at Emy Lake Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Leslie family have been good supporters of this event which began 41 years ago under the stewardship of scout leader the late Benny McKenna and subsequently the late Garda Sergeant Dan Rogan. Similarly the Bowe family from Inishdevlin.

Mission successful! Samantha Leslie at Emy Lake  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Mission successful! Samantha Leslie at Emy Lake Photo: © Michael Fisher

Among the supporters there this afternoon for the dip at 1pm was the actress Orla Brady who was staying at Castle Leslie. She is appearing in tonight’s special Christmas episode on BBC1 of Dr Who, in the role of Tasha Lem, a friend of the time traveller.

Orla Brady in Christmas spirit at Emy Lake  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Orla Brady in Christmas spirit at Emy Lake Photo: © Michael Fisher

Last year I came without any cash so this year I made sure I gave two donations and my daughter who was with me also contributed to this worthy cause. It was a pleasant half hour in very tranquil surroundings and a nice way to spend part of Christmas Day. For more details of the event see www.emyvale.net.

Emy Lake, Emyvale Co. Monaghan  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Emy Lake, Emyvale Co. Monaghan Photo: © Michael Fisher

Just to prove I was there: Cameraman Gregory Murphy got a new profile picture of me as I was being interviewed at the lakeside by Peadar McMahon. I had to admit to him it wasn’t as he suggested the Fermanagh colours draped around my neck, but possibly an Ireland emblem (for Tommy Bowe no doubt); then I revealed it was in fact my Shamrock Rovers FC scarf! I added my congratulations to all those hardy people who had decided to take the plunge to support the great work of the Monaghan group, who included some Special Olympics athletes. Well done!

Michael Fisher at the Christmas dip at Emy Lake, Emyvale  Photo: © Gregory Murphy

Michael Fisher at the Christmas dip at Emy Lake, Emyvale Photo: © Gregory Murphy

WEEKEND OF SPORT

Rovers win Dublin derby

Rovers win Dublin derby

Two great results for two of my favourite football teams. A visit to Tallaght stadium in Dublin, my first of the new Airtricity Premier League season, was rewarded with a convincing 4-0 win by Shamrock Rovers over Shelbourne. Mind you, Shels did not help their cause by losing a player after only seven minutes. Goalkeeper Dean Delany was red-carded for a foul in the box on Billy Dennehy. Gary Twigg converted the spot kick. A back pass from Stephen Hurley drifted slowly towards the goal, ending up in the back of the net, much to the amusement of the home supporters in the 5,000 crowd. Kick-off had been delayed for ten minutes because of the number of spectators waiting to gain entry. President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins was in the stand. Will be interesting to see the replay on RTÉ’s Monday Night Soccer show.

SRFC 4 Shels 0

SRFC 4 Shels 0

A long-range strike from Ronan Finn just before half time made it 3-0. Shels continued to battle against the odds but Aaron Greene added another for the Hoops, who had Gary McCabe sent off for a second offence. So both sides in the Dublin derby were reduced to ten towards the end.By that stage the three points were already in the bag for the Hoops, who remain at the top of the table along with Sligo Rovers.

 

Jack  MIdson

Jack MIdson

 

Less then 24 hours later I was delighted to see another 4-0 scoreline, this time in favour of AFC Wimbledon who were at home to Burton Albion. A badly needed three points to keep the Dons clear of the relegation zone in npower League 2, their first season back in the Football League. Glad to see Jack Midson is still sharing the top spot for goalscorers in the division with 18 goals. After the soccer, it was time to switch my attention to the RaboDirect PRO12 rugby matches involving the Irish provinces. On Friday night in a sell-out match at the RDS (coinciding with the Tallaght match) Leinster lost by a single point against the Ospreys, 22-23. Tommy Bowe was rested by the Welsh side but turned up as a guest on RTÉ’s Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor. Looking forward to seeing Tommy back in action for Ulster next season! Listening to some of the Ulster match away to Treviso the news was not good but by the time I got round to checking the result I was delighted to see that a last gasp try by Ian Whitten had secured a 23-27 victory. There was also time to watch the first half of the Connacht match against Munster shown live on TG4. An impressive performance by Connacht for forty minutes but not enough to match the strength of the visitors who went on to win 16-20. Finally some GAA thoughts. On Sunday I was anxious to see how the Monaghan footballers would do in their Allianz National Football League division 2 match against Galway. Monaghan lost home advantage because of the ugly scenes at Clones at a previous match and they had to play the game at a neutral venue at Pearse Park in Longford. The Farney men went down by 0-12 to 1-14 (17 points) and are now in danger of being relegated to division 3 next season. That would be a terrible shame as there are still some great footballers on the team. One of them is Paul “Jap” Finlay from Ballybay, profiled in this excellent piece by Keith Duggan on Saturday in the Irish Times.