MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Little bit of ‘agro’ from Paul McGinley

Last week, your columnist rolled north on the iron horse to visit the Business of Sports Science conference in the RDS, and a rewarding trip it was, writes Michael Moynihan.

Kudos to Rob Hartnett and his team at Sport for Business for making such a great job of organising the event, and in particular the interview with Paul McGinley.

The Ryder Cup captain was energetic, passionate and articulate, giving sharp insights that went far beyond the world of golf.

However, he pointed out that technology has had a huge impact on golf, and not just in the way you might think — in terms of balls and clubs.

McGinley’s point was that agronomy, which we often overlook, has come on in such leaps and bounds that golf course staff can produce a playing surface to order, practically.

He referred to a particular arrangement where a sponge-type mechanism, such as is used in Augusta, can reduce the moisture in the playing surface after heavy rain.

Although sports science — or more accurately for our purposes, science in sport — has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, you tend to forget that along with the improvements in performance analysis and GPS tracking, other areas have seen similar developments.

The improvement in playing surfaces generally is certainly one of those ‘well, now that you mention it...’ subjects. The BBC recently ran some magic-of-the-FA-cup documentaries, and the horror of the underfoot conditions were the unifying theme up to the mid-90s: nowadays the muddy goalmouths of yore are a fond memory rather than the third-round staple they once were.

The same applies here: the old undulations in the GAA’s crown jewel, Croke Park, are no more either (if this is a way of conveying to readers that you played in the old Croke Park, it’s less than subtle — ed).

When the stadium was first renovated, there were loud criticisms of its playing area, but you never hear such complaints now.

Agronomy: the science you never considered.

Terrell passes away but Ali still fighting on

Little bit of ‘agro’ from Paul McGinley

Muhammad Ali was recently released from hospital — there was some concern that the former heavyweight boxer was in real danger but one of his daughters has since claimed that his ‘pneumonia’ was a misdiagnosis.

No such luck for one of his early opponents, Ernie Terrell, who passed away last week.

If you’re a boxing fan, or an Ali fan — the two conditions are not mutually inclusive — then you may associate Terrell with the ‘what’s my name’ fight against Ali in 1967.

Terrell came through by beating the likes of Cleveland ‘Big Cat’ Williams and Zora Folley, names which are as redolent of the 60s as Carnaby Street and Woodstock, but for all that, he stood six foot six, boasted an 82-inch reach, and weighed over 200 pounds, Terrell couldn’t handle Ali.

And because Terrell had referred to Ali as Cassius Clay in the build-up to the fight, Ali swore to make him suffer, and he did, shouting ‘what’s my name’ at Terrell throughout the fight, and at one stage dragging Terrell’s face along a rope, further injuring a cut eye.

The current perception of Ali — dispenser of sage wisdom, co-star with David Beckham in sportswear commercials — conveniently omits fights such as that, or the savage competitiveness that fuelled them.

You’d imagine that a neat haircut and some bad poetry had garnered the heavyweight boxing championship of the world for the man from Louisville.

Terrell had a life beyond boxing. His sister sang with The Supremes, and Ernie formed a band called The Heavyweights and had some success in that sphere himself.

He “bore no animosity” towards Ali over their infamous clash.

“What he say, all that, don’t count,” said Terrell in 2009. “That was his way of promoting the fight.”

Messi ultimately calls the shots at Barcelona

Little bit of ‘agro’ from Paul McGinley

I had to laugh the other day when I learned that Lionel Messi, tousle-haired modest genius and chief of what one British writer described as the Barcelona skill-goblins, is not actually an angel composed of sugar and spice and all things nice.

If you haven’t been following the — well, saga is too extravagant a word — story, it appears that Messi is not happy with his manager, Luis Enrique, and has either expressed this unhappiness politely or issued a me-or-Enrique ultimatum to the Barca board, depending on the excitability of the media outlet you read.

Although I am indebted for details such as “gastroenteritis” as a code for a Barca player who doesn’t want to train, it’s the big picture that’s interesting here.

As in, wasn’t it just a short time ago we were told that players play, and managers manage?

Keeping it local keeps it real for this java Joe

The Nobody Asked Me, But... department this week, I note that two Cork institutions, the Idaho Cafe and Sober Lane bar, have gone on the record with their disapproval of impending arrivals in the city — two large multinational operators in the coffee shop and licensed premises trades.

I have to say I’m on the side of the independent operators here. If you roll through many small towns around the country — which yours truly does quite a bit, en route to various sports events — you will see a poster time and again which blares variations on a theme: keep your business in the town and keep the town in business.

I’m open to the contradictions in my own position, thanks very much.

I contribute plenty to the coffers of multinationals as it is.

But surely we can all agree on the need for diversity, difference and — not least — domestic retention of profits? The biggest argument that small independent traders can make is that the money they generate and spend is retained within the community, rather than spinning off through a tax-flexible statelet to end up, ultimately, at corporate headquarters somewhere.

(And yes: I recognise that tax-flexible statelet is a description that would fit this green isle). I applaud Idaho and Sober Lane for putting their heads above the parapet and saying that something is wrong. There can be a lot of mealy mouthed hypocrisy about competition — in all spheres — and it does no harm at all for someone to take a step outside inclusivity and point out that they don’t agree with something.

That’ll be a coffee and scone in Idaho, bright and early. To go.

Sober Lane for the pizza to start the evening.


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