Ireland

Latvia Eurovision

Latvia were robbed!

Why on earth did that awful song from Greece get so many votes?... and from the UK too - I'm disappointed.

In previous years, the UK has deserved to do badly, but this year was undeserved - that's the voting for you. Iceland, who are you give 12 to? Denmark? Okay.... what about you, Bosnia? Serbia, fine.

.... but then, I suppose Ireland and the UK have a similar arrangement. It's probably more something to do with a shared sensibility that anything else. I know I would have wanted votes to go to a singing turkey.... but then, in these North Atlantic islands we tend to go for the comedy.

Six Nations 2008

So, Everyone gets something... Wales get the Grand Slam, the championship and Bragging Rights (as do Wasps, as Wales did it with Warren and Shaun)

England get second place, and the Millennium Trophy for beating Ireland today (I was there). We also got to see Danny Cipriani's first game, and he was good - as Wasps knew he would... be.

France get the Giuseppe Garibaldi trophy for beating Italy (can all Italy games have a trophy at stake, please? That seems like an easy option to get a trophy in the short term... unless you're Scottish)

Ireland get the Centenary Quaich trophy for beating Scotland.

Scotland get the Calcutta Cup for beating England (in a game that caused me to fall asleep - but well done to Scotland)

Italy get a wooden spoon.

Nobody gets whitewash.

Everyone has something... and Italy can use their trophy for making nice meals. Bonus.

Yesterday's Rugby Games

Yesterday, we watched a little of the Rugby on television. There were two six nations games. First up was Ireland vs. Scotland. This was a much closer run thing than it had any right to be. Scotland should have been hammered, but they kept fighting and it went to the line with an Irish win of 19-18. There is some controversy surrounding this game as one of the Irish players had his airway restricted, and the Irish coach is claiming it was deliberate (a very serious charge indeed, and to my mind, potentially a police matter).

Next was Wales vs. Italy. This was always going to be a much closer affair, with Wales desperate to avoid the wooden spoon, and Italy keen to show that their victory against Scotland was not a flash in the pan. This was a really good game, and I was on the edge of my seat.... however, sorry Wales, I was supporting Italy. The game went back and forth between the two sides, but the controversy came at the end. Update: I've made a timeline of the events, available here.

With 3 points in it and seconds to go, Wales were awarded a penalty. A kick would have seen them draw, but a try would see them win. They appeared to ask the referee if there was enough time to attempt the win, and the ref appeared to say yes. They decided to forego the draw and kick to touch. The ref then blew for full time before the lineout. I could not believe this, nor could the Welsh, as they appeared to have asked explicitly. On the other hand, comments on the 606 board on the BBC website seem to say the sequence was a little different to how I perceived it:

'Hook asked how long we had left and White said there was about 10 seconds.

Hook asked if we could kick to touch and White said 'yes, carry on'.

So according to this the Ref was NOT asked if there was time for the line out.

Either way, it was a tough call - and as someone said in this discussion, perhaps the rules should allow for a single lineout after a penalty, even if the clock has ticked past the 80 minutes.

As someone else said:

I don't see the referee being lambasted for not noticing it was a Welsh hand that created the 'knock-on' preventing a very good opportunity for an Italian try in the first half. These things have a habit of evening themselves out

I quite agree, overall, though the Welsh were hard-done-by at the end, the result of 23-20 to Italy was just.

In the Guinness Premiership, Wasps were playing Harlequins, and when I checked earlier in the game Wasps were trailing (unsurprising, it was an away game after all) - but at the end we had clawed it back, to what, I think, is our first away win in the premiership this season! The score was 23-16.

Elsewhere in the Guinness Premiership, Bath beat Northampton 22-17. I'm quite pleased with that as it keeps the relegation battle alive - and I've a slightly soft spot for Worcester as I've seen them play twice this season - losing both times, but losing with such style that they I've wondered why they're not higher in the table.

Bristol lost to London Irish, 7-12. This is good from a partisan perspective, as it means that Bristol are just two points ahead of Wasps (with a game in hand though), but Wasps are still 8 points clear of Irish.

On Friday, Sale lost to Worcester, 12 to 18, which I'm happy with for the reasons given for Bath-Northampton result.

Gloucester are to play Leicester today. I'm unsure what the ideal result would be - a Gloucester win would see them leapfrog Wasps with a game in hand, but keep Leicester in the sights. A Leicester win would keep Wasps above Gloucester, but only just - and they've still a game to play.

I'm not sure who I want to win!

The Premiership as of 10th March '07
  Team
P
W
D
L
F
A
BP
PTS
1 Leicester 17 11 1 5 437 322 10 56
2 Bristol 17 11 1 5 297 274 6 52
3 Wasps 18 10 1 7 403 320 9 51
4 Gloucester 16 11 1 4 377 284 4 50
5 Saracens 17 9 2 6 415 319 7 47
6 London Irish 17 10 0 7 310 295 3 43
7 Harlequins 18 8 0 10 376 354 8 40
8 Bath 18 7 1 10 339 405 7 37
9 Sale 18 7 0 11 346 384 7 35
10 Newcastle 17 7 0 10 349 442 6 34
11 Northampton 17 5 0 12 242 377 6 26
12 Worcester 18 4 1 13 268 383 7 25

Update: 12:45 - the last six minutes of the game are on youtube.

Churchill Cup

The Churchill Cup is coming to England this year, with all the teams at Twickenham on the final day. It should be a real spectacle. The dates are as follows:

England Saxons v. USA at Edgeley Park (Sale) on Friday 18th May (19.45 kick off) www.salesharks.com Ticket Office: 08712 220 120

Ireland A v. Canada at Sandy Park (Exeter) on Saturday 19th May (20.00 kick off) www.exeterchiefs.co.uk Ticket Office: 01392 890890

Scotland A v. USA at Henley RFC on Wednesday 23rd May (18.00 kick off) www.henleyrugbyclub.org.uk Ticket Office: 01491 574499

New Zealand Maori v. Canada at Franklin's Gardens (Northampton) on Friday 25th May (20.00 kick off) www.northamptonsaints.co.uk Ticket Office: 01604 581 000

New Zealand Maori v. Ireland A at Sandy Park (Exeter) on Tuesday 29th May (20.00 kick off) www.exeterchiefs.co.uk Ticket Office: 01392 890890

England Saxons v. Scotland A at Twickenham Stadium on Monday 28th May (15.00 kick off) www.ticketmaster.co.uk Ticketmaster: 0870 902 0000

Barclays Churchill Cup Finals Day at Twickenham Stadium (all six teams, kick offs TBA) on Saturday 2nd June www.ticketmaster.co.uk Ticketmaster: 0870 902 0000

Ireland vs. France at Croke Park

For a historic occasion, with the first 'foreign' game at Croke Park, the game was worthy. It was close to the wire all the way, and either side could have taken it. Ireland drove the maul and won a penalty with minutes to go when France collapsed the maul. This took them 4 points ahead, with an almost assured victory. That is until France scored a try in the closing seconds.

Whilst it's not the fairy tale result for Ireland, both teams played well - and both teams, on current form, look like they'll be able to comfortably tackle everything else before them.

On the 24th, England play Ireland at Croke park, and France play Wales. Both England and Wales look set to have a really hard time of it.

Ireland

Evening Entertainment in IrelandWe've just got back from a short trip to Ireland, we flew Ryanair which was economical enough and comfortable enough for a short hop. Unfortunately 'budget' translated once or twice into brusqueness, which was unwelcome. I was told to remove headphones (I hadn't heard the announcement) - not asked, told, and people getting on the plane were continually nagged to take seats, despite all moving pretty quickly and not blocking others. At one point the announcement began something like 'once again...' (despite the people standing not having been on the plane for the previous announcement). It was all rather whiny - it was ineffective as nobody could move any faster, and the people who were moving hadn't been on the plane to hear the earlier announcement. I don't understand why the budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet have a 'free for all' seating system, I can't see how it would shave anything off their boarding times.

We flew out on Saturday, into Cork from Gatwick, and drove to Killarney, staying at the SunnyBank Bed and Breakfast. I found the drive rather tiresome, but we found it with no problems. The manager/owner(?), a guy by the name of Brendon, is very helpful, and every morning he makes a point of talking to each of his guests and making suggestions for their activities that day.

For our first evening we walked into town and went into 'Murphy's Bar', where we had Guinness (which does seem to taste different in Ireland) and food. Irish Stew for Monica, a Beef and Guinness casserole for me. Excellent stuff, and good value.

PigBike in County KerryThe Torc WaterfallOn Sunday, it was time to head out. We began by driving toward Muckross on the Ring of Kerry, and visited the traditional farm centre at Muckross House. It was a heritage day when we went, so entry only cost us €1.

From there we went to the Torc waterfall, very nice, if a bit busy.

View on the Ring of KerryMonica and I at the Ladies' View on the Ring of KerryThe Strawberry Field on the Sneem RoadMonica about to take lunch at 'The Strawberry Field'We drove round the ring of kerry, the nicest stretch is the south, with some very narrow roads and some lovely views.

The road began to climb, and we soon found ourself at "Ladies' View". There is a tearoom here, and it's quite popular so there was nowhere to stop. Fortunately about 100m up the road there is an area where parking is much easier.

We continued on, and left the Ring of Kerry for a while, taking a right fork for the direct road to Sneem. Along this road is a pancake café called 'The Strawberry Field'. They also sell garden ornaments, sculptures, paintings and trivets. I can recommend their bacon and leek pancakes, Monica took the salmon and sour cream.

Rejoining the Ring of Kerry at Sneem, a very colourful little place, we continued our drive, stopping briefly at Waterville, mostly in order to find an ATM (in a little supermarket), and then completed the loop driving back to Killarney - it was getting late.

In the evening we headed out for some food and music. We wandered around a little, and considered eating in the 'Danny Mann' at the Best Western, but when we said we probably only wanted a light bar snack we were directed to the bar there, which didn't feel very nice at all (the connecting restaurant looked good). We ended up at a place called 'The Granary' (speakers off, annoying music on the webpage), the food was really good, but there was no music on that night. The service wasn't great at the Granary - it started off good, but as the evening dragged on, we seemed to be forgotten about. In the end I had to go hunting for a waiter to settle the bill.

We went in search of music, and a few doors up from Murphy's bar we found a pub on a corner, there was a sidestreet and a stage had been set up there, with lots of people sitting on tables which had been set out. All good stuff.

Approaching the Connor Pass, DinglePanorama from the Connor Pass, DingleOn Monday we had a slow start, going into the Killarney Outlet Centre. There were some real bargains here, I got a good jumper (no, not Aran style!) for €9, I also got a decent fleece for about €29;. It was fairly late afternoon before we headed out 'for real', driving toward the Dingle Peninsula. We went up to Tralee and then took the road toward Dingle going over the Connor Pass.

The peninsula is really spectacular, and the Connor Pass affords some really good views, at places the driving is a little hairy.

A Donkey nibbles Monica's JewelleryMurphy's Pub in DingleDonkey on the ringroad west of DingleDog Transport on the Dingle PeninsulaWe briefly stopped in Dingle, and then drove the ring road to the west of town, there's some really nice views over that way.

Back in Dingle we took our evening meal in Paudie's bar at the Dingle Bay Hotel, again, very good food, but I was driving and so had to save the Guinness for later, I had to watch Monica drink hers. We had to leave to drive back to Killarney, and so didn't have the advantage of the musicians which started to play in the bar. Unfortunately for me, we arrived in Killarney rather tired and fell asleep promptly, and so the final Guinness was Monica's.

The next morning we flew home. At the airport there a sign saying there was a caf´/bar through the security in the gate area. Great, I thought, a final Guinness while I wait for the plane. Unfortunately it didn't serve Guinness - and there was a big glass window which let me see through to the pre-security area, where there was a real bar which served Guinness. Ah well.

The plane did a worrying swerve on landing, they must have had a trainee in the cockpit!