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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 30 August, 2014

The Sunday Papers: some of the week’s best sports writing

Acid trips, trips to Roscommon and national identity. It’s all here this morning.

Wicklow manager Mick O'Dwyer.
Wicklow manager Mick O'Dwyer.
Image: INPHO/Presseye/Mark Pearce

EVERY WEEK WE flick back through the newspapers, blogs and websites to bring you a selection of our favourite pieces.

1. “Only once did I feel a brief flicker of hallucinatory terror. We were in a pizza parlor, in the friendly Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn, and I was having difficulty deciding which slice to purchase because even though my stomach said “plain slice” my mind begged for “chicken jalapeño with shredded garlic knots,” which wasn’t even available but, dammit, it should have been that day.

It didn’t feel like an unreasonable amount of time had passed. Then a slice of white pie was whooshed out of the giant oven by the pizzaman, and the gurgling cheese appeared angry with me. Maybe I was holding up the line.”

Even if you know nothing and care less about baseball, this is a brilliant read. Deadspin editor-in-chief AJ Daulerio attempts to recreate Dock Ellis’ drug-addled no-hitter on the Xbox.

2. “A garda stationed in Boyle, he had finished with the minors in 2007, was still only 35, had a young family and had already declared no interest in inter-county management in the near future. It needed what one insider describes as “protracted negotiations” to persuade him to take the senior job.

And when he immediately led them to an FBD final, in which they took Galway to extra-time in Tuam, the hype went into overdrive.”

The Irish Independent’s Cliona Foley goes behind the scenes to meet the man who hopes to guide Roscommon to back-to-back Connacht championships this afternoon – Fergal O’Donnell.

3. McGuigan’s broad popularity was a sizeable achievement, pulled off only through repeated and ostentatious displays of neutrality. He refused to have national flags accompany his entrance into the ring. In place of a national anthem, he would have his father sing “Danny Boy” before his bouts. Even his shorts were adorned with a dove of peace.

McIlroy enjoys a similar cross-community appeal. But, tellingly, he has acquired it without advertising his impartiality in blazing neon. He has, so far, dodged questions of political affiliation with a shoulder-shrugging casualness that no one from McGuigan’s era could have gotten away with.”

We flagged this piece on site during the week, but it’s worth highlighting again for those who missed it. Writing in the New York Times, Niall Stanage takes a close look a the rise of Rory McIlroy and how the young Ulsterman is dealing with the politics of identity.

4. “On YouTube, there is a short film of George’s friend Tom Paxton, recorded on June 30th, 2008, where Paxton sings I Miss My Friends Tonight. Introducing the song, he talks about The Lion’s Head in Sheridan’s Square, the (now gone) pub which once served as Kimball’s postal address and which seemed to form a point of origin for the nexus of friendships and anecdotes he would gather through his life. I don’t know for certain if George and Marge are in the crowd at that performance, but my guess – my wish – is they are.”

Keith Duggan pens a marvellous tribute to Irish Times boxing columnist George Kimball who passed away last week. As does another former colleague of Kimball’s, Michael Gee of the Boston Herald.

5. “In an era when sports television was supposedly at its nadir, when elite storytelling was supposedly only the work of prestige outlets like HBO and AMC, Friday Night Lights emerged as the quintessential show about American spirit and uplift at a time when the moral and economic bedrock of our Country seemed most in doubt.

Gone too soon. Appreciated too little. Treasured by those who followed it. That was Friday Night Lights.”

Over on Grantland, Robert Mays meets the people responsible for the “defining network drama of the past 10 years” – Friday Night Lights. If you haven’t seen the series, make it a priority.

6. “Even expressing an interest in the game was viewed as a form of rebellion. When Delaney was 10 he was sent home from hurling training by Brother McLoughney for wearing an Irish soccer jersey. ‘I’ll never forget it. That night my father rang the brother and said that I’d be wearing my soccer jersey the next time we had hurling training.  – Do you understand, Brother? – he told him. The next day I turned up in my soccer jersey and was allowed to train.’ That wasn’t the best bit. Twenty years later Brother McLoughney phoned that same kid, looking for a ticket to see Tottenham.”

Kieran Shannon sits down with FAI chief executive John Delaney in Clare for the Irish Examiner.

7. “I don’t know what in the zone feels like. Nor will I ever, I’d imagine it a sense of serenity during battle. An utter belief that everything you try will come off. That not only the game but time itself will bend to your will. I’m not sure how to describe the complete opposite of that. How to sum up the quivering mass of indecision I was as I approached the field. Winners want the ball. I was the other kind.”

Paul Ring blogs about his one summer playing Gaelic football with his local side.

8.Of course, living in a foreign country is no guarantee either of getting to the bottom of the host nation’s psyche (let’s presume such a thing exists). Not even skinning one of the natives and wearing his/her hide as a coat is likely to broaden one’s perspective on things too considerably, unless one is looking for insights into the workings of their judicial system. Moreover, many ex-pats tend to associate almost exclusively amongst themselves. They go to ex-pat bars, set up ex-pat 5-a-side teams, etc., and have relatively little contact with their adopted society.”

One of our favourite blogs – and the one with the best title – Pegamequemegusta offers an Irish perspective from Argentina. Here a column by Simon Kuper (Soccernomics) in the FT is tackled. Not much to do with football mind.

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