Gavan Reilly

thinking out loud

Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Can a fans’ trust really work?

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A cross-post from Back Page Football where I cranked out this opinion piece last night. Actual blogging resumes shortly…

As a Manchester United fan it’s been difficult of late to read any kind of club news without encountering inevitable bumf about the Glazers, the Red Knights, green and gold scarves, potential boycotts, Wayne Rooney’s forehead, blah blah blah… the list goes on. (OK, I realise that last one isn’t that terrible, but it’s been the saving grace of late.)

When the Glazer family launched their formal takeover bid of Manchester United in the summer of 2005, I was probably in the small minority (or, if in the majority, the silent one – but then again, it’s always been difficult to publicly express one’s support for a status quo) who thought the takeover might not have been a terrible thing. As a Commerce student at the time, I was being heavily briefed on investment practices and, in my business-y frame of mind, and figured that although the transition would mean United (then debt-free) being loaded up with a roundabout £500m in debt – small change, you know yourself… – that nobody would put a business through such a financial mill if they didn’t think the business could adequately cope with the strain.

In hindsight I still stand by that logic. Nobody – not even an Irish banker intent on spending billions on a floundering Irish bank – puts money into an enterprise if they don’t think they’ll be able to get their investment back, with more. After all, that’s what profit is: the reward for taking a risk.

That’s not to say I didn’t understand and share the fears that MUST and the soon-to-be F.C. United brigade. The club was debt-free and had built its modern empire – a top-class stadium; an era of incomparable dominance in English football, the ability to confidently and consistently break transfer records to get the players we needed, and others we didn’t – upon the fact that its monetary situation was so resilient and dependable. Good investment and solid management breeds more money, which if managed correctly keeps the cycle going.

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Written by Gav

March 9th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

3-0 up

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As I typed the original title of this post, ‘2-0 up’, Antonio Valencia scored.

It’s a midweek Tuesday and I’m watching Manchester United beat Wolves on a not-in-any-way-illegal-I-swear online broadcast, having just read Declan Lynch’s excellent book Free Money, a tome I’d highly recommend and one I’d been (he wrote an extended preview for it in the otherwise meritless Sunday Independent in May, definitely worth a read if you’re not the book-buying type).

Declan is a sportswriter for the aforementioned Sindo, and is – by his own admission, though he makes a compelling case for not using the term itself – an alcoholic. Free Money is about a nine-month project of turning €100 into… well, whatever his instinct and sporting acumen will allow him. As someone with a more-than-everyday familiarity of the worlds of journalism and addiction – worlds that one fears might be a little bit less distant than one would first suspect – and writes with particular eloquence about the addiction industry and its craft with words.

A therapist would reply that in taking the positives I’m ‘rationalising’ it, that I am using mere words to give myself a false impression, and to keep betting.

Words, words, words, the therapist would say disdainfully. Words are nothing, it is all about feelings.


I take it personally when I hear these people denigrating about words, words, words because I know something about words. I make my living out of words, and I can assure these people that words are not mere objects that the mind produces in the absence of feelings, they are not ‘mere’ in any way.

I set up this blog – or, at least, this edition of my blogging life – in the second-last week of December 2008. My intention was to post one blog per day, trying to work myself into the habit of writing at reasonable length on topics that I may not necessarily be particularly interested in, or motivated by. It was to fall between every stool going; one day it’d be about Stephen Jones missing a last-minute penalty to seal a Grand Slam for Ireland, the next it’d be about staying motivated to work in journalism, on a student newspaper that offers infinite reward but horrific wages.

To an extent – and I guess I’ve done okay in this regard – it has been that; Thinking Out Loud is a blog about nothing in particular. The only problem is that between the day where it’s been about Ireland winning at rugby and the Sunday Tribune being abject failures at covering gaelic games, there’s been ballooning voids of silence where Thinking Out Loud wasn’t a blog about ‘nothing in particular’ but rather ‘nothing at all’.

I might surmise that a lot of the problem with trying to write a blog about ‘nothing in particular’ is that the writer is so easily distracted and captivated by such a broad spectrum of topics that inevitably the devotion to any one subject – including the very act of blogging itself – is lost amongst everything else. But alas.

Which is why a book like Free Money works so very well. It’s a real journalistic endeavour, trying to gain genuine insight into the act of gambling, figuring out what its real function is, offering commentary on how the gambling industry tries to package and present itself as being the modern equivalent of sitting around with a board game… and yet, it flirts with the darkest nether regions of the habit and of the soul itself, contemplating the horrors of addiction from the part of someone who has genuinely been there.

I’d be lying if I said I was watching this United and Wolves game (still 3-0, into injury time) and not wondering what it might be like to have a punt on it, pitting my wits against the probability of the universe and earing financial gain for it. It’s a strange impulse and thankfully, for me personally, it’s one that comes and goes. I started into the habit of putting small-stakes accumulators on weekend cycles of Premiership games last April – as a part-time amusement to get me through the tedium of my finals – and by the end of the season I was impatient that I’d lose three months before I had the chance to place any more. And yet, I don’t think I’ve placed any more than three this season, maybe because given the day job I don’t get the chance.

It’s a strange impulse though. There’s always that fleeting moment where, drunk on the lethal cocktail of arrogant self-belief and the acute desire to make financial gain, one could casually log onto a sports exchange website or an online casino and risk it all on the flip of a coin, the width of a goalpost, or the fall of a ball on a 21st century roulette table where every number is a 1 or a 0.

Such are the small margins between immense wealth and chronic destitution – the flip of a switch between a 0 and a 1.

Tomorrow, as a result of a string of 1s involving my getting a placement in the first place, and subsequently the nature of the workplace and the circumstances of the breaking ball, I’ll be seeing a printed copy of my first front-page story for a reasonably major regional newspaper. Later this week I’ll be getting a headshot done. This weekend I’ll be going to a birthday party, and having good food with friends, and spending time with my nearest and dearest.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss,
…you’ll be a man, my son.

You’ll be a bonehead.

2009 might have been, on my scorecard, largely comprised of 1s, but I refuse to concede that the laws of probability have 0s in store. Better golfers get luckier more often, they say. I prefer to think of it as people making their own luck. If I don’t blog again before 2010, I’ll regret it, but I’ll be doing my best to make sure that it’s because I’ve been coming up tails and rolling sixes.

By the end of Free Money‘s nine-month narrative, Declan Lynch had turned his €100 into… almost precisely €100. 2009 has been pretty good to me thus far (touch wood), and with any luck 2010 will treat me the same way: 3-0 up.

With any luck.

Written by Gav

December 15th, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Why football needs a salary cap

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My first piece for Back Page Football, a new football site edited by Kevin Coleman. Ch-ch-check it out.

The year is 2020. The UEFA Super Champions Europa League Cup final (second leg) is just about to kickoff, and fans all over the world are breathing a weary sigh as Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town kick off against Red Bull Salzburg, with an 8-1 win in the away leg rendering club football’s greatest fixture totally and utterly redundant. What’s the point of playing this competition, wonder the fans, if the big teams when the tournament was conceived aren’t even in existence any more? Why bother taking part when Real Madrid aren’t around to try and win a tenth title, or if there’s no Man United/AC Milan/Bayern Munich/Barcelona to light up the tournament?

Except, of course, the year is not 2020, and UEFA haven’t thrown all of their tournaments together into one giant money-spinning football orgy. (Yet.) But wild as it might seem, the notion of football’s leading lights universally folding and leaving expensive, empty stadia, waiting to be demolished into boutique apartment blocks, and destroying the worldwide heritage of the Beautiful Game isn’t all that fanciful. We, in the summer of 2009, are witnessing the beginning of the end. The devil is a Spaniard, and he’s elected.

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Written by Gav

August 5th, 2009 at 10:05 am

Who needs senior football when you have minor hurling?

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tribune_logoYesterday’s GAA calendar:
2 x GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 4 qualifier games
1 x GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 3 qualifier game

2 x GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Relegation semi-finals
2 x GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Relegation quarter-finals

Yup. Three big football games, dominating the day, with two minor hurling matches and two predictable hurling relegation playoffs buffering coverage for the small stick.


Today’s Sunday Tribune GAA coverage: [across 5 pages]
1/3rd page – Hurling Relegation semi-final coverage (one game)
1 and 1/3rd page – Football previews/analysis
2 pages – Hurling previews/analysis (including two minor quarter-finals)

Total senior football matches: three. Total mentions or references (of any sort!) to them: zero.
Total senior hurling matches: two. Total mentions or references: one.
Total minor hurling matches: two. Total mentions: two.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of the Sunday Tribune and specifically its sports coverage. The Sports Editor PJ Cunningham was, in his day, a tremendous sports columnist for the Indo and the Tribune‘s sports coverage has always been nothing short of top-notch – the Mad About Sport magazine that fell victim to falling circulation will be missed. But when there’s seven big matches on and your paper only gives any coverage (I’m not joking, there isn’t even a pinch of a mention for the other games) to the three least prominent games, you have to wonder whether the mainstream media’s excuse of online erosion is really the reason they’re all going under.

Written by Gav

July 26th, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Living the Real Madrid way

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Easily exceeding the quality of my own analysis, The Guardian’s Simon Burnton pens a piece for the website’s Sportblog, attaching a real-life analogy to Florentino Pérez’s own peculiar brand of expenditure.

Burnton gives an incredible allegory of buying a newspaper, paying vastly over-the-odds for the sake of show, and wonders whether we’re really any richer as a result.

His hands didn’t stop shaking when they left my grasp, and they trembled as he put the transaction through the till. There was a strange kind of energy in the shop. We all felt it, even the bloke at the fridge deciding whether a pint of organic milk was really worth an extra 10p. They’d be talking about me today – at work, at the dinner table, to their wives, children, colleagues. They’d be talking about me all right, and it felt good. I turned to leave.

On the way out, another newspaper caught my eye. It was not the newspaper I had wanted, the one I already owned. It did not contain an award-winning Film & Music section, or a supplement detailing Britain’s Best Walks in a certain unusual category. It might have covered many of the same stories in a similar way but it was, it said, the Newspaper of the Year. It had to be mine. I picked it up, and turned to the shopkeeper. I was smiling as I opened my wallet. So was he.

The full article is over here and it’s compelling stuff. Kudos to Burnton and The Guardian for the sheer intelligence of the piece.

Written by Gav

June 15th, 2009 at 10:42 am