One good reason for a Good Friday friendly

By Conor Hawkins

Republic of Ireland Squad Training

9 November 2015; Republic of Ireland ‘s Darren Randolph during squad training. Republic of Ireland Squad Training, National Sports Campus, Abbotstown, Co. Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Recently qualifying for the European Championships is quite the motivational factor for Irish soccer fans to attend Ireland’s friendlies in the coming week, but now there is an added bonus for fans.

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Huge test for Hiddink as PSG come calling

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Credit: CNN

Guus Hiddink faces his toughest test in his second spell in charge of Chelsea as he prepares his side to take on Paris St Germain in the Champions League round of 16 tonight.

Chelsea go into the game on the back foot after losing the first leg of the tie 2-1 in the Parc des Princes three weeks ago.

Goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani gave the home side the win but John Obi Mikel’s away goal gives Hiddink’s side a chink of light.

Chelsea are yet to lose a league game under Hiddink who took over following the resignation of Jose Mourinho in December of last year.

Hiddink’s side received a huge boost ahead of the game at Stamford Bridge as strikers Diego Costa and Pedro both returned to training with the squad on Tuesday morning.

PSG are stumbling at the minute with only 1 win in their last four games. Before their recent collapse, the French side were unbeaten in 27 games in the league.

The night’s other game sees Russian side Zenit St Petersburg take on Benfica with the Portuguese side taking a 1-0 lead in their second leg clash.

A 91st minute winner from Oliveira Jonas gives Benfica an advantage going into the game at the Piter Arena later on this evening.

Zenit boss Andre Villas-Boas has said that his side are confident of making history by becoming the first Zenit side to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Aidan Delaney

Dublin club transfers; has it gone too far?

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Credit: St Vincents GAA

A Sligo man, a Mayo man, a Westmeath man, a Galway man and eleven Dubs.

No, that’s not the make-up of the All-Star team, it’s the counties that will be represented by St Vincent’s senior footballers this season.

The Marino outfit have just announced the transfers of three inter-county players to join their panel for 2016. Mayo forward Enda Varley, Westmeath attacker Lorcan Smyth and Fiachra Breathnach of Galway have all transferred in joining Sligo man Brendan Egan.

Not that Vincent’s are struggling for numbers or anything they already boast Dublin seniors Diarmuid Connolly, Ger Brennan, Shane Carthy and Mossy Quinn, in fact they’re one of the powerhouses of Dublin Football winning the 2013 and 14 senior championships as well as the 2014 All Ireland Club.

They were then toppled by Ballyboden St Enda’s in last year’s final.

Vincent’s aren’t alone in the trend of importing top talent to Dublin as Ballyboden will have Donegal keeper Paul Durkan and Leitrim forward Fergal Clancy in their ranks when they take on Castlebar Mitchell’s in the All Ireland Club final on St Patrick’s day.

With inter-county stars flying into Dublin right left and centre most top contenders have attracted at least one ‘foreigner.’

By far the worst offenders have been Parnell’s in Coolock who at one point boasted eight inter county footballers from outside Dublin. Parnell’s went one step further than most clubs though, sponsoring the Trinity College GAA club and in the process enticing graduates to join the club once they graduated and moved to Dublin for work.

Parnell’s attempt to try ‘buy’ their way to a championship hasn’t paid off with no recent successes. At one point in 2014 Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton refused to line out for the senior team for a period in protest at the mercenary ethos of the club.

Fermanagh forward Tomas Corrigan who transferred to St Oliver Plunkett’s/ Eoghan Ruadh earlier this year expects “more and more transfers in the next years” due to the amount of jobs available in Dublin.

Niall Connolly

Young rugby players prone to new hip trauma

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Credit: utahyouthrugby.org

 

More must be done to protect teenage rugby players according to medical professionals.

Karl Kavanagh, a registrar in emergency medicine said that there is a “positive movement on protecting young players” in rugby, players are becoming seriously injured with “alarming frequency”.  

Teenage rugby players are suffering injuries similar to ones found in car crash injuries according to a report published today.

The report was undertaken by doctors from the trauma and orthopaedic department at the Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Tallaght, Co. Dublin.

They found that there were three cases of players who were serious injured while being tackled.

The three boys, aged between 13 and 16 all suffered acetabular fractures which affect the socket between the hip and leg bones.

The boys suffered three fractures in total as well as dislocating their hips. Two of the boys were tackled while playing a match while the other suffered the injuries in training.

The players all made a full recovery through extensive rehabilitation but the report warns that more injuries of the nature will become commonplace if the rules aren’t changed.

The report, which was published in the British Medical Journal, says that underage rugby clubs place a significant emphasis on “weight training and physical size”.

Dr David Iain Morrissey, one of the doctors who published the report that the younger players playing the sport are suffering due to “problems associated with extensive force in an immature skeleton.”

The report comes just days after the publishing of a report by 70 doctors from Britain and Ireland called for a ban on tackling in underage rugby.

The proposed ban would apply to under 18s and has caused some controversy from around the world of rugby union. Players such as Jamie Roberts and Richard Wigglesworth have come out strongly against the proposed ban

Speaking about the ban, Dr. Kavanagh said serious injuries “should be prevented in younger people for as long as possible until they have the capacity to make their own choices.”

A study carried out by World Rugby, the organisation that runs Rugby Union, carried out a survey of their members and found that 92% of parents felt that the benefits of sport outweigh the risks.

Aidan Delaney

Nike suspends Sharapova sponsorship deal

Maria - credit daily nation

Credit: Daily Nation

Nike has suspended its sponsorship deals with Maria Sharapova after she admitted to failing a drugs test at the Australian Open in January.

The sport giants have withdrawn sponsorship deals with the five-time grand-slam champion and have stated that they were “saddened and surprised” to hear of the revelations. Her relationship with Nike spans back to when she was just 11 years old.

In a statement about the pulling of the sponsorship deal Nike said:

“We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues…we will continue to monitor the situation.”

Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer have also pulled their contract with the tennis star following the new revelations. The company was in talks to extend its deal with Ms Sharapova, which ran out at the end of last year.

Sharapova was named as the highest-paid female athlete in 2015 after earning in the region of $30 million from winnings, endorsements and paid sponsorship deals.

Revelations

Maria Sharapova came clean on Monday revealing that she failed doping tests at the Australian Open in January, putting her career and Olympic hopes on the line.

Sharapova suffers with diabetes and a magnesium deficiency, and says she turned to meldonium over a period of 10 years due to repeatedly falling ill.

The decision to ban the drug was only approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on 16th September 2015, and came into effect on 1st January 2016.

WADA forwarded an email to all associations affiliated with them warning of the ban and its date of effect, which in turn was forwarded to athletes. Sharapova says she didn’t open this email.

Banning meldonium

Meldonium is a drug that not many have heard of, and it is important to realise the importance of its medical properties. The drug- which is often marketed as Mildronate- is used to fight heart disease and increase blood flow in patients.

WADA stated that the decision to ban meldonium was because of its widespread use and the fact that athletes were exploiting its uses to enhance their own performances.

Sharapova’s penalties could range from a multi-year ban to a minimal sanction, or no suspension if officials believe she made an honest mistake. Sharapova will be provisionally suspended starting this weekend while her case is examined.

WADA President Craig Reedie told The Associated Press that any athlete found guilty of using meldonium would normally face a one-year suspension.

Made in Latvia, it is widely available at low cost in many east European countries. It is thought that hundreds of athletes have been using it and there are a lot more similar cases in the pipeline.

Sharapova took her test in January, just before going out and losing to Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarter-final.

Katie Fleming

THE TERRIFYING REALITY OF SPORTS RELATED CONCUSSIONS

Soccer Player with Head Down on Grass

Soccer Player with Head Down on Grass — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Head injuries and concussion have always been a worry across certain sports, but in recent times it has become a more alarming problem.

Every weekend brings a new incident, especially with the Six Nations in full flow. Saturday’s game saw Irish scrum half Conor Murray the victim of an incident involving England and Harlequins player Mike Brown.

Brown allegedly stamped on Murray’s head while trying to kick the ball at the base of a ruck. This resulted in the Munster player picking up an eye injury which required eight stitches.

The English full-back has escaped a citing for the incident however. Brown reacted on Twitter, saying that the right decision was made as he went for the ball.

 

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt believes World Rugby needs to examine the increasing number of similar incidents, keeping player safety in mind.

“It’s probably something that even the lawmakers or the officials have to have a bit of a look at regarding player safety, particularly with the head and particularly the eyes, as it was in this incident.”

In a similar incident at the weekend, Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni has been cited for allegedly stamping on Scotland’s Duncan Taylor.

Six Nations organisers confirmed that the 34-year-old will attend a hearing in London tomorrow, and if found guilty may miss the March 12 encounter with Ireland.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand there have been calls to reform rugby’s concussion law after players were forced to play out of position due to the concussion of a team-mate. Ireland out half Johnathan Sexton is also central in the debate, after receiving four documented concussions in recent years.

Since the release of Will Smith’s ‘Concussion’ – a medical film about NFL players suffering from brain damage, there are fears of similar instances in rugby.

“To me, it is our biggest problem injury-wise that we have in sport” Barbara O’Connell from Acquired Brain Injury Ireland (ABI) said. “This is the first generation of professional rugby players so we are not going to see a lot of the symptoms for a long time. They are coming to us saying they are experiencing personality difficulties, outbursts of temper, having memory problems – they are already talking about some of the symptoms.”

In terms of other sports, the GAA have introduced new procedures for players with suspected concussion.

In a survey conducted by the ABI and Gaelic Players’ Association in 2012, 54 per cent of those surveyed stated they had been concussed in games, while 58 per cent of those continued to play.

Alarmingly, 42 per cent of those who played on had no memory of the rest of the game the incident occurred in.

“People need to realise that concussion symptoms might not occur for 24 hours and therefore players have to be monitored. Just 10 per cent of concussions in sport are from a knockout. The other 90 per cent of concussions can be sustained in any type of blow” said ABI Communications Executive Karen O’Boyle.

Looking to American Football, in January the NFL released its statistics on injuries during the 2015 season. The number of concussions during the 2015 season rose a staggering 58 percent to 182 reported concussions.

Even the National Hockey League, one of the biggest contact sports, reported just 57 concussions during the 2014 season.

Since 2009, over 5,000 former NFL players have sued the organisation for failing to protect them while they were playing. These players suffer from serious brain problems including debilitating headaches and Alzheimer’s. The NFL reached an agreement in 2015 to pay each retired player up to $5 million “for serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma.”

In September 2013, research conducted by Boston University found a disease called CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in the brains of over 96 per cent of former NFL players.

Across the board, concussion and head injuries must be approached with the best available knowledge to help reduce cases like this in future, and also to enhance the game.

By Emma Duffy