Monthly Archives: January 2014

Battle for Provincial Honours

If expectation runs to form, Methodist College Belfast and Sullivan Upper will meet on St Patrick’s day

One day last November marked an ugly blemish on Sullivan Upper’s otherwise exemplary set of results this season.

The occasion saw old rival Methodist College Belfast win by 29-14 and if expectation runs to form, these two will return to battle for provincial honours at Ravenhill on St Patrick’s day.

Throughout the Holywood school no less than 15 players have been blooded at underage level for Ulster. Youth development under the watchful eye of former Irish international Willie Anderson and addition of first XV manager Stephen Finlay has inspired a belief in those who won the medallion shield last year that they can enjoy victory once more. Only three members of that side have moved beyond second-level education. Being able to call upon such a wealth of experience and winning mentality will be considered a fearsome combination unmatched by most.

Reasonably then, Finlay views the competition as a “once in a blue moon” opportunity for his charges. He concedes understandable anxiety about Methody’s physicality but producing a fast open style has proven successful against Nick Wells’ team. So successful was the second half November performance that it left the Ulster schools cup holders fortunate to register a converted try.

Preparations of both squads will have included tours of Portugal before entering the draw in February – a worthwhile reminder perhaps that these two gladiatorial groups can’t be separated by their robust training routines.

With Wells at the helm, his defending champions are not to be written off. He insists on a professional approach and will deliver a typically stirring “there is no tomorrow” mantra to all in Methody colours when the cup campaign begins.

Keen to point out that recent success has been achieved in spite of tough draws.

“We are used to going away from home and playing the top seeds year in year out. We did it last year starting with Campbell [College] and did it with RS Armagh when they were seeded top.”

Latter stages of the competition aside, first round highlights saw Omagh Academy progress after edging out Tyrone derby opponents RS Dungannon 20-14.

Grosvenor Grammar had Zac Smith to thank for a comfortable win over Cambridge House, after he scored a hat-trick of tries. Their efforts have been awarded with a home tie against an inconsistent Bangor Grammar.

Should Jason Morgan’s side wish to avoid an upset, inside centre Ross McCloskey will want to improve on his impressive goal scoring record. The Ulster development squad player has looked a promising prospect on his way to tallying over 150 points this season.

While Campbell College have had by their very high standards a poor year, it will be no surprise if alongside usual suspects RBAI and RS Armagh they mount a challenge that disregards season long disappointment. After all, previous performances do not matter when cup glory is at stake.

This article was published in The Irish Times on Wednesday 22nd January 2014

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The struggle to eulogise Mandela’s death

You wouldn’t wish Nelson Mandela died everyday. Least of all it would mean that the task of unpicking his achievements rests with politicians. How uneasy it has looked for David Cameron and George Osbourne to speak sympathetically about South Africa’s first black president. Their eulogies have added to the considered and reflective tributes that continue to feature across broadcast media this week. At his address to the British public on Thursday night, Cameron talked of “A man who suffered so much for freedom and justice,” an acknowledgement of Mandela ending apartheid and uniting his country after a bloody racial hegemony.

Few can imagine the type of personal sacrifice required to commit to a struggle that once vilified racial equality and only absolves past indiscretions after 27 years of incarceration. That select group will always be one for whom David Cameron is unlikely to chair. Believe who you will about his fact finding trip to South Africa in 1989, but the very fact that he has since apologised for his parties mistakes with the ANC, is a sure summation that he and much of his party were on the wrong side of the struggle.

The historical significance of Mandela‘s life is quickly being turned into a posthumous narrative that sees him as the greatest politician of the 20th century. George Osbourne cuts a figure far removed from struggle of any kind and further down the list of competent politicians in the 21st century. His latest financial predictions eschew the idea that financial inequality in Britain remains a growing problem. It is painfully unjust that the human story that touches hearts and minds across the world is being interrupted by those (like Osbourne) who continue to leave them weak and narrow. With character and charm, Mandela led his people to freedom and guiding them on a course to their imperfect but important democracy, was an unforgiving personal journey. In the weeks ahead those at Whitehall won’t be asking themselves what would Nelson do?  but they would do well to try and act as though their ‘struggles’ were planned by such a thought.

In truth, conservatives have gained nothing from sticking to a tight script of praise and admiration for a man they once viewed as a criminal. Their sentiments are not viewed sincerely and never will be. That is the cost of failing to shed light on controversial excursions to apartheid South Africa, an indictment of democracy only outdone by Mr. Osbourne losing sight of his nation’s finances. The political rifts and personal conflicts that Mandela had with Britain prior to a post-colonial South Africa are disappearing from modern memory. Shame on those who take to television and radio to spin a story of grief as a personal headline, when it is only an aside to cover themselves from a story of wrongdoing.

On the other side of the Atlantic, president Obama made a legitimate claim to being inspired by Mandela when he spoke of attending his first anti-apartheid protest. Though it is difficult to suggest a direct cause and effect model is responsible for a black South African president in 1994 and a black American president in 2008, there can be little doubt that history will ordain it so. With ever increasing regularity it is the struggle with his own conscience that Obama must master before he can ever be considered worthy of mention in conversations of life changing elder statesmen.

This article was published by Roobla online on Monday 9th December 2013.