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Behind the scenes with Con Murphy

Updated: Tuesday, 03 Aug 2010 10:00

I really wanted to ask Damien Richarson how he feels managing an Irish team in Ireland against an English team which the majority of the Irish people present would be supporting.
I really wanted to ask Damien Richarson how he feels managing an Irish team in Ireland against an English team which the majority of the Irish people present would be supporting.

About this time last year I wrote in this space that I had a problem with the lack of ballboys at some Airtricity League clubs.

The amount of time wasted as goalkeepers trek over to the corner flag to retrieve a ball can be hugely frustrating to supporters, particularly if their team is trailing.

Not all clubs are guilty, but unfortunately many are far from perfect. I include Shamrock Rovers in that list by the way.

I know Michael O'Neill was quite rightly annoyed that the ball boys at the Morton Stadium were brought into the stand because of the heavy rain last Sunday, which is patently ridiculous, if paying customers in the away section are expected to stand in those conditions without any overhead protection.

The referees also have responsibility to add on extra time at the end of the game, if ballyboys and girls are not utilised to keep the game flowing.

At Tallaght, for some reason, ballboys ring the pitch but not in front of the main stand and at the Square end of the ground, the ballboys are all positioned in front of the hoardings, and have to run for 10-15 seconds to retrieve the ball when it goes past the advertising hoardings and into the no man’s land further behind the goal. Why not just station a ballboy or two back there as well? It's a small thing, but if your team is 1-0 down with a couple of minutes to go and a kid has to run some distance to get the ball back in play, it's annoying.

Last word on ballboys or girls. I would argue that 11 or 12 should be the very minimum age, as I've seen younger children almost no bigger than the ball itself, struggle to kick or throw the ball back to the goalkeeper who's no more than a few yards away.

Go to somewhere like the Nou Camp and you'll see the ballboys are all older teens and all are confident in the knowledge of what's expected of them.

I feel your pain Michael!

It was great to see the pictures from Thursday's Rovers-Juve game again this week. Having watched the match in Killarney whilst at the 3 Irish Open Golf, it was amazing to sense the atmosphere there.

Congratulations are due to the club for their handling of the fixture and it was interesting to see Alessandro Del Piero praise the support Shamrock Rovers supporters gave to the Hoops in the Italian press after the game.

It's also extraordinary that Rovers are bringing over 800 supporters to Modena for the return leg. Many clubs would settle for that number for a home game, so kudos to the Rovers supporters for travelling in such numbers and let’s hope they do the club and the league proud once again.

It looked like a good crowd turned up for Bohs v St Pat’s on Friday night at Dalymount Park. Dave Mulcahy's late equaliser kept the Saints on top, and as Damien said on this week’s programme, the race for the title is the closest we've had for a good few years, which can only be good.

Incidentally, I met Pat's player Brian Cash's mother in Killarney at the Golf. She says she's a big fan of the programme - never misses an episode - which is nice, even if her other sons think I'm too Dublin 4 to be a real football fan! Incidentally, my only connection with Dublin 4 is that I work there. Apart from that it might as well be Timbuktu.

I should apologise to those who sent in questions for Damien Richardson about his squad selection for the Airtricity XI v Man Utd match. I only touched on the questions asked, and we could have done a full hour on that alone.

I really wanted to ask him how he would feel to be managing an Irish team in Ireland against an English team, which the majority of the Irish people present would be supporting.

I think it will be very surreal, and the person who contacted us on Facebook to ask whether the national anthems would be played before the match was probably being mischievous, but it would be interesting to see whether the Irish Manchester United fans would sing God save the Queen with the same gusto as they cheer on Sir Alex's boys in red.

I know everyone is entitled to support whatever football team in the world they choose to, and to support whatever big business corporation, or line whatever big fat cat American club owners’ pockets they want to, but it really makes me sad when those supporters will cheer the PLC before they cheer the Irish players, playing for an Irish team.

They may argue that Manchester United have a great tradition of playing Irish players down through the years from the likes of Liam Whelan, Gerry Daly, George Best, Roy Keane and Denis Irwin through to Darron Gibson and John O'Shea today, but it doesn't get away from the fact that the soul of the club is being eradicated by the owners and the fact that it is now a publicly quoted company on the stock exchange.

That is a million miles from the Manchester United Liam Whelan joined when he crossed the water from Cabra to Manchester.

My message to Mums and Dads out there is this Christmas, instead of helping the Glazers and their empire, why not buy little Johnny or Mary a jersey from their local club, be that Galway United, Limerick, Sligo, Cork - the list goes on.

It'll be helping Irish jobs at the end of the day, and helping to support local sport. It's one small step, but ask Neil Armstrong about that and he'll likely say, ‘where can I get my new Rovers jersey?’

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