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Simon Andrews

Simon Andrews

Death is something that brings out the most raw of instincts in us so when Simon Andrews so sadly succumbed to injuries sustained at the North West 200 there was grief on one side and anger on the other.

There were chinks of joy celebrating Andrews’ life and achievements but naturally they were difficult for his peers and friends to produce and even more difficult for some to believe.

If one looks into the history of road racing, there you will see it is, has been and most probably always will be a sport with elements of danger to it.

It is not a “death wish” as some attackers of both the North West 200 and road racing in general have called it.

A “death wish” would be hurtling towards an immovable object at high speeds. The riders at the North West 200 and other road races choose to take corners around roads and through chicanes.

To describe someone’s hobby or profession as a “death wish” just because it has an element of risk to it is to treat their skills with contempt.

Simon Andrews was unfortunately not the first rider to die at a road race event; he was the 16th since 1929.

However, for there to have only been sixteen deaths in so many years at such a “dangerous” event is testament to the wills and skills of the riders and in recent years the safety directives.

The North West 200 does a lot for Northern Ireland; certainly more than the detractors might know.

It is the largest annual sporting event in Ireland with roughly 150,000 visitors coming from all over the world. Many will evidently travel onto other parts of Ireland for a more “sedate” type of tourism. It contributes to the economy.

It is also not just a “crazy” race on a Saturday in May. It is a week long festival of biking and fun, which includes the riders and fans playing in golf and shooting tournaments during the week too.

Let it be noted that such camaraderie and enjoyment would never sit well with those on a mission to crucify the North West 200 as anti-sport, anti-fun and pro-danger.

When the racing does get underway it is thrilling and packed full of exhilarating speed and skill, which when put together can look surprisingly graceful.

For all the good the North West 200 and other road races bring to the table, namely excitement, skill and down-to-earth sportsmen testing themselves against one another, it is hard to just accept Andrews’ death as “part and parcel” of the game.

In the documentary Grand Prix: The Killer Years the former Formula One champion Jackie Stewart uttered the pertinent line, “We were burying one of our friends every other week; something had to change.”

This should be the feeling among the more realistic fans and riders out there right now; Simon Andrews shouldn’t just be the sixteenth fatality at the North West 200 – he should be the precursor for the race to improve safety measures.

Not the sixteenth, but the last man to die at the North West.

robertulster01

Robert Dunlop was one of the finest road racers Ireland ever produced

It’s a quixotic notion to take the danger out of road racing, but each terrible death should help the organisers at the North West to improve and improve.

Keep it a road race but eliminate as much of the fatal danger as possible. As said, it’s a quixotic belief but surely people can’t be callous enough to just accept the death of Simon Andrews and keep on with the same methods?

Stewart mentioned he was burying a friend and fellow competitor every other week, which was true of Formula One in that era.

In road racing it isn’t quite as bad but the North West has had four fatalities in the last six years, which may just be bad luck (before Robert Dunlop’s death in 2008 there hadn’t been a fatality in nine years) but it certainly raises some questions.

It’s difficult to gauge Andrews’ accident and how it happened, as the details have not fully been released although a video did circulate on Youtube over the past few days.

The freak accident was something even the most stringent of safety measures could scarcely have prepared for, certainly not at a road meeting.

Fans, riders and commentators alike will sorely miss the Englishman.

He was happy-go-lucky with a cheeky side that came through beautifully on camera in the paddock, whilst on the track he could go well with the best of them.

As is the theme running through the article, it will be tough for Mervyn Whyte and those at the North West 200 to remove all elements of danger. It is road racing, it is tough and it is risky but when it is practiced well it offers excitement like no other.

The organisers at the North West 200 will probably never achieve a 100% bulletproof race, but for their latest loss  – the likeable Simon Andrews – the least they can do is try. And they will.

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11779330396_9fdb3abba6_oAidan O’Brien kept the good form going on Friday night at Dundalk as he recorded a double and his son Joseph a treble.

O’Brien junior opened his account in the first race of the evening, a straight match between his mount Majestic Queen and Adelana running in the silks of the Aga Khan.

The 20-year-old struck up the double on board his father’s highly fancied colt Belisarius before completing his treble with a superbly timed assault onboard Egyptian Warrior.

Elsewhere on the card there were wins for in-form trainers Ger Lyons and David Marnane but Dermot Weld’s only hope Wateed could not add to the current leading trainer’s tally for the season.

Check out our graphic on all the action below.


 

 

Dundalk Infographic (Fourth Meeting)

HORSE RACINGTipperary hosted a mixed card on Thursday evening that saw Aidan O’Brien’s hopeful The Great War justify strong favouritism on debut.

Joseph O’Brien held the two-year-old nicely in the pocket before unleashing his drive at two out in the five furlong contest, beating Lupie and Sauanna Belle comfortably to secure the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Maiden.

Elsewhere on the four flat races from the seven-race card Gary Carroll steered the seven-year-old Jembatt to success for Michael Mulvany.

Harry Trotter and Kernoff delivered victories for David Marnane and Mick Halford, respectively.

Check out our graphic on the meeting below.

 


 

 

Tipperary Infographic (Second Meeting)

Collins has endured a tough start to his Derry reign

Collins has endured a tough start to his Derry reign

“I’m here to win the league trophy, it’s the only ambition and only thing I am here for.”

Roddy Collins’ bold words when appointed manager of Derry City in late 2013 are coming back to haunt him in the opening months of the season, if recent results and performances are indicators of anything.

When appointed last November the Dubliner hit all the right notes mentioning 1997 (when Derry last won the league) and how the club was the big club he was looking for, but with his honeymoon well and truly gone the marriage already looks shaky at this early stage.

Following his battle cry Collins’ assembled a squad that really could have challenged for the league title on paper, but they are fast getting left behind.

If current leaders Cork City win their game in hand, Collins’ “title challengers” will be ten points adrift of the league leaders.

The rebuilding process that he set out on promised so much but very little has been delivered so far.

The former Athlone Town boss brought Town players Enda Curran and son Roddy Collins jr with him to Derry, alongside former League One players John Paul McGovern and Cliff Byrne.

Added to that was the considerable experience of Danny Ventre, David Elebert and former Kilmarnock player Mark Stewart.

Collins’ rounded off his squad with a fine blend of youth including former Sheffield United player Aaron Barry, former Newcastle United youth player Lee Toland and the young Ipswich Town duo of Cormac Burke and Mark Timlin.

Despite the wealth of transfer talent brought in by the Derry City manager, performances and results have come at a premium. The 1-0 victory over bogey team Sligo Rovers has been a shining light in an otherwise forgettable start to the season.

Losses to Dundalk and Cork embittered the fanbase, with the former an insipid display away from home and to a team managed by Derry City managerial legend Stephen Kenny.

A poor goalless draw at Bray Wanderers on Good Friday hasn’t helped Collins’ cause, but it is his comments preceding the match that will have infuriated the Candystripes faithful.

It seems Collins has gone out in a number of games to play for a draw; this he may get away with at home to champions St. Patrick’s Athletic but not away at Bray Wanderers.

Derry City have the quality to challenge for honours

Derry City have the quality to challenge for honours

It is no disrespect to Bray but if Derry City aren’t travelling to the Carlisle Grounds fully seeking three points then the league title is certainly not the aim this season. It can’t be.

Maybe Collins sets his side up currently not to get beat so that the players are able to gel while also grinding out results, but so far this has not worked.

The current form and performances of the team have led some to say Declan Devine should not have been relieved of his duties, but Devine had seemingly lost huge parts of the dressing room and City went on a huge slump at a crucial time in the season last year.

Roddy Collins must soon understand the magnitude of the job he has taken. Right now he needs performances as much as results.

The shackles need removing and the quality of his signings must now stand up and deliver alongside the class already there such as Shane McEleney, Rory Patterson and Barry Molloy.

Derry City are much better than their current form and performances suggest, but they now need a manager to give them the confidence to play in such a way.

Whether Roddy Collins will soon give that freedom is what may determine how long he gets at the “big club” he so pined for.

Cork_National_2005_SlideshowJim Bolger had an enjoyable Saturday at Cork, saddling two winners and three placed horses on a day that saw old foe Dermot Weld also saddle a double.

Pat Smullen rode Nonchalant and Alkasser to victory for Weld but Bolger enjoyed the better of the day, saddling Earth Drummer, Einstein’s Folly and Sar Oiche to placed efforts alongside his winning duo Focus on Venice and Fiosrach.

David Wachman did saddle General Brook to success but otherwise had a day to forget as the heavily fancied Tango Time fell short in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Maiden at 8-11.

Check out our graphic below.


 

 

Cork Infographic (Second Meeting)

HORSE RACINGTipperary hosted its first flat card of 2014 on Thursday as Kevin Manning delivered a double onboard Focussed and Sun On The Run.

Manning followed on from his glorious four-timer at Gowran Park recently as he secured wins for Jim Bolger and Brendan Duke.

Elsewhere on the card Aidan O’Brien’s highly fancied John Constable rounded off a miserable day for the yard who had earlier seen Johan Strauss blow up under favouritism over at Newmarket.

The 3-year-old found very little when Joseph O’Brien asked him to quicken and the beneficiary was the Chris Hayes-ridden Aussie Valentine, who secured the 1m1f Follow TipperaryRaces On Twitter Handicap for the in-form Paul Deegan yard.

Check out our graphic below on all the action from Tipperary.

 


 

Tipperary Infographic

 

11779330396_9fdb3abba6_oDundalk continued the flat action on Wednesday with an interesting card that saw eight different winning combinations for trainers and jockeys.

The competitive nature of the racing was evidently illustrated by the in-form Dermot Weld’s inability to secure a win despite his impressive recent strike-rate throughout the country.

Shane Foley was very unlucky not to come away with a victory from the all-weather track despite finishing in the top three positions in half of the card’s contests.

Check out our graphic below on all the action.

 


 

Dundalk Infographic (Third Meeting)

 

Could this become a summer sight in Northern Ireland

Could this become a summer sight in Northern Ireland

Summer football has worked in the League of Ireland for over a decade now, yet recent events in Northern Ireland show the Irish League has a long way to go before June and July clashes between Linfield and Glentoran become part of the sporting calendar there.

The Northern Ireland Football League, as part of a widespread consultation process on the way forward for the Irish League, has asked UEFA for help drafting a blueprint for the future of the game in Northern Ireland.

The consultation process also included all 42-member clubs of the NIFL as well as supporters, media, sponsors and broadcasters but division arose amongst some.

Many of the fans are in favour of a move to summer football but a large portion of the clubs do not approve of the potential switch.

According to some media outlets, the clubs are concerned at issues like the hardness of the pitches during summer football. Yes, summer football in the tropical climes of Northern Ireland where water is in drought and pitches die by their hundreds during June, July and August.

Clearly some of these Irish League clubs need introducing to the wonders of the watering can, or where the money is available (we’re looking at you Linfield, Cliftonville) – pitchside sprinklers.

Deciding whether a hard pitch or waterlogged pitch is better is proving difficult for some NIFL clubs

Deciding whether a hard pitch or waterlogged pitch is better is proving difficult for some NIFL clubs

Another problem is the issue that may arise when part-time players want summer holidays. This is already a problem for some clubs in Northern Ireland when European football comes around in late July.

A number of sides have lost players through holidays and sensationally, Crusaders even hosted Rosenborg without manager Stephen Baxter in 2012 because of a pre-arranged family holiday.

Looking at how the League of Ireland gets past this particular obstacle prompts the thought of a short summer break of around two weeks. Those hard pitches could even have a well-earned rest too.

The final big issue according to the clubs is the thought that they will lose out on money-spinning Boxing Day fixtures. The “money-spinning” part of that argument really must be investigated.

It’s laughable (and naive) to believe that local football fans and players in Northern Ireland would rather enjoy a game on a cold and wet winter day than a mild summer’s one.

If fans and clubs really do want a game to go to in December then keep the amateur leagues and their cup seasons in the current format.

Alternatively a pre-season cup could even be introduced for December, a Community Shield style event between the Irish League and Irish Cup champions.

It’s granted that the players couldn’t train extensively hard for this event and so quality could be at a premium, but it could be one of those “money-spinners” the NIFL clubs are crying wolf over.

Overall, opinion is divided on the issues with fans and clubs on very different sides of the argument.

However, there is agreement on some issues like the marketing and promotion of the game, community engagement and enhanced media coverage.

It is the first few steps on a long road, but the future quality of the game in Northern Ireland is paramount. Hopefully the clubs and their paltry arguments see this too.

DSC_6276The North West 200 is Ireland’s most glamourous road race, full of thrills, spills and the toughest road racing imaginable.

The race is the ultimate test of both man and machinery with public roads taking centre stage in the speed extravaganza that acts as a season opener for the road racing season.

To prepare fans for this year’s meeting from May 10th-17th we’ve gathered together all the need-to-know facts about Ireland’s glitziest road race and moulded them into an informative graphic.

Check out the infographic below, which solemnly includes the fifteen tragic riders to have lost their lives since the race began alongside a host of records and course facts.

 


 

North West 200 Infographic

 

UnknownDermot Weld’s Sinkal stole all the headlines at today’s meeting at the Curragh as the 3-year-old won the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Maiden.

Pat Smullen’s mount travelled well in the 1m2f contest before unleashing a devastating turn of foot to dispose of John Oxx’s Marakoush and Aidan O’Brien’s favourite Adjusted.

Weld’s colt showed just why many think the Epsom Derby is a realistic target for him this season.

The showpiece, the Big Bad Bob Gladness Stakes, was won by Chris Hayes for Paul Deegan as the duo teamed up to deliver Sruthan to a 1 & 1/2 length success in the 7f affair.

Elsewhere dual contestant Thomas Edison returned from a disappointing season over the jumps to help Fran Berry to a double on the day as he took the War Horse At The Curragh Raceday Handicap by a nose.

Check out our graphic on all the action below.

 


 

 

Curragh Infographic (Second Meeting)

 

 

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