WHAT with indoor athletics, Gaelic football, soccer and golf, Sunday offered plenty of channel hopping and recording-to-watch later for TV sports enthusiasts.
During a brief respite, we flicked over to Eurosport to discover a competitor in green the 50km Cross-Country at the Nordic World Championships that were concluding in Slovenia.
Thomas Maloney Westgård maintained a mid-field position for most of the skiing slog around a seven-lap circuit and finished creditably in the top 20.
That we have any participants at all in winter sports is always something of a wonder, when other than some dusting on the Reeks and Galtees and some slippery roads when the temperatures dip below zero, there aren’t many opportunities to dream of glory on snow and ice.
Maloney Westgård, as his name might suggest, had the benefit of growing up in Norway, home to the most successful Winter Olympians, in conditions most of us on this island would label ‘treacherous’.
The 27-year-old actually grew up on another island that wasn’t that conducive to pursuing his ambition on skis. He has said of Leka, the tiny place where he grew up, just off and a fair way up the Norwegian coast: “t wasn’t the best place really to ski because it was windy and raining a lot, a bit like Ireland.” He only took up the discipline at 16 and had to move four hours away to find suitable slopes to practise on.
A mother from Galway offers the Irish connection to a man who says his sporting hero is Robbie Keane.
He performed admirably at the Olympics last year too, bagging 14th in the 15km event.
He also competed in the 50km in Beijing, in a race that grabbed the headlines 12 months ago when Finnish participant Remi Lindholm suffered a frozen penis.
Maloney Westgård finished one place behind the Finn that day in 29th and admitted the same condition (although condition seems too much of a euphemism in this regard) has affected him in the past.
“I know that feeling. Luckily, it happened me in a 10k and not a 50k so I was able to get in to shelter quick enough. I’ve made some mistakes of not dressing myself suitably for conditions, but I’ve learned!” Cross-country skiing is not only about incredible reserves of endurance; sometimes competitors must really have ice in their veins.
WHAT is there to say about Liverpool? In less than two weeks they have gone from their greatest European collapse to the biggest defeat of their historic rivals They have moved up to fifth place, just three points behind Tottenham in fourth, with a game in hand. They are now even money to secure a place in the top four, while Spurs and Newcastle are now 2/1. After their 4-0 destruction of West Ham, Brighton are quoted at 8/1.
The defeat stands as United’s joint-worst; the last 7-0 was in 1931 It shatters any aspirations for joining the title race. It also means United’s goal difference (+6) is, incredibly, below Brentford’s (+7)!
And although it preceded my time resuming writing in these back pages, it has torpedoed my 66/1 each-way bet (for two places) on United at the start of the season.
CHELSEA finally ended their goal drought at the weekend, securing a much-need win for Graham Potter.
They’ll need to find the net again tonight to progress in the Champions League as Borussia Dortmund carry a 1-0 lead to Stamford Bridge. The Germans are 8/13 to qualify but I think the 6/5 quoted on the Blues might be better as they finally have started sniffing around the net again and now that not scoring an away goal in a first leg isn’t such a hindrance.
In the other game tonight, Benfica are nailed on to qualify.
Tomorrow the big game is PSG against Bayern Munich. The French (or Qatari) side travel to Bavaria with the shadow of allegations against Moroccan World Cup star Achraf Hakimi over them.
Kingsley Coman got the goal (just as he did in the decider between the two in 2020) to give the Germans their 1-0 cushion tomorrow night.
Bayern have a 100% home record this season, two defeats overall, and a perfect run in the Champions League with all wins and six clean sheets out of seven games.
But I have a notion that Kylian Mbappe might mix things up. Having Neymar injured might benefit them in giving their starting 11 more shape. 11/4 on them to finally do something positive in Europe is advised
RORY McILROY was almost in a play-off on Sunday evening and is 10/1 but I think I’ll opt for a better-priced Irishman. The course could be better set up for Shane Lowry and 50/1 are decent odds for him, however I think I’ll be greedy and opt for Waterford’s Seamus Power at 100/1, considering this tournament can throw up all sorts of surprises.