Leinster: A journey to the League title

We are 2 weeks into the new Guinness pro 12 season and it has already been a massively different season for Leinster over the last 3 seasons.

Starting with an expected opening win against Treviso in the RDS. The second week was going to be the first big marker of the season, taking on the Glasgow Warriors away in Scotland. Glasgow have been consistent for years and this was the year I had picked them to make the semi-finals of the league. And if you can reach the semi then you can reach the final. They had done some really good things, recruited well and have a great coach. This was their year. They are on the ascent whereas Leinster have been staying consistently inconsistent for the last few years. About as consistent and my ability to take the bins out, that being not very.

The opening game this year was strong for Leinster. The attack looked to be much improved, which was the big complaint last year. The blue wall of defence has been the one thing to improve recently and it was still there. But it was Treviso, and with all due respect to them, the victory should never have been in question and it never was.

And so the team jumped on a plain to Glasgow. The new pitch the nice Scotstoun Stadium waited. Leinster came out of the blocks. Playing like the champions of previous times. It was a confident, strong and inventive display from a team who appeared scared to do this over recent times. The players where trusted to perform and they did that. Glasgow where scared, but never out. Tommy Seymour kept them in relative touching distance, but Leinster moved into a 10 point lead with 50 minutes gone. Game plan was working, every play worked and those that didn’t meant the improvisation from the team was called into play and it worked. Joey Carbery and Luke McGrath played with confidence and skill which is fantastic to see.  Rob Kearney showed form that he hadn’t shown in years and the team itself was confident.

And then Glasgow started scratching their way back in. they knew they had a player in Seymour who could cut Leinster to shreds. He has been epic in the opening 2 games for Glasgow. 6 tries in 2 games shows a player who is on form and confident of his ability to beat any player. He led the team back into the game and into the lead. He Scored 4 tries in the game and stretched out the lead to the final score of 33-25 to the home side.

That score line is not all doom and gloom. There was an intercept pass thrown by Carbery, there was a few missed tackled by Mike McCarthy and the team did appear to get tired towards the end. This early in the season that is somewhat expected. The preseason is one thing, game time and game intensity is completely another.  Glasgow came back with intensity from the 10 point deficit and the tank was just empty for Leinster. This is an early season issue that all teams run into and won’t happen at the business end.

Again, the attack play was a step up. It was inventive and creative. Great to watch and it yielded results. Which is the point. There is no point in flashy rugby if no one scores. The defence was good, the interception and missed tackle aside. These where mistakes that can be learnt from. The new players stepped up against a full strength Glasgow and where not left wanting.

To me, this is the final of the league in game 2 of the season. By the time we get to the Aviva for the final, the Glasgow team will have stepped up to keep up with their in form Tommy Seymour and Leinster will have all the players back and playing in a style that has won championships in the past.

Hugely positive for this season and welcome Stuart Lancaster.

As usual @nkeegan for more

Guts, Glory,Vindication and UFC 202

So, it is Monday morning after the weekend that was. A fight that had promised so much, and actually delivered more than even the experts dared to imagine.

Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz went to war. They put everything (and maybe too much) on the line for victory and for our enjoyment.

Let’s take a swing through memory lane and talk about the fight.

The entrances where slightly different to the first fight. Conor was calm like Hannibal Lecter walking out to the beautiful sound of Sinead O’Connor singing the Foggy dew. He looked looser than the first fight, more relaxed and very different to the weigh in. Elite athletes get a look in their eye when they are in the zone and Conor had that. He even threw in a Vince McMahon power walk when he entered the cage. Thus winding up millions of pro wrestling fans, and putting a future wrestlemania payday a certainty.

Diaz was a little less calm looking than usual. This was the big moment for him. No big brother in his corner, he was out there on his own to take on the biggest name in MMA.

The face-off kept the theme up. Diaz was bouncing around, keeping his eyes on McGregor while McGregor was calm, still and unmoving. No hand touching and we were off.

Round 1 couldn’t have gone any better for McGregor. The GPS was locked in to Nate’s lead leg. The one weakness that Nate has is his stance; it’s a boxing stance that doesn’t always work in MMA. It looked like Diaz was either cold, or was expecting a similar game plan from McGregor. That being to throw everything behind every left hand punch until the tank empties. It was clear from the offset that team SBG had been working hard on the Diaz puzzle. Down Diaz goes under pressure and it is a 10-9 round. Some people have said 10-8, but Diaz was never in trouble enough to warrant that score.

Round 2 kicks off following the same lines. McGregor was hitting Diaz at will. Minimal resistance from Nate. His ability to take a punch was his safety blanket here. He knew Conor couldn’t knock him out, down yes but not out. Every second leg kick was connecting very hard. Diaz was put down again by another left hand. Diaz left his left foot out in an attempt to hook McGregor, but Conor was staying away from the ground, keeping the fight on his terms. The fight was looking to be heading to a landslide for Conor, and then with a minute and a half left in the round, Diaz woke up. He walked forward and started throwing the Diaz volume that we all expected. It was seriously impressive to watch because at this stage he was opened up like a Freddie Krueger film. This was the time to find out if the training was going to work for McGregor. The bell ends the round. McGregor took damage, but slipped the main punches. He was never in trouble, but he wasn’t fighting back as much as he should have.  The round was another 10-9 to McGregor on my scorecard. Diaz did make a comeback but he didn’t do enough to win the round.

McGregor up by 2 rounds at this stage. But how was the gas tank?

Round 3 kicked off with Diaz pushing McGregor up against the cage and bossing him. He did attempt numerous takedowns, but wasn’t successful any time. The McGregor team had been working hard on this. Diaz never got close to a takedown but he was in control all the way through. 10-9 Diaz. Again, some gave it 10-8 Diaz but for me there wasn’t a takedown or a knock down here to get that extra point.

We are now 2 rounds to 1 for McGregor, but the momentum had shifted to Diaz completely.

Round 4 kicks off with McGregor getting back to the game plan. Leg kicks came back. Both fighters were obviously tired. Whenever Diaz pushed Conor against the cage it usually ended in a punch coming back at him upon separation. This was the biggest difference in this round. Anytime there was space generated, McGregor managed to get a hand on Diaz, who was opened up like a Christmas turkey by this stage. Still walking forward, but he was bleeding heavily. McGregor finished the round stronger; Diaz was looking like he was fading. 10-9 McGregor. No question.

Final round, both fighters were exhausted. This was different level fighting.

It starts with Diaz walking forward into a big knee. Diaz catches it and pushes Conor into the fence. They both worked hard and McGregor reversed it after some time. Again, upon separation, Conor cracked Diaz with another punch. That one hurt! McGregor walks away, obviously dead tired. Diaz chased wanting a clinch. Anther take down attempt was blocked by Conor. His work in the clinch has been really impressive in this fight. Diaz gets a few strikes in and McGregor is clock watching. 90 seconds left.

McGregor with the takedown, Diaz back up. How are they still going like this? Unreal! Diaz throws a few short punches and manages to get his only take down of the fight. The fight finished with Diaz on top trying to connect with punches. 10-9 Diaz.

I was on my feet at this stage. I originally had it with McGregor winning by 3 rounds to 2, but I had a feeling that a draw being announced.

Both fighters embraced post fight which is what this sport is about. They left everything and more in there.

It seems like forever waiting for the decision.

Judge 1: 48-47 McGregor

Judge 2: 47-47

Judge 3: 48-47 McGregor

There it was. A fair result (even with me trying to take my green tinted glasses off). Diaz is a bigger star and McGregor is now so far ahead of everyone else in the sport in terms of stardom, that he can write his own cheque in 3 different sports.

If I was wearing a hat at 5 am Sunday morning, I would have tipped it to both fighters.

@nkeegan for debate, discussion and derision.

Fights, Failures, Fragility and Legacy

So, have you heard any news lately?

If someone came up to you and said that the main event of UFC200 is off due to a failed drugs test, you wouldn’t believe it. You wouldn’t believe that a fighter would be so stupid as to put themselves in a position to cost them a frightening amount of money, a world title and most importantly (in this case) the bragging rights of beating your biggest rival.

But that is exactly what has happened. Our favourite constant mistake maker, Jon Jones has been served with a potential USADA test violation 3 days away from the biggest fight of his life. Most have just written it off as stupidity, but I think there might be something more to this. Before we get to my theory, I used to think that potential violations shouldn’t be made public. But after research, a potential violation follows a huge amount of testing on the sample. They announce it when they are 99% sure. This is the same as the Chad Mendes failure 2 weeks ago.

Now, to my theory. Do you think Jones really wanted this fight? Do you think that maybe Jones felt so far away from his best after the OSP fight that he was looking for a way out? He is not stupid he is far from stupid. His team know exactly what is on the banned list and what is allowed. He is more tightly controlled now than ever, and yet this still happens. I think that Jones wanted a way out without losing to DC. I think he knew he was going to lose if Cormier was fit. He had seen the huge improvements in the champion since their last fight; he had seen the wars that DC went through, and that along with seeing his own skills diminish he wanted a way out without losing.  In his mind he still has a win over the champ and hasn’t been beaten by him, this will be the next thing he says. After the fake press conference where he talks about mistakes, asks for forgiveness and promises to be back, he will be putting up instagrams espousing never losing to Cormier.

I am gutted for Cormier. This was his moment to exorcize his demon. The one blemish on his record. He knew he was in a position to do that. The work was done, the weight was made and it was all for nothing. The mental aspect is the biggest worry. How will this let down affect him? This was his moment and it was taken away from him.

The money aspect isn’t an issue. If he was due to get $4-5 million, he will get that from the UFC down the line somewhere. But who else can he fight? Who is the next in line?

With that out of the way, we have Lesnar v Hunt. The beast versus captain concussion. Hunt can stop a Volkswagen with his right hand and Lesnar can…….what can Lesnar do? He is a genetic freak, he is an elite athlete and if this was the Middle Ages we would all be cutting his grass. But in terms of MMA, what is he? At 39 he is not as quick as he was. He isn’t as strong as he was. His technique wouldn’t have improved as he hasn’t had a proper camp. That along with the break from the cage puts him in the cross hairs of defeat. If he charges across the ring, Hunt will snap him. If he tries to keep Hunt away with a big paw, Hunt will walk through it and snap him.

As much as I want Lesnar to win, I just don’t see how he gets the W.

Either way, I’ll be sneaking around my house like a ninja watching the event. They have my money!

@nkeegan if you want to debate, shout or discuss the above.

Until next time.

Losing, Rugby Dynasty’s and eventually being happy for Connacht

After a tough sporting weekend its time to bring the season to a close.

This is Keego on Leinster, losing, dynasty destroying and the rugby social media warriors.

So, coming into this week everyone in blue (or most) where saying ‘if Leinster can’t win then I am happy its Connacht’. This was the first sign of a change in the stands that surround Leinster rugby. Can you imagine any other time where anything remotely like this was said? This is said when you don’t believe the opposition is worthy. It is a sign of supporters believing the hype at the business time of the season. I won’t lie, I said something similar to that a few months ago. The closer we got to the game, the more annoyed I got with myself for saying it. During the game I didn’t want Connacht to win, during the game I was annoyed at my team and after the game I am just gutted.

Connacht and Leinster went at each other hard in the opening minutes, but Connacht very quickly took control of the game and they did so far far too easily. The Leinster defensive line was about as active as I am on a Sunday morning after 12 RDS Guinness after match day, that being not at all. Connacht bulldozed towards Leinster and smashed through them by using their brains instead of their bodies. Running at space instead of a human being is always the way to go.

Going in, I thought the midfield was going to be Connachts chance. Aki and Henshaw against T’eo and Ringrose I thought was where they could win. T’eo hasn’t wanted to be in blue for a long time. He had a good game against Ulster but in the final where it counts, he was staying safe to get on the English plane. If a player doesn’t want to be there he should be taken off the pitch. Madigan was on the sidelines who wanted to play. He should have been brought on with 20 minutes gone. It may have made no difference, but I would rather have a team of players who want to play for the team instead of play safers. Ringrose tried very hard, and will be class at the tope level; it was just a learning experience for him.

There was only 1 area of the game that Leinster bossed and that was the scrum. Nothing else worked, nothing else looked like working. Now the question is, was this a game plan issue? Or was it a horrendous day for the players? Did Leo tell the team to lay back and allow Connacht run on to them? If so it’s a naïve gameplan. If it was the players, then why wasn’t there a leader on the pitch taking control? There were near 600 caps in blue on Saturday.  Leinster had less answers than I had during maths paper 2 way back when.

So, Connacht dominated and destroyed a rugby dynasty on Saturday. The further we get from the game, the happier I will be for Connacht but as of right now, I am still gutted.

Which brings me to the internet, never a good place to go after a big win or a big loss. People forget the filter they have in real life (something I am also guilty of) and they just talk. This morning it was about your friend and mine, George Hook. He wrote in the indo comparing the teams and the players a lot of which was spot on. He mentioned about maybe Schmidt being on the chopping block, we will put that in the ‘he’s had too much coffee’ pile. If you use Saturday as a reset for Team Ireland. How many Leinster players make the team? How many Connacht players make the flight? This was where reputations where shattered. Without naming any names, because any player on that pitch is an elite athlete performing at a stupendously high level, who get on the plane?

 

For me the team in green would dominate the big team in green in terms of places, but reputations are getting plane tickets and not form.

Is this a bigger issue? Work of Fitzgerlads injury will open the door for maybe AJ McGinty, which is exactly what he deserves. But he is not the only one.

 

Is now the time to re-evaluate the style of play? The selection process and how the provinces play? Or have we gone too far down the rabbit hole?

 

In closing, a tip of the cap to the Connacht support on Saturday. You out Leinster’d the blue army in Edinburgh and that is some feet. See you in the RDS next season for round 2.

 

As usual @nkeegan for more

 

Until next season….

More fight business, Gimmicks and sport

Another week has gone by and the business of fighting has taken over the sport of fighting. There has never been a time where the act of fighting your way up the ladder to the title has been less important.

The sport of MMA is still ruled by the man from Crumlin who talks everyone into their seats, and following that up with being an elite fighter. But would Conor have all of the success if he wasn’t as good of a fighter?

For me, if it is a real sport. As in you win to progress or lose to drop down the pecking order. Then he is a top 4 fighter in 3 divisions. Champ at 145 and a top contender in 155 and 170. But he might not necessarily be the top dog in each division, the business aspect takes over and keeps him at the top.

McGregor took Dublin over to the UFC, there are parts of pro wrestling in there, part of the greatest characters in pro boxing there as well as the Dublin charm that we all have, but don’t expose on such a high level. The Americans have eaten it up. The rest of us have applauded (for the most part) that one of our own has taken our ‘way’ over to the biggest fight organisation in the world and become one of the biggest sports starts in the world right now.

The reason this has happened is mostly business. Conor and his team understood how to get someone to get off their couch and attend the fight, or to order the fight for far too much money. It is the marmite principle. People either love him or hate him. This is pure pro wrestling. That is how you draw money in that field. Obviously I am not comparing both as sports, just as businesses. The reason why wrestling is not at its highest in terms of popularity is because no one does what conor does. They are too scared to let their audience make a decisions. The UFC are happy to put Conor (and Chael before him) out and let the audience make their mind up.

Conor lays it on thick and the difference he is bringing is that there are people turning on him, but what they don’t understand is that this was part of the plan. The gimmick he plays is so good that people who should know better are caught by it. His team understand that people will turn against him eventually, and let’s face it, we Irish always turn on our sportspeople who do well. The only one we haven’t turned on is Katie Taylor, and that might be because she didn’t turn pro and stayed an amateur. If she was signed by golden boy promotions and moved away to train, we would turn on her too.

So back to my initial point, the business plan is more important that the wins and losses. Case in point. If the McGregor v Diaz was a pure sporting occasion, then Diaz fights Dos Anjos (the fight that McGregor was supposed to have). That fight is minimal in terms of interest in the casual fan base. And I am sorry to burst your bubble but the UFC already have our money, it’s the casual money they want. So that money is in a rematch. There are a lot of excuses as to why the fight went the way it did, a lot of them are fully justified, but if Diaz beat anyone else that way, there would be no clamour for a rematch. The reason is money and business.

I don’t know how I feel about this. For me sport should be sport and the best fighters are the ones who beat the best and have the most interest from the fans. But it looks like it’s only the second part of that that means anything.

The rematch is on. I hope it is at 155, but the rumour is that it is 170. Diaz with a full training camp and the knowledge that the cheque for winning the second time around is multiples of the one he got for the first fight makes him tough to bet against. But the heart stays with McGregor. Imagine what happens if / when he gets the win in the second fight.

It would be a massive comeback story, and nothing makes more money than a comeback!

@nkeegan for the usual debate and punditry

Until next time…

Business, Sport and UFC 196 Aftermath

Another week and another big fight on the near to mid horizon.

But let’s look at the aftermath of UFC 196.

Not talking about the backlash against anyone, end of the day, he went up 25lb to fight a serious fighter at that weight. Won the first but wasn’t used to the weight and was beaten. End of….let’s move on…

So what now? Will there be rematches after the big 2 main events? Will the UFC find new matches for each?
Well I would firstly, thank all of the gods that the 2 main events happened. The women where always going to show, no doubt. The fellas when they see their names opposite Conor withdraw quicker than I did……….but that’s another blog for another site. So for Diaz, as the victor he should get the title shot right? That’s the money match. He was hammered by Dos Anjos (well a much bigger Dos Anjos hint hint) the last time they fought.

He might be a bit too small to fight Robbie Lawler, although you can never count a Diaz out of any fight. So what happens? Well how about this, how about Nate Diaz v Georges St Pierre!??? To me that is all kinds of fun. St Pierre will be the professional, saying the right things and trying to make us think Nate hasn’t gotten into his head.
And Nate will be the Diaz we all love. It will be a fairly even fight. In his prime Georges steamrolls Diaz. But he hasn’t fought in years, the allure of UFC 200 and millions of ppv buys in his pocket may be just the thing to tempt him back. The pre-fight will be worth the money alone. I think Diaz wins it.

And what for Conor McGregor? Should he stay up at 170? Go back to 145 or go after the 155 title? It is completely up to him, because even after the loss, he drew 1.5 million buys. And as much as I would love this to be a sport where wins and losses count, it is a business first and McGregor is still the golden Crumlin Goose. He can make 145 and fight there, but I would rather see him eating the odd steak in between the salad and get the fight with Dos Anjos at 155. Aldo shouldn’t be entertained; he is talking all sorts of smack, but was put out in 13 seconds. Even on my worst day I have never done anything for that little amount of time. He is another fighter who has looked smaller since the testing has come in. I am not saying he was on anything, but……

So for me it is 155 v Dos Anjos 5 round war! Shut up another Brazilian and take home another belt.
As for the women it is a bit more difficult. I am delighted for Tate to have won. Gutted for Holly and annoyed that Ronda is back on the scene. Ronda is a beast, elite and unreal athlete. But she has appeared to be a bully lately and is only in training because Tate won and she thinks she can beat her. That is the only reason. If Holm had won Ronda would not have replied with the ‘its time I got back to work’ text to Dana.

But this being business, Ronda gets the shot against Tate, another massive fight for a company rolling in so much money that it is unreal. Not to mention Jon Jones and Cormier in April. I really want Cormier to win, but you can never bet against Jones. If he cannot get arrested or do something stupid, he will resume at the top of the division and be unbeaten until his next arrest.
Cause as Rick James said, “cocaine is one helluva drug…..