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Kilkenny and Galway are now worlds apart

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It’s always amazing how one weekend of games can change so much. This day last week, I had Kilkenny and Galway down as being two pretty similar teams. I’d say most people were the same. Probably Galway a bit further up the pecking order but not by much.

Similar make-up, similar talent level throughout the squad, similar potential. Both Leinster finalists last year and the majority of people would have been expecting a repeat of that final match-up this time around. But now, after last weekend, they exist on two completely different planets. And I have been in both.

One team is stuck now with their heads full of questions with no obvious answers. They are full of what-ifs, uncertainty and doubts. That state of mind will form the basis of the starting point of everything they do this week. They are on the back foot immediately, as if they’re staring at a Leaving Cert paper where they can do five of seven questions – the other two they won’t even attempt. Those will be for later when they have their confidence back.

For the other team, this is a week where every player has grown an inch taller. They will be filled with confidence, they will be glowing. They will be going around with a bounce in their step and that bounce will only get higher as the week goes on and the bodies recover after such a titanic battle.

So why did Galway fall flat on their face and Kilkenny get over the line? Going into the weekend, we all thought Galway would beat Dublin. We knew Kilkenny v Wexford was always going to be a tight one – maybe not extra-time tight but we knew there wouldn’t be much in it.

Let’s start with them. Kilkenny had a lovely mix of something new and fresh, blended with the old values of a Brain Cody Kilkenny team. Firstly, the new. I have never seen a Kilkenny team conceding the puck-out to an opposition and retreating beyond the opposition’s 45. For the first 20 minutes of the game, Mark Fanning kept flicking out the ball to Kevin Foley, the Wexford sweeper, while the Kilkenny forward line all fell back.

Big tactic

Dropping that deep from the opposition has never been a Kilkenny thing. The closest to it at times would have been to retreat maybe about 30 yards from goal and to let someone in the opposition full-back line receive the puck-out before pouncing on him but this was a different level. This was basically giving the ball to Foley and leaving it up to him what to do with it.

It happened at two different stages in the game. It was their big tactic for the first quarter of the game but it didn’t work. Foley’s distribution was good and Wexford pieced together possession pretty well. They ran the ball into good areas and they were able to free up their shooters, especially Lee Chin and Rory O’Connor. At the first water break, Wexford led 0-8 to 0-6.

Kilkenny Manager Brian Cody reacts during their match against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Kilkenny Manager Brian Cody reacts during their match against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

But by then, Cody was already making moves to put a halt to it. About two minutes before the water break, you could see him summoning Adrian Mullen over towards him on the sideline. The message was clear – Mullen went back out on to the pitch making pushing hand gestures to the rest of the forward line. Push up, lads.

And if they didn’t get the message then, they definitely had it by the time the water break was over. For Fanning’s first puck-out after it, Kilkenny were back to their more familiar setup and Wexford hit their first long puck-out of the day.

Just because something doesn’t work doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea. I liked seeing them try something new, even if it didn’t come off. They were forced to do it again in extra-time during Eoin Murphy’s sin-binning when they were down to 14 men and this time it actually worked pretty well.

Partly this was down to the fact that Wexford were visibly tiring. But also, Kilkenny didn’t just retreat this time, they packed the middle channel as well. Combine that with Wexford’s exhaustion and it shut down all the running alleys that had existed before. It meant that Chin and O’Connor weren’t getting the same quality of ball and the Wexford moves were breaking down a lot earlier. Kilkenny had learned on their feet and showed their versatility.

The other small thing we saw from Cody that he usually doesn’t really bother with was a dummy team. I’ve seen it happen before, maybe for an All-Ireland semi-final replay six days after a drawn game, where the team has to go to the printers early in the week and nobody expects either team to line out as named anyway because everything is done in such a rush. But for the first game of the year? I doubt if Kilkenny have ever named a team and then made three changes to it by throw-in time.

Even the late announcement of the team was very unKilkenny. My phone beeped at 9.31pm on Friday night with a text from the Kilkenny Supporters’ Club, naming the team for a game that was happening less than 24 hours later. Again, it’s not like them – the team was given to the players at training on Thursday night.

Small little changes like that might not amount to very much. Dummy teams are hardly anything new in the game, neither is waiting until late the night before a game to release it to the public. But if Cody is deciding after all this time not to show his hand before he has to, I think that’s an interesting development.

On the pitch, it looks like TJ Reid will spend more time inside than outside, keeping him closer to goal. Maybe there is a changing of the guard also. Paul Murphy and Colin Fennelly are no longer there. Cillian Buckley, Joey Holden, Conor Fogarty, Walter Walsh and Richie Hogan are not starting. Has Brian moved to a younger team, favouring the links of Richie Leahy, Tommy Walsh, Alan Murphy and Darragh Corcoran? It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Saying that, there is still plenty of the old Kilkenny on show too. It was never summed up better than by Cody after the match when he said, “The turning point was the sheer refusal of our players to lie down or to stop and to never say the game was gone and to keep fighting and fighting and fighting.” That is the given with Brian and Kilkenny.

You can guarantee that will be there for the next day, as much as you can guarantee Brian will be wearing a black and amber face mask. He is his own man, but he doesn’t flinch one bit in demanding that effort, drive and fire every day you go out.

He does not give you the choice between working really hard and going through the motions. That is not up for debate or question. Of course, Brian always emphasises the importance of the bench and panel, and this was evident on Sunday. He doesn’t hang around either, as we saw with changes at half-time.

All in all, Kilkenny got 1-9 from his subs, which was a huge impact. Walter Walsh was the key man off the bench, not just with 1-1 scored but also his work rate, positioning and turnovers at key times.

As always – although it is never really spoken about – Kilkenny were a well-conditioned team and had the better fitness levels and freshness. A lot of key Wexford guys flagged in extra time and some had to come off, like Chin due to cramp.

All in all, it’s not the same old Kilkenny. The changes might only be small but they’re built on an old template that has worked in the past. I think it sets them up in a really good place.

As for Galway, they were lacklustre and unfocused. They took Dublin for granted and they did not play with the required level of work rate, application and attitude. For that they got burnt alive by a hungrier Dublin team who sized them up and cut them down.

Errors

This had a stench of Galway of old from them; pre-2017 Galway. I hope it is just a blip, because there is no doubt they have the panel and players to win this year’s All-Ireland. But serious questions need to be asked within that group.

It is not acceptable to pick and choose when you prepare properly for a game. I have no problem with mistakes or errors but I have no time for lack of effort. Galway went through the motions – how did they think that was going to get it done?

When Conor Whelan got the goal in the 43rd minute and reduced the margin to a point, the Galway we all thought we knew should have found a way to see out that game. That’s what good teams do: recognise they are below par but still sense with a push of one or two big players, this can be turned around. All it would have taken was a couple of leaders to show the way and others would follow.

But other than Whelan, nobody else came forward. That is a sure sign that complacency had eaten them from the inside out at this stage. Too many players assumed that they would figure it out, or that the game would come to them. There’s a fine line between not panicking and not showing enough urgency to turn things around and when you are complacent, you fall the wrong side of that line.

I have seen this before from Galway. They have it in their locker. But they also have men of substance who need to stand up this week. Daithí Burke, Joe Canning, Gearóid McInerney, Whelan, the Mannions – they’re men of principle and I expect them to get things going this week.

Some harsh words. Eye-to-eye stuff. Players-only meetings, whatever it takes. The job is to get to the bottom of why they were so casual last weekend. They haven’t much time to turn the ship but the good news is that their problem isn’t tactical. Maybe the odd positional or personnel change here and there but really it’s an attitude change they need and you can turn that around in the space of one session.

I expect a reaction from Galway. They have too much about them to go out like this.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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