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Mayo leave all the heartbreak behind as they storm Dublin’s citadel

Voice Of EU



House on fire. After six years of unbroken domination that at times left the rest of the county in despair, Dublin, All-Ireland champions 2015-2020 went down in flames on a rainy night in the capital.

It was appropriate that they fell to Mayo, the county that had offered Dublin the toughest challenges and suffered repeated heartbreaking outcomes over the past half-decade.

In the end, the sight of Dublin in disintegration was shocking. The All-Ireland champions struck 0-10 in a first half in which they presented the illusion of the old control and decision making. But over a wild and extraordinary hour, the most voracious scoring team of modern times would manage just another 0-4 in 62 minutes of football.

The champions failed to score entirely in the third quarter when referee Conor Lane whistled for the water break, a fact that would have been inconceivable in any summer over the past decade. And they just about held on as the Mayo youth division ran through them in waves in the last quarter, suddenly aware that there was nothing to be frightened of here.

A nerveless 45 by Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly edged the game into two periods of extra-time but something within Dublin – whatever essence it is that makes a team believe it is immortal – had already been broken on the field. They knew it. Their opponents sensed it. Then, the realisation spread to the chilly darkening stands. If there were still newstand boys and evening editions, what a clamour! Extra! Extra, read all about it.The old palace was being ransacked before our very eyes.

These two have served up a series of rich classics to be savoured over the years. This was more elemental and darker. For 55 minutes, this was an awful game of football, played on a squally, unsettling night of spitting rain and spiteful transactions.

As the tea-time kettles whistled around north Dublin, a question might have formed in the minds of the public. Where is the All-Ireland championship? Where is the big sprawling majestic spectacle that has, for decades formed the backdrop of Ireland’s summers?

There was something uneasy about this Saturday evening in the minutes after six o’clock as the Dubs, still the champions perpetual, briskly ran through their power-and-possession game. What did this say about the state of the game if Dublin were simply going to cruise to another final?

Mayo’s Colm Boyle celebrates at the final whistle with Stephen Coen. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Mayo’s Colm Boyle celebrates at the final whistle with Stephen Coen. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

The memory of what Mayo had done to the sacrificial lambs of June – obliterating Sligo, putting up a frightening score against Leitrim – put a chill into an already unseasonable August evening. Mayo are, by all accounts, light years removed from the rest. But here, over the first 30 minutes, they were snatching at ghosts and struggling to read the riddles of the Dublin movement and composure. With the Kerry-Tyrone semi-final in a precarious and compromised place, the championship itself seemed to be on the precipice.

But Mayo under James Horan are nothing if not stubborn. Few teams are as bloody minded in shaking off their own shortcomings. They had excuses to fold the tent here. As usual, much of the focus was on Aidan O’Shea: where would he play; how would he lead?

The big Breaffy man trotted into the edge of the square at the start and then spent most of the game waving at his team-mates in the hope they’d find him the ball. When he did win a possession and a free shot with a mark, he thumped a terrible wide from 13 metres, to the gloating delight of the Hill. He never quite recovered from that moment and Horan took the huge and hugely courageous decision to substitute him with 50 minutes gone.

It was a massive moment in what goes down as Horan’s finest hour to date. Without O’Shea, Mayo had to go and beat the unbeatable without their figurehead. And new faces emerged. Tommy Conroy transferred the electric talent he has long shown on localised fields to the biggest game of his life. Ryan O’Donoghue must have ran a marathon as well as striking 0-5 over the evening. The Mayo back division, led by Pádraig O’Hora and Lee Keegan, put in a monstrous hour and snuffed out the fading light of the most feared attacking unit in the game.

There is always something terribly lonely about watching a great team humbled. The realisation that this is what was happening here came late. There was a suspicion, as the cognoscenti had sagely agreed in podcast and print all week, that Dublin had become that most delicate of things: vulnerable.

They looked anything but in the first half. There was the imperious Fenton catch, there the inevitable backdoor scores from O’Callaghan and Kilkenny, there was Scully and Murchan buzzing and moving and there, too, was the bass chorus of the Hill, content that nothing had changed, nothing was over. It was, in fact, the westerners who looked stricken and suddenly searching for an identity through the first half.

It was 0-10 to 0-4 at the break. The big place felt eerie during then, with all the funfair sounds but none of the atmosphere. The first half deepened the sense that Dublin had finally roused themselves to the necessary business of extending the legacy.

Time and time again, the Mayo young ’uns learned to their cost that you don’t take the ball into contact against Dublin: the tackling was rapacious and firm. Fenton settled into conductor at midfield as Dublin simply toyed with their opponents in possession. They held the ball for 61 per cent of the time as the Dublin fans clapped politely and nodded appreciatively as the champions switched the ball and used the tramlines on the field and never once allowing the pent-up Mayo men to deliver the hit they yearned to do.

Mayo’s Enda Hession in action against Paddy Small of Dublin at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Mayo’s Enda Hession in action against Paddy Small of Dublin at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

And yet. It was only 0-12 to 0-7 on the hour mark. The champions, playing into that treacherous breeze towards the Hill, had stalled. If there was a turning point, it was when Diarmuid O’Connor sprinted to save a stray Rob Hennelly free, fly-kicking it back infield for Kevin McLoughlin to fire one of his efficient scores.

All night, the Mayo faithful had been waiting for a moment, any moment, to light their fire. This was it. After the restart, Jordan Flynn clipped another score and then Evan Comerford, advancing with the ball and searching in vain for a blue shirt, was called for over-carrying. It wasn’t really the goalkeeper’s fault but it was impossible at that moment not to remember the missing number one. It was only then that the Dubs fans had visions of Stephen Cluxton. O’Donoghue potted the free and then Conroy landed another true beauty. Mayo were back in comfortable country: rampaging, chasing down a lost cause, running down a dream.

Suddenly, there was only one team on the field. It was all green and red. They tore through the fragmenting memories of the Jim Gavin years. The closing minutes of the champions’ defence was not particularly gallant: it seldom is.

Desperate to halt the westerners flow, they went down injured, the committed several wild tackles and had the great James McCarthy, the nucleus of this whole thing, and Tom Lahiff black carded in the unruly closing period of extra time.

By then, Mayo were in a 0-17 to 0-14 lead and were completely in control: revelling in the night. There was almost a grace note goal when Conroy, in fabulousness mode by now, sent O’Donoghue through but he never fully gained control of the shot. It didn’t matter. Late in the night, Horan had the presence of mind to bring O’Shea back into the game. It was a classy gesture to a player who owes his county nothing and will have further big shouts in his county colours.

The one problem with the story of this rivalry and all its riveting stories was that the outcome was always the same. Could it be a true rivalry if Dublin kept winning? This might just have made all that hurt worth it.

What a night for some of the veterans – Keegan, Patrick Durcan and Hennelly himself as they celebrated. Of course, they are past masters at winning semi-finals, this crew. Write them off. Strike them down. Count them out. And still they turn up, back in an All-Ireland final: to hell with ’51 and all that fatalism.

And now: that distant sound you hear coming is not just the south wind blowing. It’s the men and women of Kerry, licking their chops. Mayo won’t care. You live for these days, these nights.

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Japanese knotweed saves £11.8billion off property values  

Voice Of EU



Japanese knotweed is responsible for shaving £11.8billion off the value of Britain’s property market, new research by a removal specialist claims.

As many as 4 per cent of British homes are affected by the invasive plant – either on the property itself or on a neighbouring property.

The invasive plant makes homes significantly more difficult to sell as buyers can struggle to secure a mortgage on a property where it is found.

However, Britain’s biggest mortgage lenders told us that is possible to get a mortgage for a home affected by knotweed, but conditions may be imposed.

Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant that makes a property significantly more difficult to sell as buyers

Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant that makes a property significantly more difficult to sell as buyers

Japanese knotweed on a property reduces its value by an average of 5 per cent, according to the figures from removal specialist Environet.

It used that to estimate that with 890,000 households across the county are being hit by a typical reduction of value of £13,200 due to knotweed, this equated to £11.8billion in total.

The plant can be stopped from spreading – although this process can be costly, at around £2,500 for a 10sq m area for a herbicide treatment or £5,000 for a 10 sq m for an excavation.

Environet claims that removing the root system from the ground is the only way to deal with Japanese knotweed decisively with minimal change of regrowth.

It said that despite the lower costs, herbicide treatment is increasingly recognised as a control method only. 

This is because above-ground growth can disappear, but the root system beneath the ground is often induced into dormancy meaning it’s capable of regrowing in the future – particularly if the ground is disturbed by landscaping or building work. 

Environet says removing the root system from the ground is the only way to deal with Japanese knotweed decisively with minimal change of regrowth

Environet says removing the root system from the ground is the only way to deal with Japanese knotweed decisively with minimal change of regrowth

Nic Seal, of Environet, said: ‘Those buying and selling property are legally required to declare if the property is or has been affected by Japanese knotweed, but if an infestation has been professionally excavated with an insurance-backed guarantee to satisfy mortgage lenders, it is possible to restore the property value to close to the original value.’

He added: ‘Herbicide treatment of knotweed has always been very popular due to the lower costs, but the message is getting through that it’s only a control method and won’t solve the problem definitively.

‘Buyers are much more wary of buying a property which still has knotweed rhizome beneath the ground as there’s no way of knowing whether it’s completely dead. There’s also an environmental cost to using chemicals, which is of growing concern.’

Environet explained that the excavation element can be carried out during the winter months, allowing for full use of gardens during the summer.

What mortgage lenders say about knotweed 

Mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, explained that those buying a property where Japanese knotweed is found may find it less of a deal breaker than in the past where the lender may have automatically declined a mortgage application.

SPF Private Clients’ Mark Harris, said: ‘Should Japanese knotweed be identified, there are four categorisations assessing its severity, with 1 being best-case scenario and 4 being worst-case. 

‘Depending on which silo the property falls into, and whether there is specialist eradication work either ongoing or planned, and insurance in place, lenders may be willing to consider the application.

‘Depending on the severity of the problem, lenders may tailor the amount they are prepared to lend, or not lend at all.’ 

While securing a mortgage on a property with knotweed can remain challenging, lenders confirmed that they are open to providing finance if a management plan is in place. 

A Nationwide Building Society spokesman said: ‘Our policy on Japanese Knotweed depends on how far the plant is from the property. If it is less than seven metres away from the property, we would request a specialist report about eradicating it before deciding whether we could lend. 

‘If the plant is more than seven metres away, we would need written confirmation from the borrower that they want to proceed with their mortgage application despite the presence of the plant. 

‘What may be required is assessed on a case by case basis. Where the valuer identifies the presence of Japanese Knotweed, they may advise that a specialist report is required with respect to eradicating the plant and, where applicable, to report on repairing the property. Any report for eradication of the plant should include an insurance-backed 5 year warranty against re-infestation.’ 

And spokesperson for Halifax explained: ‘The presence of Japanese Knotweed itself is not a barrier to lending. 

‘We will be guided by the surveyor’s, and any subsequent expert’s, report on the scale, location and effects of any presence on or around the property.’  

How were the figures calculated? 

Official figures from the ONS show there at 27.8million households in Britain.

Environet disregarded 20 per cent of households that are flats as these are less likely to be affected by knotweed. 

That produces a figure of 22,420,000 homes in Britain. 

Environet’s survey conducted with YouGov in 2021 revealed that around 4 per cent of homes are affected by knotweed, either directly – meaning that it grows on the property – or indirectly where a neighbouring property is affected. 

It means 889,600 homes are affected in total, according to Environet.

The average value of a property in Britain is £264,244, according to Land Registry’s figures for August. 

Environet claimed that Japanese knotweed reduces the value of a property by 5 per cent on average. This is based on its own anecdotal evidence of what a property is worth once a knotweed management plan is in place (ie the 5 per cent reflects the amount that a buyer might try to reduce an asking price by due to the stigma and risk of the knotweed returning after treatment or removal). 

The 5 per cent reduction translates into £13,212 being knocked off the average home.

As such, the total amount knocked off property values in Britain as a result of Japanese knotweed is therefore 889,600 households multiplied by £13,212, which is £11,753,395,200.

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Ikea offers personalised design service in Ireland

Voice Of EU



Ikea is piloting a home design service in Ireland. The Swedish furniture giant opened the new service in Naas on Monday.

Customers will be able to consult the retailer’s in-house home interiors specialists at the new store. The company said the service would be free, personalised and one-to-one.

It said people would be able to talk through ideas for upgrading their kitchen, living room or wardrobes with a designer. They will also be able to order any Ikea products from the store for delivery. Unlike Ikea’s other smaller store in Carrickmines, south Dublin, there will be no items available on site to bring home on the day.

The company said Ireland was one of eight markets worldwide in which it is piloting the new service.

“This new service allows us to bring our home furnishing expertise to the many, with bespoke design solutions that best reflect our customer’s unique style and design challenges,” said Martyn Allan, Ikea’s market manager in Ireland. “At the same time, we get the opportunity to listen to and learn from our customers to continue to develop our store formats.

“We are so proud that Ireland is part of this pilot, offering us the opportunity to move closer to our customers in towns and cities currently without IKEA stores,” he added.

People looking for a design consultation will need to book in advance online. When the company confirms the booking, it will let the customer know what to bring with them, such as measurements or photographs.

Over one or two consultations – which will not cost anything – the designer will draw up a 3D plan which will be accessible on the Ikea website to the customer up to five days after the consultation.

The store on Naas Main Street will feature some room sets and the company says the consultations will operate in strict compliance with current public health guidelines.

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Dubs get exercised over digital dollars

Voice Of EU



Dubliners are to be “paid” for a walk in the park with “civic dollars” they can cash in for coffee and cake and other goods and services, in an effort to encourage outdoor exercise.

Visitors to five parks in the Dublin 8 area can earn the community currency if they sign up for a new smart phone app to allow Dublin City Council to track their park use.

The scheme is being piloted in the area from the Liberties to Inchicore, following research by the council’s Smart D8 team which found just 40 per cent of local residents took regular exercise, but 92 per cent said they would use a park for exercise if it was available to them.

Visitors to St Audoen’s Park, St Patrick’s Park, Weaver Park and Oscar Square in the Liberties, and Grattan Park in Inchicore who use the app will be rewarded with civic dollars for every 30 minutes they spend in the park up to a limit of 5 dollars a day.

Data anonymised

The system uses GPS data and allows users to opt in once they enter a park. Their data is anonymised, and a user’s session will end automatically once they walk out of the park. Data gathered will be used by the council to analyse park usage and allow for future planning and infrastructure improvements.

The dollars can be cashed in for discounts in a number of local businesses including Little Bird cafe, the Bike Hub, Mobility Genie, the Digital Hub and Epic Ireland. The dollars can also be donated to community organisations for more expensive services including marketing or IT advice and legal consultations, with participating companies including Core Tech IT, Paul Saxon Consulting, Éire Graphic Design and VAVA Influencers.

The Smart D8 project was established earlier this year to investigate innovative approaches to improve citizens’ health and wellbeing in Dublin 8, with the involvement of St James’s Hospital and the Digital Hub.

The civic dollars pilot will run for five months, with the aim of attracting 1,000 users in the first two months, and could be rolled out to other parks in the city if successful.

Organisations accepting dollar donations include Warrenmount Community Education Centre, Robert Emmet Community Development Project, Solas Project and Fatima Groups United.

The scheme had the potential to “improve the health and wellbeing of our citizens”, Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland said.

“We need to encourage increased use of our parks, and the civic dollars project will do that while having the added benefit of contributing to local businesses and community organisations.”

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