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Tyrone dig down deep to see off Kerry and set up final showdown with Mayo

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Tyrone 3-14 Kerry 0-22 (aet)

An All-Ireland semi-final that was already extraordinary before a ball was thrown in, erupted into sensation at Croke Park this evening, as Tyrone arose from their sick beds to slug it out with Kerry in a riveting match that went all the way to the last kick of extra-time.

Tommy Walsh’s tired attempt at an equaliser – forced by the pressure of referee David Coldrick’s imminent whistle – drifted wide to leave the Ulster champions winners by a point and triggered tumultuous acclaim from the Tyrone support.

With all of their Covid-related problems, the last thing Tyrone needed was additional labour but they had to cope with both extra-time and two sin-binnings, for Niall Sludden and Darren McCurry.

This was on top of an exhausting game plan, with runners unleashed from the back all afternoon. Aside from raw expenditure of effort, they deserved the win because they fulfilled the basic requirement of any contest: restricting your opponents to a smaller total that you score.

Using a couple of alternating sweepers they made the approach to goal tricky and Kerry’s lack of composure in either over-running the ball and losing possession or getting isolated with the certainty that such errors would be punished by having the ball stripped.

You could only admire Tyrone’s energy and commitment. They put in more tackles, made considerably more turnovers and struck for three goals – against none for their vaunted opponents’ attack.

They rode their luck a bit in that Kerry couldn’t complete promising attacking plays by registering the goals needed to take their total to a winning mark. They resisted mightily when faced with the horrific reality that they were half way through the first period of extra-time and losing by five after Cathal McShane’s goal.

That deficit came down to three by the break after points by Paul Murphy, Diarmuid O’Connor and a Seán O’Shea free – punctuated by a brilliant point from McShane, who demonstrated off the bench that his top form of two years ago was back after injury and some tentative displays since.

Extra-time is always a bit of a lottery. Limbs are tired and judgment frayed and in the frantic end-to-end exchanges, missed opportunities threatened calamity as soon as the ball moved in the other direction.

Kerry stitched together a barnstorming move that saw the ball flashed over the bar by Paudie Clifford. Paul Geaney added a point – the margin was down to the minimum. A menacing ball into attack was cut out by Kieran McGeary, somehow finding the energy to intervene and shortly afterwards put in a punishing run down the right to bring the fight back to the Munster champions.

David Clifford goes down with cramp during the semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
David Clifford goes down with cramp during the semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The matches that defined this rivalry were a long time ago. Only David Moran and Walsh of this afternoon’s teams survived from the 2008 All-Ireland final but the terms of engagement haven’t softened.

Tyrone once again showed the priceless ability to spook fancied Kerry teams, as surely as they had done in the 2000s.

Coming into this semi-final the big question marks over Kerry were the extent to which they had shored up a vulnerable defence and how their highly regarded forwards would function in their biggest challenge of the year.

The much scrutinised full-back line didn’t do badly in the first half. Tom O’Sullivan cleaned out McCurry in successive balls whereas apart from Matthew Donnelly’s mark and point, the Tyrone players weren’t getting much traction.

That changed in the 25th minute when a run by Sludden opened up a gap in the Kerry defence and put Conor McKenna in for a well-taken goal and a three-point lead, 1-5 to 0-5. The facility with which they managed that proved an omen and any team that concedes three and scores none is in trouble.

Kerry will be aghast at how many goal chances they spurned, most obviously when Stephen O’Brien’s 22nd-minute goal was disallowed after the build-up was penalised for his being in the square ahead of Geaney’s pass, which opened up an empty goal.

A good indication of Kerry’s problems was the extent of the dependency on David Clifford and O’Shea, who provided 16 of the 22 scores and that was with Clifford gone for extra-time after injuring himself going for a high ball in front of goal. His brother Paudie, who had been topping the FOTY betting going into the match, had an industrious day but followed all over the pitch by Conor Meyler, was short on inspiration as opposed to perspiration.

Opening exchanges were predictably cagey but the pattern established saw Tyrone driving forward out of defence and finding support runners – to the extent that the whole full-back line, Pádraig Hampsey, NMichael McKernan and Ronan McNamee got on the scoreboard.

Kerry looked more dangerous at manoeuvering openings and O’Shea got in on goal after a one-two with David Clifford in the ninth minute but he took the point. In quick succession, in the 17th and 18th minutes both Geaney and David Clifford flashed the ball across goal – maybe hopeful of making contact with a team-mate rather than attempting to find the net – and chances came to nothing.

In the second half, Kerry also failed to capitalise on Sludden and McCurry getting black-carded for bringing down Paul Murphy and Gavin Crowley respectively in the 40th and 59th minutes.

They actually lost the second black-card period on the scoreboard largely because the path to goal opened up again in the 69th minute when Darragh Canavan was released in behind the defence.

His shot was hit a bit too close to Shane Ryan, who saved well but the deflection looped up for McShane to fist to the net and reclaim the lead, 2-10 to 0-15 with a minute of normal time remaining.

Nine minutes were added for injury-time and Kerry scrambled back on level terms, first with an O’Shea free and then after McCurry had edged Tyrone ahead after some composed interplay, David Clifford equalised with a free awarded for a foul on O’Shea by McNamee.

They also got little from their bench whereas Tyrone were able to bring on Canavan and McShane, the begetters of the vital second goal.

With David Clifford and Moran off the field in extra time, Kerry struggled and although it’s to their credit that they responded as doggedly, they never looked sufficiently composed to complete the comeback.

The hammer fell in the 76th minute when a McGeary shot looked to be going wide, fell short and was disastrously poked at by Jack Barry. It ran for McKenna who drilled it back into the net for a five point lead that Kerry could chase but never catch.

Mayo await in the final that hardly anyone foresaw a month ago let alone at the start of the season.

TYRONE: Niall Morgan (0-2, one free, one 45); Michael McKernan (0-1), Ronan McNamee (0-1), Pádraig Hampsey (0-1); Kieran McGeary, Frank Burns, Peter Harte (0-1); Brian Kennedy, Conn Kilpatrick; Conor Meyler, Michael O’Neill, Niall Sludden; Darren McCurry (0-4, two frees), Mattie Donnelly (0-1, mark), Conor McKenna (2-0).

Subs: Cathal McShane (1-3, one free) for Kennedy (44 mins); Tiernan McCann for O’Neill (55); Ben McDonnell for McCann (temp, 64-67); Darragh Canavan for Sludden (64); McDonnell for Kilpatrick (74); Mark Bradley for McCurry, Ronan O’Neill for Harte (both 76).

Sin-bin: Sludden (40-50 mins); McCurry (59-69).

KERRY: Shane Ryan; Brian Ó Beaglaoich, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan (0-1); Michael Breen, Paul Murphy (0-1), Gavin White; David Moran, Jack Barry; Dara Moynihan, Seán O’Shea (0-8, six frees, one 45), Stephen O’Brien; David Clifford (0-8, two frees, two marks), Paul Geaney (0-1), Paudie Clifford (0-2).

Subs: Killian Spillane for Moynihan (half-time); Gavin Crowley for Breen (50 mins); Adrian Spillane for Geaney, Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1) for O’Brien (both 55); Tommy Walsh for Moran (60); Tadhg Morley for Ó Beaghlaoich, Geaney for D Clifford (both 71 mins); Jack Sherwood for Barry (77); Graham O’Sullivan for Foley (80); Micheál Burns for O’Sullivan (87).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).

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Leinster hoping lightning won’t strike twice for Connacht at the RDS

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Leinster v Connacht,  RDS, Friday, 7.45pm – Live TG4 and Premier Sports

Lightning, goes the saying, tends not to strike twice, and Leinster tend not to lose twice in a row. Although it did happen last April/May against Munster in the Rainbow Cup and then La Rochelle, it has never happened to them at the RDS.

In making 10 changes in personnel to an all-international XV following last week’s defeat by Ulster, as well as restoring Rónan Kelleher and Andrew Porter to the bench, Leinster have made their intentions clear. A week out from their December marquee fixture against Bath at the Aviva Stadium, they are pretty much as locked and loaded as they could be.

Jamison Gibson-Park came through training this week and should be available for next week. Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan might return the following week away to Montpellier.

As James Ryan is still adhering to World Rugby guidelines, which has included seeing an independent concussion consultant, there is no clear timeframe on his return.

Beaten here by Connacht last January, Leinster won’t lack for motivation. “The guys were pretty gutted afterwards last week because it only takes the smallest percentage to be off against a team that’s highly motivated, like Ulster were, and like we know Connacht will be this week, exactly the same,” said Leo Cullen on Thursday.

“It’s been a short week for us to prepare but we just need to get going now into this block and get excited about the challenge, and playing in front of a home crowd. There’s plenty of doom and gloom out there in the world at the moment, as we know, so it’s getting back and creating that connection with our supporters, and going out and doing great things on a rugby pitch, and that’s what the team wants to do. I’m sure that’s what the fans that turn up and pay good money to watch the team play, that’s what they want to see as well.”

Three changes

Connacht arrive on the back of sparkling bonus-point wins either side of the Autumn Series hiatus over Ulster and the Ospreys. Andy Friend has made three changes, promoting centre Peter Robb, lock Oisín Dowling and Eoghan Masterson, who replaces the injured Paul Boyle, with Jarrad Butler moving to eight.

Ulster won here with a restricted if well-executed game plan, playing territory and retaining possession, before upping their line speed in forcing errors from their misfiring hosts.

But true to Friend’s mantra of fast/relentless/adaptable, Connacht are committed to their ambitious ball-in-hand brand of rugby. Jack Carty, one of five internationals in Connacht’s side, has a liking for this venue, having scored 39 points on his last two visits here. In December 2018 he contributed handsomely to a 29-12 lead with 12 minutes remaining before Porter completed Leinster’s late three-try salvo in overtime after 41 phases, while last time Carty scored 25 points in their 35-24 win.

Yet to put last January’s win in context, it is Connacht’s only victory in the last six clashes between the two; it was sandwiched by Leinster twice running up a half century against them, and it was their only win on Leinster soil since September 2002.

Accordingly, Paddy Power makes Leinster 1-10 favourites, with Connacht 6-1 to spring another surprise.

LEINSTER: H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; H Byrne, L McGrath (capt); C Healy, D Sheehan, M Ala’alatoa; R Baird, D Toner; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, C Doris.

Replacements: R Kelleher, A Porter, V Abdaladze, J Murphy, M Deegan, N McCarthy, R Byrne, TO’Brien.

CONNACHT: O McNulty; A Wootton, S Arnold, P Robb, M Hansen; J Carty (capt), K Marmion; M Burke, D Heffernan, F Bealham; O Dowling, U Dillane; E Masterson, C Oliver, J Butler.

Replacements: S Delahunt, J Duggan, J Aungier, L Fifita, C Prendergast, C Blade, C Fitzgerald, T Farrell.

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)

Forecast: Leinster to win.

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‘I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish’

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“For the first time in my lifetime my two cultures were intertwined in the most beautiful way … I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish.”

Doreen McPaul was speaking as she received a Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad for 2021. President Higgins granted the awards to 11 people at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin on December 2nd.

McPaul, of Irish and Navajo heritage, is attorney general for the Navajo Nation. Her award, under the category of charitable works, is in recognition of her fundraising for the Navajo, who experienced extreme hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her efforts led to a collaboration with the Irish Cultural Centre and McClelland Library in Phoenix, Arizona, which gathered more than $30,000 worth of donated supplies to assist the Navajo Nation at the peak of the pandemic.

“The Navajo Nation was so devastated by Covid-19, as a culture and as a community. [It] was really tragic and stressful, and we worked literally non-stop. The highlight of this was talking to people from all over the world …. Specifically with Ireland, we had this huge outpouring of support, and that was really overwhelming because of my own dual heritage and growing up as a half-Navajo half-Irish girl,” she told The Irish Times.

“As soon as people learned that the Navajo Nation attorney general was part-Irish, people reached out to me and claimed me as their own and invited me to all these things and celebrated my dual heritage in a way I’ve never experienced before. Literally they put me on the highest pedestal and that’s what this award signifies to me.”

A graduate of Princeton University, Doreen McPaul has worked as a tribal attorney for 20 years and has spent two years serving as attorney general. “I didn’t know I was nominated for the award first of all. So when the Irish council called to let me know I would be receiving a notice of the award, I literally cried.”

In all, 11 people received awards on Thursday, in a variety of fields. They were: Arts, Culture and Sport: Susan Feldman (USA), Roy Foster (Britain) and Br Colm O’Connell (Kenya). Business and Education: Sr Orla Treacy (South Sudan). Charitable Works: Doreen Nanibaa McPaul (USA), Phyllis Morgan-Fann and Jim O’Hara (Britain). Irish Community Support: Adrian Flannelly and Billy Lawless (USA). Peace, Reconciliation & Development: Bridget Brownlow (Canada). Science, Technology & Innovation: Susan Hopkins (Britain).

Colm Brophy, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora said: “As Minister of State for the Diaspora I am aware of the profound impact our global family has had around the world in a variety of fields. There were 107 nominations for these awards this year, and the level and breadth of the achievements of the people nominated are, by any measure, remarkable.

The contribution of the Irish abroad has been immense, and the diversity of their achievements in their many walks of life, can be seen in this year’s 11 awardees.”

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Ski home values rise by up to 17% despite travel restrictions says Savills

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It’s not just Britain’s property market that is red-hot. Homes in ski resorts are being snapped up by wealthy buyers despite the pandemic and on/off travel restrictions, a new reports suggests.

And just like here, the staggering growth in values stems from high demand and lack of supply. 

The findings are in Savills latest ski report, which tracks 44 resorts globally. It found that property prices grew on average 5.1 per cent in the last year.

However, some resorts – including Flims and Grimentz in Switzerland – saw values rise 17 per cent.

This chalet in Chemin Des Cleves in Switzerland and is for sale for CHF6,000,000, the equivalent of £4.9million

This chalet in Chemin Des Cleves in Switzerland and is for sale for CHF6,000,000, the equivalent of £4.9million

Top 20 prime ski resorts, based on price per square metres (priced in euros)

Top 20 prime ski resorts, based on price per square metres (priced in euros)

The release of pent-up demand for ski properties follows almost two seasons of closures for most resorts.

Jeremy Rollason, of Savills, said: ‘Only a few resorts such as Val d’Isère, Verbier and Morzine were seeing real price growth up until 2019. 

‘That has all changed with virtually all resorts in the Alps and North America experiencing strong double digit and sometimes exponential price growth in a matter of months.’

He adds: ‘The first quarter of 2021 was particularly acute for demand. Transaction volumes doubled over the previous year and fierce competition emerged, especially for prime property in the most exclusive resorts.

‘Property that had previously been for sale for a few months – or even years – suddenly found buyers who were keen to escape the confines of towns and cities.’

The North American ski resorts of Aspen and Vail top the Savills Ski Prime Price League with Courchevel 1850 moving from the top spot to third place.

Aspen, which celebrates its 75th birthday this season, is predominantly a domestic market, with average values at around £25,000 per square metre.

Meribel has broken into the top ten price resorts with asking prices of around £13,800 per square metre. 

With its 200 lifts, and central to the world’s largest ski area – Les Trois Vallees – Meribel is popular among French and British skiers looking for a dual season resort.

Making the most of a dual season: This five-bed chalet is in St Gervais, in France's Haute-Savoie region, and is on the market for €2.5m (£2.13m)

Making the most of a dual season: This five-bed chalet is in St Gervais, in France’s Haute-Savoie region, and is on the market for €2.5m (£2.13m)

Estate agents Savills also looked at the prospects for price growth in 10 key resorts

Estate agents Savills also looked at the prospects for price growth in 10 key resorts

While resorts have always pushed the benefits of using properties throughout the winter and summer, a dual season resort is now the most important locational factor for buyers as they look to make the most of their holiday homes, according to Savills.

The estate agent said that regardless of international travel restrictions, foreign buyers are still keen to purchase ski resort properties and have been quick to return to the property market as restrictions have lifted.

This week, some resorts opened early amid heavy snowfall and are hoping to remain so throughout the season.

Mark Nathan, of Chalets 1066, the largest operator in France’s Les Gets, said: ‘We are fortunate here in that Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, the French Minister for Tourisme has said that ‘closing is not an option’ this winter.

‘The snow is amazing at the moment and the pistes will be opening this weekend. The planned date was December 12 for early opening so this shows how good the conditions are. The fresh snow was up to my knees this morning.’

This five-bed chalet is in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and is for sale for CHF4,200,000, the equivalent of £3.4million

This five-bed chalet is in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and is for sale for CHF4,200,000, the equivalent of £3.4million

He explained that visitors will be expected to show proof of vaccination to go into bars and restaurants, and also when buying lift passes.

‘There might even be random checks in the lift queues. We are also expecting to have to use masks in lift queues – but these are all small points and the good news is we can all ski and enjoy a mountain holiday. 

‘Our bookings are the best we have ever had by a long way, in over 13 years of business. 

‘Over the past few days there has been nervousness among the English and a few other countries with the new Omicron variant, but we now hear that the Swiss will be allowing people who are on their way to France to land at Geneva and then take a transfer directly to France. 

‘Overall, we are looking forward to an exciting ski season.’

Qualified ski instructor and ski journalist Rob Stewart added: ‘British skiers spend more money than domestic visitors and ski resorts are desperate to have us back. 

‘In some French resorts, British skiers are only second to French visitors in regards to numbers and we are such an important part of their economy.

‘This winter, snow seems to have come fairly early and in decent quantities, and it’s cold. This always helps increase visitor numbers and after such a terrible winter last year because of Covid, there is huge positively about this winter being a good one.

‘The challenges remain for British skiers, with nerves around changing travel restrictions still haunting the industry and lack of availability pushing prices higher for the moment. 

‘But for skiers that have missed out for one and half seasons now, these challenges will be overcome if possible, for the chance to get back on the slopes’.

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