The Meteoric Rise of Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford has made a name for himself in recent seasons as one of the brightest young players in Europe. However, under Jose Mourinho, he has been deployed as a winger rather than as a striker where he had originally started out. This has frustrated many Manchester United fans and pundits who believe that he would do better playing up front. There have even been calls for him to go out on loan and get some valuable experience at another Premier League club. However, that is unlikely to happen with Rashford having become such a key player on the wing, scoring four goals and getting five assists in all competitions so far this season. However, regardless of where he plays, his rise to being such a crucial member of the United team is an interesting one.

He joined Manchester United’s acdemy at seven years old, having played for Fletcher Moss Rangers for two years previously. At the age of sixteen, he was selected for a Youth Cup tie as the lone striker for the first time, having previously played as a number ten. He went onto nail down that position as he scored four goals in ten starts that season. He impressed all who were present and he became the key man for the u-18’s the following season when Demetri Mitchell got injured and scored 13 goals in 25 games. His set-piece prowess also became evident as he netted a free-kick against Tottenham.

His goals then earned himself a call-up to the u-21’s as well as a substitute appearance for the Reserve team. He scored his first goal for the u-21’s in a 6-1 victory against Leicester. HIs meteoric rise continued when he made his debut against Midtjylland in the Europa League in February of that season. He scored two goals in the game and manager at the time, Louis Van Gaal commented that he had so much energy and he was running too much in the first half of that game. He became the youngest ever player to score for Manchester United in a European competition. When he made his Premier League debut against Arsenal that weekend, he also scored two goals and provided an assist, making him the third youngest player to score for Manchester United in the league. He became a hero a month later when he scored the only goal in the Manchester derby.

His good form led to him being called up for England against Australia in a friendly at the end of the season. He scored after two minutes and earned himself a seat on the plane to France for the European Championships. He was a substitute in games agaisnt Wales and Iceland and his quality was evident. The 2016-2017 season saw him struggle as he was deployed on the wing with the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He only scored eleven goals in 53 appearances in all competitions. He has started the current season in great form, having scored four goals and provided five assists so far in all competitions. He scored on his Champion’s League debut against Basel and got his first competitive goal for England in a 2-1 victory over Slovakia in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

So it is evident that whatever posititon Rashford is playing, he is one of Europe’s brightest young stars and just like his meteoric rise through the ranks at Old Trafford, his future is bright and he will be leading the line for both United and England for many years to come.

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Small but Mighty, Carlow College St. Patricks ready for new soccer season

Pre-Season is well underway at Carlow College St. Patricks as the players return from a summer away from the pitch to write their wrongs from last season. As they dust off the cobwebs from their boots and step out onto the pitch, there is a murmer around the dressing room that maybe just maybe they can do well this year. The players will be quietly confident and why shouldn’t they be?

They were close but yet so far last season. Two points was all that separated them and a place in the quarter finals of Division Four. They looked promising at times, beating IT Carlow’s Wexford Campus team 6-2 and most who were present cannot forget the thumping 4-0 victory against Cork IT”s ‘D’ team in the first round of the Bob Eustace Cup that will live long in the player’s memories.

There were impressive performances from several players. Daniel O’Keeffe in the heart of the defence was ‘Player of the Year’ as he clattered into opposing strikers time and time again. Adam Colton was top scorer and when he got the ball at his feet, there would be few who would bet against him scoring. Craig Henderson was impressive on the wing as he skipped past opposing full-backs. On the other wing, Columb Sheridan was a constant threat, swinging in crosses that sailed over the heads of opposing centre backs and getting himself into a position to get onto the end of crosses from others. At times, Kevin Anthony was the glue that held the midfield together, the vital link between defence and attack.  Daniels Mackey and Greville at full back were constantly bombing up and down the flanks as they sought to stamp their influence on games. Kevin Nolan in goal was often the difference between the two teams, pulling off fine saves to deny opposing strikers.

Under the steady leadership of the Lawler brothers, the team will be quietly confident. Towards the end of last season, they had settled on a lineup which provided both balance and skill. The mixture of these more experienced players in the squad who have the experience of playing college soccer alongside some talented fresh blood fighting for a place in the team will prove key this campaign.

With their first game coming up next Thursday against Athlone IT, coach PJ Lawler is optimistic that they can do well. He says, ‘The team can be very successful. As a small college it is certainly tough competing against colleges who have a lot more students to pick from. I firmly believe that the lads can certainly get out of the group and into a semi final or final and we all know from there anything can happen. Realistically, it will be a success to get out of the group but if we do, the hard work will certainly not stop there.’

He reckons that hard work and an early start will be the key this season. ‘The key to our success this year will be the amount of work that occurs during training. The lads are a very committed bunch, but there certainly needs to be a lot of effort put out on the field. A good start in the group next week will also be important to ensure the confidence remains high and points are on the board from the start.’

With new Jersey sponsorship from Ger Brennan of RelyAbuild and half time refreshments being sponsored by ValuCentre Carlow, Carlow College St. Patricks will be hoping for a successful season.

5 Talking Points From this Weekend’s Premier League Action

  1. Where was Batshuayi?

    Chelsea started the game against Manchester City in a 3-5-2 formation with Eden Hazard starting up front with the in-form Alvaro Morata. This was a decision which baffled many fans as Hazard is a midfield player usually. The decision seemed even stranger considering the form of Michy Batshuayi who seems to just be used as a squad player at the moment. When Morata got injured early in the first half and had to be replaced, it was Willian rather than Batshuayi that came on, leaving Chelsea without a recognised striker. This apparent distrust of Batshuayi will be of concern to Chelsea fans as they try to defend their Premier League crown especially if Morata’s injury proves to be long-term.

  2. Huddersfield will struggle against the bigger teams.

    This was evident on Saturday when Harry Kane and his Tottenham side ripped through their defence to win 4-0. Their defence will not be able to cope when it comes up against world-class forwards. Prior to this game, their defence had yet to come under pressure which is evident in the fact that they had only conceded three goals in their first six games. However, they ought to still do quite well and will still probably end up in the top half of the table, a remarkable achievement.

  3. West Brom are flying under the radar

    West Brom have gone from strength to strength under Tony Pulis in the past couple of seasons. They finished tenth last season, a change to battling against relegation as had been the case since they got promoted from the Championship a few seasons ago. This season they are flying high in the top half of the table again. However, they seem to be doing it quietly with many failing to realise their rise with the likes of Watford and Huddersfield defying many people’s expectations. However, after they earned a 2-2 draw against fellow high-flyers Watford, many will sit up and take notice of the Baggies.

  4. Rashford shows his potential

    The case of Marcus Rashford is a curious one. Many will argue that he has the potential to be the next big English striker and form a deadly partnership with Harry Kane. When he came into the team two years ago due to injuries to all of United’s other strikers, he scored twice on his debut and went on to score nine goals in full that season. Since then however, he has been played out of position on the wing, frustrating many fans of the talented youngster. He showed his potential against Crystal Palace on Saturday where he got two assists and many fans will be optimistic as to his future.

What’s happened to Bournemouth?

Last season, Bournemouth were one of the surprise packages, finishing ninth. This season, they can’t seem to find to find that form that made them so successful last season and are currently battling it out in the relegation zone with only three points from their first seven games. Fans will seem confused by the change in fortunes for the South Coast club. Eddie Howe will want to rectify this quickly to avoid getting sacked.

Bagenalstown Cricket Club reaching new heights

At 175 years old, Bagenalstown Cricket Club is the second oldest Cricket club in the country and has had its highs and lows during this time. From not being able to field enough players to make up two teams just a few years ago, to having all three of their teams promoted from their respective divisions this season, their story is that of a fairy tale.  In recent years, it has gone from strength to strength.

Back in 2015, the first team won Division 8 and got promoted to Division 7 and there would have been high hopes for more success the following season. However, the 2016 season was just not to be with the team in redevelopment stage, trying to bring through some talented youngsters. This season though there were no such problems with the youngsters maturing and starting to turn their potential into match winning performances. Thanks to the hard work put into the team and the enthusiasm brought by new captain, Bernard O’Mara, the club got promoted to Division 6 and are still within a chance of becoming Division 7 champions. Marcel Bruns starred for them with the bat, getting 380 runs with an average of 63.33 and got his maiden century whilst Shane O’Neill (22 wickets at an average of 18.45) and Sunny Charles (21 wickets at an average of 11.67) starred with the ball in their hand.

The story of the second team is a fascinating one. They were also promoted and got to the Minor Cup Final for the second year in a row. Club spokesperson, Mat Baker, remembers a time when things weren’t looking so great for them. ‘In 2013, serious discussions took place about the club withdrawing its second team from the Leinster Cricket Union. We were sometimes struggling to get a second team out, and I remember a long trip out to Slieve Bloom with nine players. It’s a long way to go to get an inevitable beating’. This makes their exploits all the greater. The following season, they were relegated by two divisions. Things started to pick up for them in 2015 with them finally getting promoted to Division 13. 2016 saw them kick on from there and win the Minor Cup, the first ever Leinster trophy for the club. They also finished strongly in the league. That brings us on to this season. They again got to the Minor Cup Final and were promoted again. Shohab Ali Taj was the top scorer with the bat scoring 207 runs with an average of 34.5 whilst Ismail Mohammad starred with the ball in his hand finishing the season with a tally of 18 wickets at an average of 7.83.

The Third Team came into existence back in 2015 and endured a difficult first season. Their aim was to simply get through the season as they struggled to get eleven players out onto the pitch at times and lost all fourteen of their games. However, things started to pick up for them in 2016 as they won their first ever game and finished comfortably mid table, even flirting with a promotion push at one stage. 2017 however, was the making of them. With a mixture of experience in the form of some older players who just want to play Cricket and youth in the shape of players just starting out in the game, they managed to earn themselves promotion as champions. There were strong performances from Mat Baker who shone with the ball, getting 21 wickets at an average of 10.76, including 8/21, the best figures of anybody across the 16 divisions this season, and Rana Riaz who was the top performer with the bat, scoring 148 runs with an average of 74.

From struggling to field two teams each week to having three teams promoted in just four years, it’s safe to say that it has been an eventful few seasons for the small little club from a small little parish in the heart of the countryside of Co. Carlow. The club wishes to thank everybody that made this season so special for them from the players to the Chairman, Diarmuid Power, Secretary, Michael Dick, Groundsman and Treasurer, Sean Farrell, Communications Officer, Mat Baker and the families of the players for all their support and patience. It’s safe to say that this little club has a great future ahead of it and if you would like to be part of that, whether you’re young or old, a man or woman, please contact the club on their Facebook page, Bagenalstown Cricket Club or email baggiescc@gmail.com.

4 Sporting Events to Look Forward To…..

  1. Carabao Cup Third Round

    The League Cup returns with it’s latest sponsor, Carabao, this week. The League Cup offers managers a chance to rest players with crucial Premier League and Champions League fixtures approaching in the coming weeks. It is exciting to see the next generation of players coming through and how they fare against some of the teams from lower divisions. The televised games from the Carabao Cup this week are Liverpool vs Leicester on Tuesday and Manchester United vs Burton Albion. Both games take place from 7.45 on Sky Sports Football and Main Event.

  2. Leinster vs Cheetahs

    Having beaten the Southern Kings last week in the first ever Pro-12 game to take place in South Africa, Leinster face more South African opposition in the shape of the Toyota Cheetahs. Leinster have so far had a comfortable start to the season, winning each of their three games with a bonus point victory and so will be hoping for more of the same. The Cheetahs have so far struggled to make their mark in the Pro 14 tournament, losing their first two games by big margins but pulled off their first victory of the season against Zebre and will therefore have momentum going into their clash with the Irish side. Cheetahs vs Leinster is on from 7.00 on Sky Sports Action.

  3. Baltimore Ravens vs Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley

    The Baltimore Ravens take on the Jacksonville Jaguars this week at Wembley in the International Series. This will be great for any NFL fans this side of the pond to see some of the US heavyweights taking each other on at a reasonable time. The Jaguars have had a mixed start to the season so far, winning one and losing one whereas the Ravens have enjoyed a relatively successful start, winning two from two. Baltimore Ravens vs Jacksonville Jaguars is on from 2.00 on Sky Sports Action.

  4. All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Final

    Their men’s teams went head to head last week in a tight, close game. Now the Dublin and Mayo women go head to head on Sunday. Dublin will be the favourites to do the men’s and women’s double, having cruised past Kerry in the semi-final but Mayo have been impressive this season, coming through the qualifiers, recording impressive victories along the way which will make this an intriguing contest. Dublin vs Mayo is on from 4.00.

 

5 Talking Points from the Weekend’s Premier League

  1. Manchester Clubs simply too good at the momentBoth Manchester United and Manchester City are dominating at the moment and seem to be playing in a different division to the rest of the League. Both had convincing wins over the weekend. City destroyed a Watford side that have looked promising so far this season 6-0. Watford were unbeaten this season before they faced City but could not compete with the skill that Pep Guardiola’s side boast. Manchester United looked in control as they overpowered an ageing Everton side. They beat the Merseysiders 4-0, with three of the goals coming in the last ten minutes. It is hard to look past these two clubs for the title come the end of the season and the first Manchester derby game will be interesting to watch with City boasting skill and United, strength and power.
  2. Burnley will be difficult to beatBurnley play what is known as ugly football. They defend well. They have a very disciplined back four and just sit back and let teams come at them before hitting them on the counter-attack. This makes them very difficult to beat as they are not looking to score because they know that if they try to play football and outskill opponents, they will lose as they don’t have those sort of players. After three away games against Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool, they are unbeaten as they frustrate teams that try to play football as they cant find their way past what is a very solid back four. They were the surprise package last season, being undefeated at home for most of the season and narrowly missing out on a place in the top half of the table. They should go on from there and be even better this season.
  3. No quick fix for Crystal PalaceA week ago, Crystal Palace sacked their manager, Frank de Boer, with the team bottom after just four games in charge, appointing Roy Hodgson in his place in the hope that he could turn things around for the Eagles. However, there is evidently a lot of work to still be done at the club as they once again failed to even score a goal against Southampton.
  4. Spurs Premier League Wembley curse continuesIf you are a Tottenham Hotspur supporter at the moment, you will probably be tearing your hair out watching them as they just cannot seem to be able to win at their new home of Wembley Stadium. Spurs have gradually improved over the past few seasons but have yet to win the title yet and there would have been strong hopes that this year could be their year. However, they are losing ground on their rivals and quickly. They will need to turn this home record around if they stand any chance of doing well this season. Another year without a title could see their top players such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli leave the club in search of winning a trophy.
  5. Gareth Barry equals Ryan Giggs’s record Premier League appearance recordHaving made his debut back in 1995, Gareth Barry has gone on to play 632 times in the Premier League for Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton and West Brom. He has been a great servant for English football over the years and whilst many forget about him when naming their all-time Premier League teams, he has scored 52 goals and has set up 63. He works hard and in his day, was a good, solid option in the midfield. As a holding midfielder, he had slick passing, supported the defenders behind him and set up and scored several goals. He is one of those players who goes under the radar and is not necessarily thought of that much but with 632 appearances, it’s fair to say that he is one of the great midfielders of his generation.

5 Talking Points from This Weekend’s Premier League Action 

1. Morata looking like he can fill Costa’s boots 

At the start of the season, there were questions over Alvaro Morata’s ability to adapt quickly to English conditions. However, he has made a great start to the season, scoring three goals and has shown that he is capable of filling the void left by Diego Costa and spearheading Chelsea’s attack. 

2. Everton need to replace Lukaku

When you get rid of your star striker who scored 20 goals in a season, you need to realistically need to replace him. Everton’s replacement for Lukaku is Sandro Ramirez and he does not look like he is going to be able to fill that void and score 20 goals. Whilst there will be goals from players around him such as Rooney and Sigurdsson, they will not be able to come close to Lukaku’s return meaning Everton will need to buy someone that can.

3. Brighton up and running 

Brighton recorded their first Premier League victory of the season on Sunday when they beat last season’s surprise package, West Brom 3-1. Goals from Pascal Groß and Tomer Hemed were enough for the home side to win a tough game against the teams that finished in seventh last season.

4. Manchester United have a bad day in defence 

Manchester United had a bad day in defence on Saturday as they could only draw 2-2 away to a tough Stoke side. Eric Bailly failed to pick up Eric Maxim Choupo Moting get away from him for the first goal whilst Phil Jones failed to pick up Moting for the second goal. Their defensive errors will be of worry to Jose Mourinho as he has spent big money on center backs in the past two seasons and managed to keep clean sheets in their first three games of the season.

5. Frank de Boer probably unlucky to lose his job

As the news came through of the sacking of Frank de Boer from Crystal Palace came through, there would have been few who agreed with the decision. The decision seems even stranger considering his efforts were starting to come good as seen during Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Burnley. Whilst they ultimately lost the game, many commentators agreed that they were unlucky to not score at all, having been the better team throughout, but came up against a team who know how to win at home, having had an impeccable home record last season. 

Palace’s De Boer unfairly sacked?

Is four games enough time to change the entire philosophy of a football club? Can you change from playing an attacking, direct, running type of football to a more stylish, continental, passing type of game in just four weeks? Probably not is the answer. You would probably need a few months at least. With that in mind so, was the sacking of Frank de Boer fair? He was charged with coming into the London club and changing the way that they play completely. They then proceded to sack him after just four games in charge with the team rooted to the bottom of the table. Many fans will consider this unfair especially considering most commentators who watched their game against Burnley on Sunday will argue that they were the better side by far and were probably quite unlucky not to score.

This will cause plenty of debate from fans asking why de Boer was even appointed if they weren’t going to give him the time he needed to change the fortunes of a club which is never far from relegation. Anybody who knows anything about football will know that time is needed to change anything as has been shown in the past. There will be those who will argue that he did not have enough time to buy players that would fit into his team well.

However, as Jose Mourinho said, ‘I was sacked as a champion, (Claudio) Ranieri was sacked as a champion’ and that is the way things are done in management at the moment. You need to be constantly on your game from the very first game and throughout your time and if you slip up at any stage, the axe will be swung and you will lose your job.

3 Talking Points from the Weekend’s Pro 14

  1. Leinster and Munster Looking Strong

Leinster and Munster are both looking strong so far this season, recording two bonus point victories in two matches. Leinster looked impressive as they recorded bonus point victories against the Cardiff Blues and Bernard Jackman’s Newport Gwent Dragons side. Munster have looked equally impressive with their bonus point victories against the Cheetahs and Treviso. That they are winning games comfortably with many of their international stars still missing either through injury or through recovery from a Lions Tour over the summer, will undoubtedly please both Leo Cullen and Rassie Erasmus. Whilst there will be tougher tests ahead for the Irish provinces, they can be pleased with the start they have had.

2. South African Teams struggling to make an impact in the Northern Hemisphere

The South African Teams, Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs are quickly becoming the whipping boys of the Pro-14. Neither has managed to win their opening games, losing heavily to the Northern Hemisphere teams. The Kings have lost 57-10 to Scarlets and 32-10 to Connacht whilst the Cheetahs have lost heavily against Munster (57-10) and Ulster (42-19). Both will be looking to improve on these results if they are to have any chance of doing well in this year’s tournament. With some home fixtures coming up for the two teams, they will fancy their chances of recording their first victory.

3. Italian Sides improving

Everybody was hoping that this year Treviso and Zebre would finally start to make an impact  and cease to be the whipping boys but whilst neither has yet to record a victory, they are looking impressive and are improving constantly. Treviso lost 34-3 to Munster but came back with a spirited performance against Ulster to narrowly lose 21-14 whilst Zebre lost narrowly to the Ospreys 22-13 and 41-10 against reigning champions Scarlets. They still have a way to go to be able to compete against the top teams but with impressive, spirited performances like that, they are bound to come lucky soon and not finish bottom as usual.

5 Sporting Events to Look Forward to This Week 

1. Champion’s League Group Stages

Cue Tuesday and Wednesday evenings glued to the TV set as the best teams in Europe return to go head to head each week! This week’s televised fixtures include Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United team, unbeaten in the Premier League, going head to head with Swiss side, Basel and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, currently struggling in the Premier League, against Sevilla. The Champion’s League returns on Tuesday and Wednesday on TV3 and RTE Two respectively from 7.30

2. Leinster vs Southern Kings

This week, Leinster make the long trip to South Africa for the first of their double header to face the Southern Kings. Leinster have been impressive in their first two games, getting bonus point victories  against Welsh sides Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons to reach the maximum ten points from ten after two games. The Kings have so far struggled to make an impact, losing heavily to Scarlets and Connacht. Leinster will undoubtedly be the favourites for the encounter but on South African territory, things could be very different. From a Carlow point of view, Tom Daly is recovering from injury and will therefore not be available for selection whilst Sean O’Brien is still on the comeback trail after the summer’s Lions Tour. However,  the Byrne brothers, Brian and Ed will be looking to force their way into Leo Cullen’s plans. Southern Kings vs Leinster will be live on TG4 from 13.10 on Saturday afternoon.

3. Champion’s League of Darts 

The Champion’s League of Darts returns this week and is always one of the highlights of the darts calendar. It is a non-ranking event which sees the top eight in the world go head to head.  It starts off with a group stage and then moves on to a knockout stage. Opening round ties include the reigning champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor against his fellow Englishman and close friend, Adrian ‘Jackpot’ Lewis and the all-Dutch clash of Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld. The PDC Champion’s League of Darts is on BBC from 13.15 on Saturday and 13.00 on Sunday.

4. All-Ireland Senior Football Final 

The chants of ‘Mayo for Sam’ have once again been very strong over the past few weeks but can they do it? Can the Mayo side which has battled and battled to get to this final keep going and upset what is regarded by many to be the best team in the country for the past few years in Dublin, the reigning champions. Mayo have battled through game after game and replay after replay, struggling to break teams down first time, whilst Dublin had the easier route of having won the Leinster Championship and annihilating everyone in their way. Whilst most people’s money will be on Dublin, this Mayo side cannot be overestimated as they have defied the odds and people’s expectations to get to this stage. Dublin vs Mayo is on RTE Two from 14.15 on Sunday.

5. Ireland vs West Indies

Stars such as Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuel will be landing in Belfast this week as the Caribbean side arrive to take on the Irish in a one day international as they warm up for their series against England in the coming weeks. The West Indies are the current World T20 champions and will undoubtedly pose a threat to an Irish side containing several English County Championship players. All eyes will be on the big hitting Gayle who has made a name for himself as a T20 specialist in recent years, travelling across the globe playing in domestic franchises, as well as the new hero of West Indies Cricket, Shai Hope, who recently made a name for himself in their recent test series against England, outscoring all of the English batsmen. Unfortunately this game is not on TV but will be available on the Cricket Ireland website and YouTube channel.