We need to talk about Westmeath

We need to talk about the county team

With 1 point from 4 games so far in Division 3, much of the talk has centred around whether we were completely overestimating the abilities of this team. A demolition by Clare last weekend was widely considered one of the lowest points in Westmeath football in recent memory. I can recall going to watch Westmeath playing London in Rochfortbridge over a decade ago and it looks like this is what the fans will have to look forward to in 2017. Its not all that bad though, fans will have a couple of juicy encounters against a plucky Carlow outfit in Dr. Cullen Park and the opportunity to welcome an underrated Leitrim side to TEG Cusack Park. Depressed yet? Yeah, me too.

Lets look back on the year thats gone by.

The only meaningful victory over a team ranked ahead of us was against Meath and at that, it really was only a 35 minute performance - albeit a virtuoso 35 minute performance that perhaps was the most entertaining in the championship until the last four games last year. So we know what this team can do, but they have not done it for more than a few 15 minute spells since. On paper, this team looks great. Well competitive at least. The forward division includes John Connellan, John Heslin, Ger Egan and Ray Connellan and is as good as you will find outside of the top 5 or 6 teams.I watched John Heslin single handedly win a Sigerson cup only a few weeks ago, yet he is struggling to register a few points from play for Westmeath. A lot of people are pointing to the gameplan as the reason for this and it is hard to argue against this. He is one of the most gifted players in the country and we cannot utilise him the way we need to. Cribbin needs to make him the focal point of this attack and channel everything through him. Heap the responsibility on him the way U.C.D did.

In the backs division, it just seems to me they have not settled on a centre back or full back and that is critical particularly in Division 2 and 3. One week, you see Alan Stone lining out on the edge of the square, the next he is playing wing back, the next week he's playing wing forward - that sort of chopping and changing is just crazy at this level. Having watched Kevin Maguire last year, I was sure we had nailed down a full back for Westmeath for the next 10 years. I guess Cribbin must think differently. I am all for trying things out in the league, but the lack of stability and direction at this point in March (given that they have been together for 5 months) is baffling.

We need to talk about the county board

All of this is against the backdrop of plans from the Westmeath County board to develop out TEG Cusack Park into a stadium similar to what we see in Laois, Offaly and Roscommon. And at a cost of €4 million when the county board is in massive debt already - €200,000 at the beginning of 2016.

Having spoken to a people with people involved in Airtricity League teams and other county teams around the country, it seems even that TEG have got a cheap deal for the sponsorship rights on Cusack Park too at €20k/ year for 5 years.

So what indeed is the purpose of this venture? Given that we will more than likely be playing in Division 4 next year, we cant expect to see attendances increasing any time soon. If there is an important inter-county championship game between Cork and Tyrone for example in the qualifiers, Mullingar will be competing with Tullamore, Portlaoise and Roscommon for that game. To me this is absolutely outrageous. Maybe employ a few more people on gameday to avoid situations like this below and that should sort out our stadium issues lads.

We need to talk about the underage structures

A lot of talk has been on why we cant develop a Centre of Excellence instead of the egotistical venture of developing the county stadium. I am not sure this is the most important thing to tackle at this stage. Looking at some of the counties that have done this, such as Louth, Wexford and Meath – these counties have yet to reap the benefits of developing these types of facilities.

Don't get me wrong, it would be fantastic to have a facility like this in Castletown-Geoghan but the fundamental problem is our lack of success at underage level. One of the problems is purely a numbers problem. A county board meeting last year revealed that there is only 900 eligible players below the age of 18 outside of the main 3 towns in Westmeath – Athlone, Mullingar and Kinnegad. This puts crippling pressure on rural clubs to field teams and we have seen the emergence of amalgamations not previously seen before in Westmeath football. This should be encouraged to allow young kids to get competitive football and if it means there is only 15 teams in the county at Minor Level and below, then so be it, as you can create a much higher standard of club football than they would otherwise have. In Kerry – who have seen huge success at underage level in the past 5 years, they put it down to setting up North and South Kerry county development squads which train all year round, with the best players making the final full Kerry county team. But it also means that there are a lot more players getting very competitive football and professional treatment all year round. We could achieve a similar result perhaps, if the numbers aren't there to amalgamate clubs and create a more competitive environment at minor level. The chances of anything radical being proposed at County Board Level in Westmeath though is slim and none.

We need to talk about fixtures

The county board can't even sort out a Master Fixtures list for clubs in Westmeath! It's the middle of March now – the Football Championship is beginning in 5 weeks and there has been 1 league game played with the next one not expected until the first week in April. This is just not acceptable. We don't know the dates of the championship games this year to plan holidays around. Our previous post from the W.A.G of the county player would testify to the pressures this creates between the G.A.A player and their partners.

I often think, that if there was a clubs union, ala the G.P.A, could the clubs strike until they got proper treatment from the county board. Would you accept this sort of treatment in the workplace? No. So why should we accept this for something that most clubs have been in serious training for since January. Its disillusioning. Its disrespectful. Its the reason we are doing so poorly at all levels in Westmeath. We can't be content to have this level of treatment at club level. And this leads to players having no interest in representing the county.

Liam Connerton - the Longford Football manager, said earlier this year that 60% of the players that he asked into the county turned him down this year. The way county boards operate in the G.A.A, is it any wonder.

 

 

 

Table for one please - the solitary confines of being a G.A.A W.A.G!

This week we have a guest  BOOSTR Blogger who gives her account of life as a W.A.G of a G.A.A County Footballer. Her story will hold true for women all across Ireland!

I remember watching my boyfriend eating a huge burger on a sunny Sunday summers evening thinking how happy he looked. As an inter county footballer who had just been knocked out of the championship I thought it was strange. Then it dawned on me…this was his first burger in months. And the boy loves burgers!

Don't get me wrong he was still devastated but the burger was a welcome reprieve from replaying every kick and play in a game that he was so sure would take them to the next round of the championship.

I'm no stranger to G.A.A, in fact I’d consider myself a Gael. I thought I understood the commitment inter county players invest in their sport - my brother played with our own county so I got it, I thought. But that was ten years ago!

Then I met my lovely and very talented boyfriend who plays for his beloved county and everything I thought I knew about the commitment expected or demanded of an inter county footballer fell very short!

In the past couple of years I’ve watched him miss weddings, funerals, nights out birthdays and everything in between because of football.  

In fact, in the early days my family were convinced he wasn’t interested in me as he was nowhere to be seen. My friends knew I was going out with him but without ever having met him didn’t really buy how serious we were and would continuously try to set me up on dates with someone a bit more ‘available’.

We’ve had rows about everything you can imagine because of football – his constant need to go to the gym ,even on breaks away; the fact that we can never book a holiday because we don’t know when his season is done; him not being available for any social occasions; arguing over what we eat from how much oil is in the pan to his absolute demonization of take aways and to dessert simply not being an option!

But it’s not just me - he turns down ‘bro dates’ with some of his best mates making up all sorts of excuses when I know the reality - he can't go because they’re going for burgers and beer – he’s on a drink ban and this far along in the season a burger is not an option! They laugh at him if he tries to explain so it’s easier just to avoid it!

Football is his absolute priority and to play at his level it has to be. I make my peace with the fact that I am not.

But it’s not just his relationship that suffers, his career does too. My boyfriend is ambitious, driven and keen to carve out a successful career for himself. But gone are the days where employers thought it an asset to have a county player in their midst.

Sure there’s fun in the office with his colleagues supporting him /slagging him off and they certainly respect him for playing at the level he does but if he’s not available to work late evenings or even partake in the social aspect of work his career remains static. A nice guy they’re all fond of but not available for the hard graft he needs to put in to ensure progression and promotion.

But it’s not all grim, his family and friends are incredibly proud of him, and even my family go to see him play! He’s fit and he looks flippin’ great (he’s totally ripped ;) )

He loves his football and the friends he’s made, the craic in the car going to training, the comradery of the dressing rooms and the adrenaline of getting to the table tennis final on training weekends away with the team.

And I’m a very proud girlfriend, I love seeing how excited he is while the band lead them around on championship day and when things are going well for him and them I’m thrilled for him, all the training, the late night meetings, the fitness tests, it all pays off! 

But is it worth it?

I’m not sure…his career, his relationships, his body and his future all suffer. He plays for a team who realistically get two, at best three championship games a year and yet he’s training at the same level of friends who have all Ireland medals in their back pockets.

And when he’s done in a couple of years what will he have? The GAA are pushing these guys to train and play at a professional level in what is effectively a glorified hobby…in a few years’ time when he’s finished will it all have been worth it?

 

A Club and County Championship Proposal that makes sense

If you know anything about G.A.A, then you know that G.A.A Inter-county football (and club championship) are as broken as the finances of your local club! BOOSTR will sort out your local club's finances and in this blog we will give our solution to the football championship. Have a read, comment and share we think it's an epic proposal, with innumerable benefits. 

High level Overview

·        Abolish the National League. Abolish the provincial championships. (Cromwell left 4 centuries ago FFS)

·        Adopt a league championship structure. (Don't call it the champions league or you will lose the coffin dodgers that vote at congress)

·        Split the country in two, down the middle (making the East League and West League)

·        In each league: 4 Divisions of 4 teams (8 divisions in total) divvied up roughly geographically and as evenly competitive as possible

·        Each team plays the other teams in their division home and away (6 games)

·        Each team plays one team in the other divisions in their league based on seeding (3 games)

·        After 9 games the top placed team in each division goes through to semi finals and final in the East and West leagues

·        Winners of the East and West Leagues play off in the All Ireland Final for Sam Maguire

·        Dedicated time and weekends devoted to club games. All club championships structure standardised in every county

·        Retain the provincial pre-season tournaments as a warm up tournaments to the championship, finals of which to be played on St Patricks weekend. (Cromwell will never die)

·        No more December,  January and February football. Emphasis placed on local area games to packed local crowds

Intrigued? Read On!

Geography, Leagues and Divisions

Lets split Ireland down the middle roughly from Derry to Cork. I'm splitting into East and West instead of North and South due to negative connotations around Northern Ireland vs. Southern Ireland.

gaa map

Starting from Donegal and working Anti-Clockwise, the Divisions will be as below; take note of the numbers as these are the seeding assigned at the start of the 2016 season. And don't get too caught up with seeds or teams this is just an illustrative example, the seedings will change every year based on where you finish the previous year and the divisions will be subject to review every two years to ensure fairness.

West League

Sraith Thiar Thuaidh (North West Division)

·        Donegal

·        Derry

·        Sligo

·        Fermanagh

Sraith Siar (West Division)

·        Mayo

·        Galway

·        Clare

·        Limerick

Sraith an Lar (Midlands Division)

·        Roscommon

·        Westmeath

·        Offaly

·        Longford

Sraith o Dheas (South Division)

·        Kerry

·        Cork

·        Tipeprary

·        Waterford

East League

Sraith Soir o Dheas (South East Division)

·        Wexford

·        London

·        Carlow

·        Wicklow

Sraith Soir (East League)

·        Dublin

·        Meath

·        Kildare

·        Laois

Sraith Trasteorann (Border Division)

·        Monaghan

·        Cavan

·        Louth

·        Leitrim

Sraith Thiar Thuaidh (North West Division)

·        Tyrone

·        Armagh

·        Down

·        Antrim

As you can see, some mouth watering local derbies and fairly even and competitive home and away ties within those divisions. The south east division is admittedly weak but we can solve this with London being the wild card. For example say if Laois are a good side but not getting a good go of it in the east division we could move them to the south east and move London to the east. There is nothing set in stone like the current arrangements of the provincial structure. 

Format and Fixtures

I'm going to use the midlands division - with Westmeath - as an example of how the fixtures would work. Westmeath would play Offaly, Roscommon and Longford in Cusack Park. And the return fixtures in O Conner Park, the Hyde and Pearse Park. As Westmeath are the #2 seed in 2016 we play the other 2 seeds in the West League once, each either at home or away, namely Derry, Galway and Cork. (Note: If Westmeath play 2 of 3 out of division games at home in 2016 then in 2017 they will play 1 of 3 out of division games).

That is 9 league games in total. The 1 seeds play the 1 seeds, 3's the 3's and 4's the 4's. This will make each division super competitive, for example a good fourth seed might win all three of their out of division games while the 1 seed might not win any of their out of division games. There's no bullshit B championship as proposed by others, everyone has a shot at Sam and you have to try win all 9 games to progress, there is no room for error or slip ups. 

When the 9 games are played the top teams in each Division go forward to the "Craobhchomortais" (Championship) and compete for the league crown. Then the East and West winners meet in the All Ireland in a format similar to the Superbowl in the NFL. (Again don't mention the Superbowl to the coffin dodgers)

championship structure

(See below for further notes on wrinkles to the championship)

Fixtures Calendar

Ask any player or WAG and they will tell you the biggest problem, headache with the club scene is the uncertainty of fixtures and the condensed championships. Teams play a championship game in May and not another one until September etc. The BOOSTR proposal will solve that for you also with the following:

Set in Stone G.A.A Season ........(c) BOOSTR 2016

·        March Weekend 1: Official Start of G.A.A season. Round 1 of knockout preseason provincial championships (think O' Byrne Cup, FBD League). I'm retaining this for tradition and gives a nice preseason feel to the season while allowing the year to start with a bang in terms of promotion. No replays of games. Prelim game in Leinster may have to start a week early.

·        March Weekend 3 or St Patrick's Weekend: Finals of preseason provincial tournies. Great for tourists around the country to have a festival of GAA on Paddy's day instead of being confined to one dreary game in Croker. Great hype builder for the championship. Teams that are knocked out go back to training.

·        April Weekend 1: Start of the Championship with 16 Round 1 games all around the country. Throughout the year, I propose having games on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday to spread the appeal and coverage and have one live game on TV each day. Additionally every week there would be a double header in Croke Park from the divisions, so you could have Dublin - Meath and Armagh - Tyrone on as a double header in HQ on a Saturday night in Dublin. One team would have to give up a home game but this could be countered the following year.

 

·        April Weekend 2 and Weekend 3: Rounds 2 and 3 of the championship. As above.

·        April Weekend 4 Bye Week: Well earned rest week. This could coincide with the launch of the provincial hurling championships.

·        May Weekends 1 to 3: Rounds 4-6 of the championship.

·        May Weekend 4: Bye Week: Dedicated hurling weekend.

·        June Weekend 1 to 3: Rounds 7-9 of the championship.

·        June Weekend 4: Bye week. Season over for teams that finish 2nd, 3rd, 4th in the divisions. Their players can head over to New York where the American club championship runs during July under our proposal. The club championship in Ireland doesn't kick off until August nationwide and that is set in stone. Also hurling provincial finals can be played this weekend. 

·        July Weekend 1: Semi Finals in the East and West Leagues. To be played in Croker. There are no replays, extra time and spot 45s if necessary. 

·        July Weekend 2: East and West League finals in Croker. Again no replays allowed. 

·        July Weekend 3: Dedicated hurling weekend.

·        July Weekend 4 or August Bank Holiday Weekend: All Ireland Final. No Replay.

·        August to end of September: Club Championship kicked off nationwide in a similar format in all counties. Namely a guaranteed four games in a round-robin and a semi final and final. All club championships must be finished by the end of September. 

·        October to End of November: Club All Ireland Club Championship. With final played in Week 3 of November in Croke Park. In October you could also run the All Star tour around the world, international rules and launch the third level competitions.

·        December to January: Off Season. 

Other Points of Note with BOOSTR Proposal

Championship Wrinkles

·        Every team is guaranteed at least 10 matches in the year. This is more or less what the average team has at present: Preseason, 7 league games, Championship and Qualifier. The major difference being that the completive games are played from April to June instead of February and March in the National League. 

·        We would abolish the Under 21 championship. Retain the minor championship but have it in a similar format to the senior championship with guaranteed number of games and local derby element.

·        To de facto replace the U21, as the G.A.A we would pump money into the Sigerson Cup and Trench Cup and throw full backing and resources behind it to ensure G.A.A culture is promoted at third level where young people's futures and interests are ingrained. Nowadays, surgeons to brick layers attend a third level institution and 99% of young people will be associated with a Sigerson or Trench team. These championships would run at the start of academic year until Christmas. Players involved in both 3rd level, club and Inter county would have to be scientifically managed to prevent burn out. 

·        The season is structured, balanced and fair for all teams. No more Mayo playing Leitrim and New York and being guaranteed a place in the last 12. Let's end the bullshit qualifier system as well which just rewards the elite teams with a second chance and doesn't allow growth of weaker teams. 

·        The tight season means teams would have to manage their panels well, resting and managing injuries properly. This levels the playing field even more allowing the 4th seeds to have a good cut off the top seeds at home who might be trying to sneak through and rest guys.

·        An independent review group made up of ex players, managers and analysts meet every 2 years to decide on changes to the divisions. London can be used as wildcard slotted in wherever suits to ensure fairness. Kilkenny don't compete.  

Club Scene Benefits

·        Our proposal would take power away from county manager dominating and ruining the club fixture programme. In our proposal, the club league and ancillary competitions could be run off during the summer in parallel with the inter county championship and clubs would get county stars back for the championship. Once the championship is over there is no more football until next March/April. Club players know not to take holidays from August on and can plan a social life around their football. 

·        This ends the pointless misery of training in January for championships games that happen in August. Freeing up time for senior club members to contribute properly to club growth by working with youth teams.

G.A.A Revenue

·        Our proposal would be revenue positive for the G.A.A at national and county level. 16 championship games all over the country every weekend for three months plus the playoffs  is 151 games, with three televised every weekend. A double header in Croker featuring teams from all over the country every Sunday. Instead of what we currently have, which is rubbish league games on freezing cold nights and Dublin walloping Canon-Fodder  in Leinster with no good G.A.A football games until the August Bank Holiday.

·        Croke Park can be used for concerts etc without worry about replays, which are abolished in our structure.

·        Knowing revenue projects allows the association to plan the development of the games without having to "hope" for windfalls from replays of big games as happened the last few years

·        White elephant stadia around the country would begin to be filled with local derbies and the return of guaranteed income for strapped county boards. O Moore Park in Portlaoise with a guaranteed game against the Dubs every year. I for one would be itching to go to Cusack Park to watch Westmeath against Offaly or Roscommon on a Saturday night in June but wouldn't waste my time, money and dignity going to Croker to watch the Dubs lay waste to our boys.

Media

·        Structured championships means set piece campaigns can be launched around the GAA calendar. E.G. Kick Off, St Patricks Day, Championship Kick Off, Craobhchomortais, All Ireland, Club Kick Off, NYC Kick OFF, Club Finals, Third Level Kick Off, Club All Irelands and Third Level Finals. What we currently have is ...January 3rd and its Dublin v Wexford in the O Byrne Cup" followed by teams trying to win 3 games in the NFL so that they don't get relegated but not win any more games so that they get to the latter stages of the NFL. Launch of the championship with Roscommon vs New York and Longford vs Carlow in Leinster, you get the point!

·        No major clashes with Rugby, the 6 nations is over before the championship begins. Major soccer tournaments clash in June but that's unavoidable even today. 

·        Each weekend is discrete and media know what is coming up.

And that is it. Hope you like our proposal, if you do share it please on social media. We know we need to change. It's our association. The G.A.A football championship and club game as currently structured are a mess, the people with power to change won't change and the people who it affects most are never consulted.

Let's get the conversation started with BOOSTR. Your club Crowd funding solution.

#baldybloggers

 

 

The Bluffers Guide to Superbowl 50

How does your NFL knowledge stack up? 

I remember about 10 years ago, picking up some buzzwords about rugby to throw out while watching a game of rugby? “Is that Tighthead boring in?”, “That’s great disruption in the Lineout”, Awkwardly Shouting “Offside” out loud hoping someone will agree, “Crooked throw ref”. All of these cliches got me through some hairy moments watching the “guys” in the pub.

Fast forward 10 years and now, with the popularity of NFL growing, people are yearning to know what to say to the American across the bar.  In short, the following should get you through Superbowl 50:

  • Cam versus Peyton (Call Peyton “The Sherrif” for additional kudos)
  • Peytons last ever game (call it a ‘Last Rodeo’ to show you’ve read something leading up to this game)
  • Cam dances after every good play he has - "Classic Cam
  • Cam does a Superman Celebration when he scores a TD and always gives the ball to a kid in the front row
  • Cams good looking, 6ft 6” and the "slickest man in sports right now
  • "Both Defences are historically good"
  • The game is on in San Francisco 49ers stadium (throw in "Santa Clara" to be more specific)
  • Carolina if they win will have won 18 games and lost only one this season or – “18-1 – Heck of a Football Season

That should be enough to get you by on Sunday night! One last thing not football related– If you are a gambling man – take the over on National Anthem at 134 seconds – Lady Gaga is doing it this year and has form for holding those notes!

If you haven’t a clue about American Football, stop reading right now – the next part is for the True Fans. We‘re going to try look make a case for this game to be something other than a complete blowout for Carolina.

Being the contrarian that I am, I decided to look at the Panthers results so far this year to construct an article about how they might be beaten.

Here is the two key factors that I feel have been underestimated or less covered in the run up to Superbowl 50:

1. How did they perform away from home?

2. How did they perform in their only loss of the Season to the Falcons

So let’s break them down a bit more.

How did Carolina perform away from home?

The Panthers obviously finished the regular season 15-1, so it’s fair to say they have been pretty consistent at home and away from the Bank of America Stadium. 

8 Wins at Home

7 Wins Away

Average margin of Victory at Home was 16 points, while average margin of victory away from home was just over 10 – which is still hugely impressive, but interesting to note nonetheless.

In the run up to Superbowl, it is tiring how many people have pointed to their runaway first half performances in the Playoffs against the Seahawks and then the Cardinals as a sign to what is to come against the Broncos.  In both cases, the game was effectively over at half time.

This game is not on in Charlotte however and takes place the other side of the country in Santa Clara. That is worth noting, I believe. They have not been outside of their comfort zone for the past 5 weeks (Last home game of the season was at home to the Bucaneers) and look at who they have played away from home throughout the season. Apart from beating the Seahawks in Week 6 in Seattle, they have barely beaten a team above .500 outside of their home patch.

I don’t see them putting up huge first half numbers if Peyton Manning can keep the turnovers down and take time off the clock with the run game.

On the flip side, the Broncos, who finished the season with a 12-4 record and still received the Number 1 seed in the AFC, have been nothing but steady throughout the season. Similar to Carolina, their schedule was also on the easy side, however they at least had to go to tough venues like Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Kansas City. Their results were not impressive, regularly winning by a field goal or less, but that is why they are worth hanging your hat on should the game on Sunday turn into a dogfight. This is something I do agree with the pundits on – if it is low scoring, I expect them to pull through.

How did Carolina perform in their only loss of the season to the Falcons?

I remember this game well. Julio Jones catching that 70 yard pass over Luke Keachley to put the Falcons ahead late in the 3rd was about as memorable a catch as you will have seen all season. Fortunately for the Panthers, Peyton can’t throw the ball over 30 yards these days and more than likely won’t attack them deep as Matt Ryan did!

However, I was more interested in how the Falcons defence dealt with Cam that night. The most interesting stat I found was in relation to passes defended by the Falcons front 5 against Cam. The front 7 didn’t really get that many hits on Cam, it really was in the secondary that they were able to deal with his receivers. Cam didn’t have one big play, which have been the hallmark of his year so far.

How many catches have Ted Ginn Jr, Greg Olsen, Corey Brown and rookie Devon Funchess (as mediocre a receiving core as that is) made deep all year. Having looked at the stats, each of those players has made at least one big play per game, where Cam airs it out. 35 yards, 49 yards, 56 yards.  Typical Panthers, typical Cam. Against the Falcons however, they didn’t get any of those types of plays. Greg Olsen was for the most part kept in check with no long plays given up to him. The longest gain they had was 19 yards. That’s where the Broncos match up well in this game I feel. Their secondary is probably one of the most physical and stingy secondary’s in the league. They match up well against big Tight Ends too. Although Gronk had some miraculous plays in the AFC championship game, they held him in check for the most part and Olsen is not nearly at the level Gronk is playing at right now.

In terms of how to deal with the dual threat of Cam - look to their gameplan against the Packers and Chiefs to see how their defence dealt with a quarterback with wheels. That’s about as close as they have come to dealing with a dual threat like Cam all year, which is surely of concern.

Jonathan Stewart is also massive for the Panthers. He was inactive in their only loss of the season to the Falcons, which demonstrates how important the ground game is for them. In the AFC Championship game, the Broncos faced a non existent running game with the Patriots. This is a whole other ballgame. The misdirection that Cam and Stewart creates is insane. Check out the analysis at SBnation.com below.

All of this means what?

The Panthers should have too much for the Broncos. However, if the Broncos can adopt a defensive scheme that allows them to as much as is possible - rush 4 men, keep 1 man spying Cam (probably All Pro Von Miller), keep 2 safeties deep to stop the big plays and get physical on the receivers early – they may have a chance shut down this juggernaut of an Offence.

Easier said than done, but if this game is close at Half Time, that will mean one thing -  the Broncos Defence has stifled the Panthers Offence, not that the Broncos Offence is lights out. And if that is the case, I will double down on the Broncos at Half Time. That's how it played out in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots and if the Broncos defence is dominant like that in the first half, its hard for the opposing Offence to re-tool and re-adapt their gameplans.

So the Baldy Bloggers advice - Don’t go for the Panthers like everyone else. Root for the Dog. Root for the Sherrif.

And if you like what we do, Support your Club through Boostr. We re here to help clubs after all, but just throwing out some think pieces along the way!

#QuintessentialBaldyBloggers

The Greatest Ever Marist College XV

The Baldy Bloggers will present the greatest ever Marist 15 in similar format to the profile snippets from the annual and Johnny Kinahan’s excellent history of the Marist book.

 8 Lakers, 5 Rossies, 1 Biff and 1 Tribesman. Take a look, comment and share. Agree or disagree we hope we have kicked off a debate. 

1.Gary Connaughton

IGOR can still be heard down the halls of the Marist. Famed all over Ireland he will go down in history as one of the best goalkeepers in Westmeath GAA history. Physically imposing and led from the back,  Gary played both Gaelic Football for club, county and country for years and soccer with Athlone Town (most famously scored a goal from a kickout in St Mel’s park). A no brainer for the nets here.

2. Fergal Murray

Multiple All Ireland winner – Minor in 1995 and U21 in 1999 and an Athlone stalwart in a career spanning 3 decades, Murray was solid as a rock, unbelievably tight marker and defied his size with a bit of filth that was needed at corner back, having learned from his colleagues of the team of 1994/5 Chopper and Karl Henson. Never got caught mind you, probably had the cleanest record of any corner back in Westmeath circles. Class Act.

3. Mark Rohan

mark rohan.jpg

What can you say about Red that hasn’t already been said. Fearless, inspiring, heart  and no nonsense are all words that come to mind when you think of Mark’s playing days. King of the Marist for the few years he was there. Corner back in the great 1999 team and had a glittering career after he left the Marist. Westmeath county Minor, U21. Captain of Ireland in a number of codes, and World and Olympic champion in paracycling. What a career, surely the most inspiring athelete to ever come through the Marist.

4. John Keane

1 U21 All Ireland, 2 U21 Leinsters, 1 Leinster SFC, 2 All Stars, Ireland International. Do we need to say anymore? Centre back on the team that got to the 1999 Leinster final and Rosemount’s most famous son. Ushered in a period of some quality ‘Rosies’ to make the trip down the N4 to go to school in Athlone.  A sprint champion in the Marist sports days too.

5. Brian Stack

The most current member of this all time team – yet to prove himself after he leaves the Marist like some of his colleagues on this 15, but all the signs point to a long inter-county career with Roscommon. Deployed in the forward line in the run to the Leinster Final in Croke Park in 2014/2015 but dropping back into the backline, his engine could be unparalleled in Marist G.A.A history. Lets see how this one develops!

6. Bro. Gerard Cahill

Brother Gerard’s sporting prowess is somewhat legendary as he played a key role in the 6 in a row senior county football championship from 1954 to 1960 for Athlone GAA, he was one of the four lads to have won that 6 medals in a row. Add to that the fact that he played under a pseudonym at the time this lives long in folklore and ensures his legendary status forever in Marist and Westmeath Football circles. Went on to be principal for 30 years in the Marist and always had a soft spot for the senior footballers – and they loved him back!

7.  Niall McInerney

One of these guys who has it all. Classic modern day Gaelic footballer, 6-2, built like a brick shithouse, he is another one who is not as decorated as some of his colleagues in the backline... yet! Should make his debut for the sheep stealers on Sunday and a good year with Roscommon this year and we could see another  great emerge from the halls of the Marist.

8. Robbie Henshaw

O.K. So his Marist playing days will be remembered more for the Senior Cup win in the Rugby, but Henshaw was equally impressive on the GAA field. Huge for his age, he dominated midfield exchanges in his appearances in the Leinster campaigns with the Marist seniors. We’ve all hear the narrative that he would be starting with Westmeath today had he chosen Gaelic, and British rugby commentators bullshit about “high fielding ability from gaelic sports” but for potential alone we could not omit the Marists favourite son from this 15?

9. Ciaran MacManus

Offaly, Leinster, Ireland International Rules, UCD in the Sigerson...it all started in the Marist for the Tubber Tank. His legendary desire and will to win were evident even in senior colleges footballin 1994. Some might have accused John Parker of nepotism with this selection but former boys in blue have looked on with pride at his achievements since leaving Retreat Road . Easy selection.

10. Callum McCormack

Class Act. Probably played at a barren time when there wasn’t much success in the Marist and didn’t get recognised, but was the main shining light for the few years he was there. Felt like he was playing senior for years – Could he be the only man to line out for the seniors/freshers Brother Hubert cup teams in the same year?

11.Seanie O’Donaghue

Captained the team that got to the Leinster final in 1999. The proverbial “Big Man on Campus”, similar to Callum, Seanie was around the halls of the Marist with his gear bag for years. Played at centre forward, more famous after he left the Marist with Garrycastle as a midfielder or centre back, Seanie was tough as nails, with a left peg to match. John Parkers favourite son, it is a pity he didn’t get to crown what would have been the best football career in the Marist with a win in 1999.

12. Alan Sheehan

Probably the most gifted sportsperson to ever go through the college. More famous for his soccer exploits, Sheehan was arguably better at Gaelic Football. Particularly at U14 and U16 level (his Senior appearances probably cut short by commitment to soccer), he was regularly scoring 2-8,3-10, you name it, against the best opposition in Leinster. Deadball specialist too, frees from anywhere inside 50 were practically gimmys. Add to that, that he was a bit of a tramp on the field, made him one of the most feared names in Leinster during his time in the Marist.

13. Jack Carty

jack carty.jpg

Similar to Henshaw, rugby dominated his agenda during his time in the Marist and was also a natural over a number of codes. He deserves to be here on talent alone.

14. Karol Mannion

Mango was Marist through and through. Played most of his football at midfield for the college, but had to have him in this team. Even today is still a nightmare to mark when he’s on the edge of the square. All you have to do is look at his club and county career after he left the Marist to recognise how good he was. Numerous Connacht championships and an All Ireland Club medal to add to over 10 years of county football. Good student and “Blackboard Jungle” kingpin also on his resume.

15. Senan Kilbride

Senan was lynchpin on the 2003 team that had a good run. You just have to look at what he has done since he has left the college and his success with Brigids and Roscommon. One of the nicer guys on this 15, his cultured and lazy left jagger has to be one of the best to walk through the doors. A terror to mark then and now.

 Honourable Mentions and near Misses:  Rory O Connell, Chopper Henson, Tom Stuart-Trainor, Niall Grehan, Michael Gavin, Aidan Collins, Luke Carty,Paul Kelly, Shane Mannion, Francie Grehan, Alan Daly, Joe Fallon, Richie Blaine, Eugene Doyle, Fergal Wilson, John Tiernan, Gordon Duffy, Michael Monahan.

Like what we do? Support the clubs of the famous Marist boys.

#Baldybloggers

 

Have Westmeath Footballers found their level?

So it's that time of year again - We are not even into February yet and the county footballers are ready to kick off the important part of the season in earnest - albeit after 3 months of winter training. Put in the hard yards in the wet and muck and sh1te and it will all be worth it when the competitive games start. Is the National League really what people play county football for? Leaving my notions about how the inter-county championship should be run aside, it's a good chance to see if there is any new blood in Westmeath that can handle the rough and tumble of competitive county football.

Westmeath are coming off an unforgettable run in the championship last year, even if it did take some extremely harsh words from Cribbin towards the end of the league campaign to actually kick them into gear for championship. He was lambasted by local media, former players, even national media for his comments about some of the more senior players in the team. Things get heated in the tunnels of Cusack park, so we'll forgive him for this one!

"The few big lads who should be standing out leading, f**king lay down. And that's the real trouble with this team."

So how will they fare this weekend and in Division 2 in general. Here's the Boostr no- holes barred predictions of how the games will go. Throw a little bet on this and you wont go far wrong! (Note some sweeping generalizations in here, but they are true nonetheless!):

Game 1: Kildare - They'll be fit as f**k, run all day, but cant sucker-punch us with goals. When was the last time Kildare had a decent goal getter? Good league team nonetheless, but we have to be getting full points here at home.

2 pts

Game 2 - Sligo - Dirty enough shower but poor side in truth. While they caught Ros on the hop last year, they were well and truly embarrassed in the Connaught final against Mayo. This is a limited team playing to a limited defensive system. Assuming we are smart enough to break this down, we should get the W. Will be close though given its up in Markeveicz Park though #sansiro

4 pts

Game 3 - Tipperary - Probably will be the biggest competition to us to win the League. Athletic young team with good forwards. Think they might beat us here.

4 pts

Game 4 - Clare - Forget about it - bunch of hurlers. Another easy win and day out in the Big E for our supporters - even if they do have Ryan Tubridy knocking up big scores for them.

6 pts

Game 5 - Limerick - Ah the Gaelic Grounds - Back to the scene of our most famous triumph. But seriously, are there any actual football teams in our Division? The perennial Division 3/4 team. Picking a reputable player from this team is impossible and if we have any ambitions, we should be dispatching them with ease.

8 pts

Game 6 - Offaly - God be with the days of Rory O Connell, Martin Flanagan, Ciaran MacManus and Finbar Cullen. It's been a while since Westmeath and Offaly have played a competitive game and I can remember those great games we had in Tullamore back in the 90s/early naughties.  But in truth - are Offaly still competitive anymore? I honestly don't think they will fare well in Division 3 at all. Westmeath have much better players than Offaly and will win here.

Dropkick Incoming!

8 pts

Game 7 - Longford - This could be a tricky away fixture for us. They have good forwards and will be dogged. Longford will be buoyed by the O'Byrne/Boostr Cup run they had in January too. Draw here?

9 pts

For teams like Westmeath, momentum is so important, albeit we have been slow starters in the past - an early win or two and we should be pushing for promotion like we are capable of. 9 points will take Westmeath to the League Final and a day out in Croke Park and more importantly a chance for young lads to go out and pull young ones in the Big Tree! When that does happen, look out for free tickets to this on Boostr for funding your club!

In the meantime, expect ankle high white socks, pinned up sleeves, brand spanking new Preds and the slick back 'Allianz League' Haircuts from the Turkish Barbers on Sunday in Cusack Park. And that's just the Kildare boys!

#IarmhiAbu

Agree with what we say? Comment, like and Share as usual!

#Baldy Blogger 2



How do you become the next Robbie Henshaw?

"You can become a champion by fighting one more round. When things are tough, you fight one more round."

- James J. Corbett

To state the obvious, the BOOSTR team is sports crazy. Each and every member of the team loves playing, watching and simply talking at length about pretty much every sport under the sun. From acrobatics to mountain biking and netball to zip lining we are all over it. OK, so zip-lining isn’t exactly top of our agenda but it’s the only activity beginning with Z we could think of and, well, you get the picture!

However, like the BOOSTR team,many people eat sleep and drink sport… but what is it that defines whether you are a local golf club pro like Colm Moriarty or the next Rory Mc Ilroy? What is the difference between the substitute on the Tubberclair Junior team and John Heslin kicking 16-points from midfield in the county senior championship? Despite someone’s best endeavors, what is the difference between participating in a white-collar charity boxing event and selling out a primetime Vegas arenaala-the Notorious Conor Mc Gregor? What is it, this ‘X-factor’, which is needed to turn a passive sporting interest into the ability to be semi-competitive and then progress to the next level – a professional, global stage?

mcgregor.jpg

After much debate among the BOOSTR team we narrowed the thought process and stimulus for debate as to what is required to two parameters:

      Cold, Calculated Coaching & Training VS. Natural Born Talent

There is a school of thought for both of these principles, of course, but what has the leading lights of the modern sporting era offered up as arguments for either? Professional athletes are admired, lauded and drooled over around the world on a 24/7, 365 days a year basis. Novak Djokovic, Dan Carter and Usain Bolt are splashed across our daily sports headlines in the wake of yet another ‘supernatural’ performance and the general sporting fraternity love to romanticize that pure, unadulterated ability has seen these global icons achieve their latest and great feats. However, in reality, has the modern sports landscape of analysis, intensive training regimes, pre-meditated ‘systems’ and repetition stifled the extroverted individual that is solely reliant upon their biological capability?

In taking golf as a case study it presents some interesting cause for thought. Not even in two lifetimes has a sports personality’s ‘natural ability’ and ‘god given talent’ been uttered so frequently by host broadcasters than that of 18-time Major golf tournament winner, Tiger Woods. Who could forget a 2-year-old Tiger appear on the Mike Douglas Show where he displayed the early origins of that beautiful swing whilst chatting to comedian Bob Hope? Glossy montages show the progression of infant Eldrick chipping balls in his back garden, his triumphs at the Junior World Championships in the mid-eighties, his unprecedented hat-trick of US Amateur titles a decade later and, ultimately, his cementing as one of one of the world’s greatest ever sports people -TV montage gold! All of these stages wrapped into a beautiful 3-minute clip, portraying an effortless rise from back garden fun to sporting dominance and all solely delivered by this supposed ‘natural ability’ and ‘god given talent’.

Tiger has / had (acknowledging that recent years haven’t exactly been rosy in the Garden for the human Nike billboard) the. X-Factor……………………Right? Hmmmmmmmmm.

 

What of Earl, his father, who took it upon himself to exclusively coach Tiger for the first 5 years of his golfing life? He was the man who drilled this zealous enthusiasm for the game into his son from as soon as he could hold a club and swing it around his head. Woods then prospered under the tutelage of Don Crosby, his coach at Western High School during his formative years, before benefiting from the Stanford collegiate conveyor belt whilst studying for a Major in Economics. That is before we even give mention to backbreaking practice on the range with swing coaches such as Butch Harmon and Sean Foley and daily weight sessions in the gym. Perhaps not as carefree and plain sailing as we would like to imagine for dear Tiger, eh?

tiger gym.jpg

Similarly, the William’s sisters Venus and Serena have long apportioned their success on the court to their father and coach, Richard. It has been well documented that the father of the tennis powerhouses simply ‘decided to make them into professional tennis players’, drafting a 78-page master plan and commencing his coaching of his girls from age 4 and a half. Nearly 100 professional singles titles later who is to doubt that he did not single-handedly create such a scenario in an apparent pre-conceived, manufactured manner that even the likes of pop mogul Simon Cowell may well admire.

Lastly, the great Lionel Messi was not found kicking a tattered football around the streets of his native Rosario but instead was nurtured, initially by the renowned coaches at Newell’s Old Boys, then by the machine that is FC Barcelona’s underage academy. Tom Brady still has to pour over DVD’s of opposing teams’ defensive set-ups for hours on end. Chris Froome must ensure his winter training will see him through during the Tour de France mountain stages (cue additional comments on his ‘unbelievable’ abilities now!). Le Bron is 6 feet 8 inches in stature but must never forget his agility exercises. Michael Phelps knows early morning pool sessions will earn him the required stamina to be an Olympic champion – not quite as romantic as simply possessing the ‘Je ne sais pas’ gold dust, is it?

OK, so the above may be seen as trying its best to suck the life out of what we would all like to believe – that sometimes the guy or girl with the burning internal desire, that sublime piece of personal flair or sub-conscious instinct will outwit the premeditated systems and protocols creeping its way into the suppose unpredictable world of sport. In reality, of course, a little bit from both theories is needed to achieve sporting greatness…but the next time you take a moment to admire ‘Natural Born Talent’, take a moment to look beyond that glossy montage and see the inevitable hard work, dedication, coaching and planning that also contributed to the moment.

So folks, what do you reckon - are champions born or made?Will the Maryland Saturday morning nursery be enough to develop the next Gooch or is there a natural ability required?

We’d love to hear your thought so let us know at facebook.com/boostrhq or on twitter @boostrhq.

In the meantime Donate to your club below and benefit from the rewards Boostr has to offer!

Until next time,

Baldy Blogger #2

 

Which Sport is Best for Kids in Athlone?

Westmeath is in a fight right now. In some cases its blood related: Parents, grandparents, fought the long hard battles on fields going back decades. In other cases its over money and prospects for the future. Its also related to education and the choice of school. This is a serious contest being fought relentlessly with short and long term repercussions.

But that is more than enough talk about the general election! A more pressing matter for parents in Westmeath touches on identical themes, what sports should my kids play or what what sports should they concentrate on?

For any parents out there, check out this article about early or late specialisation in sports!

http://sportsscientists.com/2011/04/early-vs-late-specialization-when-should-children-specialize-in-sport/

In 2016 (still feels weird typing that) we are blessed in Athlone and the surrounding areas. The choice of sports and activities is staggering. With G.A.A in Athlone and recent All Ireland competitors Garrycastle and St Brigids not to mention clubs in small parishes punching well above their weight given the population challenges in Tubberclair, Rosemount, Tubber, Maryland, Moate, Castledaly. Hurling with Southern Gaels. Boxing with the Athlone Boxing club. Soccer with the ADSL, and at a senior level in the LOI with Athlone Town, the surging rugby clubs with Buccaneers in the AIL and the fresh young upstart in the Moate Warriors. You can run, swim, cycle and combine all three in TriAthlone in excellent facilities in the heart of Ireland. When you think about everything, the members, volunteers, officers, structures, finance needed to keep them all afloat its enough to make your brain need a run.

We at Boostr can help. 

Let Me Tell You a Story about Alex.

Consider Alex the kid living in Coosan in Athlone, in national school with dozens of friends. Parents have no previous sporting affiliation but father is originally from Tubberclair. One of their friends plays GAA with the local town club. So they join the nursery and learn the basic skills, team work, and have the best fun imaginable every Sunday morning. When dad goes home and tells Grandad and Granny that Alex is playing for the town team and not Tubberclair, all hell breaks loose! Betrayal! The next week a flyer pops in the door and the local ADSL soccer club is holding an under 8s open day on Saturday. There no soccer in Tubberclair and it is time Alex tried something else.

Its the height of summer-camp season and there is a camp organised by Buccaneers for fledgling BOD's or Henshaws. Why not send Alex along? Might make new friends, keep him active in July. A month later Katie Taylor wins an olympic gold and Alex is jumping on the bed shadow boxing the light shade! Maybe Athlone Boxing club will teach him self defense and discipline.

Alex goes to secondary school (Athlone CC or the Marist), and is excelling on the G.A.A pitch for club and school. The Irish teacher, who doubles as the rugby coach, hears he has great kicking ability and attended the Buccs nursery a few years back. “Come out on Tuesday lunchtime, we need a good kicker and we have a Leinster cup game next month”. But the maths teacher already has Alex down to start full forward in the first round of the Leinster club championship that day. Alex was already holding off telling him that his first competitive boxing match is the night before the first round of the Leinster.

In leaving cert year Alex cant fall behind in Maths so Mum arranges grinds on a Wednesday night at 6 pm but...Wednesdays at 6 is soccer training time. G.A.A, Rugby, Soccer, Boxing, and MATHS! Alex doesn't even have time for a social life.

Speaking as someone who has tried all sports, Athlone has alot to offer in the last 20 years (including Maths). Alex will come out the other side a better person even with the juggling of commitments and temporary lack of attention on studies. Sport offers incredible opportunities to a person fitness, friendship, professional networks, courage, commitment, teamwork, success, failure, ambition, loyalty. (A rule of thumb I have in life is if I meet an obnoxious, self centered or difficult individual I always think “never played sport!”). All kids should try all sports at least once, see if they like them and if they do nurture this love and love the sports as a family. Anything to get them off the couch. While multi sports can be tough to juggle its nothing that the greats of today didn't have to contend with when they were in school.

And to flip it around think of the value that amateur sports clubs add to character of its participants that has a cumulative effect on the psyche of a community. Clubs need the support of its members and fans to develop characters of its members, participants and kids

We at Boostr are bringing club fundraising efforts into the online space, helping the funders with rewards from local businesses like Lifestyle, L&N Butchers, Heavins DIY, JG Elite gyms, Flynns Fuels, and helping clubs with constant inflows of your hard earned cash.

Fund your club with us today. Help us grow your club today so that the Alexs of tomorrow can shine!

#baldybloggers

No Point Cribbin' about it, GAA winter competitions are here to stay!

Who’s yer man?Westmeath’s new pretenders and early season GAA competitions…

There is nothing like a cool air sweeping across the field in Cusack Park in early January, perhaps even before a false New Year resolution has been broken, to test the souls of Westmeath GAA’s ‘new pretenders’. Nor indeed, is there anything quite like a sheet of rain pelting down on the die-hard lake county followers standing on the terraces to gauge their commitment…or is there?

Hi guys! Baldy blogger #2 back again and thanks for the phenomenal interest in our blog posts over the past week or so. The interaction around them has been fantastic and is equalled only by the traction boostrhq.com has gained among various local sporting clubs in the Westmeath area over the same period. Anyway, back to those inclement weather conditions mentioned above and, more specifically, the merit in inter-county teams like Westmeath participating in early season competitions such as the O’ Byrne Cup.

Tom Cribbin’s men are up and running for 2016 (albeit their regime no doubt started ‘collectively’ a lot earlier than when the big and little hand struck 12 on January 31st…but don’t tell the power in GAA HQ that ;-)) but, despite a promising start, ultimately failed to progress to the final 4 after a defeat to Johnny Doyle’s Maynooth on Sunday afternoon last. An opening round 4-point victory away to Wicklow was encouraging and an unbelievable comeback victory against Longford that Lazarus himself would have been proud of was better again...but does it really matter one iota?

Those in favour, say “aye”:

GAA administrators wax lyrical about the benefits of staging competitions like the Walsh Cup, FBD League and Kehoe Cup. A chance to blood the young fellas, graduate some of those promising minors and U21 players to the senior ranks. The somewhat competitive nature of the games Westmeath, for example, participated in over recent weeks is surely a way for lads to ‘get their eye in’ again, right? It’s a springboard into the Allianz Leagues in late January / early February and is a much more structured trial environment than an in-house A v B game. Indeed, aren’t they far more beneficial and efficient than having to scratch around for paltry challenge games with neighbouring counties and club teams still fighting a good fight in the All-Ireland club championship?

From a player perspective, the competitions are undoubtedly a chance to catch your big break. For some, an O’ Byrne cup match might be the only opportunity to don a Westmeath jersey and, provided these individuals are realistic in their expectations of ongoing participation, it is a very positive experience for them to take back to their normal club endeavours. For those who maintain their place on the panel and progress through to the semi-finals and finals, the age-old ethos of ‘winning is a habit’ bears fruit. At the very least, these matches provide focal points to the long, hard slog of training in the $h1t this time of the year. Perhaps even a chance to rehab some players returning from injury. And finally, doesn’t it provide the panels’ respective spice boys with a chance to gauge public reaction to their latest on-field fashion-forward trend (Exhibit A; white ankle socks, jersey sleeve tape, base layer recovery garments and fluorescent boots)!?

Those not in favour, say “nay”:

An extended season. Over-training. Horrendous playing and spectating conditions…need I go on? Those beating the ‘player welfare / player burnout’ drum use these supposed meaningless competitions as additional fuel for the fire. The cynics on the terraces will argue that the supposed excitement of seeing the Westmeath team sheet with a host of unknown names is a weak reason for staging a game. “Who’s yer man in the f****** pink boots, Mike?” Haven’t a Scooby, Pat. Sure what does it matter, he won’t be next or near the team bus come Championship time”.

Does the incentive to win the FBD league even register on Mayo’s radar? Granted, it certainly does on Leitrim’s…they’ve a phenomenal win rate in recent Januarys! (if only Sam Maguire was played for in January, Carrick-on-Shannon wouldn’t just be known as the stag & hen capital of Ireland). Do these formal competitions extend the playing season and subsequent levels of commitment beyond some player’s reach, though? Perhaps this is one of the reasons behind Dennis Connerton, the Longford senior football manager, this week revealing the stark statistic that 40% of the guys he asked to join for the O’ Byrne Cup panel declined his offer. Moreover, is this extended season the reason that marquee players such as Rory O’ Carroll and Jamie Clarke have opted for sunnier shores this time of the year?

Even the Kilkenny boys are taking time out this time of year!

In conclusion, there is a mixed bag of arguments for the retention / abolition of the winter competitions. They are seemingly here to stay for the foreseeable future but zero live TV coverage highlights the appetite that broadcasters have for the matches. That said, Ulster GAA have continuously enjoyed great crowds of 7,000-8,000 people for the Mc Kenna Cup matches…leading to their ability to even secure decent sponsorship with Bank of Ireland. Then again, they are a hard bunch of souls up there that would leave you flat on your back for even looking at those fluorescent boots in the shop window.

So folks, what do you reckon? A worthwhile springboard into the business end of the Championship or a complete and utter waste of players, managers, administrators and supporters time?

We’d love to hear your feedback so let us know at facebook.com/boostrhq or on twitter @boostrhq.

Keep spreading the word about Boostr and more importantly donate to your club through Boostr. The money back rewards that we provide through Boostr will more than compensate you for the money you donate. Its that easy!

Over and out,

Baldy Blogger #2

Westmeath Club Championship Changes - Needed or Necessary?

Earlier this week, I luckily spotted an article on the change in format of the Westmeath Championship on social media which slipped in under the radar and got very little attention. What it entails is a massive restructuring to the Senior, Intermediate and Junior championship structure as we know it today. Maybe this is following on the back of the national debate on changing the structure of the Inter County Championship  brought up by Jimmy McGuinness, Joe Brolly and the GPA in particular. There's no doubt that needs to be changed. I think an NFL type format would work perfectly for the inter-county championship - 8 groups of 4 teams.

With regards to the Championship more locally, I always thought the championship structure worked well in Westmeath and was in fact looked upon with envy from people in Offaly, Roscommon and neighbouring counties and it was so simple.

2 Groups. Top team from each advance to semis. 2nd and 3rd from each group play each other in quarter finals. Very straightforward. The format also meant that most teams were right in the hunt for qualification right up until the last game. Other counties have adopted a losers group and a winners group leading to a relegation semi-final and final (forgive me but I always thought getting to a final was a good thing – calling it the semi-final and final makes it sound like some sort of achievement), 4 groups of 3 and more recently the Senior A, Senior B format.

Which is exactly what we have now done in Westmeath. So I am trying to get my head around these new proposals. See the new proposals below.

We will now have a Senior A and Senior B championship and it is all based on the 2016 championship outcome! So, if a club manages to get into the quarter or semi-finals next year, they will be given an automatic reprieve from what we once knew as the Intermediate championship until 2018. Nice for some teams, but puts a hell of a lot of pressure on this year coming. Maybe it makes sense, maybe it makes the lower tier of Senior Football more competitive, but in reality the senior championship in Westmeath has always had different teams in the quarter or semi-finals each year. Momentum can be a big thing and I bet each team in the senior grade, genuinely thinks they can win the championship every year – even at the height of the summer. Keep in it until the last week of the group stages and anything can happen.

Does the new structure make it more competitive?

Again, we have seen it every year that each team takes points off the other. The smaller clubs beat the so-called big clubs regularly in Westmeath football. I can’t imagine it will make a huge difference to that. So are we just doing this to follow the lead of Offaly and other counties? What are the advantages of this. I would like to see Westmeath G.A.A put forward their arguments for or against rather than simply stating their preferred proposal. Have the clubs had input before all the work was put into this?

My view is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Instead look at the fixture organisation before making structural changes like this. I bet 95% of the players in Westmeath would prefer a debate on when the championship games should be played instead of wholesale changes like this.

Spread the games out more or condense them into a shorter time period? Typically we train from January on and the first meaningful game in championship is in August. Surely this is the biggest thing Westmeath G.A.A should be tackling. To help the fixture congestion issue, maybe reduce the number of teams in Senior and Intermediate to 10. Whatever happens, championship formats and schedules will always be a contentious issue.

Let us know what you think,

Regardless of the championship structure issues and scheduling, all clubs are in need of financial support and Boostr are here to help. Check out if your club is involved at www.boostrhq.com/featured-clubs and donate to them. We will reward you with money back rewards and freebies from a number of local retailers.

#Baldybloggers

The Midlands New Years Resolutions

I have compelling reasons as to why, one week into the new year the best time to think and act on new years resolutions – and I swear they are not all because I am timing this post with the launch of Boostr in Athlone!

Reason 1: Enough time has passed between now and 23:00 on New Years Eve for you to come up with genuinely original and meaningful promises. Instead of what we all do when we trot out the usual tired: cigarettes, alcohol, sugar and TV just to appease a nosy questioner.

Reason 2: You have passed the first week of January, Congratulations! You have officially lasted longer than every other new year resolution in Ireland. This is where you get your second wind, drive on, dig deep, (insert your own sporting cliche) and deliver something meaningful in 2016.

Reason 3: Resolutions are usually punitive on the pocket. Boostr is here to help you feel good about yourself, be a better person, improve your community and save money in the process.

And if that doesn't do it for you then just give up rollerblading for 2016

Resolution 1: Be a Good Samaritan

If I can be serious for one minute: the flooding in Athlone and the environs is devastating. For those of us lucky enough to escape the worst, we think of the heartbreak and pain those suffering are going through with wrecked homes and businesses. The good work that volunteers are doing is getting good national coverage but actions speak louder than words. They put the call out for volunteers and everything helps. Flasks of tea, sandwiches, manning a pump for a few hours. Your help would be greatly appreciated. We at Boostr were talking to Athlone Chamber of Commerce, local Councillors and volunteers and they suggested we try do something for the people of Athlone at this time. We have set up an account - which will of course be commission free - to aid the efforts of the flood relief team in AIT to go to the cost of pump fuel, sandbags, machinery, and the overall cleanup operation. Please lend a hand or if you can't give what you can to Www.boostrhq.com/athlonefloodfund and get rewards from our local retailer partners in return.

Resolution 2: Support your local sports team in 2016

So you support Man United. Great. Are the trials and tribulations of millionaire twenty-somethings Chris Smalling and Anders Lindegaard, really worth the precious time you have on this planet? Granted it is good to know that he enjoyed Derren Brown's latest show, who wouldn't?

Poor Chris Smalling got burned but the same goes for Emre Can, Gary Cahill, Andy Carroll and Richie Dunne (who is the honey monster playing with now BTW?) The point is what value is the Premier League adding to our lives on a daily, weekly and yearly basis? Will I add anymore questions in this section?

We blogged on the issues last week http://www.boostrhq.com/blog/the-435-liverpool-supporter-from-ballina

Boostr's plan is easy....get off the couch out and support your local club or team. Alan Sheehan was playing to empty parks for St Francis boys in Athlone before he made it good in the English league. Likewise Mark Rohan with Castledaly, John Keane with Rosemount and Robbie Henshaw with the Marist. The stars of the future in the Midlands are training and playing this winter in the sports fields of the region. This year go see your kids, nieces and nephews play and help out at training. Foster the community spirit by being present at a local ground and making noise. Go see Athlone Town in the LOI instead of watching Ipswich Town in the FA cup. The joy of seeing kids take part in sport is unrivaled and the pride a community takes in a club is matched only by the lift a community gets from a successful adult team. This year help your local club, support Athlone Town, Rosemount, Maryland, Southern Gaels, Castledaly, Tubberclair, St Peters, Tubberclair, Moate Ladies at www.boostrhq.com

Resolution 3: Support Local Retailers

Again, as a preface, we blogged on the unbreakable links between local communities and local retailers. Have a read and comment and share if you like it. http://www.boostrhq.com/blog/amazon-sponsor-south-westmeath-club

Both depend and thrive with each other. It is no mean achievement for local retailers to still be active, alive and thriving in 2016 after our 8 year crisis. They deserve not alone platitudes but genuine support. We at  Boostr have had fantastic engagement with local retailers and the chamber of commerce and all have been very receptive of our concept. Our partners are keen supporters of local communities’ efforts and clubs and are happy to offer rewards to #boostrheros who support their clubs. So in 2016, leave Amazon, Asos, Littlewoods, behind (they don’t need your support) get off the couch and #fundlocal #OK! But we do have some online rewards for overseas funders also – the diaspora will always mean a lot to clubs and we are rewarding them too for keeping in touch!

Introducing our Partners

Resolution 4: Educate yourself with Shaw Academy

One of our rewards is the offer of free webinars with www.shawacedemy.com. This year teach yourself something new and continue your continuous professional development. We got some good ones in Personal Diet and Nutrition to kick off.

Resolution 5: Get Fit!

OK this is a standard one but our reward partner Lifestyle Sports in Golden Island are offering 10 % off to our Boostr Heroes. Get those runners you need and get jogging. Also John in JG Elite gym is delighted to join us as a partner. Donate to your club to avail of our offers.

Resolution 6: Do It Yourself!

Our partners Heavins Expert Hardware Athlone are thrilled to partner up with us and know the value of thriving local sports clubs!

Resolution 7: Eat Well!

L&N Butchers in Golden Island will keep your protein levels high and your red meat quotient healthy in 2016. Donate to find out what they have to offer funders in January.

Resolution 8: Don't let your Home Heating Oil Run Out

We have all been there at some stage or another, sitting with a fleece as we await a a happy truck to warm our aching bones. This winter by helping your local clubs Flynn Fuels will help you stay on top of your bills with fantastic offers just when we need it

Resolution 9: See all the Oscar Buzz Movies

IMC in Athlone is the spot with discounted tickets available to for date night and Oscar previews. But only when you help your club with www.boostrhq.com

Resolution 10: No More Lists!

Two lists is enough in any blog post

And that’s it. The 9 steps to a blissful 2016 brought to you by the Baldy Bloggers at Boostrhq.com

Share and let us know how you do!

Amazon.com are sponsoring a South Westmeath G.A.A Club...

...Yeah Right..

What are the two hallmarks of a thriving local community? Or to put it another way, how many times have you seen a successful local sports team and the joy it brings their supporters and thought, 'thats a thriving community right there'. Think about county final days or promotion to the Premier League of Ireland. Or to put it yet another way; how many successful Irish businesses have their roots firmly planted in communities, and the roots have continued to grow throughout Ireland and even overseas. Think about Lifestyle, Grennans, Heavins, Flynns Fuels, SuperValu and Supermacs.

Local businesses and local clubs go hand in glove to strengthen all our communities. They need each other and we in the community need them. Westmeath, Offaly and Roscommon villages and towns would be soulless, desolate places without teams for our kids, gyms for our teams and not forgetting walking tracks for our adults! The volunteer ethic in our clubs binds a community together, where parents coach and fund-raise and strive to hand over the club in a better position to the next generation to keep the fire in the community burning.

Local businesses recognise the value of a thriving club. That is why on all club jerseys you see local businesses - proud sponsors and willing partners. Comment below to prove me wrong but I have never seen amazon.com,asos.com or google.com emblazoned across a GAA club jersey, but I have seen the local shop, pub, DIY store, butcher who actually contribute to a community and rely on the support of club players and members and are proud to be associated with their own people.

These pillars also have more in common than meets the eye. They need continued support to survive and thrive. This is why there are excellent campaigns ongoing in Ireland to shop local, especially at Christmas. Chambers or Commerce in Athlone and (Pro)Moate are doing excellent work to raise awareness of this with people, gently reminding us that if you go to town and buy off a local retailer you are supporting local jobs, keeping money in the local economy and helping town centres to thrive and grow instead of wither and die. Similarly, the bug bear for all clubs - large or small – has, in the past, now and forever into the future is the need to fund themselves and keep balls flying into nets! Even small clubs in Ireland can have yearly expenditure of over €100,000. The effort it takes for amateur volunteers to raise this money through sponsorship and events year round is staggering. Be it lottos, auctions, fashions shows, boxing, quizzes, turf, marts, - if it raises a €, it is worth a try. There is no government help or bailouts from the upper organisations and associations. On the contrary; these organisations are also struggling mightily with their greater expenditure and organisational complexities.

This is where we at Boostr are here to help. All our team are deeply embedded in our local communities and teams, we have been at the coalface of fundraising and football for decades. We know the issues and we think we have a unique innovative way to build stronger foundations for the two pillars. Boostrhq.com allows everybody (club supporters or not) to

1) Fund, either on a one off or continuous basis their preferred local club or clubs by as little as €5.

2) In return you will receive rewards and discounts from participating local retailers on a range of products and services.

Its as simple as that.

The payback is multi faceted: You benefit your own pocket the next time you shop local with your reward or voucher. You help your local club thrive as the funds are directly transferred to their accounts. You help local businesses thrive, which in turn keeps money in the local economy which benefits the local community and benefits your club. Its a positive feedback loop!

We think its a unique, modern, sustainable idea. If you agree tell a friend, then tell your local club or local businesses about it and direct them to boostrhq.com. Already we have 8 clubs and 8 business in the Athlone area signed up and ready to start in January.

Lets make one of our new years resolutions to Boost our communities!

Baldy Blogger #2

The €435 Liverpool supporter from Ballina

Hey guys! Thanks for taking a few minutes to read BOOSTR’s second blog post. The first post went down well, so lets give it another try. This one touches on Irish people and their contentment in funding non-local, international sports.

For those of you who are at the coalface, acting as a local sports club administrator, you already know all about the challenges of running a team in Ireland. Time and time again, fundraising presents one of the toughest barriers to getting your team over the whitewash week in, week out. Spare a thought for top inter-county GAA teams that apparently now require upwards of a €1m annually to run their teams. Indeed, our research shows that even local GAA teams are now in annual need of six-figure amounts to sustain participation in their chosen codes (Check out our first blog post on club the pains of club fundraising at www.boostrhq.com/blog/clubfundraising).

The selling of club lotto tickets, organising of dinner dances and online fundraising drives (now simplified with the inception of BOOSTRHQ.com) are perennial activities that simply must occur to ensure local Irish clubs can live and breath. Unquestionably, local clubs are in a constant dog-fight with other clubs and indeed wider sources of paid entertainment, such as Netflix or Sky Sport subscriptions, to gain supporter mindshare and their hard-earned cash.

However, in such a challenging financial environment, just how frustrating is it for club treasurers to see hundreds of millions of Euros leave Irish sports fans’ wallets, destined for non-Irish sports entities on a daily basis?

What is it with Irish sports fans and their fascination with and contribution to non-indigenous codes? Chelsea season tickets, Celtic e-magazine subscriptions and Toronto Maple Leaf jersey purchases. Think about it. The ‘gLOCALisation’ of international sports teams has led to Atlanta Falcon beanie hats at Portumna’s Saturday morning hurling nursery, an influx of ‘Bryant’ vests to the surfing village of Lahinch or a sea of red and black Toulon jerseys at Lansdowne rugby club training. All now accepted as the ‘norm’ within the local Irish club scene.

A recent SportsDirect.com survey revealed that nearly 15% of all Manchester United jerseys sold on their site were derived from Dublin (Manchester contributes just 10%)! Furthermore, Dublin tops the source of origin for Aston Villa jersey sales on their site with 24% of transactions coming from the Irish capital. I mean, what ever happened to donning your own local geansai, lads!? 

OK, so variety is supposedly the spice of life…but would it kill us to support local entities that are closer to home like Athlone Town FC, Moate ladies GAA or Castledaly GAA (all of whom are currently taking part and benefitting from BOOSTR’s inaugural pilot project in the Athlone town area) to a slightly greater extent?

Of the 800,000 foreign fans that travelled to watch soccer games and contribute more than £700m to the British economy in 2014, Irish fans topped the origin list. In total, 121,000 hardy Irish souls boarded a flight or ferry bound for a soccer venue across the water that year. What does that mean for the average Irish EPL fan in monetary terms?

Taking an average Joe from Ballina who goes to see his beloved Liverpool play at Anfield (2-day / 1-night trip), this is what BOOSTR reckons the cost could amount to for just one trip;

Diesel from Ballina to Dublin airport €50

Parking at Dublin airport €25

Flight (booked well in advance!!) €75

Hotel room for 1 night (twin room, shared with a mate!) €50

Match ticket €75

Taxis €40

Food & Beverages  €120

Total €435*

* Estimated figures, based on return journeys where appropriate and does not include the purchase of any merchandise at the venue

Don’t get us wrong, the BOOSTR team is made up of sports nerds interested in a variety of international sports but we also appreciate the value in supporting home-grown, grassroots talent.

Our vision is clear – fund local, shop local, support local. That is why we are delighted to provide a safe, simple and meaningful service to domestic club administrators up and down the country, as a means to somewhat balance the significant €€€’s being spent with non-local sporting institutions. Its also why we encourage readers to register their local club or business on BOOSTRHQ.com now and start receiving the benefits of doing so immediately!

Do you agree / disagree with us? We’d love to hear your feedback so let us know at facebook.com/boostrhq or email brendan@boostr.com!

Baldy Blogger #2

 

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Club Fundraising - The Perennial Pain!

We have often been slagged off as being bloggers by the guys we play football with because of our social media interactions with american sports writers and bloggers. The baldy bloggers they coined us! Anyway, here's our first ACTUAL blog post!

So the whole purpose for setting up Boostr is to tie together the old and the new. The sports club and the internet. As progressive as some clubs are, their fundraising activities for the most part is lacking. And this is not to take away from the traditional efforts of clubs to raise funds in any way, because the work that is done within most clubs is staggering.But the cost to run a club these days is non-trivial and on the rise year on year. Small rural GAA, soccer and rugby clubs can require as much as €100,000 a year to keep their heads above water. That's something I couldn't get my head around the first time I looked into it. Amateur clubs with professional club costs. 

Now most of these costs go back into the local economy through the fees of local bus companies, retailers, restaurants etc -  which is great. But the money must come from somewhere nonetheless. Inevitably, this comes from the hard work of club members who spend countless hours planning, organising and executing various fundraising activities. The phrase door to door comes to mind when I think of this. And I don't even know the half of the work that is done by the older generation in the club in raising money. The younger generation get away scott free generally in terms of that door to door stuff that is needed to keep the club going. Maybe our generation is much more precious about our time. So inevitably, fundraising for clubs will move to a more fluid, less-face to face medium.

In todays society,people are becoming increasingly time poor (or at least feel time is more precious than to be attending various club events), the need for simpler and quicker methods to raise funds has never been greater. With Boostr, we are merely trying to make the whole fundraising process for clubs easier. If we can make it easy for clubs and for its members, then everybody wins. Add in some incentive for local businesses to get involved and it becomes a huge win for everybody in the local economy. And you can expect to double, triple, quadruple the amount of money in rewards and offers back in return for funding your passion. 

So lets see how it goes, the more money we can raise for clubs through Boostr, the better off everyone will be!

Get involved and share it with the community

Baldy Blogger #1