Trinity College Dublin, Book of Kells

Trinity College Dublin, Book of Kells, Trinity College Rugby, Irish Rugby, Tony Smeeth

Trinity College director of rugby Tony Smeeth explains why US Eagles are set to spread their wings

Les Kiss this week credited the leap in American rugby as an attacking entity to the influence of Trinity College director of rugby Tony Smeeth.

Well known in Leinster schools and club circles, he also coached both versions of Blackrock, last summer the Englishman renewed a 20 year on/off working relationship with Eddie O’Sullivan’s successor as America’s head coach, Mike Tolkin.

“Without a doubt, style wise, we’ve changed since the world cup,” Smeeth at the US training camp in Denver, Colorado. Continue reading

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Accommodation near Croke Park

Croke Park, Accommodation near Croke Park, Pubs near Croke Park, GAA Fixtures
June arrives and bang on schedule, Croke Park enters the GAA championship. This evening on Jones’s Road, the supporters of Offaly, Kildare, Westmeath and Dublin will make their way to a Leinster football quarter-finals double bill.


If the sight of the native Dub hastening to the stadium as the referee gets ready to throw in the ball is timeless, there is also a radical departure on view today, as the GAA sends the score detection system Hawk-Eye into action for the first time to adjudicate where necessary on the bona fides of scoring efforts from Offaly and Kildare, who start at 5.0.
“We’re over 14 months at it now,” said GAA Head of Media Relations Alan Milton, “and we’re ready to go. It’s been planned meticulously and we’re looking forward to getting it up and running.
“There have been further dry runs and we’re inviting this evening’s match officials in early to run through the protocols one more time and to make sure that everything that can be done is done on the day.”
He isn’t concerned that as is sometimes the case with rugby’s TMO, officials will begin to delegate authority to the technology in order to avoid controversy.According to Milton the system has been exhaustively looked at in the past year or so and has been used to determine the validity of scores in a number of matches in Croke Park even though it hasn’t been part of the match officiating.
‘Controversial calls’
“We’ve been able to look at any controversial calls in a number of matches and happily 99 per cent of the time, the officials have got the decision right. Our perspective on it is that it’s there to assist and not to take the place of the referee.”
He says that the GAA is expecting around 35,000 this evening. That would register as a reasonable attendance for two fixtures with heavy favourites in either of them.
The meeting of Dublin and Westmeath brings together the counties who finished top in Division One and Two of the football league and will be Jim Gavin’s first senior championship match in charge of Dublin.
Westmeath’s Dessie Dolan, one of three survivors of the team that beat Dublin at this stage nine years ago, reflected apprehensively earlier this week on things that can go wrong in their situation.
“You come up to Croke Park and after 15 minutes you could be 10 points down. And that’s it – game over. Dublin can do that to you and at the moment in fairness to them I’ve admired the way they’ve played all year because they just come out and shoot the lights out.
“There’s no negative tactics, none of that craic; just great players playing well. The forward line – they’ve serious fire power up there.
“For Westmeath it is important we put in a performance because the reality is we’re now going into Division One and this is the standard of football we need to get up to. The lads are at a stage where it’s important to build a platform and I don’t think getting a drubbing by Dublin would do them any good.”
A year ago Kildare defeated Offaly by 13 points and they too are hot favourites going into the first match.
Another summer institution, the Munster hurling championship is up and running tomorrow with the meeting of Clare and Waterford in Semple Stadium, Thurles.

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Staycation Dublin

Staycation Dublin, Staycation Ireland, Staycation packages, Dublin Hotels, Special Offers, Viking Splash, Wax Museum, Jeanie Johnson Famine ship, Dublin ZOO

What is a staycation, exactly? It’s a vacation where you stay in Ireland and by doing so; you help protect local businesses and jobs. When you BOOK DIRECT on the Hotel or Guesthouse website you also ensure that all of the money goes to the Hotel or Guesthouse rather than to third party booking agents, many of whom take large commissions up to 25%.


Back in boom times, special offers were like flowers in the desert. Now, you can take your pick… especially if you travel Sunday through Thursday, here we have brought together some of the best value for money special offer staycations in Ireland. Viking Splash Tours, Wax Museum, Jeannie Johnson Famine and so much more to enjoy on your Staycation in Dublin Ireland.

Here are some reasons why you should take a Staycation.

1. You’ll save money!

Everyone loves to save money. With a staycation, you won’t need to spend money on flights; you will enjoy discounted accommodation, special offers such as FREE Breakfast and discounts off many attractions and events.

2. It’s fun for the whole family/individuals/couples or groups

To get everyone involved in the fun, plan the activities that you want to do together. This can be anything from visiting Dublin Zoo, Viking Splash Tour, Wax Museum, walking, eating-out and so forth.

3. It’s way less stress than a vacation.

You won’t need to worry about missed flights, lost luggage, or arguing over which restaurant to eat at as good recommendations will be made and often discounts enjoyed. Take it one day at a time and relax, enjoy locally sourced food that is guaranteed Irish

4. You’ll finally enjoy your surroundings.

Maybe you’ve wanted to visit some nearby places, but didn’t have the time. Imagine taking a hike on a Wednesday afternoon when most people are at work. It’ll make it that much more enjoyable, walk along the Custom House Quay, St Stephen’s Green and so much more.

5. Discover new places in your area.

By enlisting the help of your family/friends, you can come up with really great ideas of how to spend your time. Maybe you’ve heard of a fishing spot a few miles away, or there’s an attraction you always wanted to visit. Now’s your time to explore them! No excuses when you don’t have anything planned.

6. You’ll support your local economy.

The money you’ll be spending on your staycation will go right back to your local area and local businesses, you can help protect local businesses, jobs and get value for money.

7. You don’t need to worry about getting everyone packed and ready to go.

With a staycation, you don’t need to worry about packing entertainment and snacks for the road trip, from most places in Ireland you can be in Dublin in a couple of hours by car, train, bus and so forth.

Here are more Irish staycation locations for you to enjoy…

Into the wild… in Co Cork

It can take a long time to save for a short break. And once you get there, entertaining the troops isn’t easy on the wallet, either — a family ticket to Fota Wildlife Park costs €44, for example. The beach front Garryvoe Hotel at Castlemartyr has come up with a package bundling both. Three nights’ B&B with one evening meal, a family day ticket to Fota (complete with a packed lunch), and free admission to Jungle World in Midleton are all included. The price is €285 per adult, provided you book from Sunday through Wednesday, and based on two kids under 12 sharing the room.

Two for the price of one… with Trident

Seeking self-catering deals? Trident has more than its fair share. Two weeks are available for the price of one on a range of properties from Jun 30 to Jul 14, with sample prices from €655 at Forest Haven in Dunmore East to €730 for two weeks in Waterville Holiday Homes, Co Kerry. Watch out for the company’s ‘Crazy Price Week’ beginning Aug 25, too. A 30% discount on published prices is available at locations like Tralee, Dingle and Liscannor — from €287 plus extras. Dream Ireland is also offering 100 holidays every week this summer for €475. Some sleep up to eight people.

Pick and choose… with Select Hotels

So you’ve managed to block off a week that suits Mum, Dad, the school holidays, the childminder, the grand-parents and the local kennels. But where to spend it? Select Hotels is one solution. It’s a collection of over 20 properties all over Ireland — ranging from Acton’s in Kinsale to the Falls Hotel in Ennistymon — and it currently has a special family offer of €109 per room, per night. Better still, if you stay four nights, the fifth comes free. Kids get milk and cookies on arrival, there’s a discount on spa treatments for Mum, and two kids under 12 sharing the room get to stay and have breakfast for free.

Summer kids… at the Sligo Park Hotel

There’s value in this short break offer from the Sligo Park Hotel. For €518 in total, two adults and two kids get four nights’ B&B, dinner on two nights (for everybody, not just the adults), and there are pool games, a family treasure hunt, supervised movie nights, forest walks and weekend entertainment during school holidays thrown in. Family-friendly attractions nearby include Eagles Flying, the birds of prey centre at Ballymote, surfing at Strandhill, the woodland walks around Lough Gill, and the stunning Gleniff Horseshoe loop.

Coast and city kids… in Co Galway

Galway is a super spot for a family break — combining the raw countryside of Connemara with a rugged coastline and big city festivals, restaurants and shops. A family holiday package at the Connemara Coast Hotel packages five nights for €1,099, including breakfast every day and dinner on three evenings — provided you book Sunday to Thursday. Add-ons are free swimming lessons for kids, a free kids’ club, live music, a Connemara treasure hunt with prizes and discounts to Galway attractions (the city is a 10-minute drive away). If you’d like to extend your holiday with a trip to Inishbofin, the Inishbofin House Hotel has a summer midweek special: three nights’ B&B with dinner on two evenings from €499, based on two adults and two kids.

Bring baby… to Liss Ard Estate, Co Cork

Heading on holidays after the arrival of a new baby is about as relaxing as heading on Hell Week with the US Navy Seals. The good folk at Liss Ard Estate near Skibbereen have come up with a package to make things a tad easier. Based on a five-night stay in a superior room, it includes a baby welcome pack on arrival, a bottle warmer and steriliser, a changing mat and cot, a romantic three-course dinner complete with two hours’ babysitting, and a 55-minute massage for mum. The total price is €705, or €352.50pp for two adults sharing (naturally, baby goes free).

Fun in the sun… at Ferrycarrig, Co Wexford

A four-night family break at the Ferrycarrig Hotel costs €480. Five nights costs €550. Breakfast, full access to the health and fitness suite and Crazy Clubbers kids’ club (a Mini-Olympics, Teddy Bears’ Picnic and Scavenger Hunt are on offer), and special admission rates to nearby attractions like The Irish National Heritage Park and Johnstown Castle all feature. It’s a lovely setting too, on the bank of the River Slaney near to Ferrycarrig Tower.

Fun on the farm… at Kiltale, Co Meath

€360 will buy you three nights self-catering for four people at Kiltale Holiday Homes, a short drive from Dublin in Co Meath. So far, so standard. What might pique parents’ interest, however, is the fact that the holiday homes are set on a working farm — with Connemara ponies, lambs, ducks, geese, and both young donkeys and goats. There’s a small playground too, but most promising is the farm camp running daily for kids aged 4-12. It’s run by two primary school teachers, includes nature walks, flower arranging, donkey and pony rides, baking, gardening and a surprise for the kids on the last day… for an extra €75 per week.

On yer bike… in Westport, Co Mayo

Like Kilkenny and Galway, Westport is one of those enclaves that seems somehow immune to recession — unfairly bathed in sunlight, rammed with visitors and hopping away with festivals. Oh well, if you can’t beat ‘em… Knockranny House Hotel has a special offer packaging two nights’ B&B for two adults and two kids (under the age of 10) with complimentary bike and helmet hire and a packed lunch. The idea is to take the bikes onto the Great Western Greenway, the fab 42km trail stretching to Achill Island — the package costs €180 per adult in July, and there’s free use of the spa’s vitality pool thermal and fitness suite.

Luxury for less… at the Ritz Carlton, Co Wicklow

The Ritz Carlton at Powerscourt is one of the most expensive hotels in Ireland… unless you avail of this fab family special. Five nights are available for the price of three from Jul 1 to Aug 31, from €320 per night. That’s a total of €960, but there’s a lot of bang for that buck — five-star accommodation and facilities, a daily breakfast buffet, and free camper beds for kids under 12 (breakfast is free for kids under five, and €9.50 for kids aged 5-12). There are clever add-ons for the little ones too — you can get a tent, sleeping bag, torch and supper hamper for €40, for example, or a princess costume, nail painting and private afternoon tea for the same price.

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Rabo Direct Pro 12 Final 2013


Rabo Direct Pro 12 Final 2013, Leinster rugby, Ulster Rugby, Joe Schmidt, Mark Anscombe

This being the last week of the domestic season, mind games between the rival New Zealand coaches, desperate to capture the Rabo Direct Pro 12 title, go up a notch.

For Joe Schmidt it’s about leaving Leinster without the stain of three consecutive runner-up finishes in league finals. That would represent the only black mark in an otherwise phenomenal tenure.

For Mark Anscombe it’s about backing up Ulster’s perfect start to a campaign, which faltered during the illogical international window and was almost ruined by a chronically overcrowded infirmary.

This week his only concern is All Black tighthead prop John Afoa’s hamstring.

“Yeah, he’s progressing nicely,” said Anscombe. “It’s not a tear, just a slight strain, just been niggling and in the position he plays you got to be careful it doesn’t go.”

Leinster also refuse to rule Seán O’Brien out of contention, despite a knee injury that prompted British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland to say on Monday his club season was over.

Gatland went so far as to state O’Brien would be doing well to be fit for the Queensland Reds game on June 8th. And that he would be in Lions camp henceforth.

‘Better condition’

Those comments angered the Leinster machine. Sure enough, late Monday night we got the following “update” from the Lions after “consultation” with Leinster: “Given the proximity to the tour we are grateful to Leinster for being able to assess Seán. He is in better condition than we thought and he continues his recovery at pace.”

With nothing definitive conjecture reigns. Afoa is expected to play, O’Brien is not. Either that’s the case or Gatland was telling fibs. But why would he?

All told, it left a bad taste in the mouth.

Chris Henry is expected to recover from a knee strain/knock to start Saturday but Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy have been put on ice due to a triple-concussion and a groin strain respectively.

Expect Afoa to be added to the starting XV that beat the Scarlets 28-17 on May 10th, with Declan Fitzpatrick making way.

Iain Henderson will probably be benched as Anscombe goes with Robbie Diack on the blindside and Dan Tuohy partnering Johann Muller in the secondrow.

Ulster’s impact options look inferior to Leinster’s, although Henderson and scrumhalf Paul Marshall can arrive if more urgency is demanded.

Brian O’Driscoll will return after recovering from a back spasm.

‘Good shape’

“Yeah, yeah I’m feeling miles better this week,” he told the Second Captains podcast. “At a push I could have played on Friday but with this coming up and the next six weeks I would hopeful I will be in good shape to take the pitch.”

O’Driscoll left us in no doubt about Leinster’s feeling of unfinished business. “The previous year against Munster when we won the Heineken the week before I think we just got out played but I think we threw it away last year (against the Ospreys). It really took the gloss off winning back to back Heineken Cups. I hope we are going to use that hurt.”

On the flip side, Anscombe’s men will use an even fresher open wound.

Their comprehensive Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Saracens in Twickenham on April 6th stalled any talk of Ulster progress.

They didn’t make any, but there were plenty of excuses. Muller tore his bicep in the opening minutes, Afoa had just come off a long haul flight, Marshall was knocked out for the third time in a month and Tommy Bowe wasn’t fit enough to start.

“If we had the preparation we’ve had this week I would have been a lot happier going into the Saracens game,” said Anscombe. “We’ve got no excuses, if we don’t do the job Saturday we will have been beaten by the better team.”

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Heineken Cup Analysis

Heineken Cup Analysis, Toulon, Claremont Auvergne, Rugby 2013, Aviva Stadium

Toulon 16 Clermont Auvergne 15: Did Clermont Auvergne freeze once again in sight of the winning post? That’s the accusation they’ll face as they contrived to lose a match they should have won.

They played the better rugby for most of the game but that’ll be of little consolation as the Heineken Cup will be returning to France with Toulon.

Clermont looked far more dangerous in possession and if they managed to introduce a little more composure and precision, especially in the Toulon 22, might have won this match in a canter.

They will also rue the fact that they gave away too many penalties, failing to react to Alain Rolland’s officiating at ruck time. It cost them possession and position and acted as a safety valve in allowing Toulon to escape from their own 22.

The latter took their chances, or more accurately the one try scoring opportunity that presented itself, and otherwise relied on the boot of their captain Jonny Wilkinson. Toulon, Mathieu Bastareaud was superb in attack and defence, showed grit and character but it shouldn’t have been enough to suffice.

The opening 40 minutes was conducted principally between the two 22-metre lines, a series of collisions where players from both sides sought out each other rather than space. The honourable exceptions were Clermont winger Sitiveni Sivivatu and centre Wesley Fofana, whose footwork, pace and angles of running allowed them to make several line breaks.

Unfortunately their colleagues couldn’t sustain the momentum, sometimes it was handling, on other occasions they fell foul of referee Rolland, who penalised them a handful of times for not releasing after the tackle. Fofana is a pleasure to watch, his gliding acceleration and appreciation of angles a constant threat to the opposition defence.

The closest Clermont came to scoring a try in that period came when Toulon wing Rudi Wulf was turned over by Sivivatu at a ruck on the halfway line. Fofana and Julienn Bonnaire combined to put Brock James scampering up the touchline. The Australian chipped over the top and outpaced Toulon’s Chris Masoe and Juan Fernandez Lobbe but the dead-ball line won the race by a nanosecond as James grounded it on the whitewash.

Toulon huffed and puffed but there was precious little subtlety to their patterns and they chose Wilkinson’s boot as their main attacking gambit.

Clermont scrumhalf Morgan Parra kicked a penalty on three minutes and Wilkinson responded in kind after 12 to provide the only tangible rewards in scoring terms.

Clermont lost a great attacking position following a break by Sivivatu when Lee Byrne was penalised for not releasing, but Mathieu Bastareaud, who made the tackle certainly didn’t release the player, before trying to secure possession. There were two offences, the second one spotted first.

If the first half was sterile on the scoreboard then the second came to life from the opening stanza.

After Fofana had snaffled yardage on one touchline, Clermont moved play to the other side of the pitch. Rougerie fended off Danie Rossouw rather easily and released Napolioni Nalaga. The big Fijian brushed off the tackle of Sebastien Tillous Borde and through another attempt from Armitage to score in the corner; it was a great finish. Parra couldn’t add the conversion, and although Wilkinson reduced the deficit with a penalty, the favourites Clermont crossed for their second try.

Rougerie was again the catalyst, muscling Wilkinson aside as he raced on to a gorgeously weighted chip from James. He rode a weak tackle from Tillous Borde and released the supporting James, who covered the final 20 metres to the try line. Parra added the conversion and at 15-6 Clermont were within touching distance of winning a tournament their rugby merited; and not just this season.

But they continued to transgress at ruck time, the penalty count 5-0 at this stage, and when they were penalised again on 60 minutes, Wilkinson reduced the deficit to six points.

The one question mark that has lingered about this Clermont team is whether they have the mental capacity to keep playing to the final whistle. The game’s pivotal moment arrived on 63 minutes when Lobbe turned over the ball at a ruck after Fofana had been isolated in the tackle.

The Argentinean’s overhead pass to Armitage sent the England international racing clear and he could enjoy a mini-celebration before dotting down. Wilkinson kicked an excellent conversion and Toulon, remarkably, were in front.

It was the first try they have scored in the knock-out stages of this season’s tournament.

Clermont’s resolve was to face an acid test but as Parra, Rougerie and James headed for the sideline, leadership and composure went with them. They did manage to get field position in the dying throes of the contest, twice, but replacement David Skrela bizarrely went into rucks when he should have been dropping into the pocket to attempt a drop goal.

They had the field position inside the Toulon 22 but it wasn’t until they were a little further out that the drop goal was attempted and charged down. The game ended with a forward pass and a handling error on the touchline 10 metres from the Toulon line.

They deserve credit for the manner in which they hung in a game that appeared at various stages of the second half to be disappearing over the horizon.

It offered a reminder that if a team can stay on Clermont’s coat-tails they may be occasionally rewarded. It was a day when the a team rightly considered the best in Europe, could not deliver on that label.

Scoring sequence 3 mins: Parra penalty, 3-0; 12: Wilkinson penalty, 3-3. Half-time: 3-3. 41: Nalaga try, 8-3; 45: Wilkinson penalty, 8-6; 47: James try, conversion, 15-8; 60: Wilkinson penalty, 15-9; 64: Armitage try, Wilkinson conversion, 15-16.

Clermont Auvergne: L Byrne; S Sivivatu, A Rougerie (capt), W Fofana, N Nalaga; B James, M Parra; T Domingo, B Kayser, D Zirakashvili; N Hines, J Cudmore; J Bonnaire, G Vosloo, D Chouly. Replacements: V Debaty for Domingo 65 mins; Ti Paulo for Bruno 65 mins; J Bardy for Vosloo 67 mins; R King for Rougerie 67 mins; L Radosavijevic for Parra 71 mins; D Skrela for James 73 mins; C Ric for Zirakashvili 73 mins.

Toulon: D Armitage; R Wulf, M Bastareaud, M Giteau, A Palisson; J Wilkinson (capt), S Tilous Borde; A Sheridan, S Bruno, C Hayman; B Botha, N Kennedy; D Rossouw, J Fernandez Lobbe, C Masoe. Replacements: J van Niekerk for Rossouw 50 mins; F Michalak for Tillous Borde 50 mins; JC Orioli for Bruno 50 mins; G Jenkins for Sheridan 61 mins; J Suta for Botha 67 mins; S Armitage for Masoe 67 mins; D Kubriashvili for Hayman 76 mins. Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).

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