Random Sporting Thoughts

What I learned so far this weekend. I arrive back to Limerick (after a week hiatus in lovely Rome) and back to day job in Galway to hear that the Andy Lee boxing world title fight scheduled for Thomond Park was off and relocated to Manchester in October. It is a massive disappointment for Andy Lee who has gone on record stating his desire to fight in Thomond Park defending his world title but the fact of the matter is that professional boxing is built on financial numbers and how viable a world title will be to the coffers of the boxing promotions involved. Andy Lee could not have done anymore to promote this contest, endless appearances on local media and national television with interviews with Miriam O’Callaghan but it was unrealistic to think that thirty thousand people would be appeared to pay top dollar for tickets (starting from around $150) when you consider the crowd attendance for Andy Lee in Limerick early in his professional boxing career. The numbers in my eyes never really added up and the decision this week was expected. The warning signs were there when Katie Taylor pulled out of the event last week and this week was no surprise considering the sluggish ticket sales to date.

The television aspect to this event also raised question. Love them or loathe them but if this boxing event was managed by Sky Sports and Matchroom Sports, I would guarantee that the event would sell out. You only have to look how they managed and promoted the recent Hull professional boxing event culminating with the Hull boxing headline clash between the impressive Luke Campbell and the hard working Tommy Coyle. This particular contest on paper was as one sided as the clash turned out to be on the night but the event sold massively in Hull and surrounding hinterland and the ticket prices were affordable for locals to attend. Adam Booth’s record as a trainer is second to none but his promotional skills have left a lot to be desired. No national media advertisements on the event was damning. Andy did his part but his promotional team did not. The local media was covered but that only goes so far.

Andy Lee’s viral infection may be valid but everyone knows there was more background to this cancellation that meets the official press release. Manchester Evening Arena is a fantastic venue but I question if this event will sell tickets in October given the lack of exposure on the world title bout so far on the more established boxing media houses. Andy Lee has every chance of retaining his title against Billy Joe Saunders, his boxing skills on paper look the superior. His jab will be pivotal in frustrating Saunders to such an extent that the Englishman may lose concentration and leave himself open later in the fight. An Andy Lee victory would be a sensational result considering the rubbish that he has had to deal with in the last couple of weeks. It is an opportunity lost for Limerick to host a world boxing title event but the factors were not right on this occasion and hopefully there may be another opportunity for Lee to accomplish his dream and fight at Thomond Park.

Manchester United win their second league game of the season against Aston Villa in Villa Park but this was as dire a EPL game that I have seen for some time. Villa were hard working but were extremely limited upfront so much so that the hosts decided to launch long ball down the channels throughout in the hope that United’s back four would make a mistake. On this occasion, United’s back four held firm. Smalling is starting to lead by example in the back four and while there are question marks on Blind in terms of defensive ability, the two full backs have started well. Darmian was pinned by the media last night for the Richards corner kick incident in the first half but the Italian was excellent again in open play – solid player and executes the full back basics well. Darmian complements Smalling perfectly by anticipating the second ball when the centre half is contesting in aerial exchanges. United continue to lack pace and tempo in the midfield area, too often were labored in possession and no distinct width meant that Rooney (despite looking out of sorts) had little service to work off. Memphis Depay’s early cameos suggest plenty of scope for improvement but if the Dutch player can score a goal soon, confidence and form should pick up. Schneiderlein and Darmian have being the standouts so far and Romero in goal has looked solid. Bastian’s quality was evident on his introduction, the only player on the park to look up and try to spot a pass. Villa will be fine provided that Gestede and Ayew can provide the required goals. They are a young side but defensively look well short. Gana and Clark will not look too fondly on their roles in the game winning goal, one did not track the runner while the other was playing United onside. Their set piece defending at times last night bordered on the ridiculous, no tracking of United player making runs at the back post. Both teams were guilty of poor ball distribution and this was not an advert for Friday Night Football.