A search for one’s family, the Oh-So-Close Men and the week’s best sportswriting

Source: Robin Alam

1. “IN JULY, A huge family reunion in Youngstown brought McCullough, Briggs, Smith and Comer together for the first time. All of McCullough’s parents in one place, reflecting on nurture versus nature, what is inherited versus what is taught and the many different forms of parenthood. It was both the culmination of a journey and the start of something new for the families that the journey had introduced. A man found his parents, a mother found her child, and a father discovered a son he never knew he was missing. There is no jealousy, no resentment and no regret. There is just gratitude for the winding paths that brought them all together.

“When I look at Deland, the type of guy he is, it was a gift to us,” Smith says. “And to think — Deland felt we were a gift to him.”

“Now I know who I am and where I’m from,” McCullough says. “I got all of the pieces to the story. I got them all now.””

ESPN’s Sarah Spain penned the jaw-dropping story behind NFL coach Deland McCullough’s search for his family.

2. “Dublin are champions again. Just one more step away from immortality, but weighed down by that same, familiar reticence.

Brian Fenton stands by the team bus, matching purple weals above and below his right eye. He looks like a man might look after being taken down a Harlem alleyway for some quarrelsome exchange about the contents of his wallet. Brian has yet to lose a championship game, but comes to each day with no more swagger than a bell-boy.

Four years, four All-Irelands and not a murmur of conceit.”

Vincent Hogan of The Irish Independent spoke to Brian Fenton after Dublin won their fourth All-Ireland title in-a-row last weekend.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

3. “The biggest game of the opening weekend of the Gallagher Premiership was the one that had no Premiership players and no Premiership crowd.

Five minutes’ drive from Ealing Broadway, past The Duke of Kent pub, over the roundabout, down through the houses and you are there. Vallis Way, the home of Ealing Trailfinders: cosy, tight, atmospheric, a warm Saturday evening. This looks nothing like a Premiership club but it could very well be a Premiership club in a year’s time.

This is a big game for the Premiership because the Premiership does not want them.”

Chief rugby correspondent for The Times Owen Slot writes about Ealing and their attempt to break through to the top flight.

4. “They nearly won. So, so nearly, but we’ll get back to that.

“At 18 years of age, touring New Zealand for those two months was an unbelievable, never forgotten experience,” Moore wrote. “Sadly these tours don’t seem to be carried out anymore. There was a very strong bond between all the players and it’s that bond that has strengthened in recent times.”

The reason for that was tragedy, more specifically the death of their star No 8 Anthony Foley, who suffered a pulmonary oedema in his sleep in a Paris hotel room in 2016. It’s a ghoulish observation, but it meant the two No 8s in that match had died within a year of each other, Lomu having suffered a fatal heart attack in 2015.”

Dylan Cleaver tells the story of the Irish side — the Oh-So-Close Men — that almost beat New Zealand’s most talented schoolboys team for nzherald.co.nz.

Source: PA Archive/PA Images

5. “Watford were super-fit, able to bombard teams for 90 minutes with stamina forged on training camps in Scandinavia. ‘I loved it,’ said Gerry Armstrong, scorer of Watford’s first goal in the top flight, against Everton. 

‘Up at 6am, we’d run from the hotel to training, do 12 minutes running on the track, 200 sit-ups, jog back for breakfast. We’d do ball-work at 10.30am and play a small-sided game in the afternoon.

‘Graham was a brilliant manager, way ahead of his time. Philosophical, determined, very honest, he instilled a mentality. We wanted to win. We attacked. We played with two up front and two wingers.’”

The Daily Mail’s Matt Barlow looks back on memories of Graham Taylor’s era at Watford as they make a good start to the Premier League this year.

6. “An idea in the notepad. Don’t I see Ronnie talking about boxing a bit in his interviews these days, posting padwork,? He’s a fan of Spike O’Sullivan’s? I’d like to get them in a room together, see what they’d talk about. Who wouldn’t?

Eight months later, the snooker icon’s touring Ireland and, given I now know they’re following one another on Twitter, I’ve asked the Cork middleweight to help set it up (Spike: “LMAO i’ll tell him his tour will end on the first night if he doesn’t agree”). So here we are, sitting in a hotel on Leeside, looking into the past and into the future.”

Kevin Byrne sat down to chat with Spike and Ronnie O’Sullivan for an interesting long-form read.

7. “Cormac came from the same upbringing as me – same loving parents who created a fairly middle of the road family, both teachers down in Kilkenny, living in comfortable suburbia.

Yet Cormac died of a heroin overdose.

How do you explain that?

You can’t.

But talking about it helps. It really does.”

Evanne Ni Chuilinn’s entry for The Sports Chronicle made for some brilliant reading this week.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

8. “There is a simple way of ensuring that every man who lines up for Ireland would actually die for his country. Well, there are two. Clearly we could actually threaten to shoot them and anyone who objects could be excluded from all future squads for a lack of commitment or banned, like Eamon Dunphy, sine die, but even if the people who type with caps locked online might consider that excessive.

The gentler alternative – and I accept there will be many who will bristle at even the suggestion of compromise when it comes to representing your country – is to make playing for Ireland such an unpleasant experience that only the most committed patriot will do it.

We are a long way off that patriotic dream so until it happens, we have to accept that the squad will be made up of those with varying degrees of love for their country and maybe wonder if the manager is getting the best out of them.”

Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane are leading Ireland into the wilderness and there’s nothing patriotic about following them blindly, writes Dion Fanning for SportsJOE.

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