Archive for the Sport Category

An Olympic Story

Posted in Sport with tags , , , , on July 26, 2021 by telescoper
Louise Shanahan

Just a quick post to mention a wonderful Olympic story. Louise Shanahan (pictured above) from Cork is competing in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in the 800m for Ireland. She is also in the second year of a PhD in Physics in the University of Cambridge, working in the Atomic, Mesoscopic and Optical Physics (AMOP) group in the Cavendish Laboratory. I wish her all the best in the heats on Friday 30th July and hopefully beyond!

UPDATE: Louise came seventh in Heat 3 so is now eliminated. She kept pace with the leaders before falling away on the final 150m stretch, finishing in a time of 2:03.57.

Back to Civilisation

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Covid-19, Cricket, GAA, Maynooth with tags , , , on July 24, 2021 by telescoper

So last night I returned safely from Cardiff to Ireland via Birmingham. Travel both ways was relatively uneventful. There can’t have been more than 30 people on the flight in either direction. I did however almost screw up the return flight by omitting to fill in the obligatory Covid-19 passenger locator form which I hadn’t realised is now online-only. I only found out that I had to do it before they would let me on the plane, resulting in a mad scramble with a poor phone connection to get it done. After a few goes and quite a bit of stress I succeeded and was allowed to board, conspicuously the last passenger to do so. We still managed to leave early though, and the short flight to Dublin – passing directly over Ynys Môn was relaxing and arrived on schedule; the immigration officer scanned my new-fangled Covid-19 vaccination certificate but wasn’t interested in the passenger locator form that caused me so much stress on departure.

I returned to Cardiff to take a bit of a break, to check up on my house and also prepare to move the rest of my belongings to Ireland. I was relieved when I got there last week that everything was basically in order, although there were lots of cobwebs and a very musty smell, which was hardly surprising since I hadn’t been there for 15 months. The inside of the fridge wasn’t a pretty sight either.

One night last week after meeting some friends for a beer in Cardiff I walked back via Pontcanna Fields and saw, much to my surprise, Camogie practice in progress in the twilight:

Camogie Practice, Pontcanna Fields, Cardiff.

The logistics of my planned removal proved a bit more complicated than I expected but eventually I cracked it and all the arrangements are now in place. I should receive delivery here in Maynooth next month. I’m doing it on the cheap as a part-load, which is why it will take a bit longer than usual.

Cleaning and packing was very hard work owing to the intense heat over the last week or so – it was regularly over 30° C – during the day, so I took quite a few siestas. My neighbours tell me it’s been much the same here in Maynooth, although it is a bit cooler today, around 20° with a very pleasant breeze.

Despite the hard work it was nice to have a change of scenery for a bit and also to meet up with some old friends from Cardiff days. Everyone has been in a state of limbo for the last 18 months or so, and although we’re not out of the woods yet there are signs of things coming back to life. When I went to Bubs in Cardiff for a drink last week it was the first time I’d been inside a pub since February 2020!

Incidentally, most people I saw observed social distancing, wore masks, etc. The rules in Wales are still fairly strict. Although open for indoor service, bars and restaurants seem to have few customers. Some people on trains to and from Birmingham didn’t wear masks. One group of unmasked and obnoxious English passengers on my return journey were loudly boasting how backwards Wales was compared to England, where the rules have relaxed despite a huge surge in cases. I moved to another carriage.

The only other thing I managed to do was attend a Royal London One-Day Cup match at Sophia Gardens between Glamorgan and Warwickshire in the baking heat of Sophia Gardens. It turned out to be a good tight game, with Glamorgan winning by 2 wickets courtesy of two consecutive boundaries. Most of the time I was sitting there in the shade I was thinking how glad I was not to be fielding in such conditions.

One thing that was very noticeable during my stay in Wales was that it was very hard to get fresh salad vegetables and the like. That may be partly due to weather-related demand or it may be due to a shortage of lorry drivers or other staff owing to Covid-19 isolation requirements and may be a consequence of Brexit. Who knows? I’ll just say that there’s been hot weather in Ireland, where the Covid-19 pandemic is also happening but there are no reports of shortages of fresh food here. I’m very much looking forward to having a nice salad with my dinner this evening.

Anyway, I suppose that’s enough rambling. At some point I’ll have to open up my email box to see what horrors lurk therein. Still can’t be worse than the fridge I opened last week. Can it?

Why Do England Always Lose on Penalties?

Posted in Biographical, Football with tags , , , on July 12, 2021 by telescoper

I’m reblogging this post from a few years ago. It remains topical.

I thought I’d add my own (very limited) experience of taking penalties. In the period from 1988-90 or thereabouts I played for a team called the University Associates in the Sussex Sunday League (2nd Division). The League also had a cup competition, and one day we played a game that ended in a draw after extra time, so went to penalties. I used to play in midfield for that team, rather than as a striker and I scored only 2-3 goals a season. I wasn’t one of the five nominated penalty takers but after those it was 2-2 so it went to sudden death and my turn came up at 3-3 after one round. It was the only penalty I’ve ever taken (not counting 5-a-side). I wasn’t at all confident but my biggest fear was the ribbing I would undoubtedly get if I didn’t even hit the target, so I decided to hit it as hard as I could straight at the goal. I thought my natural level of inaccuracy might take the ball to one side or the other of the goalie.

So I paused, took a deep breath, ran up and blammed it as hard as I could. It went quite hard straight at the goalie. If he’d stayed where he was standing it would have hit him at chest level. Fortunately for me he dived out of the way and I scored. 4-3! So I have a 100% success rate at scoring penalties (based on a sample of one).

The story didn’t end entirely happily though. My opposite number scored to make it 4-4 and we ended up losing 5-4.

IB Maths Resources from Intermathematics

penalties2

Statistics to win penalty shoot-outs

With the World Cup nearly upon us we can look forward to another heroic defeat on penalties by England. England are in fact the worst country of any of the major footballing nations at taking penalties, having won only 1 out of 7 shoot-outs at the Euros and World Cup. In fact of the 35 penalties taken in shoot-outs England have missed 12 – which is a miss rate of over 30%. Germany by comparison have won 5 out of 7 – and have a miss rate of only 15%.

With the stakes in penalty shoot-outs so high there have been a number of studies to look at optimum strategies for players.

Shoot left when ahead

One study published in Psychological Science looked at all the penalties taken in penalty shoot-outs in the World Cup since 1982. What they found was pretty incredible – goalkeepers…

View original post 1,070 more words

The Morning After…

Posted in Biographical, Football with tags , , , , on July 12, 2021 by telescoper
Gareth Southgate consoles Bukayo Saka who missed the last penalty in the shootout against Italy

Well that’s that, last year’s European Championship is over. Italy beat England in the final last night on penalties. England lost in the semi-final of the, World Cup in 2018. Many people suggested they would go a step further this time, and they did: they lost in a final.

It wasn’t a great game. Finals seldom are – there’s too much at stake for the players to play with any freedom. But it was tense and dramatic and in the end, for England fans and players, heartbreaking. Italy have been the most consistently impressive team in the tournament, and had a far more difficult draw than England (who, in my opinion were very lucky to beat Denmark in the semi-final thanks to a very dodgy penalty) and didn’t have home advantage.

Overall I think Italy deserved to win the tournament and happy for them, though sad a bit for Gareth Southgate who has proved himself the most gentlemanly of managers. The manner of this loss – on penalties yet again – must hurt him, but he will be gracious in defeat. I wish the same could be said of some of the England supporters.

People have been critical of Southgate’s rather defensive tactics for last night’s match. For what it’s worth I think his cautious approach was dictated by his awareness of the weaknesses in his side. He had good attacking players but lacked strength in midfield. Italy were much more tenacious and comfortable in possession. For large parts of last night’s match England were just unable to get the ball; the official possession stats were 65:35 in Italy’s favour. A playmaker in the centre of the park would make a huge difference to England’s chances of landing a major trophy.

The great thing about this young England football team is how it has managed to provide so many positive role models, through its dignified response to racism and embrace of inclusivity, while at the same time respecting the time-honoured English tradition of losing on penalties. They will no doubt be feeling awful right now but they have a lot to build on for the World Cup next year if they can pick themselves up, though they might not get such a favourable draw.

I have enjoyed the tournament. I didn’t watch all the games because I was too busy, but I watched most of the 8pm matches and found them a welcome distraction. As an émigré I no longer feel any obligation to support England, but I don’t feel any need to despise them either so I was able just to enjoy the football. As I said above, I think Italy performed most consistently at a high level throughout the competition but I also enjoyed watching Spain (who would be world-beating if they had a decent striker) and Belgium, either of whom would have been worthy finalists had the draw. I feel a bit sorry for Denmark given what happened in their first match. They can be very proud of the way they rallied to reach the semi-finals without their star player Christian Eriksen.

Anyway, well played Italy! I have quite a few Italian friends and colleagues and I know they’re all delighted. Il Calcio sta tornando a casa…

End of Term Hiatus

Posted in Biographical, Education, Football, Maynooth on June 24, 2021 by telescoper

Yesterday was quite a busy day because, as well as my talk in the afternoon, we had the main University Examination Board in the morning. Because many students in Maynooth are taking courses that spread across more than one Department, this is an opportunity to raise any issues arising when marks are combined. The full results for each student are presented on “Broadsheets” which I suspect in days gone by would have been broad sheets of paper, but which nowadays are hefty PDF files, one for each faculty. Science & Engineering was the first session, kicking off at 9.15 via Teams but because we all had access to the Broadsheets since last Friday we had time to identify any relevant matters and the meeting itself went quite smoothly.

Now there’s a short hiatus because the formal results will not be communicated to students until tomorrow (Friday 25th). Next Tuesday (29th June) is Consultation Day, on which students can discuss their results and any matters arising with staff. Obviously we can’t do this in person this year because of Covid-19 restrictions but, because the examination scripts were scanned and uploaded electronically this year the students will actually have the originals, discussing any issues of marking shouldn’t be too difficult.

Some students will need to take repeat examinations before they can progress. These are in the period 4th-14th August in Maynooth so I’ll have to be around for those. I was hoping to try to get some summer holiday this year – which I didn’t last summer – starting on 5th July, but that has already been pushed back because something important has arisen that means I have to be working on 7th July. I hope nothing else eats into my leave entitlement. It says in my contract how many weeks holiday I should have per year so I will not accept another year of not being able to take it.

Although we have a short break in the examination process that doesn’t mean everything stops. I have to work this Saturday (26th June) at the Summer Open Day here at Maynooth, recruiting the September intake…

The sense of hiatus is amplified by the fact that there are no matches today or tomorrow in the European Championship, the final group games being last night and the first in the Round of 16 being on Saturday. I’ve got quite used to watching the 8pm matches over the last couple of weeks!

The State of the Universe Talk – Reminder

Posted in Biographical, Books, Talks and Reviews, Sport, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags on June 21, 2021 by telescoper

Just time for a quick reminder that I’m giving a talk on Wednesday (23rd June 2021). It’s at 4pm Paris Time which is 3pm Irish Time. See my original post here.

I had a sudden sense of dread that this Colloquium might clash with the Portugal-France game in the European Championship which takes place the same day but it turns out that won’t kick off until 9pm Paris Time which means that I should just about be finished before the football starts. I don’t think even I could overrun by 4 hours! Indeed I should finish before the earlier games that day, which kick off at 5pm Paris Time…

If you want to attend the Colloquium (via Zoom) you can register for it here.

Football Round Up

Posted in Football, GAA on May 23, 2021 by telescoper

Well today saw the last round of matches of the English Premier League for this season. The most important match finished Fulham 0 Newcastle United 2. That caps a good end of season run that leaves Newcastle in 12th place having recovered well from an alarming slump in mid-season to avoid any threat of regation.

It’s been a good weekend for Newcastle fans because yesterday Sunderland lost their playoff semi-final against Lincoln City and therefore languish in League One for another season.

Fulham, West Brom were already relegated some time ago, so there wasn’t much end of season drama at the bottom end of the table. I gather that manager Sam Allardyce will be leaving West Brom, having accomplished everything that was expected of him with the club.

As you can see, the top three teams are all from the Midlands. Leicester could have joined them had they not lost to Spurs today so it is Chelsea that joins them in the top 4. Manchester City finish as Champions by a country mile.

By contrast, here in Ireland, the Gaelic Football season has only just started. This afternoon I watched a cracking game between Dublin and Kerry that ended with points level at 4-09 to 1-18 after a late penalty to Kerry allowed them to equalize in stoppage time. Dublin had been well ahead earlier in the game but had to weather a determined fightback to hold on for the draw.

There are no crowds at GAA matches yet but at least one can watch games for free on terrestrial TV…

Grand National Takeaway

Posted in mathematics, Sport with tags , , , on April 11, 2021 by telescoper

Congratulations to Rachael Blackmore for becoming the first female jockey ever to ride the winner Minella Times of the Grand National yesterday. It was a good race for Ireland generally as the top five were all Irish horses.

The race was led for a long time by 80-1 outsider Jett who at one point was about 10 lengths clear of the field but you could see that about three fences from home the horse was very tired, fading badly over the final stages of the race to finish in eighth place.

At 11-1, Minella Times would have netted quite a few people a good return on their investment. I wasn’t so lucky but had a modest success. After studying the form carefully (i.e. sticking a pin in the list of runners), I settled on Any Second Now, also at 11-1, betting €25 each way. I was pleased yesterday to see the odds shortening to 15/2 at the start, which meant quite a lot of people were backing the same horse.

In the event Any Second Now finished 3rd which was a great result given that it was badly hampered by a faller (Double Shuffle) at the 12th fence. A thing like that is normally difficult to recover from but jockey Mark Walsh did well to get back in contention, though he was too far back and too tired to catch the winner, who ran a perfect race.

The Grand National is one race where I think an each-way bet is a sensible strategy. As a handicap with 40 runners (and a very tough race for which the probability of a horse not making it to the finish line is quite high) the odds are usually pretty long even on the favourite, and most bookies pay out for a place down to sixth. I bet €25 each way, which means €25 to win outright at 11-1 and €25 for a place at one-fifth the odds, i.e. 2.2 to 1. I lost the first €25 but won €55 on the place (plus the stake). My net result was therefore €50 staked for an €80, more than enough profit to pay for last night’s takeaway dinner.

The point is that if you want the place to cover the loss on the win the starting price has to be good. If the odds are N:1 they will only cover the loss if N/5 ≥1 with the equality meaning that you break even. In a race in which the odds are much shorter the place bet is usually not worth very much at all. In yesterday’s Grand National the favourite was 5-1.

Early Season Cricket

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on April 10, 2021 by telescoper

It’s Day 3 of Yorkshire versus Glamorgan at Headingley in the first round of this season’s County Championship matches.

Or it was because there won’t be any further play today owing to the inclement weather….

Glamorgan are actually doing well at 161 for 4 in their second innings after bowling out Yorkshire for 193 to establish a first innings lead of 137. That’s very good considering that they were 29 for 4 at one point. Currently 298 ahead with six wickets remaining, can they force a result tomorrow?

UPDATE: Glamorgan batted on for an hour on Sunday morning so both Clarke and Root could get hundreds, eventually declaring on 241-4 a leady of 378. Clarke and Root came together with the score on 29-4 so that was an unbroken partnership of 212 for the 5th wicket. Despite a wobble here and there, Yorkshire batted out the day and eventually a draw was agreed with their score on 223 for 4.

Six Nations Super Saturday

Posted in Rugby with tags , , , , , , on March 21, 2021 by telescoper

Study week is over and next week we return for the second half of Spring Semester. At least we do for about a fortnight, after which there is the Easter break (Good Friday plus the following week). I’ve just about caught up with what I should have done before the Study break started so I spent a big chunk of yesterday watching the Six Nations Rugby. Super Saturday would normally be the last day, with three matches determining the Championship, but that’s not quite how it worked out as France’s game against Scotland was postponed for Covid-related reasons.

The day started off with a 52-10 victory for Scotland over hapless Italy at Murrayfield. The visitors started well enough but soon melted away as Scotland got into gear, eventually scoring eight tries. A lot of people are asking what is going to happen about Italy. Although they have won the odd game in the Six Nations over the years they have never really been contenders and this year they have been consistently woeful. Despite millions being poured into Italian rugby from the competition they have got worse, not better.

One possibility would be to have a second division of the tournament, with promotion and relegation. One problem is finding teams to make up the other places, the European Championship includes such teams as Russia, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Germany and Belgium. One could add Georgia into that mix too. The greater problem is whether there would be enough of an audience to make this financially viable.

Anyway, the second match of the day was Ireland versus England in Dublin. I have to say that I thought England were strong favourites to win that match but what the heck do I know? Ireland put in their best performance of the tournament and ran out relatively comfortable winners against a lacklustre England by 32 points to 18. England, whom many thought would win the tournament, finish in fifth place out of six.

The final stages of that game were marred by atrocious violent conduct by England prop Ellis Genge which was not spotted by the referee at the time but which will be reviewed and should lead to a lengthy ban.

And then the pièce de résistance, France versus Wales. Wales were looking for a victory that would give them a Grand Slam, an outcome that looked very unlikely at the start of the competition. The game started at a frenetic pace with two tries each in the first 20 minutes or so. If they had kept up that rate of scoring the match could have ended 56-56!, but at half-time the score was 17-17.

Wales gradually exerted their dominance and stretched their lead to 20-30. With Paul Willemse for sent off for France sticking his hand in an opponent’s eye with just 12 minutes to go the game looked over. The French disagreed and brought out some of their best attacking rugby against a tiring Welsh side who resorted to persistent infringement at the breakdown. A succession of penalties and two yellow cards ensued. France took full advantage, scoring a converted try to make it 27-30. Wales were still in front, and in possession of the ball in a good attacking position, with less than two minutes to go but then conceded a penalty. France kept the ball alive from the resulting lineout then used their extra player to score wide on the left wing with no time left to play. It finished 32-30.

The winning try, scored by Brice Dullin

Heartbreak for Wales, but a brilliant comeback by France. What a game of rugby!

Apart from everything else I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game of rugby with so many potential tries prevented by defensive players holding the ball up to prevent grounding in the in-goal area. I counted at least six, each of them just inches away from being a try.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of my Welsh friends I think France just deserved to win that game. Wales had the benefit of most of the marginal refereeing decisions and Wales should have had even more yellow cards near the end for persistent infringement. Above all, they deserved it for refusing to give up when all seemed lost. Magnifique!

The Six Nations is not yet over; there’s still France versus Scotland to come on Friday night (26th March). If France win that game heavily and get a bonus point they could still finish as Champions. France need to overturn a 20-point points difference though so they’ll have to win by 21 points or more and score four tries. I think that’s unlikely, but they’ll definitely go for it!