A hug-fest for José, Alex and Arsène but not everyone is joining in
Between a tearful Ted Walsh hugging the newly retired Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry at Punchestown, and a slightly startled Arsène Wenger being hugged by Alex Ferguson and José Mourinho at Old Trafford (because they think he’s retiring from management), there was barely a dry eye in the house all weekend.
Not that the home crowd in Manchester got into the spirit of things, crooning “Arsène Wenger, we want you to stay . . .” after his team went a goal down. But still, for Premier League-watchers of a certain vintage, the pre-match cuddles had a bit of the Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in about them, the erstwhile toxic relationship between the gaffers now entirely denuclearised.
But Graeme Souness wasn’t quite up for joining in on the hug-fest either. Rather than denuclearising his tongue and being kind about Arsène, he told us that in recent seasons his team “hasn’t come anywhere near United”.(Cough: 2013-14 – Arsenal 4th, United 7th; 2014-15 – Arsenal 3rd, United 4th; 2015-16 – Arsenal 2nd, United 5th; 2016-17 – Arsenal 5th, United 6th.)
Anyway, there followed a game with all the intensity of a flower-arranging session, concluding with a Marouane Fellaini-headed winner just to prove to Arsène that the beautiful game is dead. He didn’t, then, end his trips to Old Trafford on a winning note.
Katie and Nina, though, both ended their jockeying days on a winning note and got presented with a very large bunch of flowers by RTÉ for their troubles.
“Ladies, you’re the trailblazers,” said Robert Hall, and Nina paid a very lovely tribute to the women who’d followed in her and Katie’s trailblazing paths. “I just want to say that I think it’s great to see the likes of Rachel [Blackmore], Katie O’Farrell and Lisa O’Neill and all the girls in England doing very well. Hopefully a few more will join in – it’s not that it’s girls against boys or anything, but they’re well able to put it up to the lads.”
“What will you be like when Rosie’s where you are,” asked Ted of Nina’s one-year-old daughter. She winced. “I won’t be watching anyway,” she said.
Who’d blame her? There must be less-perilous sporting pursuits for your daughter to take up. Speaking of which: “Fighting out of Bray, Count Eeeee Wick Loooooow, Ireeeeeeeland . . . Kay Tee Taaaaaaaaylor!”
Katie is now nine fights into phase two of her boxing career, but it probably won’t be until her 99th that some of us will get used to her being in the professional game, with all the fuss and fooster that goes with it. She, though, just keeps on doing what she always tended to do: win.
“When that bell goes, she’s goes from a choir girl to a little tiger,” said Sky’s Matt Macklin as she, well, roared her way to a unanimous points decision and, in the process, unified the WBA and IBF lightweight titles.
She sat down ringside with the Sky lads after the fight, and, much as they might have welcomed some juicy trash-talk about potential future opponents she just opted to be very nice about the woman she had just beaten, Victoria Bustos. It fell to her promoter Eddie Hearn to big it all up. “Two belts down, two to go! Katie Taylor, lighting up both sides of the Atlantic! This girl’s a superstar!”
That she is. Not least because her next action was to seek out Bustos in her dressing-room, give her a hug and tell her what a great champion she was. It’s a lovely thing to have a non-Notorious Irish fighter who does the opposite of mortifying ya.
Meanwhile, fighting out of the Cruuuucible, Sheffield, Ali Carter and Ronnie O’Sullivan. “In my 40 years at the Crucible Theatre, I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Dennis Taylor when Ali and Ronnie shoulder-bumped during their meeting on Saturday. It wasn’t exactly brutal, but in snooker terms it bordered on the Rumble in the Jungle.
Ronnie was gracious after, though: “I was second to the punch every time – he did a Mayweather on me.”
Ronnie out, then, his 2018 Theatre of Nightmares. Or, as Dennis had put it, “when the theatre of dreams becomes the nightmare of dreams”. Eh?
The cuddles had a bit of the Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in about them, the erstwhile toxic relationship between the gaffers now entirely denuclearised