A hug-fest for José, Alex and Arsène but not ev­ery­one is join­ing in

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports - Mary Han­ni­gan

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

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