Gavan Reilly's Portfolio writings, ramblings, mumblings

Published on
8 December, 2010

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Radio

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Published on
23 November, 2010

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Radio

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Published on
10 November, 2010

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Radio

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Published on
5 November, 2010

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Radio

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Spin 103.8 – Free Cheese

A brief piece from Spin 103.8’s The Spin lunchtime news show on government proposals to offer poor people some free cheese in the run-up to Christmas.

Spin 103.8 – Nov 5, 2010 – Free Cheese by gavreilly


Published on
20 October, 2010

Published in
Back Page Football, Radio

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Back Page Football podcast – Wayne Rooney’s future

An excerpt from Back Page Football’s ‘Hold The Back Page’ podcast, discussing an article I had written about whether Wayne Rooney should have left Manchester United or not.

Back Page Football – October 20, 2010 – Wayne Rooney’s Future by gavreilly


Published on
19 October, 2010

Published in
Back Page Football

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Why Alex Ferguson needs to bite his lip, and save Wayne Rooney

Manchester United fan and editor in absentia Gav Reilly takes his life into his hands and argues that Sir Alex Ferguson might have finally gone a step too far in disowning Wayne Rooney so publicly…

Amid his press conference today – at which he unceremoniously laid the boot into Wayne Rooney and essentially said the striker was turning his back on a club that had made him a star – Sir Alex Ferguson said one unusual thing, a statement of the kind he rarely – if ever – makes.

Speaking of Saturday’s 2-2 Premier League draw – a game in which Rooney-less United lost a 2-0 lead, and where he eventually deployed his best striker on the left wing – Ferguson said:

What we saw on Saturday was unacceptable. The game gets to 2-2, and the fans start singing for Rooney.

In attempting to portray Wayne Rooney as a Judas, Alex Ferguson made a gesture that might (in this writer’s opinion, at least) have driven a wedge between himself and the club’s supporters of the sort he might not have expected.

Alex Ferguson has always been a hard-headed manager. Manchester United fans know full well that players who cross the boss rarely get a chance to apologise once Old Trafford’s revolving doors boot them so viciously from the stadium. It’s happened with David Beckham, Jaap Stam, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo before Rooney: anger the boss and you’ll go. This is megabucks Manchester United® we’re talking about: if you don’t want to toe the managerial line, there are millions who’ll queue up to take your place – and dozens of replacements we can afford. If your surname is longer, by the way, we’ll prefer you: we get paid to print replica shirts by the letter.

There’s obviously only one problem with this reality: it’s not one in which Manchester United live any more.

It’s a Rich Man’s World

The years since the summer of 2004 – the year Rooney joined Manchester United from Everton – have not been kind to Manchester United’s bank balances. United ended its 15-year stint on the London Stock Exchange when Malcolm Glazer bought out John Magnier and JP McManus’s combined stake of 28.7% in the club and took overall control of Manchester United Football Club Plc in 2005.

That acquisition came with an £800m price tag – money Glazer and his family did not have, borrowed, and then transferred over to the club. Manchester United, a club without any debt at all until the summer of 2005, is now (at least) £716m in debt, a figure that rises by about £45m in bond yields each year.

But let’s park that for a moment. Here (in the order they departed) are some players who have fallen foul of Alex Ferguson:

Jaap Stam: Sold 2001, after writing about his own life in his own autobiography. (What a horrible thing to do, right?). United win nothing the following year, but buy Rio Ferdinand the following summer for a British transfer record. Life goes on.

David Beckham: Too much of a celebrity. Sold 2003. Club nonchalantly buys Cristiano Ronaldo for £12.24m a few weeks later. Ends up grooming the best player on the planet while Beckham fails to match his earlier success, winning just one league title compared to the six won at Old Trafford.

Ruud van Nistelrooy: “Bigger than the club”. Sold 2006. Not missed; club survived with Ronaldo and Rooney, both of whom were blossoming while his United career began to wane.

Cristiano Ronaldo: £80m? Yes please. Sure, it’s fine. We’ve got Wayne Rooney, and this Berbatov fella might turn out okay, we swear.

As time went on, United became less and less willing (and less and less able) to splash out on a big player to replace an exiting one. Ruud van Nistelrooy, as well as having fallen foul of the boss, was genuinely becoming surplus to requirements. Cristiano Ronaldo, on the other hand, became a sacrificial lamb at the altar of Red Football Ltd bondholders as much as an investment.

It’s on Ronaldo that a point is worth mulling over. Most clubs, when finding themselves splashing around with a world record transfer fee in their pockets (especially when it’s paid up front in cash, a payment scheme that never happens), go wild. Buy a few players, invest it, turn it into something useful. United – completely out of the manager’s hands, a situation he is deep down loathe to admit – spent it on paying down the 2009 interest for their loans, and spent a fifth of their windfall on Antonio Valencia. No offence to Valencia, but Cristiano Ronaldo he ain’t. (Javier Hernandez might be, but he’ll need a few years.)

All of which makes Ferguson’s row with Wayne Rooney – who hasn’t developed a superstar ego, or outgrown the club – an unprecedented one.

Jealous Guy

Wayne Rooney is quite obviously unhappy: his shoulders have been almost perpetually sunken, half in sulk and half in dejection, for a few months. His World Cup was rotten, his personal life is quite obviously on the rocks, and things in general could be going better for him. One might even surmise that, given his notorious fussy sleeping requirements (he is said to require the steady sound of a vacuum cleaner to lull him off to sleep, and to have slept on the ground mid-aisle on the plane to South Africa), having an 11-month-old son may be contributing to his crankiness.

But to say that this unhappiness is all down to how he has been treated at United, or how that career has gone, makes the mind boggle. First of all, his off-the-boil form is not exclusive to United: having had a full six weeks away from the club during the summer, on a stage upon which a Big Match Player usually thrives, he did nothing of note (except, of course, become so annoyed that he had a go at his country’s supporters). On subsequent international breaks – a chance where your average unhappy player might revel in a change of scene – he has done little more; the drooped shoulders have only managed one goal for England in 13 unlucky months.

One begins to sense that even though (as we are now told) he wanted out as long ago as August, Wayne Rooney isn’t fed up with life at Manchester United: he’s fed up with life as a footballer. His getaways with England have been far from fruitful; his personal life is tough; he has struggled to get over a dip in his form, and has been (genuinely!) hampered by a series of ankle injuries that began late last season. (This is a player, don’t forget, who has a history of struggling to accept when he is not at the peak of his physical powers.)

If Wayne Rooney had actively wanted out of the club for the last two months, all of the current frustrations with the management would have come to a head before last week. Remember that Rooney was starting every game, apparently enjoying his manager’s full confidence, before his personal infidelities hit the headlines – and that Ferguson opted to save him from the intense mockery he would have gotten from Everton fans by giving him some time off. United fans know that Hell hath no fury like an angry Scotsman, and United’s chief agité is hardly likely to cocoon a player he is supposedly on poor terms with.

Plus, when was the last time anyone heard of a player who tried to get a transfer by playing badly? If Wayne Rooney wanted to be snapped up by another team, his handsomely-paid advisers would happily remind him that there are fewer shop windows that attract more passers-by than a packed and rapturous Old Trafford.

Eloi, Eloi… Lama sabachthani?

One of Alex Ferguson’s most admirable traits when he is entrusted with a young career is shepherding that young soul through to adulthood and maturity. He is a man who personally posted bail for Roy Keane; a man who became a second father to the generation of Giggs, Scholes, Beckham and the Nevilles; a man who (it is said) once considered signing Paul Gascoigne, feeling a player of his gifts simply needed someone to look after him. He is a man who regularly advocates that his players get married – on the proviso, we assume, that they remain committed to it – believing that stability in ones personal life leads to reliability on the pitch.

Wayne Rooney was a boy who had the world at his feet – a boy who went from rags to riches and brought his childhood sweetheart along with him, and who scored a hat trick on his debut for one of the world’s biggest teams. A blip like this is a foreign experience to him – and one that goes fundamentally against his own sense of identity. He has only ever known himself as a footballer at the peak of his powers; now he is off-form, not just professionally, but personally too. Everything the golden boy touches is turning to shit.

What Wayne Rooney needs now, more than ever, is a father figure – but the man best placed to offer it – and the man who firmly believes in the power of a guiding hand – is apparently happy to wage a propaganda war against him.

A fundamental part of Wayne Rooney’s rehabilitation will be finding form on the pitch. Frustrating as that will be for United fans fed up with their side’s newfound impotence, this means giving him every chance to work through it – to get it out of his proverbial system. Conveniently telling a media scrum that his side’s most talented player has been stretchered off in training that morning (as luck/fate/fiction would have it, with an ankle injury), without any apparent concern for his physical welfare, will not help – particularly when, no doubt, a sulky Wayne Rooney will somehow find his way in front of a camera tomorrow showing no signs of his alleged physical malaise.

Replacements… easy, right?

But let’s say this whole process comes to its inevitable conclusion, and Wayne Rooney is sold in January (it will be January if it happens; waiting until July will cost United far too much money in terms of potential resale value and wages). Who steps up then? Unlike when Stam, Beckham or Van Nistelrooy were sold, there is no replacement waiting. Nor, crucially, is there the money to pay for one.

Ferguson’s excuse for not spending this summer was that there was no value to be had on the transfer market – and why should he spend the club’s money on players who were overhyped and overpriced? A sage excuse, it would appear. Until we consider that Wayne Rooney (apparently) told United he wanted out in early August – almost a month before the transfer window closed. Assuming Ferguson was telling the truth about the reason he wasn’t spending, he would have privately known he had a few weeks to go and find a top-class attacking player to bolster the squad’s attacking options. But, of course, there was no talent worth buying.

Let’s just casually ignore the fact that Real Madrid managed to get Mesut Özil for £13m in mid-August, beating off other suitors that apparently included Manchester United.

It is a lamentable fact for United fans that Ferguson has never mastered the art of the transfer market in the same way that Arsene Wenger has. There are few players out there who will become a Wayne Rooney, and those who will are expensive. Sadly, Manchester United can afford neither to lose Wayne Rooney, nor to replace him.

And that is exactly why Alex Ferguson needs to take an extra piece of chewing gum and bite his lip when he complains about how the fans of his football club want to see Wayne Rooney playing for the team, and playing his best. He is the best player United have – simply irreplaceable – and he needs someone to assure him that his current woes will eventually pass. If Alex Ferguson cannot see that, it is not just his loss, but the loss of United and of English football in general.

PS – The only conclusion I, as a heavy-hearted fan, can draw is that if Rooney is going to leave, I’d rather it was to Real Madrid – a club that can’t help itself from cramming its sticky hands in the sweet jar whenever there’s a new product on the market, and could well collapse if it ill-fatedly decided to borrow £60m+ it hasn’t accounted for and doesn’t need.


Published on
23 June, 2010

Published in
Back Page Football

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Racism still threatens the Rainbow Nation’s triumph

In the latest of a shamefully sporadic series of opinion posts, Gav Reilly examines how racism in football is now a shamefully First World problem.

One of the recurring motifs of the first World Cup to be held in Africa is the fact that despite the host continent being the world’s poorest, and the home nation being the home of one of the worst racially divisive regimes known to man, that soccer – and sport in general – has the power to transcend politics, and race, and unify humankind in a very simple and touching way.

It’s ironic, then, that while Africa rejoices in its first major international sporting occasion, it’s a positively First World team that’s showing us how racism is a problem that resides much closer to home.

If you checked the Irish Times’ website earlier today you might have seen that four of the top five most read pieces all pertained to the ignominious exit of France’s from the World Cup after les cheats bleus’ 2-1 loss to the host nation. To be fair, it’s not like we’re not entitled to feel a little bit smug at the collapse of the team who so cruelly disposed of Ireland in November’s playoff.

But Ireland’s Schadenfreude, however understandable, is most unfortunate – given the hay that the French far-right political lobby are making in the wake of their team’s exit.

France line up for La Marseillaise before their humiliating loss to Mexico.

The problem for France’s more hyper-conservative factions is that their national squad is now predominantly made up of immigrants  majority black, immigrant-based. While currently this would only be a problem for the likes of the National Front – the party most known for its platform that French citizenship should be solely restricted to those native to the country, and for demanding a blanket ban on all immigration to the country.

Indeed, France’s footballing history is dominated by those without purely French origin. Michel Platini, as his surname would suggest, is half-Italian; Zinedine Zidane’s parents are Algerian immigrants, and Thierry Henry’s auld pair are from Guadeloupe and Martinique. Neither, as Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh would say, a football stronghold.

But when sporting times are tough – as they undoubtedly are today, with the squad preparing to fly home in economy class as a mark of the FFF’s disgust with their behaviour – a worryingly common sentiment comes to the fore. The fact that the French collapse seems to have been exacerbated by Nicolas Anelka – a black man, although only a third generation immigrant – has merely amplified a worrying narrow-mindedness.

The flop of the current generation has awakened a perception among worrying proportions of the French public that immigrants from the former French colonies in Africa are seen as being universally materialistic, devoid of national pride and loyalty to the flag. After all, how can these people be loyal to France if they aren’t from the country?

This attitude, it should be noted, may not be helped by the fact that the French squad do not sing their national anthem with any degree of interest or empathy. Or that Eric Abidal, aside from singing the national anthem of the country that has raised him,chooses instead to wave to the camera.

When the players do arrive home, they could very well be shepherded through a smaller military or private airport, rather than have to face the ignominy of racial abuse through the terminals of Charles de Gaulle airport.

Racism is not a temporary fad in French football though. In January 2005 a league game between PSG and Lens was marked by the teams playing in all-white and all-black kits, as part of a national campaign against racial discrimination in sport. The experiment couldn’t have gone worse: racist PSG fans began to chant ‘allez les blancs‘ in a deliberately provocative gesture, and made monkey chants when Lens players (dressed in black) touched the ball. The grand gesture had become a monumental farce.

There’s also a regular pattern of players who claim to have been the victims of racial abuse at league games; Abdeslam Ouaddou from Valenciennes was once booked for challenging a fan’s racist gestures towards him. The referee, perhaps conveniently, didn’t see the racist gesture to which Ouaddou was responding.

At the last World Cup in Germany – a country with its own long and troubled history of acceptance of foreign nations, but which currently reaps the rewards for generations of Polish and Turkish integration into its society on the pitch – each game was preceded by representatives from each team being part of a gesture against racism.

At the Rainbow Nation’s World Cup, it’s a shame that some of the supposedly more advance countries can’t heed a similar message.


Published on
26 April, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

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Belfield says bye-bye to Number 10 bus

Dublin Bus have announced proposals to scrap the iconic number 10 bus service into UCD from July.

The traditional city centre route into the Belfield campus is to be amalgamated into Dublin Bus’s flagship 46a southside service as part of its ongoing Network Direct project, intending at rationalising the citywide bus service.

The cut has been revealed as part of Phase One of the project, encompassing massive bus reforms in the Blanchardstown, Lucan and Stillorgan suburbs. The changes are projected to take effect in mid-July.

The 39a route, which currently ends at Hawkins St in the city centre, will be extended and will incorporate the 10’s route, travelling along Baggot St Upper and Waterloo Road before adjoining the dual carriageway before Donnybrook and terminating at the current 10 terminus beside the Engineering Car Park.

Northbound, the 46a route will extend into the Phoenix Park to incorporate the route currently taken by the 10, terminating at the North Circular Road.

In other reforms to the southside area, the 145 route – which currently terminates at Mountjoy Square – will now extend to Heuston Station, offering a direct bus between campus and the country’s largest train station for the first time. The 47, meanwhile, will continue beyond the Donnybrook Garage on its northbound route and will terminate at Merrion Square, to accommodate substantial curtailment of the 63 and 84 routes which now terminate at Kilternan and Cherrywood respectively.

To allow for the rationalisation of routes, the reforms plan to guarantee a regular service on key routes at all times of the day. Dublin Bus’s reforms project that the 46a will run every eight minutes at all times of the day, at both peak and off-peak times.

The newly reformed 145 route between Kilmacanogue and Heuston Station will run every ten minutes.

Dublin Bus area manager Gareth Quinn has assured UCD students that the campus will “still be well served with a high frequency service to town”.

A full PDF of the reformed routes can be downloaded here.


Published on
13 April, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

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Enter the Dragon

Entrepreneur and media training guru Gavin Duffy talks to Gavan Reilly about breakfast radio, the problem with the Irish economy, and life inside the Dragons’ Den…

Nobody ever likes being woken up by a phone call – but when you’re picking the people who you’d least like to hear you sounding groggy and underslept, influential businesspeople are probably somewhere at the top of the list. Therefore, it’s a strange and bloody frightening feeling being woken up on the stroke of 9am by a phone call from someone from Dragons’ Den.

Thankfully, when Gavin Duffy calls – literally at the same second the clock radio starts to blare the 9am news – he’s merely arranging the details for an interview later that day, and isn’t expecting me to be able to interview him from bed, without as much as pen to take notes. As it transpires, when I get to chat to him again later that day (after, I hasten to add, a lot of coffee), I begin to get the sense that admitting my utter unprofessionalism might not have been as suicidal as I’d feared – because despite the preconceptions one might have about a mega-successful business and media magnate like Duffy, the Drogheda man is an extremely approachable and affable person. [Read more →]


Published on
13 April, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

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otwo attempts: starting a country

You might not have known it, but there’s a small independent republic in the middle of the Student Centre – at least, since last Wednesday. Deputy President Gavan Reilly explains

It might seem strange but in 1933 a conference of American states, held in Uruguay, resulted in the Montevideo Convention, which broadly outlines the criteria you need to meet if you want to become an independent nation. Chief amongst these is something known as the ‘declarative theory of statehood’ – the idea that “the political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states.” So, basically, you don’t need to be accepted by your international neighbours to still be a country (o hai, Israel).

This basically means that there’s almost nothing stopping anyone with a clearly-defined piece of land to announce to the world that they’re defecting from their country and starting up a new one. And hey – we’ve got an office, right?

The convention lists a few significant requirements a country should fulfil. Along with a defined territory you need a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other countries. otwo thought long and hard about these: The University Observer has a permanent (-ish) population – we work long enough hours in this place, and at production weekends we don’t leave; we do have a government of sorts, because there’s an editorial chain of command and ultimately the Editor has the final say in what the Observer or otwo does; and as for capacity to enter into relations… well if the Editor, on behalf of the Observer, can fill out a legal form and send that form to any state body, isn’t that a relationship with the state?

So – on Tuesday 6th April, a date that will forever live in international history – we typed up a list of our section editors and replaced their titles with legal-sounding ones (‘Editor’ becomes ‘President’, ‘otwo Editor’ becomes ‘Minister for Arts & Culture’ and so on). We taped this to the office door alongside a hastily drafted declaration of independence, informing the world of the Republic of Observia that existed behind it. And lo, Observia was born. We had our government, our territory, our population and our capacity… didn’t we?

It was the last bit that was a grey area, so we decided that it’d be only fair – given the rich Observian culture of international harmony and diplomacy (!) – to let the powers of the world know of our presence. We set up a website (observia.org – we tried to get a .ob address but to no avail) and sent an email from it to the President of Ireland, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Defence. We copied in, for the sake of posterity, the Secretary-General and Security Council of the United Nations. Oh, and we emailed the manager of the Student Centre too – only fair, considering he was now responsible for the electricity supply of an entire country.

While we awaited the response of the international community to our presence, we convened the cabinet and enacted the first constitution of Observia – adopting the standard international approach of proscribing as little as possible, so as not to compromise our ability to legislate for whatever matters we needed. I mean, there’s no point giving a constitutional guarantee of neutrality if there’s a risk that the Students’ Union could declare war, is there?

We also took the chance to make some decisions about Observian culture and pastimes. The national colours (rigidly enforced by the President, based on her Fantasy Premier League team’s strip) are pink and orange; the national animal – in honour of our anonymous sports writer – is the Badger; the national anthem is a mutated form of Rihanna’s ‘Disturbia’; the mass oversupply of daffodils last week earned it the status of national flower. For a currency, we looked to the news section… Have you ever noticed that the headlines of Observer news stories sometimes have a mysterious ☐ in them? Our printing presses in Britain apparently can’t handle the € symbol in headlines – so, being of Observian culture, we declare the Box the official currency (naturally, it’s pegged to the Euro – one Observian Box is worth one euro. We should have made it more).

But still, something felt like a sham. We had a constitution and government but we didn’t really feel like we were getting anywhere. The UN, the Taoiseach and the President had all failed to respond; the manager of the Student Centre crossed the border the next day and never even mentioned it. But then, magically, an email appeared in the Observian inbox.

“I would like to acknowledge your email and inform you that I have forwarded it to Minister Killeens office for attention,” it read curtly, signed by a rep from the Press & Information Office at the Department of Defence. The Irish Government had been in touch – and, crucially, they hadn’t shot us down.

We scarpered back to the Montevideo Convention – and found Article 7: “The recognition of a state may be express or tacit. The latter results from any act which implies the intention of recognizing the new state.” The Department had corresponded with the Observian government, and hadn’t immediately rejected our claim to independence – thereby tacitly acknowledging the Republic of Observia, the world’s youngest republic.

The Observian website is observia.org. If you’d like to be President of Observia, see page 14 of the main section.


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