ET Bitesize: I Really Really Really Wanna Zika Zik-ah

Tue, Aug 23 2016

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I REALLY REALLY REALLY WANNA ZIKA ZIK-AH

 

When Rory McIlroy cried off competing at the Rio Olympics due to concerns over Zika virus, he could hardly have predicted what would unfold.

 

McIlroy – and his dittomen in Irish golf Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry – gave the tournament a miss over concerns the virus could interfere with fertility.

 

All three men, presumably, were eager to conceive within weeks of hypothetical exposure to the virus in Rio and weren't prepared to take any undue risks.

 

They were much-criticised for their individual stances, by no less a figure that Padraig Harrington, who inferred McDowell and Lowry were 'sheep' for eagerly following their more-famous cohort's lead.

 

Little were they to know that a more toxic virus was to infect the big sports day on the beach, and its main source of contamination was little old Ireland.

 

There was little in the way of alarm when Kevin Mallon, an executive of Dublin-registered THG Sports, was arrested in Brazil on suspicions of illegally selling tickets under the guise of 'hospitality' packages.

 

THG – a subsidiary of the Marcus Evans Group, Evans being the owner of the retirement home for Irish international footballers, Ipswich Town – had been investigated during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and wasn't retained for the finals.

 

Instead, three men involved with Pro 10, including a former League of Ireland club manager and two associates of the same club, were named alongside Olympic Council of Ireland CEO Pat Hickey when Hickey was arrested in Rio.

 

And he wasn't long in joining Mallon in a cell in Rio's notorious Bangu 10 prison.

 

Brazilians are no strangers to corruption – Transparency International ranks it the 76th most trustworthy country in the world, compared to Ireland's 18th – but it has a different character to the Irish version.

 

While Ireland might see itself as a fellow victim of European colonialism, to Brazilians like Romario, the brazen fashion with which tickets were resold through Irish companies as 'hospitality' packages was all too familiar.

 

Irish officialdom was firmly within the sights of Brazilian authorities in the lead-up to the Games, and Hickey being arrested in the nip in a thousand-dollar-a-night hotel room is all too revealing (and gruesome) an image.

 

No accusations have been proven against any of the men named by Brazilian police, but what is clear is that Irish officialdom has been under investigation by authorities there for at least a year.

 

What's also clear is that the success, even if not in the form of medals, of dedicated athletes like Annalise Murphy, the O'Donovan brothers, Natalya Coyle and Tom Barr has been overshadowed by events behind the scenes.

 

That families of athletes like Fionn Lynch and Barr had to look to the re-sale market to get tickets for their respective events, while Irish officialdom is being investigated for re-selling tickets, is a further insult.

 

Hickey, it is well-documented, rose to his prominent position within the OCI by capturing the support of smaller sports whose vote was worth the same as the major players like boxing and athletics.

 

It's cause for thought for those whose passion lies outside of the (largely) amateur sports that make up the Olympics.

 

 

FROM THE ECHO CHAMBER

 

 

IN THE NEWS

 

Longford Town announced the return of double-winning manager Alan Mathews following the resignation of Tony Cousins last week.

 

Derry City boss Kenny Shiels continued his raid of Europe with the signing of Austrian defender Max Karner.

 

Sligo Rovers goalkeeper Micheál Schlingermann signed a two-year extension at the Showgrounds.

 

Bray Wanderers playmaker Ryan Brennan confirmed he'd miss two months with a broken knee.

 

Sue Ronan unveiled her 22-strong squad for the Welsh training camp.

 

Belvedere were crowned Junior Masters champions at the AUL Complex.

 

IN-DEPTH

 

Test your League of Ireland/Women's National League knowledge in the rebooted Extratime.ie Weekly Quiz.

 

Dundalk captain Stephen O'Donnell told Caoimhin Reilly the Lilywhites can still progress to the Champions League despite a 2-0 home loss to Legia Warsaw.

 

Dan Lucey chatted to former Shelbourne star and Soccer Republic pundit Stuey Byrne about the transition from footballer to journalist.

 

Liam Buckley talked about 'the proverbial game of two halves' that saw his St Patrick's Athletic side overcome Martin Russell's Limerick in the FAI Cup.

 

And Aaron Gallagher spoke to goalscorer Conan Byrne as he made a long-awaited return to the scoresheet to help the Saints to victory.

 

Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley told Dave Donnelly the Hoops are on the verge of putting six or seven goals on a team following the win over Wexford Youths. They went on to beat Athlone Town 5-0 in the Cup.