Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Guest-post on Hurley Repairs in Prison

I wrote a guest-post today for Irish sports-blog Action81. 

It's not strictly speaking about women's sport but the story on getting hurleys repaired inside a prison is definitely worth a look.

(For my outside-Ireland readers - Hurleys btw are the ash sticks used in our national games of camogie for women and hurling for men as seen above)

The post is at: Action81: Hurleys on the Mend behind Bars.   You can also follow Action81 on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Afghanistan women's boxing

I know this is Wordless Wednesday but these shots need some explaining: 

They're stills or possibly promo shots from a new Canadian documentary called 'The Boxing Girls of Kabul' directed by Ariel Nasr.
I found them on Tumblr via WSN247


Friday, June 14, 2013

An Epicycle in London via France

Irish surfer Easkey Britton has been tweeting pictures from her trapeze classes this week. She inspired me to find a circus video for today's post ... and Vimeo threw up this rather fabulous picture-sequence of French group CirkVOST preparing their Epicycle in London's Piccadilly Circus. The blurb says: 'The work of the French group CirkVOST, Epicycle is a show on an enormous architectural scale. Here Ludovic des Cognets' photographs follow the piece from rehearsal to performance in Piccadilly Circus Circus - Crying Out Loud's massive circus event in London on 2nd September, 2012.' Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Legacy of London2012 starts to appear

Tiki Gelana, Ethiopia wins the Marathon London2012
Some exciting news for women in sport today as the BBC announce a new series looking at Olympic Sports. Presented by soccer-commentary queen Gabby Logan the series will look at the story behind the sports – getting ready for Rio 2016 just a bit early.

Anyone with a passing interest in media coverage of sport will notice that for whatever reason women’s sport gets front page during the Olympics. So while details are thin on the ground yet, this could be a great way to keep the London 2012 momentum going.

The first episode of ‘Inspire: The Olympic Journey’ is with British cyclist Chris Hoy. He does have six Olympic gold medals so even I couldn’t quibble with that.

Barbara Slater, the director at BBC Sport said: "London 2012 was a once-in-a-lifetime event that inspired the nation and provided the ideal opportunity for us to harness an unparalleled enthusiasm for sports. I'm delighted that Gabby Logan - one of our most popular presenters - will present Inspire: The Olympic Journey, continuing our ongoing commitment to Olympic and Commonwealth sports.

And in a practical move the broadcaster is also running a ‘Get Inspired’ initiative – encouraging people to find out more about sport … and get in there!

The series goes to air on June 27th.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Watch and play women's rugby for Summer 2013

Sun is finally out in Ireland so must be time for tag rugby season to being. I saw a few notices around this week loooking for female players - and not just for tag rugby but also the main game. 

The Lionesses is possibly the best women's only team-name around this summer, considering the men's Lions team is off Down Under taking on Australia. They may still be taking players although it is a few weeks into their tag season in Dublin - Women's Only Tag

Left is a poster from the Munster Rugby camp - more info here. or just download that poster. 

And in the build-up to Rio 2016, the Irish women's Rugby 7s team is continuing to do really well. They won the Plate comp a few days ago at the FIRA-AER European Sevens Grand Prix Series in Brive, France. And looking good for their first time out at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow. 

First women's matches are on June 29th across the four pools - each with four countries. Ireland is facing South Africa, Australia and China. I have to admit to knowing very little about women's rugby in China so looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

You can see the impact of including this sport for Rio 2016 already with increased media attention but more importantly more support from national sporting organisations. Some interesting things arising from that magnetic pull - like Canadian bobsledder and Olympian Heather Moyse coming out of retirement to play rugby as well as her specialist winter sport again. 

More info on the Rugby World Cup Sevens website.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What it takes to be a Cutman

When we think of the people who get fighters into the ring, the coach comes first to mind. But we don't always think of the cutman - the man or woman who keeps a fighter's skin together. In Ireland Joseph Clifford is dragging this ancient art kicking and screaming into the modern day ....

The bell goes to pause the fight, and one boxer slumps in the corner, blood flowing. His cutman carefully applies what looks like Vaseline to the open cut. But as the fighter winces and the blood stops, it’s clear there’s something else in there.

Joseph Clifford’s journey to cutman training started when he realised that mixture was as likely to be Superglue as adrenaline. Now running Ireland’s only course, he’s set to gain European recognition in June when the first Europe-wide conference takes place in Belfast.

The role of the cutman is swathed in mystery but Clifford says it just comes down to hygiene and medication plus a good understanding of common injuries like concussion.

“When people come to the course, they think it’s just about cuts. And you do get individuals who think the Holy Water and a “how’s your father” will get the fighter back in the ring.

“But really it’s about hygiene, stopping cross-contamination,” he says.

With the sun beating down on a glorious day in Wicklow, his stories of the damage an ill-prepared cutman can do put a cloud on the day.

He has seen the infamous Superglue fix-up, but also bloody swabs tucked behind an ear and then rubbed over the cut again, bare hands holding bloody mouth-guards before shoving it into someone’s mouth. He also mentions bloody ice-buckets shared between fighters, and cotton swabs casually hanging from baseball caps as people go about their work.

He’s been running the course since 2008, and has even graduated 12 female cutmen (the language hasn’t moved on, get over it) to add to his stable.

“Promoters have been very positive in general, although there are those who see it as an added expense. But if the fighter gets cut at a title fight and the cutman keeps him in the fight, then that’s the proof,” Clifford says.

He explained paramedics and doctors are there for serious injuries, they have no sporting interest in the fight. But cutmen tend to be coaches or former fighters – people who understand that when it’s medically safe to do so, all fighters just want to box on.

Irish Fighter magazine

“It’s not to keep the fight going at all costs. We are not going to lift some guy off the stool and throw him back in again. If he is all over the place, then that’s it,” he says.


Clifford’s own background in health science led him to understand keeping fighters going is as much about science as stopping blood.

He says there are different dosages of allowable drugs depending on the relevant Commission, but many untrained people just aren’t sure how to administer them.

Adrenaline is the drug which first comes to most people’s minds – the quick shock to the system that temporarily stops bleeding. But how much do you use?

Clifford says students on the course learn what and when to administer, and what other drugs can be just as useful. Correct dosage is also a pretty vital skill.  

So what about that superglue? He laughs, says it’s hard to believe but logical in some perverse way.

“Superglue in Vaseline, that’s one I’ve seen. Monsel’s Solution, that stuff is lethal. It causes cauterisation so the scar tissue is very thin and it doesn’t heal. You have to get the cut re-opened and re-sealed afterwards.”

Monsel’s Solution by the way was banned internationally in the 1940s but that doesn’t seem to have reached everyone’s ears.

Clifford says at the end of the day, cutmen want to stop bleeding but some injuries only show up after the fight so they need these extra skills.

Many boxers only show serious signs of concussion or even paraplegia hours after the fight. There may or may not be a doctor around but the cutman is right there or at least at the end of a phone.

It’s this dedication to detail which caught the eye of Frederico Catizone, head of the International Cutman’s Association. He is travelling to Belfast on June 16th to see a course in action, and assess it to set a new European standard.

Joseph Clifford at work PIC via Joseph Clifford on Twitter @Irishcutman

When a cutman is a woman ... 

One of the changes Clifford is bringing in is including women on his training panel – not something that’s really been seen before in Ireland.  
“It is one thing to do the cuts as a man, but as a female demanding the respect is harder. People have never refused a female cutsman but let’s say there has been reluctant participation at times.

“Men will jump on the first mistake women make so I say to the girls: ‘don’t ask for respect, demand it’ and they’re fine,” Clifford says.  


So what does it take to be cutsman? It’s all about the personality apparently – firm, friendly and fair.

And just a few other things as well; Clifford lists his Four P’s – preparation, professionalism, personality and punctuality.

The atmosphere in a ring or cage is charged, tempers are tight and can easily snap. So the cutman has to stay calm, this is especially important on MMA shows where the cutman works with all the fighters in one corner.

Things can get tense.

Clifford says: “If you jump in the ring and have too much intensity, that makes people uncomfortable. And also if you see a bad cut and show by your reaction that you’re scared, it’s not good.

“You have to be dead-pan, be calm.”

This article first appeared in the June 2013 edition of Irish Fighter.

The next Cutman course is in the Balmoral Hotel, Belfast on Sunday June 16th.