America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – my sporting New York

And as the best golfers in the world hack their way around Winged Foot on the outskirts of New York I’ll drive you around one of the world’s great sports cities with my sporting New York.

Anyone for Tennis

Flushing Meadows, Queens: And we’ve just put down our rackets at the Billie Jean King Center

Home to American tennis’s biggest tournament since 1978 it became a big deal to the residents of Queens obvs and especially my NY rellies.

To whom it gave casual work when they would dream of booming down winning serves.

 

The US Open is a treat awaiting me when I next pitch up there. And it’s hot dogs rather than strawberry and cream.

The Garden

The Mecca for boxing before Vegas and in many traditionalists’ eyes still the place to trade punches.

But I’ve not come here, to Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, for a fight, but a dance.

It’s a Halloween and we’re staying in SoHo and I’ve brought my nine-year-old daughterie here for an ice-skate. Like a real New Yorker.

And like a real New Yorker you’ll be wanting to follow the Rangers in the Garden.

It means something else in New York than in Glasgow, and it’s ice hockey so that’s OK.

Knickerbockers… how sweet!

You’ll know them as the Knicks, New York’s basketball team but the original name was the Knickerbockers.

Knickerbockers are what Americans call plus-fours.

Father Knickerbocker was the symbol of New York, channeling the Dutch influence because they too wore their trousers to just below the knee.

Now all you need is one of those vests (hell, the Americans call them waistcoats) but you know what I mean. And a big foam finger.

Yes, they too play at the Garden.

And Brooklyn has a team too

Brooklyn Nets, Brooklyn: Brooklyn is a proud borough (aren’t they all?) which we probably know best for its bridge and the now defunct and romantic baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

But here they have a basketball team too. And the name that jumps out from their roster here is All-Star Kevin Durant.

So that leaves the Yankees and the Mets

New York Yankees, The Bronx, and the New York Mets, Queens: And what they all dream of in New York is a subway series which is a derby to you and me.

Although obviously it turns into a nightmare if you end up on the losing side. My old New York brother and sister friends Tom and Kate informed me that if we were to remain friends then I’d have to pull for the Mets.

I even have the baseball bat and ball here with me on my desk to remind me.

While Kate has few illusions about her beloved Mets who lost the World Subway Series of 2000 to the ‘Damned’ Yankees. ‘They always break your heart, those Mets,’ she sighed.

Their football

Even before we got into the Kevin James sitcom, the King of Queens, I was already being pulled this way by my Uncle Eddie on my first trip to New York, after school.

Uncle Eddie, a proud son of Donegal, now living in Long Island supported the neighbouring Queens teams and particularly the New York Jets.

Whisper it but they’re no longer a Queens team, playing their games in New Jersey. As do their great rivals, the New York Giants. Yes, the same stadium, and that’s another subject we’ll get into sometime.

Then there’s ours

And the New Yorkers look to have embraced our football having flirted with it back in the day with Pele, Beckenbauer and the New York Cosmos.

New York City only has the one team their fans will be quick to tell you, in much the same way that their sister franchise Manchester City supporters will inform you that is the case in Manchester, with United playing in Salford.

New York Red Bulls, the older club, play their games in New Jersey.

This tie-up is as close to a grudge soccer match as you’ll get in the US.

You want more New York… then check out this Old New York piece of old.

MEET YOU AT THE GAME

America, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

Football’s back – take your pick

Now it all depends on whether you’re American, English, Irish or Australian who all embrace their football game.

It’s in the human DNA you see since the day Cain decided to kick Abel’s skull into a ditch.

So here are some thoughts on some of the teams I’ve adopted from my travels.

Touchdown

Off Pat

New England Patriots: I don’t know if you’re allowed it but I adopt all the American sports teams wherever I go.

It does make it easier to pick a winner if you’ve got the New York Jets (my Long Island cousins’-team), the Washington Redskins who are now looking for a new team, and the Denver Broncos.

It’s just that you go with the team where you spend the most time… and that was my summer after university in Boston.

Hoop dreams

All’s Well: Celtic v Motherwell. www.celticfc.net

And I had little choice growing up in Glasgow in the Seventies where Catholics and Protestants didn’t mix to choose Celtic.

Particularly as my Great-Uncles had built Celtic Park.

But Scots kids were allowed too to have an English team and I chose Liverpool.

Forward fast to the Nineties, had a son on Merseyside and it came full circle with The Son and Heir becoming a fully-fledged Red.

GAA-GAA

Prize guys: Donegal

In Ireland, soccer (football) was known as a Garrison game, a preserve of the occupying British Army.

And Gaelic Football, Camogie (the female version) and the stick game hurling were the Irish sports.

I could pick any of Donegal, my Dear Old Mum’s county, Dublin where I worked for 13 years or Co. Wicklow, my adopted home.

But as my Mum drummed it into us as kids that Donegal was the best place on Earth.

And that the rest of Ireland hate serial winners Dublin, it has to be Donegal.

Perth, WA

What’s up your sleeve?

My bonds with Western Australia started when my parents took me back a jersey of the West Coast Eagles. Minus the sleeves of course.

And continued when I joined a Top Deck booze bus to the Oktoberfest in Munich and discovered they were all Aussies and Kiwis.

Fast forward six months and Brownie and Smutley had arrived on my Aberdeen doorstep and went on to set up a WA colony there with their friends.

My one and only Aussie Rules football game was with an English guy at Surrey’s cricket ground, The Oval.

I remember Collingwood were one of the teams but don’t recall the other.

Collingwood are the New England Patriots, Dublin or Manchester United of their country.

Everybody else dislikes them unless you’re one of them.

MEET YOU ON THE PITCH

Countries, Deals, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

Holiday Snaps – the Venice ghetto

Much has been made about how Venice has been allowed to breathe again.

As the crowds have eased with dolphins leaping in the Grand Canal and mermaids sitting by the Rialto Bridge.

Of course, in spite of what everyone says you can get away from the crowds in St Mark’s Square.

IMG_0841
Walking on water: From the annals

One obvious place to go is a church and don’t worry if you’re not religious you’ll be bowled over by the art.

While you can leave the young (and old) lovers on their gondolas while you retreat for a bit of history in the Jewish ghetto.

Although you won’t make the same mistake and turn up on their Sabbath, Saturday.

Anyhoos, while there is never a bad time to go to Venice, there are some great deals just now.

With Ireland’s national airline carrier Aer Lingus offering Dublin-Venice from €29.99 for travel until November 30. Book by September 14.

Hitting the slopes again

location-vacances-residence-le-sequoia-pyrenees-2000-PYL_62148_34
Snow business: In the Pyrenees

I can rarely be accused of not keeping my social distancing on the slopes… I’ve usually veered off piste, heading obviously for a fall.

But, of course, like everywhere and everything the ski industry has had to adapt to this virus, and they are.

And the good news for the punter is that they are bending over backwards (a bit like me in a heap on the snow) to lure us back on the slopes.

Pierre & Vacances have ‘a new flexible rate’ only requires a €1 deposit to book.

And you can cancel free of charge if you change your mind.

They also have an early booking offer with savings of up to 20% for all winter dates.

For bookings until September 23 while they pledge to refund the difference if you find it cheaper elsewhere.

You want a deal? Of course you do and this a Christmas one too.

You’ll get seven nights at the Residence Le Sequoia in Font-Romeu in the Pyrenees down from €609 to €488 from December 19-26.

That man Van again

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Put your hat on it: Van Morrison at the Europa

And this is tailor-made for social distancing, Van Morrison in a cabaret setting at the Europa Hotel, Belfast, which I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying.

The concerts will take place over three nights on October 29, 30 and 31.

Tickets which you can get from Ticketmaster will be sold in pairs or by tables of eight and the maximum number at each show will be 184.

You’ll get a drinks reception beforehand (remember them!) and a two-course supper.

Prices for the first two rows are available at £250pp, or £2,000 for a table of eight.

And all other tickets are £150pp or £1,2000 per table of eight.

8And there are a host of attractions on the doorstep.

If you can pull yourself away from the nearby Crown Bar such as the excellent Ulster Museum, Grand Opera House and Titanic Belfast.

 

America, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Le Tour de Friends

You’d think you’d get splendid isolation at the top of the most cycled climb, Le Col du Tourmalet, but you don’t. It’s the Tour de Friends!

I have a chequered history of cycling which shouldn’t qualify me to join my fellow Scot Robert Millar in that chequered shirt as King of the Mountains.

Hiring bikes with the-then Miss F in Cabanas in the Algarve I was eating dust yards into our ride.

There’s always another mountain

While I also took a turn too sharply in the Ria Formosa in Quinta Do Lago and almost ended up in the lake.

But that didn’t put me off when I started working nights and opted to cycle in and, out of Edinburgh, through Holyrood Park to the office.

And I’ve got the lead

Never mind the Tour de France, the Tour d’Edinburgh is the real endurance test!

I’ve had lads party spray paint me when I was on my bike, been waterbombed and been knocked off my bike.

And I even had time to drop off for a bier

But I got there in the end… ‘on top of the world, Ma.’

With a little help from my friends.

I’ll let you into a secret here. I only borrowed a real rider’s bike at the top of the Pyrenees… don’t tell.

Mind you this is the Tour where the rules are there to be bent.

Whaddya mean? This is refuelling

The Tour started this weekend and I’m thinking they’ll have a devil of a time stopping the public come out to cheer.

Vive Le Tour!

And newsflash here from A Queer in Provence who has sent me his vlog on Le Grand Depart from Nice…. https://youtu.be/XQ2Udd7rcLg

Paralympic heroes

Prize guy: Ireland’s Paralympic hero Mark Rohan

As a young lad running around the UK’s boggy fields and dirty streets I always envisaged that I would get my hands on Olympic gold.

The Olympics’ loss was Newspapers’ gain.

But destiny was calling when I met Irish Paralympian hero Brian Rohan at The Campus in Quinta do Lago.

I’d thought of running off with his medal but he’d have hunted me down in that dream machine.

The Paralympics were due to have started this weekend… but it will be back in Japan next year. Don’t miss it!

Chuck me a hot dog

Fan-tastic… the Angels in Anaheim

With two thousand fans being allowed in at Brighton’s ground for their friendly with Chelsea.

And Scottish rugby bringing back a sprinkling of supporters into Murrayfield for the Glasgow v Edinburgh match.

It beggars the question… how do we get fed?

Well, here’s something we could take from American sport… the chucked hot dog.

Where’s the mustard?

As I lapped up (including the mustard) at the California Angels game in Anaheim.

Maybe pass the Bovril along the line though.

MEET YOU AT THE BALL GAME

America, Countries, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – slam dunk, the NBA

I was immediately marked out as a spectator and not a player.

When my cousin Maura threw me into a game of pick-up basketball with her boyfriend John in Queens, New York.

Basketball had always been a novelty game for milk bottle white Scotsmen whose only connection with the game was The Harlem Globetrotters.

A free throw anyone?

Until I got to America.

And saw the importance of the game on that visit to see my cousins in New York and then four years later in Boston.

Where I would pass by the statue of Boston Celtics’ legendary coach Red Auerbach.

Outside Quincy Market at Faneul Hall where I was a bus boy at GuadalaHarry’s and ice cream salesman at a parlour.

Anyhoos I had myself my basketball team.

And despite warming to all the teams in North American cities I’ve passed through in the years since.

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, LA Lakers and Clippers, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.

nba-orlando-magic-mickey-mouse-basketball.jpg

I was a Celtics fan. Which wasn’t a huge jump from my young days following a football team, Celtic in Glasgow.

This was my year for my long-awaited return to Boston 33 years but COVID has stalled that on the plate.

When I would also fulfil an ambition I didn’t even know I had.

The home of baseball: Fenway Park

To walk the Fenway Park Green Monster perimeter where I’d seen the Red Sox hit their home runs that 1987 season.

The NBA play-offs are playing out in a DisneyWorld bubble in Orlando.

And you should catch it on whichever channels you pick up.

MEET YOU ON THE COURT

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Aberdeen postponed

My Sporting Weekend normally addresses what is going on… not what’s not, but this weekend I’m kicking off with Aberdeen postponed.

Now Aberdeen is a city I adore.

It’s where I grew up through four years at university while I returned in my mid-20s.

To work as a sports writer and cover the local favourites, Aberdeen FC, the Dons.

Aberdeen’s Pittodrie Stadium backs on to the Aberdeen Links golf course and seagulls clack above you when you sit in the stands.

Listen to me: And Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes is leading by example

It is the first all-seater stadium in the UK and is a fulfilling experience.

Except when the Dons lose which is a lot more regularly when I covered them.

And they were the unchallenged second best team in the land, behind Rangers.

The Granite City

So just why a number of their players were in a bar after the match and contracted COVID-19 is beyond me.

Because the legends from Alex Ferguson’s teams of the Eighties which conquered Europe would have gone home and hidden.

In a dark room if they had been beaten by Rangers.

Today’s scheduled game with St Johnstone has been postponed.

Which I hope will give the players some time to think about how they have let their club down.

Neigh Dublin Horse Show this year

Ship ahoy/ The Stena Dublin Horse Show

The summer highlight in the exclusive Dublin 4 area of the Irish capital is the Dublin Horse Show.

Out of rugby season (the only winter game in this part of town) it’s all about the Horse Show, sponsored by Stena.

Now to say that Stena put on a show for their friends is selling them short.

Because after being wined and dined and schmoozed you’ll be as floaty as their ferries.

While there’s nothing like getting up close and personal with those wonderful horses and seeing them leap over those huge fences and skyscraping wall.

This might seem like a refusal at a fence just now but surely we’ll get some movement for next year.

Snooker, a longer cue

And in a former life too I was a snooker writer.

I annually covered the Rothmans Grand Prix and the local Reading scene in the south of England.

In those days in the Eighties the snooker world was smaller, British and white Commonwealth countries.

Asia was beginning to embrace the game with James Thaiphoon Wattana the standard-bearer.

The game has exploded in the Far East since and it is surely only a matter of time until we have an Asian world champion.

Which will be a bit like the game coming home as it was India where it was born.

Golf, but no galleries

You’re the man: Vegas

The USPGA Championship is being played out in front of only the birdies at the TPC Harding Park, San Francisco.

San Fran is a city I had intended to visit for the first time this summer.

Having ticked off West Hollywood and LA last summer when I joined the galaxy of stars and Star Wars with Visit California.

And I reckon I have game too which I showed in Las Vegas.

No crowds means no crush although you only really appreciate the contours of a green when you get to the course.

But you are spared a fat polo-shirted and shorted balding guy shouting ‘You the Man’ from behind the tee.

I’ll just have to do it from the sofa instead.

 

 

 

Countries, Deals, Europe, Sport, UK

Fun on the water in Corfu and Lake Geneva

I know you think I walk on water but I really don’t.

I’ve swallowed more sea… in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, the Mediterranean, and the Red Sea doing water sports than a puffer fish, who incidentally I never did get deep enough to see.

But I do persist and got to see me my turtles and rainbow fish in the Caribbean,

Let’s walk on that… Corfu

All of which messing around on the water brings me around to Corfu where Ryanair will fly you for €24.99 single which is 30% off.

And where my waterskiing career dived just as it began on honeymoon though thankfully the marriage bit has lasted,

Because I learned early where the Scary One is concerned that ‘when she wants my opinion she’ll give it to me.’

Window to the world: Ryanair

Ryanair has a range of offers which end midnight tomorrow, August 6.

But we’re zeroing in on this sample on Greece with Chania (€31.87) and Thessaloniki (€29.99).

And Greece’s Second City my Hellenophile pals assure me from my Greek Odyssey is the real jewel of Greece.

Or surfing in Switzerland

Pictures of Switzerland

And yes you know it, you can surf in the most surprising places as I did on that cruise ship in Barcelona.

With my old friends Royal Caribbean and my new pal, Irish surfer Gearoid McDaid, on Odyssey of the Seas.

All you need is a board, a body of water for a swell which you can get too in landlocked countries.

Zurich-West is one of the places to see and be seen with its urban surf centre, flowing drinks, sumptuous food and rocking music.

Professional instructors are on hand and I do hope they have more to work with than Gearoid had with me on FlowRider.

Watery playground

Zurich, of course, has its own natural watery playground, Lake Zurich where you can learn to sail or be sailed.

As well as the public outdoor pools where you can enjoy your pool experience.

Switzerland we all know from skiing but those mountains are transformed in the summer into hiking heaven.

Jump in: Lake Geneva

Stay at the grand dame Baur au Lac Hotel overnight stay including breakfast and two-hour vintage boat trip on Lake Zurich.

The real deal

With driver and Baur au Lac pucnic basket for two from 990CHF (€906/£819) and each additional night 450CHF (€411/£371.71) for two.

Baur au Lac has rooms from 695CHF (€634/£573) per night based on two adults sharing a Deluxe Double on room-only basis.

MEET YOU ON THE SWELL

Adventure, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, Sport, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Austria you to me are everything

I could move a mountain when my hand is in your hand – The Real Thing

Whether The Real Thing had the Alps in mind I don’t know but they know the band all right in Soll… and Austria you to me are everything.

Songs often jump up and hook us randomly in the places we hear them the most.

And You To Me Are Everything rocked out every night at the Whisky Muhle.

I skied some of those mountains… yeah, right!

Where Alex Johnson, the singer, belts out rock classics, while the locals pour Jagermeisters down his gullet.

And he announces every night that You To Me Are Everything is the best song of all time.

And Alex does the ‘best song of all time’ justice, and a bunch of others with his ‘Candy’ well worth a mention.

I even forgave him saying that Paolo Nutini had ripped it off REM.

I’ll be in one of those huts

All this, and did I say that they have a game where you hammer a nail into a block of plywood with the acute end?

Which funnily enough you won’t see in the pubs of Glasgow, Liverpool or Dublin.

We travelled to Soll with ski specialists Top Flight and I have hiked up the hills with them too since.

And that’ll be the beer then

Top Flight, who also with good reason call themselves the Italy specialists, are suffering like so many in Travel.

And they had to make the heartbreaking decision to let some staff go last week.

Which I know from dealing with them would have been the last thing they would have wanted.

It may seem like all uphill right now while downhill doesn’t seem too appealing either.

And the locals are real friendly

But skiing proves that we can ride the bumps and come out still standing at the end of it all.

And there’s a Jagermaester at the end of it all at the end of it all and a rocking music set. It’s apres-ski and it’s everything.

*Everything – The Real Life Story which chronicles the career of the first all-black British band to reach No.1 in the UK charts screens on BBC Four on Friday at 9pm.

Countries, Culture, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Royal Portrush

The rain in Northern Ireland is horizontal and the bar was 20 deep, pushing me to the apron of the canopy. My Sporting Weekend this weekend last year was Royal Portrush.

As golf reflects on its missed Open this weekend we all hark back to that magical week last year.

When the game’s oldest and greatest competition returned to Northern Ireland after 67 years.

Come rain or Shane

And Ireland’s own Shane Lowry crowned it all by taking the iconic Claret Jug.

The good news for Shane is that he is still Champion Golfer and will hold onto the trophy for another year.

I just about handed it back after I got the obligatory picture at Portrush.

The Co. Antrim course is credited with putting on one of the best Open Golf Championships in many a year in spite of the pelting rain.

Fantastic

The hospitality and the interactive golfing activities in the tents were second to none while the banter of the locals was relentless.

The course was set up wonderfully well with the intersections across the holes allowing you to take in multiple games.

Of course to get the best view you want to either get your steps out to see over the tall American in front of you.

Or just hunker down by the apron of the green.

Those trousers will dry themselves out.

Northern exposure

Though if you want to you can take shelter in the grandstands.

All of this, of course, makes us hanker after the return of spectators to the Royal and Ancient Game.

While Shane rightfully took the plaudits he would be first to accept that Northern Ireland was as big a winner over the week.

Sometimes we take for granted what we are used to.

And Northern Ireland is an old friend (jeez it’s the Murtys homeland from before the 18th century when they decamped to Scotland).

Clayton comforts

But from the moment that we arrived at the Clayton Hotel in Belfast http://www.claytonhotelbelfast.com.

And ate one of their famous ‘wee’ Ulster Frys to set us up for the final day on the course we were treated like Kings.

By our friends in the North, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board http://www.discovernorthernireland.com.

With the air full of optimism (and water) last year the hope was that the Open http://www.theopen.com would be returning to the Antrim coastline soon.

Get the drinks in

The only thing I would change is that I get to the bar quicker.

And that Scotland produce a player in the next couple of years.

To bring the Claret Jock back to the Home of Golf.

And for more on Northern Ireland, check out Belfast Chilled and Belfast’s rich tapestry

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Boxing clever

And in the blue corner ‘Jugular Jim’ Murty and in the red corner ‘The Clones Cyclone’ Barry McGuigan.

We ought to start at the very beginning here when a sallow cub reporter was sent by his news editor to talk to the boxing champion.

Barry was appearing in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and I asked the former World Heavyweight champion which dwarf would he be playing.

Take that: Barry in action against Eusebio Pedroza

He bristled before regaining his composure.

On returning to the office my news editor fell upon the idea of us putting on a pretend sparring session.

All of which circling around the ring brings me onto the return of boxing in England this weekend.

There won’t, of course, be a crowd but one of the upsides is that we’ll be able to hear every thud and grimace more clearly.

Which you can only really do otherwise if you’re ringside.

Which I was lucky enough to be in my spell as a boxing writer in the Nineties covering the likes of Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Pat Clinton in Glasgow https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/.

A broad canvas: The Garden

Of course the Mecca for boxing is the US and it is every boxer’s dream to fight at Madison Square Garden and Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas.

Next year: In Vegas

And every fight fan (hands up) too… and while I love both cities https://www.google.com/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/28/old-new-york-hamilton/amp/ and Strip… the light fantastic I’ve yet to see ring action there.

See also www.lvcva.com and www.nycvb.com.

MEET YOU RINGSIDE