Category Archives: Sport

Social Media transformation for North West 200

Over the last number of years, social media sites have helped to raise the profile of sporting events.

A number of different sports have introduced ways that fans can keep up to date with events even when they cannot be in attendance. Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter have been hailed as the go to places in terms of information.

As the 2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 approaches, Aaron O’Neill has been looking into the ways that social media have helped transform the event.  The following video gives us a little insight into how social media has helped the event.





Marquez on the victory march in Argentina.

With the 2017 MotoGP season getting underway, Round 2 of the Championship took place this weekend at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina.

Pre-race speculation suggested that three-time World Champion, Marc Marquez, was the man to beat around the 2.98 mile circuit. Marquez looked as though he was going to do the business after he put his Repsol Honda on Pole Position after Saturday’s qualifying session.

British hopeful, Cal Crutchlow, also qualified strongly as he finished up third on the grid heading into Sunday’s race. Crutchlow had previously had a taste of success at this event as he was a podium finisher in Argentina back in 2015 and was surely aiming to repeat this feat two years on.

After a lacklustre qualifying session, many of the so-called front-runners failed to capitalise and make it onto the first few rows of the grid. Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and the eventual race winner, Maverick Viñales, struggled to come to grips with conditions in Argentina. A poor showing from the MotoGP stars resulted in them having to launch their attack from further down the field come Sunday’s race.

As the race got underway in dry conditions, Marquez looked like a man on a mission. He seemed to have re-gained his confidence after his spill in the morning warm-up. After 3 laps Marquez looked to be well away at the front after opening up a 2-second lead from Crutchlow in second.

Just when it looked like Marquez had it in the bag, disaster struck. The Spaniard crashed out of the lead at turn two leaving the door open for Crutchlow, Viñales and Rossi to battle it out for the podium positions. Honda team-mate and fellow countryman, Dani Pedrosa also crashed out of the race whilst in a steady fifth position. Both riders’ were critical of the new Michelin tyres indicating that a lack of temperature in the rear was the reason for them ending up in the gravel.

Some great battling between the front three saw Viñales make it two from two, to get his season off to the best possible start. Yamaha teammate, Valentino Rossi and Satellite Honda rider Cal Crutchlow completed the podium positions, finishing second and third respectively.

In a post race interview Viñales said, “It is great to get another win under my belt, my bike was working well and I hope this is a sign of things to come.”

Both Honda and Ducati struggled this weekend as Pedrosa, Marquez, Dovizioso and reigning world champion, Jorge Lorenzo all crashed out of the race.

At this early stage many people have indicated that the Yamaha boys will be hard to stop this season.

Round three of the Championship takes place in North America. Viñales will be searching for his hat-trick of wins in Texas.

However, the main question is, who can rain on his parade?

For all the latest MotoGP information please visit:

Masters 2017: A fairytale victory for Sergio Garcia

After 73 failed attempts to win a major title the Spaniard held his nerve to clinch the Masters at Augusta National.

“I’m not good enough. I don’t have the thing I need to have. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.”

It was five years ago that Sergio García made this statement after a poor third round at Augusta ended any hopes that the Spaniard would win a coveted major.

The 37 year-old seemed destined to be a habitual bridesmaid throughout his career, but on Sunday he clinched his dreams by landing the Green Jacket after a play-off hole with Justin Rose.

A young Garcia with his hero, Seve Ballesteros.

It was a fitting scene. On the weekend of his late hero, Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday, the Borriol native conquered his demons by landing the vital blow on the 18th green to win the 81st Masters.

In typical fashion, García made himself and his strong legion of fans go through every emotion as he went toe-to-toe with Olympic champion and one-time major winner, Justin Rose. A bogey at the 10th hole meant the Spaniard trailed his Ryder Cup companion, but a fantastic eagle at 15 levelled the scores after a Rose birdie.

It was gripping television for the viewer right through to the 18th green as both players had birdie opportunities to gain the upper hand. First up was the cool and talented Rose, but as his putt looked destined to find the bottom of the cup, it trickled narrowly wide.

An emotional Garcia after losing to Padraig Harrington in a play-off for the The Open Championship in 2007.

This presented Garcia with the perfect opportunity to seize the moment, but as his putt never looked destined to trouble the hole, it might have conjured memories of the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie, where García also had a putt for victory at the 72nd hole, missed it and then lost in a playoff to Padraig Harrington.

The drama was to continue as both players – who are also close friends away from the course – were tasked with a tense tee-shot in the play-off. García was the one whose drive found the fairway while Rose’s ball ricocheted off a tree and came to rest in the pine needles, in front of a pine cone. Rose’s pitch landed short of the green while García stuck his approach to 12 feet.

The Spaniard celebrates after securing his first major title.

Once Rose tapped in for bogey, the spotlight belonged to the popular Spaniard who sunk his birdie putt and fell to his knees after realising the significance of his achievement.

“Obviously, this is something I wanted to do for a long time,” García said,

“But, you know, it never felt like a horror movie. It felt like a little bit of a drama, but obviously with a happy ending.”

A happy ending indeed for one of golf’s fantastic talents.

Harkin: ‘I can’t wait for the cup final’

COLERAINE midfielder Ciaron Harkin speaks to Jonathan McNabb ahead of tomorrow’s Irish Cup final against Linfield…

Ciaron Harkin admits he is looking forward to ‘a great experience’ when he faces Linfield in tomorrow’s Irish Cup final (KO 2:30pm).

The tireless midfielder joined the Bannsiders in January following a spell with Institute and hopes he can bring the trophy back to the Ballycastle Road for the sixth time in the club’s history.

The 20-year-old also revealed he nearly missed out on the run to the final as he could have been cup tied if he played for Institute in the 4th round of the competition.

Listen to the video below:

Jackson leads Ulster to crucial victory over Leinster

A stunning performance from half-back partnership Paddy Jackson and Ruan Pienaar left Ulster to a priceless 30-6 victory over provincial rivals Leinster on Saturday.

At a packed out Kingspan Stadium, the Northern Province knew that only a win would keep their title winning hopes alive. In the penultimate weekend of the Guinness Pro-12 season, Ulster’s hopes of a semi-final berth hung in the balance.

Early in the game, it was the southern visitors that applied the early pressure but they failed to capitalise, penalised for holding on five metres from Ulster’s line. It was Ulster who then struck first blood with a Jackson penalty, which was shortly followed by a penalty try.

From then on, Leinster were always chasing the game, two penalties before half-time from outside half Jonathan Sexton kept them in the hunt. However, it was ultimately Ulster’s dogged defenced which ensured victory for the men in white.

Sustaining early pressure near their try line at the start of both halves frustrated Sexton and co, and it wasn’t long before Ulster applied their own second half pressure. A sweeping move involving Pienaar, Jackson and Luke Marshall sent fullback Jared Payne over for the try which really killed the game off as a contest.

Fittingly, it was Ulster’s 24-year-old fly half Jackson who had the final say on this occasion. He rounded off a fine individual performance both in defence, attack and from the tee firstly through a thumping tackle on Ian Madigan. Then, moments later, it was Jackson who intercepted a Leinster pass before displaying great speed to race the length of the pitch for the game’s final try.

In front of the on-looking Joe Schmidt, Jackson was clearly the standout number 10 on a field which consisted of the two men, Sexton and Madigan, who in recent times have been the preferred choices of Schmidt for a place in the Ireland squad.

It was a performance that kept Ulster’s season alive. They now go to Wales to play the Ospreys, knowing that a victory there will see them into the Semi Final stage.

In a season of inconsistency from an Ulster side who on paper should be a match for anyone in the Northern Hemisphere, this result suggested how good a side they could really be. With one more week of the regular season remaining, it really is all to play for, for the Ulstermen.

Ten hour mountain bike race for Glenarm in Antrim

Northern Irish mountain bikers will have their endurance tested in a ten hour race taking place in Glenarm, Co. Antrim as part of the Dalriada Festival on July 23.

The event, known as “10 in the Glen”, involves solo mountain bike riders or teams competing to complete as many laps of a 6km loop as they can in ten hours. While similar events have taken place in England, Scotland and Wales, this is the first race of this scale in Northern Ireland.

The course in Glenarm consists of sections of single speed track, gravel trails and forest runs, suitable for both novice and intermediate mountain bikers. Each team and solo rider will be designated a pit area along the race track for making repairs and resting up between laps.

Ian Cumming, Director of 26 Extreme, a company that runs outdoor events, is managing the race on behalf of the Dalriada Festival. He explained that while events like these are usually “slow to get going”, spaces for the competition are already a quarter full over three months out from race day.

He confirmed that the race will be part of the finale for the Dalriada Festival. He added: “Along with fireworks planned to close the festival, the final few laps should add to the party atmosphere”.

Depending on the success of this year’s event, Mr Cumming is planning to run the ten hour race annually in Glenarm. He is also considering organising similar events in other locations in the province to take place more frequently.

Kevin Purcell, member of Coventry Road Cycling Club, will be travelling from England to compete in the race as part of a team. Mr Purcell, originally from Donegal, was delighted that such an event was being held in Ulster. He said: “We are lucky in Ulster to have such great trails for mountain biking and it is about time a competition like this was organised”.

For more information about the race including entry forms, log on to

Man City and Real Madrid play out goalless stalemate



By Richard O’Reilly

Manchester City and Real Madrid played out a goalless draw, in a cagey first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

Manchester City were buoyed before kickoff, by the news that Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo would not play. The Madrid striker was ruled out of the squad after sustaining a thigh injury in their 3-0 win over Villarreal.

However, City were unable to capitalize on Ronaldo’s absence as chances in the game came at a premium. The best opportunities of the game came in the second half, when substitute Jese headed against the woodwork. City were then indebted to keeper Joe Hart for keeping out Pepe’s point-blank effort. City themselves, didn’t manage an effort on target until a late Kevin De Bryune free-kick was saved by Keylor Navas.


Ronaldo had been rested in Real Madrid’s 3-2 weekend win over Rayo Vallecano, and had been expected to feature at the Etihad stadium, however a simple ‘thumbs down’ from the Portuguese star to the BT Sport pundits confirmed that he would sit this one out. That news would have been welcome in the City dressing room, particularly with City captain Vincent Komapny, being fit and ready to marshal the rearguard.

The hosts pressed the Real Madrid midfield effectively in the first half, primarily through the impressive Fernandinho, however City found themselves rarely able to worry the Madrid back four. City were then left to bemoan the premature removal of David Silva on 41 minutes through injury. The Spanish midfielder was replaced by youngster Kelechi Ihenacho, but the striker who scored twice against stoke at the weekend was unable to affect the score line.

In the second half, the hosts managed to find space for Sergio Aguero to shoot from 20 yards, but the Argentine fired over. The former Athletico Madrid striker endured a frustrating game, with clear-cut chances being few and far between. He remains winless against his former cross-city rivals.

At the other end, Sergio Ramos squandered a free header from a Real Madrid corner when he directed his effort straight at Joe Hart. Real continued to press for a goal as they finished the match stronger than their Manchester counterparts. Jese headed against the bar and Pepe fired his close effort straight at Joe Hart, who had done well to make himself big to keep the effort out. Gareth Bale and Casemiro also came close to breaking the deadlock for Real, before De Bryune’s stoppage-time free-kick was saved.


The result leaves the tie finely poised for the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu. City will perhaps feel that an opportunity was missed to gain a foothold in the tie. The absence of Real Madrid’s most potent attacking threat should have boosted city’s chances. Without Ronaldo, their opponents seemed reluctant to commit men forward.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men will now almost certainly have to score at the Bernabeu on May 4th. Something which no team, other than Real Madrid has managed to do in the Champions League this season.

Air Ambulance Dream Takes Flight.

From being the only province in the UK not to have one, Northern Ireland is set to witness a Helicopter Emergency Service (HEMS) take to the skies to help save lives. The news comes after the well publicised incidents at the North West 200 in 2015 whereby an Air Ambulance was summoned to the coastal circuit to airlift an injured spectator and rider to hospital. Thankfully, both Violet McAfee (spectator) and Stephen Thompson (rider) survived the horrific ordeal. It is believed, a sum in the region of £4 million has been allocated to help get the service up and running. Rodney Connor Trustee of the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance praised the news. “It’s fantastic news for the people of Northern Ireland. We have been stressing for a long-time the importance of this particular service and I’m glad it’s finally being put in place.”

Air Ambulance logo
Northern Ireland Air Ambulance logo.

Northern Ireland is home to approximately 1.8 million people and is the only region in the UK that is not serviced by an Air Ambulance. The latest introduction puts the province in accordance with the rest of the UK.  This latest development is welcomed news to those who have worked tirelessly to foresee that the dream has become a reality. Ian Crowe, a trustee of the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance said: “This has been ongoing for a number of years, I had been contacted by Arlene Foster MLA in 2013 to see if I could scope out the viability of the Air Ambulance service in Northern Ireland. Firstly, I involved the four other trustees’ and together we worked to make happen.”

Ian added, “We gathered information on the topic by visiting some of the other HEMS services and basically learned from them. Obviously we needed government approval so we put together the information we had gathered before presenting it to the then Health Minister Edwin Poots and Arlene Foster MLA who had approached me in the beginning. Both politicians were satisfied by our research and in August 2014 the assembly passed our proposal and we re-ignited the campaign in February 2015.”

The Air Ambulance is set to cost £1.8 million per year to run therefore the trustees’ established the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance Charity in order to help compensate some of the running costs carried by the Air Ambulance. However, Mr. Crowe outlined the Air Ambulance is a necessity in Northern Ireland regardless of the expensive price tag. “It’s crucial now that we have one here in Northern Ireland. We talk about the ‘Golden Hour,’ this is the most crucial moment after a trauma occurs. It’s the time when Paramedics transfer the casualties to trauma centres. Here in Northern Ireland it can take a long time to reach the nearest hospital, for example if a patient has to be taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast from Fermanagh, it can take a bit of time given the infrastructure of the roads in Northern Ireland.”

Ian added, “What the HEMS will do, is it will reduce the timescale from the place of a trauma until the injured party reaches the trauma centre. With the Air Ambulance a casualty can be at a trauma centre in approximately 20 minutes which is a great deal faster than land travel.”

MotoGP rider Eugene Laverty has recently promoted the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance charity during last weekend’s race at Jerez in Spain. Laverty displayed the charity logo on his leathers which helped promote the cause. The Toomebridge man steered his way to finish in ninth place onboard his Aspar Team Ducati during last Sunday’s race in southern Spain .

Rodney Connor another one of the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance Trustees’ has welcomed the news of the HEMS being introduced, Rodney said: “It’s a fantastic facility to have here in Northern Ireland and it’s something we have needed here for a long time. The Air Ambulance has already been a proven success in other parts of the UK and I have no doubt it will be a success in Northern Ireland also.

There has been some debate of where exactly the Air Ambulance should be located creating a difference in opinion amongst the powers that be. Many of the government ministers and trustees’ have indicated that the Air Ambulance should be based at Aldergrove airbase which is located outside Belfast. This would make it an easy place to be tasked from by the Northern Ireland Ambulance service, however Rodney disagrees with this proposal. “I feel the Air Ambulance should be located at St. Angello Airfield in Enniskillen because for me, this Air Ambulance should serve on both sides of the border, almost like a cross border partnership. Enniskillen is the ideal location as it is central to both Belfast and Sligo therefore it is easier for the Air Ambulance to access potential traumas both in the north and south of Ireland.”

One man who was also heavily involved with the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance campaign was the late Dr John Hinds. Dr John was an Anaesthetist at Craigavon Area Hospital but was better known for the medical cover he provided at motorcycling events throughout Ireland and further afield. ‘The flying doctor’ was tragically killed in a freak accident whilst travelling to provide medical assistance to an injured rider during a qualifying session at the Skerries 100 road races in July 2015. This fatality came just weeks after the Newtownards native had come onboard the HEMS campaign and since his death campaigners have been continuously working to achieve what John believed in.

Both Rodney and Ian had worked with Dr John prior to his death and outlined their heart-felt devastation and grief after his untimely death. Ian said, “It was such devastating news, in fact I was actually on holiday in Devon when I received the phone call to inform me of Dr Johns death. I was so shocked. Rodney added, “John’s death was extremely sad but one thing I will say is he put the Air Ambulance campaign on the map and his death brought the ideology to the fore.”

The death of Dr John Hinds impacted the lives of many, whether it is motorbike racers, event organisers or the patients which John provided with his utmost care. He was the type of character everyone could relate to and show gratitude to for his efforts within his work, motorcycling or his avid lust to secure an Air Ambulance for Northern Ireland.

Race photographer and colleague, Stephen Davison, described the impact of Dr John’s death on the motorcycling fraternity. “I was devastated to hear about John’s death. He was a talismanic figure in road racing and it seemed very, very wrong that we had lost the man who provided the care for the rest of us. The small, self-contained world of road racing seemed to have shifted slightly off the axis that it revolves around.”

Stephen also paid tribute to Dr John’s campaign surrounding the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance. “John had got involved with the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance campaign prior to his death. He was fully aware of the HEMS service in London having previously worked with Dr Gareth Davies, who heads up that service, as well as running the AirMed response team on the Isle of Man during the TT and the Manx Grand Prix. John himself was very opposed to unnecessary deaths and the statistics show that, perhaps, as many as 600 lives could have been saved in Northern Ireland since 2003 if an Air Ambulance had have been available. Many viewed the Air Ambulance as a luxury rather than a necessity but John viewed it as a fundamental need and this is why he began to push for its provision.”

One sporting event set to benefit from the introduction of the HEMS is the international North West 200 road races. An Air Ambulance has been utilised at the 8.9 mile street circuit at both the 2014 and 2015 events. The 2016 North West 200 is hoped to earmark the first flight of the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance should its assistance be required. North West 200 Event Director, Mervyn Whyte, has welcomed the reform, “The Air Ambulance is a major bonus in relation to the running of the event, and in particular, dealing with incidents. We as a club, have been stressing for a number of years how an Air Ambulance would help benefit those injured at these types of events. They talk about the ‘Golden Hour,’ and its crucial injured riders or spectators get to trauma centres as quickly as possible.”

Mervyn Whyte also commended the work of Dr John hinds in years gone by at the North West 200, he said. “I worked with Dr John Hinds a lot over the years. He was a caring, patient and hard-working character. Any injured riders knew they were in safe hands when John was dealing with them. Last year at the North West John worked tirelessly to help all involved with the incident on Station Road where both a rider and spectator were injured. Also in 2014 when French rider Frank Petricola had a serious accident at Primrose Dr John’s care and expertise subsequently saved his life.”

In many cases there are instances which can be adapted or changed for the better. In an ideal situation it would have been idyllic for Dr John Hinds to reap the benefits of his efforts alongside those from the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance charity. However, there is no doubt that the Air Ambulance will help save the lives of many throughout the province which is the ultimatum of all involved with the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance campaign.

An insight of what the HEMS could look like
An insight of what the HEMS could look like.

Further Information

The following link provides a brief insight of the exact function of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service located in London. This service was encountered by Dr John Hinds prior to his death and indicates what the service will provide in Northern Ireland:

Lafferty double sees off Finland


Northern Ireland have taken a massive step towards qualification for Euro 2016 after a 2-1 win over Finland at Windsor Park.

Kyle Lafferty’s first-half double was enough for the hosts as they held on to record their fourth win in five games in Group F.

Michael O’Neill praised the mentality of the players in recording another victory.

O’Neill said: “I’m delighted. I had drilled into the boys that we needed to stay focused throughout the game.

Michael O’Neill’s fortunes have turned around in this campaign

“Finland came with a plan but yet again we stuck to our game and got a huge win here in front of our supporters.”

The away side started positively, playing possession-based football in defence and midfield but with little end product.

This style of play almost landed Finland in trouble as a simple square ball landed the Finnish defence in trouble and sent Jamie Ward through on goal. The Derby County winger fluffed his lines and sent his shot wide of the target.

It was a let-off for the Finnish but it gave Northern Ireland the impetus that this game was there for the taking.

As we’ve so often seen in the last few games, Lafferty was to be the hero yet again in front of goal for Northern Ireland.

His opener came in the 33rd minute. An Ollie Norwood free-kick was cleared to Niall McGinn and his flick-on header was met by a sweet volley from Lafferty. The sweeping finish found the bottom corner and Windsor Park erupted.

crowd laff
The Windsor Park crowd was at their brilliant best

Five minutes later, Northern Ireland made it two. Some fantastic work down the right by the impressive Conor McLaughlin led to a cross and the imperious Lafferty headed home, bringing his tally for the campaign to five goals.

The game was transformed, as Finland looked stunned by the quickfire double. At half time, the mood in the stands was that of jubilation. Surely Northern Ireland couldn’t throw this away?

Captain Steven Davis was replaced through injury at half-time and the Finnish controlled the opening stages of the second half, wrestling back control in the midfield.

Again, they struggled to create chances but with time against them, the away side threw everything at Northern Ireland.

Lafferty heads home his second
Kyle Lafferty heads home his second

Their late flurry was to be rewarded as Berat Sadik turned home in injury time, despite suspicions of offside.

It made for a nervous last two minutes as Finland committed men forward in search of a draw. But Northern Ireland held on with the Kop at their backs.

Table-topping Romania visit Windsor on June 13, a win there and we can surely start dusting off the French phrase books for next summer.

Football Racism

Aston Villa Players on Kick it Out strips
Aston Villa Players on Kick it Out strips


The number of reports of discrimination in English football have risen in the past year to 184.

The anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out have reported a 35% increase in the period August-December 2014.  This compares with the same period in the 2013-2014 football season when there were 136 grievances received by the organisation.

The breakdown of these complaints shows that racism and anti-semitism were the most common forms of abuse recorded.

The complaints received came from every level of English football, from grassroots to premier league, and involved top footballers as well as fans.

At a sweeping majority 60% of the discrimination that was reported originated online, in social media.

While these figures may at first give the impression that football discrimination is on the rise, both the Football Association and Kick It Out are treating these figures as a positive sign. It is believed that the increase in the number of reports of discrimination denotes a growing refusal to accept bigotry in football. Moreover, it is thought that this increase demonstrates that people are less tolerant of prejudice generally and more willing to come forward and complain about incidents.

However, Roisin Wood, the director of Kick It Out, said that she believes these numbers “barely scratch the surface of a widespread problem”.

These figures are released in the same month that the Metropolitan Police are investigating an alleged racist incident involving Chelsea fans in Paris and while the British Transport Police are making inquiries about a separate incident involving Chelsea supporters on a train to Manchester.

Lord Herman Ouseley, Kick It Out chairman, said that “Major improvements have been made over the last 30 years” but that the incident in Paris “reminded people that such things still go on below the radar.”

Lord Ouseley went on to point out that these problems are not solely the responsibility of those in football: “there is a persistent problem, there is prejudice in society, which is being increased by the anti-Europe, anti-immigrant, anti-benefit scroungers drip-drip in politics.”