John Burke reports on Leinster’s outstanding performance and convincing win over title holders Saracens in Champions Cup Quarter Final.
2017 was arguably Athlone Town’s worst year in its 130 year history. This season is bound to be interesting, writes Dylan O’Neill
Henry Phipps & Lee Shields find out about Jugger and look at how the only two teams in Ireland are trying to make the sport popular
The 2016/17 football season saw the rise of plenty of young stars. By the end of the season young players were attracting big clubs and massive transfer fees. Over the summer transfer window Ousmane Dembele, aged 20 from Borussia Dortmund, was signed by Barcelona for a fee of €105m, while 18 year-old Kylian Mbappe was signed by PSG from Monaco in a loan deal that will see him sign for the Parisian super club next summer for a fee of €145m.
With these young players and many more showing their worth, I decided to find out which of the top 5 leagues are the most generous when it comes to giving these players opportunities.
Based on the total number of minutes played by all players last season, against the total number of those minutes given to youth players, decided as players aged 21 and under, I calculated the percentage of playing minutes given to youth players in each of Europe’s top 5 football leagues.
Based on this data, the French Ligue 1 is the best location for young talent to play, coming in with nearly 3 times as many minutes given to youth players as the last placed Premier League.
To delve further, I calculated the most and least youth friendly clubs in each league based on their minutes given to youth players.
Surprisingly, it’s one of the most expensive squads in the Premier League that tops the list for giving minutes to youth players, although aside from the academy graduate Marcus Rashford the remaining minutes come from Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial, coming in at a collective €85m in transfer fees.
It’s no surprise to see Spurs so high with the majority of their minutes coming from Young Player of the Year Dele Alli, and Everton make their way in at third thanks to Mason Holgate and Tom Davies making their way onto the scene this season.
Crystal Palace are the only team in any of the Top 5 leagues to not give a single minute to youth players, while their neighbours in the league table Swansea gave less than a full 90 minutes themselves. Chelsea, however, were flying without youth, although most of their young lads were finding playing time over at Vitesse.
There are similar findings in other leagues with Serie A leaders Juventus, and Real Madrid and Barcelona battling it out for the title in Spain, all rejecting the use of youth themselves. The only player to really make a mark in any of these teams is Marcos Asensio at Real Madrid, whom Zidane has taken a liking to. Maybe it’s the luxury of being able to send players out on loan to develop at smaller clubs that allows these teams to have fantastic squads while also having thriving youth at a moment’s notice.
Toulouse lead the line for youth players, they’re currently sitting in 12th, after two relegation-threatening 17th place finishes in a row maybe the young lads have been the kick that team needs to move up the table.
Finally I took a look at the individuals who have found the most success in each position this season.
Gianluigi Donnarumma was an ever-present for AC Milan last season, leading to a pursuit of the 18 year-old by Juventus who he desperately tried to sign for over the summer before changing his mind and staying with Milan.
Football tends to flow more freely as you move up the pitch and so generally teams like to have more consistent defensive line ups than in attack, and this is shown here as the further forward you go from Goalkeeper to Forward, the less minutes are given on average.
By Daniel Osborne
Henry Phipps & Lee Shields explore the world of Quidditch in Dublin and the growing popularity of the magical sport.
Representing Ireland at an Olympics is a major event for any sportsperson. Gavin Hyland speaks to Olympian Judy Reynolds about Rio 2016 and her chances of being at Tokyo 2020.
Fifteen years ago, Judy Reynolds moved to Germany with no knowledge of the language and nowhere to live. She was supposed to be there for nine months to compete in dressage but the Irish Olympian is still living there today.
Reynolds has performed in three world equestrian games, three European dressage championships, the dressage world cup and the Olympic Games in Rio.
“The Olympics is the pinnacle of what you want to achieve, it is different and there is something very special about it. The best of the best are there representing their country,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds speaks patriotically about the honour of representing Ireland and the overwhelming experience of walking through the Olympic village.
Competing in international competitions has allowed Reynolds to see many interesting places. “We do get to see many amazing places, from Doha and a small village in Poland to competing on the Austrian Alps.”
She said: “We do enjoy these places, but it is never like a holiday. We are always focused on the competition.”
Rio was special for Reynolds as she finished a very impressive 16th in the individual event. She puts her good performance partly down to good preparation. “We were in Rio 12 days before competition and that is a long time to work with just one horse,” explained Reynolds.
Speaking to the Kildare native, it is obvious that she puts herself under immense pressure to perform to the best of her ability and she is acutely aware that despite living in Germany for 15 years, she is representing Ireland.
The future looks bright for Irish equestrian as the showjumping team won gold at the European Championships and individual bronze.
“Dressage in Ireland at grassroots level is growing hugely and we are climbing high in the world rankings,” according to Reynolds.
Many people still find the financial cost for equestrian sports as the largest hurdle but Reynolds says this is improving.
“The cost is always going to be somewhat high because it is expensive to take really good care of horses but there are heavily subsidised camps for those who want to get involved but worry about the cost.”
The future of the sport may also be improved if Reynolds makes it to the Olympics in 2020. “I really want to go in 2020 but it all depends on Vancouver K, JP to us.”
Reynolds says the horses are essentially her partner when it comes to competing.
“We are working hard with other horses coming up behind Vancouver K, so hopefully we will be ready by the time 2020 comes around.”
It is too soon for Reynolds to be contemplating retiring but for her, Ireland is home. “If I could do what I do here (Germany) in Ireland, I would,” said Reynolds.
The Olympian has had a hugely successful career to date and based on her determined tone and focused attitude towards competing, it is fair to say her career is far from its final hurdle.