Sunday, 20 June 2010

Worries of an underwhelming World Cup

World Cup Window of a Belfast PubWe're not Brazil, I know that, I don't expect amazing football from England but in this World Cup it would be nice to at least see a hint of entertainment in a game, even if it is not of Brazilian standard. Sadly it hasn't happened (yet?).

Over the last couple of weeks I've been neglecting my blog. It wasn't worth it but I've largely been spending my spare time watching the world cup games. As far as previous world cups have played out, this dedication of time wouldn't be a bad thing, afterall the average person in the UK will only get 19 World Cups in their lifetime. Of those there are many the person won't get to fully appreciate, especially those our nations won't qualify for.

So considering how precious the chance is to really throw yourself into a World Cup, its completely underwhelming when you get a World Cup like this. That is a World Cup where defensive perseverance and offensive incompetence have dominated. Many of the goals scored so far have been either mistakes by the defence rather than inspired attacking play or just plain old lucky.

I think this can be summed up when we look at direct free kicks that have been scored so far. The answer is a puzzling 1 and that one was a cross that bounced before it hit the back of the net after the goalie and defence and attackers all missed the ball.

In short, very few goals have had world class quality to them. I'm certain I saw consistently higher quality finishing in the Irish League last season and these guys in South Africa are meant to be the best of the best in the footballing world.

The ball would seem to be the popular issue but its the same for all teams and they've surely had long enough to get used to it by now given that they have had weeks of full time training (or should have!) and being able to control a similar ball is for most their full time profession. It does however seem that something has provided the apparent inability of many players to control the ball or to be able to put the right weight on a pass and this seems to be leading to a lack of excitement as play breaks up too easily.

Brazil foam carnival drummerSo is the drone of the vuvuzelas helping to level things out on the pitch much like a torrential downpour? I doubt this can be the case, if the players aren't used to noise at a game then they've been wearing earplugs whilst playing for their club sides.

It is just a guess, but in the dire games so far, the teams just don't seem to be trying quite as much as in those games where there has been talking points and action to remember. The Brazil Vs North Korea match saw one side defending like many others but at least both sides gave their all and it showed. It looked good and we finally had something to cheer even though most of us were just intrigued by the match up.

Its almost like they've forggoten that there are only 3 group games and in the 1st round of games it was almost as if some games were being treated as warm up matches.

England have managed to let something get to them and now we've an extra knock out game awaiting on Wednesday, we've not been great but then neither have many teams. For whatever reasons, the defensive teams in the competition have shone so far. Producing very little entertainment but providing a few shock results.

I just worry that if defensive teams continue to sneak results we could end up with a repeat of the Euros with a Greek like winner where we're all dumbstruck as to how they managed it.

For the sake of the World Cup as a spectacle, lets hope the attacking teams can get their acts together in the last games and make the knockout games something worth watching.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Exploring the Cavehill and Cavehill Country Park - Part 2

McArts Fort Cavehill BelfastAfter a long walk and a picnic with a view, which is where we left off after part 1.  I was left with the question of how to find my way down the Cavehill. Jumping seemed the quickest way, but I fancied staying alive and wasn't in any rush.

The day was still young but my legs were tired. I wanted to see as much as I could. So I decided to head North and then once I've seen what there is to see, cut back on myself and take in the rest of the country park.

With my right ankle already aching, I was wondering how it might hold out. Looking out over the moor and with a pretty view out to sea still in my eye line, my heart ruled my head and I set off for as long as it was going to take.

Upland Heath on the Cavehill Belfast

Here is the view I found looking towards Mallusk, Glengormley, Carnmoney and the rest of Newtownabbey.

Newtownabbey and Glengormly from the Cavehill

Distracted and with my head in the clouds as usual (though this time almost literally), I was soon heading downhill, but perhaps a little too quickly. It dawned on me just in time, well, just in time to prevent another uphill struggle. I turned around promptly and hiked back past McArts Fort and this time headed South.

Parts of the city that were out of sight before were now in view and up on the hill behind the moorland was the not so scenic view of landfill machinery.

Divis Hills from Cavehill Belfast

Landfill Skyline on the Cavehill

Where the North Side of the hill was battered by a relentless wind, the South side was calmer, the upland heath turned to flowering bushes and the trees stopped looking like the heads of models from those odd looking generic styling gel adverts.

The path was a steady decline which headed West as the path takes you around the site of an quarry.

The Limestone quarry on the south face of the Cave Hill was in operation between the 1840 and 1862, closing 8 years before Belfast Castle was built. Many of you may have heard of the Limestone Road in North Belfast, well this road was named after the route of the horse drawn gravity railway that took the limestone to the port from the quarry.

Quarry patchwork148 years later and the area has been populated with a variety of flora and fauna. Seemingly sheltered here by the hills and also south facing so bathed in what sun Belfast does see, it was quite a sight. A lovely place to take a walk. A tight and uneven path meanders through an almost wilderness of flowering bushes. The quarry sides were a patchwork of plants. Bees and song birds combined with the tranquil sound of running water provided by a small brook to provide a natural soundtrack to the walk.

I could have stayed there a lot longer than I did but with my ankle feeling a little weak on the uneven terrain and not wanting to tempt the bee's into making me move on by force, I kept a brisk pace.

Path through bushes in Cavehill Country Park

I never knew this place existed and it almost was like walking into wonderland. After the end of the Quarry faded away behind the flowers, the flowers in turn turned back into the sort of woodland found on the East slope around the castle. The ferns and bluebells were everywhere under the towering trees above.

Woodland canopy in Cavehill Country Park Belfast

I didn't have far to go now and as I popped out on to the path close to the car park, I felt slightly sad to only have pavement, cars and well mown grass to look at.

The trip back towards the Shore Road was downhill but it still took a lot longer to walk. Almost out of energy at this point, I only just had enough left in me to notice two more things. One was that houses in the area had far too many intercom systems. I mean how does the postman deliver the mail to those places without taking a week to make it down the street? The other was the remains of a pigeon being fought over by a crow and a seagull - the gull won if you were wondering.

Crow, Seagull and corpse

These sightings were a little random but it didn't matter, I was tired but happy having done something fun that I'd wanted to do since the day I first saw the Cavehill. I had a small sense of satisfaction and some good memories too. All in all a great morning and apart from the slightly unsafe aspect of the trip, one I'd recommend anyone who can, to go ahead and experience too.


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