I went along to my first meetup of the Edinburgh Cinema group and Elise the facilitator had generously baked a chocolate cake for everyone. This was my first knowing encounter with ganache as an icing alternative and I was pointed towards Beatty’s Chocolate Cake for the recipe of the deliciously moist cake.
Even if, like me, you’re not a Scot, you probably still feel a sense of a pre-ordained script for tonight’s Euro 2012 qualifier in Alicante. Scotland have that traditional glimmer of a chance at making it to the next stage. It is even in their hands – beat Spain and they are through to the play-offs.
But Scottish sport doesn’t usually work like that. The script generally goes like this:
The small glimmer of hope is consolidated by valiant and sometimes heroic efforts.
I always like a good real-world application of mathematics, in this case algebra.
If you’re organising a knockout tournament for something and the number of players or teams is not a neat power of two, how many players have to be drawn in round 1, so that round 2 is a neat power of two? I figured this out by solving this pair of equations:
a + b = n 0.5a + b = R
where a is the number of players to be drawn in round 1, b is the remainder of players to be drawn in round 2, n is the total no. of players and R is the largest power of two less than or equal to n.
Solving the equations
0.5a + (n-a) = R a + 2n - 2a = 2R 2n - a = 2R a = 2n - 2R a = 2(n - R)
91 players enter our tournament, how many must be drawn in round 1? n = 91, R = 64 a = 2 x (91 - 64) a = 54
So we draw 54 players in round 1, which produces 27 winners to meet the remaining 37 players in round 2.
In celebration of the Antrim senior hurlers qualifying for the All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals this year, I’m going to post a couple of match reports from the Summer of 1949. At that time my Dad was seventeen going on eighteen and was selected to represent Antrim on the minor hurling panel. The scorelines from these two matches go a long way to illustrate the gulfs above and below Antrim in the inter-county hurling pecking order.
In Ulster hurling, Antrim are generally untouchable, albeit with Down and Derry making great strides in recent years to get near them. However it is nearly always a struggle for Antrim to challenge the traditionally strong hurling counties like Kilkenny, Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Galway, Clare and Limerick. In 1949 Antrim met Donegal in the Ulster Minor Hurling Final and won with an excruciatingly one-sided scoreline of 13-6 to 1-1. Three weeks later in Croke Park, however, the triumphant Ulster champions would meet a similar fate in the semi-final against Tipperary losing 9-7 to 0-2. Continue reading “When my Dad was a minor (inter-county hurler, 1949)”
I am writing this on the morning of World Cup Final day 2010. I better get a move on as I have remembered just 4 World Cups so far: 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1990; there are another 4 to write about.
This will be a longer article than the rest, because USA ’94 remains the only World Cup I actually travelled to in person. The Republic of Ireland was the only country to qualify from “these islands” in this World Cup and I meticulously planned a 3-week itinerary that would place me, my girlfriend and her sister in New York / New Jersey, Boston, Dallas and San Francisco at times that might coincide with Ireland’s progress through the tournament.
To get us in the mood, though, we travelled to Dublin to watch Ireland’s first match against Italy in a Northside pub, which was our friend’s local. We were keen to enjoy the full cultural experience of this historic moment as opposed to watered-down, looking over your shoulder version available north of the border. Continue reading “World Cup memories: 1994”
This is the latest in my series of World Cup recollections. They’re turning out to be a snapshot of what I was up to at 4-yearly intervals. Italia ’90 strikes me as a feel good tournament for many nationalities; English, Irish, even the Scots, though apparently it is “widely regarded as one of the poorest World Cups ever” because of its low goal tally and negative tactics. But it’s not really the goals we cherish in our memories, it’s the emotions we went through, isn’t it?
Having finished my Edinburgh student days in 1989, I was now living back in Belfast and working at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in Musgrave Park Hospital of all places: a computer programmer researching the diagnostic potential of knee vibrations. Clickity, clickity. After the memory loss of the student days, my recall of events from 1990 is much clearer. Continue reading “World Cup memories: 1990”
Following on from my recollections of the World Cups (1978 and 1982), which live strongly in my childhood memory, I come to the first tournament I experienced as an adult: Mexico 1986. Northern Ireland had qualified once again and the tournament produced the infamous Hand of God goal and the Goal of the Century in one match. However as applicable to many major world events and the current affairs of this period, my memories are extremely hazy. Let’s face it – I was 19, just finished my first year as a student in Edinburgh, and had spent much of the Summer term recovering from a nasty bout of glandular fever.
I don’t even remember where I was when I was watching the football action. All I’m left with is the fact that the name Josimar still fills me with a sense of awe and wonder.
So a huge hazy slot in my memory for my early adult years. Do you suffer from a similar haziness for that period in your lives?
In the Summer of 1982, I was 15 years old and on the verge of spending time away from home for the first time. Three weeks on an exchange trip to Germany was in the offing and Northern Ireland had qualified for the World Cup in Spain.
In the first group stage, they battled out a couple of draws against Honduras and Yugoslavia before facing the hosts Spain. Nobody gave them a chance, but it was a match they had to win and clearly it was a match they believed they could win, even with 10 men for most of the second half. I still get goosebumps watching this heroic performance which won them the group and qualification for the second phase of group games with Austria and France.
So the World Cup 2010 is on. I’ve never been very good at playing football, but I’ve always enjoyed having a go and will continue to do so for as long as I can. I’m quite good at watching from the armchair, though. For this tournament, I’m running a wee Score Prediction Game online. When I conceived this labour of love, I envisioned a much bigger thing with prizes and everything, spreading virally around the Twitterverse. However when push came to shove and important things like work and family took priority, I only just about managed to get it implemented in time. I’m delighted to have the little group of 29 predictors battling it out throughout the tournament.
As the 2010 tournament begins to splutter into flame halfway through the group stages, I’ve decided to look back at my World Cup memories down through the years. My interest in football probably was just beginning to blossom in 1974 (aged 7) what with Cruyff, Beckenbauer and my “namesake”, Gerd Müller and Co., but the real strong World Cup memories begin in 1978. Continue reading “World Cup memories: 1978”