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An Ulster Log: Why Colin hopes world will still be his oyster

By Eddie McIlwaine

Project manager Colin Shirlow is in training today as he prepares to defend his World Championship Oyster Eating title, which he won way back in 2005 and which he has held on to for the past eight years.

The man from Dromore with the big appetite for seafood can swallow 233 oysters in three minutes flat and still eat an evening meal with his wife Carole and daughters Lesley and Nikki.

The next world event will be at the Hillsborough Festival on September 6 and grandfather Colin says it will be the toughest yet.

"Sonya Thompson, the Black Widow from New York, who is a respected American oyster champ, is coming in and so is Notorious Bob from Philadelphia, who has a taste for oysters too," he explains. "There will be at least 12 local hopefuls up against me as well."

It all began almost by accident for Colin (58) back in 2005.

"I went to the Hillsborough festival only as a spectator and friends talked me in to entering the Northern Ireland Championship against my better judgment," he says.

"But I downed 60 oysters in 55 seconds and was heralded as the new champion. I've held the Northern Ireland title ever since, too."

Colin has been to New York to compete in the Big Apple's Nathan's Hot Dog competition – and finished down the field, only being able to devour 11 dogs. The winner was a man called Joey Chestnut, who ate 61, red sauce and all, and lived to tell the tale.

Time to make a Giant wish

Here's hoping: Samantha Cobb on a Causeway wishing chairHow many wishing chairs are there at the Giant's Causeway? Even philosopher Samuel Johnson, who made just one pilgrimage to this unofficial wonder of the world (and never wished to go back), couldn't have answered that. In my picture today Samantha Cobb (25), from Newcastle-on-Tyne, is seated on the chair on which years ago I wished for a £1,000 on a Saturday and received it in the post on the Monday. So don't write in telling me Samantha and I got the stone chair wrong.

I don't know what the young lady wished for. It would break the spell if she divulged that secret.

But I'll tell you this – wise man Johnson wished that he would never have to return. He wasn't impressed one bit. I don't think he would be overawed by the modern day visitors' centre either. I wasn't.

Good to have Alan back on air

I'm glad to note that BBC Northern Ireland hasn't dumped presenter Alan Simpson, even though he is no longer host of Radio Ulster's afternoon show.

Instead, Alan is in charge of a new radio series called North Coast Tales, the second of which goes out on the air tomorrow at 1.05pm, with a repeat next Thursday at 7.30pm.

He will be taking listeners on a tour of the north coast to meet people and drop in on places that make this heavenly part of the province so special to him. (I love it too, after all those Sunday School excursions to 'the Port' by steam train when I was a boy.)

Born in Ballymoney, Alan's family moved to Coleraine when he was nine before he settled in Portrush and fell for the resort which he swears he will never leave.

He will be divulging secrets about Portstewart and Ballycastle and giving us the special recipe for Yellowman, which you can buy at the Aul' Lammas Fair.

But what will happen when the tide goes out on North Coast Tales? Alan is a natural broadcaster and mustn't become the BBC's forgotten man.

His afternoon slot on Radio Ulster has been taken over by Kerry McLean, wife of Ralph, from Monday to Thursday – I'll reserve judgment. Gerry Kelly has the show on Fridays and Saturdays.

Our boys not as retiring as Gerrard

Steven Gerrard has announced his retirement from the English international football team after 114 caps – and I'm baffled.

When I was young and greats like Charlie Tully, Bertie Peacock and Wilbur Cush were playing for Northern Ireland, I never heard one of them announce his international retirement.

In fact, Charlie, Bertie and Wilbur looked on it as an honour when they were picked to represent their country, especially when they were veterans.

'Picked' is the relevant word. You were picked to play as an international by the selectors – it wasn't your option to decide if you were in the team. Retiring was never an option and the late Wilbur and I were in firm agreement about that.

Rory's great, but he's not a hero

Still on the subject of sport, it was a joy to watch Rory winning the Open. But a word of advice to over-the-top journalists who keep writing headlines calling him a hero. Rory, at 25, is an exceptional golfer but he isn't a hero. Heroes are those brave young soldiers on the front line in those conflicts all over the world.

This was a lesson I learned from a veteran journalist, the late Cowan Watson, years ago. In the Second World War Cowan was a tank commander but never once called himself a hero, and when I dished out superlatives like this to footballers, rugby stars and cricketers, he put me right. I've always been careful about when to use the word ever since.

Van Gaal not pitch perfect after all

I hate to hear of anyone getting sacked, but sometimes the circumstances, particularly in sport, make it inevitable. I predicted correctly that manager Moyes wouldn't last a season at Manchester United.

So, here goes again: Louis Van Gaal will suffer the same fate before next May, I forecast with some confidence. My reasoning? You don't criticise Sir Alex Ferguson at United, even when he is in retirement. Louis did just that when he said the training ground was too windy and ordered its pitches to be dug up and the turf replaced. Ferguson has said the training ground was perfect. A couple of bad results and yer man will be on his way. Ryan Giggs could be offered the hot seat. I hope he has the good sense to decline it for another year or so.

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