Belfast Telegraph

Blue Sunday for old order

By Billy Weir

With Sky's recent purchase of a handful of games from the GAA causing the sort of hoohah that would once have accompanied the visit of an Irish President to Windsor, it is now time to complete the circle.

RTE, less than chuffed by the selling out to the evil empire, should hit back immediately by buying the rights for the Boat Race and moving the whole event to Dublin.

Imagine the joys of hearing the likes of Johnny Giles, George Hook and Pat Spillane bemoaning that boats were boats in their day and berating the powers-that-be that the same two teams were in the final again, at the expense of Leeds/Munster/Kerry (delete as applicable).

No doubt this was a major discussion point as HRH asked Michael D to pass the salt, but before that happens the BBC continues to rule the waves for this most British of affairs, the flagship of toffery ruling the airwaves on Sunday afternoon.

If it was to be one final hurrah there was plenty of hooray Henrys and Henriettas on show for Clare Balding, who had hot-hoofed it down from Aintree remembering to pick up the correct microphone from the massive collection on her hall table.

Just in case she was confused, the caption writers, bless 'em, helpfully told us that we were at the Boat Race and doing battle would be, hold on, let me check, oh, it's Oxford v Cambridge.

"This is an event that is so physically demanding, so mentally tortuous, that honestly you wonder why on earth people do it at all," said Clare, having the presence of mind to ensure she had chosen the name of an Irish county just in case an RTE microphone was thrust in her general direction.

"There is no second place, you either win this or you lose it," she continued, while over in Dublin the powers-that-be pondered whether Cambridge would have to come back in through the back door against eight big lads in a currach from Connemara.

With an hour and a half to fill she was helped out by a crew of thousands, Helen Skelton interviewing drunken land-lubbers outside pubs in her typically illuminating style with such searching questions as 'where are you from?' and 'are you enjoying yourself?'

We also had the effect of lunar movements on the river, a piece on rowers who had lost their lives in World War One and the psychology of being a cox, while Sir Matthew Pinsent and Katherine Grainger were there to remind you that this was a sporting event and Britain is very good at rowing.

However someone clearly forgot to tell Oxford and Cambridge, who only had three Brits apiece. There was a myriad of former colonials and even a German, but, sadly, no Irishmen, which won't go down well when we move to the Liffey.

But fascinating fact of the day came from commentator Andrew Cotter regarding Oxford's Storm Uru – the first Maori to compete in the race – but wisely he decided against doing the Haka in the boat.

"He is so named because his father was caught in a storm and made the vow if he ever got out of it he would name his first son, Storm," he said.

The mind boggles then how Cambridge's Ivo Watkins, the son of a member of the famous Light Blue team that sank in 1978, was named, unless Mr Watkins Snr was stuck in the back of a Mitsubishi.

So after 90 minutes we were off and five minutes later it was all but over when American Luke Juckett lost control of his oar in the Cambridge boat not far past Craven Cottage and like Fulham, was left with that sinking feeling as their rivals disappeared over the horizon. Expect the US of A to declare war on Oxford any day now.

It also meant Cotter and co-commentator Wayne Pommen had to work hard to keep us interested but the scurrilous accusation that Oxford's Constantine Louloudis had 'taken a year out to stroke the GB Men's Eight' was a step too far.

So the Light Blues were beaten by the Dark Blues, with RTE executives wondering just how they could get crews from Dublin and Cavan into the final each year. Far-fetched and fanciful I hear you cry, Martin McGuinness will toast the Queen before that happens.

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