Senator David Norris, The Ormond Hotel and James Joyce

Just had the good fortune to hear Senator David Norris interviewed on the lunch times news (RTE) on the subject of Dublin City Council’s decision to turn down an application to build a new hotel (6 floors) on the site of the Ormond Hotel.

Senator Norris was in top form and brought Ulysses to life for all those listening in.  He explained how Joyce used language to capture music – the first page and a half of this section of Ulysses being a passage to describe an orchestra warming up.  He gave a great account of the Sirens Bar and the temptresses and the weak men.  He even sang a song for us (the first few bars of M’Appari).

Senator Norris is of the view that the Ormond Hotel should be developed as a hotel – but in keeping with the hotel of Joycean times.  He was funny in commenting on football club owners having lots of money and also mentioned his preference that the developer would not be a Russian oligarch.

What an excellent news item.  Hope , like Senator Norris, that a commercially acceptable, Joyce sensitive, way can be found to restore the hotel and bring to life the atmosphere enjoyed by Joyce, his father and various others – including he sirens’ bar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on a week of sport (well 8 days)

Back in Croke Park today to see Clare beat Limerick in the All Ireland Hurling SemiFinal.  Today I was in the ‘neutral’ role  unsure whether supporting Clare or Limerick.  In the end Clare were comfortable winners.  Last Sunday attended Dublin Cork All Ireland Hurling Semifinal in Croke Park – Cork won by four points.  Was not neutral and was very disappointed to see Dublin beaten.  Some controversy over referee sending off of one Dublin player – although really came down to decision to award yellow card very early in the game.  Got over my bias in favour of Dublin: great game, great spectacle and Cork were just about worth their win.

Last Wednesday attended All Ireland Minor Girls’ Football FInal (actually replay) in Mullingar  – Dublin v. Galway.  With last kick of the game in 8th minute of injury time Galway scored a goal to win by two points.  Have not witnesses such devastation in a long time as that seen in the Dublin camp.  Two well matched teams.  Possibly Galway a little sharper in attack.  Dublin had come back with two very late goals in the first match  so this time it was Galway’s turn.  I am sure the Dublin management must rue the decisions to put five subs on – seemed to disrupt their play and coincided with Galway revival.

Last Friday attended Intermediate Ladies Football Dublin Championship Final in Newcastle, Co. Dublin.  What a beautiful pitch. My own Club, Kilmacud Crokes, were beaten by two points by a very experienced Thomas Davis team.  Great game of football – and right through to the final whistle there were opportunities for either team to win the game.  Another opportunity for promotion just missed by Kilmacud Crokes.

So – not a great return in terms of seeing my teams (Dublin, Dublin, Kilmacud Crokes) losing three times.  But have to say felt privileged to see so many excellent games – served up by amateur players who give so freely of their own time (as do mentors,families, coaches and friends).  I would also be confident that each of the players on those losing teams has gained hugely from the experience – being part of a committed team, achieving such high standards of play and learning from the games themselves.

 

 

 

 

Is it right to try to win?

I find myself being drawn into the debate emerging, again, re tactics employed by managers and teams to win matches. This weekend in the GAA All Ireland Football Quarterfinals Tyrone stand accused in some quarters of very cynical play – designed to ensure they won a knock out match and progressed to the semifinals.  Star player, Sean Cavanagh, was awarded ‘man of the match’, but attracted lots of criticism for committing a ‘professional foul’ when an opposition player advanced on goal.  In their previous match both he and fellow star Stephen O’Neil were involved in ‘professional fouls’ late in the game.  I believe the players did what they did in the interests of their team – in the context of winning both matches.  Their manager has been incensed – he is seeking to protect players who he believes did not do anything wrong – not particularly out of line with what goes on in knock out championship matches.  And he points to the many fouls committed against his players in both games.

During the week I attended an outstanding cricket test match in England – Third Test of the Ashes series between England and Australia. There has been plenty of controversy in this series –   batsmen knowing they were out not ‘walking’, umpiring errors, deliberate slowing down of over rates by England as they seek a draw.

In the last couple of weeks we have had another two top sprinters unveiled as drug cheats.

What does all this tell us?  What is acceptable in trying to win and what is not acceptable?  How does it leave us feeling – us the players, the coaches, the spectators, the kids starting out in their sporting careers?  And obviously the above includes both professional (cricket and athletics) and amateur (GAA football)?

This year I find myself supporting a Dublin GAA  football team that seems to possess great speed and agility in attack – and benefits from ‘open play’.  So therefore we want fast flowing, foul free, play and trust that our skills and speed will bring us home as ultimate winners. But if I were coaching a team against Dublin and did not have the same speedy assets what tactics might I employ?  Without doubt I would look to break up the game, slow down the game, negate the influence of the very fast and skillful Dublin forwards – through denying them possession, crowding my defence, man to man marking, fouling – some combination of all of these  – whatever would work to enable me to counter their advantages.

Of course since I am supporting Dublin this lets me assume the higher moral ground (this year) – as I am supporting fast flowing, open football.  But what of the outer county and the other manager – to whom is he accountable?  In the first instance – to himself.  Thereafter to his players, their supporters and all those involved in the game more generally.  Some where in the middle of this is an expectation from his county that he will maximise their opportunity of winning – and will therefore design and implement tactics likely to overcome Dublin’s range of skills.

Today we saw Mayo ‘destroy’ the Donegal team which seemed to have perfected, in the last two years, massed defence, superior fitness and fast breaking football.  Mayo were not short of men in defence when required – but played Donegal ‘off the pitch’.  Many neutrals had high praise for Mayo and will no doubt believe that the negative tactics developed by Donegal have been seen off.

One other element of sport at a high level e.g. playing in front of 70,000 paying attendees in Croke Park yesterday, is to provide entertainment – some sense of ‘value for money’.  Kevin Pietersen did this yesterday in the Ashes Test match yesterday by scoring another century for England in the aggressive style in which he bats.  Brian Lara, possibly the greatest West Indian batsman of all time, says he saw himself as an entertainer No. 1 and a batsman No. 2.  Severiano Ballesteros claimed in his final TV interviews that his popularity was based on the range of shots he played – that’s why people wanted to come to see him play. But all three were also outstandingly competitive sportsmen focused on winning matches.  And they were three of the most talented – so entertaining the audience was part of their gift.

But would any of these GAA football teams mentioned – Donegal, Tyrone, Dublin or Mayo have achieved very much in terms of winning without developing and implementing tactics which maximise their opportunity to win – by emphasising their skills and limiting the potential of their opponents to succeed?  And is there anything wrong with this?

Very easy for commentators to criticise the manager and/or the team that seem to be less creative, limit the potential of the opposition to play ‘attractive’ football and focus on winning, potentially at the cost of the entertainment element of the game. I felt this frustration myself watching Tyrone yesterday but what does this ‘frustration’ really amount to?

Playing rugby in years past I remember being matched against a future international rugby player – who was 10cm taller than me, an outstanding footballer and able to jump far higher off the ground than me.  My objective was to find ways to prevent him catching the ball  – in the hope of limiting the damage he would do to our team. For part of the game I had some limited success – and did not even question for one second whether such an approach was ‘right’.  I was working with my inferior team to try to counteract one the opposition’s key weapons.

I think it is time for a few reality checks.  Some teams do not have the same skills as other teams. They will seek to develop and implement tactics which counter the opposition advantages – if they do not do this we will not have competitive matches.  Some of this behaviour will include breaking rules and accepting punishment e.g. frees, penalties, yellow cards and, even, red cards.  If the rules prove ineffective in counteracting unduly negative (probably difficult to define) behaviour then the rules need to be adjusted and implemented effectively by the relevant officials.

I have taken huge pleasure from playing, coaching and supporting/ spectating at sport.  I have experienced frustration in all roles – but overall the experience has been fantastic.  I would like to think that drug taking would have no part to play in sport – unfortunately it does and I would suggest should continue to be dealt with very harshly.  However in the case of coaches and players pushing the envelope to try to win I do not have much of an issue.  When I hold all the skills I am absolutely fed up to see there frustrated by less skillful teams.  But it is for me to figure this out – if I possess the skills.  Finally, the ‘professional foul’ is simply an assessment by the fouler (and potentially his coach/ team) – that the result is worth the punishment.  If you make the punishment sufficiently serious it will be cut out (and there will be some innocent victims) most professional fouls.  But sport is not perfect and we do not want it to be perfect.

As a coach to younger players I believe my responsibilities are primarily to assist in development of the players, ensuring they enjoy their sport and develop their skills.  But  I have no doubt that as coaches we will in years to come find ourselves looking to develop tactics to maximise the likelihood of winning specific matches.  I hope that what we do to try to win will be right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Web Summit 6

Map of the baronies of County Dublin in Irelan...
Image via Wikipedia

I attended today’s 6th Web Summit at the RDS in Dublin.  Paddy Cograve continued his run of sell out conferences – this time with almost 1,000 attendees, on a Friday afternoon in Dublin.  I have now attended 3 of Paddy’s 6 web summits.

I think today was the weakest yet.

Sam Barnett was a weak kick off act – did not provide much insight until he explained how he avoided paying rent in his startup (his landlord was a criminal).  Eamon Leonard offered a fairly laboured comparison between rockbands and startup companies (not sure how Paddy found this so interesting). However Eamon’s delivery style and sense of humour kept people amused. Strange that Jennifer O’Connell should pitch thejournal.ie and then announce she is moving on (hardly the greatest pitch for any business).  Emi Gal (Brainient) was exellent – speaking of personalisation and relevance in video).

The coffee break appeared to be sans coffee – a bit Irish for the price people paid.

Tariq Krim (Jolicloud) and Marcus Segal (Zynga) were excellent.  Microsoft and Techcrunch presenters were not particularly inspiring.

And on the networking front – yes probably had the opportunity to catch up with 6 or 7 people and make one or two new contacts.  The pre and post gatherings offered ample opportunity to meet with various people.

So – will I attend future web summits?  I’m left a little cold after today’s – but to be fair there were a couple of thought provoking presentations and the general atmosphere was decidedly upbeat in comparison to much of what we see in Dublin these days.

 

 

 

 

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Reflecting on 2010 – in Dublin, Ireland

Dublin by night
Image via Wikipedia

It’s been a pretty frightening year on the economic front, here in Dublin, Ireland.  Finally, despite all the protestations of the Government the EU and IMF rode into town.  A deal has been done – premised on significant growth it might be doable…if the growth does not materialise – then eventually some debt will have to be written off.

On the technology front – for me personally the smartphone wins out (currently favouring the Android platform): greater access and availability wherever you are (wherever I am).  Seems to me the Cloud has matured into something that is not going away – in fact that looks like it will win out.  I think the objections will be addressed and moved aside. On the semantic web front – lots of activity from various providers of tools/ solutions using semantic technology. Disappointing, given the presence of DERI in Ireland, that we do not see more publicity/ traction within our own smart economy.  And we trail other countries dismally on initiatives to push publication of data (using linked open data standards)  by government departments.

Snow in the suburbs
A whole new world

The last few weeks have been challenging on the weather front – in particular on the East Coast.  It would have to be said that our local government/admin/ transport has failed miserably and consistently in addressing the weather challenges.  To see major roads not being cleared each night is pretty depressing – be it shortage of money to pay the overtime, trucks to clear the snow/slush,salt to treat the roads or poor planning/management and execution.  But there is a real cost – most likely including loss of life – because of this repeated failure.

Katie Taylor, Graeme McDowell, Tipperary hurlers, U23 cross country runners and many more – great memories and inspiration in a difficult year and looking forward to challenging years.

There was my short break with my wife in Budapest – what a marvellous city and such hospitable people.  But then we had the fun courtesy of Volcanic Ash – our four day trip home was quite luxurious by comparison with the hardship experienced by others.

Best book I read was the 10th anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto.  Also often found myself returning to ideas from The Power of Pull.

And Wikileaks has caught the imagination as the year closes out.  I was not very positively disposed to Mr Assange when this began – but the overreaction from certain quarters is not doing much to reinforce my doubts.  I think we all need to reflect a little on this. Some of the ideas referenced by Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody and by Don Tapscott in Macrwikinomics are playing out in front of us.

All in all looking forward to the break – a chance to enjoy some of the best things in Ireland – company, craic, ceol, food, literature, scenery, catching up with the visiting diaspora…and time to do some dreaming.  Because we all need to use our imaginations and our creativity in order to ensure that we do beat our targets next year – be that winning a major, winning a football championship, keeping a job, hiring a new employee, starting a new business, teaching a student, helping someone.

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What do we learn from successful web entrepreneurs?

Attended Paddy Cosgrave’s Web Summit last night in Dublin. Great turnout – about 500 people attended the event – held in the excellent new premises of the Chartered Accountants in Ireland.

Of course it was interesting to hear from those who founded Hostelworld, Bebo and Xing – amongst others. And there were a number of other interesting presentations – including the VC presenters. Even Mark Little reflecting on his first 6 months as an entrepreneur.

Ray Nolan was frank and to the point, a little irreverend and generally quite entertaining.

But did the audience learn much from the evening?

In some respects am left comparing the event with some of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce events – in which a bell rings and you are expected to talk to someone for 5 minutes about your business. I think this format could be used very effectively in the breakout sessions – in the sense that it would require each person to chat with 4/5 other entrepreneurs. In many respects I think these exchanges are more valuable than listening to presentations by those who have done it.

None of this is to knock the events. As Mark Mortell observed it is a very positive place to spend a number of hours – in the company of fellow entrepreneurs. Paddy has succeeded in attracting a number of interesting presenters from Ireland and overseas. WordPress, Craigslist and Realex at summit No. 1; Hostelworld, Bebo and Xing at summit No. 2.

Would recommend Summit No. 3 to anyone who has not attended to date.

Making Dublin a smart city

Interesting piece in Fortune

San Francisco gets smart with green technology

…in the context of Ireland and its drive for a smart economy and knowledge society.

As I stand at bus stops wondering when the next bus is due and I think about the technology which is so easily available I wonder why we are not moving forward faster e.g. integrated ticketing?

Dublin needs to be a smart city.  Press on asap.  Food for thought in this article.

What's in azure right now?

Attended great presentation by David Chappell at Microsoft in Dublin this morning.  Fascinating comparison of the offerings from SalesForce, Microsoft, Google and Amazon.  Interesting explanation of Microsoft's focus on providing a platform in this version of Azure to enable us to build the next 'Facebook'. 

Explained why cannot migrate classic enterprise applications to this Azure platform.  The Azure platform uses hierarchical database structures (scalable) – not relational database as would be required to support MSQ SQL Server based applications.

Interesting discussion about the difficulties of naming new Microsoft products/ solutions.