The May Bank Holiday is a big weekend in sport and I enjoyed some great sporting moments:
Preston North End in the Championship Play-offs
Top of my list is PNE's surprise achievement of making the Championship play-offs. I went to England to see them twice this year: in August vs Charlton Athletic (2-1), and in February vs Reading, and saw them quite a bit on TV. Yesterday was the last day in the regular season and PNE had to beat QPR and hope that either Burnley (they won 4-0) or Cardiff City would lose (they did 0-1). PNE won 2-1. PNE had the same final number of points as Cardiff but had scored one more goal. That 6-0 win two weeks ago against Cardiff meant the difference between the two sides. PNE face a very tough play-off semi-final against Sheffield United - first leg next Friday at Deepdale. I'd love to go over for this, but will watch on TV instead. I also laid a 10 euro bet at 4/1 last August that PNE would make the play-offs - so my Paddy Power account is now topped up by 50 euro - Go PNE!!!
Leinster 25 - Munster 6
This was a bigger surprise than PNE making the play-offs. I like watching Munster play and have watched them particularly in the Heineken Cup over the past few years and have marveled at their success and the way they do their business. Despite being born and reared in the province of Leinster I don't feel that I have any attachment to them and have never seen them play - not even on TV, before yesterday. Like everyone else I was surprised at how much better in every aspect Leinster were - fully deserving their win. Frankly, Munster were shite and never got their passionate play going. Leinster now play Leicester in the final - cue confusion for the commentators!
Cardiff Blues 26 - Leicester Tigers 26
I watched the extra time for this game which was very boring - just to see what would happen if the game ended in a draw. A rugby-style penalty shoot-out was promised and when the game ended in a draw, this is what we got. I really thought that kicking penalties from 22 metres straight in front of the goal (with no 'keeper) would mean that we would be in for a long shoot-out. However, while the regular kickers scored no problem, the pressure was on the guys who rarely kick for goal. It was one of the game's top players, the fantastic Martyn Williams, who missed the crucial penalty for Cardiff kicking it wide. I remember when in school in Roscrea we used to practice kicking penalty goals in front of the posts. I was rubbish at this. Add the pressure of a Heineken Cup Final place on offer, the crowd, and of course the money - it must not have been easy to do. A very boring way to end a rugby game - a replay, or some sort of count-back for tries scored or penalties conceded would be better.
Reading 1 - Birmingham City 2
Normally not a game I'd watch, but I had an interest in this as the loser might end up playing PNE in the Play-offs. There were also quite a lot of Irish players on view. Reading were woeful - worse that when I saw them vs PNE last February, and will be handy opponents in the play-offs. Brian kept me up-to-date with text messages on PNE's progress, but towards the end of the game I switched over to Sky Sports News for live updates on all the games. Prediction - Birmingham City will be relegated next year, I wasn't that impressed with them. I also had a 10 euro place bet on Birmingham for the championship - despite the fact that they came second, I only won 21 euro.