The past is another country and the year of our lord 2010 is definitely that.
When Garret Fitzgerald, a respected statesman and valued Balls reader (okay, I can't be sure of that) turned 80, RTE ran a series of programmes entitled 'Fitzgerald at 80'. We have borrowed this jaunty, snappy phraseology as we embark on our #BallsatFive series.
How things have changed in the way sport is consumed in this country in the past five years, since this website launched...
The first ever GAA gif has been pushed on an unsuspecting world. The astonishing Leinster hurling final of 2012 gave us the first GAA gif that really broke through into the public consciousness.
The public now knows that Johnny Coen barrelling into Richie Power can only be fully appreciated in gif form. It is truly mesmerising. We trust that in five years time, some enterprising Loughrea councillor will erect a big screen in the middle of the town playing this on a loop.
Since then, the GAA gif genre has gone from strength to strength. It has proven the perfect medium through which one can enjoy a bone-shuddering challenge.
It has also enabled us to have another look at some wonderful sights that some folk may have missed on first glance, such as the Laois steward.
LEAGUE OF IRELAND FANS V PREMIER LEAGUE FANS ROWS TAKE OFF
There has long been a tension between those determined followers of the League here and those they chastise as 'barstoolers', ie. the majority of people who choose to devote their time to following the English Premier League.
However, the internet has led to increased interaction with these two tribes. At least once a fortnight, a largescale row will break out between LOI fans and Premier League devotees, with the former generally the angrier and the latter the more defensive.
The most spectacular skirmish (the Battle of Bannockburn equivalent for these two tribes) occurred after Dermot Keely's scathing comments about Irish Liverpool fans who packed out the Aviva for the summer friendly with Shamrock Rovers (See here).
THE EMERGENCE OF SIMON ZEBO AS BOTH A RUGBY PLAYER AND A RAPPER
Simon Zebo made his Munster debut at roughly the same time this site escaped out into the world. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength as a rugby player and from strength to strength as a rapper.
His lip-synch with Paddy Jackson on the 2013 tour of the USA was a watershed moment in the history of Irish culture. Unfortunately, the philistines at the record company have browbeaten youtube into removing the audio.
THERE'S NO ESCAPING GARY NEVILLE AND JOE BROLLY
In 2010, Gary Neville was a deeply unpopular figure whom only a Manchester United nut could like, never mind love. Now, he is the darling of the punditry game.
You will have seen this youtube comment in the past few years.
I have to say, Gary Neville is talking a lot of sense here and that’s coming from a Liverpool fan.
As for GAA, who remembers those innocent days when Pat Spillane was the bold boy of RTE’s GAA coverage? It all seems very twee now. In controversy terms, Spillane is analogue in a digital age. A legendary player, a beloved figure and a great controversialist by the standards of the 90s, when it comes to winding folk up, it is now clear that Spillane was merely preparing the ground for Brolly.
Brolly has now ascended to the pantheon of RTE punditry greats – a place hitherto for populated only by the three A-listers of RTE’s soccer coverage.
Pat Spillane's inevitable 'Well Joe Brolly' moment https://t.co/agARyhn4y5
— Aidan O'Donoghue (@AidanDonoghue) May 8, 2015
SPORTSPEOPLE'S INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS
For all we know, Willie and Eddie O'Connor could have been dapper fashion-lovers with a fondness for bow-ties and cardigans. However, because the founders of instagram hadn't got off their arse yet, Willie and Eddie never got to flaunt that side of themselves.
Thankfully, modern Kilkenny corner backs can do so...
The star of about 60% of all GAA gifs, Davy Fitzgerald has been more prominent in the last few years than he was at any stage during his playing career.
His supercharged manic persona on the touchline, his astonishingly surly interviews, his infectious high pitched laugh, and his stern rebukes to players who step out of line have divided opinion for a few years now.
IF IRELAND DON'T QUALIFY FOR THE WORLD CUP, IT'S NO PROBLEM WE CAN COMPETE VIA SNAPCHAT
Thanks to both a tough group and a fairly abject performance in the qualifying campaign, Ireland did not reach the grand banquet in Brazil last summer. No matter, we can run our own World Cup on snapchat. And what a rollercoaster it was.
Those of us who can't remember Italia 90 now appreciate what it was like.
As Boris Johnson said of London's Olympic opening ceremony, this video will have you 'weeping hot tears of patriotic pride'.
BEING AWARE THAT WE ALL LIVE IN A JIM MCGUINNESS WORLD
Jim McGuinness applied for the second time to become Donegal manager for 2010 season. For the second time he was knocked back.
That summer, John Joe Doherty (a fine football man, we're sure) led Donegal all the way to round one of the qualifiers where they were pipped by nine points by Armagh.
If you had said that Jim McGuinness would then have taken over Donegal, and the following year led them to their first Ulster title in nineteen years sparking an orgy of complaints about their style of play and provoked calls for rule changes, before the following year leading them to their second ever All-Ireland, and then moving on to take a job with Celtic football club and a role as an advisor with the Europe Ryder Cup team, well... you'd have been right.
He's also had a few words with the Saracens rugby team. Indeed, there are only a handful of sporting organisations in the world who have not yet asked Jim to have a word. And beginning this year we can all (well, some can) watch Jim McGuinness on telly. He's now also a Gaelic football analyst with Sky Sports which brings us onto...
BRITISH TWITTER REACTIONS
Just watched 5 mins of Hurling, WTF is going on there's a GK but they keep smashing it over the bar how the fuck does he save that
— Mike Kay (@micky220406) June 7, 2014
2014 gave us one of the most controversial phenomena in Irish sports media. To the intense displeasure of many, many people, Sky Sports acquired the rights to broadcast some Gaelic football and hurling matches beginning last year.
2014 was to become the year of the British twitter reaction. We are aware that many consider this to be a dubious honour to bestow on any year. You see, we bear some responsibility for this phenomenon. We published the first ever British twitter reaction back on June 7th, following the extremely one-sided Kilkenny and Offaly Leinster championship match. It was a post idea that we thought might interest people. This proved to be correct.
The traffic on the post was simply extraordinary. It remains the most popular post in the history of the site. By some distance. Every other online publication quickly followed suit in an effort to capitalise on the Irish public’s insatiable desire for finding out what British folk thought of hurling.
Quite what this says about the Irish people and their desire for external validation (particularly from English people), we’ll leave up to others to decide.
The inevitable and very understandable backlash to this phenomenon kicked in shortly afterwards. Many publications, including this one, took flak for continually compiling BTR’s in the wake of GAA matches that were broadcast on Sky. A sizeable proportion of the population grew to hate the BTR’s and were not shy about saying so. However, the haters, no matter how numerous, did not seem to put much of a dent in the traffic on these posts. Clearly, the Irish public did not hate the British Twitter reaction so much that it discouraged them from clicking into it.
CONOR MCGREGOR WAS AN UNKNOWN FIGHTER WITH THREE WINS AND ONE LOSS TO HIS NAME
Despite Ireland hosting a UFC fight night in 2009, the sport of mixed martial arts was still largely unknown and certainly not a part of the mainstream consciousness as it is today. With the explosion of Conor McGregor onto the UFC scene, the sport has grown with frightening speed, and to think that we would be anticipating a title fight in the UFC featuring an Irish fighter would have been dismissed as a pipe dream back when Balls.ie began.
We now have an Irishman who is seen as one of the most marketable in not just MMA, but sport in general, and come the end of July we could be welcoming a UFC champion back to Dublin airport. Jose Aldo was the featherweight champion of WEC back in 2010, so he was seen as the best in that weight class, where he still remains today. Also, if you floated the idea of a UFC event being hosted in Croke Park back in March 2010, you would have been laughed at, whereas today it seen as an inevitability by some.