Matt Doherty’s renaissance at Spurs and the week’s best sportswriting

Davy Russell.

Source: PA

1. Davy Russell was never not coming back. Not when he broke his neck. Not when the shock from his fall in the 2020 Munster National shot down his arm and out through his finger and thumb with such a bang that it felt like a firework had gone off in his hand. Not when he was in traction, which is the fancy name given to lying on the flat of his back with bolts drilled into his head and bags of water hanging off them.

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If he was ever going to consider retirement, it would have been then. When the hours would pass and all he could do was stare at the ceiling and wait for the nurse to come and add more water to the bags, elongating his spine that extra bit more. Or, as he puts it: “Like the last scene in Braveheart where they have William Wallace tied up and they’re stretching him away.”

But no. Even then, it never occurred to him to end his riding career. Not even when the surgeon explained to him how fortunate he had been, how 90 per cent of people with his injury end up paralysed for life. How, when he was speared head-first into the ground, it was only a matter of millimetres that saved him.

Malachy Clerkin of the Irish Times discusses the retirement question with Davy Russell two years after his horrifying injury

2. Roy didn’t fake it. He didn’t confect imaginary adrenaline. He said that United’s players basically gave up, and not much more. And by the end it felt like a moment to ask: are the great days of people saying Manchester United are bad already gone? People saying that Manchester United are bad was a glorious thing. We will always have those sunlit memories, back when people saying Manchester United are bad was fresh and new. But you have to say, we expect a bare minimum of effort, of cinematic rage and tweetable clips. Perhaps we need to dig deep and look at the whole structure of people saying Manchester United are bad.

Because by this stage we have surely reached a tipping point in this fascination with the everyday decline of a poorly managed football club. Zoom out and United’s season is unremarkable. Fifth in the league, with a couple of minor cup runs: this looks about right given the squad and the coaching resources. Exactly which combination of Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Ralf Rangnick, Fred, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and an aged celebrity striker is supposed to guarantee elite-tier success?

The Guardian’s Barney Ronay says even pundits are struggling to stay fascinated by Man Utd’s perpetual non-success

Tottenham Hotspur’s Matt Doherty.

Source: PA

3. Since arriving from Wolves in the summer of 2020, Doherty has felt like a byword for the club’s muddled recruitment and the rapid decline of their right-back options since the glory days of Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier throughout the previous decade. At points, he has looked shaky defensively and nervous on the ball, not looking himself under Jose Mourinho — who was the manager when he signed — and not impressing Nuno Espirito Santo or Antonio Conte either.

Until, that is, the last few weeks.

Doherty has started consecutive league games for the first time since Mourinho was in charge. Spurs have won them both, scoring nine goals without reply, of which the Republic of Ireland international has scored one and set up three.

For The Athletic, Jack Pitt-Brooke writes about Matt Doherty’s renaissance at Spurs

4.  Her résumé is glittering: She won an NCAA national championship for Baylor in 2012, the same year she captured college basketball’s Player of the Year Award. She then won a WNBA championship in 2014 and was selected as one of the best 25 players in league history in 2021. She has two Olympic gold medals to her name. In the gold-medal game against Japan in Tokyo last summer, she dominated, scoring 30 points to clinch an easy victory. She is the apex of her sport. She is the best of the best. She is a legend.

And for more than a month now, she has been in the custody of the Russian government. Yet until Russian officials released a statement over the weekend saying they had detained Griner after finding hashish oil in her airport bag, it seemed that nobody had noticed. And the reaction since the arrest has been stunningly quiet. One of the greatest athletes in American sports — a gold-medal winner, a superstar, a champion — was arrested in a dangerous and volatile country that has suddenly become a pariah on the world stage. Making equivalences between sports only takes you so far here, but seriously: Imagine if Tom Brady were being held by Russian officials right now.

For NY Magazine, Will Leitsch asks why Brittney Griner’s detainment in Russia is not the the biggest sports story in America

5. Since 2019 he has been Everton’s captain too, one who does the job with the same selfless concern for the greater good and his teammates’ welfare as with his country. Coleman is reportedly a friendly conduit for new signings, helping them with houses and schools and having them over for dinner. Stories of his charity are legion: he seems to be constantly tossing unsolicited thousands here and there towards GoFundMe appeals for sick kids or local good causes.

But too often it feels like Coleman’s role for club and country has been to front up and defend the failings of others. At the bitter end of Martin O’Neill’s Ireland days he would insist the lads had full faith in management and that it was up to the players to do the job on the field. Ever the brave sergeant, drawing fire so others can escape.

Tommy Martin describes for the Irish Examiner how Seamus Coleman has spent too long fronting up for the failings of others 

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