Every Friday, Caolán Conroy provides his take on three different sporting developments across the UK and Ireland, and shares his predictions for match-ups ahead. This week he looks at football and rugby, and unveils his Ulster-born XI from last week’s games.
Jonny on the Move?
According to reports, Manchester City have had an £18m bid rejected for Jonny Evans, West Brom captain. Do you think this would be a good move for the ex-Manchester United defender? Many have said that Evans would be the perfect fit for Pep Guardiola’s side. Personally, I think it would be a great transfer for both parties.
Evans is 29 and playing the football of his life since he joined West Brom. City have had issues at the back in recent years and centre-back is an area where Guardiola has been looking to strengthen since the transfer window opened.
The only question mark around the move would be whether or not Evans would be a guaranteed starter for City. At the moment City have four centre-backs in their squad: injury-prone Vincent Kompany, John Stones, Nicolás Otamendi (who were both far from convincing last year) and Eliaquim Manama, who is thought to be deemed surplus to requirements.
Would Evans want to go and risk sitting on the bench?
Many have been surprised that Man Utd let Evans leave two years ago; apparently Alex Ferguson couldn’t believe Louis Van Gaal allowed him go to West Brom in 2015.
On talkSPORT on Thursday, Bryan Robson also slammed United for allowing him to leave. On paper Evans would be a perfect signing for City because he is a two-footed ball-playing defender who understands the league and has experience of winning the competition.
He would also have the opportunity to get back playing Champions League football, which you imagine would be a huge motivation for him.
Others have suggested that Evans may not want to move to City out of loyalty to Manchester United. He is a lifelong Man Utd fan but I find it laughable that this would even be suggested. In this day and age there is no such thing as loyalty in football, and United didn’t exactly show him any loyalty when they sold him two years ago.
A few months ago I listened to the ‘Big Interview’ podcast from Graham Hunter, where he sat down with Evans to discuss his career. Evans spoke about his ambition to one day play in Spain and his love of the Spanish game. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was jumping with joy at the prospect of working with Guardiola. Hopefully he can make the move; it’d be great to again see a local player in the squad of one of the Premier League big boys.
Crisis at Ulster Rugby?
Ulster have just played their first preseason game against Wasps. It was a chance for the players to test their fitness, the new management team to experiment with selection and tactics. Last year was a mediocre season for the team and there are plenty of questions before they kick off their PRO14 campaign against Cheetahs on 1st September.
Firstly, how will the new management team fit in? They are relatively inexperienced at this level; Jono Gibbes faces a big test as the new head coach.
Secondly, is the squad weak? Since last year Ulster have lost the inspirational Ruan Piennar. They will start the campaign without Rory Best and Iain Henderson and they are also without Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding for the foreseeable future. This, mixed with the bombshell that Charles Piutau will move on at the end of this season to Bristol in a bumper deal, is a real blow for Ulster supporters. Many are worried that the signings that have been made in the close season are not up to the standard of the players they are replacing.
Ulster have a tricky start to their season when the play the unknown quantity of the Cheetahs at home. Hopefully some of the questions will be answered before this game kicks off and Ulster can have a more successful season than last year.
This week I start a new weekly feature. I will be picking the 11 best performers (in my opinion) from the previous weekend’s games and mid-week matches. All players will be Ulster born and play in England, Scotland, Irish League, League of Ireland and further afield.
Over the next few weeks, do let me know if there’s anyone who you think deserves to be in the team – or if I’ve missed any star performers.
Gaelic football – All Ireland Football Semi Final: Mayo v Kerry. This will be tighter than most people think, it could be a draw.
Gold – Solheim Cup. Europe ladies to recapture.