Groundhopping: Ireland (v Armenia, Aviva Stadium)

Competition: UEFA Nation’s League, League B Group 1.

Date: 27 September 2022

Result: Ireland 3 – 2 Armenia

Tickets: From €20

Attendance: 41,719

Game/ Experience Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Game: I’ve seen some dreadful Ireland games over the years, and it’s for that reason, combined with the limited stock of players available to him, that these more exciting recent games involving a fairly fluid (if limited) football team have me on the ‘Kenny in’ side of what’s become an Irish international fan divide. This team are good to watch, and that gives a lot of leeway in my opinion, especialyl when the quality of player is clearly not there.

That said, they’re also flaky. Ireland totally dominated this game for 70 minutes, with Armenia offering almost no threat as a John Egan header early on and then a long-distance strike from Michael Obafemi gave Ireland a really comfortable lead. Two different mistakes within a couple of minutes of each other got Armenia back to 2-2 in the 75th minute, though (both well taken goals, too), a dangerous position for Ireland where a loss would have been enough to relegate them to the Nations League third tier.

There was another decent chance for Armenia at 2-2, before the game closed with a period of complete chaos, a VAR penalty for one of the most obvious handball stops from a defender you’d hope to see. Armenia got a red card for the handball, another for some surprisingly over the top complaints (it was absolutely blatant), and Brady scored the penalty to win it in injury time. Great entertainment.

Pastiche: “lockdown was a weird kind of blessing for an artist like me”

Pastiche is a Dublin-based pop singer who’s keeping her real name quiet, for now. Having stormed onto the scene with a series of lockdown singles, her early experiments with the fringes of the pop scene have a slightly offbeat feel, blending electronic leanings with punchy lyrics and a big, boisterous sound.

The journey has already taken her far enough to be booked into the iconic Academy venue before having played a single live show.

“It’s been crazy,” she says. “Such a rollercoaster. It was interesting trying to navigate releases in a fully online world when we were in lockdown. I released my first single ‘Chasing Down The Fame’ in November 2020, mid-pandemic, and just tried to work it out as I went along.” 

“I’m lucky to know a lot of people in the industry who really helped me find my feet, but if I’m being fully honest, lockdown was a weird kind of blessing for an artist like me. The whole world was at a standstill and I had all this time on my hands. It genuinely felt like I was working with borrowed time and so I could write, produce, plan, strategise and conceptualise a lot of work in a pretty short time.” 

“I do believe making the most of this helped me to achieve in just one year what a lot of new artists take years to do independently. Between my streaming and radio numbers and press coverage, everything I put all that time and energy into is really beginning to pay off. I was lucky enough to play an intimate gig in The Workmans Club as well as my sold out debut headliner in Whelan’s in November.” 

“I plan on doing many more shows in 2022 and next summer I’m going to hit the festival season hard! I am fully aware that things can change in an instant, but because I came up in this really weird time I feel able to navigate it. It’s unconventional but I’m not a conventional artist and I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon.”

Mufutau Yusuf: “In a way, I’m embarking on a pilgrimage to communicate with my forefathers”

Mufutau Yusuf is a Nigerian-Irish dancer, inspired by exploration of his own heritage, and by time spent training in the Austrian town of Salzburg. In his latest show, Òwe, which he’ll perform at Dublin Fringe this weekend, he explores these differing roots in an attempt, ultimately, to understand himself.

Ahead of the show, I talked to Yusuf about drawing together all teh differing strands that make up hiw show, and who he is today….

First of all, give me a little background on your new show, and how it came about?

Òwe is a solo work looking into my Yoruba identity, my root and my connection to my ancestors and heritage. Using archival materials to examine the various facets of this identity, the solo is an attempt to deconstruct a personal ontology, and reformulate it into a new body of knowledge, experience and perspective, and in a way embarking on a pilgrimage to communicate with my forefathers. This piece also intends to interrogate our conceptions about archives and to redefine the notion of archives and how we understand the workings of what is contained in them.
What can the Fringe audience expect?

I guess the audience can expect a dance performance using a varied movement expression, sounds and imagery to question ideas about identity, history, and traditions. It’s a personal, physical, and emotional piece that invites the audience to witness a journey of becoming.
What’s your dance style, and how do you use it on stage?

I was trained in contemporary dance but over the years I’ve tried developing my own movements language that incorporate quick and explosive physicality, emotional engagement and added with theatrical expressions.

There are obvious Nigerian influences in your work. Being raised in Ireland, how do you relate to your roots?

Paradoxically I feel both close to and far from my roots. The closeness comes from my relationship with my father, who is in a way my anchor. I still speak Yoruba with him, I hear stories from him, and he keeps me up to date with the current affairs in Nigeria. He always reminds me of the values of our people and raised me and my brother according to those values.

He also often relates stories of my childhood adventures growing up in Nigeria, making my heart swell and nostalgic and keeping those memories alive within me. And top of that I’ve also stayed connected myself through the food, music, books and of course I’m an avid consumer of Nollywood drama.

The distance I feel obviously comes from the fact that I was away from Nigeria for 20 years, only revisiting this year. This became more difficult to endure during my mid-twenties as I started to really question who I was and where I came from, despite having my father as a reference. Realising the gulf that existed between myself and my kins was jarring and I guess it’s what prompted me to make
this work.

Groundhopping: Rush Athletic (v Tullamore Town, St Catherine’s Park)

Competition: Leinster Senior League Sunday Senior 1B (sixth tier)

Date: 18 September 2022

Result: Rush Athletic 2 – 0 Tullamore Town

Tickets: Free in, just walk up.

Attendance: circa 110

Game/ Experience Rating:  ⭐⭐

The Game: Rush Athletic are already looking secure in Sunday Senior 1B after just a handful of games, a great achievement for my local side’s second season ever in the sixth tier of Irish football. Tullamore Town, however, are not, having been battered 5-0 by league leaders Oliver Bond Celtic on the opening day, and came to St Catherine’s intent on defending for their lives.

That made for an odd game. This was hyper defensive, with Tullamore’s most attacking players during the first half quite often no further forward than the half way line. That made them difficult ot break down, but it also made this a bit of a terrible spectacle for much of the game. It took until just after the 70th minute for Rush to finally take the lead, something that happened essentially because the Tullamore defense was too tired to deal with a run down the right wing.

From there a game of football finally broke out, with Tullamore finally forced out of their shell, and perhaps inevitably, Rush grabbing a second goal for their third league win of the season. A good win, considering the way the opposition set up, but a pretty poor spectacle.

Groundhopping: Shamrock Rovers (v Djurgårdens, Tallaght Stadium)

Competition: Europa Conference League Group F

Date: 8 September 2022

Result: Shamrock Rovers 0 – 0 Djurgårdens IF

Tickets: I’ve decided I’m all in for Shamrock Rovers Europa Conference League Group Stage. €75 for the three Shamrock Rovers home games. €30 for kids for the same. There were more expensive tickets, but I don’t need to be in the padded seats!

Attendance: 6,330

Game/ Experience Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐

The Game: Djurgårdens, oddly, are the fourth ranked team in Shamrock Rovers group, with Shamrock Rovers the third. I think its quite a balanced group with little between Molde, Djurgårdens and KAA Gent, though it’d be a stretch for Rovers to qualify.

Still, any kind of porgress is progress, and Djurgårdens looked pretty ordinary in this game, which on a better day Shamrock Rovers could have nicked. They grew into the game, particularly in a dominant period towards half time in which the Irish side were by far the better side. I’ve been hoping to see more of Jack Byrne, who has been struggling for fitness but is one of the best players I’ve seen in the League of Ireland, and when he did make it on, he was good but not outstanding.

Both sides could have won this, but neither really set the place alight. Still, a fairly comfortably point for Shamrock Rovers is great for the famous coefficient, the significant funding on offer for any kind of points in the Europa Conference League. They’ll certainly need to be home wins if they’re going to progress, though, so perhaps a missed opportunity.

The ground: Surprisingly, less are showing up to these group games than the knock out games (less riding on them as inidividual games, and slightly more expensive, perhaps). It’d be nice to see sell outs going forward. Tallaght was the same as always: a good, neat place to watch football but not one of Ireland’s most interesting stadiums.

Extras: This match made the news for a chant about the Queen that was a little bit tasteless. I didn’t hear it, as I was right down the other end of the ground (in fact, where I usually sit in Tallaght, the away fans are easier to hear than the home ones). What I did hear was Rovers fans chanting for Djurgårdens rivals Hammarby, and a vocal response from the away end, which was fairly comic.

Assorted asides: Djurgårdens has the best away fans I’ve seen of any European side in Ireland to date. Which is interesting as I’d rank Norkopping, who I saw play St Patrick’s Athletic a few years ago, second. The Swedes are a bit mad, but likeably so.

Paper Tigers: “It’s a Journey, Not a Destination”

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Paper Tigers burst onto the Northern Irish music scene in 2018, quickly garnering a reputation in particular for lively early single ‘Gucci Smiles’, which won a nomination for the Northern Irish music prize best single category. The co-ed punk rockers powered into the pandemic, with a rapid-fire gigging schedule set aside by force in early 2020.

To get their music out there, Paper Tigers have created a loose association with Blowtorch, a record label that’s done a great deal to get rock bands into the public eye across Ireland. It’s very much in the spirit of the punk community. Their broader ethos has been similarly hodge-podge at times, and better for it.

“When we were releasing ‘Ghosts’, I just started reaching out to a lot of different people, labels, blogs, promoters, just trying to get the name out there and raise awareness of the band,” singer Michael Smyth says. “Richard (from Blowtorch) hit me back and we started talking, he seemed cool and we just started working together. We aren’t signed as such, but Richard is a cool guy and it’s good to work with him. It’s led to us being included on the Blowtorch vinyl compilation ‘A Plan For Something’ with a bunch of great other bands.” 

Since being forced off the stage, it’s been radioplay and, in particular, a couple of impressive videos that have helped Paper Tigers remain in the public eye.

“When we were getting ready to release ‘Gucci Smiles’, we had already played a few shows together and to us it seemed like for this song it should be a live video, the energy, the way the crowd reacts to that song, bringing a narrative into it didn’t make any sense so we decided to get our good friend Bob Logan to come shoot live footage and patch it altogether from a few shows,” Smyth says of the video.

Tess Tyler: “I haven’t had a chance to express myself authentically until now”

Tess Tyler‘s imaginative score and latest single ‘7ero’ immediately caught my imagination: it’s a surreal, stunning blend of classical, orchestral styles with electronica, something unique and inventive.

In the course of listening, I learnt that Bristol based Tyler has also collaborated with Rory Friers, from one of my favourite acts And So I Watch You From Afar, on the record, which, despite their disparate backgrounds, makes an odd kind of sense as Friers branches out into new styles more similar to Tyler’s. I caught up with her ahead of the release of the album, Fractals.

First of all, congrats on the single. I understand it’s the lead into a double album, which sounds ambitious! Tell me about the two sides of things….Are those ‘two sides’ reflected in the two versions of the single, too?

It is. ‘7ero’ is one of 5 tracks from Fractals Vol. 1 that also feature on Fractals Vol. 2. The first volume being piano with electronics, and the second, experimental classical interpretations of my graphic scores performed by The Spindle Ensemble.

You merge classical and more contemporary styles in your music. How do you find that mix when it comes to finding a niche to perform and record in?

I’ve always been drawn towards interesting combinations of sound, so I guess it just comes down to experimentation for me. I keep playing with different palettes of sound until I get that feeling of ‘Yes! That’s what this track is meant to sound like!’ Even though I almost always start writing a piece with piano first, the textural / sound-based element of my music is super integral to the composition process. All the sound design is pretty much fully formed before I get to recording the piano properly. I need to know that it all blends nicely before I commit with recording. 

When it comes to performance, I haven’t actually performed any music from this record yet, apart from ‘Sell The Sky’ for a live video release. I’m super interested to see how the intricate piano will work against the grit of the electronics and kit in different spaces. I’m lucky enough to work with great engineers who know what they’re doing!

Tell me about your work on Lego Avengers and Human Fall Flat – how does that kind of stuff come about, and how does it differ to your normal writing?

In all honesty, I stumbled into composing for games. When I graduated from my masters, I emailed everyone and anyone about jumping on any existing projects as an assistant or orchestrator. Rob Westwood happened to be completely snowed under and needed some help with scoring Lego Avengers, where I ended up with a co-composing credit. It all went from there really! 

Composing for media is wildly different from writing your own stuff, from a conceptual perspective. When working in film / video games etc., it’s important that your music aligns with the intent of the director / game developer. In other words, the music is there to support / enhance something that already exists.

When you’re writing a record, you’re starting with yourself, and that’s it. I guess when you’re working to someone else’s vision, it’s more obviously a job, as you have to make sure that other people are happy with what you’re creating. When it’s your own stuff, I find it’s more important that I, myself am happy with it. The pressure comes from different places. For me, they’re completely different disciplines, but I love doing both. They tick very separate, yet satisfying boxes for me.

Groundhopping: Shamrock Rovers (v Ferencvaros, Tallaght Stadium)

Date: 25 August 2022

Competition: Europa League Final Qualifying Round

Result: Shamrock Rovers 1 – 0 Ferencvaros (aggregate 1-4)

Tickets: €20 (adult), €7 (kid)

Attendance: 7,163

Game/ Experience Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐

The Game: I’ve been a little unfortunate watching Shamrock Rovers European games this season, in that both of the home games I’ve been to have been in practise dead rubbers, with the side already 3-0 down against Ludogorets from the first leg in the Champions League, and 4-0 down in this case. Still, seeing decent European sides in Ireland is always worth doing.

This did feel like a dead rubber of a game. It sold out, perhaps helped by the knowledge that even after their inevitable loss, Rovers’ European adventure would continue in the Conference League group stages, and Ferencvaros were pretty average for the whole game, drawing just one really solid save out of Alan Mannus, who looks a seriously solid keeper.

Rovers won this at the last through a bit of a tap in from Andy Lyons, and that drew an impressive reaction out of a crowd that new their team was out (it is impressive to beat a team like Ferencvaros for a LOI team, regardless of the situation, and worth ranking points for next year’s European games, so definite positives). Overall, though, a bit of a nothing game, made entertaining only by its closing stages and the fact that Rovers matched and in fact marginally outplayed the Hungarian side throughout.