New chapter: I noticed on RTÉ's Premier Soccer Saturday that the entire Man United team were wearing jerseys that had a poppy as part of the shirt's fabric. So was Alex Ferguson so conversant with the war views of his international team that there was no opt-out necessary? And if sport and politics aren't supposed to mix, how come sport and war are clearly mixed in this case? As for James McClean, late of this parish, my hat is off to him for doing his own thinking and not wearing a poppy, despite the fact that all his Sunderland team-mates did. And my other hat is off to Martin O'Neill, the Sunderland manager, who presumably (unlike Ferguson) left room for personal choice in the matter.
And finally: I don't think I've ever seen a political party leader's key-note speech received with such critical commentary as was Alastair McDonnell's yesterday by Professor Rick Wilford. Immediately after the speech, Wilford pointed out that it was full of generalities (apart from the mandatory kicking of Sinn Féin); it promised a renewal of the SDLP, something that, at last year's SDLP conference, was promised would happen inside three months; and while the speech was better than McDonnell's shambolic "Jeez boys, them lights is blindin' me!" performance last year, it must have left any honest SDLP member in the hall with that by-now-familiar sinking feeling. It's the good doctor's wife I feel sorry for.