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Offaly’s Annie Kehoe is faithful to county as career put on hold

Imagine if you had given up your job to concentrate fully on inter-county football for 2020.

That was something that Offaly ladies football captain Annie Kehoe did late last year as she parked her burgeoning cheffing career, having moved home to Tullamore with the aim of succeeding in the county colours.

At 25 years old, Kehoe has years of success in the kitchen ahead of her. A graduate of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork, she went on to teach at the school alongside one of her idols, Darina Allen. She has worked as a chef closer to home as well as in Italy’s Tuscany region, but the pull of ladies football convinced Annie to make the drastic move before the worldwide pause arrived.

“It’s a decision I have always had to make. I always had to mix my career and sport. Cheffing doesn’t really go well with football with the hours you have to work,” said Kehoe.

“It’s not easy to find a job either. While there are lots of artisan, organic cafes in places like Cork and Dublin, there are not a whole lot of options in the midlands. It has always been that struggle, whether to take a job away somewhere or stay home and play football.

“For the last two years, football has kind of won that battle. I have been lucky to find work close to home but I left my job before Christmas to fully concentrate on playing football.

“I was even offered a job in Dublin, but then I decided that I’d give at least one more proper year of committing to football. I don’t like half committing, especially the county game. If I’m in it, I’m in it 100 per cent.”

Her love of ladies football, organic cooking and horticulture was nurtured on the family farm near Tullamore. Annie’s uncle Michael Scully was her major Gaelic Games influence, her parents, Mary and Seamus, ensured their grá for nature and horticulture rubbed off too, while her time in Ballymaloe transformed the sparks of interest in cuisine into a raging fire.

“I went straight out of school and went down to Ballymaloe in Cork. I kind got sucked into that and after the course I ended up working there for a couple of years too. It was a brilliant experience, I really enjoyed it,” she explained.

“I always wanted to concentrate on cooking and I loved it down there. To be honest I’d go back in the morning if I hadn’t such a love of football. It is a different world down there, it is all about proper, good organic food. Darina Allen is an absolute inspiration, it was fantastic working with her, I have to say.”

Annie’s return from her culinary travels coincided with an upturn in success for her home club Tullamore. Crowned Offaly intermediate champions in 2018, they went on to reach a first ever county senior final in 2019, where they were denied by the five-in-a-row chasing Naomh Ciaran’s.

Captaining the club during this period of success and progression is a huge honour for Annie and her family, but being handed the county captaincy earlier this year topped it all.

“It’s funny, I had already made the decision to stick around and I wasn’t expecting the captaincy to be honest. But it’s a huge honour,” she said.

“We have a very young team, and I am the second eldest in the team and I’m only 25. I’m not really one to speak out and be loud, so I wasn’t selected for that reason, but I do commit to things when I say I will. Maybe I lead by example that way.

“There’s myself, Katie (22) and Sarah (20) who play football and having my two younger sisters on the team drives you on too. Sarah has taken the year out of county football this year. She did the leaving cert last year and she played through that, so she wanted a bit of a break. She loves playing, so she’ll be back.

“I am actually quite new to the county set up. I only played a little bit at underage, and I only started playing adult level in 2016. When I moved back home Katie and Sarah were already playing at that stage. They were the ones that got me into it at the start.”

After committing to such a huge personal sacrifice for football this year, Annie remains hopeful of salvaging something from her 2020 football plan. The new Offaly management team led by Garry Daly has not asked the players to undertake regimented training at home due to the uncertainty ahead, but if anyone has the skills, facilities and support to get ready for game time, it’s Annie.

“You get used to not playing – I never thought I’d say that – but I’m lucky that I’m living at home and Katie and Sarah are both at home too. We are keeping each other going.

“My parents are farmers so we have a good patch of grass, which a lot of footballers would pay a lot of money for these days. We’re still training away, doing a bit of football and exercise.

“While the county management didn’t give us programmes to do, when the announcement was made our sports scientist got in contact with us and he provided us with different workouts that would keep us ticking over, rather than pushing on when we don’t really know what the end goal is.

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Cricket could return this summer with fans, says Lancashire CEO

The cricket season resuming with fans in stadiums this summer is not beyond the realms of possibility, according to Lancashire’s CEO Daniel Gidney.

July 1 has been earmarked as the revised proposed start to the cricket season, although competitions like the inaugural Hundred have been pushed back to 2021.

But Gidney believes measures can be put in place to ensure a stadium meets the government’s official social distancing guidelines and enable spectators to enjoy the sport in person.

“People look at stadiums and say there’s no way a stadium can be socially distanced, but actually if you take a 20-25 thousand seater stadium, I believe you could potentially have two or three thousand fans in with seats marked off, one-way systems, yellow-lines like you get at passport control,” Gidney said.

His positivity will bring some hope to sports fans, many of whom are beginning to feel resigned to spectator-free sport for the foreseeable future.

Those steps are tentative at this stage though and cricket, like all sport, will ultimately be guided by the latest public health protocols.

Plans are already in place for bio-secure venues as a means to kick-start the international cricket calendar this summer with England set to face West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Ireland across both Test and limited overs formats.

In order for a venue to be deemed bio-secure, it would need to be divided into designated zones. These zones would separate the two teams, match officials, ground staff and the media, with movement between the zones strictly limited.

Moves are also afoot for England players to return to training this week, and those like Lancashire’s Jos Buttler and Mark Wood have admitted there is anxiety about returning – even for basic skills training.

Gidney admits that one of the biggest obstacles to cricket restarting, besides the health guidelines, is giving players confidence that the playing environment is safe.

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Darts at home

We are down to the final four nights of the first phase of the PDC Home Tour and ‘Big’ John Henderson is back for a second crack at winning.

It is last-chance saloon for some after the PDC announced that with all Tour Card holders given a chance to play, the final groups will be filled by those in second spot, and Gary Anderson who has solved his wifi issues.

After Mike De Dekker, Luke Humphries and Scott Waites became the first beneficiaries, Henderson will be joined by Danny Noppert, Cristo Reyes and Ryan Miekle for Friday night’s Group 29 action and the hope of making it second time lucky.

  • The Rise of Fallon Sherrock
  • Anderson in, Price and Wright return; second phase revealed

PDC Home Tour – Thursday’s fixtures (Group 28)

Nathan Aspinall and Rob Cross have been joined by Dave Chisnall, Glen Durrant and Jonny Clayton as big names to have come through along while Carl Wilkinson, Alan Tabern, Jamie Lewis and Nick Kenny are among the surprise winners.

World champion Peter Wright has been the headline name to fall, joined by Gerwyn Price and James Wade from the world’s top 10 in exiting at the opening group stage – the first two will now return over the final nights of action.

All matches are the best of nine legs (first to five), and the winners of each group progress to a second phase which will get underway on Tuesday May 26.

There will be eight groups in the last 32 and each of the group winners to determine the line-up for the last eight. From there, the top two players from two four-player groups then progressing to the Championship Group on Friday June 5.

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GAA referees running for Pieta House in Darkness into Light campaign

The second weekend of May is almost upon us. Usually, the intercounty championships would be starting with matches the length and breadth of Ireland.

Fans would be readying themselves to travel in their thousands, would be adding the final touches to their championship preparation, and the referees would be getting everything in order.

Of course, such a scenario remains months away, but match officials are nonetheless marking the weekend for a good cause.

On Saturday, 72 intercounty referees will each run 11.2km – the average distance they would cover in a championship match – to rain money for the Darkness into Light fundraiser for Pieta House.

“A lot of referees would normally be training to pass the pre-championship fitness test,” David Gough explained to Sky Sports.

“As a way of marking what should have been the first weekend of championship action, which also coincided with that would have been the Pieta House Darkness into Light run, both of those events have been cancelled, and it was a way of supporting Pieta House, which many of the referees have done in the past, and also marking what should have been the start of the championship weekend for hurling and football referees.”

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And so the idea was born.

“Chris Mooney (a Dublin hurling referee) set up a GoFundMe page, he contacted all 72 GAA intercounty referees, and it was decided that we would run the average distance covered by a referee in a championship game – 11.2km according to last year’s GPS data,” continued Gough.

“So in total, that’s going to be 810km, which is roughly running from Wexford Park to Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork, up to Páirc Mhic Chumhaill in Ballybofey and down to Croke Park.

“It’s not a relay, but referees are encouraged to run their 11.2km at some stage on Saturday, depending what their own personal circumstances are – some of them are getting up to do it in the Darkness into Light part of the morning, and other referees will complete it during the day.

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England’s 2005 Ashes winners wouldn’t be bullied by Australia, says Nasser Hussain

With Sky Sports Cricket broadcasting the Edgbaston Test from the 2005 Ashes in full from Thursday, Nasser Hussain – who will be part of a watchalong for the Test’s thrilling conclusion on Sunday from 12pm – recalls his memories leading into that second Test of the series…

It could have all been so different.

With Australia needing four to win, Steve Harmison bowled a full toss wide outside Brett Lee’s off-stump. Had it gone for four, the Ashes were all but over.

But it didn’t. It was stopped by the sweeper on the boundary for just a single and a couple of balls later England took the final wicket they were desperate for and were right back in the series at 1-1.

The Ashes

May 7, 2020, 12:30pm

Live on

  • Watch Edgbaston 2005 on Sky Sports
  • QUIZ: What do you remember of Edgbaston 2005?

Back then, I was enjoying my new role as a spectator during that 2005 summer having retired a year earlier, but that last day at Edgbaston was difficult.

It was similar to Ben Stokes’ Headingley heroics last summer; as a commentator you are there to do a job, but you can just feel the tension come through from the crowd.

England fans up and down the country would have been hiding behind their sofas in 2005, yet England skipper Michael Vaughan had a real cool, calm mannerism about him.

That was a very, very good England side, and one brilliantly led by Vaughan.

I think it was said ‘he ruled with an iron fist in a velvet glove’, which sums him up pretty well. Vaughan knew when to be firm, but also knew when to let players go out and just express themselves.

  • Vaughan: We proved Boycott wrong at Edgbaston
  • Root on The Cricket Show

I never felt, even after defeat in the first Test at Lord’s, that it was a case of ‘here we go again’.

If it had been my side, or Michael Atherton’s, or previous England teams, going 1-0 down, there would be some thinking in that. There was no mental baggage and scarring in this team.

You could see that before the series in an ODI at Edgbaston, when Matt Hayden went at Simon Jones after he threw the ball back at him. Straight away, Andrew Strauss came in from one side, Paul Collingwood from the other.

Watching it, you thought ‘ok, this side aren’t going to be bullied by Australia’.

There were more positive signs, in particular with Kevin Pietersen and the way he counter-attacked against Glenn McGrath on his Test debut at Lord’s.

Whatever message Vaughan had put across to his players, along the lines of ‘we’ve got to take it to these Aussies’, you still need someone to front up and do that. You could see it just rattled Australia a little bit.

No one had played McGrath like that before. Ever. Smashing him for six straight into the pavilion, hitting him off his length like that.

And this was McGrath at Lord’s. Where he was historically great.

McGrath at Lord’s

Glenn McGrath took 26 wickets at Lord’s over just three Tests, at an average of 11.50, including match figures of 9-82 in 2005.

With that in mind, McGrath doing his ankle by rolling over on a cricket ball on that first morning at Edgbaston was huge in the context of the series.

As was Ricky Ponting’s decision to bowl at the toss.

I was in the middle at the time, looking at the pitch, and then you heard the commotion, with people rushing over to the Hollies Stand.

Your first thought is it’s just one of these things that happens regularly of a morning, someone has gone over and will soon be back up on their feet. But then you see it’s McGrath, and five minutes later a stretcher is being brought round.

Shane Warne will tell you: he was pushing Ponting to bat. Australia were heavily reliant on Warne and McGrath. So, with no McGrath, it was a case of ‘now what have you got?’

The rest of the Australian bowling attack was not quite firing. Jason Gillespie was a great bowler, but Pietersen had battered him around the park in an ODI at Bristol earlier that summer and there were signs Dizzy was past his best.

England ended up smashing 400 runs on that first day at Edgbaston. On the back of Pietersen’s aggression at Lord’s, Strauss and Marcus Trescothick set the tone from ball one and the crowd lifted.

Ponting can argue, ‘well, if we’d got three more runs’ then it’s a brilliant decision [at the toss], but you knew then that the series was back alive.

While Australia had concerns over their bowling, England’s four-pronged seam attack, backed up by Ashley Giles, had everything.

There was swing from Matthew Hoggard, bounce and pace from Harmison – go back to Lord’s and him scarring Ponting with a bouncer, hitting Justin Langer too – and then you had the pace and skiddy reverse-swing of Jones and man of the series Freddie Flintoff.

Freddie bowled at Edgbaston, according to Ponting, ‘one of the best spells he’d ever faced’, as he took Langer’s wicket and the skipper’s in the same second-innings over. And that’s coming from Ponting!

He was bowling 90mph plus, reversing the ball both ways, in and out to Ponting.

As an ex-England captain who had endured a lot of defeats to Australia, it was nice to see that when you put them under pressure and execute your skills properly, they are fallible just like anyone else.

When I left the England set up, I would be lying if I said I saw them winning the Ashes in a year’s time but, I felt if that bowling attack could stay together, then they would have a chance.

And the key reason England won that series was their bowling attack.

It also needed Australia to not be at their best and, taking nothing away from what England achieved, with McGrath injured for some of the series and Gillespie not at his best, I think they did come down a notch.

That said, the one person who went up in my estimations – if that was even possible – was Shane.

It’s one thing doing it when everything is going in your favour, but when everyone around you is stuttering, for him to put in the performances he did with bat and ball in that series was absolutely phenomenal.

He was a champion cricketer already before that series, but 249 runs and 40 wickets was immense. Forty wickets!

It was a remarkable summer. Some of the scenes: the Pietersen innings at The Oval, the hordes of fans queuing at Old Trafford for the final day, Freddie’s match-winning moments.

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Watch Edgbaston 2005 on Sky Sports, including watchalong with players on Sunday

The 2005 Ashes was one of the greatest series in history.

Almost 15 years on, Sky Sports Cricket will broadcast the second Test at Edgbaston in full with original Sky commentary from 12.30pm on Thursday including the nerve-jangling, barely-watchable climax to day four.

The Ashes

May 7, 2020, 12:30pm

Live on

Michael Vaughan’s team went to Birmingham trailing 1-0 in the series after losing the opening Test at Lord’s by 239 runs despite bowling Australia out for 190 in their first innings.

In the days that followed, the teams fought a ding-dong battle that left the tourists on 175-8 at stumps on day three needing 107 more runs to go 2-0 up and all but retain the urn with three Tests to go.

What followed was pure theatre as the Test went down to the wire, producing some iconic cricketing moments.

Three of England’s victorious team – skipper Vaughan, opener Marcus Trescothick and paceman Steve Harmison – will join us on Sunday for a ‘Watchalong’ special on Sky Sports Cricket and our YouTube channel to relive the epic conclusion to the Test match.

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The sky really IS a deeper shade of blue

The sky really IS a deeper shade of blue: Reduced pollution levels during lockdown are making UK skies look like we’re on a tropical island, scientists say

  • Drastic falls in traffic, and the resultant levels of pollution, have given the heavens a rich hue that can usually only be found somewhere more exotic
  • Climate professor William Collins said the sky is naturally a deep blue but pollution adds a haze that makes it look paler as the fine particles absorb light
  • Another short-term benefit is that deep blue skies have a positive psychological effect, even if we are stuck indoors as the clear skies put us in a better mood

It might seem like a cruel trick of the mind for those trapped indoors during lockdown – but Britain’s skies really have turned a deeper shade of blue. 

Drastic falls in traffic, and the resultant levels of pollution, have given the heavens a rich hue that scientists say is usually found only on remote tropical islands. 

Fine particles from vehicle emissions dull the light we normally see, even on a sunny day. But with far fewer cars choking the roads and just a fraction of the normal number of jets in the air, the sky is more vivid. 

William Collins, a climate professor at the University of Reading, said the sky is naturally a deep blue but pollution adds a haze that makes it look paler as the fine particles absorb light. 

People practicing social distancing at Tynemouth beach as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus

‘The absence of traffic will be having an effect,’ he said, adding that there was ‘no question’ the current skies were ‘the kind of blue you’d expect to see on a nice tropical island somewhere. Everybody’s been noticing it’. 

The effect of reduced pollution is even more dramatic when the wind is coming from the east, as it is at present. 

‘At the moment, the wind direction is coming over the Channel from the Continent which we would normally expect to be very polluted, and which would also make our skies hazier,’ Prof Collins added. 

Not all the effects of reduced traffic are so visible, but levels of nitrogen dioxide – which is linked to lung problems and reduced life expectancy, as well as acid rain – are also plummeting. 

Professor James Lee, an expert in atmospheric chemistry at the University of York, said: ‘Since the lockdown there has been quite a large drop in nitrogen dioxide pretty much uniformly in every city that we’ve looked at by 30 to 40 per cent.’ 

But he cautioned that the ‘relatively short period of relief’ would probably not be enough to make a difference to public health in the longer term. ‘What it does show is what can be achieved,’ he said. 

Blue skies over a London park as the lack of pollution makes the sky a more vivid blue

‘We’re looking at this as a little bit of a window into the future when, say, in ten, 15, 20 years from now, where a lot of the vehicle fleet is likely to be electric, this is what the air is going to be like in our cities. 

‘Secondly, people may realise once the restrictions have been lifted that maybe we don’t need to travel as much, don’t need to work in the office as much, and that has an immediate effect on the air and our wellbeing. 

‘I hate to say it’s an exciting time to be an atmospheric scientist, but it kind of is. We would never have expected to be able to have something like this. 

‘It’s an awful thing that’s happening but if there is one slight silver lining, it’s that the air in the cities is much cleaner.’ 

Another short-term benefit is that deep blue skies have a positive psychological effect, even if we are stuck indoors. 

‘I may be sitting in a study surrounded by computer screens,’ says Prof Collins. 

‘But I can look out of the window and see a nice blue sky – so that does make being shut away slightly more bearable.’ 

People are pictured making the most of the greenery at Binfield Health in Oxfordshire this week 

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Sally Walton: Olympic hockey player and coach inspiring self-confidence in others

“People look up to me as a role model in hockey and somebody who’s very comfortable with who they are – but I’m just doing what I love doing.”

Sally Walton is still smitten with her sport. After an international career that brought her over 160 caps and a clutch of medals – including Olympic bronze for Great Britain at London 2012 – her devotion to hockey has continued in both outdoor and indoor formats of the game with club sides Olton & West Warwicks and Bowdon Hightown.

Great weekend of indoor hockey with @bowdon_hightown 4 wins from 4. Makes the hard work away from the pitch worthwhile. #hockey #supersixes #womeninsport #redandblackattack #goodtimes #friends #indoorhockey 🏑❤️🖤

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With the latter, the former England defender has been a revelation in attack in recent seasons, frequently finishing as top scorer in the Jaffa Super Sixes Trophy, the UK’s premier indoor tournament. Now 38, Walton’s talents as a coach have also made her one to watch; since 2016, she has been working at the prestigious Royal Grammar School Worcester and has risen to become their head of hockey coaching.

Authenticity and how that quality positively influences young people is something Walton is well placed to talk about. The inclusive culture which characterises women’s hockey in Britain is often referenced as a key factor on the road towards Rio 2016, the pinnacle of success. Walton was a part of that journey. “I’ve always been an advocate for embracing individual differences,” she says. “If you’ve got 31 girls in a squad, you’ve got 31 very different ways of driving a gold medal standard.”

She mentions her former team-mates Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh, the captain and creative force respectively in that victorious Olympic side. “They both talk so well about that gold mentality. What filters through for me is respect. The beauty of team sport is you have to find a blend of people that will live together off the pitch but also bond on it – the right positions and the right personalities.”

Like the Richardson-Walshs, Walton has been commended for helping to break down stigma in sport around sexuality. Within women’s hockey itself, that has not been an issue but there has been much to learn for other sports and just by being herself as a coach, Walton is able to set a good example for the next generation too.

“The way I see it, as somebody who is out and is comfortable with that, I might be able to help someone who is really struggling. Maybe they are playing 3rd XI hockey, they are in their teens, and they do not quite know where they fit into society. Perhaps they are questioning things about their sexuality. That’s the kind of person that I want to be able to go ‘yeah actually, that’s inspiring me to be a little bit more comfortable about who I am.'”

My sexuality doesn’t determine how well I play my sport but the fact that I feel comfortable about it does.

Sally Walton

Pride is a positive outcome from Lesbian Visibility Week, feels Walton. In this instance, it’s not about “waving a flag” but a simpler recognition of diversity. “There are girls out there who just want more of a quiet reassurance. There needs to be something for everybody,” she explains. At RGS Worcester, she has found an environment that enriches its students with that approach. “We are broad and diverse here, and the kids are so accepting and open about all the information they take on board, whether that’s to do with LGBT+, religion, or something else on inclusion.

“The school is really hot on supporting Rainbow Laces and all different kinds of things. I’ve been to a couple of schools coaching and I’ve been really impressed with how they handle it here.”

She is looking forward to a time when attitudes of acceptance are universal; she does not feel that has been attained yet in the UK, and certainly not in many other countries. “At the moment, I understand it needs people like myself to say ‘this is who I am’, and for any role model to use their platform to show it’s alright.

“Ultimately, a good athlete is a happy athlete. If you are in a healthy relationship and your family and friends support you, that tends to have a good impact on performance. My sexuality does not determine how well I play my sport but the fact that I feel comfortable about it does.”

Regrets and reassurances

She has been made to feel insecure about her sexuality, in the past. Walton says her own coming out story “wasn’t a particularly happy one”. Born in Formby and raised in Solihull, she returned to Merseyside to study sports science at Liverpool John Moores University. “I had a boyfriend back home when I went off to uni, but that relationship soon fizzled out. I felt this was my time to experiment and learn more about myself.”

She came out within her group of friends but could not find an ideal way to tell her parents, even though they would regularly travel north to watch her play hockey. “I wanted to come out to them but never knew the right time. Then unexpectedly, someone else outed me to my parents and told them I had a girlfriend.

“They were taken aback and disappointed because they felt I was living a lie. It was tough. I got an absolute torrent of emotion.

“They then took the decision to tell everyone in my family – they wanted to tell them before they found out from someone else, like they had done. But actually, the wider family was very accepting.”

The initial shock faded away and conversations became easier. “Over time, I sat down and talked about it with my parents. At first, they were like ‘well, just don’t do it!’ – but when I explained it wasn’t a choice, they began to realise that and have been nothing but supportive since.

“Any parent is going to have concerns for their child and worry that the path isn’t going to be smooth. My dad says he regrets how he handled it and it’s one of my biggest regrets too, that I didn’t tell them myself. That’s what made it so bad. There’s no way they would have reacted like that if I’d got to mention it first.”

Walton is so relieved for young people today who are LGBT+ that those conversations with parents are, in the most part, easier to have. “What’s also nice is that one of my cousins came out about eight years ago and said to me that I’d helped pave the way for him a little – soften the blow, you might say. We were joking around but he said he felt much more comfortable knowing his mum had been supportive of me when I came out.”

All diverse & beautiful. Love is love. #picoftheday #instagram #pride #londonpride #divamagazine #love #goodtimes #weekendvibes #diversity #loveislove 🌈👌🏽

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‘Emotion affects performance’

She welcomes the storytelling of Lesbian Visibility Week and the effect it might have. “It used to always be the kids who were LGBT+ having to broach the topic. But through awareness weeks like this, parents are a lot more educated and confident about it now, and can step up and say ‘is this the case? Am I reading it wrong?’ It just takes that little bit of pressure off.”

Do coaches feel empowered to have that dialogue as well? “I think it’s always important for coaches to understand their players. You’re trying to teach them about the sport – the tactical and technical stuff – but also the wider qualities you need as a sportsperson. Teamwork, communication, problem-solving – you’re making them into more of a rounded individual through sports.

“Every coach has a responsibility to understand their athletes and the way they deal with pressure, and how emotion affects performance. There’s a safeguarding aspect too, in terms of picking up on cues. Is this how they normally behave? Are they being affected by something at home? Having that duty of care to challenge where they feel they need to.

“If somebody comes to you wanting to talk about an issue they’re struggling with, it’s important that you’ve created an environment where they feel comfortable to share that.”

Walton says she was always “the joker” around the camp in her international days and that was how she developed her own self-confidence. “You could ask me a question and get a very honest answer. I was very open because it was so accepting. That meant you could have that little bit of banter, but it was respectful.”

Laughing off stereotypes about lesbians comes naturally. The rise of women’s sport and social media means there is more opportunity for athletes to be known beyond the pitch. “I think the media has done a fantastic job. The tone has changed. They’re more conscious and it has helped to open people’s minds.”

She returns to the idea of what it means to be a role model. “They’re all around us now, which is the most important thing. The people you’ve really got to take your hat off to are those from the last 20 or 30 years. What they achieved has meant today can be like this.”

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Coronavirus: Cricket could face further delays beyond July 1, says Rob Key

The start of the 2020 cricket season could be delayed further beyond July 1, says Sky Sports Cricket pundit Rob Key.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has already pushed back the potential start date from May 28 due to the coronavirus pandemic, forcing England’s Test series against West Indies and the Vitality Blast to be postponed.

Former England and Kent batsman Key told Sky Sports News that while he’s desperate for cricket to return as soon as is possible, in accordance with Government advice, he fears that further delays could be on the cards.

“I still think there will be more to come, to be honest,” he said. “I can’t see us playing cricket until right towards the end of the season.

“You look at things like travel bans and hotels not being open – all that type of stuff; they’re almost going to be the last things to come back.

“I hope we do get some cricket this year but I think we’ve got a few more delays to come.”

With the number of lost County Championship rounds now standing at nine and the Vitality Blast – a lucrative tournament for counties – now on hold, Key admitted that it’s tough to know the extent of the impact that the latest postponement is having on each club.

“Counties, a lot of the time, run at a loss – somewhere like Kent, when I was captain a few years ago, was losing half-a-million pounds a year at times,” Key reflected.

“Now a lot of these counties have furloughed their playing staff – and a lot of their staff in general – so you’d think there’s not a huge expense going on.

“So the smaller counties, who everyone generally fears for, actually might not be in as dire a position as people think.

“It’s the counties that have hotels, conferencing and all these types of hospitality that are not bringing in any more revenue at the moment.

“Then you are looking at how much money do they have in reserve that can get them through.”

Fellow Sky Sports pundit Nasser Hussain agreed with Key that the ECB had no option but to further delay the season, adding that he can’t see how the County Championship can now take place.

The ECB will discuss whether the inaugural edition of its new competition The Hundred will take place at a meeting on Wednesday, but Hussain said it’s increasingly unlikely to take place.

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Peter Siddle’s return to Essex delayed until 2021

Former Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle’s deal at Essex has been deferred until 2021.

The 35-year-old was due to return to Chelmsford as an overseas player to play in the County Championship and One-Day Cup.

However, with the cricket season suspended until at least May 28 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Siddle and the club have mutually agreed to a delayed return.

“It’s a shame I won’t be returning to Chelmsford this year as I was really looking forward to the season with the Eagles, but there are plenty of things more important than cricket going on in the world at the moment,” he said.

“In light of the current situation, it makes sense for me to come back over for the 2021 season when hopefully we’re back to normal and playing cricket again.”

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