In a new book published last week, O’Driscoll revealed that the New Zealand nation is obsessed with rugby. Suppose we knew that already, but what we didn’t know was that the nurse who had to cut off his jersey in the medical room in Christchurch after that infamous tackle, asked if she could have the jersey as a souvenir for her son. Luckily for the Irish star, his father arrived on the scene and ensured that the famous jersey was going to the O’Driscoll home.
The New Zealanders are likely to get a much warmer welcome when they visit the Donegal town of Ramelton next week. They plan to unveil a plaque at the birthplace of Dave Gallaher, who captained the first All-Blacks team 100 years ago. Gallaher emigrated from Ramelton with his family in 1873 when he was five years old and went on to captain the team that toured Europe in 1905 and 1906. Revered as a true rugby legend in his adopted country, Gallaher was killed in action in Flanders in 1917. During their visit to Donegal the All-Blacks will also perform the official naming of Letterkenny Rugby Club’s new pitch, the Dave Gallaher Memorial Park.
Meanwhile Irish coach Eddie O’Sullivan has been badly hit by injuries in the run up to the three internationals later this month against New Zealand (Nov. 12), Australia (Nov. 19) and Romania (Nov. 26). The walking wounded are: O’Driscoll, Denis Hickie, Frankie Sheahan, Alan Quinlan, Paul O’Connell, Eric Miller, Guy Easterby. O’Sullivan has included four uncapped players in his 32-man squad: Neil Best, Andrew Trimble, Jamie Heaslip and Robert Kearney.
GAA TO LOOK FOR
NEW RULES BOSS
Win, lose or draw Peter McGrath’s term as Irish International Rules manager was going to end after the trip to Australia this year. Normally the GAA appoint a manager for two series, home and away. Now following the two defeats Down Under this year, the GAA will be looking to someone who is probably more in touch with the inter-county scene. McGrath was a successful manager with Down, but that was a few years ago.
It’s one of the mysteries of the GAA why Mick O’Dwyer, one of the most successful GAA managers of all time, never got the call. True GAA President Sean Kelly tried to get his fellow Kerryman on board last year as assistant manager, but to be fair O’Dwyer deserves the job on his own. The problem was that Micko was involved at the time and still is with Laois.
The criteria for selection seems to be managers who are not involved with county teams and following his departure from Meath two months ago I think Sean Boylan is now the obvious target. Former Kerry and Westmeath manager Paidi O Se is also out of a job at present as is Val Andrews, who has coached Cavan and Louth in recent years.
Kilkenny’s Nicky Brennan takes over as GAA President next April and no doubt he will have his own ideas on who should get the job. Maybe the GAA will opt for a senior player. A few years back Meath’s Colm O’Rourke was a good international manager and he has yet to manage an intercounty team.
Either way a new manager and some new players are needed in 2006 to try and restore some national pride.
SCOTS MISSED OUT
WITH JACK, BOBBY
Former Irish manager Jack Charlton has said that the next Irish boss should make better use of the “granny rule,” which allows soccer stars to opt to play for the native country of a parent or grandparent. Speaking in Dublin where he was launching a DVD depicting his time in charge of the Irish team, Big Jack said: ‘If you don’t use it you are daft. I got a lot of criticism about the players I brought in, but you obey the rules. It’s a fact that me and my brother Bobby could have played for Scotland because our grandmother was born in Dumfries.’
But the FAI were using the rule long before the arrival of Big Jack. Indeed such was the FAI’s willingness to recruit English-born players that English journalists suggested that the letters FAI stood for “Find Another Irishman.”
RAIN HALTS SNOOKER
It’s not often that you hear of rain stopping play in a snooker game. But that’s what happened at a tournament in The Spawell Center in Dublin last week when a leak in the roof containing electric wiring caused a table to be put out of commission. Coincidentally, the incident happened 24 hours after Alex “Hurricane” Higgins had made a comeback to the green baize in the same snooker hall. The 56-year-old former world champion went out in the first round to local professional Gary Hardiman. It was the first professional tournament in a decade the Belfastman, who has had a battle with throat cancer. However, Higggins does not see his future in snooker. ‘I’d like to have a go at poker. I am quite dexterous with my hands. I know the value of a card just as I know the value of a shot in snooker,’ he said.
TO SHAKE UP MAYO
Mickey Moran is the new Mayo senior football manager, taking over from John Maughan. Moran, who was manager of his native Derry last year, has also managed Donegal and Sligo. He is the first outsider to manager Mayo since Kerryman Jack O’Shea in 1994.
Moran, who has now retired from his teaching job, has also taken over as manager of the Jordanstown University team. A quiet and reserved figure, he’ll be joined in Mayo by his assistant John Morrison, who in contrast is very much an extrovert. Morrison is very popular in Ulster where he has won a reputation for doing things differently. He coached his own club Armagh Harps at the age of 19 and was involved with the Armagh senior team when they qualified for the National League Final in 1994. It will be interesting to see how Morrison’s brand of psychology works in Mayo, where they have been dreaming of All-Ireland success for 50 years. A few years back, Morrison improved Aramgh’s Paul McGrane fielding techniques by getting him to catch balloons! Last year when Derry lost heavily to Tyrone, Morrison organized for a rubbish skip to be brought to training so the players could empty all their negative thoughts into it. Somebody said that he will need plenty of skips in Mayo!
But Mayo players are used to unusual training tactics. Some years back when Dubliner Brian McDonald was manager he famously had the players push motorcars around the car park as part of their training.
Meanwhile John Maughan has confirmed that he has had informal talks with officials of the Roscommon County Board with a view to taking over as their football manager. And Joe Kernan said that he is going to stay on with Armagh for another three years. He will retain his selectors Paul Grimley and John McCloskey.
GOLFER SMYTH WON’T QUIT
Veteran Irish golfer Des Smyth has no plans to retire from the Senior circuit despite having emergency heart surgery in the U.S. last week. The 52-year-old from County Louth underwent emergency surgery in San Antonio, Texas, after a general checkup revealed he had a problem with his coronary artery. Smyth is vice captain of the European team for next year’s Ryder Cup at the K Club in County Kildare.
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Fairyhouse Racecourse, which has been losing money in recent years, is safe for the foreseeable future, thanks to a move from Horse Racing Ireland to save the track from any possible development. Last week the directors of Fairyhouse and Horse Racing Ireland agreed that the course which staged its first meeting in 1848 and which has been home tot he Irish Grand National since 1870, has been ring-fenced against possible development. HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said: ‘The situation at Fairyhouse is not critical, but the agreement we have made with the existing directors will put the course back on its feet and basically it is now protected for ever and a day for racing.’
There had been suggestions that part of the track would be sold off for a hotel development. Apart from the big Easter Grand National meeting, Fairyhouse stages 16 other racing fixtures every year. But the closure of its entertainment center and the loss of revenue from concerts in recent years have undermined the track’s ability to pay its way.
CAHILL WILL HAVE
Dinny Cahill, who made the long journey from Tipperary to Antrim for the past few years, is now favorite to take over from Paudie Butler as Laois senior hurling manager.
In Dublin Tommy Naughton, who has been caretaker manager since the departure of Humphrey Kelleher, has now been confirmed as senior hurling manager.
And in Tipperary new manager Babs Keating has brought in a former minor hurler who has been based in the US in recent years, to train the senior team. Brian Quinn, a native of Templederry will form part of the backroom team.
Keating begins his second term in charge of Tipp when they play Dublin at O’Toole Park, Dublin on Sunday next in a game to mark the 85th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Croke Park.
F1 TO BEGIN IN BAHRAIN
Next year’s Formula One Grand Prix season will begin in Bahrain on March 12. Normally the Formula One season begins in Melbourne, but next year the Australian city hosts the Commonwealth Games in March. Once again there will be 19 races and there will be a new three-part qualifying system and a return to multiple changes during races. Other important dates from an American viewpoint are: Canada on June 25 and Indianapolis on July 2.
MENOLLY BACKS MEATH
The Menolly Group are to be the new sponsors of the Meath football teams, taking over from Kepak. The Menolly Group is owned by Longford-born Seamus Ross, who has financially assisted both his native county and the Meath County Board in the past.