Joe Kernan’s team should maintain their 100 percent record when Roscommon travel north on Sunday. After their big win over Kerry in their opening league game under lights at Pairc Ui Rinn, Cork have been disappointing, losing to Armagh and Roscommon. On Saturday night, Larry Tompkins’s men are back under the lights at Pairc Ui Rinn, where Galway will be their opponents. Still, most interest this weekend will be on Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, where Kerry, who are really struggling, take on Dublin. This will be their first meeting between the counties since those great games in the All-Ireland quarterfinal in Thurles back in August 2001.
Maurice Fitzgerald, who kicked a brilliant equalizing point for Kerry in the drawn game in Thurles, could be back in the Kerry squad soon, but definitely not by Sunday.
Meanwhile, that great Kerryman Mick O’Dwyer just keeps going. The 66-year-old, who could be sitting at home in Waterville drawing his old-age pension, is proving that a new manager can change a county’s fortunes. Under Micko, Laois are pulling together, training together and have won their opening three league games. On Sunday, Laois will be hoping to make it four wins in a row when Down visit Portlaoise.
Pat Dolan quit as St Patrick’s Athletic manager on Friday last and moved to Cork City, where he takes over from Liam Murphy as manager. It’s one of the biggest shocks in domestic soccer for years. Dolan had spent 15 years as a player, manager and managing director at the Inchicore club. Born in England of Galway parents, he has a strong English accent, but there is no prouder Irishman. Big Pat did a great job to lift the profile of St Pat’s, branding them “The Super Saints” who played at “The Stadium of Light,” which in reality is the modest Richmond Park on the banks of the Camac River. Now it looks like coach Eamon Collins and Martin Russell, who has just retired as a player, will become co-managers of the Saints.
Last week, Alex Higgins played his first professional snooker match since 1996, but it ended in a humiliating loss. He was beaten in the first round of the Irish Championship in Derry by 16-year-old Darren Dornan.
ROVERS TO ROAM
Shamrock Rovers will be the first Eircom League club in European action this season. The Hoops will begin their Inter Toto Cup campaign on June 21, the longest day of the year. The new summer season starts on April 11, so champions Bohemians should be in good shape by the time the Champions League qualifiers get under way on July 16. Cup winners Derry City and League runners-up Shelbourne will both be in action in the UEFA Cup, which starts on Aug. 14.
Meanwhile, Bohs will play Tottenham Hotspur in a pre-season friendly at Dalymount Park on March 4. It will be Spurs’ first visit to Dalymount since July 1978 when they paraded their new Argentinian signings Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles.
HURLERS WANT DUBLIN VENUE
New Limerick hurling manager Dave Keane wants his county’s National League game against Tipperary on March 9 played at Croke Park. Both Limerick and Clare are homeless at the moment due to major reconstruction work at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick and Semple Stadium, Thurles.
“Let’s take the game to the new-look Croke Park. I am sure fans of both counties would love to go there,” Keane said. “It could be played as a double-header with Dublin’s league game against Clare.”
STAN TO REST
Former Irish international Steve Staunton, who has just come back after a double hernia operation, said that the decision to quit playing for Ireland has benefited his club career. The 34-year-old intends to play on in the Premiership with Aston Villa next season. And to make sure he’s ready in good time, Stan will miss the end of this season while he undergoes an ankle operation. His Aston Villa boss, Graham Taylor, said: “The plan is to give Steve plenty of time to recover. That means he will undergo the operation before the end of the season, so that he’s fit for the first day of pre-season training in July.”
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KERR HAS KERRY SPY
In sport Kerry is best known as a stronghold of Gaelic football. But times are changing and Brian McCarthy, the FAI’s Regional Development Officer for Kerry, is Brian Kerr’s technical analyst. McCarthy, who was born in Kinsale, has been teaching in Killorglin and has also coached Tralee Dynamoes and the Kerry under-21 team. He’s worked for Kerr in the past and now McCarthy is providing detailed analysis on the Irish players and the opposition for our new senior manager.
Kerr hasn’t put a foot wrong since he took over. He called up David Connolly, who’d snubbed caretaker manager Don Givens and has basically used the squad he inherited from Mick McCarthy. Brian met Roy Keane in Manchester and the Corkman said he was willing to play under him, but then Alex Ferguson stepped in. And Kerr is also using the experience of people like Eoin Hand, who was in charge of the national team from 1980 to 1986. While the Republic were beating Scotland 2-0 at Hampden Park recently, Hand was in Tbilisi watching our Euro opponents Georgia play Moldova.
MEDAL FETCHES HUGE PRICE
Soccer memorabilia is now big business with cup medals and international caps fetching big money. The Down District Council failed last week at Sotheby’s auctions in London to purchase an F.A. Cup medal from 1911 won by Ballynahinch native Frank Thompson. Frank was on the Bradford City team that beat Newcastle in the 1911 F.A. Cup Final. Sharon O’Connor, the Down Council’s director of Culture and Economic Development, said a lot of people in Ballynahinch were disappointed. “We offered