By Sean Creedon
Cavan and Tyrone in Clones. That’s a familiar summer scene in the red-hot tension of the Ulster football championship, but the two Ulster counties meeting at St. Tiarnach’s Park in April is unusual.
Tyrone will be bidding for their first-ever national senior title when they play Cavan in the Allianz National Football League final at Clones on Sunday, April 28. The nearest Tyrone have come to a national title was in 1986 when they lost a big lead to Kerry in the All-Ireland football final. Their only League final appearance was in 1992 when they lost to neighbors Derry.
Meanwhile, it’s been 54 years since Cavan won the league. Back in 1948, with the great John Joe O’Reilly lining out at center halfback, the Breffnimen beat Cork in a replay. Their only final since then was in 1960 when they lost to Down.
Tyrone were unlucky last year when the threat of foot-and-mouth disease meant they were excluded from the final stages of the competition. They should make up for that disappointment this time around.
Something in the water
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ESPN were in Drogheda last week making a documentary on the four Irish players currently in the Irish soccer squad who were all born in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.
Gary Kelly, his nephew Ian Harte, and goalkeeper Nicky Colgan are all from Drogheda, and Steve Staunton is from nearby Dundalk.
Kelly, Harte and Staunton started the game against Denmark last month and when Colgan came on to replace Dean Kiely in goal there were four Louthmen who were born in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital on the pitch.
The documentary will be shown on ESPN at the end of May.
“We had a great time filming,” Drogheda’s mayor, Jimmy Mulroy, said. “We went to the maternity hospital and spoke to one midwife in particular. We also went to Millmount, a panoramic area overlooking the town for an interview and ended up at St. Owen’s College, where three of the lads went to school.”
Gaffney for Munster
Austalian Alan Gaffney will take over as Munster rugby coach from Declan Kidney in June. The 55-year-old has been assistant to Matt Williams in Leinster for the last two years. He played his club for the famous Randwick club in Sydney. Kidney will continue to work with Eddie O’Sullivan in the Irish setup.
Irish soccer captain Roy Keane is to be honored in his native Cork next month. Keane, who is currently out with a hamstring injury, will be made an honorary Doctor of Law at University College, Cork on May 10.
Meanwhile, Keane is expected to make his comeback with Manchester United against Arsenal on May 8. The result of that game could yet decide who will win the English Premiership.
While the Republic continued their build-up to the World Cup with yet another win last week, Northern Ireland were hammered 5-0 at Windsor Park, Belfast, by Spain. These are bad days for The North and manager Sammy McIlroy, who was once again badly hit by injuries. He was missing 13 players through injury, suspensions or club commitments. But fans are wondering if some of the players were really injured. It was the North’s worst home defeat in 40 years.
Richo leaves Hoops
Damien Richardson has parted company with Shamrock Rovers. The Hoops finished second in the Eircom League season just finished during his term in charge Richardson has not won any trophies. At one stage this season they looked like they could win the treble, but after a bad run in the League went out of the League-Cup to eventual winners Limerick and lost the semifinal of the FAI Cup to eventual winners Dundalk.
Richardson apparently wanted to go full-time, but the Rovers Board wouldn’t back him. Now the rumor mill is in full swing as to who will be Richardson’s replacement when Rovers move into their new stadium in Tallaght this summer. Dermot Keely, who quit Shelbourne last month, and Roddy Collins, who was sacked by Carlisle recently, are among the front runners. But Rovers may go for former player Paul Doolin, who has done a good job in his first season in charge of University College Dublin.
This is a big week for national hunt racing in Ireland with the big Punchestown Festival in County Kildare. The meeting was cancelled last year due to the threat of foot-and-mouth disease.
Sonia going long
Sonia O’Sullivan will have her first long race of the year next month in the world half-marathon championships in Brussels.
O’Sullivan, who helped the Irish team win bronze at the World Cross Country Championship in Dublin last month, has been entered for the May 5 event in Belgium. The race has been won by one of O’Sullivan’s great rivals, Paula Radcliffe, for the last two years.
O’Sullivan is currently doing altitude training in California, where she suffered a serious bout of food poisoning recently.
Dream team media
How about this for a team of Irish football pundits? Bonner, Lawrenson, Moran, McCarthy, Beglin, Houghton, McGrath, Townsend, Brady, Stapleton, Cascarino. Manager: Hand. Yes, it’s not fiction, all 11 are currently working as commentators or analysts on radio or television or writing columns for newspapers.
Packie Bonner works for TV3 in Ireland, Mark Lawrenson can be heard on TV3, BBC and TodayFm Radio Station in Dublin, Kevin Moran also works as an analyst for TV3, while Mick McCarthy has been doing work for TV3 and BBC when Ireland are not involved. Jim Beglin works for RTE and ITV, Ray Houghton is a regular with English Sport station TalkSport, while Paul McGrath has booked a World Cup place with BBC. Andy Townsend works for ITV on their Premiership program, while Liam Brady is an analyst with RTE and a columnist with the Sunday Tribune. Frank Stapleton works for Sky Sports and TV3, while Tony Cascarino, the latest recruit to the media game, writes a weekly column for the Sunday Independent. Former Irish manager Eoin Hand is a regular analyst for RTE Radio and Television. And while Jack Charlton does not do as much media work as before, his voice can still be heard on radio and television advertisements.
Irish manager McCarthy says he is not surprised at how popular the former Irish players are as pundits.
“I think the number of them who have successfully made it in broadcasting might explain why that team of the late 1980s and ’90s was so successful,” he said. “They were all strong characters and well able to voice their opinions and they would be eloquent in doing so. They had opinions, strong opinions and that was good in the dressing-room and good for the team. They were interesting characters as well; they’ve all got a story to tell. I think they are all pretty useful on television.”
Chip off the old . . .
Local Radio station Galway Bay FM seem certain to get some exclusive interviews during the World Cup. The Galway station has signed up Anna McCarthy, daughter of the Irish manager Mick.
Anna, who has been working in Galway for the last year, has been training with the radio station for the several months and will make her broadcast debut during the World Cup Finals in Japan and Korea.
“I’m really excited about getting the chance to interview the Irish players and, of course, my dad during the World Cup,” she said. “I’ve always had a keen interest in sports reporting and thanks to Galway Bay FM I’m getting the chance to work and enjoy the World Cup at the same time.”
Maybe Shamrock Rovers should shelve their plans to move to their half-built stadium in Tallaght. If The Hoops had waited long enough they could have returned to their roots in Ringsend in Dublin 4. Thanks to various state grants, Irishtown Stadium is to get a massive upgrade with a floodlit tartan athletic track, a new soccer pitch and five-a-side floodlight all-weather pitches.
The Iriss government are providing euro 1.5 million and Dublin City Council and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority will contribute euro 1.2 million each.
But to be fair, the government has also given Rovers the money they need to finish off their new ground in Tallaght and it should be ready for next season.
Camogie’s Dunlea retires
Injury has forced Lynn Dunlea, one of the best known camogie players in Ireland, to retire from the game. The 28-year-old Dunlea, who played for the Cloughduv club, made her debut for the Cork senior team in 1990 and went on to win four All-Ireland senior medals. She made the decision to retire after getting medical advice on a nagging shoulder injury.