By Sean Creedon
It’s 25 years since Dublin and Armagh met in the All-Ireland football championship. The Dubs won by 5-12 to 3-6 in the All-Ireland final back in 1977. And while we may not be guaranteed as many goals in Sunday’s semifinal, Dublin will be hot favorites to end the Orchard County’s dreams for this year. Make no mistake about it, the Dubs are good for the GAA. This year the Boys in Blue have drawn huge crowds to the new-look Croke Park. On Sunday, the whole of the new Hogan Stand should be open, which will bring the capacity to well over 80,000.
Dublin should win, particularly if Ciaran Whelan plays well at midfield. There’s an old saying in Gaelic Football that if your midfield are on top, that you have a great chance of winning. For the replay against Donegal, Dublin manager Tommy Lyons brought in Darren Magee in place of Darren Homan. He was only a slight improvement and much will depend on how Whelan performs. Paul McGrane had a great game at midfield for Armagh in their replay against Sligo and they have two experienced forwards in Oisin McConville and Diarmuid Marsden. But it’s hard to see anything other than a Dublin win.
Kinsella for Villa
Republic of Ireland midfielder Mark Kinsella was transferred from Charlton Athletic to Aston Villa last week. But the Republic’s other regular
Midfielder, Matt Holland, rejected a move from Ipswich Town to Villa. Ipswich, who were relegated from the Premiership at the end of last season, were willing to sell Holland because of the drop in TV revenue that has resulted following their relegation. But Holland and the Birmingham club couldn’t agree on personal terms and the player was not willing to uproot his family from Ipswich unless he was able to increase his weekly wage.
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Meanwhile, it looks like David O’Leary may have to go to court to get his settlement payment from Leeds United. The Irishman was sacked by Leeds on June 25 with four years of his contract remaining. Talks between O’Leary and Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale over a compensation package are reported to have broken down and O’Leary may now have to go to court to get the _1 million compensation he is seeking.
O’Connor urges strike
Former Kilkenny hurling captain Eddie O’Connor says that GAA intercounty players should go on strike if they want to get a weekly allowance from the association. O’Connor, who famously urged the GAA to support the players’ holiday fund while accepting the Liam McCarthy Cup on the steps of the Hogan Stand a few years back, spoke out following allegations in Cork that players were told not to join the GPA.
“Recently the junior doctors, the nurses, the teachers and the gardai all went on strike to get what they wanted,” he said. “If the GAA players are to get what they feel they deserve they should do the same.”
The GPA are looking for euro 127 per week in expenses for intercounty players. Last week, Donegal chairman Danny Harkin said that was not enough and that the players should look for euro 300 a week. But the Donegal County Board were quick to distance themselves from those comments.
Meanwhile, in Cork Mark Landers, who captained the county hurlers to All-Ireland success in 1999, says he was dropped from the Cork squad because of his GPA involvement. And goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack has alleged that players were told that they would be jeopardizing their chances of playing for Cork if they joined the GPA.
Clearly, the Cork County Board will have to wake up and look after their players. All this talk seems to be making the GPA even stronger. They certainly are not going to go away.
Youth serves Mick
Life is certainly looking good for Mick McCarthy and the Irish team. Last week in Helsinki, Mick introduced three new caps, Thomas Butler, Jim Goodwin and Graham Barrett. All three have come through the youth and under 21 set-up. But such is the quality of the squad right now is that none of the three will be in the squad for the first game in the Euro 2004 qualifiers against Russia on Sept 7. But of course there are always injury problems. And Stephen Carr, who missed all of last season, could be struggling to make the Moscow trip. Others with injury problems include Mark Kennedy, David Connolly, Steven Reid, Clinton Morrison and Richard Sadlier, who is still in trouble despite a hip operation at the end of last season.
In contrast, Northern Ireland seem to have very little coming through. And while the FAI embraced the “granny rule” at every opportunity, the IFA in
Belfast were slow to chase players with Irish grandparents.
Donegal star Brendan Devenney has withdrawn from the Irish squad for the Compromise Rules games against Australia in October. Devenney, who was top scorer in the series Down Under last year, says he cannot give a commitment this year. The full-forward admitted in a recent interview that he hadn’t looked at his e-mail for around three months. As well as playing for Donegal, Brendan also plays soccer for Finn Harps. He is also getting married in October and is also currently building a house.
“I enjoyed playing for Ireland in 1998 and again last year,” he said. “But I just wouldn’t have the time for all the preparation necessary to play in this year’s series.”
Two other players have also pulled out of the Irish squad: Ciaran Whelan of Dublin and Meath goalkeeper Cormac O’Sullivan. But the goods news for Irish manager John O’Keeffe is that Meath’s Graham Geraghty has begun training with the squad. Geraghty, who announced his retirement from intercounty football, is also training with the rugby club Buccaneers.
Irish Open woes
The Irish Open Golf Championships is having difficulty finding a sponsor to replace Murphy’s, but it will have a new date next year. The Open, held over the last few years at end of June or early July, will have an Augustdate next year. But as yet we have no details of a venue for 2003 or a new sponsor. However, European Tour executive director Ken Schofield said last week that they should shortly have news of a new sponsor.
Corbett for NYC
Derry boxer Darren Corbett is heading to the Big Apple to try and revive his boxing career. The 30-year-old Corbett, whose career went downhill following a disagreement with promoter Barry Hearn, will be managed by Kevin Deever and Don Majeski in New York. “I hope to get a few quick fights in the U.S. to get my career going again,” the light heavyweight said.