By Sean Creedon
Irish soccer fans are counting the days to the World Cup Finals, but on Friday thoughts will no doubt turn to the 2004 European Championships. The Euro finals will be held in Portugal and the draw for the qualifying groups will be made in Porto on Friday.
For the first time ever, the Republic are seeded No. 1, with England coming in as a second seed. And after getting a favorable World Cup draw, what are the odds of getting England this time?
A game against England would be an attractive one for Irish supporters at home and abroad, but the FAI will probably be hoping that Ireland avoid Sven Goran-Eriksson’s team. Ireland have had some great encounters with England in the World Cup and European Championship over the years, but a group of so-called English “supporters” caused mayhen when the teams last met at Lansdowne Road in February 1995. The Dutch referee was forced to abandon the game after 27 minutes with Ireland leading 1-0.
Relations between both the Irish and English associations are excellent, but a section of England’s fans are notorious when they travel abroad.
Meanwhile, a check for Euro 64,000 will be presented to a representative of the New York Fire Department at halftime during the Ireland vs. Russia game on Feb. 13. The move to raise funds for dependents of Sept. 11 terror victims was initiated by Niall Quinn, who convinced his Irish colleagues to donate their _900 match fee for the Iran game last November. The money raised by the players was matched by the FAI and a check will be handed over, probably by Quinn or by the FAI president, Milo Corcoran, on Feb. 13.
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Leeds United’s David O’Leary could make history by becoming the first Irishman to manage a team to win the English Premiership. But many Irish people are getting fed up with O’Leary constantly moaning.
The former Irish international certainly made a mistake to lend his name to a book entitled “Leeds United on Trial,” and he is forever defending his so called “babies,” some of whom, in reality, have shown themselves to be little more than thugs.
Indeed, though O’Leary himself is never likely to end up in court, having led a very proper lifestyle, the same cannot be said about some of the younger Irish players on his squad.
Just last week, senior international Mark Kennedy and Under 21 international Dessie Byrne both ran afoul of the law. Kennedy, readers may remember, was also caught playing “Starksy and Hutch” with Phil Babb on a Ban Garda’s car in Dublin in September 2000, just days before the start of our World Cup campaign.
Collins haunts Bohs
Roddy Collins, who parted company with Bohemians after leading them to the League-Cup double last season, is now coming back to haunt the Gypsies.
Collins, currently manager of English side Carlisle United, has had talks with four Bohs players who are free to leave the Dublin club under the Bosman ruling at the end of the season.
Collins’s future at Carlisle looks secure as Irish businessman John Courtney is leading a consortium to buy out the club. Courtney holds the Irish franchise for Umbro sportswear.
New Dublin football manager Tommy Lyons has won the battle for dual star Shane Ryan. Lyons was quick to state that no player could give their full attention to hurling and football at the top level. And now Shane Ryan decided to concentrate on hurling. Four other lesser-known dual players in Dublin have also opted for football. Meanwhile, in Galway, dual star Alan Kerins has not yet decided which code he will concentrate on this year.
Also, there’s good and bad news for Laois football supporters. Michael Lawlor, who was suspended for six months for pushing a linesman last year, is back in the fold. But Colm Parkinson, who has resumed his studies in Dublin, has decided to take a break. Also opting out is Hughie Emerson. Both will be a big loss to Laois manager Colm Browne, but he can, of course, call on the successful Laois minors from the past few years.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Offaly, hurler Kevin Kinahan has decided to retire from intercounty hurling. Declan Pilkington has also hinted that he may retire. And in Dublin, football midfielder Brian Stynes has lost his battle with a nagging back injury and has also quit the intercounty scene.
Better news for Clare with veterans Anthony Daly and Liam Doyle both back
training with the Banner hurlers.
Rules selectors chosen
Irish Compromise Rules manager John O’Keeffe has announced his selectors for the next two series. Assisting the former Kerry star will be Matt Connor (Offaly), Martin Carney (Mayo) and Fermanagh’s Peter McGinnity.
Connor’s career was cut short by a horrific car accident on Christmas morning in 1984, which confined him to a wheelchair. A brilliant forward in his day, he has been a minor selector with Offaly in recent years.
Carney has managerial experience at the minor and Under 21 levels with Mayo, while McGinnity had a spell as manager of Leitrim.
This year’s test will be played at Croke Park on Oct. 13 and 20.
GAA referees may dispense with their black jerseys for this year’s championship and wear colored jersies instead. But, of course, black jerseys in the GAA are only a relatively recent innovation. Former GAA President John Dowling once wore a white jersey and Tipperary ref John Moloney used to wear a blue top.
Meanwhile, the GAA has decided that this year’s AIB Club hurling and football finals will be played at Semple Stadium, Thurles. With Croke Park unavailable due to work on the new Hogan Stand, it was fairly obvious that the GAA would opt for Thurles.
Wexford’s Griffin opts out
Liam Griffin, who was manager of Wexford when they won the McCarthy Cup in 1996, will not be involved with the county team this year. Last year, Griffin rejoined the Wexford backroom team as an advisor. But the popular hotelier says he will not be involved this year.
Meanwhile, Wexford manager Tom Dempsey has been confirmed as a Fianna Fail candidate for the upcoming general election.
Hurlers for Argentina
The 2000 and ’01 Eircell hurling All-Stars leave Dublin today, Jan. 23, for
Buenos Aires, where they will play an exhibition game on Saturday. Tipperary’s Willie Barrett has been selected to referee the game.
Wood may miss opener
Irish hooker and captain Keith Wood is doubtful for the opening game of the Six Nations Rugby Championship against Wales on Feb. 3. Wood’s torn calf muscle, suffered before Christmas, is not healing as quickly as he had hoped.
Meanwhile, the Rugby Union set up is getting more like the highly specialized and compartmentalized American football every day. Ireland now Eddie O’Sullivan as head coach, Munster’s Declan Kidney as assistant coach, Niall O’Donovan is the forwards coordinator, and Mike Ford is the new defensive coordinator.
Ireland will be have a small team at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City next month. Three competitors — Peter Dononhoe, Paul Kiernan and Barry Delaney — have been named for the two-man bobsled team. Austrian-based Paul Schwarzacher will represent Ireland in his second Olympics, again in the downhill Super G combined event. Tamsen McGarry has been selected for the Women’s Giant Slalom, while Clifton Wrottesley has been named in the Skeleton event.
Gowran Park in Kilkenny, one of the top provincial racing venues in the country, is to undergo a major facelift. Gowran, which is best known for its Thyestes Chase every January, has received planning permission for a new Grandstand complex. Work should be completed in time for the annual October
Adare to host seniors
Adare Manor Hotel in County Limerick, where President Clinton stayed during one of his visits to Ireland, will host this year’s AIB Irish Seniors Open from May 17-19. The course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Junior, was opened in 1992.