We had all hoped that Keane would make himself available for the European Championship games away to Georgia and Albania at the end of this month, but there was always the likelihood that the Corkman would be injured. And as if on cue, yes, you’ve guessed it: Keane is injured again. He strained a hamstring playing for Manchester United in the league game against Leeds United and is not expected back until April 5.
Recently, Keane hinted that he might consider a move into management and maybe it’s time he took those coaching badges that would be a help if he decides to go down that road. One man who thinks Keane would be a good manager is Alex Ferguson, his current boss at Old Trafford. “I have absolutely no doubt that if Roy wants to do it he will be a brilliant manager,” the United boss said.
Meanwhile, for the trip to Eastern Europe at the end of the month, Brian Kerr’s squad will stay on in Tbilisi after the game against Georgia on Saturday, May 29, for two extra days. The squad will delay their departure for Albania until Monday, March 31, as the training facilities in Tirana are reported to be very poor. The game in Tbilisi on March 29 will start at 10 a.m., EST, while the game against Albania in Tirana on April 2 will kick off at 12:30 p.m.
CARR HAPPIER OUT WEST
Tommy Carr had a frustrating time in charge of the Dublin senior footballers. But life seems to be more rewarding since Carr was appointed Roscommon manager. Tommy Lyons, the man who replaced Carr in the Dublin hot seat has been the subject of abuse from sections of the Dublin crowd and one of his selectors Dave Billings is reported to have splashed a bottle of water in frustration at some of the barrackers at the end of the recent game against Cork at Parnell Park. Billings strenuously denies that allegation.
However, it looks like Carr is enjoying life in the more intimate setting of Roscommon, who coincidentally host Dublin in the penultimate round of the national league on Sunday next. Roscommon have blown hot and cold, but in their last outing they had a good win over Galway. A win for the Sheep-stealers on Sunday would edge the Dubs nearer the relegation trap door.
Speaking on radio two weeks ago Carr explained the difference between managing Dublin and a county like Roscommon. “In Dublin you get much the same crowd who follow soccer clubs like Manchester United or Liverpool and Dublin in Gaelic football. There are a lot of people shouting at a Dublin game who have never been to a Dublin club game. Whereas down here in Roscommon the people are at the games to support players from their own clubs and parishes.”
Donegal boss Brian McEniff is resigned to the fact that Donegal are going down to Div. II. Since he returned to take charge of his native county for the fourth time, he’s seen Donegal lose all five of their league games. This weekend they could face another defeat when they travel to play Cork under lights at Pairc Ui Rinn. But McEniff is philosophical and is already looking forward to the Ulster championship.
“It has been very disappointing and I suppose only for the experience I have it would be easy to throw in the towel,” the Bundoran hotelier man said. “This is not where I’d like to be, but it’s not the end of the world. We missed two months of stamina work while we were sorting out the management. Since I came back I have said that our main priority would be the Ulster championship opener against Fermanagh on June 1 and we have 12 weeks to work towards that date. I’m an eternal optimist and will not quit.
“Our panel will be stronger than last year, when we got to the All-Ireland quarterfinal, and it will be strengthened by Martin Coll, who is due back from America around now.”
And there was another boost for McEniff last week with the news that dual star Brendan Devenney is going to concentrate on Gaelic football this year. He was offered but declined a two-year contract with Finn Harps,
CORK IN RUNNING
Ireland has applied to host the European Cross Country Championship in 2005 and if successful the event will be held in Cork, when it will be European Capital of Culture. Other countries in the running to host the event include Austria, Italy, Holland, Portugal and Spain. But Liam Hennessy, international secretary of Athletics Ireland is confident that Leeside has a good chance of being chosen.
“I am pretty confident that we will figure prominently in the running and the event will be held in Cork,” he said. “We found in Cork that they were enthusiastically embracing the event. We looked at various locations including Fota, but everything is pointing toward Cork Racecourse in Mallow where we found the facilities to be excellent. Everything is in situ there.”
GAA AVOID RUGBY CLASH
The next round of national hurling games due to be played on Sunday, March 30, has now been brought forward 24 hours to Saturday. The decision was made to avoid another clash with the rugby Six Nations Championship. On the Sunday, Ireland play England at Lansdowne Road in what could well be the championship decider. The GAA went head to head with rugby on March 8 and lost out. A crowd of only 3,000 turned up in Thurles for the Tipperary versus Limerick league game and a mere 70 spectators showed in Birr for the Offaly-Derry game. But with a crowded sports program there’s always some counter attraction and the hurling games will now clash with the Ireland European Championship game against Georgia in Tbilisi, televised live.
MULLIGAN’S MEDALS RESOLD
Five All-Ireland hurling medals belonging to former Kilkenny star Billy Fitzpatrick were stolen recently following a raid at his home in Johnstown. Meanwhile, international caps belonging to former Irish soccer international Paddy Mulligan were sold at auction in Dublin recently. Mulligan had sold his collection a few years back and the recent sale was conducted by relatives of the original buyer.
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NEW STOPPAGE RULE
A new rule was passed at the recent Ladies Gaelic Football Congress, in an effort to clamp down on gamesmanship. It covers situations where a referee stops play to deal with injuries. From now on, the team who had the ball at the time of the stoppage will maintain possession on the restart, but cannot score directly from it. Previously, the referee would throw the ball up to restart the game after a stoppage for treatment.
COUNTY CAREER OVER
It looks very much like Maurice Fitzgerald will not be seen in the green and gold of Kerry again. There has been much speculation recently that the Caherciveen star, who has been playing some great football at club level, was about to make a comeback. But apparently the 33-year-old has told the makers of a new video on South Kerry football that he is not going to return. Fitzgerald didn’t play for Kerry in 2002 and his last game in the famous green and gold was in the drubbing by Meath in the All-Ireland semifinal back in September 2001.
DIES WITH SHOES ON
It was a Cheltenham National Hunt Festival that Limerick trainer Michael Hourigan will want to forget. Beef or Salmon, who carried most Irish hopes in the Gold Cup, fell at the third fence and that great old warrior Doran’s Pride had to be put down after breaking a hind leg falling at the second fence in the Foxhunter’s Chase. Doran’s Pride had won 27 of his 62 races, including the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham in 1995.
“He died doing what he loved,” Hourigan said. “When we tried to retire him the old fellow used to be at the gate watching us come in every day. He has been a wonderful servant and has given us some great times.”
But it was a good festival for Irish jockeys with Irishmen piloting home 13 of the 20 winners. Killarney-born Jim Culloty rode Gold Cup winner Best Mate and the top jockey was Barry Geraghty with five winners.