By Sean Creedon
The joint bid by Scotland and The Republic of Ireland to host the 2008
European Championship is reckoned to have a 50-50 chance of success. Last week, the beverage company Diageo, whose empire includes Guinness, Baileys and Kilkenny, said they were going to sponsor the joint Celtic bid.
Retiring UEFA vice president Des Casey said he thinks that the Scottish-Irish bid has a good chance.
“I think it’s between ourselves and the Austria/Switzerland bid,” the Dundalk official said. “They have a lot going for them, but we’ll give it our best shot.”
The other groups bidding are the Nordic foursome of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, Bosnia and Croatia, Greece and Turkey, and solo bids by Russia and Hungary.
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UEFA officials will begin visiting the various countries next month and they are due to visit Glasgow and Dublin between Sept. 9-13 to examine the facilities and stadiums.
They will definitely be impressed with the new-look Croke Park, but Lansdowne Road, one of the oldest rugby stadiums in the world, wouldn’t impress many people right now.
The latest word on the National Stadium, or so-called “Bertie Bowl,” is that the government will make a definite decision in September.
Don’t hold your breath. The UEFA’s Executive Committee are to announce their final decision in Dec. 13.
Meanwhile, the FAI has confirmed that Maurice O’Connell, former governor of the Central Bank, has agreed to chair the review of the Association’s World Cup preparations. It’s not yet known if O’Connell will interview either Mick
McCarthy or Roy Keane.
Football for Sky One
After all the hulabaloo about the FAI selling the rights for Republic of Ireland home games to Sky, it now transpires that the games will be shown on the Sky One channel and not Sky Sports, as had been earlier reported. The move will mean that children will not have to go to pubs to watch the games after all, as Sky One is available in most Irish homes.
Poc Fada returns to Cooley
The annual Poc Fada competition returns to its usual location on the Cooley Mountains on Monday, Aug. 5, which is a Bank Holiday in Ireland. Due to the threat of foot-and-mouth in the Cooley Peninsula last year, the competition was held at Dundalk Racecourse.
Limerick’s Albert Shanahan, who won the title last year, will be on hand to defend. Another former winner taking part is Clare goalkeeper Davy Fitzgerald. Tipperary’s dual star Brendan Cummins will also travel, but my tip for the title is another dual star, Cork’s Diarmuid O’Sullivan, who will be competing for the first time.
Russia will have a new manager and will play at a new ground when the Republic visit Moscow on Sept. 7 for their opening game in the European Championship. Valery Gazzayev has taken over from Oleg Romantsev, who resigned after the World Cup Finals. And the Russians have announced that they will in the future play their home games at the more compact Lokomotiv Stadium, which can accommodate only 32,000 spectators. In the past, the Russians played their home games at the 80,000 Lenin Stadium in Moscow.
Meath Geraghty quitting
Graham Geraghty says he is retiring from intercounty football. The Meath star made the shock decision following the Royals’ loss to Donegal in the Bank of Ireland qualifiers. Geraghty, who is only 28, has been a Meath regular since 1993 and three years ago he captained Meath to All-Ireland success. Geraghty, who now runs a pub in Athboy, will continue to play for his club, Senchalstown.
Lights for Dublin?
We could soon see National Football League games in Ireland under lights. The Dublin GAA Board recently got permission to install floodlights at their county ground in Parnell Park. Already a number of GAA grounds around the country have proper lights, but there has not been any competitive games played under lights.
Pairc Ui Rinn in Cork also has lights, but they are used only for training.
Irwin leaves United
Former Irish international Denis Irwin last week severed his links with Manchester United. After 12 years at Old Trafford, the Cork-born full-back joined first division Wolves. At 36 Irwin, reckons he has another
season of top-class football left.
“I wanted to join a club with ambition, one that provided a challenge, and Wolves were the biggest and best that came in for me,” he said. “A lot of people have said to me, go out and enjoy it, but I can only enjoy it if I’m winning.”
Jump jockey jailed
Irish-born jump jockey Timmy Murphy was jailed for nine months in England last week. Murphy, who rode the winner in last year’s Irish Grand National, was born in Kilcullen, Co. Kildare. He admitted to being drunk on a flight from Tokyo to Heathrow last April. Murphy got six months for assaulting a flight attendant and three months for being drunk on board the aircraft.
Nel re-signs with Connacht
Connacht rugby got a boost ahead of the new season with the news that coach Steph Nel has signed a new three-year contract to stay with the West of Ireland side. The South African-born coach has been with Connacht for two years and has done reasonably well.
Carr healthy again
Stephen Carr, who missed the World Cup through injury, is back playing for Tottenham Hotspur and is expected to be fit for the start of the English Premiership on Aug. 18. Carr should also earn a recall to Mick McCarthy’s Irish squad for the friendly against Finland in Helsinki on Aug. 21.
But there is unlikely to be a recall to the Irish squad for Roy Keane, who now appears to have definitely played his last game for The Republic. There has been no olive branches from either Keane or Mick McCarthy and the situation could be exacerbated when both manager and former captain publish their respective books in September.
Two out, two to go — that’s the situation with Eircom League clubs in Europe. Shelbourne, who only had to draw with Hibernians of Malta in Dublin last week, are out of the Champions League. The Reds failed to capitalize on their many scoring chances and went out to an injury-time goal from the Maltese.
Already St. Patrick’s Athletic are out of the Inter Toto Cup.
Next month it’s the turn of Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk to sample European action.
Kelly for Derry City
Former Irish international striker David Kelly is expected to sign for Derry City this week. Kelly had earlier been the target of Dublin club Shelbourne, but he is now expected to join the Brandywell club this week. Derry are the only club in the Eircom League premier division without a point after three rounds of games.
In other transfer news, Clinton Morrison, who was on the Irish World Cup squad last month, moved from Crystal Palace to Birmingham City last week in a _4.2 million deal. Birmingham, who were promoted to the Premiership last season, are managed by Steve Bruce, who is a big fan of Morrison’s, having been together at Palace.
“Having worked with Clinton at Palace, I believe he is a player of great talent who can get ever better,” Bruce said.
Meanwhile, Gary Breen, who was released by Coventry City at the end of last season, is still without a club. Leeds United, West Ham and Newcastle United are all reported to be interested in Breen, who had a very good World Cup campaign. In fact, Breen is being tipped to replace the retiring Steve Staunton as Irish captain.
Carlisle go to Dubliner
Dubliner John Courtenay is the first Irishman to buy an English soccer club. After six months of wrangling, Courtenay last week bought English third division club Carlisle United from Michael Knighton.
Followers of English football may remember Knighton as the man who almost bought Manchester United. He famously ran out of the tunnel at Old Trafford before a game and kicked a ball into the net.
Courtenay, who is the Irish franchise holder for the Umbro sports company, immediately reinstated flamboyant Dubliner Roddy Collins as manager.
Collins had been sacked by the previous owners at the end of last season. Now Collins is set to bring several Eircom League players to the North of Ireland club, which Collins and Courtenay hope will be playing in the first division within four years.
More Keane trouble
What a difference a week makes? Ten days ago Roy Keane got a hero’s reception when he lined for Manchester United as they hammered Shelbourne 5-0 in a friendly at Tolka Park, Dublin. A week later, Keane’s younger brother Pat traveled to Tolka to play for Cork club Rockmount. But the Cork junior side went down 8-0 and Pat was sent off late in the game.
Another big win by an Eircom League club against a non-League club was recorded by Cork City, who hammered Dublin junior side Glenmore/Dundrum 9-0 at Turner’s Cross.