By Sean Creedon
For the first time in the history of Gaelic football, the reigning All-Ireland champions will begin the defense of their title in London.
Galway should have no difficulty against London at Ruislip on SundayThe emigrants have been playing in the Connacht championship since 1975 and so far their only victory was against Leitrim in 1977.
Any Sunday that Dublin and Meath footballers play in Croke Park you can be guaranteed a full house. These great Leinster rivals will both be in action at GAA headquarters on Sunday, but not in direct opposition. Dublin can expect a tough game from Louth, while Meath should be too strong for Wicklow.
Donegal selector Matt Gallagher will be the only member of the management team allowed on the sideline when Donegal play Armagh in Ballybofey on Sunday. Manager Declan Bonner and selector Charlie Mulgrew were both banned from the sideline for one game as a result of pitch encroachments in last year’s Ulster Final.
The big game in Munster is the hurling clash between Clare and Tipperary in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. A few weeks ago Tipp beat their great rivals by a point in the semifinal of the National League and went on to win the title. Clare will have to plan without P. J. O’Connell and Fergie Tuohy, but they may still be too strong for this young Tipp side.
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Yugoslavia flap grows
In October 1955, 22,000 Irish people went to Dalymount Park, Dublin, to see Yugoslavia play The Republic of Ireland in a soccer international. At the time there was outrage that we were playing a team from a Communist state and the Archbishop of Dublin urged the people not to attend. Now 44 years later the government are "blacking" next Saturday’s European Championship qualifier against Yugoslavia because of Slobodan Milosovich’s ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo.
Two weeks back, the Yugoslav coach and national secretary came to Dublin to check out hotels and training facilities. They said that they were ready to travel and used the old cliche that they didn’t want to mix sport and politics.
Last week, UEFA confirmed that the game will go ahead on Saturday, as will next week’s game against Macedonia at Lansdowne Road. Yugoslavia will play their remaining home games in Greece, so it seems that there is little chance of the FAI succeeding in their request to have Ireland’s game in Belgrade last November replayed.
Ireland lost 1-0 to Yugoslavia that night. The FAI want the game to be replayed at a neutral venue, but I think we are too small a nation to have enough clout. Now if England were involved there would be uproar if they were put in a similar situation.
Track sponsorship snafu
BLE and the Olympic Council of Ireland will meet early this month to try to sort out the long-running row about which gear athletes will wear in next year’s Olympic Games. The row blew up in Atlanta when Sonia O’Sullivan had to change from Reebok to Asics in the tunnel minutes before competing. The OCI have just signed a lucrative deal with Adidas, while BLE are still contracted to Asics. BLE’s vice president, Liam Hennessy, said that they had no objection to athletes wearing Adidas gear for the opening ceremony and for medal presentations.
Hale quits Kilkenny
Alfie Hale has quit as manager of Kilkenny City and will not be taking another job in football. The 59-year-old Alfie, who has a sports shop in Waterford City, was capped 13 times for The Republic and played in England with Aston Villa and Doncaster Rovers. Back home he was a star of the Waterford team of the 1960s and also managed the Blues, Thurles Town and Kilkenny.
"I am 43 years in the game and I just feel that now is the right time to go," he said.
Gaelic Grounds protest
First it was nearby residents objections to the retention of Hill 16 in Croke Park. Now local residents in the Ennis Road, Limerick, have objected to the Limerick County Board’s ambitious plans to develop three sides of the Gaelic Grounds. The County Board want to increase the capacity of the ground from 32,000 to 51,000, but the residents are complaining.
"We’re not at all happy with many aspects of the proposed developments and if it comes to it we are prepared to go to the High Court. We already have funds for such purposes in place," a spokesperson said.
GAA Omagh check
GAA President Joe McDonagh last week presented a check for £750,000 to the trustees of the Omagh Fund. The check included the income from the controversial All-Ireland hurling semifinal replay between Offaly and Clare last year. Also included were donations from all sectors of the GAA, at home and abroad, as well as from Provincial Councils, Central Council and individual donations.
Montgomerie for Irish Open
Colin Montgomerie, the European No. 1 golfer for the last six years, has confirmed that he will compete in the Murphy’s Irish Open at Druids Glen in County Wicklow from July 1-4. Monty has won the competition twice and David Carter, who beat the Scot in a playoff last year, is also a confirmed starter. American John Daly is also coming and he has signed a deal to promote Druids Glen on the American market.
McHugh to rep rugby cup
Ireland will have only one referee at the Rugby World Cup later this year. Dave McHugh is among the group of 16 referees for the competition which kicks-off in Cardiff on October 1.
What about New York?
In a bid to promote women’s Gaelic football in England, London will play in the Ladies National Football League competition next season. London will play in div. 2, which will be divided in North and South sections. The obvious question is how long before New York are admitted to the League, or allowed to play the Irish winners?
No change in FAI
No change to the number of clubs in the FAI National League. At their AGM in Galway last week, St. Francis and Home Farm were reelected.
However Home Farm’s sponsorship deal with Everton has ended and they will now be sponsored by Fingal County Council and will be known as Home Farm/Fingal. The League executive are to look at the Norway blueprint to try and improve the standard of the domestic game.
"We all know where Norway stood in international terms 20 years ago and the strides they have made to be where are today. We must strive to reach that," said League president Michael Hyland.
Limerick has a cow
The Limerick GAA Board have got an unusual sponsor for their football team for the next three years. Athea-born Tom Moran, who owns the Red Cow Hotel on the Naas Road in Dublin has pledged his support to his native county.