By Mark Jones and Sean Creedon
With just one game in the National Football League last weekend, Dublin put themselves in line for a place in the play-offs by narrowly beating Galway by 2-15 to 0-20 at Tuam. The result puts Dublin level with Kerry on eight points at the top of Division 1A.
It took a late Ciaran Whelan goal to decide the issue and while Galway were bemoaning their bad fortune, Dublin weren’t too worried about the manner of this win after five consecutive away defeats in the competition.
Three points to the good with five minutes remaining, Galway must have been confident. But the visitors’ revival continued with Declan Darcy’s seventh point and then Whelan, after a Keith Galvin assist, blasted in a low shot from 15 meters.
"We got caught on the day," said Galway manager John O’Mahony. "We didn’t work hard enough in the closing minutes and in any competitive game, you’re not going to get away with that. But there were some positive signs as well."
With seven points from six games, Galway are still not out of the play-off picture, but Whelan’s late strike has now made the task a really difficult one.
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Friendly against Greece
Mick McCarthy is going to be short several of his squad for the friendly against Greece at Lansdowne Road on Wednesday April 26.
The game is on the Wednesday after Easter which is a vital time for clubs making a push to win honors in England.
At this stage at least five players are ruled out and you can be sure that figure will be doubled as we come nearer the date.
Leeds United trio Gary Kelly, Ian Harte and Stephen McPhail cannot be considered as Leeds play Watford 24 hours before the Greece game. Spurs also play Ipswich on Tuesday and that rules out Stephen Carr and Matt Holland.
McCarthy could invoke the FIFA 48-hour release clause, but does not want to incur the wrath of English managers by doing so for a friendly. "At the time the fixture was confirmed, I wasn’t aware there was a clash with English club games. I found out quickly enough, but it was too late for me to do anything about it. I was going to use this game to look at young players such as Richard Dunne, Andy O’Brien and Steve Finnan anyway,” McCarthy said.
Qualified for Olympics
Cork’s Michael Roche is the first Irish boxer to qualify for the Olympic Games in Sydney. Twenty-eight year-old Roche earned his ticket for Australia at a pre-qualifying tournament in Halle, Germany recently. Roche is a member of the Sunnyside club, where his trainer is Kieran Joyce.
Shelbourne, one of founder members of the League of Ireland in 1921, have never won the League-Cup double. But The Reds must be favorites to do so this season.
They look "home and dry" in the League and are also through to the semifinals of the FAI Cup, where they must travel to Terryland Park to play Galway United.
The other semifinal sees Cup holders Bray Wanderers travel to meet in-form Bohemians at Dalymount Park.
The semifinals will be played on the week-ending April 2.
This year’s Cup Final will be played at Tolka Park on April 30.
Meanwhile Shels Chairman Gary Brown says The Reds are pressing ahead with plans to be part of the proposed Atlantic League. The Dublin club expect to be starting in the lower flight of a two division table in a League which has attracted interest from clubs in Scotland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and Northern Ireland.
Celtic rugby league rejected
The Irish Rugby Football Union has rejected a joint proposal from the Scottish and Welsh Rugby Unions for a Celtic League.
The proposed League would have included seven Welsh clubs, three Irish and two Scottish clubs in a 22 game League. But the IRFU say that with the European Cup, inter-provincials and internationals, it would overcrowd an already congested fixtures schedule.
Laois hurling manager
Sean Cuddy is the new manager of the Laois senior hurlers. He replaces Padraig Horan, who stepped down recently. Cuddy, who won a record 16 county senior championship medals with Camross, served as a selector under previous managers Babs Keating and Pat Critchley.
And Critchley is returning from San Francisco to train the Laois hurlers for the upcoming Leinster championship. Cuddy’s selectors will be Mick Peters of Castletown and Kevin Broderick of Rathdowney.
University of Limerick opts out
University of Limerick has opted out of this year’s Limerick senior football championship. UL were in trouble last year when they conceded a walkover to Hospital Herberstown in the second series of League games and were later thrown out of the competition. ULOs decision will probably please a lot of GAA supporters in Limerick, who were not happy that the students were playing in the county championship.
The same situation exists in Cork with UCC and did in Dublin when UCD were doing well.
Ah yes, we are a parochial lot all right.
SONIA O’Sullivan clearly has an uphill struggle to regain the sort of fitness which will make her a gold medal favorite for the 10,000 meters at the Sydney Olympics later this year. Returning to action following an 18 month lay-off from top international competition, O’Sullivan struggled to make any impact at the World Cross-country championships in Portugal.
Seventh in last Saturday’s long course event and then a tired 15th in the short race the following day, the Cork athlete had mixed emotions about her first quality races since the birth of her daughter nine months ago.
"I was happy enough with what I achieved in the longer event (8.08k), but in the short race (4.18k) it was hard to be up on the pace. I considered I was fit enough coming here, but I soon found I wasn’t fit enough to live with a pace like that.
"I just didn’t have the speed in my legs, but I’m not about to panic. It’s all about priorities and my priority is to win gold in Sydney. I could have hid and stayed at home, but I had to find out where my preparations were and I’m not ready to win big races."
Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia was an impressive winner of the long race in 25:42 with Ireland just failing to win a bronze medal in the team event, while another Ethiopian, Kutre Dulecha, took the shorter event in 13 minutes.
Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) defeated Na Fianna (Dublin) by 1-14 to 0-12 last weekend.
We knew they were good, but not this good. A third All Ireland football title in four years burned the name of Crossmaglen Rangers into the GAA annals as probably the finest club team of all time. If their previous triumphs were impressive, last Friday’s performance at Croke Park eclipsed everything.
"It was like trying to hold back an avalanche at the start," conceded Na Fianna manager, Paul Caffrey. "I was just blown away by how good they were." During a one-sided first-half, Crossmaglen were outstanding as their forwards swept through the Na Fianna defense with pace and skill.
For the most part, Na Fianna were forced to adopt a policy of containment as Cathal Short and the McEntee twins, John and Tony, were the springboards for an interval lead of 0-9 to 0-4.
It was further confirmation, if confirmation was needed, of manager Joe Kernan’s talismanic qualities. The heart and soul of Crossmaglen expressed himself more relieved at a job done well than anything else, however, even he was moved to praise his players. "In fairness to Na Fianna, I think some of our football in the first-half was brilliant, he said. "We gave the ball away a bit after that and we were punished, but who knows where this will end now? We’re certainly the team to beat."
With Dessie Farrell and Mick Galvin working hard to close the gap, Na Fianna were within two points of the winners at one stage, but Crossmaglen simply went up a gear to add three more points in the closing five minutes.
And before the players headed off to the Canaries for a holiday, captain Anthony Cunningham was thinking about a three-in-a-row. "We’re a young team and there’ll be no stopping us coming back to Croke Park for a few years yet." Bad news for the rest of the country.
St. Joseph’s Doora-Barefield lose
Athenry, of Galway, beat St. Joseph’s Doora-Barefield, of Clare, by 0-16 to 0-12
St Joseph’s hopes of a second successive All Ireland club hurling title were upset last Friday, when Athenry reclaimed the championship they first won in 1997.
With Croke Park still in the middle of a major redevelopment — the rubble of the Hogan Stand was the backdrop for the action — the sense of occasion was lost and the final failed to live up to its billing.
Not that the Galwaymen cared too much. Controversially beaten in last season’s semi-final by the same opponents, this was a sweet turnaround. "If people only realized the effort and training that goes into something like this," said Athenry manager, Pat Nally. "That’s what it’s all about that’s what paid off."
But more than just effort and training. There was the brilliance of Joe Rabbitte and the force of Brian Feeney to add to the mix. At times during the first-half when the point scoring ability of Jamesie O’Connor looked like sending St Joseph’s into the clear, it was Rabbitte who came to Athenry’s rescue.
Levet at 0-9 apiece at the changeover, Athenry surged ahead early in the second-half and never looked back. Eugene Cloonan bagged nine points, including five frees and a penalty, while Brian Hanley, who got the better of Ollie Baker, hit 0-3.
"Our approach to the game was magnificent," said Nally, "if desire will ever win anything it won that one for us. St Joseph’s certainly showed their worth in the first-half, but then I think our hurling went up at least two gears. We needed that."
For St Joseph’s, it was a disappointing end to a marvellous couple of seasons. "You dread this moment when things don’t happen on the big stage," lamented their coach, Louis Mulqueen.
Fota Island golf venue
The Fota Island Golf course in Cork has been confirmed as the venue for the Murphy’s Irish Open in 2001 and 2002. The Open goes to Ballybunion on a once-off basis this year, but it was important for the sponsors to nail down a venue for the following two years without delay. The 2001 event will take place from June 29-July 1, while not date has yet been set for the following year. Fota has recently undergone remedial work costing £2 million.