By Sean Creedon
FAI officials will be in Amsterdam tomorrow and Friday (Jan. 20-21) to arrange dates for the qualifying games in our 2002 World Cup qualifying group.
Chief Executive Bernard O’Byrne and manager Mick McCarthy have already devised a fixtures strategy in advance of the two-day meeting with officials from Holland, Portugal, Estonia, Cyprus and Andorra. They will probably try to avoid having too many away games at the end of the campaign, like we did in our bid to qualify for Euro 2000.
McCarthy will have at least three games to try to find some new talent before we kick off the World Cup campaign, probably in August.
On Feb. 23 the Czech Republic visit Dublin and we will also have games on April 26 and May 31. Opponents for the latter two dates have not yet been confirmed.
The FAI are still waiting to finalize match arrangements for the U.S. Cup when we will play the United States, Mexico and South Africa.
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"We expect to be playing games on June 4, 7 and 11,” said O’Byrne.
Kerry drop 5
The Kerry football selectors have dropped five senior players from their squad for the remainder of the National League campaign. Barry O’Shea, Killian Burns, Eamonn Breen, Billy O’Shea and William Kirby, who all featured in Kerry’s 1997 All-Ireland final win are all out.
There’s no room either for Pa Laide, who has been injured or Brian Clarke, who was brought back briefly last year. Eight players from the Under 21 team that reached the All-Ireland final last year, have been called up by Paidi O Se and his selectors.
Cork millennium team
Meanwhile current Cork hurling team manager Jimmy Barry Murphy has been named in the his county’s football team of the Millennium, announced last week. For all Corkonians stateside, this was the Rebel XV of the last century: Billy Morgan, Paddy O’Driscoll, P.A. "Weesh" Murphy, Kevin Kehily, Niall Cahalane, Tadhg Crowley, Jimmy Kerrigan, Fachtna O’Donovan, Declan Barron, Denis `Toots’ Kelleher, Larry Tompkins, Eamon Young, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Ray Cummins, Denis Allen.
Down name O’Reilly
Former Antrim and Ulster hurler Terry O’Reilly is the new manager of the Down senior hurling team. The 59-year-old O’Reilly is a trade union official and it will take all his negotiating skills to bring unity back to the Down camp. His first game in charge will be against Wicklow in the National League on Feb. 20.
It’s the closed season in GAA so that means that club and county teams are having their well-deserved holidays in the sun. All-Ireland champions Meath are currently in Dubai, while hurling winners Cork head for Thailand next week. Kilkenny’s hurlers are going to Florida, as are the Cork footballers. Meanwhile, the Kerry footballers are sticking with the tried and trusted Canaries. It’s about time the players were catered to and after a long season they all deserved their time in the sun.
Sligo Rovers lose debut
Sligo Rovers, who have had some epic FAI Cup ties down through the years, fell at the first hurdle this year. The "Bit of Red" went out to Dublin non-League club Bluebell United at The Showgrounds. It was the first time that Sligo have lost to a non-League club in 31 years.
Back in 1969, they went out to Longford Town. The Midlanders have since joined the League and indeed accounted for premier division Waterford after a replay.
Shelbourne for new league?
FAI officials are worried that Dublin club Shelbourne are reported to be ready to join the proposed Atlantic League. The plan is to take the top teams from several of Europe’s smaller nations in a bid to create a sixth big League on the continent alongside those in England, Italy, Spain, Germany and France.
"Any new League would have to have to have the full support of UEFA, who would then issue a franchise to the FAI," said League President Michael Hyland. "If that happens, then the FAI the Eircom league would sit down and formulate a policy in the best interest of Irish soccer. They would decide whether Ireland would be represented by an FAI selection or a club team.”
UEFA regional competition
The FAI have welcomed in principle UEFA proposals which could see The Republic playing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a regional international competition every year.
In a effort to reduce the number of friendly internationals UEFA are proposing that neighboring countries play each other in regional tournaments. The FAI’s Bernard O’Byrne suggests that a guest country be invited each year to spice up the competition, but the English are not in favor.
"We believe the world is getting smaller and prefer to take a more global view. Our priority is to develop relations worldwide,” said English FA executive director David Davies.
The Home Championships ended in 1984 when England pulled out and it looks they that they have finally rid themselves of their insular attitude.
Limerick Olympic connection
Limerick-based physical therapist Gerard Hartmann will travel to the Olympics in Sydney as head physio to the British Olympic team. However, Hartmann will also be able to treat some of the elite Irish athletes.
"There’s a provision in my contract to have access to ten of my private patients and this will include the likes of Sonia O’Sullivan, Catherina McKiernan and Susan Smith," Hartmann said.
This will be Hartmann’s third Olympics. He went to Barcelona in a professional capacity with top American sprinters Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell. Four years ago as he was moving back to Limerick from the United States Hartmann was invited to work with the Irish team in Atlanta.
"This time I am contracted to the British team. When you work for the Irish team, you do it for the honor and the glory,” said Hartmann, who now treats many of the top athletes from all over the world in his Limerick clinic.
Hartmann, whose own career was ended when he collided with an Armadillo while cycling in Florida, explained why he cannot do the job for free a second time.
"I have worked extremely hard to get myself in this position and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do it for the honor and glory again," he said. "I don’t mind working professionally as a physio for free the one time. But I won’t do it a second time.”
Keane likes Glasgow Celtic
Roy Keane has revealed that the would like to finish his playing career with Glasgow Celtic.
Keane, who was named Player of the Month for December in the English Premiership and is reported to have given up drinking alcohol, was speaking after returning from Manchester United’s trip to Rio for the World Cup championship.
"I’m not one for looking too far forward," he said. "But in three years’ time if I wasn’t in the time and my contract was up again, I wouldn’t mind a transfer to Celtic. That would be a nice way to finish it all off. But of course we’ll have to wait and see.”
Keane is obviously a typical Irishman, who likes Manchester United and Celtic.