By Sean Creedon
This is a big weekend for Irish sport and tourism, with the Budweiser Irish Derby going out live on ESPN.
This is Budweiser’s 13th year sponsoring the leading Irish flat race and the Irish trainers will be determined to improve on their English Derby performance where they were eclipsed by the English and French. But the Derby is much more than a horse race. It’s also one of the top social events of the year in Ireland and is enjoyed by more than 30,000 spectators. Walking around the Curragh one can rub shoulders with some of Budweiser’s celebrity guests from the U.S. and Ireland.
Maracycle to end
In a year which finally saw an historic agreement on Northern Ireland, there is an irony – the annual Co-Operation North Maracycle is ending after 15 years. The final fun cycle from Belfast to Dublin will be held this Saturday and Sunday, June 27 and 28. But the organizers have plans for a new cycle event next year. “It has been going on since 1983 and we think it’s time for a different approach. The heavy traffic on the Dublin-Belfast road was a factor and plans are well under way for a new cross-border cycling event next year, said a Maracycle spokeswoman. There was huge interest in the race in the eighties, but the number of participants has declined in recent years. However, the organizers are hoping that more than 3,000 cyclists will take part in the final Maracycle this weekend.
Meath looking good
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Meath should cruise into yet another Leinster football final when they play Laois in the first semifinal at Croke Park on Sunday, June 28. Louth look poor against Wicklow and there is no way I can see them causing Meath any trouble.
But the Connacht semifinal between Roscommon and Sligo at Dr. Hyde Park is a much tougher game to call. Sligo, who were unlucky to lose to Mayo in the Connacht final last year, struggled against London at Ruislip, while this is Roscommon’s first game in the championship.
In Ulster, surprise packets Armagh may be too good for Derry at Clones. Armagh are backboned by many of the 1992 minor team that went all the way to the All-Ireland final and following their surprise win over Down may take another scalp on Sunday.
In Munster, Clare should qualify for the football final when they take on Waterford in Ennis.
Brian Kerr, the highly successful manager of the Republic of Ireland Youth’s team, has been appointed the FAI’s new technical director. Forty-five-year-old Kerr will continue to manage the Irish Under-16 and Under-18 teams. Earlier this year former Northern Ireland manager Bryan Hamilton turned down the job at the 11th hour.