By Sean Creedon
For many Irish people over 40, the sight of Kilkenny and Waterford hurlers in opposition at Croke Park this weekend will bring back many happy memories. Names like Tom Cheasty, Phil Grimes, Ollie Walsh and Denis Heaslip will evoke memories of great games between these neighboring counties in the 1950s and ’60s. The stars of yesteryear have been replaced by new heroes like D.J. Carey, Pat O’Neill, Stephen Frampton and Paul Flynn.
This will be the counties’ first championship meeting since they met in the 1963 All-Ireland final. The team shared 10 goals that day, but in the end Kilkenny won three points. The Cats will probably be favorites again on Sunday, but Waterford have really improved under former Cork star Gerald McCarthy and they showed good spirit by beating Galway in the quarterfinal, just a week after losing the Munster final replay to Clare. Waterford could make their first All-Ireland final in 35 years via the back door.
Tipp to name English
Nicky English is expected to be named manager of the Tipperary senior hurlers this week. Even though Len Gaynor was prepared to stay on for another year, it was obvious for some time that the Tipperary County Board wanted a new man at the helm.
In Sligo, Mickey Moran has changed his mind about quitting. Moran said the traveling from his home in Derry was too much following Sligo’s Connacht semifinal defeat by Roscommon. And Moran has also got another job, as assistant to Colm O’Rourke for the tests series against Australia under compromise rules in October. Former Kerry star will also assist O’Rourke in assessing the Munster players.
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Meanwhile, Sean Boylan says he will take some time to decide if he is going to continue as manager of Meath following his county’s defeat by Kildare in the Leinster final. Boylan is the longest serving inter-county manager and has some great days with The Royals. But maybe now is the time for him to step down.
Lord of the Ring?
“Lord of the Dance” star Michael Flatley has been offered _1 million to make his professional boxing debut in Dublin next month. The offer comes from Irish millionaire Syl McClean, who has already lined up former Olympic gold medalist Michael Carruth for his Sept. 19 show.
Carruth will box Canada-based Irishman Mark Riggs at a venue yet to be confirmed.
Flatley, who did a bit of boxing as a child in Chicago, has indicated a willingness to take up professional boxing, now that his dancing days are over. But if Flatley is to make his debut, you can be sure it will be against a very carefully selected opposition.
“You can be sure that your granny would beat his likely opponent,” said former Irish champion Mick Dowling.
Staunton to return
Saturday, Aug. 16, sees the big kick-off in England with all the FA Premiership clubs back in action. About 20 Irish players are expected to win first team places with their clubs this weekend. The big news from an Irish point of view is the return of Steve Staunton to Liverpool after a few seasons with Aston Villa. Joining Staunton on the Liverpool team who meet Southampton in their opening game will be Phil Babb and Jason McAteer. McAteer has recovered from a broken ankle, which caused him to miss the end of last season and played for Liverpool when they won a pre-season tournament in Dublin.
Making a return to the Premiership will be Andy Townsend and Curtis Fleming, who helped Middlesbrough win promotion last season. Champions Arsenal don’t have any Irish players, manager Arsene Wenger preferring to opt for players from France. But, of course, Manchester United will always be the focus of attention and Roy Keane should be fit to resume in the United team, who have signed Dutch star Jaap Stam to try and shore up their defense.
English League Top 100
Nine Irish players (four from the South and five from the North) have made the all-time English League Top 100.
The list, compiled by English soccer writers, includes Liam Brady, Johnny Carey, Johnny Giles and Paul McGrath from The Republic. The Northern players honored were George Best, Peter Doherty, Pat Jennings, Jimmy McIlroy and Elisha Scott. Naturally, such a list will always cause controversy and one of the big names excluded was England World Cup winner Jack Charlton.
Malta next for North
Northern Ireland manager Lawrie McMenemy is likely to try out some new faces when the North play Malta in a friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast, next Tuesday (Aug. 18). After a dream start with wins over Slovakia and Switzerland, McMenemy was brought back to earth with a 4-1 loss to Spain in Santander before the World Cup finals. Now there’s an opportunity for new players to impress before Big Lawrie’s first competitive game in charge against Turkey in the European Championship on Sept. 5.