By Sean Creedon
This weekend sees four of the greatest rivals in Gaelic football meet in provincial finals.
At Croke Park, Dublin and Meath, who have produced many a bruising encounter in recent years, meet in the Leinster Final.
Meanwhile, down in Pairc Ui Chaoimh those great rivals Cork and Kerry meet for the 56th time in a Munster Final. Prior to the introduction of the open draw in 1991, the counties had met in 25 consecutive finals. Cork looked poor in their semifinal win over Clare. However, you can sure they will have improved since then, but hardly enough to topple the reigning Munster and All-Ireland champions.
Who would back Meath to lose against Dublin? Not many people who have witnessed the never-say-die spirit of The Royals in recent years. This year they struggled against Westmeath but stepped up a few gears to overcome Kildare in the semifinal.
Dublin will again be without Brian Stynes, who may have to retire with a back injury. Jim Gavin, who had just recovered from a back injury, broke a bone in his hand in a recent club game with Round Towers and is also out. The Dubs have a match-winner in powerful midfielder Ciaran Whelan, but they are not consistent. I fancy Meath.
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Football draw Sunday
The draw for the fourth round of the All-Ireland football qualifiers will be made on Sunday night. Included in the draw will be the four winners of Round Three and the four defeated provincial finalists.
The back door in football has proved to be a great idea and the only loser is hurling, which has had to play second fiddle this summer. The draw for the quarterfinals of the hurling championship will also be made live on RTE TV on Sunday evening.
Eircom League premier division club St. Patrick’s Athletic and first division St. Francis have merged. In the future, the club will be officially known as St. Patrick’s Athletic Incorporating St. Francis and they say they would like be known by the nickname "Dublin Saints."
But with the new club continuing to play on St. Pat’s old ground at Inchicore, most Dubliners are likely to refer to the club as simply "Pat’s." The new club, which will be managed by Pat Dolan, will train and play their Under-21 games at John Hyland Park in Baldonnel, the former home of St. Francis.
It’s generally agreed that Dublin has too many League clubs, but a merger at this stage has left League officials with a headache. Fixtures for next season have already been published and now League officials are desperately seeking a club to replace St. Francis in the first division. Newbridge Town from Kildare, who have played in the League Cup in previous seasons, appear to be the favorites.
The race for treasurer will be the major discussion among delegates at the AGM of the Football Association in Cork on Saturday. The vacancy has occurred because Brendan Menton, who had held the job since 1996, has been promoted to chief executive, replacing Bernard O’Byrne. The two contestants are John Delaney, son of former treasurer Joe Delaney, and former referee inspector and trade union leader Bill Attley.
Delaney, one of the leading anti-Eircom Park campaigners, has the backing of the Munster FA, but Attley would not run if he didn’t have a certain amount of backing within the corridors of power in Merrion Square.
McCarthy for Cork?
Former Cork star Justin McCarthy has emerged as favorite to take over as manager of the Waterford senior hurlers. If he does, he will replace former Cork colleague Gerald McCarthy, who quit after The Decies’ Munster semifinal loss to Limerick last month. Meanwhile Sean McNaughton quit as manager of Antrim four days after their Ulster semifinal loss to Down.
Harte signs with Leeds
Irish international Ian Harte has signed a five-year contract with Leeds United. Manager David O’Leary was keen to hold on to the Drogheda lad, who apparently was wanted by Italian clubs.
News of other Irish internationals: Last week Mark Kennedy completed his move from Manchester City to Wolves, and David Connolly is staying in Holland, where he has signed for AZ Alkmaar.
It took the GAA more than 100 years to introduce a losers’ round in Gaelic Football, but it was well worth waiting for. This year we have had some great games in the losers’ section. For decades many great teams have been idle all through the summer, just because they lost in the first round. This summer, however, we have seen some great games between counties that have lost in the early rounds of their own provincial championships. And who could have predicted that four of the five Connacht counties would still be playing football in July?
Roscommon are already through to the quarterfinals, while Mayo, Galway and Sligo all go into to the draw next Sunday evening to decide the pairings for the next round in the losers’ group.
Collins joins Drogheda
Roddy Collins, who was in charge of Bohemians when they won the League-Cup double last season, is back in football management. Collins has joined Drogheda United as a consultant for a trial period of one month. Collins and his brother Stephen, the former boxing World Champion, are part of a consortium who want to take over the County Louth first division club.
Irwin stays at Utd.
Former Irish international Denis Irwin has agreed to stay with Manchester United for another season. The 35-year-old Cork-born defender was wanted by a few English clubs including Newcastle, Coventry and Watford. But the club’s current longest serving player has signed on for another year. Irwin’s decision came at the end of a good week for United manager Alex Ferguson, who is due to leave Old Trafford at the end of next season.
On the same day, Paul Scholes agreed a six-year deal and Nicky Butt signed on for another five years. In addition, Lazio also agreed to sell their Argentinian midfielder, Juan Veron, to United for a fee of £24.7 million.
Meanwhile, another former Irish international has moved to Scotland. David Kelly, 36, has moved to Motherwell, despite being offered a coaching job at his last club, Sheffield United. And David Connolly has decided to return to England and Wimbledon. Last week, it was reported that Connolly has joined Alkmaar in Holland.
Kennelly Rules debut
Former Kerry minor Tadhg Kennelly made his first team debut for Aussie Rules side Sydney Swans at the weekend. The 20-year-old Listowel man, son of the former Kerry star Tim Kennelly, played his first game in the AFL against Carlton.
Kennelly is now set to follow in the footsteps of fellow North Kerry man Sean Wight and Dublin’s Jim Stynes, both of whom played played Aussie Rules.