By Sean Creedon
The Republic will South American opposition in Paraguay in a friendly at Lansdowne Road on Feb 10. FAI Chief Executive Bernard O’Byrne admits that they have failed to line up European opponents to fill the void until Mick McCarthy’s team’s next competitive game, against Macedonia on March 27. Crowd pullers Brazil and Argentina were ruled out early.
Other friendlies in the pipeline include Sweden on April 28 at Lansdowne Road and Northern Ireland on May 29, also at Lansdowne, in an Omagh fund benefit.
Dublin to host snooker
Ireland will host a world ranking snooker event for the first time next week. The Irish Snooker Open will be staged at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght, Dublin, from Dec. 15-20. Ireland does not have a snooker venue large enough to take five tables and accommodate the crowds that will want to see the top stars. In the past, the invitational Irish Masters has been held at Goffs in County Kildare, which is a sales ring for thoroughbred horses.
The Irish Open will feature the World’s top 32 players, who qualified in Plymouth last August. To date no sponsor has been found and the event will not be televised.
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Ireland’s Ronnie O’Sullivan, who failed to defend his UK Championship in Bournemouth recently due to physical and mental exhaustion, is expected to make a comeback at the Dublin event.
Ireland eyes cycling championships
Ireland’s bid to host the world cycling championships in the year 2003 will be lodged at the end of January. Pat McQuaid, the man who was mainly responsible for bringing the Tour de France to Ireland last summer, is confident that Ireland can stage the event. McQuaid, who is also a member of the UCI, cycling’s governing body, says that Ireland must convince the UCI that it will not cost the body money and that the championships will not be run at a loss.
"My big concern would be if some nation, say Germany, were to come in and put up £2 million or something like that," McQuaid said.
In that situation, it would make Ireland’s chances slim, he said, noting that he has already looked at possible venues in Cork, Kerry, the West and the North West.
Cork, Kerry shut out
For only the second time since the competition began in 1970, the Munster club champions will come from outside of Cork and Kerry. On Sunday, Clare champions Doonbeg will meet Moyle Rovers of Tipperary in the final at the Limerick Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, Dec. 13. Thomond College from Limerick with a list of stars from various counties won the Munster title in 1978, but since then Cork and Kerry clubs have dominated the competition.
There are two other club finals on Sunday. The Leinster club hurling final between Rathnure of Wexford and Portlaoise will be played at Nowlan Park, Kilkenny. And in Connacht football, Roscommon Gaels await either Ballina Stephenites or Eastern Harps.
Collins comeback denied
Reports that Steve Collins is poised to make an unexpected return to the ring against Roy Jones in Manchester next summer have been denied by Home Box Office, the television network that is contracted to screen the American’s next five fights.
"Collins has been out of the ring for over a year now and this fight simply would not grab people. We would not be interested until Collins proves himself again by beating a couple of credible opponents," said a spokesman.
Meanwhile, Collins seems to be content to devote his leisure time horse riding with the various hunts around Dublin and Meath.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Istrabraq has been installed as 7-4 favorite to retain the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next March. Istrabraq had his 12th success over jumps at Fairyhouse recently and will have his next outing at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.
Meanwhile, Conor O’Dwyer has lost the ride on Imperial Call. O’Dwyer, who cannot ride in Ireland until Dec. 28 because of suspension, has now been replaced by Paul Carbery. O’Dwyer partnered Imperial Call to win the Chelteham Gold Cup in 1996.
Dublin hire fund-raiser
The Dublin GAA County Board has become the first in the country to appoint a commercial manager. Thirty-three-year old Barry Gavin, an older brother of Dublin forward Jim, is the man with the task of raising funds for The Dubs. Meanwhile, Dublin have received a long term interest free loan of £1 million from Croke Park and the Leinster Council to offset the £1.7 million debt on Parnell Park.
GAA streamlines fixtures
The GAA are to break with tradition for next years’ Church and General National Hurling League, which will start on Feb. 21. Two full rounds will be played on Saturday as the GAA moves to streamline their fixtures program. The two Saturdays earmarked for a full League program are March 27 and April 10. Counties can switch to Sunday by agreement, but it’s likely that most will choose the Saturday option. Current League champions Cork begin their campaign at home to Kilkenny on Feb. 21.
FAI, Schoolboy feud
A major row is going on between the Football Association and the Irish Schoolboy Association. The FAI want to assume control of the Schoolboy Association and also want them to apply the so-called ‘granny’ rule at under 14 and under 15 level. Already an under 15 international against Wales has been canceled while the parties are at loggerheads.