By Sean Creedon
There are two sides to every story and Roscommon Secretary Tom Mullaney has been defending his County Board’s decision not to travel to The Big Apple for their Connacht Championship game against New York in May.
"The fact of the matter is that we did New York a big favor by taking their request for a venue change to the Conancht Council," Mullaney said. "We could have simply turned down their request on the basis that the fixture had been already been made and that would have been the end of it.
"By referring the matter to the Connacht Council we have helped ensure that Connacht counties will travel to New York in rota after this year’s championship. We have stated that we would be happy to play them there in 2002. We would have played in New York this year, but the dates were not suitable."
Stadium saga continues
FAI Treasurer Brendan Menton will meet Taoiseach Bertie Ahern this week to discuss the possibility of the FAI abandoning plans for Eircom Park and moving on board with Bertie in his so called "Bertie Dome."
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Last week, FAI Chief Executive Bernard O’Byrne denied that Menton had been given a mandate from the FAI Board of Management to talk to the government. Originally, the Eircom League clubs were offered £11 million if they rowed in with the government’s plans.
Hurling league return
The Allianz National Hurling League gets under way this weekend (Feb. 4), but the top game between Cork and Kilkenny has been postponed. The Kilkenny squad are due home from their holiday in the sun on Friday and they have been granted a postponement.
Most attention will now focus on the meeting of Offaly and Galway in Birr. Galwayman Michael Bond has returned to The Faithful County after their All-Ireland final defeat and he will be taking the League seriously as he tries to rebuild in Offaly. Galway, with such little championship outlets, always take the League seriously and they are the current holders. But the Westerners will have to plan without the great Joey Cooney, who has retired.
After much searching Wexford have finally got a new manager and Tom Dempsey makes his debut in charge of the Yellow Bellies away to Laois. Dublin have a bye in Group 1A, while Tipperary are idle in Group 1B.
FAI Cup back in action
It’s also FAI Harp Lager Cup weekend with eight third-round games. Shelbourne, who are odds-on favorites to retain their Eircom League premier division title, face a difficult trip to the Brandywell to play Derry City. Last week, Derry beat The Reds 1-0 in Tolka Park and will be anxious to make it back-to-back victories over the Dubliners. In the past, Shels have gone to Derry for Cup games and won, but this time they would probably be happy with a draw.
There are only two non-League teams left in the competition and Portmarnock must have a chance against first division Dundalk. Cherry Orchard, a famous nursery club must also fancy their chances of an upset against Kilkenny City, who seem certain to be relegated from the Premier Division.
The most attractive tie is probably the meeting of Longford Town and St. Patrick’s Athletic at the Strokestown Road ground, which is now known as Flancare Park.
Limerick greyhound park
Bord na gCon is going to build a state-of-art greyhound stadium in Limerick on the site of the old Greenpark Racecourse. The new facility will provide a centerpiece for an industry that is no longer just selling Greyhounds, but a night out. The new stadium, which will take two years to complete, will be similar to the new Curaheen Park track, recently opened in Cork City.
The Markets Field has been home to Greyhound Racing in Limerick since 1932 and now there’s speculation that the Limerick Soccer club, who were tenants there from 1932-84, may return. That’s providing they can sell their current ground at Hogan Park.
GAA injury-time clock?
Regular readers of this column will know that I have for a long time advocated the introduction of soccer-style minute boards for big GAA games. Now, at last, it looks as though the Association are going to copy the method used in soccer all over the world to show players and spectators how much injury time is to be played.
GAA President Sean McCague confirmed that the Games Administration Committee have submitted proposals to the powerful Management Committee. The proposals could mean the introduction of the minute board or a Gaelic Park-style clock.
"Contrary to what some people seem to think, the GAA has no vested interest in replays," McCague said. "The notion that referees are under pressure to deliver draws in close games is plain ridiculous. It’s unfair on referees, players and the GAA itself."
Flat start for cyclists
Two Irish cyclists have been left without a team for the coming season with the collapse last week of the Linda McCartney team. Ciaran Power, who’s from Waterford, and Sligo’s Mark Scanlon were two of the 19-strong team.
The team, who were all vegetarians, had got backing from the former Beatle Paul McCartney last year in memory of his late wife, Linda. The decision comes at a bad time for the cyclists as most of the other European professional teams have already finalised their squads for the season.
Hassett for An Tochar
Kerry corner back Mike Hassett is leaving the Laune Rangers club and will now line out for An Tochar in Wicklow, where he works. Before Christmas Hassett’s brother Liam transferred to the St Annes club in Dublin, close to where he teaches in Tallaght.
"It was a difficult decision to make, but the fact that Liam has done it made it a little easier for me," Hassett said. "The round trip to Kerry of 560 miles was the real problem. When we were training for the All-Ireland final last year I made the trip three nights a week, which was no joke. We often arrived back home at 3 a.m. and had to ready for work at 8 a.m. I’ll continue to play for Kerry as long as they want me."
Irwin still eager
Former Irish international Denis Irwin says he wants to play on for another two and a half years. The 35-year-old defender, who was in Dublin last week to launch MUTV to the Irish market, said he would like to stay at Old Trafford when his contract runs out this summer.
"I’d hope to be with United again next year. I want to play for another two and a half years or so and I would be prepared to drop down a division if that meant that I could still enjoy playing," he said.
Irwin added that he believes retiring early from international football has helped to prolong his club career.
Cork City last week announced a link-up with English premiership club Leicester City. Over the next five years Leicester will spend £250,000 helping Cork with their youth training. In turn, Leiecester will have first call on young players coming through at Cork. Dublin club Bohemians have also linked up with and English club. The Gypsies have formed an alliance with Blackburn Rovers.
St. Patrick’s Athletic beat UCD 3-1 in the first leg of the Eircom League Cup final last week. The second leg is at Belfield Park on Feb. 12.
Former dual star Ger Houlahan has decided to retire. The 34-year-old, who made his senior debut for Armagh in 1984 has decided to hang up his boots. Houlahan was also a useful soccer player and played in the Irish League and for Sligo Rovers in the League of Ireland.
Meanwhile, the Ulster Council has refused a request from Down star James McCartan, who wanted to transfer to Armagh.