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Irish Sports DeskBig Jack books comeback for McGrath’s testimonial

February 15, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Sean Creedon

Jack Charlton, for so long the hero of Irish soccer supporters, will make a brief return to Lansdowne Road on Sunday, May 17. Charlton will take charge of an English Premiership XI that will play a Republic of Ireland XI in a testimonial game for Paul McGrath.

McGrath was already past his 25th birthday when he won his first cap for The Republic, against Italy in February 1985. And despite a history of knee problems and going AWOL a few times, he still won a record 83 caps for his country.

For all his glory, McGrath is not a rich man and thoroughly deserves this benefit game. He has confirmed that this will be his last game and, hopefully, he will get a good pay day. As to the future, McGrath is certainly not cut out for the job of manager and he will probably earn a living as a television or radio analyst.

Meanwhile, it will be a big day Saturday, May 16, for Donegal-born Shay Given. He will line out for Newcastle United against Arsenal in the FA Cup Final at Wembley. Arsenal have already won the FA Premiership and will be hot favorites to make it a League Cup double.

Given could be needed in Dublin the following day as both Alan Kelly and Keith Branagan are ruled out for the rest of the season. Also out of the McGrath game and the friendly against Mexico are Steve Staunton and Alan McLoughlin. Manager Mick McCarthy has called up a Bury goalkeeper, Dean Kelly, as cover. And there’s also a recall for Jason McAteer. But the Liverpool player, who has just returned after a broken leg, is now doubtful after being carried off injured in Liverpool’s final League game of the season last week. Mick has also included veterans Tony Cascarino, Ray Houghton and Andy Townsend for the McGrath game.

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Also, former Irish goalkeeper Packie Bonner has been confirmed as assistant manager of English second division club Reading, where he links up again with his old Glasgow Celtic colleague Tommy Burns.

“I am delighted to be back in club football again and this job will not only give me management experience, but it will also introduce me to the game in England,” Bonner said.

ALDRIDGE QUITS John Aldridge has retired from club football after 19 years. The former Republic of Ireland striker played his last game for Tranmere Rovers on May 2. He will continue as manager of Tranmere, who finished mid-table in division one of the English League this season.

U-18s EYE FINAL Irish youth soccer is really on a high right now. The Under 18s can qualify for the European Championship finals in Cyprus in July if they draw with Greece in the second leg of their playoff at Tolka Park on Thursday. Brian Kerr’s team won the first leg 1-0 in Greece and Thursday’s game at Tolka Park is the first-ever all-ticket Youth game in our history.

CORK VS. WATERFORD Waterford will be hoping for a return of the glory days when they meet Cork in the National Hurling League Final in Thurles on Sunday, May 17. The Decies, who are managed by former Cork star Gerald McCarthy, will be hoping for their first League win since 1963 when they beat New York in the final. But Cork, who are improving gradually under Jimmy Barry Murphy will probably put the Waterford dream on hold.

CANAVAN OUT Tyrone will be without star forward Peter Canavan when they play Down in the opening game of the Ulster championship on Sunday. Canavan had his jaw broken in three places while playing for his club Errigal Chiaran in a friendly against Dungannon. Canavan’s brother Pascal will also miss the game. He chipped a bone in his ankle in a recent club game.

MILK RACE MANIA The excitement is gradually building toward the Tour de France which starts in Dublin this year. But first there’s Ireland’s own FBD Milk R_s, which starts outside the GPO, Dublin, on Saturday, May 16. The race goes in a clockwise direction around the country with stage ends in Tubbercurry, Westport, Kilrush, Castletownbere, Mallow, New Ross, and Ballymore Eustace, finishing back in Dublin on Sunday, May 24.

KERRY CALL 3 The Kerry senior selectors have called up three more players to their championship squad. But there is no place for former Dublin star Vinny Murphy, who is playing well for Kerins O’Rahilly’s. The trio called up are Morgan O’Shea, who figured on the panel last year, J.J. Corduff, from The Gaeltacht, and Paud Donoghue, from Glenflesk.

OSTRICH DERBY The Punchestown Racetrack in County Kildare will be the venue for the first-ever Ostrich Derby on Sunday, May 17. The huge birds, bred in Ireland mostly for meat, can match the speed of a race horse and will be ridden by apprentice jockeys from the Curragh.

SWAN’S 1,000TH Tipperary-born jockey Charlie Swan rode his 1,000th winner over jumps at Haydock last week. The win came on the Martin Pipe-trained Rainbow Frontier. Amazingly Rainbow Frontier had also given Swan his 1,000th winner of his career – flat and jumps – at Listowel last year.

SHERGAR FILM Shergar is set to make a dramatic comeback – on the silver screen. A film entitled “The Hunter,” currently being filmed in the Isle of Man, will trace the story of the kidnapping of the former Derby winner from his stables in County Kildare in 1982. The producers of the film looked at more than 500 different horses before eventually settling for Rocky, a 7-year-old showjumper, who has the same distinctive white flash on his head as Shergar had.

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