By Sean Creedon
Roy Keane has denied speculation that he will have to have an operation to remedy his troublesome knee.
“I have had my rest, but I am in the situation where I have to train because of the type of player I am,” the Cork native said.
“I play the game on the edge and if I miss training, it will take its toll. Please God it will continue that way and I believe that my knee problem is behind me.”
Keane, a midfielder who plays for Manchester United in the English Premier League and is considered one of the game’s premier players, lined out for Ireland in the first game of a two-game World Cup playoff against Iran three weeks ago at Lansdowne Road stadium in Dublin. However, his troublesome knee prevented him from taking part in the second game a week later in Tehran.
Meanwhile, Manchester United fullback Denis Irwin says he has no regrets about not going to next year’s World Cup Finals. The 35-year-old Corkman, who was unable to command a regular first-team place under Mick McCarthy, quit international football two years ago this month.
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“Not being involved any longer in international football means I now get an occasional break during the season. No doubt that has helped me to keep going at Old Trafford.”
Irwin was probably frustrated that he had to keep proving himself for McCarthy, won the last of his 56 caps against Turkey in the Euro playoff in November 1999.
Meanwhile, Gary Kelly, the man who replaced Irwin, is now under pressure to keep his place with Steve Finnan doing a good job at right back. And Stephen Carr will put the pair under pressure when he returns from injury. So right back is one position that seems to be well covered.
Cats have back up
Kilkenny’s hurlers are not happy with their League group for the 2002 season. The Cats have been matched with Clare, Dublin, Galway, Meath and Waterford.
“The makeup of the group defies logic,” said Kilkenny County Board chairman Ned Quinn. “We have the best record in the country for gate receipts when playing the likes of Tipperary and Wexford. Now those money-spinning gates have been swept away from us at the stroke of a pen.”
Kilkenny are also unhappy that the Leinster Council are moving the Leinster hurling semifinals to Thurles.
“What are we doing spending millions on developing Nowlan Park and other grounds in Leinster when the provincial council are planning to bring Leinster championship games outside the province?” said Kilkenny official Michael Shortall.
The short answer is that no ground in Leinster apart from Croke Park could hold the crowds for such an attractive double header.
Familiar foe for Lyons
Tommy Lyons, the new Dublin football manager, will have to face his former colleagues in Offaly when the National Football League kicks off on Feb. 3. And new Offaly hurling manager Fr. Tom Fogarty faces a trip to Thurles to play his native Tipperary in his first hurling League game, on Feb. 23.
Next year will be the first time that both the hurling and football National Leagues will be played in the same calendar year.
Meanwhile, John O’Mahony has ended speculation by confirming that he is to continue as manager of All-Ireland football champions Galway. It’s expected that Stephen Joyce and Peter Warren will continue as selectors with O’Mahony.
The Gaelic Players Association has been left embarrassed by a dreadful blunder over this year’s Footballer of the Year award. Galway star Padraig Joyce was notified by letter that he was winner. But the letter went out before all the votes had been counted and the actual winner was his Galway colleague Declan Meehan.
No doubt about the hurling winner, Tipperary’s Tommy Dunne.
Meanwhile, the Eircell All-Stars hurling and football teams will be announced Friday night.
Irish to avoid England
Ireland are expected to avoid England when the World Cup draw is made in South Korea on Saturday. England are expected to be seeded in Group 2 with Ireland. Irish manager Mick McCarthy has been inspecting possible hotels and training grounds in Japan and South Korea, but nothing can be decided until the draw is made.
Meanwhile, the FAI are poised to join forces with Scotland in a bid to cohost the Euro 2008 finals.
“We are supporting Scotland’s bid to host the 2008 European Championship Finals, although we were initially more interested in the 2012 tournament,” said FAI General Secretary Brendan Menton.
But will Croke Park be open to soccer by then, or will the so-called “Bertie Bowl,” alias Stadium Ireland, be finished by then? We’ll have to wait and see.
England, take 2
For the first time ever, Ireland’s soccer team is rated higher by UEFA than England. The Republic will be in the top seeds when the draw for the 2004 European Championship in Portugal is made in January. England are in the second group, along with Scotland. Northern Ireland and Wales will be fourth seeds.
The Republic are ranked sixth by UEFA. The other top seeds are France, Sweden, Spain, Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, Italy, Belgium and Turkey.
Portugal as hosts, qualify automatically. But of course the bad news now is that we could end up drawing England and the security worries that that would entail.
“It’s pleasing to be a top seed, as it makes qualifying that bit easier,” said manager Mick McCarthy. “We have had to do things the hard way as a third seed up to now. I will focus on the European draw once the World Cup draw is out of the way on Saturday next.”
A helping Hand
Former Irish manager Eoin Hand, who is now career guidance officer at the FAI, is hoping to set up a program for players who don’t make the grade with English clubs.
Every year hundreds of Irish schoolboys try their luck with English clubs and very often when they return home they feeling rejected and let down.
REAL (Reinvention, Education, Appraisal and Preparation) is a provisionally planned six-week residential course to be run for 12 or 15 teenagers every summer at Dublin City University.
Often the talented lads leave school without doing their Leaving Cert when the offer of joining an English club arises. They then have nothing to fall back on if released in a few years by the same English club.
Fears for Best
George Best and his wife, Alex, are hoping to be back in Belfast to host a gala dinner Saturday night. The dinner is a fund-raiser for a new charity, The George Best Liver Trust. Best was taken to hospital while on holiday in Cyprus last Thursday complaining of stomach pains and dizziness.
Last year, the 54-year-old Best was rushed to hospital in London with liver failure. Best said Alex fears he will go back to drinking if he gets a liver transplant.
“I know I am not going to drink again, but Alex is apprehensive about a transplant,” Best said. “We know quite a lot of people who have been given new livers who have immediately gone back on the bottle. So Alex is right to be worried.”