At one stage last month, it looked like 31 of the 32 counties wanted the dream final between Kerry and Dublin. But Armagh ended the Dubs’ hopes in the semifinal and now for the first time in almost half a century we have Armagh squaring up to Kerry in the football final.
Back in 1953, the only previous occasion in which the counties met in a final, a penalty miss by Armagh’s Bill McCorry, when his county were leading by a point, was the turning point of the game. Kerry went on to win by 0-13 to 1-6. That was Kerry’s 17th All-Ireland title and since then they have taken home the Sam Maguire Cup another 15 times.
Meanwhile, Armagh are still waiting to get their hands on Sam. So much for history.
Armagh will have no worries about facing Kerry. They gave the Kingdom a real fright in the semifinal two years ago and the general consensus is that Kerry would have much preferred to play Dublin in the final. Who is going to win? Kerry looked like All-Ireland champions material in the semifinal against Cork, but will their corner forwards, Colm Cooper and Mike Francis Russell, ever get as much leeway again as they did against Cork in the semifinal?
Kerry will certainly be hoping for a dry day, which would suit their young, lightweight players. Armagh ground out a hard-fought win over a relatively inexperienced Dublin side in the semifinal. My heart says Kerry and my head also says that this Kerry side possess too much talent for the men from the Orchard County.
Armagh manager Joe Kernan is returning to Croke Park as a manager 25 years after playing in the final. Back in 1977, Kernan scored two goals in Dublin’s loss. Also on the losers’ dressing room that September day in 1977 was Benny Reddy, who lined out for Meath in the minor final against Down. On Sunday, Reddy also returns to Croker as a manager; he will take charge of the Royals minors against Derry.
Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland international George Best was allowed to leave the hospital last week following his successful liver transplant operation in Cromwell Hospital in London. Best had his life-saving operation six weeks ago but initially went home too early and suffered some side effects from the operation. That’s the good news, but it was distressing to see the pictures of Best and his young wife, Alex, in last Sunday’s Irish newspapers.
Best, who turned 56 last May, looked haggard and like an old man. Hopefully, his health will improve in the coming weeks and months and we will see him back working again as a TV analyst.
Herbert wins Poc Fada
Hurling’s Poc Fada over the Cooley Mountains is reported to have been with us since the days of Cuchulainn. Football’s Kic Fada is a much more recent event and it was first staged by the Bray Emmets club in Wicklow in 2000. Mark Herbert, from Kildare, won the inaugural competition. He returned last year to defend his title and came back to Bray again last Sunday to make it a hat trick of wins.
Wood to return
Keith Wood will be back on the Irish squad for Sunday’s Rugby World Cup qualifier against Russia in Krasnoyarsk. Wood missed the recent win over Romania at Thomond Park when he had to withdraw from the squad due to the death of his brother Gordon. Following their trip to Siberia, the Irish team will then play Georgia at Lansdowne Road on Sept. 28.
Meath appoint Boylan
Sean Boylan has been appointed Meath senior football manager for a record 21st year. The Dunboyne herbalist was opposed for the job, but he beat former Meath junior manager Eamonn Barry by 49 votes to 30. In a TV interview last week, Boylan was asked to name his best ever Meath footballer.
Naturally, he declined to select just one player. But when pushed he gave a few names. Boylan nominated Mick Lyons, Colm O’Rourke and Gerry McEntee from the 1980s. And Trevor Giles, John McDermott, Tommy Dowd and Graham Geraghty from the current Meath team.
Meanwhile, Dave Keane is the new manager of the Limerick senior hurlers. The Under-21 boss, who has also had success with Adare, takes over from Eamon
In a break with tradition in Limerick, Keane will be allowed to name his own selectors. And in Waterford, Justin McCarthy and his selectors, Seamie
Hannon and Colm Bonner, have been reappointed for another year. A motion from the Mount Sion club calling for the county champions to be allowed have a representative on the selection committee was overwhelmingly defeat at last week’s Waterford County Board meeting.
Duff injured again
Graeme Souness is not happy with Mick McCarthy and the FAI once again. Last season, the Scot was annoyed when the Irish manager didn’t substitute Damien Duff early in a friendly game. And the Blackburn Rovers boss was obviously not a happy man when Duff returned to Ewood Park with an injury picked up on international duty in Moscow.
Duff missed Rovers’ last two League games and could be out of action for a few weeks with a hamstring injury. The worry now is that the Duff, who recently signed a new contract with Blackburn, may not be fit for the European Championship game against Switzerland at Lansdowne Road on Oct. 16.
Through their insurance program the FAI will pay Duff’s wages, which are reported to be
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