By Mark Jones
Kilkenny 1-13, Galway 0-14
This might not have been much consolation following the disappointment of defeat in the senior final, but Kilkenny’s All-Ireland Under 21 hurling triumph at Tullamore last weekend certainly was a good omen for the future.
And for one of the survivors from the big game against Cork, there was some small satisfaction. This time, Henry Shefflin made his mark in fine style, clipping over eight frees and controlling the exchanges on the half forward
In fact, the game turned into a battle of the free takers with Shefflin and Galway’s Eugene Cloonan engaged in a tense shootout. Both were on top form in the difficult conditions, but when Cloonan injured his hand during the second half, the advantage swung Kilkenny’s way.
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After his injury, Cloonan missed a couple of important chances. "I asked Eugene if he was OK," reflected Galway manager, Noel Lane. "He said he would give it a go. Maybe I was right to let him, maybe I was wrong. That’s the way it went."
However, Lane was less ambivalent when he pointed out that Cloonan had been subjected to some rough treatment by Kilkenny. "He was treated harshly all afternoon," said an angry Lane, and there was right and wrong on both sides in what was a hot-tempered contest.
With Shefflin and Cloonan swapping frees, it was left to Edward Brennan to provide what turned out to be a match-winning goal. The vital score was created by a strong run by midfielder John O’Neill, although Galway were insistent that O’Neill had fouled the ball. His shot was saved by Nigel Murray, but Brennan pounced on the rebound.
It was all very tight during the second half with the teams deadlocked with seven minutes remaining, but Kilkenny finished the stronger. Shefflin was on target with his eighth free and J.P. Corcoran signed off with a flourish by cutting his sideline ball over the bar.
Contract for Mick
Republic of Ireland soccer manager Mick McCarthy is expected to be offered a two-year extension of his contract before next month’s crucial European championship qualifying game against Macedonia.
McCarthy has had talks recently with the Football Association of Ireland, which is likely to make an announcement regarding the international manager’s future later this week.
The new deal will see McCarthy complete six years in charge by the time his squad completes its final game in the World Cup qualifiers in 2002.
"We are very pleased and satisfied with the outcome of our talks with Mick," said FAI chief executive Bernard O’Byrne. "We are confident that real progress has been made on his future as manager of the Irish team."
A win over Macedonia in Skopje on Oct. 9 could be good enough to book the Republic an automatic place in next year’s Euro finals in Holland and Belgium. At the very least, it will guarantee McCarthy and his players a playoff spot.
Open at Ballybunion
The world famous links at Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, has been confirmed as the venue for next year’s Irish Open golf championship. After lengthy negotiations between the sponsors, Murphy’s and Ballybunion, the event was given the go-ahead last week.
It will be the first time since 1990 that the Irish Open will be played on a links. Initially, Ballybunion were reluctant to agree to the sponsors’ demands regarding spectator numbers for fear that the sand dunes that characterize the course would be damaged. However, the two parties eventually reached agreement.
Six-time major winner Tom Watson will be Ballybunion’s captain for the millennium, but Watson has revealed that he is unlikely to compete at the Irish Open because of his commitment to the U.S. Seniors Tour.
Lackluster rugby effort
Ireland’s preparations for the rugby World Cup were not exactly boosted by an unconvincing 25-16 victory over Ulster in a warmup game in Belfast last Sunday.
With the opening match in the tournament against the USA Eagles scheduled for a week from Saturday, this was hardly a high-profile performance by the Irish,
who were embarrassingly beaten by Munster in a previous warmup game.
With only two first-choice players missing from a strong lineup, Ireland led by 18-16 with four minutes remaining and another defeat was looking a strong possibility when Dion O’Cuinneagain saved coach Warren Gatland’s blushes with a late try.
Paddy Johns, Matt Mostyn and Brian O’Driscoll were Ireland’s other try scorers, while David Humphreys could only manage two successful kicks from seven attempts.
Catherina McKiernan faded to seventh place in a half-marathon in Amsterdam last weekend as Kenya’s Tegla Laroupe took the honors in a fast 1 hour, 9 minutes.
McKiernan finished in 1:14, more than six minutes outside her personal best, although she said the performance was reasonable given the amount of training she has lost through injury.
The County Cavan athlete now starts her preparations for the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 24, which is expected to be her last race over the distance before the Sydney Olympics.