The FAI an the IRFU have joined forces to pledge their support for Stadium Campus Ireland. That’s good news for Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who at this stage seems certain to be returned to government on May 17.
Ahern has come under attack from his government partners the Progressive Democrats and from Fine Gael on the issue since the general campaign started two weeks back. The joint statement said: “There is no doubt that Croke Park would be a suitable venue for once-off fixtures or tournaments, i.e. Euro 2008 or the Rugby World Cup final. But given the schedule of international fixture commitments of both the FAI and the IRFU, it’s clear that major clashes with the GAA calendar of fixtures would be likely in June, July and September.”
Meanwhile, the joint Irish-Scottish bid for the 2008 European Championship got a boost last week with the announcement of the go-ahead for a brand new stadium in Scotland. The 30,000 all-seater stadium will be built in Dundee.
Roster increase likely
The GAA seem certain to increase the number of players in championship squads from 24 to 30. Following recent work groups involving referees, managers and players representatives, the GAA will be asked to officially endorse the move. Most intercounty managers now work with squads of 30 players and they all hate have to leave six players out when it comes to big games.
McCullough eyes June return
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Belfast-born boxer Wayne McCullough is due to make his long-awaited comeback in Glasgow on June 8. McCullough’s new promoter, Frank Warren, has scheduled the Pocket Rocket to box on the support card for Scott Harrison’s bid for the WBO featherweight crown against Julio Chacon Chavez. But McCullough still does not have a license from the British boxing Board of Control to box in England and until that is granted, he cannot fight. McCullough was refused a license when a routine MRI scan two years ago revealed a cyst on his brain.
On March 3, the Limerick footballers had their first win over Kerry in over 100 years when they won 2-12 to 0-16 at The Gaelic Grounds. That, of course, was a National League game and The Kingdom will be favorites to reverse the scoreline when the counties meet in the first round of the Munster championship on Sunday.
That’s just one of five football championship games this Sunday. Also in Munster, Waterford are home to Clare in Dungarvan. But I suppose the big one is in Ulster, where Cavan face Donegal in Breffni Park, or to give the ground its proper title Kingspan Breffni Park. Cavan were well beaten by Tyrone in the National League Final two weeks ago and it will be difficult for manager Mattie Kerrigan to lift the team.
Also in Ulster, there won’t be much between Monaghan and Fermanagh at Clones. Westmeath were the surprise team of the championship last year and they should have little difficulty overcoming Carlow in the Leinster Championship.
GPA gain strength
There have been rumblings of a GAA strike this year, but you can rest assured that the championship will go ahead as planned. But following the large turnout at the Gaelic Players Association’s recent meeting in Portlaoise, the GAA are finally being forced to take the players’ union seriously. GAA President Sean McCague, who met the GPA in January, will now meet the players union again on Monday.
The GAA’s plan to form their own official players union has not been a success. Former Armagh star Jarlath Burns is a fine spokesman, but what use is a leader if he is not elected by the members? Burns was nominated by Croke Park.
Joyce is Galway captain
Padraig Joyce has been appointed captain of Galway’s senior football team for the upcoming championship. Joyce, who was captain in 2000 when Galway lost to Kerry, takes over from Gary Fahey. Joyce was nominated by current Galway county champions Annaghdown, who don’t have a representative in the team.
Joyce’s own club, Killererin, were beaten in the final by Annaghdown.
There has been much talk about Celtic and Rangers getting out of the Scottish League and moving to the FA Premiership in England. Last week, I was speaking to former Celtic goalkeeper Packie Bonner and he had some interesting observations about the move.
“The Celtic and Rangers fans demand success and they are used to winning trophies in Scotland,” Bonner said. “If the clubs moved to England, they would not be guaranteed that success, so I think it’s unlikely that they will move. Admittedly, the Scottish League need to be more competitive. At the moment, if either Celtic or Rangers gain a big lead on one another early in the season, the other club seems to drop the reins and seem happy with second place.”
Rackard pub auction
Want to buy an Irish pub which belonged to the famous Rackard hurling family in Wexford? This Friday, Rackard’s pubs in Killane goes under the auctioneer’s hammer in Enniscorthy. The pub has been in the Rackard family since 1904, when it was bought from an ancestor of John Kelly, the “Man from Killane.” But the Rackards seemed to have been more interested in hurling and farming and the pub never became a shrine to the glory days of Wexford hurling. When the present owner, Nick Rickard, asked his father about putting up some memorabilia commemorating the sporting family, his father replied: “Sure why put up a photo when you have the real thing here?”
There seems to be no end to the managerial merry go round in the Eircom League. With Liam Buckley moving to Shamrock Rovers, Athlone Town have once again turned to Jimmy Greene, who has been caretaker boss of the Midlanders in the past. And Dublin City have appointed John Toal as manager, replacing Johnny McDonnell, who quit to move to Shelbourne as assistant manager to Pat Fenlon.
Meanwhile, an interesting nickname for Kildare County, the new club in the first division. They obviously couldn’t be called the Lilywhites, as the title belongs to the county’s GAA players, so they have opted for the Thoroughbreds, which is in keeping with the horse racing tradition in County Kildare.