By Sean Creedon
After a break of just two years old Leinster rivals Dublin and Meath are back in action in the Leinster senior football final at Croke Park on Sunday. In the last two years, the Leinster crown went to Kildare and Offaly, but now it’s back to the big two of the 1990s in a guaranteed full house. It’s planned that part of the new Canal End will be ready for Sunday.
Dublin will be without influential halfback Paul Curran, who will not be fit after breaking his collarbone in the semifinal against Laois. Meanwhile, Meath will probably have to line out without Tommy Dowd, who has a recurring back problem.
Since their marathon in 1991, these two counties have served up some bone-crushing and also some memorable games. With the new rules now being strictly applied, we shouldn’t see any of the off-the-ball stuff that, in the past, were a hallmark of Dublin-Meath games. I expect Meath to run out easy winners.
In Ulster, Armagh are back in the final for the first time since 1990, but they haven’t won the Anglo Celt Cup since 1982. Down, the team of the 1990s, are likely to add another Ulster title in Clones on Sunday.
Fitzgerald in Poc Fada
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Clare hurling goalkeeper Davy Fitzgerald will be hoping for a special birthday celebration on Bank Holiday Monday, when he competes in the annual Poc Fada competition over the Cooley Mountains in County Louth. Fitzgerald, who will be 28 on Monday, has been a regular in the competition, but without any success. The Poc Fada is reported to date back to the time of Cuchulainn. The reigning champion is Offaly’s Albert Kelly and GAA President Joe McDonagh is expected to compete in the veterans category.
St. Pat’s go down
Another bad week for League of Ireland soccer with St Patrick’s Athletic going down 5-0 to Moldova champions FC Zimbru in the second leg of the Champions League qualifying tie. That means that the National League champions went out 10-0 on aggregate and also means that in the last 20 years we have had only one win in the European Cup competition. That win was by Cork City, who received a major boost last week by signing former Irish international Liam O’Brien.
The 33-year-old O’Brien was released by Tranmere Rovers last season. He began his League career with Shamrock Rovers and also played for Bohemians before moving to England and Manchester United. He later played for Newcastle United before linking up with John Aldridge at Tranmere.
Wood for Garryowen
Irish hooker Keith Wood is rejoining his old Limerick club Garryowen next season. Harlequins have agreed to release Wood for a year, during which time he will also be free to play for Munster.
IRFU President Bill Lavery is delighted with the move.
"The fact that a player of the caliber of Wood has now joined the influx home is further evidence of the appreciation by the players of the top-class facilities the IRFU has placed at their disposal," Lavery said.
Wood’s move follows similar decisions by David Humphreys, Allen Clare and Eric Miller to return to Irish clubs from England.
You can count the number of Irish players who have played in the Italian first division on one hand. Liam Brady and Paddy Sloan are the only ones to have played in the famous Serie A. Now a 20-year-old who couldn’t get a regular game with English club Middlesbrough, is set to make the breakthrough with Juventus. Ronnie O’Brien, who was born in Bray, is currently in pre-season training with Juventus, having been signed from ‘Boro at the end of last season.
Keane contract haggle
Roy Keane’s ongoing negotiations with Manchester United could be decided this week. Keane apparently has been offered a contract worth £28,000 per week, but the Corkman is apparently looking for
£40,000 a week. United say they don’t want to break their wage structure, but if they don’t, the Irish international will be sold as he can walk away from Old Trafford at the end of the season under the Bosman ruling.
Meanwhile . . .
Yugoslavia have appointed a new manager in plenty of time to prepare for the Sept. 1 visit to Dublin. He is former Sampdoria coach Vaujadin Boskov, who replaces Milan Zivandinovic.