Last weekend Cork could only draw 0-0 away to third placed Shelbourne, while Derry had a comfortable 2-0 home win over St Patrick’s — which means a draw will be enough for Derry, who have 72 points, against Cork’s 71 points.
Three weeks ago, Cork beat Derry with a last minute penalty in the FAI Cup semifinal at The Cross, but that will hardly matter on Friday night. Playing for a draw in soccer is very dangerous and Derry will also be expected to go for a win. So it promises to be an intriguing clash before a full house. And I think home advantage could swing the tie in Cork’s favor.
Surprisingly this is the only one of the six premier division games on Friday night where the result will matter. Elsewhere, all the European and relegation issues have been sorted. Finn Harps were relegated from the premier division following their defeat by Drogheda last weekend. And Shamrock Rovers, who finished just above Harps, will have to play-off off with either Dublin City or Cobh Ramblers to decide their fate. Sligo Rovers were promoted as first division champions on Saturday night when they drew 0-0 with Athlone Town at the Showgrounds. Dublin City jumped a point ahead of Cobh last weekend. Now the runners-up spot will be decided on Saturday next when Dublin City travel to Athlone, while Cobh are home to Galway.
TO FACE ENGLAND
Ireland will play England for the first time in a one-day cricket international next year. The game will be played on June 13, with the venue likely to be either Stormont in Belfast or Clontarf in Dublin. England, who recently beat Australia to take The Ashes series, will be a big attraction with players like Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen in their team. Ireland only gained full One-Day international status this summer after finishing second in the ICC trophy, a result that qualified Ireland for the 2008 World Cup finals in the West Indies. Peter Thompson, chief executive of the Irish Cricket Union, said: “This is a major boost for Irish Cricket both in the context of the team and our supporters. It shows how much the Irish team has progressed over the last three years and it’s a reward for qualifying for the World cup and for winning the Intercontinental Cup in Namibia last month.’
So next Summer, when we dream of what might have been in the Soccer World Cup in Germany, we can instead take life easy and enjoy our countrymen playing Cricket.
The South East Asia city of Singapore has been confirmed as the destination for the All-Stars trip in 2006. The 2004 and 2005 Vodafone Hurling All-Stars will play an exhibition game in the Polo Grounds, Singapore, on Jan. 21. Singapore is the latest venue for the Vodafone Hurling and Football All-Stars. In the recent past the hurlers have been to Buenos Aires, Las Vegas and Phoenix, while the footballers have visited: Dubai, Hong Kong and San Diego.
The 2005 Hurling All-Stars will be announced on Nov. 23, with the football winners announced on the night of the All-Stars Banquet, Nov. 25.
WEXFORD OPT FOR BEALIN
Paul Bealin was the surprise choice as Wexford senior football manager last week. Most speculation had focused on former Cork manager Larry Tompkins to take over from Pat Roe. But it’s Bealin, an All-Ireland winner with Dublin in 1995, who gets his first crack at intercounty management. The 37-year-old midfielder has previously managed his old club Ballyboden St. Enda’s in Dublin and Mullahoran in Cavan. He said: ‘I’ve been a manager for seven years now and obviously feel I am ready to make the step up to intercounty level.’
Meanwhile former Down manager Peter McGrath has turned down an opportunity to take over in Louth. McGrath, who was in charge of the Irish team for the International Rules for the past two years, recently quit as manager of Louth club Cooley Kickams. The Wee County have been on the lookout for a new manager since Val Andrews quit after the summer campaign.
In Kerry, former county star John Kennedy, who stepped down as Clare manager a few months back, is the new minor football manager.
Sonia O’Sullivan has repeated her desire to run for Australia in the Commonwealth Games that are being held in Melbourne next March. Her partner Nick Bideau is an Australian citizen, as are her two daughters, and the Cobh-born star spends half of the year training Down Under. The 35-year-old said: ‘If it fits in my schedule and it was going to sit happy with everyone here in Australia and at home in Ireland then I would be happy to compete in the games because I have spent a good part of the last 10 years in Australia.’ O O’Sullivan, who was named the greatest living Irish sportsperson last year, is in the process of applying for Australian citizenship.
She could also run for Ireland at the World Cross-Country championships in Japan, the week after the Commonwealth Games.
BEST’S HEALTH IMPROVES
Good news on our old pal George Best. The 59-year-old former soccer star and pin-up boy of the sixties, is out of intensive care at London’s Cromwell Hospital. He was at death’s door last month after being admitted with a chest infection that spread to other organs.
Last week he was taken off a drip and is back eating solids again. Friends say that, while he is still as a long way to go to get back to full health. Best could be home by Christmas. Many people say that George should not have been given a liver transplant and that the donated liver should have gone to a more deserving patient. He continued to drink after the operation. But clearly the man is an alcoholic and it’s proven extremely difficult for him to quit. I would also argue that given the weekends of pleasure Best gave to so many soccer supporters over the years, he deserved to get a second chance.
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RALLY SET FOR
Next year’s Rally Ireland event will be all-tarmac and will run from March 10-12. The event will be observed by officials from FIA, the governing body of Motorsport for possible inclusion in the World Rally championship calendar from 2007. The event is supported by the Irish and British Governments.
PREZ TAKES HARDER
LINE WITH AUSSIES
GAA President Sean Kelly has said that the Association will now seek the views of Irish players and management before deciding the tone of their proposed meeting with officials from the Australian Rules in January. Kelly had been taken to task in Ireland for comments he made immediately after the second test when he didn’t criticize the Aussies’ tactics. But the president pointed out that at the time he hadn’t seen replays of the incidents on television.
Kelly said: ‘I was interviewed directly after the game and I suppose I would have been conscious that we had lost the game. I come from Kerry and the one thing that Kerry people have always been praised for was they didn’t complain or whinge when they were beaten. Bu I wasn’t fully sure of the facts either. Certainly if I had had the benefit of seeing the incidents on television with the action replays, I would have something different. There is no doubt about that. For people who had seen it up close, it probably seemed that I wasn’t being straight in not coming out and saying the thing was outlandish. Which it was.’
Meanwhile Chris Johnston, who was sent off in the second test in Melbourne last month, will not be able to play International Rules again until the second test in 2008. The Aussie, who apologized to both Irish players Philip Jordan and Mattie Forde for his behavior, was last week handed a five-match international ban.
MCGRANE REPLACES MCGEENEY
Paul McGrane is to take over from Kieran McGeeney as Armagh football captain for next year. Manager Joe Kernan, who has agreed to stay on in charge of the Orchard County for another three years, confirmed the appointment last week. Kernan said: ‘Paul is the ideal replacement. It’s great to have another leader like that to step into the role and there wasn’t really a choice to make. The lads have always looked up to Paul. Over the last few years when we have been lucky enough to win trophies Kieran has made sure that Paul was up alongside him on the podium.’
Also in Armagh trainer John McCloskey has confirmed that he is staying on as part of the backroom team. There were fears that John might be forced to quit due to work commitments, but he now says that he will be able to continue with the team.
Meath-born jockey Johnny Murtagh will ride over hurdles this winter after taking out a jumps license in Ireland. Murtagh, who rode 48 winners in the flat in Britain this year, including Motivator in the Epsom Derby, will be retained by Michael Halford, for whom he also rides on the flat. Murtagh said: ‘I am looking forward to this new challenge. It will help me keep my eye on the ball, keep me fit and it should be a lot of fun. I just fancy riding a few winners over the jumps. I had a spell hurdling about ten years ago, but probably wasn’t right for it then.’
Meanwhile two of Ireland best known steeplechasers, Kicking King and Beef or Salmon will go in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday next. Kicking King was beaten last time out at Punchestown, while a bomb scare at Downpatrick prevented Beef or Salmon having his first run of the season. The stakes are high at Haydock as there is a