By Sean Creedon
Clare, All-Ireland champions twice in the past four years, will avail of the "back door" for the first time when they play Galway in the All-Ireland quarterfinal at Croke Park on Sunday. The Clare minors in 1997 were the first team to win the All-Ireland through the back door. There has been some speculation that Clare threw this year’s Munster final, but I have never yet seen a team go out to lose a game.
Ger Loughnane is a master tactician and after a few weeks of rest, he will have the Bannermen back in good shape. Ollie Baker, James O’Connor and Fergie Tuohy have all been in London recently getting treatment from physio Gerard Hartmann. Galway will fancy their chances against their neighbors, but it’s always difficult to predict just how good Galway are. Over the past five years Roscommon are the only team they have beaten in the championship. But the good news is that Joe Rabbitte and Justin Campbell are back in the team. In the other quarterfinal Offaly should be much too strong for Antrim.
Meanwhile, there’s speculation that the GAA are at long last reported to be prepared to do something to give the weaker football counties something to play for. According to a leaked report, the Football Development Committee will recommend the abolition of the current national league and the running of the championship on a round-robin system. So far, all we have is a leaked report, but as the old saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
RTE World Cup rights
After being pipped by the new station TV3 for the rights to the Champions League next year, RTE have wasted no time in securing rights to the 2002 World Cup. Regardless of whether Ireland qualify for the finals, which will be jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan, Irish viewers are guaranteed to see all 64 games.
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Roy Keane has been conducting very public contract talks through his agent over the past week. The Corkman, who has only one year left of his current contract with Manchester United, is not happy with United’s initial offer and says he will be on his way out of Old Trafford if the money is not right.
"I won’t undersell myself, I have had two contracts at United and have never asked for a pay raise in mid-contract. Some players have signed four or five deals in that period. I would think this is my last big contract, so it has to be right," he said.
Keane, who apparently wants £40,000 per week, could walk away on a free transfer under the Bosman ruling at the end of next year and take his pick of the top European clubs. But now, United are reported to have given him 14 days to sign a new contract, otherwise they will sell him before he is a free agent. Manager Alex Ferguson apparently wants Keane to stay, but the United board want to make some money.
McDade drives a wedge
Sports Minister Jim McDaid is trying to drive a wedge between the FAI National League clubs and the FAI. McDaid, who last week allocated substantial funds to Bohemians and Shelbourne, say that there’s £11 million available to FAI National League clubs to improve their grounds. But the proviso is that the FAI must abandon their plans for their new stadium in Citywest, south Dublin and agree to share in the government’s proposed National Stadium at Finglas in North Dublin. But at this stage the FAI are pushing ahead with the Arena plan and will shortly be seeking planning permission. They have sold the majority of the corporate boxes for The Arena and it would be crazy to stop now and wait for successive governments who have talked, but done nothing about a National Stadium.
Minister McDaid was in generous mood last week and he confirmed that at long last Ireland is going to have its own 50-meter swimming pool. The long-awaited pool will cost almost £6 million and will be located at the University of Limerick. Construction work is due to begin next month with a completion date estimated at September 2000.
Yugo coach sacked
Yugoslavia will come to Dublin on Sept. 1 with a new coach. Last week, Milan Zivadinovic was dismissed by the Yugoslavia FA. Although Yugoslavia have won their opening three games in Euro 2000 Zivadinovic was in dispute with the FA over a long summer break. And there were rumors that Milan had agreed to move to coach in Saudi Arabia next year.
St. Pat’s for Moldova
St. Patrick’s Athletic, the FAI National League champions face a daunting trip to Moldova this evening (July 14). The Saints were hammered 5-0 by Zimbru Chisnau in Dublin last Wednesday and will only have their pride to play for in Moldova this evening.