Unlike Camogie where two counties appear to dominate in recent years, the mantle of champions is shifting in ladies football. For many years Kerry ruled the roost, with the Kingdom ladies winning nine in a row between 1982 and 1990. Then Waterford and Monaghan dominated for a period, before Mayo made the breakthrough. Now the mantle has moved to Galway, who won the senior title for the first time last year. Most of Galway’s winning team from last year are still available and they looked good against Dublin in the semifinal. Cork reached their first senior final after beating Mayo, who probably depend too much on star forward Cora Staunton.
The final will be attended by ladies footballers from all over the world. Teams from: New York, Canada, North America, Australasia, Europe, London and Rest of Britain. are in Dublin this week competing in the ladies international tournament in Portmarnock.
The Ladies Association are still the only section of the GAA to use a stop watch to count down the time. Football, Hurling and Camogie now clearly display the amount of added time at the end of every game, but with Ladies football the clock is there for all to see.
The Irish Rugby Football Union have said that they will do everything in their power to keep Brian O’Driscoll in Irish rugby next year. Speculation that the Leinster, Irish and Lions captain might be tempted to move to France next year increased last week when O’Driscoll was introduced to the crowd while visiting French club Biarritz and was seen dining with club president Marcel Martin. Well what would you expect the IRFU to say? We will let him go!
O’Driscoll said: ‘I’ve never hidden the fact that at some stage I would like to play in France. My contract with the IRFU will finish at the end of June 2006 so I have to make a decision and it would not be for monetary reasons only.’
Meanwhile after months of speculation Leinster have confirmed that they will play their Heineken Cup games at the RDS this season. Donnybrook is too small for Heineken Cup games and in the past Leinster were not able to fill Lansdowne Road. Temporary seating will be installed at the famous showjumping arena and the capacity will be around 13,500. Leinster’s opening Heineken Cup game at the RDS will be against Bath on Oct. 22, but they intend to give the team an opportunity to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings when they play their Celtic League game against Cardiff at the RDS on 15 October.
Munster hope that the damage done to Thomond Park will be rectified in time for their first home game in the Heineken Cup against Castres on Oct. 29. Recently, two youths were caught on CCTV cameras digging over 100 holes in Thomond Park in what was a sheer act of vandalism. In the meantime, Munster will play their Celtic League games at Musgrave Park, Cork.
Munster coach Declan Kidney will have to plan without former All-Black Christian Cullen for all of the Heineken Cup pool games. Cullen, who has been unfortunate with injuries since joining Munster, will have surgery to remedy a shoulder problem in London this week and will be out of action until February next year.
GET FINAL REF
Top-ranking German referee Markus Merk will take charge of the Republic’s final World Cup qualifier against Switzerland at Lansdowne Road on Oct. 12. The game will kick-off at 7.45 p.m., the same time as France’s home game against Cyprus. Merk was in charge of the Euro 2004 final between Greece and Portugal and earlier in this World Cup campaign he sent off France’s David Trezeguet in their game against Israel.
Already there is much speculation as to who will replace Roy Keane in midfield for the games against Cyprus and Switzerland. Graham Kavanagh and Matt Holland are the two obvious candidates and there is speculation that Brian Kerr may be tempted to recall David Connolly to the squad. Connolly, who is probably rated most highly by himself, has been in good form since joining Premiership club Wigan last month. He reckons that Kerr was annoyed with him for pulling out of the squad last year. But Kerr said: ‘I have watched David in recent games and would not rule him out. What has happened is simply that Stephen Elliott came in and passed him out on the pecking order. David is in decent form at present and does come into the picture for the upcoming games. Anyone who is eligible for Ireland comes into my thoughts when it comes to naming a squad.’
Meanwhile Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai will be in charge of the Republic’s game against Cyprus in Nicosia on Oct. 8.
GAA President Sean Kelly is definitely trying his best to improve the GAA. During his presidency, the Kerryman has overseen the vote that saw delegates vote to open Croke Park to other sports while Lansdowne Road is being developed. Kelly also pushed through the Tommy Murphy Cup for weaker counties in football. Now he wants to play the All-Ireland finals a few weeks earlier to allow more time for club competitions. Kelly said: ‘Next year the football final will be played earlier to avoid a clash with the Ryder Cup. I think it’s time we looked at playing more championship games earlier in the summer and having our finals earlier than at present. That would allow more time for the completion of the club championships in the counties well in time for the provincial club championship.’
At present the clubs are really rushing through their club championship and then the winners are straight into their provincial campaign before Christmas.
HURLING INCOME IS DOWN
Meanwhile the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers may have been a success for the so-called weaker counties, but financially they have cost the GAA money. Last year the hurling qualifiers took in
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