Tanaiste Mary Harney said we already had a fine stadium in Croke Park, which the government had partly funded, and that the money needed for Abbotstown would be put to better use in our run-down health sector. That was the end of the Bertie Bowl and whatever slight hope we had of hosting the tournament, which eventually went to Austria and Switzerland.
Now that the go-ahead has been given by the GAA for soccer games at Croke Park in 2007 all eyes will be focused on Montreux, Switzerland, on Friday next when the draw for Euro 2008 is made. After our failure to qualify for Euro 2004 and this year’s World Cup in Germany, our ranking has dropped and we are now seeded fourth for the draw on Friday. That means we could get England, from group one and Northern Ireland, from group six. The England rugby team will play at Croke Park next spring, but there would be major worries if we are paired with the England soccer team, considering the hooligan element who follow Sven Goran Eriksson’s side. Eleven years ago, the friendly game between the countries at Lansdowne Road had to be abandoned after 23 minutes when England fans began to rip out the seats on the upper deck of the West Stand and throw them down on the spectators on the lower level.
The FAI could refuse to give tickets to English supporters for a friendly game, but in a competitive game the English FA would be entitled to 20 per cent of the tickets available for their genuine fans. Also there would be fears that some Northern Ireland supporters wouldn’t respect Croke Park. The only teams we cannot be paired with are the other countries in pool four: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Latvia, Israel, Scotland and Slovenia.
IRISH PREPARE FOR
SIX NATIONS START
Irish rugby coach Eddie O’Sullivan has included four uncapped players in his 35-man squad for the Six Nations Championship. The newcomers are: Robert Kearney and Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Wasps) and Shane Jennings (Leicester). Also back are captain, Brian O’Driscoll plus fellow Lions Denis Hickie and Paul O’Connell, who all missed the autumn internationals through injury. The squad will be reduced to 22 this week for the opening game in the Six Nations against Italy at Lansdowne Road on Feb. 4.
Meanwhile it looks like this will be Permanent TSB’s last year as sponsor of the Irish team. The 10-year partnership with the IRFU is reported to be coming to an amicable end, but I am sure there will be no shortage of companies bidding to take over as sponsors.
Other rugby changes next year will see Sky Sports take over coverage of the popular Heineken Cup. However RTE will now be able to show full deferred coverage of all the Irish provinces in the Heineken Cup. Up to now the national broadcaster could only show our provinces home games. RTE have also lost their exclusive coverage of the rugby World Cup. The rights to broadcast the 2007 rugby World Cup in Ireland have been won by Setanta Sport.
The Sam Maguire Cup will be paraded around Parkhead on Saturday next prior to Celtic’s SPL game against Dundee United. A group of Tyrone players will have the Cup in Glasgow next weekend where it is being brought to various GAA clubs. Just as well as the game on Saturday is not against Rangers. I don’t think the Scottish police would allow a lap of honor for the famous trophy if the game was against Celtic’s Old Firm rivals. But there won’t be any time for Celtic fans to have a drink out of the cup, as it’s due back in Tyrone on Saturday night. Cuthbert Donnelly, whose job is to look after the Cup until this year’s
All-Ireland final said: ‘There are five dinner dances in Tyrone on
Saturday night and I have to bring Sam to all of them. It’s vital that the Cup is back in Ireland on Saturday as all the clubs are expecting it as their functions.’
BLACK COACH, PLAYERS
GOT HATE MAIL: KERR
Former Irish soccer manager Brian Kerr has revealed that his assistant
Chris Hughton and black players Steven Reid and Clinton Morrison received hate mail during his time as manager. ‘While I was manager I had to put up with a series of letters, very vile and abusive letters, about the multiculturalism of the Irish team. It’s sad and shows you that there are people with twisted minds around.’ Hughton was the first black player for the Republic when he lined out in 1979. He was followed by Paul McGrath, Phil Babb and Terry Phelan.
ARKINS TO PLAY FOR BOHS
Adrian Fitzpatrick is the new manager of Kilkenny City. This is his first Eircom League club as overall boss, although he has coached at St Patrick’s Athletic and Waterford United.
In other Eircom news, Dublin City, who were promoted to the premier division last November, will play their home games at Dalymount Park this season.
It was thought that City would play at Home Farm’s ground in Whitehall, but apparently the seating needed to host a premier division game, is not yet in place at Whitehall.
Veteran Vinny Arkins will have shorter journey to travel to games. The 35 year-old Arkins, who has been commuting from Dublin to Portadown for almost 10 years, has now joined Bohemians. He said he had “gone stale” after so many years with the Irish League club. One of the top strikers North of the border, Arkins previously played for Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers in the Eircom League.
Meanwhile, Jim Gannon, who quit Dundalk at end of 2005, is the new manager of Stockport County. Gannon had previously played for the English club, which is not languishing at the bottom of League Two, the old fourth division. And it looks like Pat Dolan will back in football this season. Dolan, who was sacked by Cork City 12 months ago, briefly helped Waterford stay in the Premier division at the end of last season. Now there is speculation that Big Pat, who has been working as a match analyst with Setanta Sport, may be about to join Limerick in a consultancy role.
CAREY WITHDRAWS FROM LEAGUE
Kilkenny star D.J. Carey has told county manager Brian Cody that he will not be available for selection in the upcoming National Hurling League campaign. The 34-year-old, who retired for a six-week spell in 1998, said he will make a decision on whether he will play in the Leinster Championship later in year, probably after the first round of the Kilkenny senior championship. There has been much speculation that the nine-times All-Star would quit following the Cats defeat by Galway in last year’s All-Ireland semifinal, but at the time Carey hinted that he may keep on playing. Carey, who now lives in Dublin, said: ‘I don’t want to make a final decision at this time of the year, but I don’t have any real ambitions at the moment to play. Going down to Kilkenny to train with the panel throughout the winter is difficult when I can tip away in the gym in Dublin and work out my own fitness training. In addition, I felt that if I was on the county panel right now I might be depriving other guys of a chance which they might deserve, which may not be fair either. I don’t think that manager Brian Cody needs to have a look at me at this time of the year and if the legs are able to move like I want them to move in May then we will sit down and talk about it.’ Cody has been very loyal to D.J, who was a brilliant hurler, but in recent years it’s obvious that the Gowran clubman is not a patch of the hurler he was in his prime.
Another Kilkenny hurler taking a break from the inter-county scene is John Hoyne. The 27-year-old Graigue-Ballycallan clubman said he needs to give his body a rest to try and recover from persistent back and hip injuries. ‘It’s hard to step off the intercounty stage because you feel so honored to be part of it in Kilkenny. But I have been playing through pain for a long time now and it wasn’t easy to keep going,’ said Hoyne. Also in Kilkenny former star forward John Power has been appointed a selector of the county Intermediate team for the coming season. Power, who retired from playing last year, is seen by many as a future manager of The Cats senior team.
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FLYER FOR 3RD YEAR
Moscow Flyer, who won the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in 2004 and 2005, is suddenly back in the market. After losing his last two races, the Jessica Harrington-trained 12-year-old had eased in the ante-post betting. But after a bad run, Harrington had her first win in 78 days at Leopardstown on Jan. 15 when Studmaster won the Pierce Hurdle. Now that the stable has re-discovered their winning ways, there has been a lot of money for Moscow Flyer and his odds on making it a hat-trick of wins at Cheltenham in March have been cut from 5/1 to 3/1.
CELTIC OWNER INCREASES STAKE
Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond has increased his stake in the Parkhead club to almost 41 per cent. The Irish multi-millionaire has taken advantage of the club’s recent decision to issue more shares. Desmond had owned 29.9 percent shares in the club, but despite the recent move, he is not believed to be considering a takeover bid.
SHIFTS TO GAA
Controversial soccer manager Roddy Collins has switched to Gaelic football. Collins, who was sacked by relegated Shamrock Rovers last season, is now in charge of Dublin division 7 side O’Connell Boys. Collins has played Gaelic occasionally with the club and he said he has made the switch to Gaelic as no soccer club was seeking his services. Meanwhile former Dublin footballer Charlie Redmond is coming back to Dublin at a much higher level than Collins. The former Erin’s Isles clubman, who has managed clubs in Meath and Cavan, is the new manager of second division Naomh Barrog.
Also making a comeback is former Down manager and, for the past two years, international rules manager Peter McGrath. He takes over at second division Down club An Riocht.