Dublin manager Humphrey Kelleher lost some of his dual stars during the winter and there has also been unrest in Galway, holders of the National League title. It took some time before Conor Hayes was reappointed manager after the hurling board refused to sanction the appointment of Mattie Murphy after he had been recommended for the job by the executive committee.
Clearly, Galway officialdom were not happy with their championship performance last year. Two months after a big win over Waterford in the National League Final, Galway were hammered by Kilkenny in the All-Ireland qualifier. Forward Kevin Broderick tried to explain the reason for Galway’s demise: “A week after the league final Waterford came back and beat Clare in the Munster championship. But being in Connacht we were left with no option but to take a break and concentrate on the local club scene. But that was no excuse for our poor performance against Kilkenny in the championship.”
That’s Galway’s problem: lack of match practice. Leinster Chairman Nicky Brennan did his best to try to get Galway to play in Leinster, but to no avail. So the league remains their best option for regular hurling and that could mean a bad day for Dublin in Ballinasloe on Sunday. Elsewhere John Allen will be hoping to maintain the momentum at All-Ireland champions Cork where he has taken over from the retiring Donal O’Grady. The Rebels are at home to Limerick.
LOOKS TO AIR
Second row forward Malcolm O’Kelly set a new Irish rugby record on Saturday last when he won his 70th cap against Scotland at Murrayfield. O’Kelly broke the longstanding record held by the great Mike Gibson. He revealed that basketball legend Michael Jordan has been the inspiration that helped him to reach record-breaking heights. O’Kelly, who was 30 last July, said: “There are times when you wonder, ‘Why am I doing this’? and other times when you feel like you could go on forever, especially when you read a book on Michael Jordan. Michael peaked at 36. I know rugby is different to basketball and Jordan was mentally and physically strong enough to keep going until that age. I have a contract ending in a couple of years, two more seasons and I’ll see what the story is then.”
KEANE MAY QUIT
AT GERMANY ’06
Roy Keane, whose name will always be linked with the 2002 World Cup finals, but should the Republic qualify, then the 2006 finals may provide the setting for his swansong. Keane, who will be 35 in August 2006, hinted last week that he will retire when his current contract with Manchester United expires in that summer.
“I feel good,” he said. “My hip feels good. My left knee was a bit sore, but overall I am not too bad. Mentally, I am enjoying my football. But when I signed my current contract I believed it would be my last and I still believe that to be the case.”
Of course, a lot will depend on what happens at Old Trafford in the meantime. Will Malcolm Glazer be in charge of the boardroom? Will Alex Ferguson still be the manager? After a recent Manchester United win, Ferguson said that Keane will still be remembered as a United hero 500 years from now. Some praise there for the Corkman from his Scottish boss. But of course there will always be some cynics around. And some people are claiming that Keane’s latest remarks are simply an effort to force United to offer him a new contract. But he’s now a rich man and with his body suffering from the rigors a long career, I think he is entitled to retire at 35.
It’s hard to believe, but with just two months to go the GAA’s Annual Congress, we still don’t know if there will be a debate on the famous Rule 42 this year. Last week, the 11 counties who submitted motions asking for a debate on changing Rule 42, the opening up of Croke Park, had their motions ruled out of order by the motions committee, which included GAA president Sean Kelly and all former past presidents of the association. We had a similar situation last year where all the motions committee were ruled out on a technicality — a very embarrassing situation for Kelly, who has actively supported the opening up of Croke Park. The 11 counties have now resubmitted the motions and they will learn later this week if they are in order. Motions must be prepared in Irish, but there are plenty of people in the association fluent in Irish and with a good knowledge of GAA rules. But when you consider that last year GAA Director General Liam Mulvihill helped Clare draft their Rule 42 motion and it was still ruled out of order, you begin to wonder if we will ever get a proper debate.
CALL IT QUITS
Irish captain Kenny Cunningham has said he will quit international and probably club football after the 2006 World Cup Finals. Cunningham, who will be 34 next June, has given great service, winning 64 caps over the last nine years, and he is a model captain. He is always encouraging his colleagues on the pitch and off the pitch he is every reporter’s dream, always willing to meet any request the media puts to him. But with Andy O’Brien fighting his way back into the Newcastle United team and Richard Dunne playing exceptionally well for Manchester City, Ireland seem to be well covered in central defense in the immediate future.
Meanwhile, the FAI have said that sales of their allocation of 3,500 tickets for the World Cup qualifier against Israel in Tel Aviv on Easter Saturday are going slowly. The association is facing the likelihood of having to return tickets to another association for the first time in years.
There was speculation in Dublin last week that over 40 applications had been received for the post as chief executive officer of the FAI. The only person we know has applied is acting CEO John Delaney, who seems to be doing a good job since taking over following the departure of Fran Rooney. The recruitment company hasn’t made any official comment, but in Ireland the rumor factory is very often correct. Interviews are believed to be currently underway and we should have a short list of candidates fairly soon.
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BOSSES’ SONS TO
THE FORE IN NORTH
It’s always difficult in sport to follow in your father’s footsteps. And it’s probably even tougher if your dad is the manager of the county Gaelic football team. The situation has arisen a lot in Ulster where four of the nine county managers have sons on the senior football panels. Mickey Harte’s son came in for some criticism for his performances with Tyrone last year, but Mark Harte is now currently out injured. However, Conleth Moran has been the subject of some unsporting behavior from a small section of the Derry crowd. They obviously feel that Mickey Moran’s son was not good enough for the Derry senior team. In Armagh, Joe Kernan’s two sons, Aaron and Stephen, have been on the county panel, while in Antrim Darren O’Hare, son of county manager P.J. has been playing senior football for the Glensmen.
Tyrone supporters are hoping that Peter Canavan’s retirement will be temporary and that the man they’ve dubbed Peter the Great will be back for the championship in May. Canavan said that he will definitely not play in the National League campaign.
“Peter is going to be a huge loss; he is already,” said Canavan’s colleague Chris Lawn. “But we’ll expect him back sooner rather than later. I spoke to Peter a couple of weeks ago about it, just before he went to Hong Kong with the All-Stars. He certainly has not ruled out being back for the championship.”
MORE WILL SEE
UNITED AT HOME
Every second weekend, thousands of Irish people travel to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United play. Make no mistake, United are the No. 1 English club for Irish people. Some people trace it the emotional bond in the wake of the 1958 Munich air disaster, whose victims included Dubliner Liam Whelan, but, of course, the connection predates that. Now the good news for the weekend trippers is that Old Trafford’s capacity is being increased. Trafford Borough Council recently agreed to United’s proposal to fill in the northwest and northeast corners of their stadium, a move that will raise the capacity of Old Trafford to 76,000. It’s estimated that the additional 7,900 seats will net the Red Devils an extra