By Sean Creedon
The Athletics Associaton of Ireland has announced their plans to stage the 29th IAAF World Cross County Championships at Leopardstown Racecourse March 25-26.
It’s the first time since 1979, when John Treacy won in Limerick, that the Championship is being held in The Republic. More than 25,000 spectators turned out on a wet afternoon in Limerick to watch Treacy retain the title he had won in Glasgow the previous year.
Injured Irish runner Catherina McKiernan admits she is fighting a losing battle in her bid to compete in Leopardstown.
"If things improve in the next couple of weeks I might be in a position to do something for the team," she said. "But at this stage I have no hope of being fit to challenge for any individual honor."
McKiernan, who missed last year’s Olympic Games through injury, is currently having treatment with Limerick physiotherapist Gerard Hartman. He has a reputation for getting many top international athletes back to full fitness.
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Sonia O’Sullivan, who is currently training in Australia, is certain to run, but her fellow athletes want to know whether she is going in the short or long course.
Clallenge to Hickey
Richard Burrows of Sailing Ireland is to challenge Olympic Council of Ireland President Pat Hickey at the OCI’s annual general meeting on Feb. 15.
Hickey, who is seeking a fourth term as OCI president, says he is not worried about the challenge.
"The way I look at it, it’s nothing different from 1996 except the names have been changed," he said. "Richard is a friend of mine and a very excellent man who is well respected within the Olympic movement and the OCI."
There have been attempts to out Hickey in the past, but even if all the sports federations back Burrows, he could still be defeated. There are 40 votes comprising 28 federation members and the 12 members of the Executive Committee. A three-quarters majority is required to make a change. Even if all the federations voted for Burrows, he would not get the necessary 30 votes, presuming the executive back Hickey.
First Goal confirmed
First Gold, purchased recently by J.P. McManus, is among 13 confirmed Irish entries for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Other Irish-owned and trained horses who will be fancied include previous winner Imperial Call, last year’s runner-up Florida Pearl and Ted Walsh’s trio of Paipillon, Commache Court and Rince Ri.
Meanwhile all racing eyes will be on Leopardstown on Sunday (Jan. 21) when Istabraq runs in the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle. On his last outing at the South Dublin course on New Year’s Eve, the Aidan O’Brien-trained horse had his first-ever fall. Now O’Brien reckons that his horse was lazy rather than tired when he fell.
Brolly hangs ’em up
Joe Brolly, one of the most colorful characters in Gaelic Football, is quitting the intercounty scene. Brolly was omitted from the Derry squad for the remainder of the National League and the championship
and has decided to retire.
"I’m done, I’m 32 years old and that’s an old man by today’s standards," he said. "During the mid-90s it was fun, but the last four years were a grind. The training was very heavy and I felt exhausted all the time. I have felt better in the last four months than at any time in the last four years."
Dublin hurling promo?
The GAA need to promote hurling in counties like Dublin if they are ever going to bring it up to the popularity level that Gaelic Football enjoys. But the situation in the capital is bad, the county team have not played a senior game since last June when they were hammered by Kilkenny and they are also without a manager. There was speculation that Offaly’s Pat Joe Whelahan would replace Michael O’Grady, but now the word is that Kilkenny’s Kevin Fennelly might be the man to try to revive Dublin’s fortunes. New County Board Chairman John Bailey has promised that an appointment will be made within a week.
While the Dublin footballers have not won much in recent years, Gaelic Football is still very popular in the capital, where it competes very successfully with soccer and rugby.
Walsh for Carlow
Michael Walsh, son of the late Ollie Walsh, is following in his father’s footsteps. He has taken over from Eddie Byrne as manager of Carlow, where Ollie also had a spell before moving back to his native Kilkenny.
Irwin out at Utd.
Former Republic of Ireland international Denis Irwin could be on his way from Manchester United. The Cork-born defender is struggling to get into the first team at Old Trafford and is currently ranked behind Mik’l Silvestre and Phil Neville for the full-back positions.
"Players have left Old Trafford before and come back to play against United and it’s been no problem," Irwin said. "I was injured over the Christmas period, but I’ll keep working hard and just wait and see what happens. For past two or three years I’ve been on a one-year contract anyway."
There have been reports that Middlesbrough were interested in Irwin, who has spent 11 seasons at Old Trafford.
Carr, Kenna updates
Mixed news on two other Irish full-backs. Stephen Carr, who recently signed a much improved contract with Spurs, may need a groin operation. The Dubliner will be rested for the next two weeks and then the North London club will make a decision on whether to operate.
Meanwhile, Jeff Kenna, who has made a comeback after injury, has been placed on the transfer list at Blackburn Rovers. The 31-year-old who was a regular in the Irish team when Mick McCarthy first got the Irish job, won the last of his 27 caps against Turkey in November 1999.
Jennings for UCD
Patrick Jennings, son of former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat, has signed for Eircom League club UCD. Like his father, who won a record 119 caps for Northern Ireland, Patrick junior is also a goalkeeper.
Austin joins Rostrevor
Liam Austin, the former Down star, who was ousted by "player power" in Cavan two years ago, has made a return to management. Austin took a break after the Cavan experience, but is now back as manager of Mourne club Rostrevor.
McCarthy wants Morrison
The FAI are willing to issue a Morrison Visa to Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison.
Manager Mick McCarthy admits that he has been chasing the 21-year-old striker for over a year. However, there is one problem, as Morrison, who qualifies for Ireland through his Dublin-born mother, has said in the past that he wants to play for England.
Eircom Park fate
The fate of Eircom Park should be known next week. On Monday (Jan. 22), the FAI directors will hear an update from the project partners and will convene again on Jan. 26 when a final decision should be made. Since the plans for the stadium were unveiled two years ago costs have almost doubled and FAI Treasurer Brendan Menton claims that if the FAI proceed with the stadium in Citywest they will be bankrupt.
Meanwhile, plans are progressing for the government’s planned stadium on the northside of Dublin.
AIB club finals
The GAA have confirmed venues for three of the four AIB club finals.
The football semifinal between Nemo Rangers of Cork and O’Hanrahans of Carlow will be played in Clonmel on Feb. 18. However, a venue has not yet been agreed for the second semifinal between Bellaghy of Derry and Mayo champions Crossmolina. Both hurling semifinals will be played on Feb. 25. Sixmilebridge of Clare will meet Kilkenny’s Graigue-Ballycallan in Thurles, while Dublin’s Parnell Park will be the venue for the meeting of Dunloy of Antrim and Galway’s Athenry.
O’Connell, Doyle training
Clare stars P.J. O’Connell and Liam Doyle are back in full training with the county hurlers. Many observers thought that their intercounty days were over. And former Clare captain Anthony Daly is expected back in a few weeks. Under new trainer Louis Mulqueen, the Bannermen have varied their training this year and have been concentrating on building up the stamina in the gym.
First they decided to ban the crowd from the hallowed Croke Park pitch at the end of All-Ireland finals. Then they decided to make the presentation on the pitch rather than the Hogan Stand. Now we could be about to witness the end of yet another tradition as the GAA have admitted that they may be about to dispense with the traditional post-match speeches by All-Ireland winning captains.
Well, if they are going to do that they should also end the rambling speeches by clerics and the men in suits prior to the actual presentation.