Irish soccer star Niall Quinn said he wanted to be home for the Munster hurling final and the big man has gotten his wish. Quinn, whose father, Billy, played for Tipp, is certain to be in Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday when Tipperary will be hot favorites to beat Waterford in the Munster final. Tipp, who are looking good to retain the McCarthy Cup this year, have already beaten Clare and Limerick at Pairc Ui Chaoimh and they should also account for Waterford.
The Decies, under former Cork star Justin McCarthy, sprung a surprise against Cork, but they The so-called back door, where the beaten provincial finalists get a second chance, has been popular since it was introduced a few years ago. But this year hurling has copied football and every county gets a second chance.
Sadly, most of the first-round qualifiers in hurling have been one-sided affairs and the GAA may be forced to think again on this one.
Clearly, there is a big gap between the top and bottom counties in hurling. Realistically,
only nine of the 32 counties have any hope of winning the McCarthy Cup. They are: Kilkenny, Offaly and Wexford in Leinster, Galway in Connacht and Cork, Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford in Munster.
Euro top seed
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After the drama of the World Cup hopes are now high that the Republic will qualify for the 2004 European Championship Finals, which will be held in Portugal. The Irish the top seeds in their group, which includes three trips to
Eastern Europe. The opening game is against Russia in Moscow on Sept. 7. And Ireland should have another full house at Lansdowne Road on Oct. 16 when The Boys in Green play Switzerland in their first home game since since the World Cup.
Mick McCarthy, who has confirmed that he is staying on as manager, is likely to introduce some new faces in our next game, which is a friendly against Finland in Helsinki on Aug. 21. With the retirement of Steve Staunton and
Niall Quinn, Ireland are certain to see new players getting a run against Finland.
There were many ex-pats in Japan and Korea cheering on the Boys in Green and for anybody else who fancies a trip home these are the fixtures for the European Championship. Apparently a trip to Georgia may be dangerous as there has been a spate of kidnappings in Tbilisi recently.
Sept. 7, at Russia
Oct. 16, vs. Switzerland
March 29, 2003, at Georgia
April 2, at Albania
June 7, vs Albania
June 11, vs. Georgia
Sept. 6, vs. Russia
Oct. 11, at Switzerland.
In addition, Ireland will play Greece in a friendly in Athens on Nov. 20 and
probably Scotland in Glasgow on April 30.
Open seeks sponsor
Wanted: a sponsor for the Irish Golf Open. Surprisingly, there has not been an announcement regarding who will replace Murphy’s as sponsors of the major golf event in Ireland. Since its revival by P.J. Carroll in 1975, the Irish Open has been of the finest on the European Tour schedule and has been lauded for its unrivaled atmosphere by players and spectators alike. Murphy’s took over from Carrolls in as sponsors in the 1990s and the tournament has been moved out of Dublin, first to Killarney and later to Druid’s Glen in Wicklow and Mount Juliet in Kilkenny.
Last year, the Open was held in Fota in Cork and the picturesque Cobh course will stage the last Murphy’s Irish Open this week.
Keane to name names
Roy Keane says that he will be brutally honest and will make a few enemies when his autobiography is published in September.
“I know sometimes you need to be a bit diplomatic, but there are times when you need to say what’s what and what’s not,” he said. “I am not going to be hammering anybody — well three or four people maybe. I’ll only have a few enemies after this book. There are enough people who sit on the fence and I’m not really one for that that. Life is too short. Sometimes you have regrets about doing projects because it becomes too much hassle, but I’ve enjoyed going back over old times for the book.”
Keane, who had not spoken since the famous television interview with Tommie Gorman three weeks ago, was speaking to the official Manchester United magazine.
Meanwhile, Keane’s biographer, Eamon Dunphy, says he will not be going back to RTE television for the World Cup. Dunphy was suspended two weeks ago when he appeared “tired and emotional” on air. Dunphy apologized for his early-morning appearance which came after a night partying, but it looks like RTE would not take him back. He may now move to TV3, where he already presents Ireland’s version of “The Weakest Link.”
Roscommon footballers may have difficulty holding on to their manager, John Tobin. The former Galway star, who led “Ros” to the Connacht title last year, has been appointed coaching development officer for the Connacht
Chapparal eyes double
Epsom Derby winner High Chapparal will be bidding to become the 25th horse to win both the English and Irish Derby in the same year when he runs in Sunday’s Budweiser Irish Derby at The Curragh. Aidan O’Brien, who trained the winner and the second horse, Hawk Wing, at Epsom, is not expected to run Hawk Wing on Sunday.
O’Brien, who trains at Ballydoyle in Tipperary is rapidly becoming one of the top trainers in Europe.
Coincidentally, Vincent O’Brien, the Master of Ballydoyle, trained six Irish Derby winners. This will be the 17th Budweiser Irish Derby and overall the 137th running of this premier classic.
Meanwhile Irish-born jockey Pat Eddery equaled Lester Piggott’s domestic career total of 4,493 winner when he rode Romantic Liaison to victory in the Queen Mary Stakes at Ascot. The next target for 50-year-old Eddery is Gordon Richard’s all-time British record of 4,870 winners.
Although they lost the first leg 3-2 in Croatia last Saturday, St. Patrick’s Athletic should progress to the second round of the Inter Toto Cup when they play HNK Rijeka in the second leg at Inchicore on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Shelbourne have got a favorable draw in the qualifying round of the Champions League. The Reds should be able to beat Hibernians of Malta over two legs which would guarantee them a game against Boavista of Portugal.
Also, in the UEFA Cup FAI Cup winners Dundalk face a tough tie against Croatian side Varteks. But Shamrock Rovers are happier after drawing Djurgardens of Sweden in the same competition.
Kerry hurling woes
While football in Kerry continues to prosper, the same cannot be said for hurling. The game is strong in the northern part of the county, but at intercounty level there has been no success. Now Kerry’s Cork-born hurling manager, Bernie O’Connor, has quit following poor attendances at training.
O’Connor, who is from Newtownshandrum in North Cork, has two sons on the Cork squad and he says he will be watching Cork play Limerick this weekend instead of taking charge of Kerry in the All-Ireland “B” championship against Derry.
“If the Kerry players are not pushed at making a go of this thing, why should I be pushed? He said. “At the beginning of the league there was a good response and the players put in a great effort. But things started to go downhill after we lost to Antrim in the League division two semifinal. Then domestic competitions started in Kerry and they took precedence over the intercounty scene. Only 10 players turned up for my last training session and two of those were injured. I have no intention of making long journeys to preside over a situation like that.”