Tuesday, June 30, 2009

O’Sullivan ready to name final team

MICKEY Ned O’Sullivan will announce his Limerick senior football team for Sunday’s Munster final against Cork after training this evening in the Gaelic Grounds.
En route to the decider Limerick have selected unchanged teams in the championship wins over Tipperary and Clare, but O’Sullivan and selectors (Joe Redington and Paddy Ivess) must now decide if they are to start Stephen Kelly.
The speedy wing-forward missed the championship campaign to date with a broken bone in his hand, but the Newcastle West man has played a full part in training for the last two weeks.
Another pushing for inclusion is Na Piarsaigh’s Eoin Hogan.

The wing-forward impressed when introduced at half time in the semi-final win over Clare in Cusack Park.
However, Hogan broke his metatarsal bone earlier in the championship and his training has been curtailed in the lead-up to the final.
“At the moment, yes, we will be picking from a full panel. Everything is grand, there are always a few niggling injuries, but nothing serious,” confirmed Limerick manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
“Everyone is showing up well in training because they all know that it is a great opportunity to play in a Munster final,” said O’Sullivan.
“We are in no doubt that we are playing a Cork team that are some people’s favourites to win the All-Ireland,” said the Kenmare man.
“They showed up very well against Kerry.”
He added: “At the end of the day this final is between a Division Four team against a Division One team”.
Ahead of Sunday’s final, the bookies have made Cork the hottest of favourites. Conor Counihan’s men are available at just 1/12 with Boylesports while Limerick are listed at 6/1.
“We know that we are the underdogs and we don’t mind, but I always say that football is played on the pitch.”
Wing-back John Miskella remains Cork’s main injury doubt, though manager Conor Counihan is hopeful that he can start.
The defending Munster champions, Cork are bidding for their 36th title and their fourth this decade while Limerick are seeking only their second ever title and their first since 1896.
Remarkably Cork and Limerick haven’t met in the Munster football final since 1901 and have only met twice ever in the decider.
Cork beat Limerick in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Munster championships leaving Limerick seeking their first win over the Rebels since the famous win of 2003.
Tickets for Sunday’s provincial final are available from the clubs throughout the county and are also available to purchase from all Ticketmaster outlets.
A public sale of tickets will take place on Wednesday night in the Gaelic Grounds between 5-8pm.
Tickets will cost €35 for adults to the uncovered stand, €30 for adults to the covered stand and €20 to the terrace. Juveniles can purchase tickets for €5 to either of the stands.
Student terrace tickets are available through the participating county boards for €15.
Senior Citizens can obtain a refund of €10 on full-priced stand tickets at designated turnstiles on production of valid ID prior to entering the stadium.
Sunday’s final has a 2pm start in Pairc Ui Chaoimh and will be televised live on TV3. The curtain-raiser will be the Munster minor football final at 12 noon which involves Tipperary and Kerry.
Meanwhile Pat Tobin has departed the Limerick senior hurling panel in advance of Limerick’s All-Ireland hurling qualifier against Wexford on Saturday week. The Murroe-Boher attacker informed Justin McCarthy of his decision after last weekend’s replay loss to Waterford.
The Tobin departure comes on the back of another loss for the county hurling side - against Offaly in a challenge game on Saturday.

Jerome O’Connell

McGahan’s Munster men begin pre-season programme

JUST six weeks after they signed off on last season, members of the Munster rugby squad have assembled this week to begin pre-season training for the 2009-10 campaign.
Players not involved in the British & Irish Lions or Churchill Cup squads have gathered in their respective Limerick and Cork bases to begin their pre-season training regime under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach, Paul Darbyshire.
Limerick-based players, including the likes of Marcus Horan, Ciaran O’Boyle, Alan Quinlan, Ian Dowling, Barry Murphy and Paul Warwick were due to report to conditioning coaches Tom Comyns and Joe Gallanagh at the University of Limerick this week while Daragh Hurley, Doug Howlett, Billy Holland, Denis Leamy, Lifeimi Mafi and James Coughlan are due to present themselves to Paul Darbyshire and Aidan O’Connell at the Cork facility in Forge Hill.
These senior internationals are joined by academy and development squad members while the players involved in the recent Churchill Cup success will arrive back on Monday, July 13.
Munster’s Lions contingent are set to commence their build up to the 2009-10 season some three weeks later.
The Munster squad this season will include hooker Damien Varley who returns to the province having spent 12 months with English Guinness Premiership side London Wasps.
Varley, who won a Munster Senior Cup, AIB Cup and AIB League medal with Garryowen, was in the extended Munster pre-season training squad in 2006, before being offered a trial by Shaun Edwards last summer. The trial ended with Varley being offered a contract.
Varley said the experience of playing with a top English side was highly beneficial to the development of his career.
“The move to Wasps came about when Pat Chesser contacted Warren Gatland and he in turn got onto Shaun Edwards,” Damien Varley explained.
“I really enjoyed my time there and learned a lot and it’s an experience I think will stand to me.
“I was, of course, delighted when Munster contacted me and it’s great to be back home and with a squad like Munster. I am really looking forward to the season ahead.”
Munster squad members are set to jet off to Portugal in the first week of August for a week long pre-season training camp.
Munster begin a series of pre-season friendlies with a fixture against the Sale Sharks at Musgrave Park on Friday, August 14 followed by a clash with London Irish at the same Cork venue a week later.
Munster complete their programme of friendlies when they travel to Welford Road to tackle the Leicester Tigers on August 28. The new Magners League season is set to begin a week later.
The draw for the ODM Munster Senior Cup will take place this evening at the ODM Offices in Bandon.
The competition is due to begin in September with the final set to take place in early January 2010.
Cork Constitution defeated Old Crescent 21-13 in last season’s final at Clifford Park.
Shannon and Garryowen have dominated the competition for the past 25 years with Shannon winning it 15 times and Garryowen on five occasions.
Meanwhile South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has finally apologised for his defence of Schalk Burger’s eye-gouging against the British & Irish Lions on Saturday.
Burger was banned for eight weeks after the incident involving Ireland’s Luke Fitzgerald in the second Test. But De Villiers had continued to insist the flanker did nothing wrong in Pretoria.
However, last night the coach said: “It was never my intention to suggest that I condone foul play.
“That is the last thing I would ever do and I apologise for that impression.”
De Villiers went on to say that ‘eye-gouging is something that we as a team will never be part of.’ But after a meeting with the South African Rugby Union (SARU) De Villiers finally apologised, along with South African rugby chief Oregan Hoskins.
The Paul O’Connell led Lions face the Springboks in their final Test match at Coca Cola Park (formerly Ellis Park), Johannesburg on Saturday next at 2pm.
South Africa have already clinched the best of three match series.

Colm Kinsella

Monday, June 29, 2009

Limerick FC maintain their push for vital public funds

Although Limerick FC are still short of their financial target the club, thanks to an overwhelming public response to their plight, will survive their short-term financial difficulties.
Limerick FC also hope that more members of the local business community will follow Pat O’Sullivan’s lead and pledge funds which will ensure the future of the League of Ireland club.
Last week Pat O’Sullivan made a significant contribution to Limerick FC after the club made a public plea for aid at a meeting hosted at the Strand Hotel on Sunday, June 21.
At that meeting the club outlined the fact that if it didn’t receive a financial injection to the tune of €70,000 by Saturday, June 27 the club would be wound up and its League of Ireland licence revoked.
Club chairman Jack McCarthy had also indicated that he was prepared to resign as club chairman and put in motion a process which would see the US-based lawyer sever his ties with Limerick FC.
During his 18-month reign as club chairman Jack McCarthy has poured €300,000 into the Super Blues, but now Mr. McCarthy is not in a position to ship another significant debt this season.

Limerick FC PRO Joe Sweeney was delighted to announce this morning that the 72-year-old will survive.
“Although the club is still striving to achieve its financial goals the club will survive and I would like to thank everyone that has contributed and pledged money to the club,” Joe Sweeney told Leader Sport.
“We still haven’t got enough, but we are further along the line.
“We’re still short and the push is still on to attract more money into the club.
“We still want more people to join Leo’s Lottery and we still need more members of the business community to get involved to ensure the long-term future of the club.
“Although we have not yet achieved our financial goals, the public response to our plea for financial help has given everyone in the club a great lift. We’ve received calls and pledges from all over the mid-west and it really has been very encouraging for everyone involved.
“We need more businessmen like Pat O’Sullivan to make a contribution to the club. We need members of the business community to get on board. We need people to look at our plans and realise that our long-term plans for the club and the development of the facility at Knockalisheen will make Limerick FC self-sufficient. If we can get more prominent businessmen like Pat O’Sullivan on the board of directors that will help the club push open doors of opportunity that maybe the management committee can’t open.
“Everything helps and the response so far has been excellent.”
It is not known at this point whether the introduction of Pat O’Sullivan to the League of Ireland club’s board of directors will alter the structure of the club or change how Limerick FC does its business.
It is likely that such administrative changes will be tackled as soon as his humanly possible.
If you are prepared to make a contribution to Limerick FC or wish to join Leo’s Lottery please contact the Super Blues on 061 324 563 or 085 769 4324. Alternatively you can visit LimerickFC.ie for more information or to download the forms required to join Leo’s Lottery or pledge money to the club.
Last week the Limerick Leader, in an article concerning a public meeting hosted by Limerick FC, reported that a question arising from a member of the public suggested that the FAI had ‘some hand to play’ in the League of Ireland club losing a high-profile friendly against Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town at Thomond Park.
The Football Association of Ireland have been in contact with the Limerick Leader and Leader Sport is happy to clarify that the FAI officially sanctioned a friendly game for Limerick FC at Thomond Park and that such rumours are entirely without foundation. The national association would also like to point out that it aided the League of Ireland club by helping the club to negotiate the rental of Thomond Park at a reduced cost and that it facilitated meetings between Sunderland and Glasgow Celtic on behalf of the club.
The FAI would also like to clarify that it fully supports Limerick FC through its current financial difficulties and that it also intends to do so in the future.
The FAI has gone to great lengths to support soccer in Limerick which included Giovanni Trapattoni’s appearance at a corporate dinner in the Castletroy Park Hotel, it has attempted to support soccer on Shannonside through its grants system while it also maintains its support for a potential return of the club to the Market’s Field.
Limerick FC return to competitive action this Thursday night (July 2 at 8pm) when the Super Blues make the arduous journey to Kingspan Century Park in Monaghan to take on Monaghan United in the League of Ireland First Division.
Meanwhile the Limerick District League Management Committee (LDMC) would like all clubs to take note that on Thursday, July 9 registration forms for the 2009-10 season will be handed out in Jackman Park at 7.30pm - all clubs are hereby notified that half fees for the 2009-10 season must be paid on the night.

Brian McDonnell

Hayes could start against the Springboks on Saturday

IRELAND’S record-breaking prop John Hayes is in contention to start for the British & Irish Lions in Saturday’s third Test showdown against the Springboks at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg.
With Welsh tighthead Adam Jones ruled out of the game through injury, either Hayes or England’s Phil Vickery appear most likely to start in the front-row for the tourists.
Versatile Munster star Keith Earls will also come into contention for a place on the bench at least should Brian O’Driscoll, who suffered concussion, or wrist injury victim Jamie Roberts, fail to recover in time.
South African back-row Schalk Burger has been banned for eight weeks by the International Rugby Board for eye-gouging British & Irish Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald at the start of Saturday’s second Test at the Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Schalk Burger was sin-binned in the first minute of the game, which his side won to seal the series, and was cited afterwards.
Springbok Bakkies Botha will miss the weekend’s last Test after being banned for two weeks for dangerous charging.
Lions prop Adam Jones was left with a dislocated shoulder after the incident.
Botha and Burger attended the hearing in Pretoria yesterday, a day after their side took an unassailable two-nil lead in the series following a thrilling 28-25 victory.
As they digested the disappointment of a shattering loss, the British & Irish Lions squad headed off on safari to Entabeni Game Reserve, north of Johannesburg, for a break before resuming rugby activity tomorrow.
Replacement out-half Morne Steyn came off the bench to kick South Africa to victory after Ronan O’Gara was guilty of giving away the crucial penalty late on.
O’Gara was judged to have clipped Fourie du Preez in the air as he jumped to collect a kick and Steyn landed a stunning penalty goal from all of 53 metres.
“I think the players genuinely deserve to be in the position to play for a series next week and we are not,” British & Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeechan said.
“That is very disappointing. In the end it is only the rub of the green that hasn’t given us one or two results.
“But I am hugely proud of what we have achieved and we will have the same approach going into the third Test.”
Ian McGeechan pleaded for the British & Irish Lions to be given the time to prepare properly for future tours so they can remain competitive.
The Lions head coach thinks the current trip to South Africa has resulted in “some of the best rugby ever”, despite his side’s series defeat.
But he believes officials from the home unions and domestic competitions must adjust the season for future Lions tours.
Just six weeks after they signed off on last season, the first of the Munster squad members assembled today to begin their preparations for the 2009-10 campaign.
Players not involved with the Lions and Churchill Cup squads assembled earlier today in their respective Cork and Limerick gyms to begin their pre-season training.
All those senior internationals will be joined by Academy, Development squaddies and players involved in the recent Churchill Cup success on Monday, July 13.
Munster Lions’ contingent return to pre-season training three weeks later.
Former Garryowen hooker Damien Varley returns to Munster having spent a season with London Wasps.
Varley and his new teammates’ first away trip together will be in the first week of August when they head to Portugal for a week-long pre-season training camp.
On their return the Munster squad members begin their series of pre-season friendlies, facing the Sale Sharks at Musgrave Park on August 14, London Irish at the same venue seven days later, before travelling to Welford Road to tackle the Leicester Tigers on August 28. The Magners League begins on the first weekend of September.

Colm Kinsella

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

‘Limerick will bounce back’

LIMERICK’S journey through the All-Ireland hurling championship back door will begin with a 225-mile round trip to Wexford on Saturday July 11 - Justin McCarthy’s team and supporters face the six hour trip after last Sunday night’s qualifier draw handed Limerick an away game against Colm Bonnar’s side.
The Qualifier Phase Two game will take place in Wexford Park.

Limerick County Board have made a request for an early start in the south-east.
“We have asked for the game to start at 5pm to allow for our travelling support,” confirmed Limerick GAA Secretary Mike O’Riordan.
Win or lose, Limerick will also be in action on Saturdaym July 18.
If Limerick can overcome the Model County they will face either Cork, Offaly, Laois or Antrim for a place in the All-Ireland quarter-final against one of the beaten provincial finalists. If Limerick fail in Wexford, a relegation play-off would await against Cork, Offaly, Laois or Antrim.
Limerick were to return to training this Thursday evening.
No injuries have been reported since the weekend. Ahead of the trip to Wexford, management will be hoping that Gavin O’Mahony, Bryan O’Sullivan and Mike Fitzgerald will be available for selection.
Limerick selector Liam Garvey is confident that his side can bounce back after Saturday’s eight-point replay loss to Waterford in Thurles.
“This Limerick team will bounce back - there are some very good hurlers in this Limerick team and they will bounce back,” said Garvey.
While the Hospital-Herbertstown man is confident, Limerick’s record through the backdoor is not encouraging. Since Limerick lost to Wexford in the 2001 All-Ireland quarter-final, they have only beaten Offaly (2006), Dublin, Laois, Antrim and Kerry in the qualifiers, while losses were inflicted by Offaly (twice), Clare, Galway, Cork and Tipperary.
“It’s a re-building process everything you loose. There was a lot learned and a few things that we can pick up on and improve on,” accepted Garvey.
Limerick and Wexford have met on five occasions in championship hurling - Limerick’s only win was in the All-Ireland final of 1918.
Wexford defeated Limerick in the All-Ireland finals of 1910 and 1996, the semi-final in 1955 and most recently the quarter-final of 2001.
While Limerick fell to The Decies on Saturday evening, Wexford were shocked 0-18 to 1-13 by Dublin last Sunday in Nowlan Park.
“It was a disappointing finish to the match - we were in the match with about 10 minutes to go,” recalled Liam Garvey of Limerick’s defeat in Thurles.
“The breaks didn’t go our way and they took some very good scores while we found it hard to score in the last 10 minutes.
“When we were playing with the wind, Waterford played very deep and crowded it and there wasn’t much space and we just didn’t seem to get onto the ball.
“They are a very experienced team, they have won three Munster championships and are together a long time and they were very composed on the ball and were able to release people into shooting positions.”
Liam Garvey said that the management will look to the positive ahead of the qualifiers.
“We are still in a transition phase and trying to change the team around a small bit and play a bit differently,” commented the selector.
“Today we didn’t get the scores when it mattered. The wind was probably worth four or five points today and you needed to be ahead at half time and we were two points down but fair play to the team they battled very hard in the second half and we were still in the game with 8-10 minutes to go.”

Ahane v Bruree
The Round One replay in the Limerick’s Live 95FM sponsored county senior hurling championship between Ahane and Bruree will take place this Friday night in Bruff at 7.30pm - the winners will advance to play champions Adare while the losing side will face Murroe-Boher in the losers section.
It appears that the full round of fixtures in round two will not take place until the weekend of July 24-26, at the earliest.
Four weeks ago in the drawn game in Hospital it finished 1-9 to 0-12. Ahane managed just one point from play with Niall Moran hitting 1-8 from placed balls for Mike Fitzgerald’s side.
John Touhy saw five of his six forwards find the target in a side that had Steve McDonogh at centre back.

Jerome O’Connell

Mickey Ned hopes to select from a full squad

THE Limerick senior footballers hope to select from a full squad for next month’s Munster senior football championship final - the Munster Council have confirmed at 2pm start for the provincial SFC final in Pairc Ui Chaoimh on July 5. The decider will be televised live on TV3.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan reports no late injury worries after his panel played challenge games against Galway and Tipperary in the past week.
“At the moment, yes we will be picking from a full panel. Everything is grand, there are always a few niggling injuries, but nothing serious,” confirmed the Limerick senior football manager.
He added that Stephen Kelly is back in full training and available for selection after missing the championship victories over Tipperary and Clare with a broken bone in his hand.
“Everyone is showing up well in training because they all know that it is a great opportunity to play in a Munster final,” said Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
The history books show that Limerick will be playing in just an 11th Munster SFC final and looking for a second title to add to that of 1896. In comparison, Cork have won 35 Munster titles and are the defending champions.
“It is all in the melting pot,” said Mickey Ned, who hopes to bring his Limerick panel to Cork this weekend for a run out in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
“We are in no doubt that we are playing a Cork team that are some people’s favourites to win the All-Ireland,” said the Kenmare man.
“They showed up very well against Kerry. At the end of the day this final is between a Division Four team against a Division One team”.
Ahead of Sunday week’s final, the bookies have made Cork 1/12 favourites while Limerick are listed at 6/1.
“We know that we are the underdogs and we don’t mind, but I always say that football is played on the pitch.”
Last year’s clash of the sides in the semi-final is a cause of great confidence for the Limerick footballers.
That game in the Gaelic Grounds finished 0-12 to 2-9, but the home side were 0-12 to 0-9 ahead as the stopwatch ticked into the final minute of the 70 - then two goals inside 60 seconds snatched a most undeserved win for The Rebels.
“Cork have improved a lot since,” said Mickey Ned.
“We are preparing for a big challenge.”
Tickets for the Munster final have been distributed to the clubs of the county.
Tickets will cost €35 for adults to the uncovered stand, €30 for adults to the covered stand and €20 to the terrace.

Jerome O’Connell

Lions must beat South Africa in Pretoria

MUNSTER flanker David Wallace followed in the illustrious footsteps of elder brother Paul by playing in a Lions Test against South Africa in Durban last weekend. But the third member of the Wallace family to play for the Lions will be hoping for a different result this Saturday as the tourists face a must-win second Test against the Springboks in the hostile environment of Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria (2pm Irish time).
Ian McGeechan’s British & Irish Lions must beat the World Champions if they are to keep the three-match series alive going into the final Test on Saturday week at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg.

After their whirlwind start, which saw skipper John Smit score within five minutes, the Boks looked set to swamp David Wallace and company when they stretched out to a 19 point lead at the start of the second half.
But then came the Lions’ fight back and, by the end, Paul O’Connell’s men had outscored their hosts by three tries to two – and bombed several other chances.
“It was an unbelievable experience to be involved in a Test team. I would love to get another chance,” David Wallace said this week.
“We definitely believe we can still do it. We know its going to be very hard to win the next two games, especially at altitude, but there were plenty of positives to take out of the first Test and we have to back our fitness.
“We gave them such a lead at the start and we were always chasing it. That made life difficult for us.
“Their kicking game was very good, but we felt we could do damage when we moved the ball. We’ve got to start Pretoria as we ended in Durban
“The sense in the crowd was that we could go on and win the game. There was a huge belief building, but then it just didn’t materialise.
“But to have come back from where we were and end up within striking distance gives us huge confidence for the next two Tests.”
Lions skipper Paul O’Connell says that, despite the overwhelming sense of disappointment after Saturday’s defeat to the Springboks, there are plenty of encouraging signs to take forward into the remaining two Test matches.
The Munster second row lost his fourth successive international with Britain and Ireland’s elite but he says there are enough positives in the 26-21 reverse to suggest a better outcome against the same opposition this weekend in Pretoria.
“We are playing a good brand of rugby,” lock O’Connell insisted.
“I think we ran out of time. We were playing quite well. When we did what we wanted to do, we were getting over the gain line and we were opening them up a bit. The more we did that, the stronger we grew.
”If a few of our try-scoring chances had stuck, it would have been game over and we would have won it.”
Schalk Burger will win his 50th international cap when he returns to the Springbok side in the only change head coach Peter de Villiers has made for the second Test in Pretoria.
Burger missed last weekend’s 26-21 win in Durban due to a calf injury but the former IRB World Player of the Year is now fit enough to start at Loftus Versfeld. The Stormers flanker replaces tryscorer Heinrich Brussow, who drops to the bench.
The Lions starting line-up for the do-or-die Test will be revealed this Thursday.

South Africa: Francois Steyn; JP Pietersen, Adi Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit; Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield; Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies. Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Deon Carstens, Andries Bekker, Danie Rossouw, Heinrich Brussow, Jaque Fourie, Morne Steyn.

Colm Kinsella

Injury Time . . . with Jerome O'Connell

IT is not all going to happen over night,” said Justin McCarthy as he emphasised that his Limerick side are in a state of transition.
McCarthy and his selectors, Brian Ryan and Liam Garvey, used a total of 22 players in the 140 minutes of Munster championship action against Waterford.
Paul Browne, Stephen Walsh, David Breen and James Ryan were all handed their first senior championship starts while Tom Condon (first Knockaderry club man to play SHC) and Graeme Mulcahy were given their first taste of SHC as substitutes in the replay.
While there were six new faces, 12 of the team from the drawn game had started against Offaly in last year’s ill-fated qualifier.

Of the 22 players used there was a return to the green of Limerick for James O’Brien after a year sabbatical in the Christy Ring Cup with Kerry, a return to the inter-county scene for Denis Moloney after two cruciate ligament operations and a surprise return for former under-21 star, Eoin Foley.
Patrickswell’s Foley was not among the 28 players that saw league action with Limerick this season and was only sporadically involved with training in recent weeks.
Others not involved in the NHL were Ollie Moran (knee) and Mark Foley (extended break after club commitments).
Moran was one of eight players to play every minute of the two games against Waterford, along with his brother Niall, Brian Murray, Damien Reale, Stephen Lucey, Brian Geary, Seamus Hickey and James Ryan.
Of that eight, Murray, Lucey and Geary were the only players to start and finish in the same positions as management sought their best formations.
Not surprisingly, 10 different players were tried in attack.
There was some surprise that Mike O’Brien or Wayne McNamara were not introduced - both played large roles in the league and would be seen as options to win puckouts.
Another who didn’t get match time was Murroe-Boher attacker Pat Tobin.

From Carron to Thurles
TO celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the GAA, the Munster Council are organising a Torch Run on the eve of the Munster senior hurling championship final from the home of founder Michael Cusack in Carron, north Clare to the location of the foundation meeting in Hayes Hotel, Thurles.
The clubs of Limerick will be asked to play their part and carry the torch through Limerick on Saturday July 11.
The torch will be leaving Carron at 12.00 noon and arrive at the Limerick Gaelic Grounds at 2.45pm.
Each club is being asked to bring in at least 30-40 12/14 year olds, dressed in their club colours with flags and banners, to assist with the parade.
After some brief entertainment from varying Scor acts, the torch will be paraded from the Gaelic Grounds, over Sarsfield Bridge, up William Street as far as the jail.
The clubs will disassemble there and the torch will go by van out as far as Claughaun GAA Club where members of Claughaun, Monaleen, Milford and Ahane clubs will run the torch to the Tipperary side of Finnegans, where Tipperary County Board will take over.
The torch is expected at Hayes Hotel at 9pm Saturday night and will be carried into Semple Stadium on Munster final day.

City hurlers on their way to Scotland
THE under-14 hurlers of Old Christians and Ballinacurra Gaels are on their way to Scotland.
The clubs are joined at under-14 level this season and plans are in place to play a compromise Hurling/Shinty Rules game in Fort William in the Scottish Highlands in October.
The planning for the trip is at a well advanced stage as the flights and accommodation has been booked for the group, which will contain about 20 players and over 30 adults.
This Friday night, June 26 a fund-raising table quiz will take place in Patrick Punches Bar.
A table of four for the fun quiz will cost €40.

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

AT a time when the professional game has never been in better health in this country, it may seem strange to highlight the fact that there are real concerns among those involved in domestic rugby over the fall-off in playing numbers.
In his address at the recent AGM of the Munster Branch, outgoing branch President Nicholas Comyn expressed his concerns over the fall-off in the numbers playing the game within the province.

Nicholas Comyn revealed that there had been a loss of players from the high 5,000 to around 3,000.
While part of the decline may be due to re-registrations, Nicholas Comyn explained that the major loss of players is at the 18–23 age group.
He continued: “I appreciate the strides being made by colleges this year to bring more players into the net by establishing themselves as a club and hopefully those players would be available to teams if their interest in rugby can be continued.
“The other area is of course the universities and whilst I understand the wish of universities to retain as many players as possible there is a middle ground where players who are not playing to their level should be encouraged to join clubs rather than drifting away from rugby. I hope this will be looked at in the future.
“The performance of the juniors was disappointing in the inter-provincials and maybe it is worth looking at the date on which the inter-provincials are played.
“There are not enough players coming forward to the Munster academy – there may be issues about academy players being available to clubs and I accept that not everybody is happy with the perceived policy but players of high achievement should be encouraged to join the academy or at least play at a good standard.”
The issue of falling numbers participating in rugby domestically is one new Branch President Declan Madden has already promised to address during his term.
Nicholas Comyn believes organising more sevens rugby as well as providing more opportunities with social and/or tag rugby as well as women’s rugby are some of the areas clubs should look at in hoping to reverse the fall-off in numbers playing the game.
“There are difficult times going ahead particularly for senior clubs in terms of the cost of travel, coaching, expenses, equipment etc,” Nicholas Comyn added.
“Last year I drew up a blueprint for an AIL Munster clubs committee, just as the junior clubs have a junior committee, and I believe this should happen rather than relying on the All Ireland Senior Club Rugby Association and if the new Bye-Laws come through then both junior clubs and the senior clubs will be represented properly on the domestic game board. There are other areas of rugby that clubs should consider such as sevens, formulating a women’s team, more social rugby and/or tag rugby. The whole area of domestic games in the future of rugby in Munster must be brought forward and to that end I salute and thank all the volunteers whom I have met throughout my year and before, who have been so heavily involved in clubs, committees, coaching, management, grounds. You are deeply appreciated by Munster rugby and the Munster Branch and we need to keep you involved.”

Taking inspiration from Tom Clifford
When Munster’s Paul O’Connell leads the Lions out in Saturday’s crucial second Test match against the Springboks in Pretoria, he might well take inspiration from the massive contribution his fellow Young Munster clubman Tom Clifford made on the 1950 tour to New Zealand and Australia. By 1949 Tom Clifford was an Irish regular, winning the Triple Crown and championship that year, and he got the Lions call for the following summer’s Lions tour, the first Limerick man ever to wear the red jersey.
Karl Mullen, who played with Clifford at international and Lions level, said : “Tom Clifford was the greatest. He had this quality that I find hard to define, a kind of inner toughness. He would never take any nonsense.”
Clifford played in 19 Lions matches on the 1950 tour, including five of six tests. On his return to Limerick, they had a marching band to welcome him home at Colbert Station. An estimated 8,000 people turned our to cheer.

BDO report highlights Munster’s value to the Limerick economy

MUNSTER fans attending the province’s big fixtures clashes at Thomond Park will spend between €32 and €260 each in Limerick on the day of the game, a major new report has revealed. And, visiting supporters for the big Heineken Cup weekends spend an average of up to €527 each during their stay in Limerick.
The increased capacity at the re-developed Thomond Park has resulted in their financial contribution to the city and region growing by more than €6 million in the past season.
The economic impact study commissioned by Munster Rugby confirmed the fact that the redevelopment of Thomond Park Stadium has resulted in the creation of a major economic stimulus for the local economy.
As well as the injection of revenue, however one of the major outcomes of the study is the level of positive social impact such events have locally.
Visiting supporters stayed an average of 2 nights each, while one in four Ospreys supporters who attended their Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Munster in April, stayed three nights or more.
The study of spending patterns of 445 Ospreys supporters revealed an average spend of €527 per visiting supporter which is similar to the findings of the Economic Impact Study conducted at the Munster versus Wasps pool game where the average spend was €537.
The Heineken Cup quarter final match against Ospreys in April generated €10.5 million for Limerick. The direct expenditure from Irish and Welsh supporters was €4.194 million. The fixture also resulted in 280 part time jobs created over the weekend across local hospitality, food, beverage and retail sectors. Local accommodation providers are of one of the major beneficiaries with 3912 bednights generated locally for the Ospreys match.
A pre-departure study conducted among Ospreys supporters with the assistance of Shannon Development highlighted that the majority of visiting supporters focused on the destination as a sporting and rugby. Two thirds of the visiting supporters associated the city with Munster Rugby, Thomond Park and sport.
The perception of Limerick among visiting supporters focused on the welcoming, friendly and sociable nature of the city.
The top three rated aspects of Limerick among the 445 visiting supporters surveyed were the friendliness of local people, that Limerick is a sports orientated city and the great atmosphere throughout Limerick.
Munster Rugby CEO, Garrett Fitzgerald said: “We are delighted that the investment made in the new Stadium is having such a positive economic impact for the Limerick and the wider business community.
“We were always aware of the level of business activity in the city on the strength of Heineken Cup matches however these study findings confirm the economic potential of stadium events for Limerick City and the Mid West region”
Mark O’Connell, Consulting Director with BDO Simpson Xavier said the value of the media coverage for the city and region was also very significant.
“Games such as the Ospreys game can create a latent tourism spend effect of €12 million for the city based on the international match coverage across all media formats,” Mark O’Connell said.
“”It was estimated that the value of global media coverage for the city for the past season was €58 million including the All Blacks game last November.”
Sales and Marketing Manager for Munster Rugby, Glyn Billinghurst said it was important that they now build on the findings and information gained from these two studies and provide the supporters visiting Thomond Park with activity and events around the match to enhance their visit to Limerick.
“The study also identified a clear need to publicise the activities, offers and events that are organised in Limerick City in advance of any match weekend,” Glyn Billinghurst said.
"This will help grow the major economic impact of any Munster Rugby Match or event in Thomond Park.”

Colm Kinsella

Earls shines but Lions fail to see off Emerging Springboks

LIONS’ forwards coach Warren Gatland revealed that Munster star Keith Earls was one of two players who had impressed him most in the tourists disappointing 13-13 draw with the Emerging Springboks at a windswept and rain-lashed Newlands last night.
Twenty-one-year-old Earls scored his second try of the tour when he neatly wrong-footed the opposition defence and created the space for the full-back to scamper over.
It was Earls’ 13th touchdown of the competitive rugby season.
Afterwards Gatland singled out Earls and prop Tim Payne for special mention, just a few hours before the Lions management sit down to decide on who will be included in the 22 ahead of Saturday’s make-or-break second Test with the Springboks in Pretoria.
“There were also some really nice touches from Keith Earls during the game, although there was probably one poor kick,” Warren Gatland said.
“It’s a bit early to say after the game, but I thought Tim Payne had a strong game after coming in for his first game.
“I would need to have another look at the video, but those two were probably the stand-outs. We’ve got difficult selections to make in terms of personnel and a couple of players put their hands up tonight.
“But we have to make sure we’ve not too reactive after the first Test because there were a heck of a lot of positives in terms of territory, possession and the fact we out-scored South Africa by three tries to two.”
The Lions led 10-3 at the interval against the young Springboks, who hit back in the last minute when Willem de Waal converted Danwel Demas’ try.
Stand-in Lions skipper Ronan O’Gara could not hide his disappointment following the last-gasp draw
“They weren’t much of a threat, but we did not put them away.
“Sometimes in conditions like that, you can be better without the ball,” O’Gara said afterwards.
“We would much have preferred a dry day and ball, especially as both mid-week teams were trying to express themselves. There was a good crowd, two competitive teams, but the conditions were very difficult.
“The period in the middle of the game is probably where we should have put them away.
“But at this level, 80 minutes of rugby is what matters. They came back and caught us in the end so we have to give them some credit.”
Ronan O’Gara’s Munster colleague Donncha O’Callaghan did his chances of again being included in the match 22 for Saturday’s second test in Pretoria no harm with an impressive display.
Munster prop John Hayes, who was called into the touring party last week, played for 67 minutes of the game before being replaced.

British & Irish Lions: Keith Earls (Ireland); Shane Williams (Wales), Riki Flutey (England), Gordon D’Arcy (Ireland), Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland); Ronan O’Gara (Ireland) (capt), Harry Ellis (England); Tim Payne (England), Ross Ford (Scotland), John Hayes (Ireland); Donncha O’Callaghan (Ireland), Nathan Hines (Scotland); Joe Worsley (England), Martyn Williams (Wales), Andy Powell (Wales). Replacements: James Hook (Wales) for O’Gara (45 mins), Simon Shaw (England) for Hines (57 mins), Ugo Monye (England) for Fitzgerald (65 mins), Phil Vickery (England) for Hayes (67 mins), David Wallace (Ireland) for Powell (68 mins), Lee Mears (England) for Ford (75 mins).


Limerick hope supporters will follow O’Sullivan’s lead

ALTHOUGH businessman Pat O’Sullivan has come to Limerick FC’s rescue with what has been described as a “significant and generous” contribution to the club coffers Limerick FC now hope that many more will follow Mr. O’Sullivan’s lead.
The Limerick FC management committee and board said that Mr. O’Sullivan has “stepped up to provide substantial financial support”.
The Super Blues club chairman Jack McCarthy added that “several individuals and businesses have already donated between €250 and €500 to the club” while many more members of the public have already signed up to Leo’s Lottery to bolster the club’s finances.

At a public meeting on Sunday night in the Strand Hotel the League of Ireland club revealed that it required €70,000 by next Saturday, June 20 or the club would face financial ruin - the club appealed to the general public for contributions to “ensure the future of Limerick FC”.
Irrespective of Mr. O’Sullivan’s generous contribution the club desperately hope that even more members of the general public will join Leo’s Lottery at a cost of €21 per month.
On Sunday night the club’s management committee went to great lengths to highlight how far Limerick FC had come since the current administration took over just 18 months ago while it also outlined its plans to become a self-sufficient entity through the development of an income-generating facility at Knockalisheen.
Pat O’Sullivan, who originally hails from Ballylanders and owns Galtee Fuels and Green Heat, maintains an interest in all sports.
And, club PRO Joe McSweeney was careful to highlight Mr. O’Sullivan’s generous contribution last evening: “Pat is a local successful business man with a genuine interest in soccer and he has the future of Limerick FC at heart.
“He brings us considerable business acumen and is a very welcome addition to the Limerick FC board.”
Jack McCarthy, Limerick FC chairman, also expressed his appreciation explaining that the “team is fortunate to have a man of his calibre and standing to join us.
“Soccer being the most played sport in the city, county and indeed the entire mid-west can help to keep young people out of mischief and help them become the best they can be,” he said.
Mr. McCarthy also praised the management committee for its “unwavering dedication” and added that “despite the challenges I have grown to love this club and I am thrilled that local investors are getting behind us.
“Limerick deserves a successful football organization just as in the early 1960s and 1980s.
“Pat O’Sullivan is leading the way and with continuing support from the Limerick community we can achieve our financial goals.”
Although the League of Ireland is on a break this week and the Super Blues will not return to competitive action until Thursday, July 2 when they travel to Monaghan United, manager Pat Scully has strengthened his squad further with by signing Cillian O’Connor from Athea United.
Meanwhile the Limerick FC under-20 side play Mervue United in Galway this Saturday in a pre-season friendly - the under-20 league campaign begins on the first week of July.
If you are prepared to make a contribution to the club or wish to join Leo’s Lottery please contact the Super Blues on 061 324 563 or 085 769 4324.


Harty Cup draw made

ARDSCOIL Ris have been grouped with nine time winners St. Colman’s College, Fermoy in next season’s Dr. Harty Cup.
The North Circular Road Secondary School are in Group D along with Midleton CBS, Cashel CBS and Fermoy. Semi-finalists this season Ardscoil Ris are joined in the Munster senior A colleges hurling championship by Doon CBS.
The east Limerick side are in Group A with St. Caimin’s of Shannon, Blackwater Community School of Lismore and Our Lady’s of Templemore.
The first round of the Dr. Harty Cup will take place on October 7 with round two on October 21 and round three on November 18.
The quarter-finals are pencilled in for January 20 next with the final to be played on February 28, 2010.
In round one Ardscoil Ris will play Mitchelstown CBS while Doon will play 2009 finalists St. Caimin’s of Shannon.
Meanwhile Ardscoil Ris will begin the defence of their Dean Ryan Cup (Munster under-16 1/2 A hurling championship title) against St. Colman’s of Fermoy on September 30.
If Limerick’s only team in the competition progress to the quarter-final they will face either Midleton or De La Salle.
It was hoped that a combination of Castletroy College, St. Clement’s College, Crescent College Comprehensive and St. Munchin’s would benefit the promotion of hurling at secondary school level.
While the Limerick City Schools side did not come to fruition, one new team in next season’s competition will be a team representing Kerry Colleges.
Meanwhile, one game will take place this Friday evening in Limerick’s Live 95FM sponsored county senior hurling championship. The re-fixed replay between Ahane and Bruree will take place in Bruff at 7.30pm.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Munster make a massive impact

MUNSTER’S magnificent 34-point win over the Ospreys (43-9) in the Heineken Cup quarter-final on April 12 benefited Limerick city and county to the tune of €10.5 million while the persistent success of Tony McGahan’s men is working to improve the perception of the city as a friendly and sociable place among visiting supporters.

At a breakfast briefing hosted by Thomond Park this morning the findings of a recent economic impact study commissioned by Munster Rugby and undertaken by BDO Simpson Xavier revealed that the Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with the Ospreys in April generated €10.5 million for Limerick while the study also revealed that the financial contribution to the city and region has grown by over €6 million since the stadium was re-developed and the respective capacity increased.
Commenting on the impact of the Heineken Cup games on Limerick city and county Munster Rugby CEO Garrett Fitzgerald said: “We are delighted that the investment made in the new stadium is having such a positive economic impact for Limerick and the wider business community.
“We were always aware of the level of business activity in the city on the strength of Heineken Cup matches however these study findings confirm the economic potential of stadium events for Limerick city and the mid-west region.”
Mark O’Connell, Consulting Director with BDO Simpson Xavier, echoed Mr. Fitzgerald’s comments.
“The study reveals a number of major profile benefits for the city in addition to the obvious financial boost these games generate,” BDO Simpson Xavier’s Mark O’Connell explained.
“The previous economic impact study conducted for the Munster versus Wasps game in January 2008 highlighted an almost identical spend per visiting supporter of €530 over the weekend of the games. The major difference for the city is now the ability of Thomond Park to accommodate more Munster and visiting supporters and create a much higher level of economic activity across the city.
“The value of the media coverage for the city and region is also very significant. Games such as the Ospreys game can create a latent tourism spend effect of €12 million for the city based on the international match coverage across all media formats,” added Mr. O’Connell.
“Indeed, it was estimated that the value of global media coverage for the city for the past season was €58 million including the All Blacks game last November.”
Commenting on the overall impact of Munster games at Thomond Park Sales and Marketing Manager for Munster Rugby, Glyn Billinghurst explained that “it is important that we now build on the findings and information gained from these two studies and provide the supporters visiting Thomond Park with activity and events around the match to enhance their visit to Limerick.
“The study also identified a clear need to publicise the activities, offers and events that are organised in Limerick city in advance of any match weekend. This will help grow the major economic impact of any Munster rugby match or event in Thomond Park”.

Brian McDonnell

Hayes starts against the Emerging Springboks

CAPPAMORE’S John Hayes, who only joined the British & Irish Lions squad late last week, has been parachuted straight into the tourist’s side to face the Emerging Springboks today at Newlands in Cape Town (kick-off 6.10pm).
Ronan O’Gara will captain the side which also includes Munster colleagues Donncha O’Callaghan and Keith Earls with flanker David Wallace named on the bench.
The clash with the Emerging Springboks represents the Lions’ final mid-week fixture of their 10-match tour and comes just four days before the second Test against South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday - head coach Ian McGeechan is due to name his Test team on Thursday.
Dr. James Robson, who leads the tourists’ medical team, was thrilled with Munster’s John Hayes explaining on Sunday that “the good news is that John Hayes is fit. He arrived yesterday and looks in good fettle.”
Ronan O’Gara has become the fifth different player to captain the Lions following Paul O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll, Phil Vickery and Donncha O’Callaghan while the Cork man leads a side which contains six players who were involved in Saturday’s 21-26 Test defeat against the world champions. Test replacements Donncha O’Callaghan and Martyn Williams both start while line-up members Ugo Monye, Lee Mears, Phil Vickery and David Wallace are all on the bench. Hayes, who has replaced ankle injury victim Euan Murray, will join England’s Tim Payne in the front row.
And, the Munster legend is still in with a shout to face the Springboks in Pretoria next weekend. Last Saturday, during the first eight scrums, the Lions conceded three penalties and shipped nine points as a direct result which surely opens the door to a complete re-structuring of the front-row for the second Test.
Commenting on the team selection head coach Ian McGeechan said: “There were many positives that came out of the Test match on Saturday.
“The Emerging Springboks match, and our training this week, will allow us to build on these plus address areas we know we need to improve on.
“There is still a lot to play for and the players are well aware of that.
“The mood in camp is still very positive due to the fact that we did come very close to winning on Saturday and the fact that we created so many scoring opportunities.
“The players are well aware of the importance of the match against the Emerging Springboks. We need to step up our performance against a talented outfit whose players, like ours, will be determined to show that they are worthy of a Test place. It should be a great match.
“The two latest squad members Tim Payne and John Hayes will start against the Emerging Springboks to give them immediate field time.
“This is important in terms of the balance of the squad as three of our other props played in the Test match only two days ago and Andrew Sheridan is recovering from injury.”

British & Irish Lions versus the Emerging Springboks: Keith Earls (Ireland), Shane Williams (Wales), Riki Flutey (England), Gordon D’Arcy (Ireland), Luke Fitzgerald (Ireland), Ronan O’Gara (Ireland), Harry Ellis (England), Tim Payne (England), Ross Ford (Scotland), John Hayes (Ireland), Donncha O’Callaghan (Ireland), Nathan Hines (Scotland), Joe Worsley (England), Martyn Williams (Wales) & Andy Powell (Wales).
Replacements: Lee Mears (England), Phil Vickery (England), Simon Shaw (England), David Wallace (Ireland), Mike Blair (Scotland), James Hook (Wales) & Ugo Monye (England).

Brian McDonnell

Monday, June 22, 2009

Time is fast running out for a financially stricken Limerick

TIME is running out for Limerick FC - the club requires a financial injection to the tune of €70,000 from the general public by next Saturday or the 72-year-old Super Blues will cease to exist.
At a public meeting in the Strand Hotel on Sunday evening the League of Ireland club’s management committee outlined the fact that Limerick FC can no longer rely on the financial support of chairman Jack McCarthy and that the process to wind up the club will begin today, June 22.

There is hope however.
Jack McCarthy has allowed the management committee a “stay of execution” until next Saturday, June 27, but a substantial financial commitment is required before then to save the club.
Last night’s meeting, which was opened by PRO Joe Sweeney and attended by 69 members of the public, began with general manager Kieran Judge explaining the financial position of the stricken club.
Kieran Judge explained that the management committee received a letter from Jack McCarthy, dated June 11, which informed the club that Mr. McCarthy was resigning as chairman and that the process involved in winding up the League of Ireland club would begin on Monday, June 22.
To compete in the League of Ireland a club requires an income of at least €200,000 per annum while the Limerick FC budget this season ranges between €240,000 and €250,000 - the Super Blues currently attempt to survive on a gate income of €70,000.
That income is based on an average home gate of 400 paying customers while the club estimates that it requires a constant influx of 1,100 supporters at home games to guarantee the long-term future of the club.
In Jack McCarthy’s 18 months as chairman of Limerick FC the US-based businessman has poured €300,000 into the Super Blues, but McCarthy is now not in a position to support the club from a financial point of view.
“We have lost our main benefactor,” explained Kieran Judge.
“Since we received Jack’s letter we have exhausted every other avenue possible so now we’re turning to the public in an appeal for funds.
“Jack came in intending to stabilise the club and he did that. Now it’s up to the people of Limerick to support it.”
Former CEO of the club Andrew Mawhinney further illustrated the financial woes of the club by pointing out that Limerick FC have exceeded their overdraft limit and that €70,000 was required to keep the club afloat for the rest of the season.
“To be fair to Jack McCarthy, he saved and re-invented the club,” added Andrew Mawhinney, “but like any businessman he has taken a big hit this year and he simply cannot afford to put more money into Limerick FC. Jack is no longer in a position to support the club. And, if a rescue package is not forthcoming the company will be wound up, our League of Ireland licence will be revoked and we will have no team.”
In an emotional address to those in attendance club promotions officer Paul O’Riordan highlighted how far the club has come during the past 18 months while he especially highlighted how the development of the Knockalisheen centre into an income-generating facility could guarantee the long-term future of Limerick FC.
“Our plan has always been to become self-sufficient and with the amount of soccer being played in Limerick and the support for soccer here we should be able to maintain a senior soccer club in Limerick,” Paul O’Riordan said.
“We are confident that self-sufficiency is achievable. We plan to bring the club to that stage, but our problem now is short-term. We want to get to a stage where we no longer have crises like this one and that the club will be able to run itself. We want to develop the best soccer facility in the mid-west, but we are still two or three years away from seeing Knockalisheen developed into an income-generating facility. We are looking to be a club, not just a team.
“Over the last 18 months the management committee has voluntarily devoted over 6,000 hours to the club. We believe in the potential of this club and we believe that there are people out there who can help us drive the club forward. We’re looking to get to a stage where we don’t need anyone to help us out. We don’t want any more bail outs. We want to get to a stage where we can look after ourselves.”
Club secretary Michael O’Sullivan further echoed those sentiments: “we want to give young players a platform to represent Limerick city and county in the League of Ireland. That has been the focus of this club down through the years through all its various guises. Are we going to tell these young players that if you want to play League of Ireland football you are going to have to go to Cork or Galway to do so? I hope not!”
The FAI could find itself facing a significant PR fall out from the meeting in the Strand Hotel on Sunday evening.
When Joe Sweeney opened the meeting to the floor the very first question referred to rumours circulating for the past number of weeks that the FAI had some hand to play in frustrating the Super Blues’ attempts to host a high-profile friendly at Thomond Park.
As previously reported by Leader Sport Limerick FC had lined up Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town for a friendly which Thomond Park was expected to host on July 17 next. That friendly, which could have generated an estimated €100,000 for the club, was cancelled recently with Waterford United now planning to host Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town at the RSC in Waterford on that exact date.
While FAI CEO John Delaney was in Limerick last week, along with International Performance Director Wim Koevermans, for the Kennedy Cup which was hosted by the University of Limerick it is not known at this point whether Mr. Delaney has had any input into how the Super Blues can extricate themselves from their current financial difficulties.
A member of the public who attended last night’s meeting described the rumour that the “FAI had interfered with the staging of a friendly at Thomond Park” as a “scandal” while another speaker on the night said: “the onus is on the FAI to keep the game alive in this city - all this for the sake of €70,000. Their function is to keep clubs like this one alive. They’re the people who should be trying to save this club, but it sounds like they’re actually tripping ye up. In my opinion it’s two fingers up to the FAI if we can manage to keep this club alive.”
Club PRO Joe Sweeney said that “we are in on-going negotiations with the FAI. We’re not at liberty, at the request of the FAI, to discuss the details of those negotiations.”
Former CEO of the club Andrew Mawhinney described the loss of the high-profile friendly to the club as the “saddest day of my life”.
Andrew Mawhinney resigned, due to personal reasons, as CEO of the club last February, but Mr. Mawhinney remained on as a member of the board while he also agreed to take responsibility for two projects on behalf of the club.
A disheartened Andrew Mawhinney said that he was personally disappointed that both projects had failed. Promoting Limerick FC’s return to the Market’s Field was one of those projects.
Although the FAI will present a vision document for the development of a municipal stadium at the Market’s Field to the stakeholders during the coming weeks Mr. Mawhinney did not look confident that a return to the spiritual home of Limerick soccer was in the offing.
Andrew Mawhinney’s other major project involved Limerick FC hosting a high-profile friendly at Thomond Park which the former CEO now admits is “not going to happen”.
Mr. Mawhinney, who looked obviously perturbed by the experience, said that “we were confident of holding a high-profile friendly at Thomond Park, but due to circumstances beyond our control that friendly is not going to happen”.
Limerick FC are hoping that one of two rescue options can save the 72-year-old club from extinction. ‘Rescue Option One’ involves ten additional directors joining the club at a cost of €7,000 per director.
But the most practicable option, and obviously the preferred choice of the club, is ‘Rescue Option Two’.
‘Rescue Option Two’ involves three separate parts - firstly the club hopes that 400 members of the public will join Leo’s Lottery at a cost of €21 per month or €5.25 per week. Four hundred additional subscriptions to the monthly club lotto would generate an income of €31,500 for Limerick FC.
The club also hopes that 37 businesses will contribute €500 (generating €18,500 for Limerick FC) while the management committee also hope that 100 individuals will be prepared to donate €250 to the Super Blues (€25,000 in all).
If you are prepared to make a contribution to the club or if you can help the club surmount their financial obstacles in any way please contact Limerick FC on 061 324 563 or club PRO Joe Sweeney on 086 234 4833 as soon as possible.


Wexford Park will host hurlers’ qualifier clash

LIMERICK’S journey through the All-Ireland hurling championship back door will begin with a 225-mile round trip to Wexford on Saturday, July 11.
Justin McCarthy’s team and supporters face the six-hour trip after last night’s qualifier draw handed Limerick an away game against Colm Bonnar’s Wexford.
The qualifier phase two game will take place in Wexford Park, with the throw-in time to be confirmed in the coming days.
If Limerick can overcome the Model County they will be back in action one week later when they face either Cork, Offaly, Laois or Antrim for a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Were Limerick to fail in Wexford, a relegation play-off would await them.
Limerick selector Liam Garvey is confident that his side can bounce back after Saturday’s eight-point replay loss to Waterford in Thurles.
“This Limerick team will bounce back - there are some very good hurlers in this Limerick team and they will bounce back,” said Garvey.
“It’s a rebuilding process every time you loose.
“There was a lot learned and a few things that we can pick up on and improve on,” he accepted.
Limerick and Wexford have met on five occasions in championship hurling - Limerick’s only win was in the All-Ireland final of 1918.
Wexford defeated Limerick in the All-Ireland finals of 1910 and 1996, the semi-final in 1955 and most recently the quarter-final of 2001.
While Limerick fell to The Decies by eight points on Saturday evening, Wexford were shocked 0-18 to 1-13 by Anthony Daly’s Dublin yesterday in Nowlan Park.
“It was a disappointing finish to the match - we were in the match with about 10 minutes to go,” recalled Liam Garvey of Limerick’s defeat.
“The breaks didn’t go our way and they took some very good scores while we found it hard to score in the last 10 minutes.
“When we were playing with the wind, Waterford played very deep and crowded it and there wasn’t much space and we just didn’t seem to get onto the ball.
“They are a very experienced team, they have won three Munster championships and are together a long time and they were very composed on the ball and were able to release people into shooting positions.”
Garvey said that the management will look to the positives ahead of the All-Ireland qualifiers.
“We are still in a transition phase and trying to change the team around a small bit and play a bit differently,” commented the selector.
“Today we didn’t get the scores when it mattered.
“The wind was probably worth four or five points today and you needed to be ahead at half time and we were two points down. But fair play to the team, they battled very hard in the second half and we were still in the game with eight to 10 minutes to go.”


O’Connell criticises refereeing decisions

ALTHOUGH heartened by the British & Irish Lions stirring fight-back against South Africa in Durban on Saturday captain Paul O’Connell has reacted angrily to the performance of New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence.
The tourists lost 21-26 to the Springboks, but not before Lawrence penalized Phil Vickery five times for standing up in the scrum or binding incorrectly which eventually forced the withdrawal of the Englishman.
The entire Lions pack, including Munster’s Paul O’Connell, felt aggrieved by those decisions.

“The scrums were disappointing because we had so many penalties, especially in good attacking situations,” O’Connell explained.
“That’s something we have to look at. The referee said Phil was constantly boring in, but I didn’t think so.
“Phil is a very experienced prop who has played rugby at the top for a long time.
“Why he would make the same mistake at four or five scrums is beyond me.”
Those penalties helped South Africa into a 26-7 lead early in the second half before Adam Jones replaced Vickery and the Lions scored 14 unanswered points to set up a grand finale.
“When we played rugby, we were very good,” Paul O’Connell insisted.
“We opened them up and we have just got to keep doing that. I think we ran out of time. But when the ref gives that many penalties against you, you don’t really stand a chance. It was just penalty, after penalty, after penalty.
“It’s going to be difficult now, but there is still a lot of belief there. When we played how we wanted to play, we did very well and created lots of scoring opportunities. I think the guys will be looking forward to next week.”
The second Test takes place at the Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, the nation’s capital, next Saturday.
And, with the Lions heartened by their second half display in Durban - it was truly extraordinary to see the South Africans relieved to hoof the ball into the stands after the world champions held on for a five-point win - Ian McGeechan’s side will hope for a more positive result in Pretoria.
The Lions also have to contend with a mid-week game against the Emerging Springboks on Tuesday in Cape Town (2pm, Sky Sports) before traveling to Pretoria on Friday - Cappamore’s John Hayes, who was called up to replace Scotland’s Euan Murray on Thursday, has now joined the touring party.
Although Ian McGeechan’s men won all six of their warm-up games Saturday’s defeat means the Lions have now lost six Tests in-a-row since beating Australia in the first match of the 2001 series in Brisbane.
The final two tests, both of which will be played at altitude, take place in Pretoria and Johannesburg - never before have the Lions won Tests at both venues on the same tour.
Meanwhile Munster forward John O’Sullivan has signed a two-year deal with French second-tier club Agen. The 28-year-old, who can play in all three back-row positions, spent four seasons with the two-time European champions, making 33 Magners League and three Heineken Cup appearances.
The Tralee man joined Munster in 2005 after spell with Connacht.
O’Sullivan was released from his Munster contract at the end of the 2008-09 season, but now resumes his professional rugby-playing career in France.


Lee sees off Fedetovs for 18th pro win

LIMERICK’S Detroit-based professional boxer Andy Lee could be back in the ring in the late summer after Saturday night’s 18th win of his pro-career.
The Castleconnell middleweight’s latest win came at Germany’s Gelsenkirchen’s Veltins Arena with a six-round points win over Latvian boxer Olegs Fedetovs.
The 25-year-old sustained a cut above his right eye, which will be monitored this week, but all going according to plan Andy Lee’s coach-manager Emanuel Steward will have him back in the ring within two months.

“I’m really delighted to win tonight, this was my 19th fight in my career and I see the victory as another building block in moving forward in my career and obtaining experience.
“It was a real honour to be on the undercard of a world heavyweight title fight in a sold out 60,000-capacity venue here in Germany,” said Lee after the win which brought his record to 18-1.
“I hope to get a fight in July or August in the states and keep myself busy, but tonight I am going to relish and enjoy the win and feeling of success,” said the Limerick man.
“It wasn’t my best performance, but it’s a win all the same.”
On Saturday night the three scoring judges awarding Lee victory by 60-51, 60-53 and 59-55.
Top-of-the-bill action saw German-based Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko retain his IBF and WBO world heavyweight titles with a late retirement victory over out-jabbed Ruslan Chagaev of Uzbekistan in front of a crowd of 61,000.
Prior to that encounter - in front of an arena barely a quarter full - Lee was in charge of his contest from the outset.
Sporting a beard Andy Lee, who took to the ring in the second bout of the evening, proved untroubled by the significant lack of atmosphere.
He made sure of the opener by regularly following his jab with lefts to the head to force his tattooed opponent onto the back foot, one such left rocked Fedetovs onto his heels as the bell neared at the end of a one-sided opener. The former St. Francis Boxing Club Olympian, who had even doubled as a light southpaw sparring partner for the giant heavyweight bill-topper Wladimir Klitschko in the run up to this bout, dominated the second round, but found Fedetovs a little more game in the third.
However, much of what the Latvian threw was wild and he frequently fell short of his intended target, allowing Lee to score with counter lefts.
With the Limerick man having taken his foot off the gas a little, the fight firmly under his control, the fourth and fifth rounds proved closer-fought affairs.
Fedetovs managed to reply against the run of play with the odd right hook to the head, but whilst this was undoubtedly his best spell of the evening, the Latvian was still lacking accuracy and his fate was sealed mid-way through the last round when he was sent to the canvas with a glancing left to the chin.
Despite rising at a count of four, Fedetovs was mentally and physically defeated and the loss brought his pro record to 10-6.


FAI announce details of tickets for Thomond clash

ON Friday afternoon last (June 19) the FAI announced that tickets for the Republic of Ireland’s friendly against Australia in Thomond Park on August 12 will go on sale from Wednesday, June 24 - tickets will be made available to the general public on ticketmaster.ie and will be sold in 18 outlets throughout Munster and Connacht while tickets in Limerick city are available from Gleeson Sports Scene on Upper William Street. Tickets for the game will also be available to buy in Record Rack in Ennis and at Roxy Records in Shannon.
Tickets for this the eagerly-awaited clash will be available for €25 (South terrace), €35 (East and West terrace) and €55 (East and West stands) - 2,000 €7 tickets will also be distributed through schoolboy and schoolgirl clubs throughout the country in July.
Mere weeks ago Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni visited Gleeson Sports Scene, along with FAI CEO John Delaney, to launch 1,000 pre-release tickets for the match against the Socceroos on Wednesday, August 12 (kick-off 7.30pm).
“I am looking forward to returning to Limerick in August to play Australia,” Trapattoni told Leader Sport.
“The game will be a good opportunity to prepare for the important World Cup qualifier against Cyprus on September 5. I hope it will give everyone in the mid-west an opportunity to get behind the team against a highly-rated Australian side. Limerick is a very nice place.
“It’s important to us to play well, to show people what our football is about and to get more kids in the region playing football. We believe that the facilities are there, the stadium is really good and we believe that the fans will come to the stadium for this occasion. This will give the fans an opportunity to watch us. Until now they have only been able to see us on television and we wanted to change that. We hope people will come and join us in Thomond Park.”
Trapattoni made an appearance in Limerick following the Republic of Ireland’s one-all draw in Sofia on Saturday night - a result which should at the very least secure a World Cup play-off spot for Ireland while it also ended Bulgaria’s qualification hopes.
The Republic now trail group leaders Italy by a point while the Italians hold a game in hand over Ireland. Ireland’s next competitive fixture is against away to Cyprus on Sept. 5 and Giovanni Trapattoni will use the game against Australia at Thomond Park as a warm-up for that critical encounter.
The Republic will play a second international friendly against South Africa on Tuesday,
September 8 in Thomond Park before they complete their qualifying campaign against Italy and Montenegro.
Pim Verbeek’s Australian side became the second team, mere hours after Japan, to qualify for the World Cup on Saturday following their nil-all draw away to Qatar - the Australians remain unbeaten in their 2010 campaign and should feature players like Scott McDonald (Celtic), Harry Kewell (Galatasaray) and Tim Cahill (Everton) for their visit to Limerick. The game against Australia respresents the first time the Irish senior team has ever played in Limerick and will be the first meeting of the sides since 2003 when the Irish beat the Socceroos 2-1 at Lansdowne Road.


Sean Cronin’s try helps Ireland A to a stunning win

A try from Castletroy’s Sean Cronin just one minute into the second half set Ireland on their way to a 49-22 victory over the England Saxons in the Churchill Cup final in Colorado.
The try from the Connacht hooker pushed Ireland’s lead to 25-12 and even the introduction of Danny Cipriani and Shane Geraghty to the Saxons’ lineout could not ignite a fightback.
The Limerick man was one of the stars of the competition, along with Munster bound full back Felix Jones, Munster back row Niall Ronan and Johnny Sexton.
Yesterday’s emphatic victory ensures a perfect end to Declan Kidney’s first season as national coach. Kidney and the senior coaching staff used the tournament in Colorado to explore Irish strength in depth and it proved a resounding success.
England made the early running and Rugby League convert Stephen Myler initially looked the part, the Northampton Saints fly-half landing two early penalties.
Sexton responded with a penalty and gradually began to dictate the tempo, showing a Ronan O’Gara cross-field kick is also part of his repertoire. Right wing Denis Hurley of Munster did well to gather but Bath fullback Nick Abendanon made a fine try-saving tackle.
From the resulting scrum, Ireland worked the phases with Cian Healy held up inches short before a clever Niall Ronan offload sent Devon Toner over for a 14th minute try. Sexton added the conversion but Myler kept the Saxons in touch with his third penalty as temperatures peaked at 117 degrees.
Ireland were playing excellent continuity rugby with Brian O’Driscoll’s understudy at Leinster, McFadden, making a clean line break, Sean Cronin rumbled a few extra yards before Isaac Boss crashed over. Sexton made it 17-9 and despite dominating the set pieces, the Saxons only points were coming off the boot of Myler after Tony Buckley was penalised for not holding his bind against David Flatman.
Some excellent fielding by Munster bound fullback Felix Jones laid the platform for another try, but the attack ended with Saxons prop Dan Cole sin-binned for not rolling away. Irish number eight Chris Henry joined him when Australian referee Matt Goddard harshly yellow carded him for retaliation.
Unperturbed, Sexton slipped into the pocket to nail a drop goal before needless hands in the ruck saw him binned a minute before half-time. Myler missed the resulting penalty.
Starting the second-half with 13 men to the Saxons 14, Ireland got the perfect start with Cronin brushing off Stuart Hooper and Tom Varndell for a try that put Ireland out of sight.
England responded immediately with Ben Woods repeating his Heineken Cup final trick to fend off Niall Ronan and club mate Johne Ronan for a try in the corner. Any chance of a revival ended, however, when Felix Jones raced over on 55 minutes. An attacking scrum came off a kick by Myler going dead down the other end.
Jones split through the defence again moments later, after another nice piece of fielding, he offloaded to McFadden who did likewise to put Murphy over for a fifth try.
Danny Cipriani and Shane Geraghty were introduced by the Saxons, but despite such lofty reputations neither player could make an impact as Connacht captain John Muldoon bull-dozed over late on. A Tom Vardell try in injury time made no impact.

Ireland A: F Jones; D Hurley, F McFadden, K Matthews, J Murphy; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, S Cronin, T Buckley; D Ryan, D Toner; N Best (capt), N Ronan, C Henry. Replacements: J Muldoon for C Henry (42 mins), D Fogarty for S Cronin (60 mins).

England Saxons: N Abendanon; N Cato, D Waldouck, B Barritt, T Varndell; S Myler, M Young; D Flatman, R Webber, D Cole; S Hooper, N Kennedy; P Dowson (capt), B Woods, L Narraway.
Referee: M Goddard (Australia).


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Take two for optimistic Limerick

IT’S take-two this Saturday (5pm) in Semple Stadium, Thurles for the senior hurlers of Limerick and Waterford.
This week in Limerick there is an increasing optimism that Justin McCarthy, Brian Ryan and Liam Garvey can lead the Shannonsiders into a provincial final.
One thing is for sure, the weather and the standard of hurling can’t be any worse in Saturday’s replay.

Limerick were the side that finished with the momentum in their sails in the drawn game and it is key that they continue where they left off.
Many have questioned the mental scars of Waterford after last September’s All-Ireland final collapse.
When Limerick did raise a gallop after the half time break in the drawn game Waterford looked insecure.
It is vital that Limerick ask questions of their opponents in the opening quarter and perhaps awaken the doubts that must exist in their minds.
It took Limerick until the 11th minute to open their scoring account last week and by then Waterford were three points to the good.
Let’s not be foolish, confidence is not sky-high in the Limerick camp, but if they can build on last week’s second half the bookies odds of 11-8 begin to look attractive.
There was much to admire about Limerick’s defensive display last Sunday with just two of the Waterford attack scoring from play and once Damien Reale nullified John Mullane not a single score was conceded in the second half from open play.
The second half fight back was inspired from the half-back line where Brian Geary, Mark Foley and Denis Moloney dominated.
It is perceived that Geary and Foley could be caught for pace and any change of tactic by Davy Fitzgerald will need to be countered by the Limerick management.
While the Limerick team was not available at the time of going to print, the only change from one to nine could be the selection of Moloney ahead of Stephen Walsh.
Much of last Sunday’s game by-passed midfield.
Seamus Hickey did his best to inspire those around him and covered vast areas of Tom Semple’s field, but his direct opponent Stephen Molumphy also played plenty of ball for The Decies.
Donal O’Grady and Shane O’Sullivan were absent for long periods and if the Granagh-Ballingarry man can find his rhythm for the replay, Limerick will prosper.
Attack is undoubtedly where Limerick will seek improvement. Eight different players contributed to the total of 13 wides.
There was much rotating of players in the opening half and the unit appeared to settle when James Ryan grew into his role at centre forward.
There were eyebrows raised in Waterford with the inclusion of the WIT wing-back in Limerick’s attack, but the Galbally man drove forward at every opportunity and helped to stem the dominance of Brick Walsh.
It was clear that Ollie Moran needs match practise. After missing the league with a knee injury, last Sunday was Moran’s first competitive inter-county encounter since last July and although many questioned managements persistence with the Ahane man, the 70 minutes should stand to him on Saturday evening.
Andrew O’Shaughnessy is another that always carries the hopes of the Green and White army. It is clear that ‘Shaughs’ is not high on confidence at present, but hope remains that just one breaking ball could turn his season.
In the past Justin McCarthy has been known for wholesale changes and he must have spent hours of the past week looking at the varying permutations available in attack.
Na Piarsaigh’s David Breen surely did enough to start at the edge of the square as long as his persistent hamstring injury holds up.
One half-forward line combination could see James Ryan in the centre with the Moran brothers either side.
With Breen at number 14, that would leave O’Shaughnessy, Ryan, Sheehan, Tobin, Browne and Mulcahy as options in the two corners.
Win or loose Limerick’s next appointment in the championship will be on the weekend of July 11-12 - that’s unless there is another tirlogy in the offering.

Jerome O’Connell

Turning the tide

HAS the pendulum swung in Limerick’s favour, that’s the big question?
Justin McCarthy’s men entered last Sunday’s Munster hurling semi-final as underdogs, but a stunning recovery from six points down now leaves the Shannonsiders facing this Saturday’s replay in confident mood.

While Sunday’s game in Thurles represented the lowest-scoring Munster championship game in 24 years (Clare and Tipperary drew 1-8 apiece in 1985) the replay should present supporters with a better indication of what both sides are capable of.
Limerick report no fresh injury concerns while Waterford will desperately miss talisman Ken McGrath who, due to a knee injury, has been ruled out for the next six weeks.
Limerick have taken part in five Munster championship replays since 1996 winning two, losing two and drawing one encounter while Waterford, who have taken part in five replays since 1989, have won four and lost only one.
Since the game will not be televised live a crowd exceeding 30,000 is expected in Semple Stadium - the game will be streamed live on RTE.ie.
The Munster Council have confirmed that the Limerick and Waterford replay will have a 5.00pm start in Semple Stadium and that ticket prices have been reduced by €5.
Tickets will be sold in advance for both stands while cash will be accepted on entry to the terraces.
Tickets went on sale last Monday afternoon from Ticketmaster outlets while the clubs of Limerick received their allocations on Tuesday night.
On Thursday tickets will go on public sale from the Gaelic Grounds between 9.30am and 8.00pm.
Ahead of next Saturday Limerick captain Mark Foley has called for his colleagues to ‘raise their game’ and book a Munster final place on July 12.
“Overall we would be looking for a better return from play the next day - we scored 1-8 and that won’t win any championship game for you,” admitted Adare’s Mark Foley.
“Overall, whereas it was close and exciting at times, the standard wasn’t great and you would be hoping from a neutral perspective that the quality will be better the next time.”
Next Saturday’s replay has forced the postponement of round two of the Limerick’s Live 95FM sponsored county senior hurling championship which will now not take place until late July at the very earliest.
Meanwhile the corresonding Munster semi-final between Tipperary and Clare will take place at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday (throw-in 4pm).

Jerome O’Connell

Lee: ‘I am still learning through my fights’

ANDY Lee has described the prospect of fighting in front of 60,000 spectators as “truly amazing”.
The Limerick pro-boxer enters the ring for his 19th pro-boxing contest this Saturday night on the undercard of the World Heavyweight clash of champion Waldimir Klitschko and Ruslan Chagaev.

The heavyweight contest takes place in the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
The soccer stadium of Schalke 04 will be packed to its capacity of 60,000. The impressive arena opened in 2001 as the new home ground for the leading Bundesliga club and it hosted the 2004 UEFA Champions League final and five matches in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, including a quarter-final.
“I’m really honoured to have the opportunity to fight on the card, it is not every day you get a change like this; the undercard of a World Heavyweight Title fight in a sold out 60,000 capacity venue is truly amazing,” said Castleconnell’s Lee of Saturday’s fight.
Lee, who celebrated his 25th birthday last week, will face Lativan Olegs Fedotovs in an eight round Middleweight contest. While the former St Francis Boxing Club Olympian brings a record of 17 wins from 18 fights to the ring, Fedotovs’ record reads 10 wins and five losses. Andy Lee has spent much of the last month in the Austrian Alps on a training camp with coach-manager Emanuel Steward and fellow Kronk Gym boxers, Klitschko and Jonathan Banks.
“Waldimir is a real professional and is an inspiration and role model to me as a boxer in the process of learning my trade,” said Lee.
“I am very focussed on developing my boxing skills and this fight gives me the opportunity to gain yet more experience. I have been a professional now for just over three years and I am still learning through my fights and in the gym,” said the southpaw.
Saturday will be Lee’s second fight of the year. Back in March he defeated Alexander Sipos in Dublin’s O2 on the undercard of Barnard Dunne’s world title fight.
“Andy is one of the most committed and dedicated fighter’s I have ever worked with,” said Emanuel Steward in praise of his star.
“He lives a very disciplined life and has always had a very mature attitude in his approach to his boxing career.
“Andy is a pleasure to be around and work with - he will shine in this forthcoming fight.”
Saturday night’s boxing event is being televised by Sky Sports with their broadcast commencing at 10pm, but it is not known if Andy Lee’s fight will be included in their live coverage.
Meanwhile fellow Limerick pro-boxer Jamie Power will have his 6th pro bout in National Basketball arena Dublin on July 25.
The ex-St. Francis boxer, who holds a perfect record of five wins from five fights, will be do battle with fellow Irishman John Waldron of Mayo.
A win for the Caherconlish man could set up an Irish title shot against Dubliner Jim Rock.
Waldron is not unknown to Limerick fight fans as he was the last man to oppose Andy Lee as an amateur when the Mayoman fought Lee in the Pery Hotel on his return from the Athens Olympic Games in a show hosted by Andy’s club St. Francis.
“This contest has been talked about on a few occasions, but never came off because of different issues - John is from Connaught and I’m from Munster so Dublin is a perfect neutral location for this fight to happen and it promises to be a cracker on a really exciting night of boxing. I can’t wait.
“A lack of sparring had a lot to do with my last performance which wasn’t my best, but Ken has sorted that for this one and I am currently getting the rounds in with some very tough guys, after six weeks and about a hundred rounds of sparring I’ll be fully ready for John Waldron,” said Power, who is training under the watchful eye of manager Ken Moore, trainer Finbarr O’Brien and conditioner Mario Felliciallo.
The July 25 show is being run by Hyland Promotions.
Tickets cost €50 go on sale at the start of next week and can be booked by calling 061 422 244.

Jerome O’Connell

Paul O’Connell closes in on his crowning glory

WITH Saturday’s first test against the world champions mere days away Limerick rugby legend Paul O’Connell is closing in on his crowning glory - his chance to lead the British & Irish Lions out against South Africa in Durban on Saturday (2pm, Sky Sports).
All the guessing games will come to an end tomorrow (Thursday) at lunch time when Ian McGeechan will name his match day 22 to face the Springboks.
The British & Irish Lions, with Limerick’s Keith Earls featuring at full-back, completed the build-up to their first test with a hard-fought 20-8 win over the Southern Kings in the Mandela Bay Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.

Although the Lions’ 12-point winning margin would suggest otherwise the clash with the Southern Kings proved a bruising encounter.
And, Ian McGeechan is counting the cost with Euan Murray (ankle) and James Hook (concussion) now listed as doubtful for Saturday’s battle with the South Africans.
The Lions struggled for long periods against the Southern Kings and were grateful for a penalty try which allowed the touring side a little breathing room late in the second half.
Munster’s Donncha O’Callaghan captained the side and although David Wallace was named on the bench he played no part in Tuesday’s game in Port Elizabeth.
Ronan O’Gara, who was outstanding when introduced as a replacement in the 12th minute, drew the sides level at three points apiece before pushing the Lions into a three-point lead with another penalty just after the break. The Munster out-half then picked out winger Ugo Monye with a superb cross-field kick for the Lions’ first try which the Cork man also converted. Referee Nigel Owens awarded a penalty try against the Southern Kings in the 68th minute for infringements at the scrum and O’Gara converted to give the tourists a seventeen-point lead (20-3) entering the final minutes. The Kings did score a late try, but such resistance proved futile.
The Irish fly-half also pulled off a superb try-saving tackle on the Southern Kings’ Wylie Human after the Lions defence had been initially shredded at a crucial juncture in the game. Referee Nigel Owens also sin-binned two Southern Kings players - fly-half Van der Westhuyzen and Ross Skeate.
Having played twice previously in the centre for the Lions Keith Earls was, this time, handed the full-back role. The Limerick man sliced through the Southern Kings’ defence on occasion, but it is unknown at this point whether Earls’ display, allied to his try-scoring performance in Bloemfontein on Saturday, was enough to force his way into the test side.
It’s interesting to note that 12 probable test starters, including captain Paul O’Connell, had already flown north up the coast and watched the game against the Southern Kings from a safe distance. Ian McGeechan is taking no chances with his side to face the South Africans in the first test.
Although McGeechan has long insisted that the match day 22 for Saturday would not be selected until after the game against the Southern Kings the evidence would suggest that the wily Scot has already settled on the majority of his starting XV.
The second (June 27 in Pretoria) and third (July 4 in Johannesburg) tests against the South Africans will be played at altitude and if the tourists are to have a reasonable chance of series success they must beat the Springboks on Saturday.
And, since the South African players have not played any practice matches of note (the Springboks, without their Super 14-winning Blue Bulls core, had one outing against Namibia) now is the time for the Lions to pounce.
The British & Irish Lions starting team however will be crucial and the areas of most debate for the Lions management team appear to centre around numbers three, four, six, 10 and 11.
Wales’ Lee Byrne is expected to start at full-back while Tommy Bowe and Ugo Monye have been touted to join Byrne in the back three - Luke Fitzgerald is pushing hard for inclusion in this sector while Shane Williams’ loss of form appears to have ruled out the 2008 World Player of the Year.
Although Keith Earls will hope to be included in the match day 22 Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts are expected to form a partnership in midfield. At half-back Stephen Jones had appeared to represent a fait accompli at fly-half alongside scrum-half Mike Phillips, but Ronan O’Gara’s brilliant performance against the Southern Kings has certainly given the management an alternative to seriously consider. The concussion incurred by James Hook on Tuesday should rule the Welshman out and at the very least O’Gara should be named on the bench.
Up front props Gethin Jenkins and Phil Vickery look likely to partner hooker Lee Mears in the front-row while Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones is now favourite to partner Paul O’Connell in the second row. Scotland’s Nathan Hines, England’s Simon Shaw and Ireland’s Donncha O’Callaghan are all vying for the number four shirt while Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip are favoured to start in the back-row. Martyn Williams’ performance on Saturday could threaten David Wallace’s place in the starting XV.
On Tuesday evening the Springboks sprung a surprise when South Africa named their starting XV for Saturday’s first test and included Heinrich Brussow in place of the injured Schalk Burger (calf) - the Cheetahs flanker, who was called into the squad less than 24 hours before being named on the team, will start at blindside flanker. Morne Steyn, the stand-out fly-half from the Super 14, is the only uncapped player in the match 22 but will have to wait for his debut with the disputed number 10 jersey going to Ruan Pienaar.
The other contested position, full-back, went to Frans Steyn, while the rest of the squad, which will be led by John Smit is packed with experience.
South Africa: F. Steyn (Sharks), J.P. Pietersen (Sharks), A. Jacobs (Sharks), J. de Villiers (Stormers), B. Habana (Bulls), R. Pienaar (Sharks), F. du Preez (Bulls); T. Mtawarira (Sharks), B. du Plessis (Sharks), J. Smit (Sharks), B. Botha (Bulls), V. Matfield (Bulls), H. Brussow (Cheetahs), J. Smith (Cheetahs), P. Spies (Bulls).

Brian McDonnell