Monday, August 31, 2009

Niland’s dream dashed

CONOR Niland’s dream of making it into the first round proper of the US Open came to an end on Thursday afternoon last when the unseeded Irish number one lost (6-1, 6-1) to Columbia’s Alejandro Falla in 63 agonizingly minutes at Flushing Meadows.
The fact that Alejandro Falla proceeded to beat the eighth seed, Croatia’s Roko Karanusic, (6-2, 6-2) to qualify for the US Open will provide Conor Niland with little consolation this week.
Niland had been buoyed by a stunning win over Australia’s Joseph Sirianni in the first qualifying round.


On Tuesday evening last Niland saw off the challenge of Sirianni (6-0, 6-4) - the victory represented the Irish tennis star’s first win in a Grand Slam.
Niland performed brilliantly against Sirianni who is currently ranked 240th in the world, but was once ranked as high as 138th.
Niland never once faced a break point during the match which the Limerick man won in just 57 minutes.
And, the Irish number one was thrilled to win four of his six break points while Niland’s service game was excellent throughout that one-sided contest.
The quality of Niland’s first serve proved the foundation for the Limerick man’s win over Sirianni, but Alejando Falla returned in outstanding fashion to stifle the determined Niland at Flushing Meadows on Thursday afternoon.
The South American succeeded in breaking the Limerick man’s serve twice in the first set and on three occasions in the second. Conor Niland bravely saved a set point on Falla’s serve in the first set, but the Colombian made no mistake at the second attempt to wrap up the opener in 32 minutes. The downward trend continued for Niland in the second set when he dropped his serve in the opening game.
And although he held his serve in the third game, Falla reeled off the next four on the trot.
The 28-year-old Limerick man, who has won four ITF Futures titles and one Challenger Tour event (New Delhi, 2008), will now concentrate on progressing up the ATP rankings for the remainder of the season and build upon the form which saw Conor Niland compete in the quarter-finals of the clay-court ATP Tour Challenger tournament in Saransk, Russia recently.

BRIAN MCDONNELL

Cookies face Shannon in attractive semi-final

THE fourth semi-finalist in the 2009 Limerick Charity Cup will be confirmed on Tuesday night when UL Bohemian host Old Crescent in Annacotty (6.30pm).
UL Bohemian, who will compete in Division 1A of the AIB All-Ireland League this season, are favourites to overcome Division Two’s Old Crescent - the winner of Tuesday night’s clash will then face Garryowen at the semi-final stage this weekend. On Friday night Garryowen fought off a determined Nenagh Ormond side (23-15) in Tipperary. Nenagh Ormond were determined to make a big impression on the Light Blues with tries from Nick Kennedy and Stephen Harvey plus a conversion from Trevor Connolly pushing the home side into a 12-8 interval lead. Garryowen however re-grouped at the break and tries from Lorcan Bourke and Alan Gahan (two) allied to a Willie Staunton drop goal and some solid kicking from Gerry Hurley helped the Light Blues to a decisive 23-15 win.
Nenagh Ormond were dealt a severe blow on the eve of their clash with Garryowen when the former Shannon and Munster back-row Colm McMahon left the club to become a Regional Development Officer with Munster Rugby - Colm McMahon stood down just as his second season as senior coach with the Nenagh club was about to begin.
The pick of this weekend’s semi-finals however will be the clash of arch-rivals Young Munster and Shannon - the time, date and venue for both semi-finals has yet to be confirmed.
On Saturday afternoon in Corbally Young Munster saw off a gallant Bruff with eight points to spare (27-19). Tries from Aaron Carroll and Ian Cross helped the Cookies into a rather fortunate 14-13 half time lead, but once Young Munster introduced scrum-half Mike Prendergast to the side the Cookies were easily the better side in the second half with an Aaron Carroll try and a drop goal from Alan Kingsley, who joined Munster from Garryowen during the off-season, settling the issue.
Meanwhile at LIT on Saturday a David Quinlan try, two penalties and a conversion from David O’Donovan gave Shannon a narrow 13-10 win over Thomond in their respective quarter-final. A Jamie English drop goal gave Thomond an early lead while David Sheehan also scored a try for Thomond which Ger Finucane converted.
Also this Saturday the draw for the opening two rounds of the AIB Cup will take place in the club house of Ballynahinch RFC, the reigning AIB Cup Champions, at 12.45pm - 48 clubs will go into the hat with the teams in Division Two and Division Three drawn in the first round while the teams from Divisions 1A and Division 1B will be included for the second round. The draw for the AIB Junior Cup will be made at a later date.
While the final of Limerick Charity Cup is scheduled for September 26 there’s little respite for Limerick clubs in the coming weeks with the first round of the ODM Munster Senior Cup and the quarter-finals of the ODM Munster Senior Cup due to take place on Saturday, September 12 and Saturday, September 19 respectively.
First round draw: (A) UL Bohemian v Old Crescent, (B) Midleton v UCC, (C) Garryowen v Dolphin, (D) Clonakilty v Shannon, (E) Cashel v Nenagh Ormond, (F) Thomond v Highfield, (G) Sunday’s Well v Cork Constitution & (H) Bruff v Young Munster. Quarter-Finals: (I) H v E, (J) B v A, (K) C v D & (L) G v F. Semi-Finals (November 29): L v I & J v K. The final is scheduled to take place on January 2, 2010.
In an extraordinary development Limerick rivals Shannon and Garryowen could meet three times during the next four weeks.
If Shannon and Garryowen beat Clonakilty and Dolphin respectively in the first round of the ODM Munster Senior Cup on September 12 they will face one another in the quarter-finals on September 19. The clubs could also face one another in the Limerick Charity Cup final on September 26 and finally Shannon are scheduled to travel to Dooradoyle to face the Light Blues on the opening weekend of the AIB All-Ireland League (Saturday, October 3).

BRIAN MCDONNELL

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

End of year reviews scheduled

LIMERICK GAA officials are to schedule end of year review meetings with both Justin McCarthy and Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
The Limerick hurling management have one year remaining in their deal while the term of Mickey Ned O’Sullivan has ended.
Limerick GAA chairman has confirmed to Leader Sport that he has spoke to Justin McCarthy and that the Cork man will be remaining in charge.
“Myself, the secretary and the treasurer will sit down around a table with the hurling management to see where we go from here and what we need to do differently,” said Lenihan.
“There is no quick fix,” said chairman Liam Lenihan on Wednesday.
“Lifting The Treaty is in place and we must remember that it will be the clubs that will save hurling.


“We need a vibrant club scene with top class coaching,” said Lenihan.
Meanwhile Limerick Football Board officials are to meet with out-going county football manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.
The former Kerry All-Ireland-winning captain is due back from holidays this week and is to meet with Limerick GAA officers.
The All-Ireland qualifier loss to Meath earlier this month signalled the end of O’Sullivan’s current one-year term and his fourth season in all at the helm of the Limerick seniors.
“We want to meet with the out-going management before we proceed any further,” confirmed Limerick Football Board chairman John Galvin.
Speaking after the loss to Meath in Portlaoise Mickey Ned O’Sullivan was non-commital about his future.
“For the players they are young, Mickey Ned is not young,” he said at the time.
“What ever decision I make is irrelevant because there are 12 guys in this management structure and whatever way it will be a collective decision. There are 12 people in our management team - I am only the spokesperson,” said O’Sullivan.
Last October O’Sullivan was granted a one-year extension to his time on Shannonside and back 12 months ago the Kenmare man was the only choice of Football Board officials.
Within the county there is now a groundswell of support for change.
However, Football Board officials will be aware that members of the Limerick panel are very much in favour of coach Donie Buckley remaining. Buckley managed the Clare seniors in 2006, but he harbours no aspirations for a return to management - preferring the role of team coach. The Castleisland native joined the Limerick set-up towards the end of the 2008 league.
If O’Sullivan was to be overlooked, it appears essential that Buckley be retained to work with another manager.
When O’Sullivan was reappointed last October, another possible candidate muted at the time was Tom McGlinchey.
The man from the Clyda Rovers club in north Cork led Tipperary to the 2002 Munster senior football final and took Cork to a replay. The Limerick-based Garda is in his third year as coach to Ballylanders - helping them to the county title in 2007.
McGlinchey could be one option if Mickey Ned O’Sullivan was not to given a fifth year in charge.
Another option could see Limerick look to Liam Kearns once more.
Kearns managed Limerick for six years from 2000 and then took charge of Laois in 2007 and 2008.

Jerome O’Connell

Lee has Duddy in his sights

LIMERICK could be set to play host to one of the biggest nights ever in Irish boxing - November 28 in the University Arena in UL has been proposed for the fight most thought not possible between Limerick’s Andy Lee and his fellow Irish boxer John Duddy.


The Castleconnell 25-year-old brought his record to 19 wins from 20 fights when knocking Anthony Shuler out in the eighth round last weekend in the Horseshoe Casino, Hammond, Indiana. And, in the aftermath of the fight Andy Lee threw down the gauntlet to Duddy: “I’m up for the fight with John Duddy, this is a fight the public have been speculating about for some considerable time and I believe it will be a memorable occasion with plenty of edge and drama”.
Last weekend was Lee’s first fight back in the US since his shock defeat to Brian Vera 17 months ago.
Andy Lee’s opponent Anthony Shuler was knocked down in the second and fourth rounds and hit the canvas three times in the eighth before the referee stopped the fight.
While the Duddy fight has captured the imagination of boxing fans in Ireland and across the Atlantic, a fight against another renowned Irish middleweight Matthew Macklin could also be on the cards.
“I would be willing to meet any of them, just name the venue. These would be the type of fights that would sell out any venue in Limerick, Dublin or New York,” added Andy Lee.
Top Irish promoter Brian Peters is behind the ambitious plans to stage the Lee and Duddy contest in Limerick: “I see the deal for this fight as a 50/50 one because to me the status of both men in on par, but to make is that bit more attractive to them I’m prepared to offer a €35,000 bonus to the winner. Dangling the carrot of a bonus of this nature should certainly make the fight more interesting to both parties, although there is a lot of serious talking still to be done”.
However, any deal must wait until after October 10 when Duddy fights on a Top Rank Card in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Meanwhile Macklin meets Finnish fighter Amin Asikainen on September 25 for the European title and has already hinted that he would like to defend that potential title against Lee.
“That would be a great fight for Irish boxing fans,” said Macklin of a potential title defence against Lee.
“It would be the biggest all Irish fight for a long, long time and to have a major belt like a European title on the line would make it a massive occasion.
“Andy’s a good fighter and a decent lad but business is business at the end of the day and if I’m European Champion then I think it’s a fight that makes real sense,” said Macklin.
After Friday’s 20th fight of his pro-career Andy Lee is due back in Limerick next week.
In the last 12 months the Limerick southpaw has been quietly working under the radar picking up valuable experience in the gym and his four outings in Germany, Ireland and the United States and is currently ranked third in the European Boxing Association (EBA) and 14th in the World Boxing Association (WBA) rankings.
“I am happy with the win and so is Andy,” said the Limerick boxer’s manager-trainer Emanuel Steward.
“We move on from here as I want to keep him busy.
“Andy is an excellent prospect and I’m convinced that we haven’t seen the best of him.”

Jerome O’Connell

Injury Time . . . with Jerome O'Connell

LIMERICK’S ladies football side play in the TG4 All-Ireland junior football championship semi-final this Saturday - the girls are one win away from a final in Croke Park and live television coverage and yet the players and management have had to undertake fund-raising efforts to purchase team gear.
Already this season the girls each paid €25 to purchase socks and togs.
The recession has hit all walks of life, but perhaps there is some generous soul that can come to the aid of the team which carries Limerick’s last hope of an All-Ireland in 2009.
Just 48 hours before their All-Ireland semi-final members of the county panel and others will be bag packing in Dunnes Stores in the Parkway this Thursday night.
Last Sunday night 10 members of the panel were joined by six Limerick senior footballers for a charity ‘Jigs & Reels’ event in The Bailey pub on O’Connell St. in Limerick City.
I had the honour of being one of the judges on the night when John Galvin and Siobhan Moloney were crowned champions.
Well done to Galvin, Pa Ranahan, Stephen Lavin, Diarmuid Carroll, Stephen Kelly and Johnny McCarthy for lending their support to the girls.
Representing the ladies football panel on the dance floor were Theresa Mulcaire, Margaret Lynch, Janet Garvey, Hazel Fogarty, Olivia Giltenane, Leahy Kidney, Emma McGuire, Katie Campbell and Sinead Fitzpatrick.
The event was organised by player Olivia Giltenane, with Ger Downes as MC and Ray Nash as DJ.

Eyesbrows raised
EYEBROWS have been raised by the departure of five part-time Limerick GAA coaches.
For the last number of years the five have provided coaching to over 20 primary schools in the Limerick City area and to a number of schools in west Limerick.
Eamonn Cregan, Gerard Murnane, Brian Kelly and Bernie Hartigan worked in the city areas while Gerry Molyneaux covered the west.
The five were each working 15 hour weeks.
It now appears the void will be filled with a realigning of the full-time coaching staff of seven.
Ger Downes, Adrian O’Sullivan and Pat Culhane are to cover the schools of the city area, while Ollie Coffey, Sean Herbert and James Ryan (Limerick senior hurler) will cater for the schools of the county - all under the auspices of Noel Hartigan. One new temporary position is also to be created to supplement the seven full-time staff.
It also appears that county board officials are to seek a return to the club-school link of a number of years back. On that occasion clubs put money towards a coach for their local schools and the amount was matched by the county board.
If my memory serves me correctly the take-up would need to improve if this initiative is to prove beneficial.

No team sheets
THERE was much unrest last Sunday evening when no team sheets were available for either of the county senior hurling championship relegation play-offs.
The clash of the county champions of 2005 (Garryspillane) and 2006 (Bruree) was always going to draw a crowd to Fitzgerald Park Kilmallock while a healthy attendance was also present in Ballyagran for the meeting of Knockainey and Tournafulla.
After paying into the game, many supporters were left disappointed by the absence of a team sheet.
The importance of the team lists should not be overlooked and adds greatly to the promotion of GAA.

Extra training
AS the Summer Camps come to an end this week across Limerick, 40 of the top underage hurlers and footballers have received the boost of extra training provided by the Munster Council.
Each year, the provincial council provides funding for two days of intensive training to the under-14 panels of the five counties.
Two weeks ago, full-time coaches Adrian O’Sullivan and Ger Downes and Jim McGrath (Doon) accompanied the hurling panel to Cork where they stayed and trained in Cork Institute of Technology.
Last week it was the turn of the footballers under the guidance of underage coaches Michael Crowley (Monaleen), Diarmuid Sheehy (Cappamore), Brian O’Connell (Oola) and Ger Downes.
The footballers were coached by former Kerry manager Pat O’Shea for the two days.
Limerick coach Donie Buckley was also among the list of expert coaches for the football programme, while Limerick City Hurling Development Administrator Pat Culhane was one of the coaches on the schedule for the hurling sessions.

O’Connell welcomes new Magners League format

PAUL O’Connell has confirmed his desire to remain as Munster captain for another season.
Key players and officials from within the Munster rugby set-up will meet today to select the captain for the coming season which kicks off in 10 days time with an away fixture against the Glasgow Warriors.


Speaking to Leader Sport yesterday in Thomond Park at the official launch of the 2009-10 Magners League O’Connell said that it was his wish to remain in possession of the captain’s armband for the province.
“I wound’t mind doing it again for another year,” said O’Connell who will also be in line to lead Ireland when Declan Kidney announces his Irish captain in November.
Ahead of Munster’s defence of their Magners League title Paul O’Connell have given his backing to the new structures for the ninth season of the competition.
“We all want to play in big games in the best of weather so two semi-finals and a final in May can only make the competition more spectacular and enjoyable,” said O’Connell.
The eighteen-round regular season runs through until the weekend of May 7, 2010, but play-offs have now been introduced to decide the Magners League champions - semi-finals to be held over the weekend of May 14. The season concludes with the Magners League final on the weekend of May 28.
“I think it is great - I am not sure where we finished in the last few years, but this structure would probably have given us a greater chance in this competition. We provide a lot of players to the national team so there are times when we are under strength and that’s very tough.”
O’Connell emphasised his point: “When you look at the system in England, where Wasps provide so many players to the England team and still get a shot at the top four and generally creep into in third or fourth and end up with a shot to win the championship - I don’t think Wasps finish top too often, but yet win the championship”.
After next week’s trip to Scotland, Tony McGahan’s men will play their first Magners League home fixture on the following weekend against the Cardiff Blues.
The exact fixtures are to be confirmed in the coming days, but Munster will travel to Dublin to take on Heineken Cup champions Leinster at the RDS on the weekend of October 2 while Leinster will visit Munster on the first weekend in April 2010.
After games in Musgrave Park against Sale and London Irish Munster continue their pre-season this Friday with a clash against Leicester Tigers in Welford Road.
O’Connell has praised the impact of the squad’s newcomers.
“Guys coming through are bigger, stronger, fitter and their skill levels are much higher than they used to be and they are coming in as guys that don’t need to learn as much as they did in the past,” he said.
“There are plenty of guys coming through - Ian Nagle is playing great stuff for the last few weeks in the second row, Felix Jones has been a great signing from Leinster and he had a fabulous Churchill Cup and he is training well and Denis Fogarty had a great finish to last season.”
Ahead of the new season Paul O’Connell is happy that Munster continue to progress.
“In terms of how we played, we never played better than we did last year.
“We played probably the best rugby that I have been involved with since I started with Munster, but obviously we had a disappointing result against Leinster at the end of the year and we will look at that and figure out why that happened.”
This Saturday morning at 10am Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls and Alan Quinlan will be at a special autograph signing session at the Elverys Sports store in the Crescent Shopping Centre.
Adidas and Elverys Sports are giving fans the opportunity to meet their heroes and will have autograph cards for each of the three players in the new adidas Munster jersey for the Munster stars to sign for fans.

JEROME O’CONNELL

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Niland grabs first Grand Slam win

LIMERICK’S Conor Niland, beating Australia’s Joseph Sirianni (6-0, 6-4), has forced his way into the second qualifying round of the US Open in Flushing Meadows - the victory represented the Irish tennis star’s first win in a Grand Slam.
Niland performed brilliantly to see off Sirianni who is currently ranked 240th in the world, but was once ranked as high as 138th.


“Yeah, I’m delighted,” Conor Niland told Leader Sport last night.
“I had been disappointed not to win a match in a Grand Slam before and I was unlucky a few times so winning now is definitely a monkey off my back. I’ve got my first Grand Slam win out of the way and now I just have to concentrate on playing as well as I can.”
Conor Niland completely overwhelmed the Australian, who has earned nearly $400,000 over his professional career, and never once faced a break point during the match which the Limerick man won in just 57 minutes.
And, the Irish number one was thrilled to win four of his six break points while Niland’s service game was excellent throughout the one-sided contest.
“My performance was really good,” added Conor Niland.
“I served really well and got 70 per cent of my first serves in which is really high. I didn’t face a break point either and I was really solid off the ground. I thought that I mixed my tennis up well and changed the rhythm of the match when I thought I needed to.
“Yeah, I think I played really well and stayed pretty calm throughout the match which was important.”
On Thursday Conor Niland will face Columbia’s Alejandro Falla in the second qualifying round.
Falla, who was once ranked as high as 79th in the world and currently 159th, has been seeded in the qualifying rounds. And, Conor Niland knows that the South American represents a tough opponent: “He’s just outside the top 100 in the world and has spent the last few years inside the top 100. He’s a seed and I know it is going to a be a tough match, but he’s also a clay courter so hopefully I will catch him on a court that he’s not completely at home on. Alejandro is a very good player, but if I can play like I did today I think I have a great chance of getting through the match. The atmosphere over here is great, I’m really enjoying it and hopefully Thursday will go well for me.”

BRIAN MCDONNELL

Scully: ‘We are too weak and too soft when things go against us’

A TRIP to promotion-chasing UCD might not exactly have been top of Pat Scully’s wish-list in the wake of his side’s crushing 4-1 home defeat to Longford Town, but Limerick FC must now re-focus for a trip to the UCD Bowl to take on the high-flying Dublin students this Friday night in their latest League of Ireland First Division fixture (7.45pm).
While the Blues were conceding four goals at home to Longford, UCD were moving to second in the league table, thanks to an eye-catching 1-0 away win over Waterford United.


Strangely though, inconsistent Limerick FC seem to have developed an uncanny ability to produce a big performance immediately after a very poor one.
In the wake of their recent 4-1 home defeat to Sporting Fingal, Pat Scully’s charges registered a plucky 2-1 away win over struggling Finn Harps in Ballybofey.
Scully is looking for his young squad to show some steely resolve in their fixture with UCD this Friday night: “We have to improve. We are too weak and too soft when things go against us. We have some young players, but young players can do a bit more fighting.
“I remember four years ago when I had to come down here to Limerick as a manager and a player with Shamrock Rovers, it was physically very demanding to get anything from the game. Physically we are a very, very small team now. We don’t have much running power in the team. And at the minute when teams get on top of us we are folding.
“We have done it now on a few occasions, but it goes back to the same thing, the amount of chances we have had, compared to the number Longford had. We probably had double the number of chances, but we did not force their goalkeeper into making a save.
“We missed the target. We have done that all the way through the season and it has cost us.
“As I said to the players last week, we had a great opportunity to go close to that promotion play-off place. I would have thought that we would be seven or eight points off that third spot and we should be given the amount of games we have thrown away. We have been sloppy.
“When things are going well and you are winning every week, football is the easiest game to play in the world. When things are going bad you see whether people stand up and fight for it or they don’t.
“It is extremely disappointing, but we haven’t got any real consistency.
“There have been times when we have played well, but we haven’t consistently got results.
“When we have gone out and played, we have played very well. We are a decent team.
“This is a harsh time for the players, but they have to come out the other end. These are the things that make footballers.
“It has been very, very frustrating, very difficult, but I am really enjoying it. I believe I will get the club where I want it to go.”
Scully was adamant that he would not allow the players to simply go through the motions over the remainder of the season now that their promotion hopes had evaporated: “We have been out of the promotion play-off race for a few weeks now, realistically.
“But I won’t let any players go through the motions between now and the end of the season.
“These are not nice times, but these are times when players will learn and improve. This is how you improve your character.
“We have some young players who are only 18 or 19. For a lot of them this is their first or second season playing in the league.
“These tough times are the times when it is important they can show they can come through it.
“In a season you will always have ups and downs. A lot of things have gone against us. We have had a couple of players leaving and other bits and pieces which have happened.
“To change the culture and mentality of the football club is difficult. It is probably the hardest thing to do and to do it mid-season is even more difficult, but I think we will be fine.”
Scully will be sweating on the fitness of club captain Pat Purcell in the lead up to the clash with UCD.
“Pat (Purcell) still has a little bit of a problem with his knee. With the two lads leaving last week we needed a centre half and we had to play him against Longford,” Pat Scully said.
“He got the first half, but there was a little bit of a twinge, so we thought it best to take Pat off at half time.
“We will have to see how it goes during the week to see if we have Pat available for the UCD game.”

Colm Kinsella

Four enticing Charity Cup quarter-finals launch new rugby season

THE 85th renewal of the Limerick Charity Cup kicks off this weekend with four highly-attractive quarter-finals taking place.
On Friday night Nenagh Ormond host Garryowen in Nenagh’s Ormond Park while on Saturday Thomond RFC make an unenviable trip to Coonagh to face AIL champions Shannon (2.30pm) and Young Munster welcome Bruff RFC to Clifford Park (2.30pm).
Then, on Tuesday evening, Old Crescent visit Annacotty to face the home side UL Bohemian in what promises to be a cracking game.
All eight clubs will be hopeful of progressing in the competition as they prepare to launch their respective AIB All-Ireland League campaigns on Saturday, October 3 next.
The semi-finals of the Limerick Charity Cup are scheduled to take place on the weekend of September 5-6 with the first semi-final (Saturday, September 5) pitting the winner of the UL Bohemian v Old Crescent clash against either Nenagh Ormond or Garryowen.
Meanwhile the second semi-final (Sunday, September 6) will see the winner of the Shannon v Thomond and Young Munster v Bruff RFC encounters face off - the final is scheduled to take place on September 26.
Sadly, competition organizers have been more than disappointed with the public reaction to the tournament in recent seasons.
Although the competition marks the beginning of the rugby season and provides clubs with the perfect warm-up to the AIB All-Ireland League the tournament has been blighted by poor attendances with the Charity Cup struggling to meet its financial targets as a result.
Hopefully, this season local rugby fans will support the ties and help local charities in the process.
Last September Shannon, following a comprehensive 27-9 victory over Garryowen in the final, claimed the 2008 Charity Cup at Clifford Park.
A real highlight of the competition in recent years however was Bruff’s stunning 16-15 victory over UL Bohemian at Dooradoyle in 2007.
UL Bohemian, beating Shannon 18-10 in 2006, were the defending champions in 2007 while in 2005 Thomond won the competition beating UL Bohs (18-13) in 2005.
Shannon, beating rivals Garryowen 22-18 at Thomond Park, claimed the title in 2004 while in 2003 Garryowen saw off UL Bohs 29-5.
Thomond won the 2002 final beating UL Bohs 27-21.
Originally known as the Hospital Cup, the Limerick Charity Cup was introduced in 1924 by Garryowen’s Jack O’Sullivan to raise funds for Barrington and St. John’s Hospital. Jack O’Sullivan was a founder member of Garryowen FC and progressed to play for Munster while he also won two Irish caps.
Jack O’Sullivan won five Munster Senior Cup medals with the Light Blues and also went on to become President of Garryowen, the Munster Branch and the Irish union.
He was also responsible for bringing the first international game to Limerick in the late 1800s, with Ireland playing Wales on that occasion.
Garryowen were the first winners of the competition and hold the record for the most titles (24).

Brian McDonnell

Monday, August 24, 2009

Andy Lee has Irish rival John Duddy in his sights

ANDY Lee has thrown down the gauntlet to fellow Irish middleweight boxer John Duddy.
On Friday night in the United States Limerick’s pro boxer brought his record to 19 wins from 20 fights when knocking out Anthony Shuler in the eighth round.
Now the Castleconnell southpaw has his sights set on an all-Irish clash.


“I’m up for the fight with John Duddy. This is a fight the public have been speculating about for some considerable time and I believe it will be a memorable occasion with plenty of edge and drama,” said Andy Lee after his latest career win in the Horseshoe Casino, Hammond, Indiana.
The fight is being proposed for Limerick’s University Arena on November 28.
Top Irish promoter Brian Peters is hoping to entice the duo to what would be a sell-out fight in UL.
“I see the deal for this fight as a 50/50 one because to me the status of both men in on par, but to make is that bit more attractive to them I’m prepared to offer a €35,000 bonus to the winner,” said Peters who also manages Bernard Dunne.
“Dangling the carrot of a bonus of this nature should certainly make the fight more interesting to both parties although there is a lot of serious talking still to be done,” explained Peters.
However any deal must wait until after October 10 when Duddy fights on a Top Rank Card in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Another option for Andy Lee is another potential all-Irish clash against Matthew Macklin. Macklin meets Finnish fighter Amin Asikainen on September 25 for the European title and has already hinted that he would like to defend that potential title against Lee.
“That would be a great fight for Irish boxing fans,” said Macklin of a potential title defence against Lee.
“It would be the biggest all-Irish fight for a long, long time and to have a major belt like a European title on the line would make it a massive occasion. Andy’s a good fighter and a decent lad, but business is business at the end of the day and if I’m European champion then I think it’s a fight that makes real sense,” said Macklin.
After Friday’s 20th fight of his pro-career Lee is due back in Limerick this week.
In the last 12 months, the Limerick southpaw has been quietly working under the radar picking up valuable experience in the gym.
Following four outings in Germany, Ireland and US he is currently ranked as high as third in the European Boxing Association (EBA) and 14th in the World Boxing Association (WBA) rankings.

JEROME O’CONNELL

The Hoops face Murroe

TEN times county senior hurling champions Claughaun have been drawn against Murroe-Boher as they bid to reach their first championship quarter-final since the turn of the millennium.
The Childers Road side face a hectic week that will make or break their GAA season.
This Wednesday night the footballers of Claughaun play Ballysteen in round four of the Limerick SFC in Clarina and a win could book a place in the knockout stages and then just four days later many of the same players will face Murroe-Boher in the SHC at the Gaelic Grounds.
Elsewhere in round three of the senior hurling championship one of the competition favourites Kilmallock will play Doon in the Gaelic Grounds this Thursday evening.
On Friday, Ahane and Bruff meet in Caherconlish while next Sunday rivals Croom and Granagh-Ballingarry will clash in Ballyagran.
The four winners from round three will progress to the quarter-finals where awaiting are champions Adare, Patrickswell, Na Piarsaigh and divisional side Emmets.
2005 county senior hurling champions Garryspillane are 60-minutes away from relegation after their loss to Bruree in a play-off game last evening in Fitzgerald Park Kilmallock.
Garryspillane, led by the Ryan brothers TJ, Donie and Dave, will now face Tournafulla in the relegation final.
Tournafulla lost 1-9 to 0-10 to Knockainey in Ballyagran.
Meanwhile in the county senior football championship champions Dromcollogher-Broadford remain on course for back-to-back titles.
On Saturday evening the reigning Limerick and Munster club champions faced a repeat of last year’s county final against Ballylanders and came through with flying colours.
Elsewhere in the Limerick SFC Newcastle West kick-started their campaign with a 2-12 to 0-7 win over St. Kieran’s and the Adare footballers got their first win of the season when overcoming Pallasgreen 1-10 to 1-8.
Newcastle West had first half goals from Thomas Quilligan and Declan Brouder to thank for this win over their west Limerick rivals. The Magpies will now need to defeat Ballysteen in their final group game to ensure they reach the quarter-finals.
Adare led 0-5 to 0-4 at half time and a Michael Lyons goal 10 minutes into the second half set them up for a two-point win.

JEROME O’CONNELL

Trapattoni names unchanged squad for South Africa clash

DESPITE suffering a heavy three-nil defeat at the hands of Australia manager Giovanni Trapattoni has named an identical squad ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Cyprus next month - the 24-man squad will also stand for the national side’s friendly against South Africa at Thomond Park on Tuesday, September 8.
The Republic of Ireland face Cyprus in Nicosia on Saturday, September 5 knowing a positive result would edge them closer to qualification - the Republic of Ireland currently lie second in group eight and remain unbeaten during their campaign. A win in Nicosia would see the Irish end the Cypriots’ hopes of reaching the play-offs.
The Republic of Ireland won the reverse fixture at Croke Park in October when Robbie Keane’s goal in the fifth minute proved the difference between the sides.
The friendly against South Africa will pit Giovanni Trapattoni’s men against the hosts of next summer’s tournament with the Irish manager keen to give fringe members of his squad some game time at Thomond Park.
As expected the Football Association of Ireland have revised their ticket-pricing structure for the up-coming international friendly at Thomond Park.
For the game against South Africa tickets, including a family friendly children’s ticket, will go on sale from next Monday, August 24 - tickets will be made available from the following outlets: www.fai.ie, Gleeson Sports Scene, Mahon House, 25 Upper William Street, Limerick and the Thomond Park ticket office. Tickets will be priced - schoolboy €7, North and South Terrace €20, East and West Terrace €30, East and West Stand €40, Child Stand ticket (under-16) €20.
South Africa will include a number of well-known players in their squad, such as Benni McCarthy of Blackburn, Steven Pienaar of Everton and Aaron Mokoena of Portsmouth. The Bafana Bafana will play Ireland three days after taking on Germany in Munich on September 5, the same day as Ireland’s World Cup qualifier in Cyprus.

Republic of Ireland Squad: Shay Given (Manchester City), Keiren Westwood (Coventry), Joe Murphy (Scunthorpe); John O’Shea (Manchester United), Kevin Foley (Wolves), Richard Dunne (Manchester City), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Kevin Kilbane (Hull), Eddie Nolan, Sean St Ledger (both Preston); Aiden McGeady (Celtic), Damien Duff (Fulham), Darron Gibson (Manchester United), Glenn Whelan (Stoke), Keith Andrews (Blackburn), Liam Miller (Unattached), Stephen Hunt (Hull), Andy Keogh (Wolves), Liam Lawrence (Stoke); Caleb Folan (Hull), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Robbie Keane (Tottenham), Shane Long (Reading) and Leon Best (Coventry).

BRIAN MCDONNELL

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Andy Lee could face John Duddy in Limerick

ANDY Lee looks set for a mouth-watering battle against one of his fellow world class Irish middleweight boxers.
Limerick’s pro-boxer steps back between the ropes in the US this Friday for the first time since his only career defeat 17 months ago.


Ahead of that fight Irish boxing promoter Brian Peters has upped the ante for a possible clash between Lee and John Duddy.
Brian Peters, who has promoted all of Lee’s fights in Ireland and who has also worked previously with Duddy, wants to pair the star duo in the University of Limerick on Saturday, November 28.
“I see the deal for this fight as a 50/50 one because to me the status of both men is on a par - but to make it that bit more attractive to them I’m prepared to offer a €35,000 bonus to the winner,” said Peters, who also manages Bernard Dunne.
“Dangling the carrot of a bonus of this nature should certainly make the fight more interesting to both parties,” Brian Peters said.
“Although there is a lot of serious talking still to be done,” explained Peters, who is currently involved with reality television show, Lords of the Ring.
Another potential clash for Lee could be a European title fight against another Irish man - Matthew Macklin. Birmingham born Tipperary man, Macklin meets Finnish fighter Amin Asikainen on September 25 for the European title.
“That would be a great fight for Irish boxing fans,” said Macklin of a potential title defence against Lee.
“It would be the biggest all Irish fight for a long, long time and to have a major belt like a European title on the line would make it a massive occasion. Andy’s a good fighter and a decent lad, but business is business at the end of the day and if I’m European Champion then I think it’s a fight that makes real sense,” said Mathew Macklin.
Before all that Lee must keep his career on track this Friday night.
Back in March 2008, the 25-year-old Castleconnell middleweight had hoped to ignite his career with a bout against Brian Vera. Screened live across the states, the contest went horribly wrong as Lee’s unbeaten run of 15 wins came to a crashing end.
In the last year and a half the former Olympian has rebuilt his world title quest with three wins - in Dublin, Limerick and Germany.
This Friday Lee makes his reappearance in the US when he faces Indianapolis’ Anthony Shuler in the Horse Shoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana.
For his 20th professional fight the southpaw brings a career record of 18 wins and one defeat into the ring while his 32-year-old opponent has a record of 20 wins, six losses and one draw. In Friday’s 10-round middleweight contest, Lee was to face Jose Humberto Corral but he had to withdraw due to a training injury.
“He’s a better opponent, better known in boxing and is a step up from the other guy.
“It was always likely to happen you know, that the opponent changes in this type of fight, and it was something I was kind of prepared for,” said Andy Lee ahead of the weekend contest.
Andy’s brother Roger has flown out to the US to assist during a training camp.
“It’s been a good camp,” reported Lee.
“I’ve been sparring Dominique Dalton, who is fighting himself on August 29.
“We’ve been sparring each other and helping each other prepare, and he is definitely one to look out for in the future,” said Castleconnell’s Andy Lee.

Jerome O’Connell

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

McCarthy vows to remain at the helm

JUSTIN McCarthy has confirmed his wish to remain for a second year as Limerick hurling manager, but he could have to plan without stalwarts - Mark Foley and Ollie Moran.
After last Sunday’s crushing 24-point defeat to Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park, Justin McCarthy said that he will be at the helm for the re-building process as he vowed to see out his two-year term in Limerick.


While there is no doubting that McCarthy’s panel needs change, both Foley and Moran could be set to call time on their careers which both started back in the 1990’s.
Speaking this week to Leader Sport both players confirmed that they will not rush any decisions about retiring from inter-county hurling.
“I don’t know - I will have to wait and see. After being beaten like that it’s a body blow, but I guess at this time it would be wrong to make a decision because your emotions are all over the place,” said Mark Foley.
The Adare man became Limerick’s most-experienced hurler ever this season and last Sunday’s game was his 48th appearance in a green jersey in championship hurling.
Foley’s Limerick career stretches back to 1995 while Moran’s career started in 1997.
“I am not going to make any immediate decision,” Moran told Leader Sport this Tuesday night.
McCarthy and selectors, Brian Ryan and Liam Garvey, must now turn their attention to unearthing fresh talent with a comprehensive search of the local championships.
Despite the humbling loss to Tipperary McCarthy remains confident about the future.
“I can see the bigger picture and there is no such thing as laying down and saying we can’t move on,” said McCarthy who is just 10 months into his reign in Limerick.
“I said that I would be down for two years and I have enjoyed every moment of it so far - there is great interest in hurling in Limerick. Limerick are in transition,” explained Justin McCarthy who used 27 players during Limerick’s six championship games in 2009.
“Limerick have to look to the future and there are young lads coming through and there is no doubt that they will learn from that hardship and set back - like all things in life, time erodes those things and next year Limerick will be back in the championship,” he said.
“They gave their all and I am not going to blame anyone - they gave their all. This was our sixth game of the championship - we won three, drew one and lost two.”
McCarthy said that he was happy with preparations and felt his side were ready to spring a surprise.
“We put in a great effort and you always think you have a chance of winning, but realistically there is a lot of rebuilding to be done. To win a trophy would be outstanding and that is the first thing,” he said.
“We came up against a very good team - we had our plans in place before the game and we thought they would work, but in fairness a few mistakes were made here and there and they capitalised and we missed a few chances. We were on the back foot after 20 minutes and by half time the game was over,” accepted the disappointed manager.
“We felt preparation was outstanding, the mood was great, fellas attitude was outstanding and we trained exceptionally well. We came up against a team that is probably two years ahead of Limerick in terms of preparation and development. They won two Munster championships and they are a very good team.”

Floodlights
History was made this Tuesday night when the new floodlights in Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds were switched on for the first time.
Electrical company Clancy Contracts Ltd. installed the new lights in recent weeks and at about 9pm this Tuesday night a number of county board officers were present when workers tested the new system for the first time.
The official ‘switching-on’ was to take place when Limerick and Australia met in the International Rules Test in late October.
That deferral has left officials seeking a new event to mark the unveiling of the new lighting system.

Jerome O’Connell

Nick Williams will miss Friday night

MUNSTER back-row forward Nick Williams, forced off in the pre-season win over the Sale Sharks at Musgrave Park with a knee injury, will miss this Friday night’s game against London Irish at Musgrave Park (7pm).
Williams’ injury however is not as bad as it first appeared and the Kiwi is expected to recover after a period of rest. He is set to have further medical assessment later in the week.
Tony McGahan’s youthful Munster side made the best possible start to their programme of three pre-season friendlies against Guinness Premiership opposition when securing a gritty 19-17 victory over the Sharks.
McGahan’s experimental starting XV included nine players who were wearing the Munster jersey for the very first time. The Munster side which defeated the Sharks included several Academy and Sub-Academy players. Each of the 25 players in Munster’s enlarged squad saw action on the night.
Munster complete their programme of pre-season friendlies away to the Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Friday, August 28. They begin the defence of the Magners League against the Glasgow Warriors at Firhill a week later. Munster play their first home competitive game of the next season in Limerick on Friday, September 11 when the Cardiff Blues visit Thomond Park (7.05pm).
Meanwhile Munster captain Paul O’Connell will have to wait until November to learn whether his successful spell as Lions skipper this summer will result in the Limerickman assuming the role of Irish captain this season. Irish coach Declan Kidney said he planned to adopt the same policy in relation to naming his team captain as last season. Then Kidney delayed making the announcement that Brian O’Driscoll would continue in the role until just before the November internationals. Grand Slam champions Ireland face Australia, Fiji and South Africa on successive weekends in Dublin this autumn.
O’Driscoll led Ireland to their first Grand Slam success in 61 years last March, while O’Connell received lavish praise for his captaincy of Ian McGeechan’s British & Irish Lions squad this summer.
Speaking in Limerick yesterday during an Irish squad training camp at UL Kidney explained: “I have talked to Brian (O’Driscoll) about it and we will do the same as last year. I think it is well documented that he had some laser surgery on his eyes over the past couple of weeks, so his own pre-season needs a bit of time and space for him to have a good one. Let’s see who rolls up in November and we can see where we go from there then.
“I think one of the strengths is that we have a Grand Slam-winning captain, we have a Lions captain and two other guys who captained the Lions at different stages of the tour, the Heineken Cup captain, a co-captain in the Magners League and one from the Churchill. I understand there will be a bit of speculation, but my job is to try and look after each guy.”
Kidney explained that Ireland and Munster hooker Jerry Flannery will be out of action for ‘a couple of weeks’ after tweaking his calf muscle last week. Munster scrum-half Tomas O’Leary will not resume contact work in training until he visits his surgeon at the end of his month to find out how his recovery from a fractured ankle injury is progressing.
Coach Kidney said O’Leary’s recovery was ‘progressing nicely’ .
Kidney also warned supporters about having sky high expectations of the side as a result of their Grand Slam winning exploits in March.
“I was lucky enough to be involved with teams which won something one year and you become the target everyone else judges themselves off the next season,” Declan Kidney said.
“That is just pretty much the same. I feel there was lots of talk that when we managed to get the win over Argentina that we were not too good.
“I didn’t think that was true. I don’t think we are the greatest team in the world right now even thought that might be thought in some places.
“If we did nothing else but learn off the economic situation for the past 10 years, let’s not get greedy.
“If we get greedy and expect it, then no one is going to have any fun out of any of this. We have a match against Australia in two months time. That is all we are looking forward to.”

Colm Kinsella

Injury Time . . . with Jerome O'Connell

CRECORA’S David O’Shea will be part of the Munster team for this Sunday’s Provincial Super Sprint Relay in Croke Park.
As part of the GAA’s continuing 125-year celebrations, the race will commemorate the importance of athletics in the early years of the association.
The Dooneen 20-year-old sprinter has been selected on the Munster team which is captained by Derval O’Rourke.
Fresh from the World Athletic Championships in Berlin O’Rourke is joined, as provincial captains, by international colleagues; David Gillick, Paul Hession and Anna Boyle.
O’Shea earned his place on the team on the back of his fine form at the recent Woodie’s DIY National senior track and field championships in Santry.
At those championships, the Dooneen man finished 4th in 200m and 5th in the 100m in 22.45 and 11.29 respectively.
The race will take place at half time on Sunday during the Tyrone v Cork All-Ireland senior football championship semi-final.

Ardagh native Brendan Fullam
ARDAGH native Brendan Fullam is to publish his eighth book on the GAA. The west Limerick man, who now lives in Wexford, will have ‘Lest We Forget - Gems of Gaelic Games and Those Who Made Them’ in the book shops next month. In the 333-pages there is plenty of interest for Limerick GAA supporters. Among those profiled are John ‘Tyler’ Mackey, Mick Neville and Dick Stokes.
All in Limerick may want to forget last Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final, but recalled in this publication are a number of more memorable encounters from through the ages.
The games featured include the 1944 Munster hurling final between Limerick and Cork, the National Hurling League final of 1958 between Limerick and Wexford and the All-Ireland hurling final of 1973 when Limerick defeated Kilkenny.
Another game recalled is a tournament final between Ahane and Thurles Sarsfields in Newport in 1947.
“Players and games of the early days of the GAA will remind readers of the contribution made by, sadly, the oft forgotten giants of former times, who gave so much and thrilled so man, and sought so little,” said Brendan Fullam in the preface to his latest offering.
“To this end I have profiled, in pen pictures, 98 greats of the early decade of the GAA. This book, in its own way, is a celebration of 125years of growth and progress,” said Fullam. “In each decade, from 1884 to 2008, I have written about, as a minimum; a hurler, a footballer, a hurling game, a football game, a hurling team; a football team. Between the various articles and team selections, several hundred of our Gaelic players have been called to mind.”
Fullam’s latest book is published by Collins Press and will be available next month for €19.95.

Christy Cooney in Ballylanders
GAA President Christy Cooney led the tributes in Ballylanders last Saturday as the local club unveiled a plaque to honour Frank Brazil Dineen.
“Frank Dineen is a significant figure in the early part of the GAA, an assertion supported by the fact that he remains to this day the only man to hold the roles of both Secretary and President,” said Cooney.
“That the GAA can today call Croke Park home is largely down to a man who also helped found the Ballylanders club. It is right and fitting that an event such as this should be organised to highlight his contribution to the Association as a whole. It will inform our members and those interested in the history of the Association of the significance of his input, not just in the acquisition of Croke Park, but in establishing a club in Ballylanders and assisting in the direction the GAA took.”
The specially commissioned plaque is to be found on the gable wall of McDermott’s pub - the birth place of Dineen.
The Pattern Day festival organisers wish to thank everyone for making the event such a success especially the McDermott family for allowing the plaque to be erected on their premises, the local Parish Priest Fr Jack O’Neill for allocating a site for various events and the staff at the Day Care Centre in Ballylanders for catering for the dignitaries.

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

ONE wise guy this week said he felt the European Rugby Cup (ERC) Limited had done a bloody good job in their handling of the matter, but the Harlequins ‘Bloodgate’ incident is no laughing matter for Guinness Premiership club ‘Quins and all the individuals caught up in the saga. And, the worrying thing from a rugby perspective is that this form of cheating may have more commonplace in the game - at ‘Quins at least - in recent times than many believed.
For those unaware of the story, former Harlequins Director of Rugby Dean Richards has been left reeling after an ERC independent appeals committee handed him a three-year suspension after he was found to be at the centre of the scandal which saw winger Tom Williams fake a cut in Harlequins’ Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster in April. And, during the hearing at Glasgow’s Radisson Hotel this week, Richards - along with former ‘Quins physio Steph Brennan - was found to have been involved in four similar incidents in non-European Rugby Cup games, hence the severity of the ban.
Brennan was handed a two-year ban for his part in the scandal while Williams had his initial suspension cut from 12 months to four by the independent committee. The bans currently only apply to ERC-run tournaments, however the committee will request that it is extended worldwide.
Richards, who resigned as ‘Quins director of rugby following an internal investigation, will now take some time before deciding if he will appeal the decision.
Late on in the Heineken Cup last eight clash last April, blood is seen streaming from the mouth of ‘Quins wing Tom Williams. The score is 6-5 to Leinster. The referee consents to his departure from the field as a blood injury.
As he departs, Williams appears to wink to the bench. This gesture arouses the suspicions of ERC. Sky later submit unseen footage that apparently shows Williams moments earlier taking something from his sock and putting it into his mouth. In a radio interview, former Irish prop, Paul Wallace said he saw Williams reach down into his sock then put his hand to his mouth, the inference being that Williams took the fake blood capsule from his sock and placed it in his mouth.
Williams’ substitution means that fly-half Nick Evans can return to the field. Evans had already been taken off, but the fact that Williams was coming off as a blood replacement means he can legitimately come back on. However, he misses his drop-goal attempt for victory.
Williams recently revealed details of how Richards and physio Steph Brennan, now employed by the England team, colluded to fake a blood injury in the game.
Williams alleged that he was subsequently cut in the mouth by a club official as part of an attempt to make real the fake injury. The identity of the individual he named will be made public when the ERC committee publishes its full judgment.
The Professional Rugby Players’ Association in England has claimed the ‘Bloodgate’ scandal has left an ‘indelible stigma’ on the game.
PRA chief executive, Damian Hopley insist there is no place in rugby for ‘orchestrated or fabricated cheating.’
He said: “We are grateful to the ERC disciplinary panel that Tom’s (Williams) 12-month ban has been reduced on appeal, but the aftermath of this episode has left an indelible stigma on the professional game. The players have an increasing responsibility to act as role models for the sport and must take a leading role in restoring the sport’s damaged image and integrity.”
“There is no place for orchestrated or fabricated cheating in rugby and the players welcome today’s findings as an overdue wake up call and very strong deterrent.”
Quins’ fine was increased to £259,000, but the ERC stopped short of the ultimate sanction of throwing them out of this season’s Cup. The original fine of €250,000 (£206,000) had been half suspended, but the new amount is payable in full. However, Harlequins will be relieved not to have been thrown out of this season’s Heineken Cup.
The pressures on rugby coaches and players to do well in the modern professional era are huge. Rugby and all those who believe in sportsmanship should just be thankful that Leinster prevailed in this game.
Imagine the outcry if the Irish province had lost out to a late penalty goal or drop goal in that quarter-final clash.

Ireland rugby captain won’t be named until November

MUNSTER captain Paul O’Connell will have to wait until November to learn whether his successful spell as Lions skipper this summer will result in the Limerick man assuming the role of Irish captain this season.
Irish coach Declan Kidney said he planned to adopt the same policy in relation to naming his team captain as last season.
Then Kidney delayed making the announcement that Brian O’Driscoll would continue in the role until just before the November internationals.


Grand Slam champions Ireland face Australia, Fiji and South Africa on successive weekends in Dublin this autumn.
Brian O’Driscoll led Ireland to their first Grand Slam success in 61 years last March while Paul O’Connell received lavish praise for his captaincy of Ian McGeechan’s Lions squad this summer.
Speaking in Limerick yesterday during an Irish squad training camp at UL Kidney explained: “I have talked to Brian (O’Driscoll) about it and we will do the same as last year. I think it is well documented that he had some laser surgery on his eyes over the past couple of weeks, so his own pre-season needs a bit of time and space for him to have a good one.
“Let’s see who rolls up in November and we can see where we go from there then.
“I think one of the strengths is that we have a Grand Slam-winning captain, we have a Lions captain and two other guys who captained the Lions at different stages of the tour, the Heineken Cup captain, a co-captain in the Magners League and one from the Churchill. I understand there will be a bit of speculation, but my job is to try and look after each guy.”
Kidney explained that Ireland and Munster hooker Jerry Flannery will be out of action for ‘a couple of weeks’ after tweaking his calf muscle last week.
Munster scrum-half Tomas O’Leary will not resume contact work in training until he visits his surgeon at the end of this month to find out how his recovery from a fractured ankle injury is progressing.
Coach Kidney said O’Leary’s recovery was ‘progressing nicely’ .
Irish coach Kidney also warned supporters about having sky-high expectations of the side as a result of their Grand Slam-winning exploits in March.
“I was lucky enough to be involved with teams which won something one year and you become the target everyone else judges themselves off the next season,” Kidney said.
“That is just pretty much the same. I feel there was lots of talk that when we managed to get the win over Argentina that we were not too good.
“I didn’t think that was true. I don’t think we are the greatest team in the world right now even though that might be thought in some places.
“If we did nothing else, but learn off the economic situation for the past 10 years, let’s not get greedy.
“If we get greedy and expect it, then no one is going to have any fun out of any of this.
“We have a match against Australia in two months time. That is all we are looking forward to.”
Meanwhile Munster back-row Nick Williams, who was forced out of last weekend’s game against Sale Sharks at Musgrave Park with a knee injury, will miss Friday’s game against London Irish at Musgrave Park (7pm).
The injury however is not as bad as it first appeared with Kiwi Williams expected to recover after a period of rest. He is set to have further medical assessment later in the week.
This will be the second year in succession that Munster and London Irish play each other in a pre-season game. It’s also the second successive year they will compete for the Jack Wakefield Memorial Trophy.

Colm Kinsella

FAI revise ticket prices for friendly with South Africa

AS expected the Football Association of Ireland have revised their ticket pricing structure for the up-coming international friendly at Thomond Park.
Last week FAI CEO John Delaney admitted that ticket prices for the Republic of Ireland’s clash with Australia at Thomond Park were too high while he also indicated that the pricing structure would be revised for the friendly against South Africa on Tuesday, September 8.


“Well, we got 19,400 in and I know when Ireland played a rugby game there against Canada they got 19,000 in,” John Delaney said.
“But I think we have to be more flexible on the pricing for the South Africa game.
“I think we have to look at a more family-orientated price as well. I think we probably got a little learning off that, to be honest. But still, 19,400 was a good turnout and, in terms of the overall running of the organisation, the difference between playing at home and playing an away friendly, along with the TV monies we get from Sky, it’s a significant profit for the organisation.
“In the wider context of the week, too, about 7,000 people saw the training in St Michael’s and, with all the openings that we did, there is a long-term legacy out of what we have done down here this week.”
Of the official 19,428 attendance on Wednesday, August 12 2,000 complimentary tickets were circulated while another 2,000 were sold to schoolboys priced at just €7. The terrace tickets, priced at €25 and €35, sold out, leaving at least 6,000 of the €55 stand tickets unsold.
For the same against South Africa tickets, including a family friendly children’s ticket, will go on sale from next Monday, August 24 - tickets will be made available from the following outlets: www.fai.ie, Gleeson Sports Scene, Mahon House, 25 Upper William Street, Limerick and the Thomond Park ticket office. Tickets will be priced - schoolboy €7, North and South Terrace €20, East and West Terrace €30, East and West Stand €40, Child Stand ticket (under-16) €20.
South Africa will host next summer’s World Cup and will include a number of well-known players in their squad, such as Benni McCarthy of Blackburn, Steven Pienaar of Everton and Aaron Mokoena of Portsmouth.
The Bafana Bafana will play Ireland three days after taking on Germany in Munich on September 5, the same day as Ireland’s World Cup qualifier in Cyprus. The friendly against South Africa will provide a good opportunity for Giovanni Trapattoni’s players to get another game under their belts in preparation for the decisive Group 8 clash with current world champions Italy, in Croke Park.
Giovanni Trapattoni will name his squad to play Cyprus and South Africa this Friday, August 21.
Meanwhile the Limerick District League returns to action this evening.
Pike Rovers, who have won the Premier League title for the past two years, take on Kilmallock at the Pike Club - kick-off is 6.30pm. While that is the only District League fixture taking place today several games are down for decision tomorrow night while a full programme of action is scheduled for this weekend.
Sean Hehir Bookmakers have installed Pike Rovers as hot favourites to win their third consecutive league title.
The Hoops, who saw off the challenge of second-placed Fairview Rangers with five points to spare last season, are priced at 3/1 while their nearest rivals, Fairview Rangers, are 9/2.
The next likely league contenders Janesboro (7/1) and Regional United (9/1) do look strong this season, but many expect the battle between Pike Rovers and Fairview Rangers to reach epic proportions.
The first really big game of the season takes place this Sunday when Fairview Rangers host Regional United at the Fairgreen (10.30am).
Although Regional United finished fourth last season they have made some significant signings and could yet exact a big influence on the final destination of the 2009-10 Kilmurry Lodge Premier League title.

BRIAN MCDONNELL

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Scully: ‘We must push on’

LAST Friday night 10-man Longford Town surprised Galway United (1-0) to force themselves into the FAI Ford Cup quarter-finals thanks to a goal from Liam Lynch seven minutes from full-time.
However Limerick FC manager Pat Scully isn’t overly concerned about Longford’s form as the Super Blues prepare for Friday night’s League of Ireland First Division clash at Jackman Park (7.45pm).


“No, I wouldn’t read too much into a result like that,” Pat Scully told Leader Sport.
“It was a great result for Longford, but it was also a cup game when anything can happen. I don’t think it will have a big impact on our league game this weekend.”
Although Longford will have been heartened by their display against Galway their league form has been poor. Longford have lost their last three league games (0-2 v Shelbourne at home, 0-3 v UCD at home & 0-3 v Sporting Fingal away) and find themselves 12 points behind Limerick FC in the First Division.
The Super Blues last faced Longford Town on Saturday, May 16 with Pat Scully’s side earning an impressive 3-2 away win - Thomas Lyons gave Limerick FC the lead before Longford equalized.
Limerick, thanks to goals from Davy Ryan and Paul Cummins, then surged into a two-goal lead while Longford plundered a consolation goal deep into injury time.
“We beat them three-two down there the last time we met,” recalled Pat Scully.
“I know they’ve had a change in manager since then and that they will be much better organised now.
“I played against and with Gareth Cronin. He’ll have Longford well organised and defensively I expect them to be very strong. We’ll need to be patient, to defend well and to take our chances. It will be a tight game, that’s the way they’ll want to keep it and then try to catch us on the counter-attack. They’re a good team with good players and we have to treat them with respect.”
Limerick won their last league encounter 2-1 away to Finn Harps thanks to goals from Shane Tracy and Stephen O’Flynn.
A result that encouraged Pat Scully no end: “It was really pleasing. We got Conor Molan back fit for the game; we moved things around a little which worked well while the players also showed a really good attitude. Finn Harps did come back into it in the last half an hour, but we were the better side and deserved to win the game.
“We were really pleased with the win. Donegal is a tough place to go and the lads showed real character to get a result up there.”
Limerick FC however were dealt a blow last week when centre-halves Brian O’Callaghan and Niall Donnelly left the squad for personal reasons. Club captain Pat Purcell is inching ever closer to returning to the starting 11, but even so the departure of O’Callaghan and Donnelly worries Pat Scully.
“It’s tough to lose two players in the same position,” admitted Pat Scully, “and it is disappointing; we’ve had a few disappointments this season haven’t we? We just have to roll up our sleeves now. We must push on without them, but it does makes things difficult.
“Some of the new lads that have come in have been great. Stephen O’Flynn and Daryl Kavanagh have been great additions to the team. They’ve come in and have done really well. They have made a huge difference to the team and O’Flynn’s second goal against Finn Harps was top class. We’ll be expecting more of the same from them this weekend.”

There was more good news for Limerick FC fans when the Football Association of Ireland inducted Kevin Fitzpatrick into the national association’s hall of fame last week.
For 22 years, from 1960 to 1982, Kevin Fitzpatrick was Limerick FC’s goalkeeper winning every honour that the League of Ireland had to offer.
Highlights from that 22-year period for Fitzpatrick include facing Young Boys of Berne in the European Cup in 1960, Spurs in a friendly in 1980 and Torino in the Cup Winners Cup.
Kevin Fitzpatrick is the only player to have participated in all five of Limerick FC’s five FAI Cup finals (1964, 1965, 1971, 1977 & 1982) - the 1982 final proved to be Kevin’s final game for the club.
With Limerick FC Kevin Fitzpatrick also won the league title in 1960.
Kevin played twice for the Irish amateur side, earned one full international cap and was a reserve for the Republic of Ireland on three occasions during his stunning goalkeeping career.

Brian McDonnell

Lee returns to the ring

LIMERICK pro-boxer Andy Lee steps back between the ropes in the US this Friday for the first time since his only career defeat 17 months ago.
Back in March 2008 the 25-year-old Castleconnell middleweight had hoped to ignite his career with a bout against Brian Vera. Screened live across the states, the contest went horribly wrong as Lee’s unbeaten run of 15 wins came to a crashing end.


In the last year and a half, the former Olympian has rebuilt his world title quest with three wins - in Dublin, Limerick and Germany. This Friday, Lee makes his reappearance in the US when he faces Indianapolis’ Anthony Shuler in the Horse Shoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana.
For his 20th professional fight the southpaw brings a career record of 18 wins and one defeat into the ring while his 32-year-old opponent has a record of 20 wins, six losses and one draw.
In Friday’s 10-round middleweight contest Lee was to face Jose Humberto Corral, but he was forced to withdraw due to a training injury.
“He’s a better opponent, better known in boxing and is a step up from the other guy. It was always likely to happen you know, that the opponent changes in this type of fight and it was something I was kind of prepared for,” said Andy Lee ahead of this weekend’s contest.
Andy’s brother Roger has flown out to the US to assist during a training camp.
“It’s been a good camp,” reported Lee.
“I’ve been sparring with Dominique Dalton, who is fighting himself on August 29. We’ve been sparring each other and helping each other prepare, and he is definitely one to look out for in the future,” said Lee.
The Emanuel Steward-managed middleweight has not fought since June when the former St. Francis Boxing Club star had a six-round points win over Latvia’s Olegs Fedetovs in Germany’s Gelsenkirchen’s Veltins Arena.
All going well Andy Lee will return home to Limerick next week and could be back in the ring again in October.
On this side of the Atlantic, British and Irish middleweight champion Matthew Macklin has spoken of the possibility of fighting Lee.
Birmingham-born Tipperary man Macklin meets Finnish fighter Amin Asikainen on September 25 for the European title and a win could set up a massive all-Irish clash.
“That would be a great fight for Irish boxing fans,” said Macklin of a potential clash with Lee.
“It would be the biggest all-Irish fight for a long, long time and to have a major belt like a European title on the line would make it a massive occasion. Andy’s a good fighter and a decent lad, but business is business at the end of the day and if I’m European champion then I think it’s a fight that makes real sense.”
The Brian Peters-managed Macklin has recently linked up with friend and former sparring partner Ricky Hatton to join his new promotional outfit and his first outing for the ‘Hitman’ comes at the Manchester Velodrome on September 25 when he tops the bill against Asikainen.
“A defence in Ireland against Andy Lee would be great, but for now I’m just concentrating on winning the title,” said Mathew Macklin.

Jerome O’Connell

Munster prepare for clash with London Irish

MUNSTER continue their build-up to the Magners League season with a pre-season friendly against London Irish at Musgrave Park this Friday. (7pm).
Tony McGahan’s youthful side made the best possible start to their programme of three pre-season friendlies against when securing a gritty 19-17 victory over the Sale Sharks last weekend.
Among the interested spectators at Musgrave Park was Munster’s latest big-name signing, Jean de Villiers. The Springboks centre is due to join up with his Munster team-mates in the middle of next month.
Munster complete their programme of pre-season friendlies away to the Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on Friday, August 28.
Meanwhile the Munster under-20s continue their preparations for the inter-provincial campaign with an away game against Heriots RFC this Saturday.
The Munster side, coached by Anthony Foley, are also set to play a Munster Academy select XV and UL Bohemian in the lead up to their three inter-provincial fixtures. Munster begin their programme of games in the inter-provincial series away to Connacht on Friday, September 11.
Munster under-20 coach Anthony Foley is joined in the management team by assistant/backs coach Ian Costello and team manager, Alan Miller. Squad: Ger Burke, Garth Quinn-McDonagh, Duncan Casey, Brian Cagney, Brendan Cullinane, JP Cooney, Brian Hayes, Edward Kelly, Sean Duggan, Dave O’Callaghan, John Quill, Brian O’Hara, Patrick Butler, Dan Heffernan, David O’Driscoll, Brian Slater, Michael Kelliher, Cormac O’Flynn, Kevin Kidney, Joe Holland, Simon Zebo, Craig O’Hanlon, Gavin Nugent, Lukas Kunz, Darren Moroney, Luke O’Dea.
Meanwhile the three-day Irish rugby training camp which has been taking place in Limerick this week is due to finish tomorrow.
The camp, which featured 37 players, is the second of three scheduled training camps taking place during July, August and September.
The Limerick camp saw the return of members of the Ireland squad who toured with the British & Irish Lions in South Africa, as well as some England-based players.

Colm Kinsella

Monday, August 17, 2009

McCarthy vows to remain at helm of Limerick hurling

JUSTIN McCarthy has vowed to see out his two-year term as Limerick senior hurling manager.
Yesterday, after the crushing 24-point defeat to Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park, McCarthy told Leader Sport that he will be at the helm for the rebuilding.


“I can see the bigger picture and there is no such thing of laying down and saying we can’t move on,” said McCarthy who is just 10 months into his reign in Limerick.
“I said that I would be down for two years and I have enjoyed every moment of it so far - there is great interest in hurling in Limerick,” Justin McCarthy said.
McCarthy and selectors Brian Ryan and Liam Garvey used 27 players in Limerick’s six championship games in 2009.
“Limerick are in transition,” explained McCarthy after yesterday’s 6-19 to 2-7 loss.
“Limerick have to look to the future and there are young lads coming through and there is not doubt that they will learn from that hardship and set back. Like all things in life, time erodes those things and next year Limerick will be back in the championship,” he said.
“They gave their all and I am not going to blame anyone - they gave their all. This was our sixth game of the championship - we won three, drew one and lost two.”
McCarthy said that he was happy with preparations and felt his side were ready to spring a surprise.
“We put in a great effort and you always think you have a chance of winning, but realistically there is a lot of rebuilding to be done. To win a trophy would be outstanding and that is the first thing,” he said.
“We came up against a very good team - we had our plans in place before the game and we thought they would work, but in fairness a few mistakes were made here and there and they capitalised and we missed a few chances. We were on the back foot after 20 minutes and by half time the game was over,” accepted the disappointed manager.
“We felt preparation was outstanding, the mood was great, fellas attitude was outstanding and we trained exceptionally well. We came up against a team that is probably two years ahead of Limerick in terms of preparation and development.
“They won two Munster championships and a National League and they are a very good team.”
With manager Justin McCarthy confirming his desire to remain in charge, attention will now turn to two of the more experienced members of the pane - Mark Foley and Ollie Moran.
“I don’t know - I will have to wait and see. After being beaten like that it’s a body blow, but I guess at this time it would be wrong to make a decision because your emotions are all over the place,” Mark Foley told Leader Sport last evening.
The thoughts of Donal O’Grady turned to the large Limerick support in Croke Park as the midfielder attempted to analyse his side’s semi-final collapse.
“We are not that bad - that isn’t a true reflection,” he said of the crushing defeat.
“I am more disappointed for the supporters than anything,” explained the Granagh-Ballingarry man.
“It’s just disappointing, that was very bad - we are terrible disappointed,” he said with bowed head.
“We can’t cod ourselves - we are behind Tipperary hurling wise, but no that much.
“We thought we had a great chance of beating Tipperary today and even our heart and our spirit would get us so far, but we couldn’t get the ball over the bar to keep in touch with them,” he recalled.
With Justin McCarthy committed to a second year at the helm O’Grady believes that there is a future for this panel: “There is a very young bunch of players coming through and I hope they stick together and Justin can bring us on another level. We have no other choice, but to pick it up because we want to be up there with the Tipperarys and the Kilkennys.”

Jerome O'Connell

Niland hopes to fulfill a personal dream at US Open

LIMERICK’S Conor Niland will fulfill a personal dream next week should the Irish number one progress through three qualifying rounds and compete in the US Open at Flushing Meadows.
The 28-year-old Limerick man will fly to New York from his Dublin base on Thursday leaving Niland with a few days to practice and acclimatize to the humidity before participating in the first qualifying round on Tuesday, August 25.
Conor Niland, who has won four ITF Futures titles and one Challenger Tour event (New Delhi, 2008), can’t wait to get out there and participate in his third Grand Slam event this year.
“Playing at the US Open is definitely a big ambition of mine, it’s pretty appealing,” admitted an excited Conor Niland this week.
“I’m playing the game to be able to play in that kind of tournament. At the same time I’m not putting any pressure on myself. There’s no guarantee that if I play really well that I will get through qualifying. It’s going to be really tough out there.”
This year alone Niland has competed in Baton Rouge (Louisiana) and Yuba City (California), but the Limerick man has never played a tournament in New York.
Niland sealed his place in the qualifying rounds for the US Open when he picked up 13 world-ranking points by making the quarter-finals of a clay-court ATP Tour Challenger tournament in Saransk, Russia recently.
“It’s nice to be involved,” explained Conor Niland.
“I’ve not played in the US Open before and it’s also a big plus that qualifying for the tournament is on site.
“Qualifying for Wimbledon, for example, is held somewhere else, but for Australia, France and the US Open you’re right there and it’s a really nice atmosphere.”
Niland will face the US Open challenge in confident mood following a couple of notable performances during the Istanbul Challenger Tour event last week - in the first round Niland beat Eduoard Roger-Vasselin (ranked as high as 82 in July, 2007) before losing out to the highly-rated youngster Florian Mayer in the next round.
“I’m playing pretty well.
“I played two matches in Istanbul last week.
“I got through the first round and then took a set off a really good player so I’m happy with how things are going for me right now.”
Conor Niland has already taken part in the corresponding stage of the Australian Open and Wimbldeon this calendar year - when Niland competes at Flushing Meadows the outing will represent his fifth Grand Slam event in all.
Although neither of those tournaments worked out as Niland would have wished the Limerick man regards the US Open as his best chance to make it into the first round proper of a Grand Slam event.
“This (hard) is my best surface,” said Niland.
“I’ve always been at my best on fairly fast hard courts so this US Open definitely represents one of my better chances to get through the qualifying rounds and to play in a Grand Slam event. And, that’s what I’m focusing on.
“I’m really looking forward to the whole experience. It has been nice to have played in two of the three Grand Slam events this year and it’s especially nice to be looking forward to the US Open now.
“This time last year I was injured and I wasn’t playing at all. So, I’m going to enjoy the US Open and after that concentrate on forcing my way up the rankings. I’m feeling good, playing well and really looking forward to next week.”

Brian McDonnell

Thursday, August 13, 2009

McCarthy names team to face Tipp

Limerick senior hurling manager Justin McCarthy has made one change to his starting 15 for Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary in Croke Park (throw-in 3.30pm).
Although Wayne McNamara started in the quarter-final win over Dublin in Thurles’ Semple Stadium the Adare man has been omitted from Sunday’s team with Ahane’s Ollie Moran now named at centre-forward while James Ryan has been moved to right wing-forward.


The Limerick team, which was named after training this evening, reads: Brian Murray (Patrickswell), Damien Reale (Hospital-Herbertstown), Stephen Lucey (Croom), Mark O’Riordan (Croom), Seamus Hickey (Murroe-Boher), Brian Geary (Monaleen), Mark Foley (captain, Adare), Donal O’Grady (Granagh-Ballingarry), Gavin O’Mahoney (Kilmallock), James Ryan (Garryspillane), Ollie Moran (Ahane), Paul Browne (Bruff), David Breen (Na Piarsaigh), Paudie McNamara (Murroe-Boher), Andrew O’Shaughnessy (Kilmallock).
Meanwhile Tipperary senior hurling manager Liam Sheedy has also named his starting team for Sunday’s eagerly-anticipated clash. The Portroe man has made one change to his starting team with Borris-Ileigh’s Brendan Maher replacing Conor O’Brien in the starting 15. As a result of Maher’s inclusion the Tipperary defence has been re-shuffled to allow for Brendan Maher’s positioning at left wing-back - Thurles’ Padraic Maher has moved to full-back with Mullinahone’s Paul Curran switching to left corner-back.
Tipperary team: Brendan Cummins (Ballybacon-Grange), Paddy Stapleton (Borris-Ileigh), Padraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Paul Curran (Mullinahone), Declan Fanning (Killenaule), Conor O’Mahony (captain, Newport), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh), James Woodlock (Drom & Inch), Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch), Pat Kerwick (Killenaule), Seamus Callanan (Drom & Inch), John O’Brien (Toomevara), Noel McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney), Eoin Kelly (Mullinahone), Lar Corbett (Thurles Sarsfields).
The winners of Sunday’s semi-final will face defending champions and four in-a-row chasing Kilkenny in the final on Sunday, September 6.

Brian McDonnell

Australia out-class the Irish at Thomond Park

Republic of Ireland 0
Australia 3
Brian McDonnell
At Thomond Park


BETWEEN fingers over our eyes on Wednesday night we watched Australia beat the Republic of Ireland to within an inch of their lives leaving Giovanni Trapattoni’s side begging for the final whistle on humanitarian grounds.
While it was a joy to watch Pim Verbeek’s side stroke the ball effortlessly across a pristine Thomond Park and threaten Shay Given’s goal at will the Republic’s flaccid performance will concern Irish supporters ahead of their crucial World Cup qualifier against Cyprus on September 5 in Nicosia - there days later the Republic will return to Thomond Park to face South Africa (Tuesday, September 8) in another international friendly.


Ireland were well and truly out-classed at Thomond Park, humiliatingly exposed to the world like a naked man caught in the shower after the rest of his house has collapsed all around him. Australia, with Tim Cahill in rude good form, were the far superior outfit leaving the Irish players to stagger off to their loser’s dressing room, disconcerted and a probably feeling a little sick.
Two first half strikes from Tim Cahill and a late David Carney effort from 30 yards gave Australia their deserved win.
The Socceroos were the first to threaten in the seventh minute when Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell combined before the ball finally broke to Luke Wilkshire who pulled his low shot just wide. Mere seconds later Harry Kewell’s effort drew an excellent save from Shay Given and the alarm bells were ringing.
Following Aiden McGeady’s cross in the 13th minute Robbie Keane did bring the home support to its feet, but Keane’s looping header flew two feet clear of the bar.
Such Irish attacks were only of a token nature in the opening half.
In the 22nd minute Patrick Kisnorb connected with Mark Bresciano’s pin-point corner and drew another good save out of Shay Given before Robbie Keane, following good work by Aiden McGeady on the left flank, tricked his way past a couple defenders, but could not beat Mark Schwarzer at his near post.
Finally Australia’s ambitious brand of football earned a dividend in the 38th minute. When an Irish corner was hacked clear by the Australian defence toward Tim Cahill on the half-way line there appeared to be little danger. The Everton star however turned, exchanged passes with Glasgow Celtic’s Scott McDonald, and then unleashed a rasping shot from 20 yards which flew by Shay Given’s out-stretched right hand to give the Socceroos a deserved lead.
A deathly hush fell around Thomond Park which made the celebrating Australian players look like disrespectful children playing at a funeral - patrons of that famous old ground are not used to seeing the home side surrender so meekly.
Australia, who were the second side (behind Japan) to qualify for next summer’s World Cup, doubled their lead a minute before half time.
This time right-back Rhys Williams proved the Republic’s chief tormentor. Williams waltzed past Aiden McGeady and barged his way into the 18-yard box before turning onto his left and firing in a shot which Shay Given did exceptionally well to parry. Unfortunately Tim Cahill was hovering nearby and happily tapped in his second goal of the evening.
Ireland attempted to redress the balance in the second half. Giovanni Trapattoni introduced a lively Stephen Hunt to the side while he also swapped Eddie Nolan for Kevin Kilbane and Keith Andrews for Darron Gibson. All three substitutions significantly improved the Irish side, but the Republic still failed to change the complexion of this game in any material way.
In the 49th minute Mark Schwarzer did well to palm away Stephen Hunt’s effort while Australia’s Brett Holman stung the hands of Shay Given from distance in the 55th.
With Stephen Hunt growing into his role as chief tormentor of the Australians there was hope of a consolation goal for Ireland, but when the Hull City winger fired wide from well inside the 18-yard box on the hour mark notable groans emanated from a now impatient home crowd.
Sean St Ledger almost stole in for goal following Stephen Hunt’s 77th minute corner, but the misfortunate centre-half mistimed his effort slightly and the opportunity to score was spurned.
Australia’s Harry Kewell, with nine minutes of normal time remaining, beat sub ‘keeper Kieran Westwood with a flashing drive in the 81st minute, but unfortunately for Kewell his sensational effort drifted just wide.
The Republic had their eager supporters on their feet once more in the 88th minute when Eddie Nolan picked out Keith Andrews loitering on the edge of the Australian box -Andrews fired in a terrific shot which curled around the Socceroos’ ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer, but found a post and was cleared to safety.
Then, in the 93rd minute, Australia’s David Carney, the left-back mind, conjured a wonderful goal. The combination of Luke Wilkshire and Nick Carle worked the ball out to Carney who took aim from fully 31 yards and planted an extraordinary shot in Kieran Westwood’s top right-hand corner. A brilliant goal and a fitting end to an historic night at Thomond Park.

Republic of Ireland: Shay Given, John O’Shea, Sean St Ledger, Richard Dunne, Kevin Kilbane, Damien Duff, Glenn Whelan, Darron Gibson, Aiden McGeady, Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane. Subs: Caleb Folan for Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt for Damien Duff, Keith Andrews for Darron Gibson, Eddie Nolan for Kevin Kilbane, Kieran Westwood for Shay Given, Shane Long for Aiden McGeady.

Australia: Mark Schwarzer, Rhys Williams, Patrick Kisnorbo, Jade North, David Carney, Mark Bresciano, Mile Jedinak, Luke Wilkshire, Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, Scott McDonald. Subs: Brett Holman for Tim Cahill, Adrian Madaschi for Patrick Kisnorbo, Nikita Rukavytsya for Scott McDonald, Matt Spiranovic for Jade North, Nick Carle for Mark Bresciano, James Holland for Mile Jedinak.

Referee: Alfonso Perez Burrul (Spain).

Brian McDonnell

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pre-season preparations crank up a gear

MUNSTER’S pre-season preparations crank up a gear this Friday night when the Magners League champions host the Sale Sharks in an attractive friendly at Musgrave Park (7pm).
The fixture is the first of three Munster will play against Guinness Premiership opposition in the coming weeks. Tony McGahan’s men face London Irish, again at Musgrave Park on Friday, August 21 and complete their programme of friendlies away to Leicester Tigers a week later.


Munster and their opponents this Friday night, the Sharks were drawn in the same pool in last season’s heineken Cup. The second of their two meetings at Thomond Park in January ended in an emphatic 37-14 win for Munster. The victory ensured the Irish province’s passage into the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup for an 11th successive season.
Munster must plan without the services of their Lions players, Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls, Ronan O’Gara, David Wallace and Donncha O’Callaghan for Friday night’s game. The quintet are due to return to competitive action for round four of the Magners League in late September.
The Munster squad and management flew home this Wednesday from a week-long intensive training camp at the Browns Sports & Leisure Centre in Vilamoura, Portugal.
Included in the 43 strong squad were newcomers this season, French international prop Julien Brugnaut, former Garryowen hooker Damien Varley who played his rugby with London Wasps last season, Kiwi scrum-half Toby Morland, former Connacht player Danny Riordan and one-time Ireland Under-20 full-back Felix Jones.
Also included on the Portugal trip were scrum-half Tomas O’Leary and hooker Jerry Flannery, both reported to be making excellent progress from their respective injuries.
Munster coach Tony McGahan is set to field an experimental side for Friday night’s game in Cork with at least some of the province’s new signings expected to feature in the fray.
Co-incidentally the Sale Sharks spent the opening week of their pre-season at the Browns Sports and Leisure Centre in Vilamoura.
Sale Sharks have already had two pre-season games, a 5-12 defeat to Montpelier last week in Millau and a 19-22 reverse at the hands of Albi, when the English Premiership side fielded a mix of young and experienced players.
Sale arrived in Munster this Wednesday to begin preparations for Friday night’s game in Cork.
Sharks coach Kingsley Jones sees the Munster game as the key part of his squad’s build up to the season and he is expected to include the likes of Charlie Hodgson, Andrew Sheridan, Luke Abraham, Ben Cohen and fully fit again Dwayne Peel in his squad for the trip to Munster.
Also expected to feature in the Sale side on Friday night are newcomers, Scotland international Gavin Kerr, David Seymour, who joins from Saracens, and the Fijian international Sisaro Koyamaibole, who played with Toulon last season.
Match tickets for the match at Musgrave Park were still available earlier this week. They are priced at €25 for the West Stand, €20 for uncovered seating, €15 for adult terracing and €5 for schoolboys.
Further details are available on munsterrugby.ie or by telephoning the Ticketmaster hotline on 0818 719 300.
Meanwhile, 15 Munster players have been included in the 37-strong Irish squad which will be involved in a three-day training camp in Limerick from Sunday.
The camp, which runs from Sunday until Wednesday, August 19, will feature Munster’s Lions players, Paul O’Connell, John Hayes, Ronan O’Gara, Keith Earls, Donncha O’Callaghan and David Wallace.
Four Munster players, Denis Fogarty, Felix Jones, Barry Murphy and Niall Ronan, who were involved in Ireland’s first camp in Belfast at the end of July, make way for the returning players.
Irish coach Declan kidney said: “The Belfast camp was productive in that we were able to continue to work with the players and pick up where we left off from the summer tour and the Churchill Cup.
“A lot of players are being given an opportunity and from that point of view as well, we were happy with the spread of players we were in contact with in Belfast.”

Irish rugby squad
Neil Best (Northampton), Rory Best (Ulster), Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Tony Buckley (Munster), Tom Court (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Connacht), Leo Cullen (Leinster), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster), Ian Dowling (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Jerry Flannery (Munster), John Hayes (Munster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Marcus Horan (Munster), Shane Horgan (Leinster), Shane Jennings (Leinster), Robert Kearney (Leinster), Denis Leamy (Munster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Geordan Murphy (Leicester), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster), Paul O’Connell (Munster), Mick O’Driscoll (Munster), Ronan O’Gara (Munster), Tomas O’Leary (Munster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Peter Stringer (Munster), Devon Toner (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), David Wallace (Munster), Paddy Wallace (Ulster), Brett Wilkinson (Connacht).

Colm Kinsella