Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Board seek seal of approval for O’Sullivan

AT next Wednesday night’s (October 7) Football Board meeting the executive officers will recommend that Mickey Ned O’Sullivan remain in charge of the inter-county side for a fifth consecutive year - should the football delegates ratify O’Sullivan the Kerry man’s name will then be forwarded to the County Board for their seal of approval.
It is likely that Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s fifth year in charge will officially begin following the County Board meeting on Tuesday, October 13.


While Abbeyfeale’s Ger O’Connor will guide the fortunes of the minor footballers next year it now appears almost certain that Newcastle West’s Billy Lee will take responsibility for the under-21 football team - Lee is also expected to be named as a selector with the senior footballers alongside Donie Buckley, Paddy Ivess and Joe Redington. The Football Board are seeking nominations for the position of junior football manager.
Meanwhile an executive meeting of the County Board officers will take place this Wednesday night (September 30) at which the make up of the inter-county hurling management teams will be discussed.
Although the County Board will be seeking nominations for an individual to succeed Gerry Molyneaux as intermediate manager Justin McCarthy (senior), Leo O’Connor (under-21) and Ger Hegarty (minor) will complete their two-year terms in charge of their respective sides in 2010.
Shannonsiders will be desperately hoping for an improved performance from their inter-county teams in 2010 - the respective Limerick hurling teams failed to win a single game in the 2009 Munster championship. The inter-county football sides faired much better winning three of eight games in the Munster championship.
The senior hurlers lost by eight points to Waterford, the under-21s lost by 15 points to Clare, the minor team lost by 13 points to Tipp and then by three to Waterford while the intermediate team lost by 23 points to the Déise. The senior footballers beat Tipp and Clare before losing by a point to Cork. The under-21 footballers lost by six points to Clare, the minors lost by three to Waterford and although the junior footballers beat Tipp they then lost to Clare.

Get your entries in
Leader Sport readers are this week reminded that the closing date for entries for the Limerick 25-year teams is fast approaching and those interested are asked to submit their completed forms as soon as possible - see page 11 for details.

All Stars
Five Limerick players have been nominated for the 2009 All Stars - Adare’s Mark Foley, Kilmallock’s Gavin O’Mahony and Murroe-Boher’s Seamus Hickey in hurling while Johnny McCarthy (St. Kieran’s) and John Galvin (Croom) have been nominated for a football award.
The hurling nominations for the prestigious awards were announced on Wednesday, September 23 and saw Tipperary receive 13 nominations, All-Ireland champions Kilkenny 12, Galway six, Waterford five, Dublin four, Limerick three and Cork just two.
Although Limerick did not win a single All Star in 2008 three Shannonsiders (Brian Murray, Ollie Moran & Andrew O’Shaughnessy) collected awards in 2007 - Limerick have won 44 All Star awards since 1971.
Sadly Limerick have never had the honour of collecting an All Star award in football - 338 different footballers have received the prestigious award and while Kerry lead with 43 award winners Carlow, Kilkenny, Limerick, London, Longford, Louth and Waterford have never won an award.
Twelve counties are represented on this year’s nominations list - Kerry and Cork enjoy the lion’s share with 12 and 10 nominations respectively.
Johnny McCarthy has been nominated for an award in the full-back line while John Galvin, who was also nominated in 2004, will hope to earn one of the midfield spots. The banquet will be held on Friday, October 16.

National Leagues
The GAA have also released the provisional fixtures (subject to change) for next year’s national hurling and football leagues.
The Limerick hurlers will launch their National Hurling League Division One campaign against Galway (home) on February 21 next.
Six days later Limerick host Cork on February 27 while on March 14 Limerick will travel to Waterford.
On March 21 Limerick host beaten All-Ireland finalists Tipperary and on March 28 Limerick face Offaly (away).
On April 4 Limerick host Kilkenny while in their final Division One game the Shannonsiders travel to Dublin (April 18).
The Limerick footballers will open their Division Four campaign with a trip to London on February 7 while their first home game, on February 13, will see Carlow visit Shannonside. On February 20 Longford host Limerick while on March 13 Waterford will visit Limerick.
On March 21 Limerick travel to face Mick O’Dwyer’s Wicklow and six days later the Shannonsiders host the Kilkenny footballers.
On April 3 Limerick face Clare in Ennis while in the final round of the 2010 National Football League Limerick will complete their Division Four campaign with a home game against Leitrim.
The County Board will confirm the details of all the above games in due course.

Brian McDonnell

Leinster loom large for Munster men

MUNSTER’s season cranks up a gear this weekend as the Magners League champions lock horns with Heineken Cup holders Leinster in a mammoth Magners League tie at the RDS this Saturday (6.30pm).
Memories of Munster’s defeat to Leinster in last season’s Heineken Cup semi-final at Croke Park still haunts the province’s supporters.
But Saturday’s fixture, between the league’s second and third-placed sides, gives Munster the opportunity to gain part compensation at least, as well as providing a timely boost ahead of Saturday week’s Heineken Cup opener away to Northampton.
Munster manager Shaun Payne said the rivalry between Munster and Leinster had taken on an added dimension in recent seasons as the profile of the fixture has grown.
“This has always been a massive game. When I arrived here I was left in no doubt about the significance of the fixture,” Shaun Payne explained.
“But it has taken on an added dimension in recent seasons.
“We won our two Heineken Cups and Leinster won theirs last season.
“There were the two Heineken Cup semi-final meetings between us as well. They were epic games, two of the most amazing games that I have ever been involved in.
“Obviously the last one didn’t work out for us and it is something we have to live with.
“The 2006 semi-final was something the Leinster boys will always remember, I can guarantee it. But this fixture has taken on more importance, if that is possible.”
Payne said the round five Magners League clash with Leinster was also the ideal preparation for the Heineken Cup clash at Franklin’s Garden.
“It is a proper test before the Heineken Cup. There is no bigger test or rivalry for us.
“And Leinster probably feel the same way about it,” Shaun Payne pointed out.
“It is a real chance to test yourself out before the Heineken Cup starts.
“It is early in the season. Both sides are finding their feet in terms of team selection and especially with the Lions just coming back into both squads. I think it is great preparation for what is coming next.
“But as a stand alone game it has always been up there.”
Munster welcome back Jerry Flannery, Ian Dowling, Peter Stringer, David Wallace, Paul Warwick, Niall Ronan, Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls and Denis Leamy into contention for selection for Saturday’s game.


New signing Jean de Villiers is available after recovering fully from cramp he picked up towards the end of the Magners League clash with he Dragons last weekend.
Flanker Alan Quinlan is a doubt however with a neck injury.
Barry Murphy, who went over on his ankle in the early minutes of the Dragons tie, is unavailable.
Meanwhile centre Brian O’Driscoll is one of 13 Ireland internationals named in the extended Leinster squad for Saturday’s interprovincial derby - the Leinster team is set to be named at lunchtime this Friday.
Leinster coach Michael Cheika said this week that the kind of rivalry which exists between Munster and Leinster is rare.
“The two matches against Munster are the highlights of your season,” Michael Cheika said.
“For me as a foreigner who has come to understand the rivalry, it’s a real classic.
“You don’t find these types of rivalries in many other places. What we have to is break the tit-for-tat nature of this encounter. They win and then we win, we win two and then they win two. If we want to be successful on Saturday then we’ll need to break that cycle because I want us to be the team that’s mentally angrier and wants to come back and win the match even though we won the last time.
“Last time means nothing.”

Colm Kinsella

Neck injury could rule Quinlan out

THE Munster management team are keeping their fingers crossed that flanker Alan Quinlan will be available for selection for Saturday’s big Magners League showdown with Leinster, despite injuring his neck in the victory over the Dragons at Musgrave Park on Sunday last.
Thirty-five-year-old Quinlan was replaced in the opening half of Munster’s bonus-point win over the Welsh side after injuring his neck in a tackle.


Munster manager Shaun Payne admitted Quinlan was struggling with the injury, but the management team were not ruling him out of contention for selection for the RDS clash with rivals Leinster (6.30pm).
Barry Murphy, who went over on his ankle in the early minutes of Sunday’s game with the Dragons is unavailable for the Leinster tie. Jean de Villiers, who made his Munster debut at the weekend, did suffer a touch of cramp towards the end of the match, but has recovered fully.
Jerry Flannery, Ian Dowling, Peter Stringer, David Wallace, Paul Warwick, Niall Ronan, Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls and Denis Leamy are also back in contention for places on the starting XV.
Munster manager Payne said the Leinster clash was ideal preparation for Saturday week’s big Heineken Cup opener away to Northampton.
“It is a proper test before the Heineken Cup. There is no bigger test or rivalry for us. And Leinster probably feel the same way about it,” Shaun Payne pointed out.
“It is a real chance to test yourself out before the Heineken Cup starts. It is early in the season. Both sides are finding their feet in terms of team selection and especially with the Lions just coming back into both squads. I think it is great preparation for what is coming next, but as a stand alone game it has always been up there.”
Payne said the management team had been especially pleased with Nick Williams’ Man of the Match performance against the Dragons on Sunday when the number eight bagged a hat-trick of tries.
“Nick (Williams) had a particularly good pre-season. He was very sharp in training. You could hardly wish to see a more powerful guy in the gym,” Shaun Payne said.
“To see him finally translate all of that into a performance on the pitch is very pleasing for us. That was one of the most positive things we took from the game with the Dragons.
“We see Nick day in and day out. We see what he is capable of. It is frustrating for him and for us that he hasn’t been able to do that on the pitch until now. He had the injury from the pre-season game with Sale.
“He started on Sunday and powered over for three tries. That was pleasing.”

COLM KINSELLA

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

O’Leary itching to be involved

RETURNED Munster scrum-half Tomas O’Leary is itching to be involved in Saturday’s big Magners League showdown with Leinster after injury robbed him of the opportunity to play in the sides, historic Heineken Cup semi-final at Croke Park last May.
O’Leary broke his ankle in Munster’s Magners League tie with the Scarlets last April and the injury ruled him out of action for five months and forced him to miss the Lions tour to South Africa.
However, the 25-year-old scrum-half has made a terrific comeback from the injury and is eagerly looking forward to being involved in Munster’s crunch Magners League and Heineken Cup fixtures over the coming weeks.


Munster’s hectic schedule begins with a big Magners League date with Leinster at the RDS in Dublin this Saturday evening (6.30pm).
Irish scrum-half Tomas O’Leary says both provinces, currently lying second and third in the Magners League and only separated on scoring difference, will be fiercely determined to record a victory ahead of the commencement of the Heineken Cup a week later.
Tomas O’Leary said: “The Leinster match is definitely a big game for us.
“It is a big derby. Saturday’s game will be no different.
“Obviously both sides will want to win it. I am just hoping to make it into the 22 and the starting XV for the game. I am looking forward to it.
“We have made a decent enough start, but there is plenty to work on in terms of performance. We will try and kick on from here.”
O’Leary said he is delighted to be back in the Munster dressing room again after putting his injury heartache behind him.
“It is great to be back in that dressing room. We have a big few weeks ahead, so it is brilliant to be back involved in the squad and in contention to play,” Tomas O’Leary said.
“The injury isn’t in the back of my mind any more.
“For the first few weeks I was getting into contact I was wary of it. After I got a good few hits in training, started full training with the lads and got more confident.
“I have been in full training for the bones of a month or a month and a half. So I am pretty confident with it now.”
The eight-times capped Irish international revealed that his team-mates had been more than happy to let first choice goal-kicker Ronan O’Gara know that O’Leary had kicked more points than him in Sunday evening’s Magners League win over the Dragons at Musgrave Park.
“Goal-kicking is not something I have been practicing. There wasn’t much pressure on for those conversions, so it was grand,” O’Leary said.
“One of the lads inside was saying that I had scored more points this season than Ronan (O’Gara), so I didn’t need to say anything!
“The key for us was that, after a slow first half, we picked up the pace in the second half. A lot of fellows seemed to be struggling in the first half, including myself. I was blowing a bit. Hopefully, I will get a few matches under my belt and my match fitness will come back.”
Meanwhile, on the local club rugby front, this weekend marks the start of the AIB All-Ireland League.
The highlight of an action-packed programme is the clash of cty rivals Garryowen and Shannon under the Dooradoyle floodlights on Friday night (7.30pm).
In the same division UL Bohemian will be hoping to bounce back from their Limerick Charity Cup final defeat to Young Munster when they host Blackrock College at Thomond Park on Saturday (2.30pm).
In Division 1B in-form Young Munsters open their programme of regular season games with a home tie against Buccaneers at Clifford Park on Saturday (2.30pm).
The three Limerick sides competing in Division 2 will approach their opening series of AIL games in confident mood following a hat-trick of wins in the AIB Cup at the weekend.
Thomond host Greystones at Liam Fitzgerald Park while Old Crescent face an away game against Belfast Harlequins and Bruff travel to Cork to take on Highfield at Woodleigh Park. All games begin at 2.30pm.

Colm Kinsella

Super Blues face Wexford

KILCORNAN’S Garry Sheehan will find himself facing his colleagues from last season with Limerick FC when the Super Blues travel to Ferrycarrig Park on Friday night to take on the Wexford Youths (8pm) - the striker transferred to Wexford last February.
Limerick FC however won’t fear Wexford especially after the Youths lost 0-2 to Athlone Town on Saturday last.
The Super Blues are undefeated in four games now while they have won both league encounters against the Youths this season. On April 10, at Ferrycarrig Park, Limerick had Paul Walsh (penalty) and Colin Scanlan to thank for a two-goal win while on July 10 Brian O’Callaghan and Shane Tracy helped the Super Blues to an identical result at Jackman Park. The sides also met in the EA Sports Cup on April 13 and although Stephen Goggin scored for Limerick the Super Blues lost on penalties (3-5) after a one-all draw.
Following Friday night Limerick FC have just five games remaining. They enjoy two consecutive home games against Kildare County (October 9) and Waterford United (October 16) while they then face Sporting Fingal (away) on Tuesday, October 20.
The Super Blues last home game of the season will be against Finn Harps on October 30 while they will complete their league campaign against Longford Town (away) on Saturday, November 7.
Meanwhile the Limerick FC under-20s, coached by Paul O’Donnell and Barry Lynch, beat Carlow 2-0 in Tullow on Sunday with goals from Cian Doyle and David McGrath.
That result puts Limerick FC right in the hunt for a spot in the knock-out stages.
Limerick FC host the Waterford United under-20s on Sunday next at 2pm in the Pike Field. Limerick FC will then complete their under-20 programme away to Cork City on October 18 next.

Brian McDonnell

Monday, September 28, 2009

Flannery - ready to return


HOOKER Jerry Flannery is in contention to make his seasonal debut for Munster in Saturday’s big Magners League clash with Leinster after lining out for Shannon in their friendly clash with Galwegians at the weekend.
Munster coach Tony McGahan explained that Flannery needed game time having being sidelined with a calf injury. McGahan said Flannery’s 40-minute display in Shannon’s 33-28 win left the 30-year-old in the selection mix for Saturday’s clash with Leinster at the RDS (6.30pm).
Kiwi powerhouse Nick Williams bagged a hat-trick of tries as Munster moved into second place in the Magners League table with a 27-3, bonus point, win over the Dragons at Musgrave Park last night.
South African centre Jean de Villiers made his debut for Munster in the game, replacing Keith Earls, who was forced to cry off before kick off due to illness. Afterwards Man of the Match Nick Williams paid tribute to Munster’s tight five who, he believed, had laid the foundation for the side’s third victory in the Magners League this season.
“A performance like that has been a long time coming.
“Munster people had a lot of faith in me,” Williams said.
“The forward pack dominated in the second half. We had weathered the storm.
“Credit to the whole 22 and the squad.
“The front row was immense. I think our whole tight five played brilliantly.
“In the back row you can feel the difference every time you take a hit in the scrums.”
After a scrappy first half display which finished deadlocked, 3-3, Munster cut loose in the second period to secure their sixth straight win over the Dragons.
Tony McGahan said: “We knew that we needed to remain patient in the second half and be a bit more organised and produce a bit more clinical finish on the edge of the field.
“We needed to put pressure on them around the ruck. We felt we would out work them in the second half. I thought we did that. The front row did well. Full credit to Laurie (Fisher) and the guys. They laid an excellent platform for us to be successful up front.”
Tony McGahan said he was pleased with the debut display of new centre Jean de Villiers.
“Jean (de Villiers) was very solid,” Tony McGahan said.
“He did not get a lot of ball to play off throughout the game, but what he did certainly had a touch of class about it. He just had a few cramps at the end.”
Meanwhile, on the club front, Young Munster collected their first silverware at senior level in 13 seasons with a gritty 11-10 Limerick Charity Cup final victory over UL-Bohemian at Thomond Park on Saturday.
Thomond, Old Crescent and Bruff booked their places in the second round of the AIB Cup after securing precious first round victories.
Thomond recorded a 17-15 victory over Highfield while Old Crescent secured a 27-17 win over Rainey Old Boys and Bruff saw off the challenge of Clonakilty on a 26-16 scoreline.
All three AIB Cup first round successes were secured away from home.

COLM KINSELLA

Power: ‘I’ll be back in UL ready to rock and roll’

MICHAEL ‘The Storm’ Sweeney brought Jamie Power’s undefeated record in the professional boxing ranks to an end at Dublin’s O2 Arena on Saturday night when the Ballinrobe man forced a stoppage in the third round.
The light heavyweight contest featured on the under card of Bernard Dunne’s WBA super bantamweight title defence against Thailand’s Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym in front of a capacity crowd of 9,000 spectators.
The fight got off to a lively start when Sweeney caught Jamie Power with a big right hand which sent the Limerick man crashing to the canvass in the very first round. Power recovered however and battled gamely on before Sweeney got the upper hand in the third round and pressed for another knockdown. Michael Sweeney appeared to have floored Power again in the third, but referee Mickey Vann ruled that he had pushed Power - after warning Sweeney Vann disallowed the knockdown.
Before the round was out however Sweeney caught Power with a devastating left hook and then knocked the St. Francis man with two right hands punctuated by a left.
A resilient Jamie Power got back to his feet, but was now bleeding badly from a cut.
Referee Mickey Vann led Power to his corner before ringside physician, Dr. Joe McKeever, ruled Jamie Power unfit to continue. In the aftermath of the defeat Jamie Power explained to Limerick’s Live 95FM that the cut, which brought the contest to an abrupt end, required ten stitches.
“The better man did win,” admitted Jamie Power.
“They had a game plan and we had a game plan.
“My game plan was to jump in early and try not to let him get his big shots off, but he still got his big shots off and how I got up from the first one was unbelievable.
“I kept trying to weather the storm,” Jamie Power added.
“Just before the referee brought me over to the doctor you could see him standing there blowing himself out. If the doctor had let it go for another round or two things might have changed and come into my territory. He was after hitting me with everything, but I still felt fresh and I still felt ready.
“The doctor felt the cut was very bad and he was probably right about that.”
With Andy Lee reportedly pushing hard for a fight at the UL Arena in November Jamie Power is sure to be tempted back into the ring.
“There’s one thing about Jamie Power,” added the Norwood native, “I’m a very, very proud Limerick man.
“So, I will not go out as a fella who lost. I will go out as a fella who wins. I’m a true, proud Limerick man and I will be back to right the wrong of this defeat.
“I’ll be back in UL ready to rock and roll as I always am.”

BRIAN MCDONNELL

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Three Limerick hurlers nominated for All Stars

THREE Limerick hurlers (Adare’s Mark Foley, Murroe-Boher’s Seamus Hickey & Kilmallock’s Gavin O’Mahony) have been nominated for the 2009 GAA All-Stars.
The nominations for the prestigious awards were announced on Wednesday evening and saw Tipperary receive 13 nominations, All-Ireland champions Kilkenny 12, Galway six, Waterford five, Dublin four, Limerick three and Cork just two.


Meanwhile Tipperary’s Lar Corbett, Waterford’s John Mullane and Kilkenny’s Tommy Walsh have been nominated for the Hurler of the Year award. Galway’s Joe Canning and Tipperary duo Padraig Maher and Noel McGrath have been nominated as Young Hurler of the Year.
The GAA All-Stars banquet will be held on Friday, October 16 and the football nominations will be announced on Thursday evening (September 24).

National Leagues
The GAA have also released the fixtures for next year’s national hurling and football leagues. The Limerick hurlers will launch their National Hurling League Division One campaign against Galway (home) on February 21 next.
Six days later Limerick host Cork on February 27 while on March 14 Limerick will travel to Waterford.
On March 21 Limerick host beaten All-Ireland finalists Tipperary and on March 28 Limerick face Offaly (away).
On April 4 Limerick host Kilkenny while in their final Division One game the Shannonsiders travel to Dublin (April 18).
The Limerick footballers will open their Division Four campaign with a trip to London on February 7 while their first home game, on February 13, will see Carlow visit Shannonside. On February 20 Longford host Limerick while on March 13 Waterford will visit Limerick.
On March 21 Limerick travel to face Mick O’Dwyer’s Wicklow and six days later the Shannonsiders host the Kilkenny footballers.
On April 3 Limerick face Clare in Ennis while in the final round of the 2010 National Football League Limerick will complete their Division Four campaign with a home game against Leitrim.

Ladies football
Meanwhile St. Ailbe’s Maire Halvey, along with selectors Pat O’Sullivan and Tom Barron, will lead the Limerick ladies footballers into their first-ever All-Ireland final this Sunday morning.
On Sunday, September 27 the Limerick ladies football team will face Antrim in the junior All-Ireland final (12pm) in Croke Park.
The game will be televised live on TG4 and will feature as part of an attractive triple header at GAA headquarters - the junior decider will be followed by the intermediate final between Clare and Fermanagh (2pm) while at 4pm the senior final will see Cork face Dublin.
Tickets are available from the following outlets - from Wednesday through Friday tickets will be available to buy from the Gaelic Grounds (10am to 1pm & 2pm to 5pm). On Thursday evening in the Woodlands Hotel (Adare) tickets will be on sale from 8-9pm. Tickets are also available to buy on www.ladiesgaelic.ie

Brian McDonnell

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Munster aim to hit Dragons for six

MUNSTER will aim to hit the Newport-Gwent Dragons for six when the sides clash in a key Magners League tie at Musgrave Park this Sunday (kic-off 5.05pm).
The season cranks up a gear this weekend as Munster welcome back Lions stars Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls, Ronan O’Gara and Donncha O’Callaghan for the tie and the holders look forward to a mammoth Magners League tie with arch rivals Leinster at the RDS on Saturday week and the heineken Cup pool meeting with Northampton seven days later.
Munster will be aiming to complete a sixth straight success over the Dragons in Cork this weekend, but there are real signs that the Welsh side are a much improved outfit this season.
Springboks centre Jean de Villiers is set to make his Munster debut against the Dragons this Sunday.


De Villiers, who is settling in to his new home near Annacotty, trained with his Munster team-mates for the first time this Tuesday.
Munster’s starting line-up to face the improving Welsh side will be named at lunch time this Friday.
Munster team manager Shaun Payne expects South African De Villiers to play for about 40 minutes on Sunday: “Jean won’t play more than half a match. We will be looking to ease him into things at this stage of the game. The plan is for him to play at 12 at this stage. There obviously will be times on the pitch when the centres can swap over.”
Payne added: “The decision to base Jean de Villiers in Limerick had to do with the spreading of our player resources. Having an experienced international back based in Limerick was important. Obviously, we have Rog (Ronan O’Gara) in Cork as well. He is a leader in terms of the backline. That is why we felt it was important to have Jean here.”
While five Lions are included in the squad to face the in-form Dragons, flanker David Wallace is omitted, but it is hoped he will return for the meeting with Leinster. Niall Ronan, who picked up a rib injury against the Scarlets at the weekend, is ruled out as is Peter Stringer, who is recovering from a calf muscle strain. Paul Warwick, who is recovering from a foot injury, is also unavailable while Doug Howlett is being rested.
The good news for Munster coach Tony McGahan is that Kiwi back-row Nick Williams is fully fit once again and featured for Dolphin in a friendly against Young Munster last weekend.
Team manager Payne said the returning Lions had a very good pre-season, but it they were unlikely to play for any more than 40 or 50 minutes in Sunday’s game: “We are not going to be pushing our luck with any of the Lions who are coming back. Saying that, they have all had a good pre-season. They have had almost a full eight weeks. There won’t be too many worries there. Injury-wise, the boys are all fine.
“I am sure some guys will play 40 minutes, some 50. That will depend on the game too. It is an important game for us. We need to be winning all our home games.”
Munster claimed their second win of the League last weekend when a splendid solo try from Denis Hurley and Jeremy Manning’s successful conversion stunned the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets.
Payne said: “I thought last week’s game was an excellent win, an excellent result. I think results like that give great belief to the group of players who played the game. We did not really perform as we should have right throughout the game, but we kept the belief, kept going and trying and were able to steal a win at the end. It was an excellent result in terms of the confidence we have.”
Meanwhile Ian Dowling’s recovery from injury continues when he lines out for the Munster A side in their meeting with Ulster A at Shawsbridge at 3.30pm this Thursday.
Thomond’s Declan Cusack has been named at out-half in the side which will be captained by Billy Holland.
Meanwhile former Munster coach Declan Kidney, who led Ireland to their first Grand Slam success in more than 60 years, received an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Limerick this Tuesday.

Munster squad (v Dragons): Marcus Horan, Julian Brugnaut, Tony Buckley, John Hayes, Denis Fogarty, Damien Varley, Mick O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Donncha Ryan, Alan Quinlan, Tommy O’Donnell, Denis Leamy, Nick Williams, James Coughlan, Tomas O’Leary, Toby Morland, Ronan O’Gara, Jeremy Manning, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Barry Murphy, Denis Hurley, Keith Earls, Felix Jones.

Munster A v Ulster A: Danny Riordan; Ian Dowling, Tom Gleeson, Scott Deasy, Danny Barnes; Declan Cusack, Duncan Williams; Dave Ryan.Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer; Ian Nagle, Dave Foley; Billy Holland capt, Eoghan Grace, Peter O’Mahony. Replacements: Sean Henry, Darragh Hurley, Kieran Essex, Barry O’Mahony, Paul Rowley, Andrew Burke, Ronan O’Mahony.

Colm Kinsella

Light shines on hurlers

THE installation of floodlighting at the Gaelic Grounds has proven a spectacular success thus far.
But now the lighting, second only in quality to Croke Park’s, at the Ennis Road venue faces the litmus test when the Gaelic Grounds hosts the county senior hurling quarter-final clash of Ahane and Emmets on Thursday night (throw-in 8pm).
Emmets are favourites to beat a mis-firing Ahane and book their place in the semi-finals alongside Murroe-Boher, Na Piarsaigh and, of course, champions Adare.
A whole host of attractive games take place this weekend with the county senior football semi-finals grabbing the eye on Saturday afternoon. First up comes the clash of defending champions Drom-Broadford and the 2008 intermediate champions Ballysteen in Newcastle West at 2pm.
That enticing contest will be followed by another tantalising battle between Fr. Casey’s and Pallasgreen in Kilmallock at 4.30pm. The action doesn’t stop there however.
Saturday afternoon will also see the mettle of two proud clubs tested when Ballybricken-Bohermore face Cappamore in an intermediate hurling relegation final - Caherconlish at 4pm - while at the opposite end of that hard-fought and entertaining championship Ballybrown take on Monaleen in a county semi-final in the Gaelic Grounds at 3.45pm.
Two quarter-finals will also be contested in the county intermediate football championship on Sunday afternoon.
Na Piarsaigh take on 2008 county junior A champions Bruff in Claughaun at 2.30pm while at 8pm, once more under lights at the Gaelic Grounds, St. Patrick’s face off against city division rivals Mungret with Oola and Galbally awaiting the winners in the semi-finals.
For a full preview of all this weekend’s games please see page five.

Ladies football
Meanwhile St. Ailbe’s Maire Halvey, along with selectors Pat O’Sullivan and Tom Barron, will lead the Limerick ladies footballers into their first-ever All-Ireland final this Sunday morning.
On Sunday, September 27 the Limerick ladies football team will face Antrim in the junior All-Ireland final (12pm) in Croke Park.
The game will be televised live on TG4 and will feature as part of an attractive triple header at GAA headquarters - the junior decider will be followed by the intermediate final between Clare and Fermanagh (2pm) while at 4pm the senior final will see Cork face Dublin.
And, Maire Halvey has this week called on the ‘Green Army’ to mobilize in support of her players: “Limerick is known all over the country as having brilliant supporters of their inter-county teams and we want that trend to continue on Sunday. We want people to get up there to Croke Park and support the green and white jersey.
“We’re trying to make history in Croke Park on Sunday.
“The girls have been dreaming about a day like this, it’s huge for us and to get support in Dublin would be wonderful,” Maire Halvey said.
En route to this final Limerick drew with Antrim (1-15 to 3-9) and beat Carlow (2-11 to 2-5) while they saw off Louth (4-11 to 2-7) at the semi-final stage.
The public reaction on Shannonside to the Limerick girls surge to the final has been startling and has forced the County Board to make even more tickets available from the following outlets.
From Wednesday through Friday tickets will be available to buy from the Gaelic Grounds (10am to 1pm & 2pm to 5pm).
Then on Thursday evening in the Woodlands Hotel (Adare) tickets will be on sale from 8-9pm.
Tickets are also available to buy on www.ladiesgaelic.ie
For a full preview of this historic occasion please turn to page four.

Brian McDonnell

Jamie Power hopes to see off ‘The Storm’ at the O2

LIMERICK light-heavyweight Jamie Power faces the biggest test of his fledgling professional career when he takes on another undefeated fighter Michael ‘The Storm’ Sweeney on the undercard of Bernard Dunne’s world title fight at The 02 in Dublin this Saturday night - Power and Sweeney will be looking to make a major breakthrough in their own careers when they clash over eight scheduled rounds in an All-Irish duel.
The twenty-eight-year-old Power, from Norwood Park, has won all six of his professional bouts to date while his Mayo-born opponent Sweeney boasts a record of seven wins and a draw in the pro ranks.
The pair won a host of titles in the amateur ranks and have both enjoyed promising starts to their professional careers.
Power’s last fight ended in victory over Lithuanian fighter Kirilas Psonko at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin in July. And, the ex-St Francis Boxing Club amateur Power says he’s relishing the opportunity to perform on the same card as Bernard Dunne, the WBA Super Bantamweight champion, who has his first defence of his title against number one contender Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym from Thailand.
“This is the kind of fight I was looking for,” Limerick’s Jamie Power revealed.
“I’m 28 now and I have a young family and a full time job, so I don’t want to be wasting my time as a pro with meaningless fights. This is a proper fight, two unbeaten Irish guys willing to put their records on the line to move on in their careers and to have it on a World title card at The O2 is the icing on the cake.
“I was there when Bernard won the title in March and the atmosphere was something else, so I can’t wait to actually fight there this time around.
“I know it will be a very tough fight and it will be a classic boxer versus fighter affair. I’ve sparred Michael before so I know what to expect.
“He’ll probably be looking to outbox me, but I’m happy to take a few punches as long as I get in range myself to do some damage. It might take me a few rounds to start closing him down but I’m confident that the longer it goes the stronger I’ll become. It’s going to be a real war but I wouldn’t have it any other way!”
Despite enjoying a busy start to his pro career with seven fights in his first year as a pro Sweeney has only had one fight in the past 12 months and he says he’s aiming to take that frustration out on Power.
“It’s been a very difficult year for me,” admitted Michael Sweeney.
“I’ve only had one fight due to injuries and empty promises of fights that never materialised, so it’s great now to have a date and a big fight to focus on. The fact that it will be on a big World title card at The O2 makes it all the sweeter and I’m determined to make up for the past year with a big performance. It should be a great fight between two unbeaten Irish guys. These kind of fights don’t happen all that often, we both have good amateur pedigree and we’re both at around the same stage in our pro careers so we match up well. We sparred about a year ago so I know his style and I have a game plan. I’m sure he will have his own plan as well but we’ll see on the night. I’m full of confidence right now and this could be just the break I was looking for.”

Colm Kinsella

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

WHEN Munster star Denis Hurley scampered over for his first ever tries in the province’s colours during Saturday’s dramatic come-from-behind win over the Scarlets, the cheering could be heard all the way back to Corbally.
The versatile Hurley repeated his Leaving Certificate at St Munchin’s College in 2002-03 and the experience of attending one of rugby’s most famed nurseries had a profound impact on the soon-to-be 25-year-old.
During his time at St Munchin’s, Hurley, who was born in Meath and initially played his rugby with Navan RFC, loved to attend Munster matches at Thomond Park with his classmates.
In January 2003 Hurley and his school mates had decided that they were simply not going to miss Munster’s crucial home Heineken Cup tie against Gloucester.
But the teenagers became victims of the ticket frenzy which swept the province that winter. Undeterred, the enthusiastic bunch made their way to Thomond Park.
Pat Cross, the backs coach to the St Munchin’s Senior Cup side in 2002-’03, recently explained: “A few of the guys from the senior team, including Denis Hurley, were determined to be at Munster’s Heineken Cup match with Gloucester.
“So they jumped over the wall at Thomond Park in order to see the game. I know from talking to Denis subsequently that the memory of that day was the highlight of his time with us in St Munchin’s! The occasion obviously made a big impression with him.”
The game Hurley and his school mates witnessed at first hand became known as the ‘Miracle Match’, the day Munster ambushed Gloucester 33-6, scoring four tries and pipping the English giants for a place in the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup.
Just five seasons later, Hurley was preferred to the vastly experienced Shaun Payne to fill the full-back spot on the Munster side which faced Gloucester in the Heineken Cup quarter-final showdown at Kingsholm. And Hurley, who made his debut for the province against the Scarlets at Stradey Park in May 2006, went on to win a Heineken Cup medal in Cardiff in May 2008.

Sports book coming thick and fast
‘TIS the time of the year when new sports books are coming at us thick and fast.
The rugby market is extremely well served this autumn with the likes of Grand Slam: How Ireland Achieved Rugby Greatness in the Players’ Own Words and Eddie O’Sullivan’s Never Die Wondering to mention just two.
The latest offering about to hit the shelves is the eagerly anticipated ‘Lion Man’ the autobiography of British and Irish Lions head coach, Ian McGeechan.
To co-incide with the publication of the book, Munster Rugby has announced ‘An Evening with Ian McGeechan’ will be held at Thomond Park Stadium on Friday, October 16 next.
Tickets for the event can only be won on www.munsterrugby.ie, www.munsterrugbysupporters.com, through the Munster Rugby Store and local media.
The event will be hosted by former Munster, Ireland and Lions great, the former Lions Manager Donal Lenihan.
The audience on the night will be invited to put questions to ‘Geech’ himself and hear the inside story of the 2009 Lions’ tour to South Africa when Limerickman Paul O’Connell captained the side.
Coinciding with Munster’s first home Heineken Cup pool game of the season against Benetton Treviso on the following day, Saturday October 17, Munster Rugby are giving rugby fans the opportunity to kick start their rugby weekend in the presence of renowned coach McGeechan. This event is open to competition winners only, with no tickets on sale.
A gala raffle will take place on the night, with a signed Lions jersey and tickets to Munster v Benetton Treviso amongst the prizes up for grabs.
Copies of ‘Lion Man’ will also be available for purchase at the stadium on the night.
For more details on how to win tickets to this event, see www.munsterrugby.ie and www.munsterrugbysupporters.com

Monday, September 21, 2009

O’Leary’s return gives Munster a timely boost

MUNSTER have received a timely boost ahead of Sunday’s key Magners League clash with the Dragons in Cork with the successful return from injury of international scrum-half Tomas O’Leary.
Twenty-five-year-old O’Leary was introduced as a substitute in the closing 15 minutes of Munster’s dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday night.


O’Leary suffered an horrific ankle break last April which kept him sidelined for five months and forced the talented scrum-half to miss out on the Lions tour to South Africa.
O’Leary’s return to competitive action comes a week before Munster coach Tony McGahan is due to welcome back his Lions contingent, including captain Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls, Ronan O’Gara, Donncha O’Callaghan and David Wallace, to his squad.
At least some members of the Lions quintet and new South African signing Jean de Villiers are set to feature in Sunday’s Magners League round four clash with the Dragons at Musgrave Park (kick-off 5.05pm).
Scrum-half O’Leary, who played a key role in helping to create Denis Hurley’s crucial late try against the Scarlets, said he was delighted to be back playing competitive rugby.
Former St. Munchin’s College star Hurley showed a terrific burst of pace to bag his 77th minute try - his second of the match - as Munster defeated their Welsh opponents for the eighth straight time. The victory was complete with out-half Jeremy Manning successfully landed the late conversion attempt.
“I’m delighted to be back, delighted to get a run against the Scarlets,” Tomas O’Leary said.
“Of course it was very frustrating, being injured always is. But I’m glad that’s behind me. I felt grand out on the pitch and afterwards, so all in all a good weekend.
“They (the Scarlets) will be gutted, I know, but credit to the lads. They kept it going right to the very end.
“The Scarlets played most of the rugby in the second half, but I suppose we can take a positive in the way we finished.”
It was originally believed that O’Leary would not be back in action until late November or early December and Munster team manager Shaun Payne was quick to hand out praise for his extraordinary recovery.
“Tomas has shown tremendous professionalism and dedication in getting himself back playing and great credit is due to him and to the work done by our medical and fitness staff,” Shaun Payne said.
“It is of course great to see him back, particularly after the injury he sustained.”
O’Leary was not named in Munster’s extended squad for the trip to Parc y Scarlets, but when Peter Stringer’s calf injury did not respond well enough to treatment to allow him make the trip, O’Leary came into the reckoning.
Starting scrum-half in Wales, Toby Morland was partnering his old school mate Jeremy Manning in Parc Y Scarlets.
On the club front UL Bohemian and Thomond exited the ODM Munster Senior Cup following two defeats to Cork opposition on Leeside on Saturday.
UL Bohemian lost their unbeaten record at the hands of UCC at the Mardyke while Thomond were forced to give second best against holders Cork Constitution.
Young Munster are through to the semi-final, however, having received a walkover from Cashel.
Shannon’s scheduled quarter-final clash with Dolphin at Musgrave Park was postponed because of an outbreak of flu in the Shannon squad which saw up to seven members of the squad laid low.
Meanwhile it has also been confirmed that next Saturday’s Limerick Charity Cup final meeting of Young Munster and UL Bohemian will take place at Thomond Park. The final will have a 2.30pm kick-off time.
Local charities in Limerick benefit from money raised for this competition.

COLM KINSELLA

Super Blues finally find their feet

AFTER a mixed season thus far Pat Scully’s Limerick FC finally appear to have found their feet in the First Division.
On Friday night the Super Blues earned a three-all draw against league leaders Shelbourne at Tolka Park - striker Stephen O’Flynn scored his second successive hat-trick for Limerick on the night and after just six games with the club O’Flynn has now scored a whopping eight goals.
And, Stephen O’Flynn will be eager to add to his tally this Friday night when Limerick FC host Monaghan United at Jackman Park (7.45pm).
Despite Limerick’s recent goal-scoring spree, netting 11 goals in last three games, the Super Blues have failed to score against Monaghan United this season - Monaghan visited Jackman Park on April 4 and duly clung on for a nil-all draw while a David Freeman goal on July 2 earned United all three points at Kingspan Park.
Limerick FC manager Pat Scully was delighted by his players’ performance at Tolka Park on Friday night: “It really was a great game in that it had everything really and it was very exciting. I was very pleased in the end.
“The lads fell 3-2 behind late in the game, but it was fantastic to see the lads react the way they did.
“They showed real spirit and character to fight back and dig themselves back into the game.
“While I was disappointed to see us concede three goals we deserved the draw and with a little bit more experience in the side we could have won it,” added Pat Scully.
Monaghan United beat Mervue 4-2 last Friday night and although they lost their two previous league games three-nil to Shelbourne and UCD Pat Scully expects a tough challenge from the visiting side this weekend.
“It will be a tough game,” Pat Scully told Leader Sport, “they’re a good team and they have earned some good results this season.
“They will be big, strong and physical, but I’m pleased with the direction we’re going in and we will face this test with confidence. Another three points would really get us going and that’s what we will be chasing on Friday night.”
While Limerick FC will definitely miss Conor Molan through injury on Friday night Pat Scully is more than hopeful that Wayne Colbert and Thomas Lyons will shake off minor knocks.

BRIAN MCDONNELL

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Board hope to ‘nail down’ football manager

THE Football Board have initiated the process to appoint a manager for the senior footballer’s 2010 campaign.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s fourth year in charge came on an end on Saturday, August 1 when Limerick lost an All-Ireland qualifier against Meath in Portlaoise by a single point 2-9 to 1-13.
A source on the Football Board executive told Leader Sport this week that they expect to have the manager “nailed down in the next couple of weeks” while Football Board chairman John Galvin explained that “the process has now begun and over the coming weeks we will look at all the options before making a decision.
“We’re trying to get a good, strong management team in place for the new season,” he added.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan, although he did not wish to comment on the appointment process, has confirmed to Leader Sport that he is interested in extending his term on Shannonside to a fifth year.


The appointment process involves the Football Board executive (chairman John Galvin, secretary Sean McAuliffe, PRO Collette O’Grady, Michael Sheehan, Patrick O’Shaughnessy & James Moynihan) assessing Mickey Ned O’Sullivan and his management team while also looking at other potential options before making a recommendation to delegates - once the recommendad candidate is proposed and voted on by the Football Board delegates his name will then be forwarded to the County Board for final ratification.
Considering the progress made by the Limerick footballers, who only lost by a single point to Cork and Meath this summer, under the guiding hand of Mickey Ned O’Sullivan the Kerryman will be made favourite to retain the position for at least another year.
O’Sullivan has guided Limerick fortunes through 13 championship clashes winning five games and losing eight. While that record might not appear impressive progress has most certainly been made, especially since Donie Buckley joined the management team - in the past four years Limerick have recorded a 38 per cent win rate, the 19th best in the country.
In that time Limerick have beaten Clare (twice), Tipp (twice) and most heroically of all Meath by nine points last summer while they have lost to Westmeath, Louth, Kildare, Meath and Cork (four times) - in eight defeats Limerick have lost by a single point on four occasions.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s men have faced Cork in four consecutive Munster championships. While the Shannonsiders conclusively lost in 2006 and in 2007 they should have beaten Cork in 2008 and again this season.
Surely this progression marks significant improvements made.
The relegation to division four of the National Football League certainly represents a stain on O’Sullivan’s record, but it appears likely that the Kerryman’s efforts could earn him another year in charge.

Ladies football tickets
THE ticket details for the TG4 All-Ireland Junior Ladies Football final have been confirmed.
On Sunday, September 27 the Limerick Ladies Football team will face Antrim in the junior decider (12pm) in Croke Park - that game will feature as part of an attractive triple header at GAA headquarters. The junior decider will be followed by the intermediate final between Clare and Fermanagh (2pm) while at 4pm the senior final will see Cork face Dublin.
Tickets for the finals cost: adults €25, students or OAPs €10, under-14 €8 while group and family rates are also available. Tickets can be purchased through any ladies Gaelic football club in the county. Alternatively tickets will be on sale at the following venues/times: Saturday, September 19 at the Gaelic Grounds immediately after Croom play Na Piarsaigh in the county senior hurling quarter-final (throw-in 5pm). Tickets will also be on sale this Saturday at the Courtney Lodge (Newcastle West) 8-9pm, on Sunday at the Woodlands Hotel (Adare) 7-8pm, on Monday at Lynch’s Bar (Main St., Caherconlish) 8-9pm and on Tuesday at the Woodlands Hotel 7-8pm. Tickets for the finals are also available from ladiesgaelic.ie

Brian McDonnell

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

LEADING UK rugby clubs are continuing to try and lure the cream of Munster and Ireland’s under-age rugby talent cross-channel.
Scouts representing the top rugby clubs in England are attending top level schools cup and under-age inter-provincial matches on a regular basis in their quest to identify ‘inert rugby talent’ which they hope to entice cross channel and introduce to their own systems.
Speaking at a presentation in Limerick this week which outlined the work of the IRFUs National Talent Programme, High performance Manager, Allen Clarke said he knew of one promising young Limerick player who had been ‘tagged’ for a potential move cross-channel by one of England’s top Premiership rugby clubs in his teenage years.
The player in question had turned down the offer of a move to England and continued to develop and flourish within the Munster Academy set-up.
Allen Clarke, a former Heineken Cup medal winner with Ulster, admitted the scouting threat posed by English clubs was of concern.
“We know there are people here active on the ground working for English clubs- not necessarily Irish people- who come over here to watch our inter-provincial championships and watch our schools cup at the top end of it in order to identify what they call ‘inert talent.’ Inter talent is talent which has not been trained,” Allen Clarke explained.
“Those clubs believe the English player is over-trained and programmed. As a result of that they are looking for players in the flair positions, in particular.”
The IRFU has developed its National Talent Programme to ensure that the best young rugby talent in this country are able to develop to their full potential as professional rugby players and remain in Ireland.
The programme aims to develop champions for the provinces and Ireland. Through a partnership with schools and clubs, the programme aims to provide the best possible resources and support.
Allen Clarke explained that under the system there were seven years of development before a talented young rugby player become a professional sportsman.
“We are building a foundation to that the player is getting eight to 10 years in the game. That is critical,” Allen Clarke explained.
“As opposed to picking up a 19-year-old and trying to fast-tracking him through the system, we are working with players aligned to the long-term player development pathway.”
The IRFU has established a number of Regional Talent Programmes around the country.
The programme caters for players from U-16 to U-18 in regional talent squads.
In Munster, the players are divided into four areas, North, South, East and West Munster.
The next level up in development is the National Talent Programme. Players who have been identified from the regional talent programme who have the talent, ambition and attitude to warrant further investment in are receiving specific fitness and technical support from elite player development officers and conditioning coaches.
Allen Clarke explained: “We have 551 players catered for the National Talent Programme this summer. There are 159 in Munster, not including academy players.”
The National Talent Programme worked up to sub-academy and academy level.
Allan Clarke said the rugby academies were about confirmation.
“Gone are the days when our Academies are about screening out players for one or two years and deciding whether they are going to be good enough or not,” Allen Clarke said.
“It is critical that the players coming into the academy are doing so to confirm their potential as professionals.
“That way we are not parading false illusions for players and we are ensuring that the quality that is being invested in the academy is getting a significant return.”
Clarke and IRFU Director of Rugby, Eddie Wigglesworth held a briefing for Clubs and Schools on the Academy and National Talent Programme at Thomond Park Stadium this Tuesday.

Shaun Payne: ‘You play for your place, you are not just given it’

THE Munster players chosen to face the Scarlets in this weekend’s big Magners League round three clash have an extra incentive to impress, with the province’s Lions contingent and several fit-again big name stars set to be available for Sunday week’s meeting with the Dragons at Musgrave Park.
Tony McGahan’s Munster squad travels to Parc y Scarlets this Saturday (6.30pm) for a key fixture boosted by their gritty win over the Cardiff Blues which saw the defending league champions elevated to a mid-table position in the table.
For several players Saturday’s game offers an ideal opportunity to impress before the province’s Lions contingent, Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara, Keith Earls, David Wallace and Donncha O’Callaghan come back into contention for the September 27 date with the Dragons.


Munster may also be able to call upon the services of at least some players who have been sidelined by injury in recent weeks including Jerry Flannery, Tomas O’Leary, Nick Williams and Paul Warwick.
“This is a massive week for several players who are in the squad to face the Scarlets,” Munster team manager Shaun Payne agreed.
“Potentially, we could have 10 or 11 players coming back into the squad for the Dragons game with the Lions’ available to us as well as the players who are coming back from injury.
“You have Tomas (O’Leary), Jerry Flannery, perhaps Paul Warwick, if he is ready, Nick Williams, and the likes.
“They may not all be available for the fourth round game with the Dragons, but when you combine those who will be fully fit and the Lions, then you can see the competition for places.
“So there will be a lot of guys who are in the squad for the Scarlets game looking for big, big performances.
“There is no way that all of those who are back available to us next week will just walk into the squad.
“That is not the way it is going to happen. I think Tony (McGahan) has made that abundantly clear.
“You play for your place, you are not just given it, although there may be some leeway for the Lions. You cannot expect to walk back in based on reputation. They may well be a few on the bench with one or two starters.
“It will depend on how we manage the numbers. We will cross that bridge next week. Right now we are focused on the Scarlets.”
Payne said a number of players had grabbed their opportunity to impress in recent weeks.
“Yeah, we have been very, very happy with Niall Ronan, for example,” Shaun Payne said.
“He is one of those guys who has been pushing really, really hard for a place in the Heineken Cup side.
“Another one who has been doing really, really well is Felix (Jones). He has a lot more to show. I think Tommy (O’Donnell) and Damien (Varley) have done well when coming on. There will be a lot of calls for the coaching staff to make.
“The Lions are itching to go, especially when they saw the side play well last week.
“We were very happy that (John) Hayes and Quinny (Alan Quinlan) got through the game against Cardiff. Both played really well also.
“Hayes gave a good 40 minutes and came through unscathed.
“I thought Quinny played especially well too. It was typical Quinny, very destructive around the breakdown, playing on the edge, but within the laws.
“All the players were saying that they noticed a big difference with Quinny around given his experience.
“That was one of the major positives for us in terms of those two guys coming back in.”
Tony McGahan has named an unchanged squad of 25 players for the Scarlets game.
McGahan will name his starting XV after tomorrow morning’s training session in Limerick.

Munster squad: Danny Barnes, Felix Jones, Scott Deasy, Denis Hurley, Doug Howlett, Barry Murphy, Tom Gleeson, Lifeimi Mafi, Jeremy Manning, Toby Morland, Peter Stringer, Marcus Horan, Tony Buckley, Julian Brugnaut, John Hayes, Denis Fogarty, Damian Varley, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Alan Quinlan, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy, James Coughlan.

COLM KINSELLA

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thomond hosts inter-pros

THOMOND Park will host an attractive double header of inter-provincial rugby matches this Friday evening as Munster face old rivals Leinster at both under-19 and under-20 level - the feast of under-age rugby gets under at 5.30pm when the province’s under-19 sides face off. Then, at 7.45pm, the Munster under-20s will hope to get their inter-provincial campaign back on track when they also face Leinster.


The Munster under-20s made a disappointing start to the campaign when suffering a 15-19 defeat to Connacht at the Sportsground on Saturday last. Although they went into a 15-7 lead early in the second half of the game and Connacht had a player yellow-carded soon after, Munster’s still ended up on the wrong end of the final scoreline.
Munster had tries from Michael Kelleher and Luke O’Dea, while Cormac O’Flynn kicked a penalty goal and a conversion.
Former Munster and Ireland star Anthony Foley is head coach with the Munster under-20s while Ian Costello is assistant/backs coach.
Munster will complete their programme of games in the under-20 inter-provincial series against Ulster in Ravenhill on September 25.
Meanwhile, the Munster under-19 combined squad completed their build up to the inter-provincial series with a final warm-up match against a UCC selection in the Mardyke on Friday night - UCC prevailed 27-24 in a closely fought contest. Munster’s scores came from a Ben Sargent try, four penalty goals and a conversion, while Kevin O’Byrne also crossed for a try.
Greig Oliver is head coach to the side, with assistant coaches Steve Ford and Ray Egan. Graham Burns is team manager. The under-19 side will face Ulster in their second inter-provincial fixture on Friday week, September 25.
Under-20s 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.
Combined under-19 squad: Derry O’Connor (Abbeyfeale), Jurgen Quinlivan (Ennis), Cian O’Shea, (Garryowen), Ben Sargant (Shannon), Stephen Collins (Ennis), Robin Healy (Garryowen), Adrian Doyle (Newcastle West), Cian Bohane (Dolphin), Jonathon Holland (Sunday’s Well), Andrew Kelleher (Cashel), Sean Upton (Young Munster), Ivan Sherlock, (Garryowen), Conail Murphy, (UCC), Dara Arthurs (Young Munster), Gearoid Crowe (Ennis), Brian Costigan (Clanwilliam), Kevin O’Byrne (Highfield), Michael Madden, (Shannon), Gavin Herbert (Old Crescent), Colm Considine (Ennis), Scott Hornibrooke (Waterpark), John Cleary (Bruff), Jack Flannery (ULBohemian), Jake Considine (Young Munster), Mark Corby (Clonmel), Aaron O’Brien (Shannon), Ian Mullarkey (Dolphin), Kieran Ryan, (Sundays Well), Kevin Doyle (Old Crescent).
Meanwhile Munster have confirmed that Jean de Villiers will join up with the Magners League champions this Thursday.
Following South Africa’s successful Tri-Nations campaign and having recently received clearance from Western Province and the South African Rugby Union, South African centre De Villiers is free to take up his Munster contract, subject to the regulatory medical and fitness examinations on his arrival in Ireland.
Munster coach Tony McGahan said: “Jean de Villiers is recognised as one of the top midfield rugby players in world rugby and I’m looking forward to having him in our squad. He brings a wealth of experience and a skill level that will benefit Munster on and off the field.”
Rob Wagner, MD Western Province Rugby (Pty) Ltd said: “We are obviously sad to be losing Jean. As a captain and a player he has contributed significantly both on and off the pitch. Whilst we did everything in our power to retain his services, Jean has made up his mind to join the great Irish Club Munster.
“Western Province Rugby is sorry he is departing, but we thank him for all that he has done for and meant to Western Province and the Stormers and hope to see him back in the future.
“We wish him all of the very best with Munster.”

Colm Kinsella

Super Blues face Shels at Dublin’s Tolka Park

NEXT Friday night Limerick FC take on Division One leaders Shelbourne at Tolka Park (kick-off 8pm) with Pat Scully’s Super Blues now chasing their third consecutive league win.
Last weekend Limerick FC beat Athlone Town 6-1 while they preceded that impressive display with a 2-1 win over Mervue United. Manager Pat Scully, as you would expect, was pleased by the five-goal margin of victory.
“It was a good result and our finishing was very clinical,” Pat Scully told Leader Sport this week.
“To be honest I don’t think we played as well as last week against Mervue United. We created chances and to be fair to the lads they put them away very well.
“That’s two good results now, we’re playing well and now we must push on and continue to improve.”
For prolonged periods of this season Limerick FC have failed to score despite dominating games, a weakness which has certainly cost the club league points.
“Yeah, all season we’ve been creating loads of chances,” explained Pat Scully, “but we’ve been missing them and our results have suffered as a result of that. We were very clinical on Friday night. The lads we brought in during the (transfer) window, Stephen O’Flynn and Daryl Kavanagh especially, have made a huge difference. We’ve got a good balance and a good mix there now. John (Tierney) and Stephen (O’Flynn) are playing well up front and with Daryl (Kavanagh) and Shane (Tracy) on the wings we really are a handful for anyone.”
While captain Pat Purcell and striker Paul Cummins are still injured centre-half Brian O’Callaghan has returned to the club to give Pat Scully a timely boost ahead of the Super Blues’ clash with the league leaders on Friday night.
Shelbourne lead the league, two points clear of UCD, and have only been beaten on three occasions this season - against Sporting Fingal, UCD and most recently against the Wexford Youths during which game Kilcornan striker Garry Sheahan scored both goals for Wexford.
Limerick FC and Shelbourne have met twice already this season with Shels winning one-nil on both occasions - on March 27 Anto Flood got the winner at Tolka Park while on June 19 David Cassidy pounced for a late goal to give Shelbourne another win at Jackman Park.
Despite those two defeats Pat Scully believes his developing side can earn a result at Tolka Park: “It’s a great game for us. Shelbourne are probably the best team in the league, but Tolka Park is a great place to go and play football.
“If we play like I know we can, if we do that, then I know we can get a good result.
“There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”

Brian McDonnell

Monday, September 14, 2009

Limerick legend hangs up his hurl

LIMERICK hurling legend TJ Ryan announced his retirement from the game on Friday night last after Garryspillane’s win (1-15 to 1-9) over Tournafulla in the county senior hurling relegation final in Kilmallock.
Although Ryan made a telling contribution, which included six frees and a wonderful point from play in the 47th minute, to Garryspillane’s six-point win the former Limerick captain feels that now is the right time to bring his playing career to an end.


“Oh, I will definitely miss it there’s no doubt about that,” explained 34-year-old TJ Ryan.
“From my own point of view, being around a long time, it was a decision I made at the start of the season more than after the last game that this was going to be my final shot at it.
“I’m nearly 35 years of age now and I felt the time was right to go. Time moves on, I’m just getting old basically.”
Although a troublesome AC joint injury hastened TJ Ryan’s retirement he was thrilled to depart the club scene with the Bouncers’ senior status secured.
“Yeah, it was important for me and for, I suppose, my own pride more than anything else that I left the team when they were still senior,” he explained on Sunday.
TJ Ryan played on 40 championship occasions for Limerick.
He made his debut against Cork in 1994, won Munster titles in 1994 and 1996, a National Hurling League in 1997 and finally walked away from the inter-county scene in 2006 following the Shannonsider’s one-point loss to Cork in an All-Ireland quarter-final. After 12 long years hurling in Limerick green and far longer playing for Garryspillane there is little doubt that TJ Ryan will remain committed to the game. He won’t walk away: “I’m involved with the 14s in Garryspillane at the moment like so from that point of view there’s no chance of that. I’ve been involved with a team from Garryspillane for every year since 2000 so with my young fella involved now I’ll always be going to Garryspillane matches anyway.”
On the field of play TJ Ryan represented an inspirational figure for Limerick with supporters desperately hoping he might inspire his charges as a manager at some point in the not-too-distant future.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” TJ Ryan said as he considered the move into management.
“Just because you were handy on the playing pitch doesn’t mean that you would be any good on the sideline.
“You know what I mean, you have to wait and see.
“I suppose it’s something I would definitely look at, but we will just have to see how things go,” he insisted.
As a player of immense versatility, Ryan made his debut at corner-forward, but played in a whole myriad of positions for Limerick and, of course, for his beloved Garryspillane.
He led Limerick to a famous National Hurling League title from centre-back in 1997 and declares the number six jersey as he preferred choice.
And, TJ Ryan was thrilled last week to learn of his nomination at left corner-forward for the Limerick 25-year team.

BRIAN MCDONNELL

De Villiers jets in

MUNSTER’S new South African centre Jean de Villiers joins up with his team-mates in Limerick this week fresh from helping the Springboks land the Tri Nations series.
De Villiers lived up to his nickname, the ‘Intercept King’, when picking off Dan Carter’s skip pass on route to scoring a crucial second half try in South Africa’s 32-29 win over the All Blacks in Hamilton on Saturday.
De Villiers, who is due to be based in Limerick during his time with Munster, is set to meet up with Tony McGahan’s squad for the first time this week.
The 28-year-old former South African Player of the Year is likely to make his Munster debut in the province’s round four Magners League tie against the Newport Gwent Dragons at Musgrave Park on Sunday week, September 27 (5.05pm). Munster Rugby announced in July that the province had signed the 54-time capped Springbok for the coming season with terms for an option to extend for a further two seasons.
Speaking of his decision to join Munster, De Villiers said: “Munster are one of the foremost teams in Europe and enjoy a massive supporter base.
“I look forward to experiencing the tradition, passion and ambition associated with Munster and to helping them achieve further success.
“It has been a difficult decision for me to leave South African rugby after so many enjoyable seasons with Western Province, Stormers and the Springboks. I am particularly grateful to all of those involved who have supported me and helped further my rugby career.
“I certainly wouldn’t rule out a return to SA rugby sometime in the future. I feel however, it would be good to experience a new challenge and I believe the time is right to do that now while I am at the top of my game.”
Munster registered their first win of the Magners League campaign at Thomond Park on Friday night when securing a 24-13 win over a plucky Cardiff Blues side.
Tony McGahan’s men are in Wales this Saturday to face the Llanelli Scarlets in round three of the competition - kick-off at Parc y Scarlets is at 6.30pm.
Coach McGahan was encouraged by his side’s improved showing against the Blues on Friday night. However, he warned that his charges would need to step up their performance further against the Scarlets in Wales.
“The difference between the performance against the Blues and the previous one against Glasgow was attitude, really,” Tony McGahan said.
“We did not turn up to play and we were beaten physically around the park. The set-piece was obviously a problem. Against Cardiff, we rectified that to a degree.
“We really have to be on our game next week. Scarlets have started well.”
Friday night’s game marked the return to competitive action of Alan Quinlan who had served a 12-week suspension. Quinlan’s back-row colleague Niall Ronan was the deserving recipient of the Man of the Match accolade.
McGahan said: “Niall (Ronan) was tremendous. The new laws really suit him to a T.
“His work rate and his ability to work close to the ground is testament to himself.”

COLM KINSELLA

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

County Board launch innovative scheme

THE County Board have hit upon an innovative scheme which should capture the imagination of everyone on Shannonside.
This week in Leader Sport GAA fans enjoy an opportunity to help select the Limerick 25-year team in hurling and football - an entry form, including three nominees for each position, can be found on page five of this section.


The hurling and football teams of the last 25 years (1984 to 2009) will be selected as part of Limerick’s 125-year celebrations and the final selections will be unveiled next month ahead of both county finals while the chosen 15s will be honoured at a gala function on Friday, October 16 in the Strand Hotel.
The scheme is sure to inspire plenty of good-humoured debate right across the county. A panel of experts have selected the nominees for each position, but with Limerick legends like Stephen McDonagh and Damien Reale battling for the right corner-back spot on the hurling team and Brian Geary tussling with Ciaran Carey for centre-back the final selections should be more than interesting.
As an added bonus all entries to the scheme will be entered in a draw for two tickets to the gala function to honour those selected on the 25-year teams including overnight accommodation in the Strand Hotel while five runners-up will receive a pair of tickets to your choice of the Limerick’s Live 95FM-sponsored county football or hurling finals.

Game cancelled
Although last night’s County Board meeting in Claughaun has ruled out Sunday’s attractive intermediate county championship quarter-final between Glenroe and Dromin-Athlacca - that game was initially fixed for Bruff - there is a whole plethora of attractive games taking place this weekend.
The highlight of the action must be the county senior hurling championship clash between Doon and Adare at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday afternoon (2.30pm).
That game sees Clarecastle brothers Ger and Fergue O’Loughlin face down one another as the respective managers.
The defending county champions Adare will be favourites to progress, but Doon, following their impressive win over Kilmallock, are in rare form and anything is possible.
Patrickswell will take on Murroe-Boher in Sunday’s other county quarter-final (Gaelic Grounds at 1pm) while the two remaining quarter-finals (Croom v Na Piarsaigh & Emmets v Ahane) are scheduled to take place on the weekend of September 18-20.
For a preview of all this weekend’s action please see page four.

Justin McCarthy
At Tuesday night’s County Board meeting chairman Liam Lenihan clarified to those present, following a question posed from the floor, that Justin McCarthy and his management team will remain at the helm for the 2010 championship campaign and complete their two-year term in charge.

SFC sorted out
On Tuesday night in Ballingarry St. Senan’s and Hospital-Herbertstown completed the group stage of this year’s county senior football championship.
St. Senan’s won on a 3-15 to 1-5 score line and condemned Hospital-Herbertstown to their fifth defeat of the campaign - Hospital-Herbertstown will now face St. Kieran’s in a relegation final.
Meanwhile St. Senan’s have leap-frogged Ballylanders into third place on group one, who beat Monaleen 0-14 to 1-7 on Saturday night, and Martin Kiely’s men will face Pallasgreen in a county quarter-final which has yet to be scheduled.
The other quarter-final will see Drom-Broadford, who lost to Fr. Casey’s (0-7 to 1-8) last Thursday night, take on Newcastle West (lost 0-8 2-3 to Ballysteen on Friday) on Sunday night next (throw-in 8.15pm) under lights at the Gaelic Grounds.
As the respective group winners Ballysteen and Fr. Casey’s progress straight to the semi-finals of this year’s championship.
Sadly the competitive season has come to an end for the 2007 county champions Ballylanders and Monaleen in group one while in group two Adare (who beat St. Kieran’s last weekend) missed out on a priceless quarter-final spot on scoring difference while Claughaun suffered a heavy defeat (1-8 to 3-8) to Pallasgreen and also missed out on the knock-out stages as a result.

Brian McDonnell

Scully eargerly looks forward to Athlone clash

LIMERICK FC manager Pat Scully was delighted by the Super Blues 2-1 win over Mervue United last weekend and is now eagerly looking forward to this Friday night’s clash with Athlone Town at Jackman Park (7.45pm).
Scully signed a new two-year contract with the League of Ireland First Division club last week and although he was annoyed by the penalty awarded against Bobby Tier in the second half against Mervue United the overall performance of the Super Blues, featuring goals from Darly Kavanagh and Shane Tracy, pleased the Dubliner.
“Yeah, it was good to get the win especially after a few bad results at home,” Pat Scully told Leader Sport.
“Our first half performance was very good and we played really well. We were not as good in the second half, but we certainly deserved to win the game. The penalty we conceded was a bit of a mystery since we didn’t know what it was for - the linesman and the fourth official both gave us different reasons for why it was given.
“We’ve had a difficult few weeks and it was hard on the players to get beaten heavily at home by (Sporting) Fingal and Longford, but we just haven’t had time to settle down at all. Now we need to stay clear of injuries - every week we’ve been missing at least 10 players through injury. It’s important now that we stay fit and build on this win.”
Limerick FC have collided with Athlone Town on two occasions already this season - on March 20 Athlone held on for a nil-all draw at Jackman Park while Limerick, thanks to goals from Shane Tracy and Paul Cummins, beat Town 2-0 at Lissywoollen on June 5.
Two wins from their opening brace of league games against Mervue United and Kildare County propelled Athlone to the top of the league, but that 100 per cent record proved utterly deceiving with Athlone only managing to add two more wins in the ensuing 22 league games against Longford Town and Kildare County - Athlone last won a game on May 30 against the Thoroughbreds, have earned just six points from the last 33 on offer and drew 2-2 at home to Kildare County last weekend.
Athlone’s poor form suggests Limerick FC as hot favourites to beat the Westmeath side on Friday night, but Pat Scully isn’t worried by such expectation.
“I don’t mind supporters expecting us to win,” Pat Scully explained.
“That’s a good thing. We’ve a good team and we’re capable of beating anyone in the league. But with all the injuries we just have not been given the opportunity to go out and do that. The future is very bright and the lads we have are giving us plenty of food for thought on the kind of squad we want to build for next season.”
While the Limerick FC senior side have struggled this season the League of Ireland club’s under-20 side top pool two.
So far the Limerick under-20s have beaten Waterford United (2-1 away) and Cork City (2-1 home) while they have drawn with FC Carlow (1-1 home) and lost to the Wexford Youths (1-3 home).
The Super Blues are one point clear of the Wexford Youths at top of pool two of the League of Ireland Under-20 League and this weekend face a stiff test when they travel to Wexford’s Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday afternoon to face the home side in a crucial game (kick-off 2pm).
Although Limerick FC have three remaining pool games (against FC Carlow on September 27, Waterford United on October 4 and Cork City on October 18) Sunday’s encounter could have a big bearing on whether the Super Blues progress to the knock-out stages of the competition.

Brian McDonnell

De Villiers gives Munster a timely boost

SMARTING Munster received a boost ahead of Friday night’s crunch Magners League tie with the Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park (kick-off 7.05pm) with confirmation that Western Province have cleared the way for Springbok centre Jean de Villiers to join up with the Irish province next week.
De Villiers, who will be based in Limerick during his time with Munster, is now likely to make his debut for the Magners League holders in the clash with the Newport Gwent Dragons on September 27 at Cork’s Musgrave Park.
The 28-year-old is set to join up with his new team-mates next week after the Springboks complete their programme of Tri Nations games in New Zealand this weekend.
Munster, still smarting after their disappointing opening round Magners League defeat away to Glasgow Warriors, welcome back the vastly experienced duo of Alan Quinlan and John Hayes for this Friday night’s crucial meeting with the Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park. (7.05pm)
Quinlan, who returns after a 12-week suspension, and prop John Hayes were named in Munster’s extended 25-man squad for the big game.
Munster manager Shaun Payne said Alan Quinlan had now put the disappointment of missing the Lions trip as a result of his ban behind him.
“Alan struggled tremendously with missing the Lions trip,” Shaun Payne said.
“I don’t know of a fellow who wanted to make trip to South Africa more. It was a crushing blow for him. He is training away and is having a great time at training.
“He is really looking forward to getting back on the pitch. He wants to pull on a jersey, get back on the pitch and get the disappointment behind him with a couple of good performances.
“The off-season was a struggle for him. But he has put it behind him and is training well.”
While Hayes missed last Friday night’s Magners League opener with the Glasgow Warriors at Firhill, Munster struggled in the scrums and the front row was penalised on a number of occasions by Welsh referee James Jones.
Payne said: We were very disappointed with our overall display in Glasgow. The scrum didn’t go well for us at all. There is plenty of work to be done this week.
“We need to give credit to Glasgow. They are strong in that area.
“It was unusual to have two half-backs yellow carded during the course of the game. We shipped a number of penalties before the two yellow cards. Discipline is an area we will be looking at very closely as well.”
Munster coach Tony McGahan must plan without the services of Paul Warwick for Friday night’s clash with the Blues. The versatile Warwick will be sidelined for a further two to three weeks as a result of a foot injury.
Other absentees from the Munster squad for the first competitive home game of the season at Thomond Park include the province’s Lions contingent, as well as injured players, Jerry Flannery, Nick Williams, Ian Dowling, Tomas O’Leary and Ciaran O’Boyle.
In relation to the impending arrival of Jean de Villiers, Payne explained: “Jean de Villiers will be arriving here in the middle of next week.
“Everything has been sorted out with Western Province in South Africa. There was speculation about releases not been signed, but that is not the case. We would not play him next week against the Scarlets as he is coming to Ireland from New Zealand.
“We will looking to involve him around Magners League week four when we play the Dragons in Musgrave Park.”
The Cardiff Blues are also looking for their first win of the campaign having suffered a one-point defeat to Edinburgh in their opening League fixture last weekend.
No Welsh side has won at Thomond Park since the visit of the Dragons in march 2004 and the Blues have lost on each of their three visits to Limerick.
Munster squad v Cardiff Blues: Danny Barnes, Felix Jones, Scott Deasy, Denis Hurley, Doug Howlett, Barry Murphy, Tom Gleeson, Lifeimi Mafi, Jeremy Manning, Toby Morland, Peter Stringer, Marcus Horan, Tony Buckley, Julian Brugnaut, John Hayes, Denis Fogarty, Damian Varley, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, Alan Quinlan, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy, James Coughlan.

Irish squad
Limerick-born Conancht hooker Sean Cronin is one of six uncapped players named in Irish coach Declan Kidney’s 34-man panel for a training camp in Dublin next week.
The two-day camp is part of the Grand Slam winners’ preparations for the three upcoming November internationals against Australia, South Africa and Fiji.
While former Shannon star Cronin is among the 20 forwards named in the squad, there is no place for Munster flanker Alan Quinlan, who is free to play again after serving a 12-week suspension. Limerick scrum-half Eoin Reddan, currently playing with Leinster, is included in an irish camp for the first time this season.

Tony Buckley (Munster), Tom Court (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Connacht)*, Leo Cullen (Leinster), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Jerry Flannery (Munster), John Hayes (Munster), Cian Healy (Leinster)*, Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Marcus Horan (Munster), Shane Horgan (Leinster), Bernard Jackman (Leinster), Shane Jennings (Leinster), Robert Kearney (Leinster), Denis Leamy (Munster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster)*, Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster), Paul O’Connell (Munster), Mick O’Driscoll (Munster), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Munster), Tomas O’Leary (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (/Munster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)*, Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster)*, Andrew Trimble (Ulster), David Wallace (Munster), Paddy Wallace (Ulster), Brett Wilkinson (Connacht)*.
* Denotes Uncapped players.

Colm Kinsella

Across The Gain Line . . . with Colm Kinsella

RUGBY at the highest level is going high tech. Top professional clubs are embracing new technology in order to help them gain an advantage over their rivals - some rugby players are now being tracked from space in a bid to find winning edge.
Satellite tracking systems are the latest example of technology being used by English Premiership clubs in this season, following the introduction of high-tech video and computer analysis of games in recent seasons.
Saracens, Leicester, Bath and Gloucester are among those using the equipment to record training times, patterns and heart rates of their players.
A set to monitor one player costs stg£2-3,000 and highlights the investment clubs are prepared to make in off-field training methods in a bid to gain that winning edge.
This minute analysis of all things a player does is one of the big developments since the game went professional 15 years ago. No longer are players left to their own devices.
Long gone are the days they would return for pre-season training having ballooned in weight. When Munster out-half Ronan O’Gara returned to pre-season training after the Lions tour, he said it appeared as if some of the province’s younger squad members had taken little by way of a summer break from training.
Training ideas continue to change. Kingsley Jones, Sale’s new director of rugby, has told his new conditioning man, New Zealander Peter Finch, to concentrate on rugby skills rather than become totally immersed in weight training and muscle building.
Jones is a believer in training for rugby rather than trying to build a team of ‘gym monkeys.’
Munster lock Donncha O’Callaghan pointed out recently that he was struck by the fact that his first experience of pre-season training last month was a skills session. In the past, the emphasis would have been on strength work.

Rugby World Cup
The term ‘Rugby World Cup’ might strike fear into the hearts of Irish supporters following the hugely disappointing showing of Eddie O’Sullivan’s side in 2007, but it is worth remembering that the next one is now exactly two years away. Preparations for the 2011 Rugby World Cup are on track despite financial uncertainties arising from the global economic crisis, the organisers have said.
New Zealand will be hosting the tournament for the first time since the inaugural event in 1987, and top International Rugby Board (IRB) officials are in the country to review progress.
“I’m sure New Zealand 2011 will deliver yet another hugely successful and memorable chapter in the Rugby World Cup story,” IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said at a ceremony to mark the two-year countdown at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
IRB chief executive Mike Miller said that international rugby was in good shape despite the financial crisis.
“I think the money is there, but some, particularly financial institutions, don’t want to flaunt the cash at this point in time, so corporate hospitality is down a bit,” he said.
Martin Snedden, chief executive of Rugby New Zealand 2011, a joint venture between the New Zealand Rugby Union and the government, said his organisation had been budgeting for a loss of NZ$30 million from the time of the successful bid for the tournament in 2005.
“The budget (loss) still stands at around NZ$30 million, but it’s undoubtedly under a wee bit of pressure,” he said.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he was not surprised about reports that the loss could rise to NZ$40 million, but said the government took a wider view of the tournament’s success: “We’re confident this will be a great way to showcase New Zealand to billions of worldwide viewers and the 60,000-odd tourists that will come to New Zealand from overseas.”
Miller said organisers had made good progress ahead of the September 9, 2011 opening match.
The Eden Park stadium in Auckland, which will host the final and semifinals, is six weeks ahead of schedule in an upgrade that will boost its capacity to 60,000 spectators.
A total of 20 teams will take part in the event to be held at 13 venues around New Zealand, with the final scheduled for October 23.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

FAI release Italian tickets

The Football Association of Ireland has announced that it will pre-release a limited number of seats for the forthcoming World Cup qualifier against Italy at tonight’s international friendly against South Africa in Thomond Park (kick-off 7.30pm) - the tickets will be available for one night only for supporters at Thomond Park before going on general sale from mid-September.


Meanwhile tickets are still available for tonight’s game against South Africa from Gleeson Sports Scene (Mahon House, 25 Upper William Street, Limerick) and the Thomond Park ticket office. Tickets are priced - schoolboy €7, North and South Terrace €20, East and West Terrace €30, East and West Stand €40, Child Stand ticket €20.
Slightly more than 19,400 soccer fans turned up to see the Republic of Ireland lose three-nil to Australia mere weeks ago at Thomond Park.
After goals from Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle in Nicosia on Saturday propelled Ireland to a priceless three points in their 2-1 win over Cyprus Giovanni Trapattoni allowed Irish stars Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Robbie Keane and Kevin Kilbane to return to their clubs.
In addition Stephen Hunt has returned home for personal reasons, Glasgow Celtic’s Darren O’Dea has joined the squad while Aiden McGeady and John O’Shea also departed the squad last evening.
Wolves’ striker Kevin Doyle will captain the side tonight which features eight changes from the team which started against Cyprus in Nicosia on Saturday in the crucial World Cup qualifier.
The Ireland starting team to face South Africa is: Keiren Westwood (Coventry City); Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Sean St. Ledger (Preston North End), Paul McShane (Hull City), Eddie Nolan (Preston North End); Liam Lawrence (Stoke City), Darron Gibson (Manchester United), Keith Andrews (Blackburn Rovers), Andy Keogh (Wolves); Kevin Doyle (Wolves - captain), Caleb Folan (Hull City).

Brian McDonnell

Cardiff represent a ‘difficult opponent’ for Munster

MUNSTER coach Tony McGahan has warned of the difficult task facing his players when they take on the Cardiff Blues in their first home fixture of the new Magners League season at Thomond Park this Friday night (7.05pm).
Holders Munster suffered a frustrating defeat at the hands of the Glasgow Warriors in their opening League fixture of the new season at Firhill. Coach Tony McGahan is refusing to blame the absence of several front line players as the reason for the side’s early season setback.
Speaking in the wake of their defeat McGahan said he would be looking for a big response from the squad: “We need to regroup and we really need a response from the 22 who are selected for the Cardiff game on Friday night.
“We are playing our first game at home for the season at Thomond Park. There should be a tremendous crowd as usual, But we facing a very difficult opponent in Cardiff.
“The absence of a number of players is no excuse for us. We have a very strong squad and we expected coming to play Glasgow that if we played how we trained and how we had prepared, a victory would be in sight for us.”
Besides the unavailability of Munster’s Lions contingent, injury saw the likes of Darragh Hurley, Jerry Flannery, Nick Williams, Tomas O’Leary, Ian Dowling and Ciaran O’Boyle miss out on the Magners League opener against the Warriors.
Mick O’Driscoll also believes that Munster have a squad sufficiently strong enough to compete with the top sides in the Magners League:
“We believe we have a very strong squad now. No matter who is out injured for us or unavailable for us we believe we still have a strong enough squad to compete with any team in the Magners League.
“Unfortunately against Glasgow, for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen for us.”
Meanwhile the focus on the club scene moves to the ODM Munster Senior Cup this weekend.
There are two all-Limerick fixtures down for decision in the opening round of the Cup this Saturday.
UL Bohs will host Old Crescent while Bruff entertain an in-form Young Munster at Kilballyowen Park.
Elsewhere Shannon make the long trip to West Cork to face Clonakilty at The Vale while Garryowen host another AIL Division 1A side Dolphin.
Thomond will also enjoy home advantage against Highfield.

Colm Kinsella