Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Munster gear up for a battle with the Blues

FOLLOWING Friday night’s 6-20 loss at the hands of the Newport-Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade Tony McGahan’s Munster will be comforted with the thought of a return to Thomond Park for the visit of the Cardiff Blues (Saturday, 7.30pm).
The defeat to the Dragons may prove a blessing in disguise for Munster. Matters had been progressing nicely of late and although the province were without several of their leading lights Munster maintained their place at the summit of the Magners League table.
The victory over the Australian touring side capped a very successful November for McGahan, but, ironically, the defeat suffered at the hands of the Dragons could prove priceless should it concentrate the minds of the players ahead of vital few weeks.

Munster, once they get the Blues out of the way this weekend, return to Heineken Cup action on Sunday, December 12 when they host the Ospreys at Thomond Park.
Munster lead the pool by a single point from the Ospreys as things stand, but this clash with the Welsh side and the return fixture at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, December 18 could determine whether McGahan’s men will maintain their interest in the competition come January.
The Blues’ Magners League form has been patchy this season. Cardiff have won four of their six home games and only managed wins away to Treviso and Aironi.
Cardiff inflicted a 38-6 defeat on the Glasgow Warriors last Saturday and appear to have found some form.
The Welsh side will also have the Heineken Cup on their minds - Cardiff have already beaten Edinburgh in the European Cup this season and although they then lost away to Castres Olympique their consecutive clashes with the Northamption Saints will ultimately decide their fate in pool one of the prestigious competition.
Last season Munster shared the spoils with the Blues. In September 2009 at Thomond Park Munster saw off Cardiff on a 24-13 scoreline when tries from Marcus Horan and Denis Leamy helped the home side toward an 11-point win. The sides subsequently encountered one another on May 9 last when Cardiff won 13-12. The losing bonus point for Munster secured fourth spot and a place in last season’s Magners League semi-final against Leinster. No one in Munster needs reminding of how that turned out.
Munster will be expected to win this encounter and clear their throats nicely in time for the visit of the Ospreys on Sunday week.
Meanwhile it is not known at his point whether the next step in Paul O’Connell’s comeback from long-term injury is with his club side Young Munster or with Munster.
O’Connell played in his first competitive fixture for 250 days when featuring as a half-time replacement in Young Munster’s 17-18 All-Ireland League Division 1A defeat to Shannon before an estimated 3,000 supporters at Thomond Park on Friday night.
While the Munster skipper reported no ill effects after his 40-minute comeback, O’Connell, who had not played competitively since Ireland’s Six Nations defeat to Scotland last March, admitted his fitness levels needed to improve significantly.
Finally, John Hayes, who had been invited to play for the Barbarians against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday, has not been named in the match day squad. That news suggests that John Hayes will turn out for Munster this weekend.

Brian McDonnell

Limerick FC hope to finalise playing squad by December

LIMERICK FC supporters will be heartened to learn that preparations are already well under way for the 2011 Airtricity League First Division campaign.
Hopes were very high in 2010 that the Super Blues could make the jump to the Premier Division and although Pat Scully’s men were more than competitive for the majority of the season their form dipped significantly late in the year and Limerick FC finished fifth.
Sadly, that final placing was in keeping with Limerick’s recent performances in the division - in 2009 the Super Blues finished seventh, in 2008 and 2006 Limerick finished fifth and in 2007 they finished fourth.
Limerick FC have happily, and thanks in no small part to Pat O’Sullivan, put their financial problems behind them and confidently face into the FAI licensing process which begins this week. Indeed, the club is more determined than ever to fight their way back into the Premier Division.
Manager Pat Scully, who will remain with the club until at least November 2011 as part of a contract signed in March 2009, and his management team intend to have the bulk of the playing squad signed by Tuesday, December 14 while pre-season training is scheduled to begin on Saturday, January 22.
The club were delighted last week to announce the significant signing of Kilcornan’s Garry Sheahan who plied his trade for the last two seasons with the Wexford Youths. The lightning-fast Sheahan is a proven goal scorer and a welcome addition to the squad.
“Garry is a player we have tried to get back to Limerick on three occasions,” admitted manager Pat Scully.
“I feel we have signed one of the best forwards in the First Division.
“He will bring real speed to our front line and he is a great finisher.
“He is the right age to be part of our success for years to come.”
Shane Tracy has proven a real leader on the field for the Super Blues in recent seasons, a player Pat Scully was also delighted to re-sign: “I’m delighted Shane has re-signed.
“He has been a big player for us since I came to the club.
“Shane is a top quality player who has a knack for scoring goals and will be a vital part of the club’s future ambitions”.
Club stalwart and captain Pat Purcell has also re-signed for the 2011 season while the presence of Stephen O’Flynn in the playing squad could also prove vital during next season’s push for promotion.
Brian McCarthy, who played 24 times for Athlone Town last season, is another worthwhile addition to the squad while young players like the immensely talented Garbhan Coughlan and Jeffrey Judge will hope to make a significant contribution.
Bryan Murphy and Padraic Quinn, both of Tralee Dynamos, have also signed along with Andrew Bhandarkar, Darren Coleman, Brian O’Callaghan, David O’Leary and Shane Cusack while the club has also indicated that it is in on-going negotiations with other players with a view to agreeing terms for next season.
“We’re in talks with a number of players at the moment and I can see that the players out there are positive about Limerick as a club in progression,” Pat Scully explained.
“We won’t be signing many players as everyone at the club has worked very hard on our underage system and we have some excellent young players who will be part of next season’s squad.
“But we have identified three or four players who we feel can improve us that extra bit we need and I can assure the supporters that myself and the board are working hard to assemble a team we can all be proud of.”
Despite all of those positive developments if John Tierney, a talented striker who has lit up the division with his searing pace for the past three seasons, decides to leave the Super Blues such a departure would be seen as a crippling blow to the club’s ambitions. Limerick FC granted John Tierney’s recent request to be transfer listed and although a number of clubs have shown significant interest in signing the centre-forward the Super Blues remain hopeful that Tierney will commit his future to the club.
Meanwhile it remains to be seen whether Limerick FC will be permitted to return to the club’s spiritual home in the Market’s Field.
The club submitted a bid for the venue, but with the tender process still on-going it is not known at this point whether the Super Blues will be playing Airtricity League football at Jackman Park for the foreseeable future.

Brian McDonnell

Monday, November 29, 2010

O’Connell well on the way to making a full recovery

A DECISION on whether the next step in Paul O’Connell’s comeback from long-term injury is with his club side Young Munster or with Magners League leaders Munster this Saturday is due to be made early this week.

O’Connell played in his first competitive fixture for 250 days when featuring as a half-time replacement in Young Munster’s 17-18 AIL Division 1A defeat to Shannon before an estimated 3,000 supporters at Thomond Park on Friday night.
While the Munster skipper reported no ill effects after his 40-minute comeback, O’Connell, who had not played competitively since sustaining a groin injury in Ireland’s Six Nations defeat to Scotland last March, admitted his fitness levels needed to improve significantly.
The 31-year-old said further game time in the coming weeks would help him achieve this.
The Lions captain could get his next taste of competitive action either for Young Munster in their crucial AIL tie with Dolphin at Clifford Park this Saturday at 2.30pm or for Munster in their crunch Magners League tie with the third-placed Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park later that same evening (7.30pm).
Paul O’Connell said: “My plan now is to play as many games as I can, be it with Young Munster, Munster A or Munster, whatever I can, in order to improve my match fitness.
“Tony McGahan will decide where I go from here. It will probably be during the week when any decision is taken.
“I would have struggled with 80 minutes (against Shannon), but I felt better than I thought I would.”
While Munster’s lead at the top of the Magners League has been cut to two points by a combination of the defeat to the Dragons on Friday night and the Scarlets’ bonus-point win over Glasgow the following day, Tony McGahan’s men recorded two victories from their three League fixtures during the autumn international window.
Munster were without the services of up to 20 senior players at different stages in late October and throughout November as a result of a combination of international commitments, injuries and suspensions.
The Irish international stars are set to return to the squad this week in the wake of the timely 29-9 victory over Argentina in the fourth and final autumn international at the Aviva Stadium yesterday.
Munster captain Paul O’Connell said the province’s younger players deserved great credit for the manner in which they had performed in the absence of so many seasoned internationals.
“We have a lot of young guys in that squad who have enjoyed a great run of performances in the past few weeks,” Paul O’Connell enthused.
“They have won three out of four when the internationals have been on, including a victory over Australia.
“It is a great run for us. These periods in the year are really what build your squad.
Munster coach Tony McGahan said the decision the management team would make in terms of the next step in Paul O’Connell’s comeback would be in the ‘best interests of the team and obviously in the best interests of Paul (O’Connell)’.
Meanwhile, on the club front, the three Limerick sides in Division 1A of the AIL are now separated by mere points’ difference at the foot of the table.
Shannon remain bottom, although the nine-time AIL winners now trail seventh-placed Young Munster and sixth-placed Garryowen by virtue of an inferior points difference.
Garryowen secured a dramatic late draw with the second-placed Cork Constitution at Dooradoyle on Saturday thanks to Declan Cusack’s late penalty goal.
All three Limerick sides now have ten league points each, but with just three points separating the bottom five sides in 1A the local sides will be hoping to jump up into the top half of the table following this Saturday’s final round of league fixtures before the Christmas and New Year’s break.
In Division 1B Bruff’s excellent run continued on Saturday when the Kilballyowen side recorded an impressive home victory over Dungannon to move third in the table.
UL-Bohs remain sixth after their disappointing run of results continued with a fourth defeat of the campaign, this time away to UCC.
In Division 2 Thomond jumped into 13th place in the table after the Fitzgerald Park side recorded a vital 32-21 bonus-point victory over basement side Clonakilty.
Thomond’s first win of the campaign saw the ‘royal blues’ leapfrog DLSP and Old Crescent in the table. Old Crescent’s scheduled clash with UCD was postponed as a result of an unplayable pitch at the Belfield Bowl.


Willie Casey refuses to rest on his laurels

WILLIE Casey is certainly not resting on his laurels. The recently crowned European super bantam weight champion has confirmed he is set to return to the ring just five weeks after his historic title success.
The 28-year-old Southill southpaw is to fight in Dublin’s National Basketball Arena on Friday, December 10.
It was thought that Limerick’s new sporting hero would enjoy his recent success over the Christmas period and then headline an event in Cork’s Neptune Stadium on Saturday, January 22 as a warm-up for his title defence against former champion Kiko Martinez in March.
But over the weekend Casey was confirmed for the Tallaght event which will be his seventh night of professional boxing in 2010.
“I’m delighted to be fighting again so soon. I’m feeling great and looking forward to putting on a show for all my fans in Dublin,” explained the EBU champion.
The December event is being organised by Willie Casey’s management team at Dolphil Promotions.
While Casey’s European title won’t be on the line he is adamant that he does not want to loose his unbeaten run in the pro-boxing ranks.
“It isn’t a warm up though. That is a little disrespectful. I won’t be taking anything for granted.
“I am a scalp now and I expect my opponent to be all out against me. I won’t be thinking about Kiko until eight weeks before our March fight,” explained the proud Limerick man.
Casey’s fight will appear on the undercard of Anthony Fitzgerald’s WBF inter-continental title fight with others like Dean Byrne, Gavin Prunty, Christina McMahon, JJ McDonagh, Patrick Hyland, Paddy McDonagh and Noel O’Brien also on the schedule.
“Up and down the country ‘Casey Mania’ has gripped the nation like no other fighter.
“Having defeated Hyland in just his 11th professional fight, comparisons have been made to that of fairytales with some pundits labelling him ‘The Cinderella Man’,” explained Daniel Halpin of Dolphil Promotions.
“Fans are being urged to buy their tickets now as the capacity is restricted. Irish boxing fans must surely be licking their lips as Dolphil Promotions have also added Dean Byrne to the card - the Freddie Roach-trained fighter will be looking to extend his unbeaten record to 14-0.”
Capacity for Casey’s 12th pro-fight will be restricted to 1,000 and the fight will not be shown live on television.
Tickets are available from www.ticketgroup.ie or call 0818 33 33 44 or 087 280 4380.
The weekend of December 10-11 will be a busy one for Limerick fight fans with Andy Lee also in action.
On Saturday, December 11 the Castleconnell middleweight fights on the undercard of the Waldimir Klitschko and Derek Chisora heavyweight world title fight at the SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany. Currently ranked number nine in the WBA world rankings Lee’s opponent for next month’s fight is yet to be confirmed.
The former St. Francis Boxing Club Olympian is in Austria at present training with Klitschko ahead of their December fights.
After that December 11 fight Lee could be set for a rematch against Brian Vera.
Brian Vera inflicted Lee’s only defeat in his 25-bout professional boxing career back in March 2008, but the Limerick middleweight has regrouped to win nine successive fights since that shock reversal.
If Andy Lee does win in Germany his rematch against Brian Vera could take place on February 4.

Jerome O'Connell

Monday, November 22, 2010

Murphy - back with a bang for Munster

BARRY Murphy celebrated his return to Munster’s starting line-up by grabbing a precious second half try in the province’s top-of-the-table Magners League victory over the Scarlets at Musgrave Park last night.
Murphy, who had not started a game for Munster in 14 months due to injury, powered through the Scarlets defence in the 51st minute after collecting Paul Warwick’s well-timed pass to score a terrific try.
A combination of ankle, back and hamstring injuries had forced Murphy’s absence from Munster’s starting line-up since September 2009.
The 27-year-old outside centre, who had made a brief appearance for Tony McGahan’s side against the Wallabies at Thomond Park last week, showed he had lost none of his old sparkle when crossing for a crucial try in the 27-26 victory.
Two other young Limerick players also contributed handsomely to the win. Garryowen scrum-half Conor Murray turned in a Man of the Match performance after being introduced as a first half replacement for the injured Duncan Williams.
Murray’s Garryowen club-mate, Mike Sherry, produced another eye-catching display at hooker.
Sherry was only called into the starting line line-up on match day after Damien Varley had been ruled out with a shoulder injury.
Munster coach Tony McGahan will be keeping his fingers crossed that Varley, hamstring injury victim Alan Quinlan and full-back Johne Murphy, forced to miss the win over the Scarlets with a knee injury, recover in time for Friday night’s trip to Rodney Parade to face the Dragons (7.05pm).
Munster currently enjoy a seven-point lead over the Scarlets at the top of the Magners League table.
Friday evening’s clash against the Dragons will be Munster’s third outing in the space of ten days.
Munster coach Tony McGahan said it was important now that they were mentally fresh for the challenge the Dragons would pose on Friday night.
“The biggest thing for us now ahead of the game with the Dragons on Friday is to make sure we recover properly,” McGahan said.
“We are faced with playing three games in a very short period.
“We need to make sure we are mentally fresh and looking forward to the challenge posed by the Dragons away from home.
“At this time we let the table look after itself. We need to make sure that we are going forward each week and are able to ground out victories with not everyone available to us. We are doing that at this point in time.”
“Overall, we are really delighted. A night like last Tuesday (against Australia) really takes a lot out of the players both emotionally and physically, especially in the wet conditions. It was a wet game and high attrition rate for the forwards. To back it up here and play against a Scarlets side which is fresh and not missing too many it is credit to the lads.”
Meanwhile, on the club front, Garryowen advanced to an ODM Financial Munster Senior Cup final date with Bruff on Sunday, December 19 after securing a comfortable 43-26 semi-final win over Dolphin at Tom Clifford Park.
Bruff’s scheduled semi-final meeting with Highfield was called-off after the Cork side confirmed that they are unable to play the game. Highfield also acknowledge that they have conceded the game to Bruff.


Niland shoots up the world rankings

LIMERICK tennis star Conor Niland has reached a career high ranking of 131 in the world after his weekend victory in the Salzburg Indoor Open. The 29-year-old Mungret man claimed the top prize money of €6,150 and moved up 16 places in the latest ATP rankings. Ireland’s number one ranked player defeated the unseeded Jerzy Janowicz in this Sunday’s final - 7-6, 6-7, 6-3.

The victory in the ATP Challenger Tour event in Austria earned Niland 80 ranking points and edged him closer to his dream of entering the world’s top 100.
The win marked Conor Niland’s third singles title on the second-tier Challenger circuit, his previous similar achievements having been in the Israel Open, in Ramat Hasharon, last May and the New Delhi Open, India in August 2008.
Conor Niland’s win in Austria comes just one week after reaching the semi-finals of the Loughborough Challenger.
The Limerick man will have little time to savour his success however as today he faces a long-haul flight to Japan for this week’s Challenger event in Toyota.
Niland’s new ranking would have been high enough for him to make the main draw of this week’s more lucrative Challenger in Helsinki, but he wasn’t aware of that when he accepted a place in the Japan tournament.
In Japan’s Dunlop World Challenger Niland is seeded number two. In his last event of the year he will face Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama in the first round on Tuesday.
In yesterday’s final Niland was a two sets to one winner against his Polish opponent.
In a gripping and roller-coaster final the eighth-seeded Limerick man saw off the challenge of the unseeded left-hander on a 7-6 (7/5) 6-7 (2/7) 6-3 scoreline.
After 183-ranked Janowicz levelled at one set all, an early break in the third set gave Niland the boost he needed and subsequently he was never in danger of dropping his serve en route to closing out the match.
Niland reached the final after the number two seed Karol Beck withdrew ahead of their semi-final with a foot injury. In the quarter-finals on Friday afternoon Conor Niland defeated Spain’s Ivan Navarro 7-5, 6-3.
Conor Niland is a member of the BNP Paribas National Tennis Academy based at the National Tennis Centre in DCU. He trains there under the guidance of Tennis Ireland Technical Director, Garry Cahill.

Jerome O'Connell

Andy Lee returns to the ring

LIMERICK pro-boxer Andy Lee could be set for a rematch against Brian Vera.
Brian Vera inflicted the Castleconnell man’s only defeat in his 25-bout professional boxing career back in March 2008, but the Limerick middleweight has regrouped to win nine successive fights since that shock reversal.

But if a long-awaited rematch is to take place Lee will have to record another victory on December 11 when he fights on the undercard of the Waldimir Klitschko and Derek Chisora heavyweight world title fight at the SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany.
Currently ranked number nine in the WBA world rankings Lee’s opponent for next month’s fight is yet to be confirmed.
The former St. Francis Boxing Club Olympian flew to Austria on Sunday to train with Klitschko ahead of their December fights.
“This is my fifth fight this year and no better stage for a boxer than a 20,000-seater stadium in Germany on the undercard of IBF, WBO and WBO Heavyweight World Champion, Waldimir Klitschko,” said Lee.
“Waldimir is a great role model for me. I learn so much from him and I thoroughly enjoy the experience of being in camp with him and Emanuel (Steward). It is nice to end the 2010 year off on a fight card like this,” said the Limerick man.
The Kronk fighter has been training hard for the past month at the Kronk Gym in Detroit along with his 22-year-old cousin, Tyson Fury - the current English heavyweight champion.
And, Andy Lee’s manager Emanuel Steward remains confident that the 26-year-old southpaw can be a world champion.
“I believe Andy is not just the best Irish middleweight in the world today, but also the most talented contender emerging and moving up the world rankings. The middleweight division is wide open at this time and Andy is in pole position to capitalize on this situation in 2011,” said Steward.
“Andy will be fighting on December 11. This will be Andy’s fifth time fighting on the undercard of a Waldimir Klitschko heavyweight world title championship fight. These occasions give Andy great exposure with the world media and boxing fraternity present, it provides an international dimension to Andy’s boxing profile. It is also is part of my management strategy to have Andy box on both sides of the Atlantic to reach out to his fan base and have his fights televised by different tv networks,” explained Steward over the weekend.
If Andy Lee does win in Germany next month his rematch against Vera could take place on February 4.
It has already been suggested that the fight would take place on the ESPN2 ‘Friday Night Fights’ card on Super Bowl weekend. The 2011 Super Bowl will take place at the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and the Lee fight would take place in the nearby Fort Worth.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

‘It will be difficult to get guys back down to earth’

MUNSTER coach Tony McGahan admits it will be difficult for the players to come back down to earth from the high of their heroic display against Australia in time for this weekend’s big top-of-the-table Magners League clash with the Scarlets.

Munster face a short five-day turnaround between Tuesday night’s dramatic defeat of the Wallabies at Thomond Park and Sunday’s crunch tie against the second-placed Scarlets at Musgrave Park (5.35pm).
“It will be difficult to get guys back down to earth. There is no doubt about that,” Tony McGahan agreed.
“That is the beauty of rugby. You get a performance and a night like we had and then turn back around fro another game on Sunday, looking for four points against a Scarlets side which has been in great form.
“How the group and everyone manages that, the ability to park the win over Australia, turn up for training on Thursday afternoon, apply themselves and get the four points on Sunday is what our focus will turn to.”
Tony McGahan’s men currently enjoy a four-point lead over the Scarlets at the top of the table.
Munster have won all nine of their most recent meetings with the Welsh side. The Scarlets last win over the Irish province came in March 2007 when the teams met in the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup. Sunday’s game will be televised live on TG4.
The Munster management team is hoping that team captain Paul O’Connell may return to action in a Magners League game prior to the home Heineken Cup tie with the Ospreys on Sunday, December 12.
Munster face an away tie with the Dragons in the Magners league on Friday, November 26 and a home fixture with the Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park on Saturday, December 4.
Tony McGahan said: “We would like to introduce Paul O’Connell before the Heineken Cup.
“If the opportunity comes to play him before the Ospreys game we will certainly look at it and take it.
“He just completed his first full week of training with the squad last week. This is week two and it is a limited training week with the game with Australia.”
McGahan revealed that injured scrum-half Tomas O’Leary could be back playing in two weeks.
However, Jerry Flannery’s likely return date to competitive action remains unclear.
“Jerry (Flannery) is booked in for more tests in the next few weeks. We will have to wait and see.
“We are all holding out hope as much as he is to make sure he gets a clear shot at it and gets back to play,” Tony McGahan explained.
“He had five games with Munster last season and 15 minutes this season. It has been a barren spell for him from our point of view. We share his disappointment and frustration with what he is going through.
“We really want to get our best players on the field.
“If you want to be at the back end of tournaments, there to get trophies, you certainly need your best players playing. We certainly recognise that and Jerry (Flannery) is one of those for us.”
McGahan said he was in favour of the province playing at least one fixture against an international touring side each season.
Munster’s win over the Wallabies on Tuesday night was the province’s fourth against Australia, but the first recorded at Thomond Park.
Munster coach Tony McGahan said the visit of one of the top international sides in world rugby had many benefits for the players, the city of Limerick as well as Munster Rugby.
Tony McGahan said: “I think we get a massive benefit out of these games. For the playing group and the young players it is an opportunity to soak up international experience against a top side. Those sort of games, the occasion and getting ready for a big match, for some guys it could be the biggest match they play in for two or three years.
“And hopefully it will build when they go into Heineken Cup and into the final series of the Magners League and Heineken Cup.
“I think it is great for the big crowd here who may not have the opportunity to get to Dublin and watch the autumn international games. So there is an element of that.
“There is the financial boost element to the city itself which comes from hosting such a game.
“Everyone gets something out of it. It’s a great thing. At least one game like this a year would be tremendous.
“From our end we would love it.”

Colm Kinsella

Kidney’s men focus their attention on the All Blacks

IRISH coach Declan Kidney has insisted that there is no shortage of confidence in the team as the focus switches to Saturday’s mammoth autumn international showdown with New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium (5.35pm).

Ireland ended their six-match losing streak when stuttering to a 20-10 victory over Samoa last weekend, but the performance did little to suggest they have turned a corner. The in-form All Blacks will fancy their chances of maintaining their unbeaten record against Ireland in Dublin this Saturday, but coach Kidney insists morale remains healthy.
“Anxiety will always be there when you’ve lost a few matches,” Declan Kidney said.
“We were a bit anxious going into Samoa. The first 20 minutes went well but then they scored their try and the anxiety crept in a little bit. When you’re winning you take it for granted, when you’re losing it’s bound to bite. It wasn’t exactly an attractive game against Samoa but we managed to win and after the last six matches that’s a plus. We have to sit down and admit that bit needs a bit of work and that bit needs some improvement. The more matches you win, the higher the confidence will be.
“Our confidence will be a bit better going into Saturday than it was coming into Samoa. I don’t think the confidence is that bad.”
Ireland delayed naming their starting line-up to face New Zealand until this Thursday. New Zealand will approach Saturday’s match invigorated by their 49-3 demolition of Scotland and Kidney accepts they are formidable opposition.
“Every team that plays New Zealand has to play at the top of their ability to get the better of them,” he said.
“They’re the best team in the world and are motoring well.”
Ireland’s cause this autumn has not been helped by poor attendances at Aviva Stadium, with only 30,955 turning up to see Samoa beaten in such unconvincing fashion.
Kidney insists the small crowds inevitably have an effect on the players.
“If you arrive at the ground 75 minutes before kick off and it’s half-full, then it’s three-quarters full when you’re warming up and then it’s a full house when you come out, the adrenaline flows more freely,” Kidney said.
Ireland lock Donnacha Ryan is ruled out of Ireland’s final two games in the autumn international series after being handed a three-week ban for a stamping offence committed during the latter stages of Saturday’s win over Samoa.
Ryan’s case was heard by an independent Six Nations Disciplinary Committee on Tuesday which found that the offence merited a mid-range punishment in IRB sanctions.
The player’s exemplary disciplinary record and good conduct at the hearing saw his punishment reduced.
Ryan, who has a right of appeal, was a 69th-minute replacement for Devin Toner in the 20-10 win over Samoa.
Meanwhile, the latest Guinness Area 22 event, hosted by Matt Cooper, of The Last Word and TV3, takes place on this Thursday, November 18 at Peter Clohessy’s Bar, ahead of the upcoming Guinness Series clash with the All Blacks.
Matt Cooper will be joined by current Munster and Ireland star Tomás O’Leary, Shane Horgan, and regular Last Word rugby panellists, Neil Francis and Paul Wallace. The first half hour of the event, from 6.30pm to 7pm, will be broadcast live on the Last Word on Today FM, and the entire event will be streamed live on www.Facebook.com/GuinnessRugbyIreland and www.todayfm.com

Colm Kinsella

County Football Board set for a minor face-lift

THE face of Limerick football officialdom will change next week with three elections at the County Football Board Annual Convention.
But it’s not a total face-lift with just one of the six people standing for election not a member of the out-going football executive. However that candidate is not a newcomer to Limerick GAA either as Gerry Philips is an out-going County Board officer. The County Football Board Convention has been postponed for 24 hours to Thursday, November 25 in the Woodland’s House Hotel due to a clash with the West Board Convention the previous night.
At the annual football gathering Sean McAuliffe and Michael Sheahan will go head to head to become the new chairman and following in the footsteps of John Galvin, Owen Hayes and Billy Ahern.
Hospital-Herbertstown clubman McAuliffe is the out-going football secretary while Monaleen man Sheahan is the out-going vice-chairman.
The battle for vice-chairman is also between two out-going officers - Pat O’Shaughnessy (Glin) is the out-going Football Development Officer while James Moynihan (South Libertes) is the out-going assistant secretary.
Two candidates are also battling it out for the role of secretary.
Mungret’s Colette O’Grady is the out-going PRO while her opposition is Monagea’s Gerry Philips who has to step down after completing his maximum five years as the County Board Coaching Officer.
It is most unusual that all six places on the Football Board will change at the same time.
Out-going chairman John Galvin becomes the new assistant secretary.
Two new faces to the boardroom of Limerick football are Patrick Keane of Newcastle West and Brian Kelly of Na Piarsaigh.
Twenty-six-year-old Keane becomes the youngest ever member of the Football Board when he starts as Football Development Officer. A teacher by trade, Keane was a selector with the Limerick under-14 side this season. The other newcomer Brian Kelly assumes the role of PRO, replacing the hugely efficient Colette O’Grady.

Bord na nOg
Limerick County Bord na nOg have taken issue with comments made to Leader Sport last week by Owen O’Neill, chairman of the group proposing the establishment of a Hurling Board for Limerick.
“It was erroneously stated that County Bord na nOg are in receipt of over €450,000 in funding from Bord Coiste Luimni. This is not correct,” said County Bord na nOg chairman Tony Roche.
“Bord na nOg receive approx €25,000 per annum from Bord Coiste Luimni, these are the only monies we receive from the County Senior Bord for which we are most grateful in addition to monies we receive from sponsorship and gate receipts throughout the year,” explained the chairman.
He added: “Coaching comes under the remit of County Games and Coaching and is not the responsibility of County Bord na nOg.”
Owen O’Neill had claimed that the issue of monies spent on coaching was a concern that a number of clubs had addressed to members of his group.
“The County Board indicated recently that over €450,0000 annually was spent on Bord na nOg coaching and mentoring.
“This is a major sum of money and schools and clubs throughout the county have expressed concern with the distribution of the funds and the actual quality of the coaching - it is best practise that coaching be monitored thoroughly and progress reports relayed to all units of the association in the county regularly,” said Owen O’Neill last week.

Jerome O’Connell

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rib injury Martinez rules out

A RIB injury has ruled Kiko Martinez out of next month’s European title showdown with Willie Casey, but the University Arena Hunky Dorys Fight Night will still go ahead.
Paul Hyland has stepped into the breach - with the Dubliner now poised to take on Willie Casey for the vacant European title in what will be the first ever all-Irish clash for a European title.

Paul Hyland was already the number one challenger for the European Super Bantamweight title (previously held by Bernard Dunne until his shocking defeat to Martinez in 2007) and with Martinez having decided to vacate the title until he is fit to resume his career it leaves Casey and Hyland to battle it out in a historic night of boxing in Limerick on Saturday, November 6.
“Nothing has changed for me,” stressed the 28-year-old Willie Casey.
“I’m still fighting for the European title in my home town on November 6 and all that matters is leaving the ring with that belt around my waist,” said the Southill man.
“Paul’s an excellent boxer and he presents a different challenge to Kiko, but I’ll have a game plan for the fight.
“I’ve worked so hard for this and made the sacrifices you need to make to succeed at European level. I’ve been in Dublin now for the last seven weeks preparing for this fight and it’s been hard leaving my wife and family, but I know that all the hard work will be worth it in the end.”
A former Irish intermediate featherweight amateur champion Casey is a former member of Our Lady of St. Saviour Boxing Club.
Nicknamed the ‘Big Bang’ Casey’s management team consists of former Olympian and double European championship bronze medal winner Phil Sutcliffe and Don O’Leary.
“We sparred before, but there is a big difference between sparring and an actual fight and I’ve come an awful long way since we sparred.
“It’s going to be an exciting fight and I’m sure the atmosphere in Limerick will be brilliant,” said Casey.
“It will be a very different fight to the Martinez fight, but I still expect plenty of fireworks. Paul is saying he will win over 12 rounds, but that’s a very long time to be in a ring with me! I won’t be making any predictions except that the belt won’t be leaving Limerick,” vowed the Southill southpaw.
Promoter Brian Peters says he is delighted to have been able to salvage the show and create a piece of history in the process.
“It’s amazing that despite Ireland’s proud history in boxing two Irish men have yet to contest a European title, but it will finally happen on November 6 and what a fight it promises to be. It’s a real contrast of styles and what an opportunity for both guys to become Ireland’s next European Champion,” added Brian Peters.
Tickets are priced from €40 are available from www.ticketmaster.ie or 0818 719300.

Jerome O’Connell

Successful Test places Gaelic Grounds in the shop window

LIMERICK’S Gaelic Grounds is in the shop window for more big games in 2011 after the successful staging of last weekend’s International Rules Test. That’s the view of GAA chairman Liam Lenihan.
While last Saturday’s first test between Ireland and Australia was largely disappointing as a contest, there was nothing, but compliments for the Ennis Road Stadium as a venue and the entire event management team.
“The whole idea was to showcase what we have,” said Liam Lenihan as the crowd over 30,000 made their way out of the ground after Australia won 47-40 ahead of next Saturday’s second and decisive test in Croke Park.
“The venue is there now and we are well able to run events and I hope the CCC (Competitions Control Committee) will take note in 2011. The more big games we get is good for the GAA and good for the city.
“We have a fine pitch and we have spent an enormous amount of money getting the place up to spec - we have fantastic lights, a fantastic pitch and a prime facility.”
While over 30,000 attended the unique contest between the stars of the GAA and the professionals of the AFL it was still someway short of the capacity of 49,000.
“To fill it is our aim. It is no good to fill it once or twice a year. We want to fill it at least half a dozen times a year,” said the GAA chairman.
“It was a wonderful night for Limerick city. We are delighted with the night. I have to pay tribute to everyone that helped out, to the Gardai, to the 300 voluntary stewards and the staff.”
While most expected fireworks on the pitch, the game proved largely uneventful.
“Unfortunately, the game was not that exciting until the last five to ten minutes. It took the Irish a long time to come to life,” accepted Lenihan.
“It was a great family night and a great family occasion with the atmosphere and the spectacle and entertainment helped by JP Dillion and Craig Willis out on the field and we were blessed with the weather as well.”

Ireland: Stephen Cluxton (Dublin); Ciaran McKeever (Armagh), Finian Hanley (Galway), Brendan Donaghy (Armagh), Sean McDermott (Roscommon), Graham Canty (Cork), Kevin Reilly (Meath) 1pt, Colm Begley (Laois), Tadhg Kennelly (Sydney Swans) 1pt, Leighton Glynn (Wicklow) 3pts, Stephen McDonnell (Armagh) 8pts, Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone) 7pts, Bernard Brogan (Dublin) 9pts, Tommy Walsh (St Kilda) 4pts, Martin Clarke (Down) 1pt. Interchange players: Emmet Bolton (Kildare), Kevin McKernan (Down) 3pts, Paddy Keenan (Louth), Brendan Murphy (Carlow), Michael Murphy (Donegal), Niall McNamee (Offaly), James Kavanagh (Kildare), Danel Goulding (Cork) 3pts.
Australia: Travis Varcoe (Geelong Cats); Bryce Gibbs (Carlton), Jarrad McVeigh (Sydney Swans), Daniel Cross (Western Bulldogs) 6pts, Matthew Boyd (Western Bulldogs) 2pts, Kade Simpson (Carlton) 2pts, James Frawley (Melbourne) 3pts, Jack Riewoldt (Richmond), Garrick Ibbotson (Fremantle), Leigh Montagna (St Kilda) 6pts, Sam Gilbert (St Kilda), Kieran Jack (Sydney Swans) 1pt. Interchange players: Todd Banfield (Brisbane Lions) 6pts, Brad Green (Melbourne), Eddie Betts (Carlton) 6pts, Dustin Fletcher (Essendon), Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide Crows) 3pts, Dane Swan (Collingwood), Adam Goodes (Sydney Swans) 12pts, David Wojcinski (Geelong Cats), Paul Duffield (Fremantle).
Referees: David Coldrick (Meath), Brett Rosebury (Australia).

Jerome O’Connell

Munster men must do the simple things right

MUNSTER number eight James Coughlan believes the Magners League leaders must do ‘the simple things right’ if they are to record a rare victory over Ulster at Ravenhill this Friday night (7.05pm).
Munster currently enjoy a four-point lead over the Scarlets at the top of the Magners League table.
However, the province’s record in Belfast is poor in recent times with Munster recording just one victory over Ulster since 2004.
Coughlan, who bagged a try in Munster’s impressive win over Benetton Treviso on Friday night, agreed that visiting teams traditionally find it hard to secure an away victory over Ulster.
“Ravenhill is always a difficult place to go. The last time we won up there was about three years ago. Anyone who goes up there finds it hard,” James Coughlan said.
“Again I think it comes back to our set-piece, our line-out, our scrum, doing the simple things right. If we can win the small battles as it were, then hopefully we are good enough on the night to get a result. We had a good result against Treviso. It is always hard, especially after the emotions of the previous week (v Toulon), a massive game for us, one we had to win.
“We needed to roll up our sleeves and dig in. Our set piece was very good in the first half there. The scrum was excellent. We converted any time we got inside their ’22 which was important. Overall, I am pleased with the result. Sure there are things we need to fix up, but after a tough week last week it was important to get the result.
“I am pleased with our scrum. We worked hard on it during the week and the week before. It seems to be coming on. We got about 14 points out of it tonight which is a fantastic return from any set-piece.”
Munster must plan without several front-line Irish internationals who are preparing for the upcoming Guinness Series. Hooker Jerry Flannery could yet be fit in time for the last of Ireland’s autumn internationals against New Zealand next month and also Munster’s Heineken Cup back-to-back ties against the Ospreys in December. Flannery saw a specialist in Liverpool on Friday regarding his ongoing calf muscle problems and the diagnosis was better than expected with a four week rest expected to solve the problem.
Meanwhile, the Ireland squad is continuing their training camp in Limerick for the remainder of this week, before transferring to Dublin ahead of the first game of the Guinness Series against South Africa in the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has braced his side for a gruelling November playing schedule. After the South African fixture, Ireland face Samoa, New Zealand and Argentina on successive weekends at the Aviva Stadium as the countdown to next year’s World Cup begins in earnest.

Colm Kinsella

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fingers crossed for Johnny

FINGERS are crossed right across Limerick that Johnny McCarthy will be selected this Thursday in the Irish squad to face the Australians for the International Rules Series.
The inter-county and St. Kieran’s defender remains the only local still in contention for a place on Anthony Tohill’s 23-man Irish panel.

Croom’s John Galvin was also in contention, but, unfortunately, injury has ruled the midfielder out.
Johnny McCarthy was one of 34 players to attend last weekend’s training sessions in Limerick when Anthony Tohill’s panel were based in Adare Manor and trained at the Gaelic Grounds.
McCarthy is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Stephen Kelly, John Quane and Paddy Barrett and represent his country against the Aussies.
Of course making this season all the more special is the fact that Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds will host the first test under floodflights on Saturday, October 23.
This week it was confirmed that the Mackey Stand was sold out for the eagerly-anticipated event, but tickets are still available for both the uncovered stand and terraces.
Tickets can be purchased from the Gaelic Grounds Office, Gleeson Sports Scene or through ticketmaster outlets or online at www.ticketmaster.ie or www.gaa.ie.
Entry to the uncovered stand is €20 and the terrace is €15. A host of special offers for groups, students and OAPs are also available.
The Australian team will arrive in Ireland this Saturday and will play a warm-up match in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork on Wednesday, October 20 against a combined Irish Universities selection.
Both international panels will be afforded a Limerick City Mayoral Reception on Thursday, October 21.
On the day of the First Test pre-match entertainment is planned from 5pm - two hours ahead of the starting time for the match.
Stilt walkers, face painting and live music will all add to the excitement on the approach roads to the Gaelic Grounds while inside the ground the Newcastle West-based Supermodel Twins and the Artane Band will provide pre-match music.
The internationally acclaimed band The Walls will perform at half time while after the game a fireworks display will light up the night sky.
Before attention turns to the International Rules all the focus this Sunday (3.30) will be on Newcastle West when the county senior football championship final takes place outside of the Gaelic Grounds for the first time since 1987. The meeting of the men from Monaleen and the Adare lads is a repeat of the 2002 senior final which required a replay before Monaleen prevailed.

Jerome O’Connell

A clash of two very different rugby cultures

“YOU’RE certainly dealing with two opposite ends of the spectrum when you’re looking at environment and culture.
“Munster is home-grown players who have been born, grown up on the field together, lived in the one area all of their lives and certainly have built friendships and relationships not only between themselves, but also with the community.
“That’s against a side (Toulon) who have been bankrolled to be put together. There are many different ways of bringing success and they have certainly started that journey over the last two or three years.”
Munster coach Tony McGahan provides an interesting insight into the clash of two rugby cultures which will be played out before a sell-out crowd at Thomond Park - Munster face the big-spending Toulon in a crunch pool three clash on Saturday (kick-off 3.30pm).

A second successive Munster defeat on the back of last weekend’s reverse at the hands of London Irish would all but end the province’s hopes of advancing to the knock-out stages of the competition for a 13th straight season.
Coach Tony McGahan appreciates the size of the challenge facing his charges against the Top 14 leaders in France whose annual wage bill is estimated to be close to €7 million. Toulon’s star-studded squad includes the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, George Smith, Joe Van Niekerk, Pierre Mignoni, Carl Hayman and Felipe Contepomi.
Much interest will centre around the make-up of Toulon’s match day squad as they are only entitled to include just two non-European qualified players in it.
“You look at what they (Toulon) achieved last year with their results in the Top 14 and also in the Challenge Cup and this year they have set the bar higher with the calibre of player they have brought in,” coach Tony McGahan pointed out.
“They are very different ways of approaching professional rugby, but it is a great challenge.
“That collective will and the environment the (Munster) players have been part of and excelled in - put their own self inside to make sure it grows - those sort of things give you the edge in big games. We’re looking for that to play a part on Saturday evening.”
Some aspects of McGahan’s team selection, including the omission of Alan Quinlan from the match day squad and the decision to name David Wallace and Paul Warwick on the replacements bench for last weekend’s clash with London Irish did raise some eyebrows.
However, Tony McGahan insists his team is picked on form.
“We lost the game and that’s where it is.
“Winning on the road in a tough group in the Heineken Cup is very difficult,” Tony McGahan pointed out.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, just to turn up and get a result doesn’t happen.
“We certainly realise there are areas we need to take forward this week and we won’t get a return on a result if we don’t. The squad is picked on each game and on its merits.
“That’s one of the things we’ve really tried to do in the last couple of years - whoever is putting in the performance is going to get the game. . .”
“For us this week we’re back at home. We obviously enjoy playing here, so it means a lot to us to play back here in front of our fans. We really look at what we can control to get the result.
“Whatever team they (Toulon) put out, they really have a strong way of playing and the fulcrum of that is (Jonny) Wilkinson. Whether he plays or does not play, definitely there will be a point of difference if he doesn’t play.”
Munster have included the fit-again Jerry Flannery in their extended squad for Saturday’s game. Hooker Flannery has been sidelined through injury since lining out against the Barbarians at Thomond Park last May.
He made his competitive comeback on Friday night last when playing for 40 minutes in Shannon’s All-Ireland League victory over city rivals Garryowen.
Niall Ronan, who was forced off after half an hour during the defeat to London Irish having received a cut to his head, is also included in the squad for Saturday’s sell-out clash.
But Munster were facing an anxious wait this Wednesday as centre Sam Tuitupou appeared before an ERC-convened disciplinary committee hearing in Dublin. Tuitupou was cited after committing an alleged dangerous tackle on London Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson during the first-half of the game in the Madejski Stadium. Munster are already without another key centre, the suspended Lifeimi Mafi for the clash.

Munster squad: Wian Du Preez, Marcus Horan, Mike Sherry, Jerry Flannery, Damien Varley, John Hayes, Darragh Hurley, Tony Buckley, Billy Holland, Donnacha Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy, Peter O’Mahony, James Coughlan, Duncan Williams, Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara, Scott Deasy, Paul Warwick, Danny Barnes, Keith Earls, Johne Murphy, Sam Tuitupou, Doug Howlett, Denis Hurley.

Colm Kinsella

Official move made to form a Hurling Board

IT’S finally official - moves to form a County Hurling Committee are underway.
After months of speculation a motion is to come before the clubs of the county at the Annual Convention in December to set up a County Hurling Committee.
The motion was submitted by the Murroe-Boher GAA club.
The motion seeks for the establishment of a steering committee at Annual Convention with a view towards ratifying the new body at the February County Board meeting.
In recent times representatives of the break-away group met with Limerick GAA chiefs, but the sides reached no agreement on a way forward which has resulted in the motion to come before convention.
A 16-man committee are behind the plans to establish a seperate Hurling Board or Committee for Limerick - with four representatives from the clubs from each of the four divisions.
The break-away group contains a number of high-profile figures within Limerick hurling including past and present high ranking officials, former inter-county hurlers and footballers and former members of inter-county management teams.
There will also be a number of other interesting motions to come before the Annual Convention.
Bruff GAA club are proposing to end the involvement of divisional teams in the county senior hurling championship while the Killeedy club are proposing that all four divisions be represented in the championship proper.
Croagh-Kilfinny are seeking to have the county junior A hurling championship run on an all-county basis with 20 teams to compete with four groups of five teams.
Along similar lines Galtee Gaels want the county junior A football championship run across the county.
But Killeedy want the county intermediate hurling championship to return to the divisions.

Quaid & Carroll
TWO former Limerick hurlers could be about to move into the boardroom of Limerick GAA.
Former inter-county goalkeeper Joe Quaid and former star midfielder Jimmy Carroll are both nominated for positions on the executive of Limerick County Board.
The two-time All Star Quaid played between the posts for Limerick from 1994 to 2002 and was coach of the Limerick under-14 team for the Tony Forristal competition this season.
Carroll played with Limerick for a ten-year spell from the late 70’s until 1988 and for the last three years has managed the Emmets divisional team.
The duo could find themselves at the top table of Limerick GAA after the 2010 Annual Convention which will take place at a south venue on Monday, December 6.
Joe Quaid is nominated for the position of Coaching Officer - a position that is been vacated by Gerry Philips as he has competed his five-year term. Quaid will face opposition from out-going vice-chairman Mickey O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan has to step down from his vice-chairman role as he has completed his term and will be replaced by Oliver Mann who is the only candidate nominated for the position.
O’Sullivan is also nominated for the position of Munster Council delegate.
There are a total of six individuals nominated for the two positions to the provincial council - Jimmy Carroll, Denis Holmes, Oliver Mann, John Galvin, Eddie Wade and Mickey O’Sullivan.

Maurice Horan
Maurice Horan has finally been rubber-stamped as Limerick’s new senior football manager.
At this week’s October monthly meeting of the County Board in Claughaun the successor to Mickey Ned O’Sullivan was ratified by delegates.
The former Mayo and Limerick footballer will be joined by Eiphe Fitzgerald as trainer-selector and Joe Lee as selector.
Ephie Fitzgerald managed Nemo Rangers to a four-in-a-row of Cork SFC titles as well as two Munster titles.
As a player with Nemo he won four All-Ireland medals and five Munster club medals.
He also won two under-21 All-Irelands with Cork along with a Munster senior title.
Horan was also ratified as Limerick under-21 manager with selectors Micheal Reidy (Dromcollogher-Broadford), Oola’s John Ryan and Adare’s Niall Crowley.
Elsewhere, former Limerick senior hurling coach Ger Cunningham (Knockainey) has been appointed as a selector with the Limerick minor hurling team for 2011.
Cunnigham replaces Adare’s Joe Hannon as a selector as Hannon is to take up the role of Liaison Officer with Donal O’Grady’s senior hurlers.
Adare’s Shane Fitzgibbon is Limerick minor manager for next season along with Mike Galligan (Claughaun), Frankie Carroll (Garryspillane), George Lee (Ahane) and now Cunningham.
The position of county under-21 hurling manager remains vacant.
Limerick GAA chairman Liam Lenihan told this week’s meeting that it would be after the International Rules Test before attention would be turned to the appointment.

Championship draw
Limerick have received a bye into the semi-finals of both codes in the 2011 Munster senior championships - Donal O’Grady’s hurlers were drawn against Munster champions Waterford in their semi-final of the provincial hurling championship.
The clash against the Davy Fitzgerald managed Decies is likely to take place in Semple Stadium Thurles.
On the other side of the draw All-Ireland champions Tipperary play Cork in the quarter-final with the winners to play Clare in the semi-final.
Meanwhile in the football draw Limerick received a bye in the semi-final. They await the winners of the quarter-final meeting of Kerry and Tipperary.
Limerick will have home advantage in the Gaelic Grounds, regardless of the opposition.
In the other side of the championship All-Ireland champions Cork play Clare with the winners to face Waterford.

Jerome O’Connell

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

‘I think Toulon have the Heineken Cup firmly in their sights’ - Payne

MUNSTER manager, Shaun Payne is convinced big-spending French side Toulon will prove formidable opponents in Saturday’s glamour Heineken Cup pool three tie at Thomond Park (3.30pm).

In the past French sides coming to Thomond Park for big European club fixtures have been accused of not travelling well.
But Shaun Payne expects the Top 14 leaders to make a huge effort to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup this season.
“I wouldn’t be buying into the notion that Toulon won’t travel well this weekend,” Shaun Payne said.
“I think Toulon have the Heineken Cup firmly in their sights.
“We will await the official announcement later in the week in relation to the kind of team Toulon selects for Saturday. They have an issue in their squad in relation to non-European qualified players in their squad. You can only put two in any match-day squad.”
Munster welcome Jerry Flannery back into their extended squad for Saturday’s second round clash. Jerry Flannery had been sidelined through injury since lining out against the Barbarians at Thomond Park in May.
Shaun Payne said: “It is well documented that Jerry (Flannery) has been struggling with a few injury issues, a problem with a calf and then the hamstring pull.
“He had the injection into the back and that seems to have worked. Ever since then he has been training really well. Jerry had 40 minutes obviously with Shannon on Friday night. He came through it without any worries. Jerry is confident and we are too that he is finally on the mend.”
Niall Ronan, who was forced off after half an hour of last weekend’s defeat to London Irish having received a cut to his head, is included in the squad for Saturday’s sell-out clash in Limerick.
Munster face an anxious wait as centre Sam Tuitupou appears before an ERC-convened disciplinary committee hearing in Dublin later today.
Tuitupou was cited after committing an alleged dangerous tackle on London Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson during the first-half of the game in the Madejski Stadium.
Munster are already without another key centre, the suspended Lifeimi Mafi, for Saturday’s game.
“In terms of the backs, since we first announced the Heineken Cup squad on the registration day, Ian Dowling, Tomas O’Leary and Lifeimi Mafi are on the sidelines,” Shaun Payne pointed out.
“It is quite unusual in that normally you run into numbers problems in the forwards. You cannot lose that many quality players and not be worried about it.
“We will leave Sam’s (Tuitupou’s) hearing until later today and see what happens then.”
There were a number of talking points in Munster’s starting line-up for the clash with London Irish, including the omission of Alan Quinlan from the match day squad and the fact that David Wallace was named among the replacements.
Team manager Payne insisted the starting XV was the strongest possible: “We chose the strongest possible team last week. What happened on the weekend as well there were certain guys who played excellently. According to that we will have to go and see how guys go in training this week.
“The team will be based on that and it will be the strongest possible selection as well.
“Selections do change from week to week depending what happens on a weekend result.
“Everyone is back in the picture for selection this weekend. Alan was obviously very disappointed to lose out last weekend.
“But I think it is a measure of the competition within the squad now in the back-row. Fellows have been putting up their hands.
“James (Coughlan) and Niall (Ronan) have been playing very well. Don’t forget, below that, we have younger fellas coming on hard as well. Peter O’Mahony and guys like that. There is pressure all over the squad to be honest.”

Munster squad: Wian Du Preez, Marcus Horan, Mike Sherry, Jerry Flannery, Damien Varley, John Hayes, Darragh Hurley, Tony Buckley, Billy Holland, Donnacha Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy, Peter O’Mahony, James Coughlan, Duncan Williams, Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara, Scott Deasy, Paul Warwick, Danny Barnes, Keith Earls, Johne Murphy, Sam Tuitupou, Doug Howlett, Denis Hurley.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Eighty hurlers invited to inter-county trials

EIGHTY hurlers have been invited to trials this Sunday as Donal O’Grady wastes no time in settling into his new role as Limerick hurling manager.
On Sunday Donal O’Grady and his management team will hold two trial games as efforts commence to assemble the 2011 Limerick panel.

This Tuesday letters were sent to about 80 hurlers inviting them to trial games in the GAA grounds of Garryspillane in Knocklong and Staker Wallace in Martinstown.
O’Grady and selectors TJ Ryan, Ciaran Carey and Pat Heffernan are expected to host a further series of trials in the coming weeks.
Last week initial letters were sent to members of the 2009 and 2010 inter-county panels. It is understood that the objective of the letters was to avoid any confusion as regards the 2011 panel.
The letters informed the recipients that at present there was no panel selected for the new season and asked each individual to reply to selector TJ Ryan as to whether they would be available for selection.

Maurice Horan
Maurice Horan will be rubber-stamped as Limerick’s new senior football manager at next Tuesday’s October monthly meeting of the County Board in Claughaun.
This Wednesday night Horan was to be confirmed as the successor to Mickey Ned O’Sullivan, when his name was to be presented to a meeting of the Limerick Football Board in the Woodlands House Hotel in Adare.
The delegates of the Football Board would then pass their recommendation to the County Board executive, who would in turn present Horan for ratification on October 12.
The former Nemo Rangers boss Ephie Fitzgerald will join Horan’s backroom team as team trainer. Fitzgerald was manager of the Cork giants when they won four county titles in-a-row (2005 to 2008). The duo are to be joined by one selector, but his identity is still unknown.
Maurice Horan has played inter-county football with both his native Mayo and Limerick.
This season the Ballinrobe native was Limerick under-21 manager and a selector on Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s senior management team.
Under John Maughan’s stewardship Horan made his Mayo senior debut in 2003 as a 27-year-old, but that winter work commitments saw him move to Limerick and he transferred to Monaleen and joined up with Liam Kearns’ inter-county panel. For the last two seasons he has been involved with the Na Piarsaigh intermediate footballers.
Horan is also be continue as Limerick under-21 manager. He will be joined by the same selectors as he had in 2009 - former Limerick senior football captain Micheal Reidy (Drom-Broadford), Oola’s John Ryan and Adare’s Niall Crowley.

Next Tuesday, October 12 is the deadline for nominations and motions for the 2010 Annual Convention of Limerick GAA, which will take place at a south Limerick venue on December 6.
All correspondence for the December AGM have to be with county secretary Mike O’Riordan by 6pm on next Tuesday.
With the exception of the full-time paid position of secretary, all officers on the executive of Limerick GAA can be challenged for their positions.
All have indicated that they will be standing for re-election, except two.
Both vice-chairman Mickey O’Sullivan and coaching officer Gerry Philips are standing down from their roles as they have five years service completed in their respective positions.
Many will eagerly await news of the motions for convention, if a new Hurling Board was to be established in Limerick it would require a motion to be voted on by the clubs at the December meeting.

Johnny McCarthy
Johnny McCarthy is Limerick’s final hope for representation in this month’s International Rules Series.
The star inter-county and St. Kieran’s defender remains the only man still in contention for a place on Anthony Tohill’s final Irish panel. Croom’s John Galvin was also in contention, but injury has ruled him out.
McCarthy will be hoping to impress in a final trial game which takes place in Limerick this Saturday. The Irish International Rules management bring their extended 45-man squad to Limerick this Thursday where they will spend three days in a training camp.
After that the final 30-strong squad to face the Australians at the Gaelic Grounds and Croke Park on October 23 and 30 respectively will be announced next week.
McCarthy travelled to Meath last weekend for training in Donaghmore.
The Australian team will arrive in Ireland on the weekend of October 16-17.
They will play a warm-up match in Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Wednesday, October 20 against a combined universities team.
The Aussies then arrive in Limerick on the Thursday before the First Test, but it is not yet known if they will hold an open training session.
This week GAA authorities were finalising the ceremonies surrounding the October 23 Test in the Gaelic Grounds.
Both international panels will be afforded a Mayoral Reception on Thursday October 21. On the day of the First Test, pre-match entertainment is planned from 5pm - two hours ahead of the starting time for the match. Stilt walkers, face painting and live music will all add to the excitement on the approach roads to the Gaelic Grounds, while inside the ground the Newcastle West based Supermodel Twins and the Artane Band will provide pre-match music. The Walls will be the half time entertainment. After the game, a fireworks display will light up the night sky over the river Shannon.
Tickets can be purchased from the Gaelic Grounds Officer, Gleeson Sports Scene or through ticketmaster outlets or online at www.ticketmaster.ie or www.gaa.ie. Entry to the Mackey stand is €25, the Uncovered stand is €20 and the terrace is €15.
A host of special offers for groups, students and OAPs are also available.

Jerome O’Connell

Earls could feature against the Exiles

MUNSTER coach Tony McGahan believes Heineken Cup pool games now rival international Test matches in terms of build-up, preparation and the emotion of winning or losing.
McGahan was speaking on the eve of Munster’s mammoth Heineken Cup opener away to London Irish at the Madejski Stadium, Reading, on Saturday (5.45pm).

Munster, hoping to reach the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier club rugby competition for a 13th successive season, will host big-spending French side Toulon at Thomond Park in their second pool game on Saturday, October 18.
Munster were dealt a blow ahead of this weekend’s clash against ‘the Exiles’ with confirmation that centre Lifeimi Mafi has been suspended for seven weeks for a dangerous tackle on Leinster’s Gordon D’Arcy in the provinces Magners League tie last weekend.
Munster coach McGahan may opt to slot fit-again Keith Earls back into the midfield for the Heineken Cup clash with the Aviva Premiership leaders. Earls has been sidelined for the early part of the season due to a combination of groin and ankle injuries. The exciting 22-year-old took a full part in a Munster training session in UL on Tuesday and reported no ill effects afterwards.
Munster squad advisor Mick Galwey said: “Keith has obviously come through the training session today which is very encouraging. Hopefully over the next 24 hours, there will be no reaction to it.
“This is his first full hard session. It’s great to have him back. The only concern is match time. He hasn’t had any match-time for a long time now.”
Scrum-half Tomas O’Leary, who took a blow to his hand in the defeat to Leinster, is expected to be fit for saturday’s game.
With Magners League champions, the Ospreys, also included in Pool 3 of the Heineken Cup, Munster will have to be at their best to advance to the knock-out stages of the competition.
Coach Tony McGahan said the pool draw appeared to get more difficult with each passing season.
“It’s always tough, but it seems the pools we’re getting get tougher and tougher,” McGahan said this week.
“The quality of the sides, the quality of the programmes being undertaken now from every side and every country, it’s just very difficult to win a game. It’s nearly like a 6 Nations game, a Test match, each weekend. It’s not like you get two games and you can be a little bit off to get through.
“And then you break and come back to it, so you look at the quality players that are running around, and some of the rugby that gets played, there’s going to be aspects of the weekend game on Saturday for example where a missed opportunity or a tackle or a kick, it’s going to have a major bearing on whether we get out of the pool at the end of January.”
Former Munster skipper Galwey said Saturday night’s defeat to Leinster in their high-profile Magners League tie before 50,000 spectators at the Aviva Stadium had served to focus minds ahead of the clash with in-form London Irish.
Galwey said: “Maybe getting beaten away to Leinster might be the ideal preparation, but it certainly has focused lads.
“They are very focused this week, and hopefully we can bring it on.”
The Munster team to face London Irish is due to be named at noon on Friday. The squad will depart from Shannon Airport at 12.30pm that day.

Munster Squad: Wian Du Preez, Marcus Horan, Mike Sherry, Damien Varley, John Hayes, Darragh Hurley, Tony Buckley, Billy Holland, Donnacha Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy, Peter O’Mahony, James Coughlan, Tomás O’Leary, Duncan Williams, Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara, Scott Deasy, Paul Warwick, Danny Barnes, Keith Earls, Lifemi Mafi, Johne Murphy, Sam Tuitupou, Doug Howlett, Denis Hurley.

Colm Kinsella

Alan Quinlan closes in on Munster record

Flanker Alan Quinlan is in line to become the most capped Munster player of all time on Saturday.
Thirty-six-year-old Quinlan and former number eight Anthony Foley currently share the record of 201 appearances for Munster.
Should Quinlan, as expected, feature for Munster in Saturday’s big Heineken Cup opener against London Irish then he will set a new record for the number of appearances for the province.
Quinlan made his Munster debut when lining out against Western Samoa in November 1996.
Paying tribute to Quinlan this week, Mick Galwey, a former Shannon, Munster and Ireland team-mate, described the achievement as ‘phenomenal’.
Mick Galwey said: “Alan (Quinlan) has been there for a long time. I first started playing with Alan at Shannon. He has stood the test of time. That is the best thing you can say about him.
“He has been there or thereabouts. He has come through a few horrific injuries and yet he is as competitive as ever. We saw that last weekend against Leinster.
“The only other fellow so far to get to 200 caps is Anthony Foley. They both play in the back-row. It is phenomenal that they both managed to earn so many caps for Munster.
“Alan is going to be a very important part of the squad as the year goes on.”
Alan Quinlan was born on July 13, 1974. The Tipperary-born star has won five All-Ireland League titles with Shannon RFC and has been capped 201 times for Munster. Quinlan made his debut for the province in November 1996 v Western Samoa and earned his 100th provincial cap against Cardiff in the Celtic League in March 2005.
Alan Quinlan has also been capped 27 times for Ireland.

Colm Kinsella

Kilmallock chase national glory

FOR the second time in 17 months Kilmallock United are preparing for an FAI Cup final.
This time round it is the ladies team that are in the national final when this Sunday (2pm) at Limerick’s Jackman Park they play in the FAI Junior Women’s Cup final against top Dublin side Bohemians.
In May 2009 the club’s under-17 boys side were defeated 3-1 by Belvedere in the FAI Umbro Under-17 Cup final.
Remarkably the ladies team was only reformed last November.
Managed by Margaret Maguire, Jimmy Conway and Joe McCormack the ladies played their first league match in April which started an unbelievable run of 11 wins out of 11 in the league and they also lifted the Division 2 Cup.
“Kilmallock have always had outstanding underage girls team, but we were missing the ladies team for a number of years,” explained ladies team manager Margaret Maguire.
“We put out the call and the response was an overwhelming 32 ladies from Irish internationals to girls that have never played ball - our players range in age from 16 to 30,” she said.
The team coach is Jimmy Conway: “These girls have been a joy to coach. I know on the day of the final they will do us and themselves proud. Any team that can say they have won 22 out of 24 games are something very special. It will be a very proud day for the girls as they stand on the pitch at Jackman Park and know they are in an FAI Cup final. Success on this scale and at this level does not happen by accident. This is down to hard work and commitment”.
Kilmallock have won four games to reach Sunday’s final.
In the first round Kilmallock were at home to Mungret FC from the Limerick Ladies Premier Division and despite falling behind they fought back for victory courtesy of two goals from Marie Claire Curtin.
In round two they were again at home against Millstreet FC from Cork. Goals from Sinead O’Riordan, Aisling Ryan, Jenny Clery and Claudia Hudner ensured their safe passage into the quarter-finals.
In the last eight they met Rathkeale from the Limerick Desmond League. Rathkeale were two goals up at half time, but Curtin and O’Riordan found the net to force extra-time. There were no further goals scored in extra time and the Kilmallock girls held their nerve to advance after a tense penalty shootout.
That win set up a daunting semi final trip away to Tramore AFC from Waterford, when goals from Jenny Clery and Sinead O’Riordan helped them to a 2-1 win.
Kilmallock are captained by former Irish senior international Marie Claire Curtin. Just last month Curtin was Player of the Match as the Limerick junior Ladies Footballers won the All-Ireland championship in Croke Park.
Club PRO Carmel Ryan said that “reaching an FAI Cup final has put our ladies team firmly in the sights of the Irish international team management. The team captain Marie Curtin has had a distinguished international career with hopefully more caps to come, but it would be fantastic reward if international recognition were to come for some of our other girls also.
“The support from the soccer club committee has been an integral part of our success as has been the phenomenal support which we have received all season from our loyal band of supporters and sponsors.
“This is deeply appreciated by all involved in the squad and we will give it our all to reward your support by bringing home the coveted FAI Junior Cup to Kilmallock on Sunday evening,” said the PRO.
“The final will kick off at 2pm in Jackman Park, Limerick which is brilliant for us. So, thank you to the LDMC. We welcome Bohemians FC junior ladies team to Limerick and we look forward to a very good game against them. A special thanks to all our sponsors for your generosity and finally, we look forward to a very good sporting final and a first national Cup final victory for our club,” said Ryan.
Club chairman Donal Hayes believes that there is a bright future for the ladies team.
“It is a proud day for our club. Incredibly seven of this team played under-16 football only last season. Great credit is due to the management team of Margaret Maguire, Jimmy Conway and Joe McCormack for their hard work and dedication,” said Hayes.
His words were echoed by John Webb O’Rourke, the club secretary.
“It is a fantastic achievement for a very talented squad of players supported by a very good management team.
“The sense of togetherness these players radiate is very evident in each one of them and has captured the attention of everyone in Kilmallock and the surrounding area,” said the secretary.

Kilmallock Squad
Janice O’Connell, Aedin Hayes, Mary Purcell, Aisling Ryan, Anna O’Dea, Claudia Hudner, Marie Curtin (captain), Sinead O’Riordan, Becky Hand, Jenny Clery, Vicky McMahon. Subs: Stella Stapleton, Sinead Hayes, Genille Conway, Lisa Noonan, Marguerite Freney, Louise Lannon, Roisin Howard, Siobhan Collins, Elaine Connery.

Jerome O’Connell

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Munster focused for a fierce battle

INJURED Munster captain Paul O’Connell believes the fiercely competitive nature of the province’s Heineken Cup group will focus the players’ minds as they bid to reach the knock-out stages of the competition for a 13th straight season. Munster open their European campaign with a difficult assignment against Aviva Premiership leaders London Irish at the Madejski Stadium this Saturday (5.45pm).

The two-time Heineken Cup champions host big-spending French side Toulon at Thomond Park a week later before resuming their pool fixtures with back-to-back games against the Ospreys in December.
Munster skipper O’Connell, who is hoping to be back playing competitively in December, believes the province had been drawn in an ‘incredibly tough’ group.
“You look at the draw on paper. Look at the squad and the experience that Toulon have,” O’Connell pointed out at the Irish launch of the Heineken Cup this week.
“I mean they may not have a history of winning or a history in the Heineken Cup, but everyone of their players have a history of winning and know how to win.
“Ospreys have massive ambitions in the Heineken Cup for years now. They have an incredibly strong squad. They won the Magners League. Obviously then you have London Irish who are top of the Premiership. They got great experience last year in the Heineken Cup.
“So, yeah it’s an incredibly tough group, but that’s the way it always has been with Munster and it really focuses the mind on every game.
“You can’t rest for one game and you can’t take your foot off the gas for one game.”
O’Connell has put back on 6kgs of the 10kgs he lost while battling the groin injury which has kept him sidelined since March.
O’Connell explained: “The injury is improving well. I’m not back in full training yet, hopefully that will happen in the next few weeks.
“I’ll have to do a bit of a min pre-season as I haven’t done a lot of running since the Scotland game in March. Then hopefully get out and get a few games. Hopefully, I will still be back before Christmas, but I don’t really know yet.”
O’Connell’s absence from competitive rugby has allowed him to spend more time than would normally be the case with his five and a half month old son Paddy, an experience he has enjoyed.
“It’s been good fun. If I hadn’t have had the injury I would have been away for the first four weeks on tour at the start. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone to have to do it on their own at the start, so it was great to be around for that. He’s piling it on, I wish I could get a bit of his metabolism.”
Munster coach Tony McGahan is hopeful Keith Earls will be available for selection for this weekend’s Heineken Cup pool opener with London Irish. However, hooker Jerry Flannery will not be available for selection for another week or two.
Munster centre Lifeimi Mafi attended a hearing in Belfast this Tuesday after a citing complaint was made against him in the wake of the province’s Magners League clash with Leinster.
Mafi was cited for an alleged dangerous tackle and allegedly punching or striking in an incident with Leinster’s Gordon D’Arcy in the 19th minute of the game. The hearing took place in the Ulster Branch offices in Ravenhill under the chairmanship of Hugh Logan.

Colm Kinsella

Greyhound Stadium opens its doors on Friday night

LIMERICK’S new €18 million state-of-the-art Greyhound Stadium will open its doors this Friday night.
Years of waiting and disappointment will come to an end when the traps come up for the opening race which is timed for 7.45pm.
There will be a 12-race card on Friday and racegoers will also be able to enjoy a giant screen which will show the Republic of Ireland European Championship qualifier against Russia.
The new stadium, on Limerick’s Dock Road, is located on the old racecourse site at Greenpark will create 100 permanent jobs and will host over 1,750 races a year and have a capacity of 2,900.
The state-of-the-art facility will feature a main stand with viewing and dining areas as well as four bars.
The stadium will boast a 190-seat restaurant, private hospitality suites and gallery bars.
The restaurant and both corporate suites, with a total of 80 covers, are fully booked for this Friday’s first night of racing.
The general admission charge to the stadium is €10 with a 50 per cent reduction for OAP’s and students. Turnstiles will open at 6.30pm.
There are to be two race meetings each week at Limerick from this Friday.
Aside from the normal Friday and Saturday night, there will also be three extra Thursday meetings in the run-in to Christmas - December 2, December 9, December 16.
It is planned to run a bus service from the Market’s Field to the new stadium on race nights while there is secured car parking facilities for 450 vehicles at Greenpark free of charge.
“The racing team has moved in, all the systems are in place and we are having two mock nights at the stadium. We will have four mock races each night that will allow us to test everything, from the operation of the traps, the track, the tote, the restaurant, the bars, the toilets, everything,” said Stadium General Manager Declan O’Halloran.
“October 8 is really a trial run to allow staff and patrons become accustomed to our new surroundings.
“The official opening is scheduled for October 22 when we will have a special entertainment programme on offer,” he said.
“The place is looking great with all the major ground works completed and now it is just a case of applying the finished touches, such as the trimming of the carpets and touching up bits of paint,” Declan O’Halloran added.

Jerome O’Connell

All set for the Munster National

THE €90,000 Ladbrokes Munster National will form the centrepiece of Limerick Racecourse’s most prestigious annual race day on Sunday next, October 10.
A top class field of runners is set to go to post for the Grade A feature race which is more than 100 years old. The action-packed programme of on-track action also includes an impressive supporting card. The 2010 Ladbrokes Munster National date is significant as it is ten years since the grand opening of this all encompassing racecourse at Greenmount Park.
A high class field of runners are expected to contest the 2010 running of the Ladbrokes Munster National.
Last year’s renewal was won by the Tom Taaffe-trained Treacle, with the Dashing George, trained in Rathkeale by Eric McNamara, finishing a very close second.
Local trainers have enjoyed a terrific record in the race in recent years with Askeaton handler, Davy Fitzgerald saddling Pearly Jack to take the top prize and the Patrickswell-based Michael Hourigan also landing the contest with Mossbank.
The opening contest on a seven race all-National Hunt card is due off at 2.30pm.
If the horses on show are somewhat of an appetiser for a day of entertainment, glamour and excitement, October 10 is also Ladies Day at Limerick Racecourse.
The now annual Munster National ladies day has become an important feature in this historical race meeting and Keane’s Jewellers, Limerick have once again supported the event.
Patrick Keane, of Keane’s Jewellers, will present a diamond ring valued at €5000 to the best dressed lady winner while the runner-up will receive a voucher for Isobel’s Boutique, Adare and the Revas Spa have put together a package for the recipient of the third place. Each of the ten finalists will receive a goodie bag which includes a €100 voucher for Keane’s Jellewers, Revas Spa items and a voucher for Isobel Boutique, Adare.
Several new features have also been added to the Munster National Itinerary at Greenmount Park this year. The Kidz Club will once again be in operation in the Munster Suite with further entertainment for children being provided outside of the main grandstand.
Children under-16 gain free admission so October 10 promises to be a wonderful day of racing, fun and excitement at Greenmount Park.
General admission is priced at €20 while the cost for those with concessions (students/senior citizens) is €10.
Further details, including on-line offers, are available at:

Colm Kinsella

Monday, October 04, 2010

Kilmallock kingpins

KILMALLOCK are back as the kingpins of Limerick club hurling. Yesterday the south Limerick town claimed their first county senior hurling title since 1994 when a decade of underage success was finally transformed into senior silverware.

“I felt confident coming in that we would win it, but I knew we would have to work really hard to win it because they were going to put it up to us,” said manager Tony Considine after Kilmallock’s 1-16 to 1-12 win over Emmets in the Gaelic Grounds.
“There was a lot of pressure over the years and that was weighing them down on their shoulders. Now that weight is gone off their shoulders once they have won,” said the former Clare hurling manager.
“I thought we hurled well. I thought we were the better team. I know we got a lucky goal, but there is no such thing as a bad goal and once we got on a run I thought we would be okay,” explained Considine.
Kilmallock now progress to the Munster club championship. On October 31 they will be away to the Clare champions in the provincial quarter-final.
Elsewhere in Limerick GAA circles Claughaun lost their senior hurling status over the weekend.
The ten-time senior champions were defeated by Garryspillane in the relegation play-off. The demise of their senior hurlers comes just two weeks after their senior footballers were also relegated to the intermediate ranks after a play-off defeat to Newcastle West.
Across the city there was better news for Na Piarsaigh when they qualified for the minor hurling premier championship final.
It will be a repeat of this year’s under-21 decider when Kilmallock are their opponents. Jake Mulcahy, Kevin O’Donnell, Mark O’Loughlin and Owen Webb-O’Rourke will all be hoping to add minor medals to the senior ones they won yesterday.


‘It has all the ingredients for an epic and classic battle’

EMANUEL Steward is to step-up negotiations this week in an attempt to confirm Andy Lee’s world ranking middleweight contest against fellow Irishman John Duddy.
Lee brought his record to 24 wins from 25 pro fights over the weekend with a fourth round KO of Troy Lowry in the headline event of the ‘Fight Night at the Horseshoe’ boxing series at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana.

Immediately after the 26-year-old Castleconnell man’s latest win his manager Emanuel Steward set about securing the clash against Derry’s John Duddy.
“There is a great appetite and interest amongst Irish boxing fans and boxing fans in general about a showdown between these two young talented fighters.
“Both fighters are ranked in the top 10 of the world ratings,” explained Steward.
“It has all the ingredients for an epic and classic battle.
“Styles make fights and the contrasting styles of Lee and Duddy is very evident. Andy is a technical boxer who carries a lethal punch and John is a courageous ring warrior who likes a bloody war. Both fighters have plenty of heart and can fight in the trenches when the going gets tough. It would make an unbelievable fight,” said Steward.
The legendary Kronk boxing icon believes an all-Irish war between Lee and Duddy would go down in Irish boxing history as the greatest fight ever to happen since Irish prize fighters Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney fought in the ‘Battle of the Long Count’ world title clash on September 22, 1927 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
“I am very excited about trying to make the fight. It has drama and edge written all over it. It will be a memorable fight for Irish boxing fans that will go down in Irish boxing history as a classic.
“I think for both men it’s a huge fight at this stage of their careers and I believe Andy will be the victor and this will result in him moving closer to a world title shot in 2011. As far as I’m concerned Andy is the best middleweight in the division,” said Steward.
A possible date of December 4 in New York’s Madison Square Garden has already been mentioned, but it is still possible that the contest could be staged in the UL Sports Arena or in the O2 Arena, Dublin. Over the last few years speculation at times has been at fever pitch about the prospect of a Lee-Duddy encounter. Brian Peters Promotions made offers to both the Lee and Duddy camps last year to stage the fight in Limerick. However for a variety of reasons the fight did not get the go ahead. And, while his manager is working towards finalising details of the fight, Andy Lee is clear that he wants to face Duddy.
“There has never been a better time for the fight,” said the former Olympian.
“It is a fight were the stakes are stacked high and that neither fighter can afford to lose, a defining moment in our careers. It is an ‘Irish High Noon’ shootout, a winner takes all fight, where both fighters will be 100 per cent fired up for battle with their reputations and careers on the line and with the winner taking home more than his fight purse,” said Lee.
The Limerick man’s win over Troy Lowry last weekend was his second fight in just 15 days. Andy Lee knocked Lowry five times en route to being stopped at the end of the fourth round for his 19th KO of his career.


Devastated Munster men must pick themselves up

MUNSTER winger Johne Murphy is hoping he can provide a vital insight into what his team mates can expect when they face Premiership high-flyers London Irish in next Saturday’s mammoth Heineken Cup opening round clash at the Madejski Stadium (kick-off 5.45pm).
Johne Murphy has plenty of experience facing ‘Irish’ from his years playing cross-channel with the Leicester Tigers.

The Munster players must pick themselves up from the bitter disappointment of losing to Leinster for the fifth straight occasion in time for Saturday’s Heineken Cup opener.
Munster failed to score a try against Leinster for the fifth successive game as Joe Schmidt’s side secured a hard-earned 13-9 victory before 50,000 spectators at the new Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday night.
Tony McGahan’s men do have the consolation, at least, of retaining top spot in the Magners League by virtue of the losing bonus point secured against their fiercest of rivals.
The twenty-five-year-old Munster winger Johne Murphy said he felt as disappointed as he ever felt after a game following Saturday night’s Magners League reverse in Dublin.
“This is as disappointed as I have been in my career.
“It is a rivalry which I think no one can really prepare you for.
“I am absolutely gutted,” Johne Murphy said.
“We had our opportunities to win the game.
“They got one opportunity and they took theirs.
“I suppose it was just the pressure building and building on each other which got them their try at the end.
“When we got into their green zone we didn’t build the same pressure which is something we have been trying to work on for the past couple of weeks.
“We will build on it hopefully for the Heineken Cup.
“We learned a lot tonight. What better way to prepare for the ERC games than with one of the biggest rivalries in Irish sport. We learned a lot about ourselves tonight.
“We will sit down now and look at what we need to do to go to London Irish.
“It is somewhere I am used to so hopefully I can help the guys build for next week and explain what it is going to be like on Saturday.”
Murphy is already looking forward to the opportunity to help Munster finally break their extended losing run against Leinster later in the season.
“We will have a chance to beat Leinster in the return game at Thomond Park later in the season.
“Hopefully, we can get this monkey off our back finally,” Johne Murphy said.
“The new Aviva stadium is fantastic. You play rugby for games like this.
“It was fantastic running out on the pitch. You get goose bumps walking around and when we ran out in the match it was a special moment.
“But that still doesn’t make up for the disappointment we have in the dressing room,” Johne Murphy told Leader Sport.
Munster will hope to have the injured duo of Jerry Flannery and Keith Earls back in contention for selection for the upcoming Heineken Cup group games against London Irish and big-spending Toulon.
Meanwhile on the club front Young Munster celebrated their return to the top flight of the AIL with a deserved victory over city rivals Garryowen at Dooradoyle.
Shannon had to make do with a losing bonus point from their clash with Dolphin.
In Division 1B there were opening weekend defeats for both UL-Bohemian and Bruff while in Division 2 Old Crescent recorded an encouraging home win over Clonakilty while Thomond succumbed to Belfast Harlequins at Deramore Park.