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 Tom├ís 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