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Manchester clubs at the top, in the red

POSTED ON November 23rd  - POSTED IN Sport

No change at the top of the English Premier League with both Manchester clubs winning at the weekend. On the day they announced record losses of £195 million for the year ending May 31, 2011, City ended Newcastle United’s unbeaten start to the season, winning 3-1 at the City of Manchester Stadium. United, who also have a big debt problems, won 1-0 away to Swansea to stay five points behind in second place. Shane Long, who missed both of The Republic’s play-off games against Estonia, returned to the West Bromwich Albion starting line up on Saturday and scored the winner in Albion’s 2-1 win over Bolton at The Hawthorns. The only other Irish scorer in the Premier League at the weekend was Stephen Hunt, who converted a penalty for Wolves, but Mick McCarthy’s side lost 2-1 away to Everton. Liverpool, who are gradually making progress under Kenny Dalglish, beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and the ‘Pool would do all the chasing clubs a big favor if they could beat Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday next.

 

Stokes on target

Anthony Stokes, who admits he would like to make the Irish squad for the Euro 2012 finals, showed Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni that he can score by getting both of Celtic’s goals in their 2-0 away win over Inverness CT on Saturday. Old rivals Rangers could only draw at home to St Johnstone, but the ‘Gers are still ten points ahead of Celtic in the SPL.

 

Combo make Rockland work for U-16 title

POSTED ON November 23rd  - POSTED IN Sport

In the final of the u 16 league  Rockland just about had the edge but the combination squad made them work hard all the way to the final whistle. Rockland started very impressively and soon jumped ahead with points from Aidan Weir, Ronan Curry and Garvin Lee. St Raymond’s/St Brendan’s were slow to start but eventually some strong running from Mike Murphy set up Terence McDonald for the opening score.

By midway they had drawn level as Peter Rogers pointed from play and from a placed ball after James Smith was fouled. However Rockland stepped on the gas again as Kieran Walsh, their chief play-maker and score-getter, struck two very fine scores. Meanwhile another good run by Murphy plus a good interchange between Rogers and Smith ended a Murphy point. For the last 10 minutes Rockland monopolized possession but a goal bound effort from Weir came back off the post before a quick free from Walsh set up Lee for a point. At the other end the post also came to the rescue before another trademark run from Murphy ended with a spectacular point to just leave the minimum between the sides at the break.

The combo squad leveled up right from the throw in as good lead- up play by Rogers and Murphy ended with Smith hitting the target. Further pressure saw an Emmett Keane effort cleared off the line before the action was transferred to the other end. Rockland were now back in the driving seat after withstanding the early onslaught as Walsh ran off three straight points with good support from Logan McIntyre, Martin Gavin, Ryan Traynor and Lee. Then as Rockland looked to be edging away, a goal from Steven O’Shea brought the sides level midway in the period.

Now the intensity increased as both side had shots blocked and missed before Lee broke the dead lock by finishing the good support play of Walsh and Aidan Noonan for a point. A further attack saw Weir solo right through the defense but keeper Kilkenny did well to deflect the ball out for a “45.” However once again Walsh showed his coolness and class as he clinically sent the ball with plenty to spare over the black spot.

The combo squad battled back to score again, but Rockland had the ace in Walsh as he methodically ran down the clock and eventually drew a free and an eventual score to cap a man of the match performance to complete a very sporting and exciting game.

Rockland Pat Guerin, Joe Joyce, James Linnane, Brian Maher, James Moriarty, Chris Coughlin, Brandon Healy, Martin Gavin, Brian Coryn, Aidan Weir, Kieran Walsh, Eoghan O’Brien, Ryan Traynor, Ronan Curry, Garvin Lee. Subs. Aidan Noonan, Logan McIntyre, Alex Jeroy, Kenny Sessay

St. Raymond’s/St. Brendan’s John Kilkenny, Joe Minna, Declan Byrne, Brendan Grant, Mike Murphy, Conor Phelan, TJ Corbett, Peter Rogers, Steven Slattery, Emmett Keane, Steven O’Shea, Conor Bradley, James Smith, Terence McDonald Subs Stephen Dunnion, Darren McGivney, Colm Mellet, Kevin Mahon, Morgan McLoughlin, Brian McLoughlin, Pearse Crowley Referee Martin O’Connor

 

Rangers roll over Rockland

The minor final brought down the curtain on Gaelic games for the year as the Rangers easily saw off the challenge of   Rockland. This was a very powerful Rangers squad as they well anchored from goalkeeper Aidan Tansey to a strong central line of Donnacha O’Dwyer, Daniel Lehane, Kevin Daly, Brendan Hynes, Aidan Jussiffe and Kevin Moran and which was well supported from the flanks.

In fairness to Rockland many of their players had earlier being involved in the tough u 16 decider and hence fatigue was certainly a factor. Though Kevin Daly and Mike Vince exchanged opening points the Rangers took control as they raced into a 2-5 to 0-2 lead at the half. Moran struck the first goal after he latched on to a well- while placed delivery from Daly while Brian Twomey hit a brace of points before he rattled the net after Lehane had supplied the critical pass.

The exchange after the break were fairly evenly until midway as Mike Vince, Conor McIntyre, Ronan Curry, Conor O’Sullivan and Austin O’Toole stepped up their performances for Rockland. Both sides hit three points before Rangers hit the turbo button again midway as Jussiffe blasted a powerful shot to the net plus another three points quickly popped up on the board.

With 10 minutes left and leading by 3-11 to 0-5, it was well and truly over as a contest but Rockland to their credit refused to throw in the towel despite the deficit. They managed to add 1-3 to their tally with the goal coming from James Moriarity with Vince and O’Sullivan hitting the points to add a veneer of respectability to the score line of a contest that was rarely in doubt once the rampant Rangers found the range.

Rangers Aidan Tansey, Kieran Donnelly, Donnacha O’Dwyer, Dan Feighery, Garrett Moore, Daniel Lehane, Dan Moriarity, Kevin Daly, Brendan Hynes, Joe Shankey, Aidan Jussiffe, John McCusker, Jack Becker, Kieran Moran, Brian Twomey. Subs. Keith McCarthy, Mike Teelan, Paul Reynolds, Emmett Clarke, Enda Dunbar, Keith McHugh, PJ Loane, Uner Cassidy

Rockland Mike Coleman, Stephen Moroney, James Linnane, Chris Coughlin, Conor Madigan, Andrew Giamarcia, Austin O’Toole, Tommy Furlong, Mike Vince, Conor McIntyre, Garvin Lee, Ronan Curry, Conor O’Sullivan, Kieran Wash Subs Aidan Weir, Logan McIntyre, James Moriarity, Alex Jeremie Referee Martin O’Connor.

 

Pat Murray R.I.P.

Pat Murray, a former New York Leitrim footballer, and most recently a resident of Hackensack passed away on October 31st. He was 73 and retired as a construction supervisor from the New York Telephone Company. Pat is survived by his wife Noreen and children Brian, Shean, Eileen and Diane. The funeral service was held on Thursday, Nov. 3 at the Englewood  Assembly of God Church and the late Pat was buried in George Washington Memorial Park Paramus.

Pat was universally known as Big Pat Murray in New York GAA circles and he was easily recognizable from his large physical stature on the playing field. He got the “Big” prefix attached to his name when another Pat Murray, this one of smaller dimensions and a fine footballer, too, came along from Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim. From then on, it was Big Pat and Little Pat with their performances being occasionally labeled the “Murray Show” by John Byrne of the Irish Echo.

Before coming to the States, Pat played with his local club Drumeela and St. Ciaran’s College in Dublin. In New York, he won championship medals with Leitrim in 1958 and 1973. During his prime playing days Pat featured prominently on the New York All-Star team. In 1962 he traveled to Wembley to play against London and later against Kerry. In 1963, Pat played against Kerry in the National League Home final and he won a National League medal in 1964 when New York defeated Dublin. Pat’s individual and inspirational displays on the local scene also garnered him many accolades.

In 1962 and 1963, Pat won the Ballantine Awards for outstanding displays. Also in those years , he won the grand prize as player of the year and received trips to the All-Ireland. He also picked up the Tommy Ayers trophy for the Outstanding Player at the United Irish Counties field day. Pat was unique in the annals of Leitrim football as he played longer (1957 to 1982) and in more games (at least 200) than any other Leitrim player. Besides being a central playing figure, Pat Murray capably commanded the gamut of positions from full back to full forward, he could also make a credible claim to another record, namely torn jerseys. It was not an uncommon sight to see defenders swinging from Pat’s shredded jersey as they attempted to stop him going goalwards.

Besides having a very productive and prominent playing career, Pat also managed, trained the team while also being Leitrim’s delegate and secretary. In later years with St. Joseph’s he guided several under-age teams to New York Minor titles. The late Pat was my team mate in the early 1970s and I was in awe of his prowess as he was an outstanding player on the field but more importantly also an outstanding individual off the field.   Big Pat Murray was a tower in the Leitrim ranks for nearly three decades, and capped a great career by being Leitrim’s most capped player.

 

The GAA Elections

The nodding, the winking, the hinting and keeping the cards close to the proverbial vest ended on Thursday night as calls for nominations were made at the regular meeting of the GAA. Larry McCarthy’s reign as chairman was ending so the word from the unofficial sources along McLean Avenue was that Brendan O’Sullivan, the Vice-President would progress to the Chairman’s position. However getting the top job was not going to be that easy as Liam Birmingham, the current Secretary and also a former Chairman, threw his hat into the ring for the position. Naturally as O’Sullivan has had to vacate his position in his quest for higher office, thus prompting Tommy Fahey and Lawrence McGrath to seek the Vice-Presidency.

Similarly as Birmingham vacates his position, there will be a battle between the outgoing Registrar Mary Murphy and the current PRO Joan Henchy, both native New Yorkers, to fill the position. Voting will be on Dec. 4 while I’m sure the delegates will be hearing from the respective office seekers as they seek to obtain their all-important number one on the ballot. Meanwhile Treasurer John Phelan and Assistant Treasurer Liam Moffat will be returned unopposed as will the Development Officer, John Fitzpatrick, the Youth Officer, Denis Twomey and the Coaching Officer, Alan Hearty.  Rounding out the slate of officers as the incoming PRO is yours truly.

35-yard goal puts Rocks back on track

POSTED ON November 23rd  - POSTED IN Sport

Sean McMullen was Shamrock Reserves hat-trick hero.

Karl Hughes’s wonder strike on the hour sank East leaders Barnstonworth Premier 1-0 on Randalls Island last Sunday, ending a run of poor results for the Shamrock Over-30s.

The pacey winger lobbed the Premier goalie from some 35 yards out to hand Shamrock their first league win since Oct. 10. They’d lost three of their last four matches and slipped to third place from the helm in the West.

Paddy McCarry’s lads [4-3-1, 13] climbed one rung into joint second with New York Greek-American/Atlas after the latter succumbed 3-2 to Manhattan Kickers.  New York Dinamo [5-1-1, 16] lead the West.

“Tough, tough game but we got the win,” said McCarry. “It’s the strongest [squad] I had out all season.”

 

POINT MADE

After losing seven straight this season in the Second Division, Shamrock’s senior team picked up its first point from a 1-1 tie with EMC under faulty lights on Randalls Island.

EMC’s Nick McClefferty beat goalie Dan Greenberg from 30 yards 13 minutes from time to cancel out Sean Riley’s early opener [15th] and deny the Rocks a much needed win.

“Despite the fact that the field lights were operating at 50% both teams played  some good football but Shamrocks will rue a missed opportunity to take three points for the first time this season,” said Glen Wrafter.

His side [0-7-1] remains bottom of the table, three points adrift of EMC.

 

THE McMULLEN SHOW

Sean McMullen, described by EMC boss Eddie Yee Woo Guo as a “210 pound bulldozer of a striker,” was the hat trick hero in a 4-1 rout by the Shamrock reserves.

Shawn Duda also connected and assisted on McMullen’s third goal. Joaquin netted EMC’s face-saver.

“It could have been more but EMC made us work,” said Robbie Walsh.

 

CELTIC EXPRESS

Atop the Division Two standings, Austin McCann kept Manhattan Celtic’s hundred percent record going with the only goal of the match against Central Park Rangers at Icahn Stadium.

Celtic, beaten 2-0 in the curtain raiser, are now 7-0 [21], five points clear of second place Hoboken FC.

 

BHOYS SLIP

Lansdowne Bhoys slipped out of first place on the Cosmopolitan Soccer League First Division [West] standings after a 2-0 loss to Clarkstown SC at Tibbets Brook Park.

Mike Konicoff’s brace dropped the Bhoys [4-2-2, 14] into second place. It was their first defeat since a 2-1 setback to New York Athletic Club [NYAC] in their season opener, September 11.

With Barnstonworth Rovers blanking NYAC 2-0 on the day, Bhoys now trail the sole leaders by three points

“We deserved to lose – no complaints. Bad day at the office for many reasons,” shrugged coach Kevin Grogan, whose reserves drew 0-0.

 

KEVIN GOAL

Earlier at Tibbets Park, Kevin McGinney had tallied in the Lansdowne thirds’ 2-1 Metro Div. II capitulation to Grenadier Zenith.

Harvey Bertrand Jr. and Kerby Mimmy were the Zenith marksmen.

 

Kenneally wins Churchill race with Blues Street

POSTED ON November 23rd  - POSTED IN Sport

Eddie Kenneally’s acquisition this past summer of the Anstu Stable horses has worked quite well and he reaped another benefit on Saturday when Blues Street won the River City Handicap at Churchill Downs. The 7-year-old gelding bided his time past the stands the first time, made a move into the far turn, took command straightening for home and drew off to win by four lengths under Robby Albarado. He paid $7.40 to win.

Kenneally also got a win on the Sunday card at Churchill Downs when Em Fleur’s A Boy Named Em rallied in the slop under Corey Lanerie to win the eighth race, a maiden special weight sprint. The first-time starter returned $24.40 to win.

John Good also came out on top in Louisville, sending out Brereton Jones’ Sympathy Act to capture Wednesday’s third race at Churchill. The winner, a 3-year-old filly, was pitted here against males, but was up to the task under the guidance of Roberto Morales, stalking the early pace and going on to prevail by one-half length at the wire in this condition claiming sprint at the $15,000 level. She paid $6.20 to win and is now undefeated in two career starts.

Shane Ryan’s Race to Urga rallied to prevail by three-quarters of a length in Friday’s eighth race at Aqueduct. The 3-year-old homebred filly, trained by Christophe Clement, took the measure of first-level allowance rivals competing at a mile and one-sixteenth on the grass. She paid $5.60 and was ridden by Ramon Dominguez.

Trainer Tom O’Keefe bagged his first win of 2011 when Tickled Pink’s Flower Exchange got up to win Woodbine’s second race on Saturday by one-half length under Emma-Jayne Wilson. The 4-year-old filly seems to do her best work at this time of the year. She won her first race of 2010 almost a year ago to the day, and then came back two weeks later to put a little Christmas cash in O’Keefe’s pockets. The win mutuel came back $14.80.

Three races later, Mike Doyle put over a surprise when Windhaven’s Peyton held on to break his maiden by, dare we say, a neck. Manning the reins on Peyton, which had failed to hit the board in five previous starts, was Justin Stein. The 2-year-old gelding paid $43.90 to win.

The first race of the day at Parx was the place to catch winners from the Cathal Lynch barn last week. On Monday, Peachtree Stable’s Mistress Quickly got the job done. The 2-year-old filly, making her fourth career start, was in the mix the entire trip of this 2-turn route for maidens at the $12,500 claiming level. She was actually headed in the stretch, but came again under Angel Arroyo to get the head bob. She returned $4.80 to win.

Tuesday’s winner was Gold Mark Farm’s Zuerstgold, which took the measure of maiden routers at the $16,000 claiming plateau in his fifth appearance under silks. Arroyo had this 2-year-old gelding in contention from the get-go, and they took the lead around the far turn, widening to a 3-length advantage at the wire. Zuerstgold also paid $4.80.

 

Cody stays but Cha quits Cats panel

POSTED ON November 23rd  - POSTED IN Sport

Brian Cody will try to win yet another title with Kilkenny in 2012.

As expected Brian Cody is to continue as manager of the Kilkenny senior hurlers for a record 14th season. The James Stephens clubman has guided The Cats to 10 All-Ireland titles and five National League wins and he will be keen to retain the MacCarthy Cup in 2012. Cody will be joined once again by selectors Michael Dempsey and Martin Fogarty to form the same management team which has been in place in Kilkenny for the last six years. The Cats will be captained next year by Cody’s James Stephens’ club colleague Eoin Larkin.

Meanwhile, on Monday Kilkenny hurler James “Cha” Fitzpatrick made the shock announcement that he was quitting the Cats panel. The 26-year old said: ”This year was a fantastic one for Kilkenny, but personally I wasn’t rewarded for my efforts. It has been a wonderful eight years to be involved with Kilkenny and I achieved every hurling goal. But ultimately Brian Cody made the right decisions as Kilkenny won the All-Ireland. I will continue to enjoy my club hurling with Ballyhale Shamrocks.” Fitzpatrick captained the Cats in their 2008 All-Ireland win over Waterford  and retires as the holder of five All-Ireland senior medals.

 

Canavan for Fermanagh

Former Tyrone great Peter Canavan will take over as the Fermanagh manager.  He was the only person interviewed after the other candidates withdrew.

This will be Canavan’s first experience of inter-country management after three years in charge of his home club Errigal Ciaran.

Elsewhere, Des Newton has been ratified as the new Roscommon manager. He joins a list of new football managers which include Galway’s Alan Mulholland, Offaly’s Gerry Cooney and Wicklow’s Harry Murphy.

On the hurling front,  there are no fewer than nine new managers. They are John Allen (Limerick), Davy Fitzgerald (Clare), Michael Ryan (Waterford), Jimmy Barry Murphy (Cork), Liam Dunne (Wexford), Ollie Baker (Offaly), Anthony Cunningham (Galway), Teddy McCarthy (Laois) and Jerry Wallis (Antrim).

 

Additional reporting by Kieran Rooney.

 

Given set to extend record beyond 120

POSTED ON November 23rd  - POSTED IN Sport

Republic goalie Shay Given.

Shay Given set a new Irish record for international caps against Estonia in Dublin last week when he made his 120th senior appearance. In doing so Given overtook former Northern Ireland ‘keeper Pat Jennings. Jennings won his 119th cap on his 41st birthday against Brazil in the 1986 World Cup finals and at the time it was a world record and it’s still a Northern Ireland record. If 35 year-old Given stays injury-free it looks like he will set an Irish record that will stand for many years to come. The late Alan Kelly, who won 47 caps in goal for Ireland, held the record for the most capped Irish player for many years, but right now there is no keeper within the proverbial mile of Given. And Robbie Keane’s current record of 53 international goals is also like to stand for many years to come. Niall Quinn is second in the Irish goal-scoring chart with 21 goals and of the current crop of players Kevin Doyle with nine goals is nearest to Keane.            Sean Creedon.

Bad economy spawns GAA world cup idea

POSTED ON November 23rd  - POSTED IN Sport

Tentative plans are being formulated for a Gaelic Football World Cup, with Dubai the likely venue for the first finals possibly in 2013. The University of Limerick recently hosted the European Gaelic Football championship, which was won by Guernsey Gaels. It’s hoped that tournament can act as a template for a World Cup finals that would include representatives from the GAA boards of Australasia, Asia, Europe, Canada and North America. With employment hard to find in Ireland right now many GAA players are being forced to emigrate to find jobs and already this year approximately 2,600 players have had transfers or temporary transfers sanctioned. New York is no longer the in place to go with London topping the list with 682 transfers so far this year. Perth is second in the list with 253, Sydney has 253 with the Big Apple in fourth place with 205. Other US cities with large transfers were: Boston (125), San Francisco (61) and Chicago (38).

Harrington lags in Euro rankings

POSTED ON November 23rd  - POSTED IN Sport

Padraig Harrington.

Padraig Harrington is a man on a mission. Unless he can make something happen fast, he’ll find himself on the outside looking in. For instance, he’s currently 76th on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai list; he needs to make top 60 in order to compete in next month’s Tour finale in Dubai.

The numbers don’t stop there. Harrington also needs to crack the top 60 in the World Golf Rankings if he’s to tee off in next year’s World Golf Championship events, which he can use to count towards his participation in both PGA Tour and European Tour events for membership purposes. He’s currently 83rd in the World Golf Rankings.

So, last week’s third-place finish in the Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia is a start. The event was shortened to 54 holes, due to rain, with Harrington (at 13-under-par 200) falling two strokes shy to medalist Joost Luiten (198).

Consecutive bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes in the third and final round (holes he had birdied the day before) made the difference. Harrington recovered to birdie 13 and 14, but could shave no more strokes off par.

Peter Lawrie got a share of 29th place at 207 (69-71-67). Birdies at the last three holes in the final round helped considerably.

Michael Hoey was another shot back in 38th place at 208 (69-67-72). A double-bogey 7 at 18 in the final round had the opposite effect of Lawrie’s late run. Hoey had birdies at this hole in each of the previous rounds.

Damien McGrane and Gareth Maybin both missed the cut by a stroke. McGrane shot 73 and 68, while Maybin came in with 70 and 71. A pair of double-bogeys on par-3s, as well as bogey at 18 in the second round, conspired to undo Maybin. They need to finish in the top 115 on the Race to Dubai in order to automatically qualify for full European Tour status in 2012. After Malaysia, McGrane stands 110th, while Maybin is 117th. Two events remain for them and Harrington to solidify their status.

Niall Turner also missed the cut here, carding 145 (70-75).

PGA TOUR Q-SCHOOL

Seamus Power was looking pretty good to advance to the third and final stage of the PGA Tour’s qualifying tournament after three rounds at second stage at Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Tex. He had a 2-stroke cushion over the number that would then stand up as the cut point. But matters unraveled over the front nine on the fourth and final day.

Power racked up bogeys at the fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth holes. Another bogey at 17 proved to be the dagger, since he managed to birdie 18. Power missed advancing by one stroke. Perhaps, his experience at the sixth hole has to be the most frustrating; he left there with birdie on each of the first three days.

Power shot 72, 66, 71 and 75 for an aggregate score of 4-under-par 284 in a field that included such PGA Tour stalwarts as Rich Beem, Doug Barron, Shaun Micheel and Jeff Maggert, all of whom advanced. Those who shot 283 or better move on to the final stage in La Quinta, Calif. beginning Nov. 30.

Chris Devlin fared no better at Hombre Golf Club in Panama Beach City, Fla., his adopted hometown. Consecutive double bogeys at 11 and 12 in the first round, as well as a quadruple-bogey 8 in the third round, were too much to overcome. He shot 8-over-par 292 (71-73-76-72) when 286 or better was needed for advancement. Devlin, a former teammate of Graeme McDowell at UAB, now heads for Spain, where he’s still alive in second-stage qualifying for next year’s European Tour.

Fergal Rafferty was slotted at Plantation Preserve in Plantation, Fla. and was only two strokes over par for 72 holes, but the scores were coming in very low and Rafferty’s 286 was 10 strokes off the mark. He shot 74, 67, 72 and 73.

O’Gara wins it for 2nd week with last-minute drop goal

POSTED ON November 23rd  - POSTED IN Sport

Munster's Peter O'Mahony scores a try against Castres in Toulouse on Saturday.

RONAN O’GARA is living proof that you must have the mental strength to go along with ability in sport.

For the second successive week he showed  why he is so important to Munster by landing a dramatic final minute match winning Heineken Cup drop goal against Castres at Stade Ernest-Wallon last Saturday. His effort enabled Munster to come from 18-7 down to snatch a 27-24 victory.

After what was another entertaining round of Heineken Cup games, Munster have now won their opening two encounters but trail pool leaders Llanelli Scarlets by a point. Leinster, following an impressive 38-13 home success over Glasgow Warriors, top their pool, two points ahead of Bath.

But the weekend was not quite so kind to Ulster who lost 20-9 to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road, while Connacht, sadly, were no match for the might of Toulouse aand went down 36-10 at the Sportsground.

On a perfect day, Connacht would have provided the story but, yet again, it was O’Gara who grabbed most of the headlines.Unusually, he has the priceless asset of being at his calmest when everything is at stake at the end of a game.

Many a player will hide when the pressure really comes on, not O’Gara. He openly admits that he loves a situation whereby the winning and losing of a match hangs on his shoulders either from a penalty or a drop goal.

“I could have missed but I didn’t.” he stated. “You put yourself in that position. That’s your responsibility, your job, what you get paid for.

“I love it, It was nicely struck but I think that we probably shouldn’t have had to depend on my effort.”

He’s right. Munster were some way off their best for much of the match but, then again, they know from past experiences that they have the ability to recover.

While O’Gara is the most obvious example, Munster has never been lacking in players with self-belief. Skipper Paul O’Connell, for example, was superb in helping his side stage their recovery.

But even O’Connell has been somewhat taken aback by O’Gara’s dramatic last ditch match winning drop goals against Northampton and Castres over the last two weeks.  “He (O’Gara) is an incredible guy,” stressed the Irish second-row.

“It’s great to know that you have a guy behind the pack that wants those pressure moments.

The bigger the pressure, the better he seems to get.”

O’Connell though wasn’t going to let O’Gara’s winning kick disguise the fact that Munster weren’t at their best. Of particular concern is that fact that they have conceded far too many points in those opening two games.

It looked really bad for Munster when they trailed 18-7 five minutes before the interval.  Apart from a well taken Doug Howlett try, converted by O’Gara. Munster just hadn’t produced.

But an O’Gara penalty right on half-time gave them hope and they were right back in it four minutes after the break. The highly rated flanker Peter O’Mahony burst through for a try which O’Gara converted to make it 18-17.

From there on it was anyone’s game. Substitute centre Will Chambers got a third Munster try but the game looked sure to end in a draw with the sides tied at 24-24 and time virtually up.

Then again,  past experiences have shown that nothing can be taken for granted with Munster, and more particularly O’Gara, around. The other contender for the Irish out-half jersey, meanwhile, Jonathan Sexton was also in top class form for Leinster at the RDS on Sunday.

But their 38-13 victory over Glasgow was a stroll. They simply blew away their opponents in the first half, scoring four tries through Rob Kearney, Eoin O’Malley (2) and Gordon D’Arcy to secure the bonus point.

Sexton added all four conversions to make if 31-6 at the interval.  Having  completed the

job, Leinster took their foot off the gas in the second half and allowed Glasgow to respond with a converted try.

But that only served to cause the home side to increase the tempo again and Leinster went over for a fifth try through Isaac Boss, again converted by Sexton in the closing stages. Glasgow coach Sean Lineen summed it all up, commenting: “We got well and truly spanked, didn’t we?”

“They won the contact battle hands down in attack and defence. There were four or five instances where they just stipped the ball off us, like taking candy from a baby.”

For a time, it looked as if the Ulster out-half Ian Humphreys was going to have another big day as his side took on Leicester at Welford Road. Humphreys, responsible for all of his sides points in the opning victory over Clermont,  banged over three huge long-range penalties.

But things suddenly went wrong when proved with a much easier kick which would have leveled matters at 12-12 in the final quarter. Humphreys missed and his failure to find touch later gave Leicester the opportunity to make certain of a somewhat flattering 20-9 victory with the Matt Smith’s try.

As hard as Connacht tried, they were no match for Toulouse at the Sportsground.  Faced by an outfit full of French internationals in front of a packed house, they were simply never allowed to get into the game.

Toulouse, ahead 22-3 at the interval,  eventually got home 36-10.  At least though, Connacht did manage an improved second half effort which brought about a penalty try converted by Miah Nikora.

 

Ref slammed by Corofin

THE possibility of St Brigid’s facing St Brigid’s in the Club All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final is still on following a number of exciting and controversial matches over the weekend.

While St Brigid’s from Dublin proved much took good for Wexford’s Horeswood in the Leinster quarter-final, winning 1-20 to 3-8,  St Brigid’s from Roscommon had to fight all the way to edge past Galway’s Corofin in the Connacht decider.

It finished with St Brigid’s getting home by 0-11 to 0-10 but Corofin fans were furious with Mayo referee Liam Devanney. Not only did he disallow what looked to be a perfectly good Carofin goal just before half-time, but he also heavily favored St Brigid’s on the free count.

Devanney had to escorted from the field at the end of the game as he was surrounded by Corofin supporters and players. It’s now expected that the Connacht Council will mount an investigation after reports that Devanney and officials were struck.

Hopefully, that doesn’t prove to be the case as there is no excuse for such action. At the same time, Corofin will claim that their frustration was a result of  Devanney not giving them a fair deal and taking a much too stern approach from early on.

He booked no fewer than 13 players and Corofin argued that the free count was almost two to one in favour of St Brigid’s. Kieran Fitzgerald, the Corofin full-back, described the referee as “a disgrace.”

He added: “I know this sounds like sour grapes but I was bitterly disappointed by the referee today. When you are playing at this level and there is so much at stake it’s very hard to take losing like that.”

Carofin manager Brian Silke chose his words more carefully, but he felt that they definitely had got the worse of the decisions and he believed that Mike Farragher’s first half goal was legitimate.

Television replays suggest that the goal should, in fact, have been awarded. Either way, St Brigid’s were just pleased to have survived after a really poor first half performance when they only managed four points from frees.

At that stage, they were fortunate to trail by only three points. But they did come good in the final quarter when Frankie Dolan burst into life.

Dolan and Senan Kilbride shared 10 points between them. Dolan got six, four from frees, with Kilbride finishing with four, three of which came from the placed ball.

Alan O’Donovan was Corofin main scorer with four points. Across at Parnell Park in the capital, Dublin champions St Brigid’s had so such worries in eventually easing to a 1-20 to 3-8 success over Horeswood.

It was, however,  a creditable performance from Horewood, particularly in the first half when they scored three goals. Indeed, at one stage, they led by 3-2 to 0-8.

But once St Brigid’s got going, there was only going to be one winner. The Dublin champions, playing their seventh game in eight weeks, took command in the second half with the Paddy Andrews contributing 1-3.

Elsewhere in Leinster, Portlaoise got the better of  Wicklow’s Rathnew by 1-14 to 0-12 and Kildare’s Athy trounced Carlow’s Old Leighlin by 1-13 to 1-3. Portlaoise, who came good in the second half, will now face St Brigid’s in the semi-finals with Athy facing Garrycastle from Westmeath.

Unsurprisingly, Kerry representatives Dr Crokes will face Cork champions UCC in the Munster decider. Equally unsurprisingly,  Colm Cooper was the hero for Dr Crokes as they saw off a determined challenge from Clare’s Kilmurray-Ibrickane in the semi-final.

Dr Crokes only got home by 0-12 to 0-9 after a hard-fought match.  In fact, the Kerry champions trailed by 0-9 to 0-7 at the three-quarters stage having lost Daithi Casey to a second yellow card.

So, it needed something special, and Cooper duly delivered by scoring the last four points of the game. UCC, by contrast, had no such worries in demolishing Tipperary’s Moyle Rovers by 5-12 to 1-5 at the Clonmel Sportsfield.

Intriguingly, they included eight Kerrymen in their line-up. One of those, Paul Geaney was quite brilliant, scoring 2-5 as the Sigerson Cup holders outclased their rivals.

In Ulster, Burren from Down set up a final clash with Crossmaglen by beating Monaghan’s Latton by 1-10 to 0-11 in a tense second semi-final. Shay McArdle got the all important goal for Burren who finished the game with 13 men.

Hurling final gives way to Navy vs. Notre Dame

POSTED ON November 16th  - POSTED IN Sport

Colm Cooper, pictured before this year's final with Dublin's Bryan Cullen and referee Joe McQuillan, will lead Kerry again next season.

It has been confirmed that Notre Dame will play Navy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday Sept. 1, 2012. And the speculation that All-Ireland hurling final at might be put back a week from Sept 2 has been confirmed. The hurling and football finals will take place now on Sept. 9 and Sept. 23.

Apparently there is huge interest in this game in the U.S. and Europe and corporate packages are already being sold. General admission tickets will go on sale around St. Patrick’s Day next year. This will be the first American football game in Dublin since these archrivals met at Croke Park in 1996. Officials from both clubs have already visited the Aviva and Jon Starrett, the Senior Associate Athletic Director with Navy, was very impressed when he visited the Ballsbridge venue for the Ireland-England rugby game last March. But Starrett was surprised by the late arrival of supporters.

He said: ”I couldn’t believe my eyes. Thirty minutes before the game there was nobody in the stadium, whereas at Navy, over half the crowd are in their seats two hours before the game. If we had the last minute dash to the stadium like you guys have, I have no idea how we would cope. Staff at the Aviva told me they can deal with 1,250 tickets a minute. We are nowhere near that level.”

The majority of the 51,000 who attended the rugby game last March were probably within a pub or two of the ground and others were probably enjoying a drink in the many bars in the stadium. Many years ago that great Kerry-born writer Con Houlihan said that your typical Irish supporter likes to arrives at the ground five minutes before kick-off and then expects to find parking spot outside the main gate. I think we have improved a bit since Con wrote those words, but Irish supporters in general are nowhere near as punctual as American Football supporters.

 

GOOCH WILL BE SKIPPER

Newly crowned Kerry senior football champions Dr. Crokes have confirmed that they will nominating Colm Cooper as Kerry captain for 2012. With Eoin Brosnan expected to retire and Kieran O’Leary unable to command a regular place in Kerry’s starting XV, it was obvious that the honor would fall to the man they call the Gooch once again. There were a lot of disappointed supporters in Kerry and Killarney in particular when Dublin beat Kerry at Croke Park last September to deny Cooper bringing Sam back to the Crokes’ Lewis Road clubhouse. I wonder if Kerry get to the All-Ireland final next year will Cooper wear the number 15 jersey instead of number 13. Over the years no player wearing the number 13 jersey, from any county, has lifted the Sam Maguire Cup.

Meanwhile former Roscommon defender Des Newton is expected to be confirmed as Roscommon senior football manager this week. Newton will replace Fergal O’Donnell, who quit last month.

 

GILROY WILL STAY

It took him seven weeks to make up his mind, but Pat Gilroy has now confirmed that he is staying with the Dublin footballers for another 12 months. Gilroy’s St Vincent’s colleague Mickey Whelan has stepped down as a selector and Gilroy will not confirm his back room team until January when the intercounty action resumes. Gilroy had some issues to iron out with the Dublin County Board and it’s understood that he wanted his players to play more championship games during the months of April and May.

Meanwhile Offaly will have new hurling and football manager next year. Ollie Baker, the former Clare hurler, is the Faithful county’s new hurling manager and Gerry Cooney is Offaly’s new football manager. Cooney is a former Meath footballer, who was a selector with former Offaly manager Kevin Kilmurray. He has also had success with Meath at under 21 level with Meath club Walterstown. But Cooney will have to plan without the experienced Ciaran McManus, who is retiring after a 16 year intercounty career. With the Offaly job now filled, only two counties have yet to appoint football managers for 2012, Roscommon and Fermanagh. Mick O’Dwyer is not reported to be in the running for either job and it looks like the 75 year-old Kerryman’s career as an intercounty manager could be over, for now at least.

Liam Dunne is the new Wexford senior hurling manager. Dunne has impressed as manager of Wexford champions Oulart-the-Ballagh leading them to three Wexford senior hurling titles in a-row. Dunne takes over from Tipperary-born Colm Bonner, who quit in July. Meanwhile Tipp man Dinny Cahill, who managed the Antrim hurlers for the past few years, will keep up the Ulster connection next year after he was confirmed as part of the backroom team next year for Armagh manager Michael Johnston.

 

KINGDOM OPT OUT OF MCGRATH

Kerry will not be defending the McGrath Cup they won last January when the 2012 season commences in January. Kerry County Board chairman Jerome Conway said: ”We wouldn’t have a strong enough team for it. Some of the senior players will be taking an extended break and they will be using January to train rather than to play; they will be back in time for the start of the National League in early February. Our younger players, with whom we would have been depending on, will all be playing college football in January in the McGrath Cup as they prepare for the Sigerson Cup. If the young players are playing with the colleges then they can’t play with Kerry, so we would not have a realistic team to field.”

 

BOHS NEED ANOTHER

BUYER FOR DALYMOUNT

League of Ireland clubs being in financial difficulties is nothing new. That has been the situation for the past decade. Bohemians last week said that their day to day financial situation had improved, but the club owe Zurich Bank €4 million and that debt is due to be cleared by June 2012. Bohs had sold Dalymount Park and were promised a new stadium at Harristown near Dublin Airport, but the developer Liam Carroll is now in NAMA. Bohs are trying to get out of the deal with Carroll and if they do they will try and sell off Dalymount, their main asset, to another buyer.

In comparison to Bohs Finn Harps’ debt looks miniscule. The Donegal club needs to raise €48,000 by Dec. 21 or they will go out of business.            “On the field of play Dubliner Tommy Dunne has agreed a new three-year deal as manager of Cork City, whom he led to promotion from the first division last month. And John “Jumbo” Brennan, who took over as caretaker manage of Galway United  when Seán Connor was sacked towards the end of the season, has now been confirmed as manager of the Tribesmen.

Better news for Athlone Town where an anonymous donor has given them half a million euro to help them pay off the debts on Lissywollen Park. Athlone played at St Mel’s Park for decades, but moved to their new ground in 2007.

 

SUPPLE MUST WAIT

If Dublin had the same rules as Kerry, Tipperary or Kilkenny about captaincy then they would have a new football skipper next year. St Brigid’s recently beat St Oliver Plunkett in the Dublin football final and their captain was Shane Supple, a young man who abandoned a soccer career in England with Ipswich Town to come home and do his Leaving Cert and playing Gaelic football. But Supple is unlikely to take over from Bryan Cullen as Dublin captain simply because he is not yet in the Dublin squad. The 29 year-old Stephen Cluxton from Parnells is number one and the Dubs sub ‘keeper is 25 year-old Michael Savage from St. Vincent’s. So it looks like 24 year-old Supple may have to wait his turn, but manager Pat Gilroy says he will give new players an opportunity to impress when the O’Byrne Cup gets under way in January.

 

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