Win over Estonia would boost national morale

[caption id="attachment_67396" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Damien Duff, right, and John O'Shea celebrate the opening goal against Armenia."]


Our rugby team's great win over Australia at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand gave the traveling "Blarney Army'" a major boost and also lifted many people's spirits at home and abroad. And we didn't have time to dwell on our Rugby World Cup quarterfinal defeat to Wales before the Soccer team were in action in their final two games in the European Championship qualifiers. And they managed to qualify for the play-offs with wins over Andorra and Armenia, even it wasn't pretty at times. Not every soccer fan in the country and a few Johnny-come-latelys are confident that we are going to beat Estonia in the play-offs. But that's the beauty of international soccer as it gives the armchair supporters an opportunity to give their opinions. The first leg is in Tallinn on Friday Nov. 11 with the second leg at the Aviva the following Tuesday. It would be a major boost for soccer in the country and would surely lift the mood of the nation as we head for yet another tough budget in December, if we could qualify for the finals in Poland and the Ukraine. Euro '88 seems a long time ago now and while we have qualified for three World Cup Finals since then, we have never made it back to the European Championship finals since those heady days in Germany 23 years ago. Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has dropped several hints to the FAI that he wants to continue as manager and last week Trap said that if FAI don't want him then he will find other employers either at club or international level. So now the 72 year-old Italian knows that if he manages to get The Boys in Green to the finals, he will secure a new contract. If he fails he also knows that the FAI will be looking for a new manager.

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Northern Ireland are already on the look out for a new manager after Nigel Worthington quit following the 3-0 defeat to Italy last week. Shamrock Rovers pair Michael O'Neill and Jim Magilton have been linked with the job and former Northern Ireland striker Ian Dowie says he is interested. But Martin O'Neill has ruled himself out. O'Neill, who has been out of work since quitting Aston Villa in August last year, says he hopes to back into club management in the near future. Another name being mentioned is Brian Kerr, who father was born in Belfast. Kerr has done a good job with the Faroe Islands and there were suggestions last week that the Irish Football Association was looking for a Catholic manager to stem the flow of players from the North who are declaring for The Republic. But a colleague remarked that while the Irish FA might like a Catholic manager right now, they are unlikely to appoint a Catholic from the Republic.


The selection of the All-Stars football and hurling teams have always caused a bit of controversy since the scheme began 40 years ago. The idea for All-Stars was the brainchild of four former GAA writers: Mick Dunne, Paddy Downy, John D. Hickey and Padraig Puirseal, who convinced cigarette company Carrolls in 1971 that they should come on board as sponsors. Apart from a brief break in the mid 1990s when the players chose the All Stars, for most of the last 40 years the hurling and football teams were named by GAA writers. But then along came the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) who initiated their own awards. Now the GAA writers and the GPA have combined for one awards scheme with Opel as the new sponsors. And we will also have a new venue this year, the impressive Convention Centre on the banks of the Liffey. Every second year one of the teams is released 24 hours in advance and the second team named during the television coverage on the night of the awards. So naturally the written media were not happy when they heard that both teams were to be announced live on RTE. Three counties: Carlow, Longford and Louth have never won an All-Star award and that won't change this year. Naturally the All-Ireland winners, Dublin and Kilkenny will get the bulk of the awards and we could see a bit of history if Alan Brogan follows his brother Bernard as Footballer of the Year. Brogan's Dublin colleague Stephen Cluxton has also been nominated for the Footballer of the Year award along with Kerry's Darran O'Sullivan. The three nominees for Hurler of the Year are: Tommy Walsh and Michael Fennelly of Kilkenny and Tipperary's Padraig Maher.


Irish International Rules manager Anthony Tohill has named Stephen Cluxton as his captain for the trip down under at the end of the month. The Dublin goalkeeper, who works as a schoolteacher has never given an interview during his career. Tohill has named Armagh's Ciaran McKeever as vice captain. And McKeever will be the man who speaks to the press. With many players, including Cluxton, involved in a club versus country tug o war, Tohill has named only 18 of his 23 man squad. A sub goalkeeper has not been named, but Monaghan's Darren Hughes could fill that role. At least nine of the 18 players named have Twitter accounts and Tohill says he will talk to the players in advance of the trip about comments on the social network website.


Davy Fitzgerald is reported to have sought a six-year contract as manager of the Clare hurlers but eventually settled for three year. Meanwhile, Cork-born John Allen has been confirmed as Limerick's new senior hurling manager, replacing another Corkman Donal O'Grady.