The Dublin footballers have been going well this year and as easily qualified for the National League Final. The Dubs opponents in next Sunday's final at Croke Park 4 p.m. will be Cork, who they have already beaten in the league this season, but the same Cork side who ended Dublin's hopes of reaching the All-Ireland final last year. It's 16 years since Dublin won the All-Ireland football final and their last League win was two years before in 1993. So naturally there is always going to be a bit of hype if The Dubs go on a good run. Some commentators appear to be envious of the hype, but it's all good for the game and certainly good for the GAA coffers as otherwise they would only fill Croke Park twice a year, for the All-Ireland hurling and football finals. Dublin are not the finished article and many people feel that manager Pat Gilroy will recall some of the senior players when the their championship campaign begins in June. Midfielder Eamonn Fennell has completed his prolonged transfer from Parnells to St Vincent's and should be available on Sunday. Alan Brogan, who sent off in Dublin's last game against Galway, is not appealing his ban and will miss out. Cork's dual star Eoin Cadogan, who saw red against Armagh is also likely to miss the final. Cork didn't start forwards Donncha O'Connor and Paddy Kelly against Armagh, but they are likely to be at full strength on Sunday. On current form one has got to fancy Dublin ending their barren spell at national level.
Sometimes a new manager works wonders and this is the case with Donegal and Laois. In recent years Donegal has been beset with tales of player indiscipline, but former county star Jimmy McGuinness seems to be getting the best out of the players in his first season in charge. On Sunday Donegal play a Laois side, who seem to have re-discovered their form under new manager Justin McNulty in the division two final at 2pm at Croke Park. Two weeks ago Laois won when the counties met in Portlaoise. Michael J. Tierney was Laois' hero that day, but on Sunday I fancy the stylish Michael Murphy to point Donegal in the winning direction.
This is going to be a busy Easter weekend for the Croke Park ground staff and on Saturday we will have the division three and four finals at GAA headquarters. At 5 p.m., Longford meet Roscommon in the division four final and that will be followed by the meeting of Louth and Westmeath in the division three decider at 7 p.m. (For news about New York's minor game at Croke Park go to Page 35.)
POOTS WARNS YOUTHS ON DRIVING
Easter is a big weekend for motor racing even if the traditional Circuit of Ireland is now condensed into five Ulster counties. Edwin Poots, the Northern Ireland Environment Minister, has appealed to young males especially to enjoy the weekend but says they shouldn't try and copy the professional drivers. He said: ''Young men, especially those with a keen interest in motorsport, will no doubt get a great thrill out of seeing the top rally drivers competing at high speeds. However, we all need to be aware there is a big difference between driving on the rally and everyday driving on the road. High-speed rallying like the Circuit of Ireland takes place in a controlled environment in specially-designed cars driven by experienced competitors. Spectators and rally fans should be under no illusions that speed on our roads kills and wrecks lives.'' The Rally will start in Armagh on Saturday morning and after 16 stages around counties Armagh, Down, Antrim, Tyrone and Monaghan it finishes back in Armagh City on Sunday.
MCILROY IS BACK WITH HOLLY
He may have lost the Masters in Augusta last week, but it looks like Irish golfer Rory McIlroy has won back his old girlfriend Holly Sweeney. The couple, who are both from Hollywood in County Down, had broken up last year, but Holly joined Rory in Augusta after he threw away a big lead on the final day of the Masters. And she joined him when he played in the Malaysian Open last week. The couple began dating in their home town when Rory was 16 and Holly 14.
HOOPS FANS HAVE HIGH HOPES FOR PREZ VISIT
Croke Park is going to get massive television publicity all over the world next month when Queen Elizabeth and President Obama both visit. Now the Basketball Association of Ireland is hoping that President Obama will accept an invitation to visit their headquarters in Tallaght. Obama is a big basketball fan and newly appointed Basketball Ireland CEO Bernard O'Byrne said that such a visit would provide a huge boost to the sport in Ireland and the Tallaght area in general if the President visited their complex, which is just off the famous M50 motorway.
EARLY IS OUT FOR SEASON
Bad news for Kildare supporters as midfielder Dermot Early has been ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering another knee injury. The 32 year-old, who injured his knee last Summer, was making steady progress after surgery and had hoped to be back in action by July. Now he will need more surgery and it will be 2012 before he is back playing. Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney admits it will be difficult for Earley to come back. McGeeney said: ''We are planning without Dermot at the minute, but the one positive for him is that it will give the micro-fracture more time to heal. It's a tough one to come back from, but he is a tough fella upstairs and hopefully he will react in the right way to it. With his father Dermot senior dying last year, it has been a tough year for him in many ways.''
QUINLAN TO QUIT
Munster's Alan Quinlan has confirmed that is retiring at the end of the season. The 36 year-old back row played over 200 games for Munster over the past 15 seasons and won 27 Irish caps. He was named in the squad for the Lions tour of South Africa in 2009, but didn't make it after an incident in a game against Leinster saw him suspended. But the good for Munster supporters is that second row Paul O'Connell should be fit to play in the final stages of the Magners League and the Amlin Cup Final if Munster qualify. O'Connell damaged his ankle when he fell awkwardly in the recent win over Leinster, but he is making good progress and should be back in a few weeks. KINGDOM EMBRACES CRICKETDespite great performances at the last two Cricket World Cups, Ireland will not be allowed compete in the next Cricket World Cup as the top ranked countries keep out the minnows. But with the number of cricket emigrants to Ireland growing our fortunes could change in future years. Kerry is known as the home of Gaelic football, but now Killarney Town Council has asked the National Parks and Wildlife Service to make a section of Killarney National Park available for cricket. The motion was proposed by former Kerry star Mick Gleeson. He said: ''Such a facility would help to extend the hand of friendship to people who share a common love of sport.'' At present there are hundreds of people from cricket-playing countries like India and Pakistan living and working in Killarney, but they don't have a proper cricket field to play on.
TIPP BOSS RYANDROPS KELLY
Tipperary hurling manager Declan Ryan has dropped Paul Kelly, brother of team captain Eoin Kelly from the county squad. The 32-year-old has been a panel member since 1998 and has made 36 Championship appearances for the Premier County. He won All-Star awards in 2002 and 2005, but has struggled with injury in recent years, including a broken ankle last year.And Mayo football manager James Horan has dropped some familiar faces as he trims his squad for the Connacht championship. Out go: Tom Parsons, Aidan Kilcoyne, Mark Ronaldson, Barry Moran, Brian Benson and former captain Trevor Mortimer.