Ulster refuses to accommodate fans on CL final

"Ulster says No" was a slogan first heard with unionist opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement signed by the late Garret FitzGerald and Margaret Thatcher, but it's now used as a media catchphrase whenever someone north of the border is rejecting change of some sort or other. And Ulster is saying "no" once again and this time it's to Manchester United, arguably the club with most support in Ireland, North or South, in any sport.

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To be fair the Ulster Council originally said "yes" and agreed to move the quarterfinal tie between All-Ireland football finalists Down and Armagh at the revamped and renamed Morgan Athletic Grounds from Sunday afternoon to Saturday night to facilitate live television coverage. Then when it was discovered that Manchester United would be playing Barcelona in the Champions League Final at Wembley on Saturday night, there were calls to switch the start time in Armagh City. Moving the throw-in to Saturday afternoon is out as there is a "Mini 12th Parade" in Markethill that afternoon. So the Ulster Council will go ahead with a 7.30 pm start that will clash with live coverage from Wembley of the Champions League Final on Sky Sports, UTV, RTE and TV3. It's not the first time the Ulster Council has gone head to head with big games on television; it happened in 1988 when The Republic were playing in the European Championship Finals and also during the 2002 World Cup Finals. So on Saturday evening viewers will have to chose between the skills of Armagh's Steven McDonnell, Down's Martin Clarke, United's Wayne Rooney or Barcelona's Messi. The little Argentinean got a goal in the first leg of Barca's semifinal against Real Madrid that could only have been scored by two other players I have seen, Diego Maradona or George Best. Pure class.

Meanwhile the Leinster Council has switched the throw-in time for the Offaly-Wexford Leinster football championship game in Tullamore on Saturday from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. More Man United followers in Offaly also?


A few issues back I mentioned the end of an era in Gaelic Games with the demise of the results program hosted on by RTE radio by Seán Og O Ceallachain. Anybody who remembers Seán Og's early programs will also be familiar with the soccer commentaries of Philip Greene, who died last week. A big Shamrock Rovers and Ireland fan, the North Dubliner Greene rose to be head of the Sports Department in RTE. His radio career began in the 1940s and his first international game was Ireland vs. Argentina in 1951. An Irish Times writer said that he had an "encyclopedic knowledge of sport in general and a quality of voice which seems to breathe excitement into every syllable and full-stop." He retired in 1985, not long before Ireland made the big breakthrough at Euro '88. Our most famous soccer commentator was aged 90.


Yet another blow for Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni with the news that striker Kevin Doyle is out of the Irish squad for the European Championship qualifier against Macedonia in Skopje on June 4. Doyle appeared to make a good recovery from a knee injury picked up in the first leg against Macedonia in Dublin in March and returned to play for Wolves against Sunderland ten days ago. But the Wexford-born striker aggravated the injury against Sunderland. Damien Duff will also miss the game as he is recovering from an Achilles operation, while Richard Dunne is suspended. So it looking like it's going to be a tough ask to get all three points in Macedonia next month.


Farmers are more familiar with silage than hay nowadays especially the big farmers in Tipperary and so you won't hear farmers at creameries in Nenagh or Roscrea next Monday morning saying something like: "Well we have the hay saved and Cork bet." The trouble with the back-door is that now you may need to beat a county twice to win the All-Ireland. Twelve months ago Cork gave Tipp a right hammering down in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, but Tipp re-grouped took the scenic route and eventually ended Kilkenny's hopes of five in-a-row and brought the MacCarthy Cup back to Thurles in September. Liam Sheedy quit after the win over Kilkenny and another former blue and gold star Declan Ryan is now manager of the Premier County, who have retained nearly all of last year's squad. Cork manager Denis Walsh dropped Seán Og O hAilpin from his squad, but otherwise he has a good mix of youth and experience and The Rebels could really put it up to Tipp on Sunday. Still you have got to fancy Tipp in Thurles.

Meanwhile at Croke Park newly-crowned National League champions Dublin will be expected to beat Offaly in the Leinster hurling quarterfinal. Also on Sunday Wexford play Antrim at Wexford Park in another quarterfinal. It seems hard on Antrim to make the long journey to Wexford; they had to travel to Portlaoise play Laois in the first round, but like Galway they don't get any home games, yet, in the Leinster championship.Also this weekend the Mayo footballers should have no difficulty against London in Ruislip.


Eddie O'Sullivan, the Irish-born manager of the U.S. Eagles says that they will "throw the kitchen sink" at Ireland when they meet in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand on Sept. 11. O'Sullivan, who was replaced as Irish coach by fellow Corkman Declan Kidney said: ''Going to a World Cup and playing Ireland will be very weird, but having said that, it's not really about me, it's about the American players. A lot of these guys who go to the World Cup will be amateur players and they have put their lives on hold for three or four years to try and get to the finals. As the game will be played on 9-11 there will be a lot of emotion. The tricky part for me is to contain their emotions so they go out and play the best game they can play.''

O'Sullivan was reported to be in the running for the vacant job as Edinburgh coach. But Eddie is committed to the US team until after the World Cup and the Edinburgh job has now gone to another Corkman Michael Bradley. The former Connacht coach won 40 caps at scrum half for Ireland.

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