Inpho 00149514

Cork hot favorites when they line out against Kerry

Prior to the introduction of the open draw in Munster in 1991, Cork and Kerry had met in 25 consecutive Munster football finals. The counties first met in Mallow in North Cork in 1889 and since then have played one another in over 100 championship games.

It might sound boring to outsiders, yet every year there is always an extra buzz when these great football rivals meet, whether it's in Killarney, Pairc Ui Chaoimh or Croke Park. This year, it's yet another Kerry-Cork Munster final and as The Rebels and their supporters head for Killarney on Sunday morning they know that it's been 16 years since they won at Fitzgerald Stadium.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

That's a long time and the reigning All-Ireland champions will be anxious to end that unwanted record. Another interesting record which the management and players will be aware of on Sunday is that Cork manager Conor Counihan has lost only three of his 22 championship games in charge of Cork and all three were against Kerry!

Twelve months ago, Cork were raging favorites as they headed to Killarney, but Kerry got a draw thanks to a late point from Bryan Sheehan and they then went on to win the replay at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Cork took the scenic route and eventually lifted the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time since 1990.

This time, Cork will be hot favorites again and rightly so as they have a very strong squad to chose from. Meanwhile, Kerry supporters are worried about their goalkeeper, center half back and midfield. An industrious half forward like Paul Galvin would help compensate for a poor midfield, but now it looks like Galvin will not be fit to start. The stats look good for Kerry, but I think Cork can bridge that 16-year winless run in Killarney on Sunday.

HURLING QUALIFIERS REACH PHASE TWO

Phase two of the hurling qualifiers will be played on Saturday evening when the beaten Munster and Leinster finalists meet. And if Limerick and Clare show anything like the same form they displayed in the Munster championship then they should dispose of Wexford and Galway.

Clare has a tough task going to Salthill to play an under achieving Galway. Some pundits are saying that Galway cannot be as bad again as they were against Dublin, but some of us should have seen the warning signs in their sluggish display against Westmeath in the Leinster quarterfinal. Galway might improve at home, but up front I feel they are too dependant on Joe Canning and Joe Gantley. Clare looked very fresh in the first half against Tipperary and they could put an end to Galway's season.

At Pairc na nGael in Limerick I fancy the men in green to beat Wexford. Limerick with full forward Seamus Downes in great form, they did very well against Waterford in the Munster semifinal and if they can repeat that performance, then they should progress to phase three.

HUGHTON TAKES CHARGE AT BIRMINGHAM

Chris Hughton, the former Republic of Ireland defender, was last week appointed manager of Birmingham City, replacing Alex McLeish, who controversially moved to Brummie neighbors, Aston Villa. Hughton has impressed as assistant manager at Spurs, and when the 52-year-old did get a manager's job he managed to get Newcastle United back into the premier division.

But Chris' reward just before Christmas last year was the sack from Newcastle chairman Mike Ashley. Now Hughton has an opportunity to show his worth once again as he attempts to take Birmingham back into the premier division. He has plenty of experience of the English championship with Newcastle. Birmingham will also play in the Europa Cup after winning the League Cup last season, but the extra games in the Europa Cup could more of a hindrance than a help.

RORY SET FOR KILLARNEY

Rory McIlroy says he will definitely play at this year's Irish Open in Killarney. And the recently crowned U.S. Open winner says he will bring the trophy with him to the famous Kerry town.

The presence of the 22-year-old will be a major boost for the tournament which lost its title sponsor "3" earlier this year. Meanwhile, a London branding expert says that McIlroy has the potential to eclipse the wealth of David Beckham and become a dollar billionaire if he can dominate the sport for the next few years.

But Rory's manager, Chubby Chandler said: "Rory has a schedule where he enjoys every single event he plays and that's how it will remain. He is totally focused on winning as many majors as he can, so he won't be chasing dollars. He doesn't work around money, he makes enough of that."

HORGAN TO MISS RUGBY WORLD CUP

Shane Horgan, who missed out on Ireland's Grand Slam triumph in 2009, is now ruled out of the Ireland's World Cup squad. A knee injury will prevent the winger, who has been playing well for Leinster, taking part in any of the warm-up games in August and he is not included in Declan Kidney's 43-man initial World Cup squad.

D.J. CAREY BACK IN CLUB COLORS

Former Kilkenny star D.J Carey is back playing junior hurling for his club, Young Ireland's of Gowran. But the 40- year-old says he has no intention of trying to make the club's intermediate or senior team. Carey said: "I won't be coming back to the game at any higher level than this, that's for certain. I was just glad to come out of the first game unscathed. Of course, it's not as serious as the level I had been playing previously but at my age once you come out of it intact you are not complaining."

UEFA TO HONR IRISH FOUR

Later this year, UEFA will honor the four Irish players who have won over 100 caps for their country. Shay Given (113 caps), Kevin Kilbane (110), Robbie Keane (108) and Steve Staunton (102) will be included in the first batch of European players to be recognized by UEFA.

They will receive a commemorative cap and medal from Europe's soccer governing body. In the recent past the FAI used to award a testimonial to players who reached the 50 cap mark, but our well paid players no longer need benefit games and the public were not really interested in meaningless testimonials.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the FAI will get €8 million from UEFA if Giovanni Trapattoni manages to get The Boys in Green to the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine. And if we do qualify, the money will roll in with €1 million for a group win and half that for a draw. Then there would be extra bonuses for the FAI from main sponsors "3" and kit sponsors, Umbro.

ENTIRE GALWAY UNIED SQUAD ON BLOCK

Galway United say that all of their first team squad will be put on sale when the transfer window opens on Friday (July 1). The West of Ireland club, like many in the League of Ireland, has financial difficulties and this is not just a publicity gimmick but an effort to try and trim wages even further.

Galway is struggling at the bottom of the premier division table and there are two more clubs in Galway competing for spectators and sponsors, Mervue United and Salthill Devons, who both play in the first division. Clearly, a city like Galway cannot support three League of Ireland clubs.

TALLAGHT FIRST, THEN TALLINN FOR ROVERS

League of Ireland champions Shamrock Rovers have been paired with Estonian club Flora Tallinn in the second qualifying round of the Champions League. The first leg will be played in Tallaght on July 12th or 13th.

Irish League champions Linfield have been paired with Bate of Belarus. Meanwhile, St. Patrick's Athletic face an expensive roundabout trip to Iceland to play IBV in the Europa League as there are no direct flights from Dublin to Iceland.

BUCKING AGAINST THE TREND

There has been a trend in recent seasons of players born in Northern Ireland declaring for the Republic and no doubt this situation has annoyed IFA officials in Belfast and Northern Ireland supporters. But here is one who may be going in the opposition direction.

Alex Bruce, the son of Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, has won two caps for The Republic, but has not figured under Trapattoni. Bruce was called into the North's under 21 squad, but opted instead to play for the Republic's under 21s and then made his senior debut against Ecuador in Giant's Stadium in May 2007. Now, Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington admits that he has talks with Bruce, who is eligible to switch as he has not played a competitive game for the Republic.

Meanwhile, Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Kieren Westwood will join Sunderland on Friday when his contract ends with Coventry City. It's a good move for the keeper, who is number two to Shay Given at international level.

KILKENNY BIDDING FOR SEVENTH HEAVEN

Kilkenny will be bidding for their seventh Leinster title in a row and Dublin will be hoping to win their first since 1961 when the counties meet in this year's Leinster hurling final at Croke Park on Sunday next.

And having already beaten the Cats in the Walsh Cup Final and National League Final earlier this year, Dublin must be confident of ending Kilkenny's great run in Leinster.

Dublin looked average in the quarterfinal win over Offaly, but they were superb in the semifinal win over Galway. Kilkenny have been struggling in the past 12 months and manager Brian Cody did eventually drop some of his big names for the semifinal win over Wexford, and they do have Henry Shefflin back.

But under former Clare star Anthony Daly, this Dublin team is playing with great confidence and I think they can bridge that 50 year gap.