Press night

Neighbors do battle in 3rd consecutive final

[caption id="attachment_66521" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Eoin Larkin pictured at the Kilkenny squad's press night at Langton's House Hotel in Kilkenny."]


For the first time in over 100 years the same counties will meet in an All-Ireland senior hurling final for the third year in a row. It happened only once previously when Cork met London in 1901, 1902 and 1903, but in those days it was clubs that represented counties, so you could truly say that history will be made when Tipperary and Kilkenny meet for the third successive year at Croke Park next Sunday. A few weeks back Tipp would have been considered favorites, but then they looked sluggish in the semifinal against Dublin. However, some pundits claimed that Dublin was Tipp's first real test this year and a tough semifinal will stand to them. Meanwhile Kilkenny, who gave Dublin a right old hammering in the Leinster final, never seemed to get out of third gear in their semifinal win over Waterford. There is great rivalry between these neighboring counties. Before the motorway from Dublin to Cork was completed there used to be a sign on the old road at Urlingford saying 'Welcome to Tipperary, the home of hurling.' Tipp denied Kilkenny their coveted five in-a-row last year and then Dublin beat The Cats in this year's National League Final. But Cats manager Brian Cody didn't panic and has made changes to his line-up without any players walking out. Cody is a vastly more experienced manager than Tipperary's Declan Ryan, who replaced Liam Sheedy this year and for that reason I'm going for Kilkenny.

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For a player who has yet to play a full 90 minutes of senior international football, James McCarthy is certainly made enough headlines. The Scottish-born player, who last week signed a new five-year contract with Wigan, has started only one game, a friendly against Uruguay last March and made two appearances as sub. Giovanni Trapattoni gave this talented 20 year-old a few minutes in a European Championship game against Macedonia last March, which prevents him playing for Scotland, but then at the end of last season McCarthy didn't report to the Irish team hotel for the Carling Cup games and the vital away game against Macedonia. McCarthy was included in the squad for the friendly against Croatia earlier this month, but was injured and didn't play. So I suppose it's not really a surprise to find that Trapp didn't include McCarthy in his squad for the European Championship games against Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night and the away game against Russia in Moscow next Tuesday. McCarthy will instead link up with under 21 manager Noel King for their games against Hungary and Turkey this weekend, but he could get a recall to the senior squad if other players pick up injuries at the weekend. Also omitted from the senior squad are Stoke City pair Marc Wilson and Jonathan Walters, who also missed the games at the end of last season. Clearly Trapp is showing these young lads that they need to show a bit more respect for their international manager. Kevin Kilbane, who had made a record 66 consecutive competitive appearances, could lose out with Trapp likely to favor Wolves Stephen Ward at left back in these two games where a return of four points out of a possible six would give us a good chance of winning the group.


For hurling purists the minor final on Sunday between Galway and Dublin might provide even more exciting fare. Dublin hit six goals in their semifinal win over Waterford, while Galway needed extra time to beat Clare. Galway won their first-ever minor title in 1983 when they beat a Dublin team that included Niall Quinn at full forward. Dublin has not qualified for a final since then and they have to go back all the way to 1965 for their last win at under 18 level, while Galway has won a further seven titles since 1983.


Tadhg Kennelly, who won an All-Ireland senior football medal with Kerry in 2009, could be available for The Kingdom again next year, if he decides to end his Aussie Rules career. The Listowel-born dual star, was recently omitted from the Sydney Swans first team roster, fuelling speculation that Kennelly could return home. But Kennelly, who was 30 last month, says he will knuckle down and try and get back into the Sydney team.


Former Irish international soccer manager Steve Staunton is back in work. The man known as Stan was last week appointed Sunderland's match assessor. His brief will be to scout opposition teams in the build-up to their meetings with Sunderland and present detailed information to manager Steve Bruce and his coaches. Since he was sacked by the FAI at the end of 2007 Staunton had a brief spell as assistant manager of Leeds United and was then appointed manager of Darlington in October 2009, but was fired after six months. Stan's former Irish playing colleague Niall Quinn is chairman of Sunderland.


Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney has joined the Irish International Rules management team. The former Armagh star will now link up with manager Anthony Tohill and selectors Kevin O'Brien Seán Og de Paor and Eoin Liston as they prepare for the two tests against Australia in Melbourne and the Gold Coast at the end of October. Tohill and McGeeney won a Sigerson Cup together with Queen's University, Belfast in 1993 and also played together on Ulster and Irish teams.


Former Tyrone star Frank McGuigan is never shy about giving his opinions. And the former scoring ace reckons that his two sons Brian (31) and Tommy (28) could be among the Tyrone players retiring. He said: ''It all depends on who hangs on. If most of the senior players quit then I would say my boys would also go, probably Brian for certain.'' And McGuigan does not rate the GAA's intercounty umpires. He said: ''They are mostly old men with big guts. They can't get back in time and half of them don't know what a square ball is.'' Already there is speculation in Tyrone that veterans like Brian Dooher, Philip Jordan, Enda McGinley, Ryan McMenamin and Owen Mulligan will quit.


John Brennan has been re-appointed Derry senior football manager for a second year. The Lavey man got the good news on his 74th birthday last week. Under Brennan Derry played an attractive style of football this year and he took them to their first Ulster final since 2000 where they were beaten by Donegal. Former Antrim star Ger Rogan has been re-appointed as Derry's senior hurling manager.

In other management news the Cork County Board has confirmed that they are now looking for a new hurling manager after informing Denis Walsh last week that his services would not be retained. Jimmy Barry Murphy, who previously managed the Cork hurlers from 1996 to 2000, seems certain to replace Walsh, having been recommended by the Cork Appointments Committee. Barry Murphy's name will now go before County Board delegates when they meet on Sept 6.

The Waterford County Board will discuss their hurling manager situation at their next meeting on Sept. 12. The speculation is that Davy Fitzgerald will move on, possibly to his native Clare, but we will have to wait and see what happens when the Waterford delegates meet on Monday week.

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