[caption id="attachment_71100" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Tipperary's John O'Brien and Eoin Cadogan of Cork in action during the drawn NHL game on April 1. "][/caption]
On Sunday April 1, Tipperary and Cork played out a thrilling draw in the last round of the National Hurling League at Semple Stadium, Thurles. On Sunday next the counties return to the home of hurling when they meet in the second semifinal of this year’s National Hurling League at 4 p.m.; the first semifinal between Kilkenny and Clare gets under way at 2 p.m. For hurling affinicados there is nothing quite like a Munster championship game between Tipp and Cork at Semple Stadium and now it looks like we could witness the same excitement about a League semifinal. This will be the third meeting between these great rivals this year; extra time was needed to separate the counties in the Waterford Crystal Cup with Tipp eventually getting through and they could meet again in the Munster Championship semifinal in June if Tipp overcome Limerick in the first round next month. Jimmy Barry Murphy seems to have restored faith in Cork hurling in his first season back as manager. Barry Murphy has discovered a few new stars like: Conor Lehane, Darren Sweetman, Stephen McDonnell and Lorcan McLoughlin. Barry Murphy said: ‘‘I would probably prefer not to be playing Tipp again so soon, but it’s great to be in the semifinal. That’s all I am concerned with. That was our aim for the start of the League campaign and so far so good.’’ Meanwhile Tipperary are getting used to life without Lar Corbett, who announced his retirement in February. Manager Declan Ryan seems to have changed their style of play this year, opting for more fluid moments rather than high balls into the opposition’s parallogram. With Eoin Kelly being used mainly as a sub, Pa Bourke is now Tipp’s main free taker and Noel McGrath has also been scoring freely. It’s a hard one to call and while Cork will not fear Thurles I give the vote the home team.
Clare staged a great comeback against Limerick to win the division two hurling final two weeks ago and manager Davy Fitzgerald will no doubt be conjuring up a plan to try and topple Kilkenny. When he was manager of Waterford Davy got a few hammerings from Brian Cody’s team and I think it will be business as usual for The Cats on Sunday.
IRISH MAY PLAY CHINESE
The Republic of Ireland could have a friendly against China in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin on Sept. 7. The Boys in Green start their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign away to Kazakastan on Sept. 7, but they have a free date the following Tuesday and it looks like China will provide the opposition. The Republic has played China twice previously; in 1984 we won 1-0 in the Japan Cup tournament in Sapporo and in March 2005 a Clinton Morrison goal secured a 1-0 win in a friendly at Lansdowne Road.
The FAI is giving away 150 free tickets to Irish fans who are planning to travel to see the friendly against Hungary in Budapest on June 4. Very few Irish supporters are expected to make the trip, which comes six days before the European championship opener against Croatia in Poznan on June 10. FAI CEO John Delaney said: ‘‘The Irish supporters will be our 12th man this summer when they travel in record numbers to Poland. Although only a small number of supporters are expected to travel to Budapest, this small gesture of 150 free tickets is the least we can do to recognise their huge commitment.’’
INJURED PLAN RETURN
Irish defender Richard Dunne is targeting Aston Villa’s game against West Brom on April 28 for his comeback. The Dubliner, who fractured his collar bone in a league game against Manchester City in February. Another player hoping to be back in action on Saturday week is Stephen Hunt. The Irish winger travelled to Germany last week for surgery to remedy a troublesome groin problem, but expects to be back for the game against Swansea on April 28. Trapattoni will name his squad for the Euro finals on May 7 and any player who gets injured now will be worried about missing out.
NIALL QUINN BACK
There can’t be many GAA clubs in Ireland whose football manger also managed a club currently in the English Premier League. Niall Quinn, who managed Sunderland prior to Roy Keane’s arrival on Wearside, has been appointed manager of Kildare club’s Eadestown’s second team for the year ahead. Four years ago Quinn won a Junior ‘C’ Kildare football championship medal with Eadestown. Quinn’s children Mikey and Aisling also play football with Eadestown, whose claim to fame before Quinn moved to live in the Kildare village, was that it was the home club of former Kildare and Cork star Larry Tompkins. Meanwhile back at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light the club has named the sports bar after their former player, manager and chairman. The popular fans bar will in future be named Quinn’s Bar.
O’CONNELL TO GET
FREEDOM OF LIMERICK
It has been a disappointing season for rugby player Paul O’Connell with Munster and Ireland failing to deliver, but the season will end on a high on Sunday next when O’Connell is made a Freeman of his native Limerick. The 32 year-old second row, who has captained Munster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions, says it’s a great honour to following in the footsteps of Eamon de Valera and John F Kennedy in receiving the accolade. Paul said: “I’m always conscious, while I’m playing for either Munster or Ireland, that I am also representing Limerick.’’
TRAP TO VISIT
Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is to visit Croagh Patrick in Mayo for a charity climb on April 28. Trap, who is 73, is unlikely to climb the famous mountain, but on a visit to Mayo last year he promised that he would return if Ireland qualified for the Euro 2012 finals. Trapattoni will join Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Sport Michael Ring in a charity fund raising initiative which will raise money for several local charities. Trap, who is a devout Catholic, said: ‘‘I’m really looking forward to returning to Croagh Patrick. It’s a very special place and hopefully this visit will bring us some luck before we set off for Euro 2012 in June.’’
The U.S. synchronised swimming squad are very happy with the facilities at the National Aquatic Centre in Blanchardstown in West Dublin. The U.S. team trained in Blanchardstown last week and national team co-ordinator Gigi Grizanti said they were glad that they chose Dublin over London and Sheffield for their pre-Olympic training camp. He said: ‘‘The girls really appreciate the welcome they have received in Dublin and we would like to make Blanchardstown our European training base when we have other competitions in Europe.’’
TWO STARS QUIT
Two long serving intercounty GAA players retired last week. Declan Prendergast has quit the Waterford senior hurling squad after 12 years and Steven McDonnell, who had given 13 years service to the Armagh footballers, also retired.