After a dismal performance at Euro 2012 Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni said changes would be made for the World Cup campaign. And the Italian has lived up to his promise, “resting” four of his senior players for the friendly against Serbia in Belgrade on Aug. 15. Shay Given (125 caps), Richard Dunne (76), Robbie Keane (120) and Damien Duff (100) have all been left out. Whether they will ever return only Trap knows. Also out is Keith Andrews who was our best player at the Euro finals; excluded as he is suspended for our opening World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan in Astana on Sept. 7. Trap has included just one uncapped player in the squad, goalkeeper Darron Randolph, but has recalled: Marc Wilson, James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Keith Tracey and Andy Keogh, the player who scored against Serbia at Croke Park in May 2008, Trap’s first game in charge. Kevin Foley, who was dropped from the Euro 2012 squad at the Irish team’s training camp in Italy, was invited back by the manager, but said he has not yet made up his mind if he wants to play international football again.
O’DRISCOLL TO LEAD
Roy Keane will not be returning to manage his former club Nottingham Forest. Last week Keane’s agent Michael Kennedy dropped a broad hint when he said that the Corkman would be interested in the job, if asked. Earlier Forest’s new Kuwaiti owners had spoken to another out of work Irish manager Mick McCarthy. But the job went to a lesser known former Irish international in Seán O’Driscoll. The 55-year-old Wolverhampton native, who won three caps in 1982 and ‘83 under Eoin Hand’s reign, has served his managerial apprenticeship in the lower divisions in England with Bournemouth, Doncaster and Crawley and he coached at Forest last season when Steve Cotterill was in charge.
FANS EXPECT CATS
TO BOUNCE BACK
It’s beginning to look like winning the Munster senior hurling championship might have been a poisoned chalice for Tipperary. They will probably face Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semifinal and nobody wants to face the “scalded cats” right now. On Sunday next in Thurles Kilkenny, who were shocked by Galway in the Leinster final, take on Limerick in the All-Ireland quarterfinal. And with the winners due to play Tipperary in the All-Ireland semifinal we are certain to have a new pairing in this year’s final on Sept 9. Kilkenny and Tipperary have contested the last three All-Ireland hurling finals. Limerick, who put up a good performance against Tipperary in the Munster championship quarterfinal, have done well via the back door route, notching up big scores against Antrim and Laois and then beating neighbours Clare in the third round. But every hurling fan is expecting Kilkenny to bounce back from that shock Leinster final defeat to Galway and Limerick could feel the brunt of the Cats anger on Sunday. The other quarterfinal at Semple Stadium on Sunday sees Waterford, the beaten Munster finalists, take on Cork. Jimmy Barry Murphy, the Cork manager has introduced several young players to championship hurling this year and veterans like Seán Og O hAilpin and John Gardiner have to be content with places on the bench. Waterford are a hard team to break down, but I think this young Cork side can claim a semifinal spot against Galway.
READY FOR LONDON
When the 2012 Olympic Games get under way in London on Friday, Ireland will be represented by 65 athletes and 90 officials. With 14 sports represented, it will be the most diverse Irish team in Olympic history. Our record entry was in 1948, also in London, when the Irish entry officially numbered 100, but only 80 got to compete, as politics, in some cases, interfered. Pat Hickey, president of the Olympic Council of Ireland says that the 90 officials will not be what are commonly known as “blazers” but experts. Normally officials at Olympic events wear blazers, but the Irish back up team will wear casual sporting attire this time round. Hickey said: ‘‘Our back up team will consist of coaches, physios, nutritionists every sort of back-up an athlete could need.’’ All countries send more officials than competitors to the Games. The British Olympic Committee confirmed a final entry of 542 competitors plus a backroom team of 819. Ireland’s best medal hope will probably be in boxing with a lot of pressure on Bray’s Katie Taylor to deliver gold.
PATS WELL PLACED
St Patrick’s Athletic look the most likely of the three League of Ireland clubs who were involved in European action last week, to progress to the next round. Last Thursday the Saints drew 1-1 with Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia in Pecara in the first leg their Europa Cup tie and must be fancied to progress to the next round when the teams meet against at Inchicore tomorrow night. If Pats progress, they will meet German club Hanover in the next round. Sligo Rovers went down 3-1 away to Spartak Trnava of Slovakia in the Europa League and while the away goal is beneficial it’s doubtful if the Bit O’ Red can overcome a two-goal deficit. Steaua Bucharest await the winners. Shamrock Rovers dominated their European Cup qualifying home tie with FC Ekranas of Lithuania in Tallaght last week, but couldn’t convert their chances and the game ended scoreless. The Hoops were in Lithuanian on Tuesday night for the second leg, with the winners playing Belgium club Anderlecht. Meanwhile, Pats have a bye into the FAI Cup quarterfinal, a competition they last one in 1961.
CAVANAN STAYS ON
Former Tyrone star Peter Canavan has decided to stay with Fermanagh for another year. Earlier Canavan had hinted that he might walk away, but has now committed for another year. Canavan said: ‘‘We were involved with the team for six months and we think there was serious progress made. The potential is still there. Fermanagh has a small pool to pick from and everyone has to buy into what we are trying to do in terms of preparation. It was a divided squad that we were working with at the start, but that changed and I would hope that players would be better prepared for next season.’’
There have been very few intercounty managerial resignations so far. Jerry Wallace in Antrim is the only hurling manager to quit, while in football Monaghan’s Eamonn McEneaney last week followed in the footsteps of Luke Dempsey (Carlow) and Paddy O’Rourke (Armagh). Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick is also expected to step down so that he can ease his work schedule; he is also a TD for the Wee County.
EPL CHAMPS FOR LIMERICK
Reigning English Premier League champions Manchester City will visit Limerick on Aug. 5. City will play Limerick in a friendly at Thomond Park on the August Bank Holiday weekend. For the past few seasons Limerick has been trying to organize attractive friendlies against big clubs like Barcelona, but the fixtures have not been ratified by the FAI. Now that Limerick has finally got the go ahead it will be interesting to see what size attendance City will attract. A veteran on the Dublin soccer scene when referring to Manchester’s various trips to Ireland over the years once said to me ’they need only send over the jerseys.’ But I don’t think City has the same pulling power as the red side of Manchester.