The GAA has increased the price of admission to its major games for the upcoming National Leagues by 20 per cent, but the association has reintroduced concessions for students and senior citizens. Admission for an adult to Division 1 and 2 games in football and Division 1 games in hurling has risen from €15 to €18. Students and old age pensioners will be charged €15. For Division 3 and 4 football fixtures and Division 2 hurling games ticket prices remain priced at €10. But judging by the appetite there was for the provincial secondary competitions earlier this month I cannot see the increase result in a drop off in attendances in a country where the prices of most products, apart from petrol and diesel, are rising.
The National Football League gets under way on Saturday with some high-profile managers making their League debut. The big game on Saturday is in Castlebar where Kevin McStay makes his League debut as manager of his native county against old Connacht rivals Galway. Much has been written about McStay’s chances of bringing Sam Maguire back to Mayo; he has assembled a strong backroom team, but he also needs new stars on the pitch, especially forwards. There will also be much focus on Croke Park on Saturday evening where Dublin, who were relegated from Division One last year, take on Kildare. In recent years the Dubs found it difficult to get by the Lilywhites in Newbridge, but with Jack McCaffrey back after a long break, they should win in Croke Park.
An interesting game in Division Two on Sunday sees former Meath player, columnist and television analyst Colm O’Rourke make his League debut in charge of his home county against Cork in Pair Ui Chaoimh. None of the Leinster counties took the O’Byrne Cup very seriously this year and it will take some time to know if O’Rourke can bring the glory days back to the Royals. On Sunday reigning League and All-Ireland champions Kerry make the long journey to Ballybofey where they should be too strong for Donegal. Roscommon are back in division one and thanks to a favourable draw in Connacht they should qualify for the Round Robin series in the summer. Most pundits think the Rossies won’t be strong enough for the Round Robin series; they begin their Division One campaign against Tyrone at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday.
MAKE FARRELL’S 37
Munster out-half Joey Carbery has not made the 37-man Irish Rugby squad for the opening rounds of the Six Nations. In what is a big call by coach Andy Farrell, Carbery misses out as Ross Byrne and Jack Crowley provide back-up cover to captain Johnny Sexton, who has been deemed fit enough to be included as he recovers from a cheekbone injury. Farrell has included 21 year-old Leinster centre Jamie Osborne, as the only uncapped player. As expected Tadhg Furlong has been selected despite being currently sidelined through injury, but Robbie Henshaw misses out with the wrist issue that has hampered him in recent months. Ireland’s opening game in Six Nations is away to Wales on Feb. 4 and then we are home to France on Feb.11.
GET A MONTH OFF
Clifford brothers David and Paudie will not feature in Kerry’s early games in the National Football League. Kerry manager Jack O’Connor has given the brothers a month off after their season was extended until Jan.15 when they helped their club Fossa win the All-Ireland Junior club final. David is one of the top Gaelic footballers in the country right now and thanks to East Kerry winning the Kerry County Championship, he will be Kerry’s captain for the year ahead. The Cliffords say the new GAA “split-season” certainly helped them achieve success with their club. David Clifford is regarded as the first superstar of Gaelic football and his popularity is being compared to former hurling greats Christy Ring and Mick Mackey. David and Paudie are modest young men and 23-year-old apparently David doesn’t even have an Instagram account.
Pat Fenlon is the new Director of Football with Bohemians. The 53 year-old returns to Dalymount Park where he was a player and manager. He has spent the past few seasons working as Director of Football with Waterford and Linfield in the Irish League. At Dalymount Fenlon will work with newly appointed manager Declan Devin and he will also have responsibility for Bohs Women’s National League team.
HOME IN LEAGUE
The League of Ireland has become a magnet for Estonian internationals as a fourth member of the Baltic nation’s senior squad has moved to Ireland. Shamrock Rovers last week confirmed the signing of midfielder Markus Poom, son of former international keeper Mart Poom. The 23-year-old was born in England when his father Mark was the Derby County goalkeeper. Earlier in this transfer window St Patrick’s Athletic had signed Estonian international Vladislav Kreida while Bogdan Vastsuk joined compatriot Frank Liivak at Sligo Rovers.
Meanwhile, St Patrick’s have also signed Jake Mulraney from MLS club Orlando City. The 26 year-old played schoolboy football with Crumlin United in Dublin before moving to Notts Forest in 2012. He later played for QPR, Dagenham and Redbridge, Stevenage ,Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hearts where he played under Saints assistant manager Jonathan Daly. He moved to the US and Atlanta United in 2020.
FOR DAD O’MAHONEY
Former Kerry footballer Aidan O’Mahony says that he has now retired from club football after his club Rathmore recently won the All-Ireland Intermediate club final in Croke Park. In 2017 O’Mahony announced his inter-county retirement, departing the scene with five All-Irelands, three National League titles and two All Stars to his name. Now, he leaves the club game having experienced one last big day at Croke Park where the East Kerry club beat Galbally Pearses from Tyrone. O’Mahony said: ‘‘I have a three and a five-year-old a home and priorities have changed. You would love to keep playing, but time wise and stuff like that, priorities have to change.’’ It looks like Aidan, who is 42, wants to move into management as he was recently confirmed as manager of Dr. Crokes senior hurling team.