The new-look FAI board met in Abbotstown last week, with chairman Tony Keohane chairing his first in-person meeting of the 12 directors. But after undergoing a brief directors’ induction course and a long meeting, no decision was made as to who is going to replace Stephen Kenny as the men’s senior manager.
Afterwards Keohane said: “We had a good update from the CEO Jonathan Hill, who is spearheading the recruitment process along with director of football Marc Canham and Packie Bonner, who sits on the FAI board. I would expect an appointment in the next short while. I don’t want to give an absolute time because these things are a work-in-progress but in the not-too-distant future.’’
FAI President Paul Cooke added: ‘‘There is no timeline at the moment. We will have a manager as soon as we identify the appropriate candidate and they accept that role. Numerous people have been identified.’’
So it looks like FAI officials will not have a new manager to accompany them to Paris for the Nations Cup draw tomorrow. The Nations Cup campaign doesn’t start until September, but friendlies have already been lined up against Belgium in Dublin on March 23 and Switzerland three days later, while Hungary are due at the Aviva for a friendly in early June.
Neil Lennon is understood to be the back-up option if the FAI don’t succeed in finalising an agreement with former Irish international Lee Carsley, who is currently in charge of the England under 21 team. There have been no quotes from Carsley, but last week Lennon said: ‘‘It’s just speculation at the minute. It’s a job that interests me there is no question about that, but there is a process in place. I think I’m at the age now where it might suit me. I enjoyed the club set-up obviously. It’s a big job for myself from a personal point of view, but I think there’s huge potential in the squad.”
Roy Keane, who is currently a very popular pundit with Sky Sports, hinted last week that he might be interested in the job and maybe the FAI officials are waiting to talk to the Corkman, who worked as an assistant man to former Irish manager Martin O’Neill.
IS COMING SOON
The GAA has taken the first tentative step towards introducing a television match official (TMO) as the issue was discussed for the first time at a recent Central Council meeting. There have been numerous calls over the past few years for the Association to introduce their own version of VAR, most recently three weeks back when Kilkenny club O’Loughlin Gaels were denied a legitimate goal in the first-half of the All-Ireland club final against St Thomas’ of Galway. One of the St Thomas’ player carried the sliotar over the line, but both umpires who were positioned behind the net didn’t see the incident and a goal was not allowed. Another infamous incident happened in the Leinster football final in 2010 when Meath’s Joe Sheridan literally carried the ball over the goal line to deny Louth. GAA president Larry McCarthy has now asked Michelle Bennett, from the referees’ development group, to head a new committee, which includes former intercounty referees Johnny Ryan and Maurice Deegan, to produce a report on how technology could assist match officials. A few years back the GAA introduced Hawkeye, which has ended any arguments about points or wides, but the general consensus seems to be that we don’t need VAR in the GAA.
ROVERS VS. PATS
IN PREZ CUP FINAL
Shamrock Rovers are planning to have close to a full house at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night next when South Dublin County Council will open the 4th stand at the venue. When the stand at the shopping centre end of the ground is fully open the capacity will be just over 11,000, but we won’t have a full house on Friday night for the visit of St Pat’s as only part of the new stand will be in use. On Friday, it’s the President’s Cup final between last season’s LOI champions Shamrock Rovers and FAI Cup holders St Patrick’s Athletic. President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins has revived this old competition by donating a cup and Michael D who is a big soccer fan, is likely to be in Tallaght on Friday to present the cup the winning captain.
IN GOWRAN PARK
Yet another first for Rachael Blackmore. The 34 year-old Tipperary-born jockey, who became the first female jockey to win both the Aintree Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, recently become the first female jockey to win the prestigious Thyestes Chase as Gowran Park. The Thyestes is called the “Race that stops a County” as everybody in Kilkenny heads to the Gowran track on the last Thursday in January and Rachel got her first win on the 14/1 shot Ain’t That a Shame, who is trained by Waterford-based Henry de Bromhead.
Cork’s Pairc Ui Chaoimh stadium is to be renamed “SuperValu Pairc Uí Chaoimh” in a 10-year-sponsorship deal reported to be worth €2.5 million to the GAA. Initially the plan was to drop Ui Chaoimh in the new name, but after few weeks reflection Cork GAA decided not to drop the original name. Padraig O Chaoimh was born in Bellanagare in County Roscommon in 1897 and raised in Cork City. He trained as a school teacher, quit to join the IRA and served time in jail in Cork, Wormwood Scrubs and Parkhurst. He served as Secretary General of the GAA from 1929 to 1964. From 1904 to 1974 the Ballintemple venue was known as the Athletic Grounds, which were demolished and re-opened as Pairc Ui Chaoimh in 1976. Just a few weeks back Cork’s rugby headquarters Musgrave Park changed its name to Virgin Media Park, while Cork’s soccer headquarters Turner’s Cross is still without a sponsor.
Newly appointed Republic of Ireland head coach Eileen Gleeson will now start her term as permanent coach against Italy in Florence on Feb. 23. A few weeks back it was thought that Gleeson’s first game since being appointed permanent head coach would be against Wales in Dublin on Feb. 27, but now an extra game has been organised away to Italy on Feb. 23. The Italians are ranked 14th in the FIFA rankings. The friendly will be the first international game to be played in Viola Park since the state-of-the-art training complex, which is the home base for Serie A club Fiorentina, opened in October 2023. The Irish squad will assemble in Florence ahead of this fixture and then return to Dublin for the game against Wales in Tallaght four days later. Head coach Eileen Gleeson is using this short get-together as part of the preparation for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2025 qualifiers, which kick-off in April following the qualifying draw on March 5.
BIG MONEY TIX FOR
KLOPP’S LAST STAND
Tickets located close to the manager’s dug-out for Jurgen Klopp’s last EPL in charge of Liverpool on May 19 were selling for over £24,000 on a re-sale website last week. The face value price of the tickets for the Liverpool versus Wolverhampton Wanderers game is £60. Klopp’s last game could in Dublin or maybe at Wembley. If Liverpool qualify for the Europa League final the game is at the Aviva in Dublin on Wednesday May 22, but if Liverpool go all the way in the FA Cup, the final is at Wembley on Saturday May 25.
GO HEAD TO HEAD
The sons of Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and his forwards coach Paul O’Connell went head-to-head in a schools rugby game last week. Both youngsters were opposing captains, as Paddy O’Connell skippered Castletroy College, while Gabriel Farrell led Blackrock College. The game was a first-year friendly between their respective Limerick and Dublin schools, with the boys’ progress sure to be interesting to follow over the coming years. As the Irish head coach and his assistant both were en route from their training base in Portugal to Marseille for Ireland’s Six Nations opener against France, Farrell and O’Connell both missed the friendly in Limerick.
PLAN IN PLACE
The Munster GAA Council has gone with their plan for definite venues for future Munster Senior hurling finals. A rota has been put in place for finals involving Clare and/or Waterford with the stipulation that these games must be played at a neutral venue. The rota will begin this year starting with Semple Stadium in Thurles followed by Supervalu Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork and then the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Cork, Limerick and Tipperary will continue with their existing home and away agreements should any two of those counties qualify for the Munster Hurling Final.
County Carlow-based trainer Willie Mullins dominated the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown at the weekend, saddling all eight Grade One winners with brilliant horses like Galopin de Champ and State Man, both ridden by stable jockey Paul Townend. No doubt we will see many of those winners in action at the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival next month. But some people claim that Mullins’ dominance is not good for the sport in Ireland. Trainer Mouse Morris said: ‘‘You cannot blame Willie but it’s not good for the game when you see him having four or five runners in a Grade One.’’ Waterford trainer Henry de Bromhead had similar views. He said: ‘‘It’s frustrating but you have to admire Willie. He has made us all raise our game.’’
DAVIS CUP DEFEAT
Ireland suffered a 4-0 defeat to Austria in their Davis Cup World Group I play-off in Limerick at the weekend. Playing the game at the University of Limerick proved to be a good decision with a full house of 2,400 each day.. But Austria, with players ranked 40th and 90th in the world were easy winners. Ireland’s highest ranked player is Michael Agwi, ranked 935th in the world. The Irish team who are managed by former Irish star Conor Niland, will now drop to Group II of the Davis Cup.
BARRY JOHN, 79
The death occurred at the weekend of former Welsh Rugby great Barry John. He was 79. John, who won 25 Wales caps between 1966 and 1972 and was given the nickname “The King” by New Zealand journalists due to the impact of his performances on the 1971 tour, died in hospital on Sunday. John played his club rugby for Llanelli and then Cardiff, where he struck up a half-back partnership with Gareth Edwards that went on to flourish for Wales and the Lions. It used to be said of Barry John that he could tip-toe through a field of daffodils and not disturb a single petal.
Parental pressure helped the West Wales native to resist the lure of pro soccer and he stuck by the game of his home region, and in time became rugby’s own George Best. In fact the rugby star and the Belfast man forged a close bond. Both were supremely confident on-field, but not quite comfortable with the intensity of the off-field attention. Barry John’s solution to the latter was to retire at the age of 27.