18 January, 2012

Former Cork City captain Dan Murray to return to his spiritual home:

Cork City manager Dunne: happy to re-sign former captain
           Cork City FC manager Tommy Dunne confirmed this evening that (2005) League winning captain Dan Murray is returning to the club on a one-year contract.  Murray is the most successful captain in League of Ireland history having won three League Titles (two with Rovers) and helping Rovers to become the first Irish club to reach the Group Stages of a major European competition.  Murray was a pivotal part of Cork City's 2005 Title winning side, when the club had arguably the best squad in its history.  He was also a major part of the club's six game run in the Inter-Toto Cup the previous season and the 2006 Champions League campaign when City were eventually knocked out by previous European Cup winners Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade).  Tommy Dunne said he has not decided whether Murray will be captain or not for the 2012 season.  Dan Murray re-joins City on a free transfer having been released by Shamrock Rovers last week.

COMING HOME: Former City captain Dan Murray

                 Tommy Dunne said that player numbers are tight for the 2012 season; with a squad of 18/19 (maximum); including three goalkeepers.  He said that having only 16 outfield players wasn't ideal but that that was what he had to deal with for this season.   The manager also confirmed that some players would be coming through from the Under-19's.  I mentioned to him a few potential signings, including two former City players Joe Gamble and Denis Behan.  I imagined that the two might be interested in returning to Leeside (particularly Cork native Joe Gamble) now that City have returned to the top flight, but the boss confirmed that the two are under contract at First Division Limerick, so have not been spoken to.   The manager also mentioned former City star (and Ireland international) Colin Healy, but that after talks with the player, the Ballincollig native is going to try to get a club in England having been released by Ipswich Town before Christmas.  The manager confirmed also that Title winning star Graham Cummins is under contract for the new season.

Dunne wishes all LoI managers good luck for new season 
Asked for his expectations for the 2012 season;  Tommy Dunne said that the Premier Division would be a big step up from the First Division and that a top six finish would represent a  "fantastic season"  for the club.  "We are hoping to conduct ourselves properly in the top flight but we know that it's going to be really tough because all clubs will start the season hoping to be in the division for the following season."  Dunne also said that the club would do everything they can to win a trophy in the new season but that the league would remain the priority.  When asked if he'd like to wish former foe Roddy Collins  "Good luck"  for the new season (!)  Dunne chuckled before adding:  "I'd like to wish all managers 'good luck' for the new season but hope that they finish behind Cork City."   A wise answer from a wise football man.
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15 January, 2012

Behan head over heels with Olympic feat:

Kieran Behan: delighted to be Ireland's first gymnastics Olympian 

             Irish gymnast, Kieran Behan, capped a famous week in his career by finishing fourth in the floor final at the London Prepares Series Test Event in Greenwich Arena yesterday.  Having suffered a debilitating illness as a 10 year-old, he spent many months in a wheelchair and it was doubtful that he would ever walk again.  Rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in 2010, combined with a number of other career threatening injuries; makes this 2012 Olympic qualification all the more remarkable.
             The 22 year-old was suitably ecstatic to have met the Olympic qualification criteria.  He finished fourth overall, having been in third place until the very last competitor; narrowly missing out on a medal.  He scored 14.900;  missing out on a medal by 0.500
            Kieran spoke of his excitement and joy at having made London 2012; proclaiming that it'll be the closest thing ever to a home Olympics and that he would make the most of his opportunity:  ""I'll definitely maximise my floor and get a good high start value.  I can't wait for the summer.  Would I like to win a medal?  Of course I would, but whatever happens, happens!"
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"I've cried every day since finishing playing professional football," - Dean Windass

"There are hundreds like me. After finishing football, there is nothing to get up for in the morning," - Dean Windass

           In an open and frank interview;  former FA Premier League striker and famed hardman;  Dean Windass has revealed his battles with alcohol and depression.  The Hull native, who played in the Premier League for his local club, stated:  "I have cried every day since I've finishing playing professional."  He also called for more help from inside the game for players struggling to cope with life after football.  

GLORY DAYS: Windass puts Hull into top flight for first time
"I've cried every day since finishing playing professional football,"
- Dean Windass             

             Last year, the father-of-two split from his police officer wife of 18 years after he was caught having an affair with a girl he met in a pub.  Then, just a few days ago, after the sudden of his father, Dean attempted to take an overdose of pills.  However, a former girlfriend turned up at his door, realised what he had done and forced him to drink pints of water until he threw up.
             But the following day after slipping back into the grips of depression and drinking half a bottle of strong amaretto liqueur, he tried to commit suicide again.  For a second time, he was saved by a miraculous stroke of  "luck,"  when a friend of his knocked on the front door.

..and celebrates the feat: Championship Play-Off, Wembley 2008
As a local football legend, punters were only too happy to buy Dean drinks 

            At the height of his fame Windass was earning more than half a million pounds a year.
             In 2008 he scored the goal that took his home town club, Hull City into the top flight of English football for the first time in their 104-year history.  He also appeared in the Premier League for Bradford City and Middlesbrough and played in the Scottish Premier League with Aberdeen before ending his professional career, which spanned 19 seasons, in 2010.
             But after squandering most of his fortune on clothes and top-of-the-range cars Windass has been left almost bankrupt, unable even to pay for his son's car insurance.  After retiring from playing Dean had hoped to move into management. But things didn't work out and he found it impossible to get work.

HARD MAN: but Windass had similar problems to Gary Speed
"After the suicide attempts, I need to get myself sorted.  Speaking out is part of the healing process," - Dean Windass   

          Without the day-to-day routine that life as a professional footballer brought, things soon spiralled out of control as Dean filled most of his days with trips to the pub.  As a local footballing legend, punters were only too happy to buy him drinks.  
             "After two failed suicide attempts, I need to get myself sorted out, which is why I'm speaking out now.  It's part of me getting better - part of the healing process.  People see me as a strong man, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I tried to end it all after a string of setbacks.  I just couldn't shake off the depression at feeling what a failure I'd become."
             At 42 years-old;  Windass is the same age as Gary Speed, who recently committed suicide and the troubled man finished by stating:  "We (footballers) are not the brightest but you play football all your life.  There are hundreds of us in the same situation.  After finishing football, there is nothing to get up for in the morning."
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14 January, 2012

O'Neill wins top sports writer's prize whilst Eoin Hand gains deserved Special Merit Award:

TOP AWARD:  New Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill (left)
            Former Shamrock Rovers' manager Michael O'Neill has been named the Airtricity/Soccer Writers Association of Ireland (SWAI) Manager of 2011 in recognition of his achievements with the Dublin club in retaining the league title and leading the club to become the first Irish club to reach the Group stages of a major European competition.
            The new Northern Ireland manager saw off competition from Sligo boss Paul Cook and midfielder Joseph Ndo, Cork boss Tommy Dunne and Eamon Zayed, who has just moved from Derry City to an Iranian club.
            Derry's Gerard Doherty won the goalkeeper of the year award ahead of Brendan Clarke and Gary Rogers.  His former manager Stephen Kenny wanted to take him to Shamrock Rovers but the custodian is staying in his native city, where pre-season training has already started.
SPECIAL MERIT AWARD: Former Ireland manager Eoin Hand
           Eoin Hand received a Special Merit  "lifetime achievement"  type award.  As one of the unluckiest managers ever in world football (being denied World Cup qualification - 1982 - on goal difference from a wrongly allowed goal in the last minute of qualification from a group containing Holland, Belgium and France); Hand had a number of rough years but is now involved in a number of football related projects.  Foremost amongst those projects is helping Irish youngsters who have not gotten contracts renewed with clubs abroad and are in danger of being left on the "scrapheap."  He also liaises with young players who have gone over to England along with work in football media.
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13 January, 2012

Fairytale Ravenhill night as Ulster all but seal place in Heineken knock-out phase:

Ulster's Trimble running riot at Ravenhill
With Ulster flying; Leinster on a roll and Munster also looking likely to emerge from their Pool;  what odds an all-Irish Heineken Cup Final (in England) in 2012?!         

             Ulster have enjoyed many famous nights at their ground of Ravenhill.  However, beating possibly the biggest British franchise in professional rugby;  the Leicester Tigers, must really top everything else.  Spearheaded by a forward pack led by Chris Henry and masterminded by fly-half Ruan Pienarr; Ulster played second (third and fourth) best for just about the entire game.
           Whilst Ulster's foreign stars were monumental; it was apt that it was homegrown talent which was the key difference and broke Leicester's back when all was said and done.  David Trimble's second try early in the second-half put Ulster over the 14 point lead, which was really the game defining score and a deficit the visitors were never going to recover from.
           Yes, Ulster won the Heineken Cup in 1999; but that was without any English clubs so there is an argument that should Ulster win their Pool (and it looks very likely that they will) then the 2011-'12 season will become Ulster's greatest.  To knock Leicester out of the competition and beat the two time Heineken Cup winners by 34 points tonight (with a bonus point) was a truly sensational achievement and should Ulster win their Pool; there won't be many sides who will relish visiting Belfast for the Quarter Finals.
What odds an all-Irish Heineken Cup Final in 2012?
           Having under achieved over the last 12 years; Ulster now must perform in Clermont next weekend.  The fact is that the northern province look much more than a top eight European side.  With Leinster on a roll and Munster also looking likely to emerge from their Pool;  what odds an all-Irish Heineken Cup Final (in England) in 2012?!
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12 January, 2012

Viva la Mexico: two Cork teenagers return after six month soccer trial:

Alan O'Flynn (right) in action for Cobh
            Two Cork teenagers; Peter Nolan and Alan O'Flynn (cousin of former Cork City player John O'Flynn) have just returned to Cork following a six month trial with professional Mexican club;  Leones Negroes.
            The 18 year olds first completed their Leaving Cert last summer before heading over for a five-and-a-month trial.  Alan had an uncle in Mexico and told his friend Peter that they were looking for players.  
            The two lads crossed the Atlantic and said they found it difficult to get used to training over the first few weeks, as the altitude and heat were a big factor.  A typical day would have involved rising at 5:30a.m. for a training session, then sleeping most of the day and possibly another training session in the evening.  Training was six days a week with a one week break in October.
Peter Nolan (foreground) in the same game
             Due to the three foreigner rule; there was no room for the two lads at the club and they were not offered a contract when their trial finished at the end of December.  The lads played golf in their spare time and were held in high regard by the other players.  They also visited charities and an orphanage in the city, who were highly impressed.
            The boys' future plans hit a big glitch when their coach was sacked in early December.  This was the final nail in the coffin for the boys who were given letters of reference thereafter.  
            The new manager had three games and had to win all three with the boys being told that they would have to be let go as they could be a distraction.  The boys said going to Mexico was hugely beneficial to them, to their game and that they have had some interest from clubs in the U.K.
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Banks pressurising GAA club officers:

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            GAA's Director of Finance Tom Ryan, has assured club officers that they will not come under personal pressure from banks regarding arrears on club loans and debts.
             Some clubs have claimed that their officers were warned by banks that they could be personally liable for debts.
             However, Ryan said that while club trustees might have signed a loan agreement, they were only doing so on behalf of the club and could not be held personally responsible.  
           "As long as everything has been done, club officials are indemnified," said Ryan.  Ryan was at pains to stress the latter point as individuals being liable for club loans would undoubtedly reduce the number of officers who would make themselves available for work within clubs.
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