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Friday January 24, 2020

Five footballers to watch for 2020

courtesy of RTE

Paudie Clifford has featured in the past for Kerry juniors


Paudie Clifford (Kerry)

With Clifford as a surname, Paudie was never likely to slip under the radar, but 2020 could be a significant year for David’s older brother.

Instrumental in East Kerry’s first county title in 20 years, the potent forward was named man of the match in the decider and has done enough to warrant action for Kerry seniors, at least starting out with the early season competitions.

A Sigerson Cup medal winner with UCC this year and a Junior All-Ireland winner in 2018, he was a surprise exclusion in the Kerry set-up under Peter Keane in 2019, but his performances are likely to warrant at least some early season action in 2020.

David Clifford says his sibling played “ridiculous” football this year, while former Kerry forward Colm Cooper accurately predicted it would be only a matter of time before he dons the green and gold at senior level.

“He can score, he travels very strong with the ball and he has a lot of things going for him,” he said shortly before it was confirmed Clifford would be part of Keane’s early season Kerry panel.

Damien Gore (Cork)

The Kilmacabea forward is yet to make his championship bow for the Rebels, but the main reason for that is an ankle injury picked in May.

Gore had featured in four league outings in 2019, but Ronan McCarthy had to plan without the corner-forward for the summer. He did however make a full recovery and was instrumental in the U-20’s comeback victory over Dublin in the All-Ireland final, picking off four points from play.

Had he played senior football, he would have been ineligible to play in the U-20 grade.

A prolific scorer in the minor grade at a time where Cork came unstuck against successive all-conquering Kerry teams, Gore’s ball winning ability, awareness of space and deadly accuracy could be a major boon to the Rebels as they look to make a swift return to Division Two football and compete for a place in the Super 8s.

Oisin Mullin (Mayo)

Named among the top 20 players of this U-20 competition, defender Oisin Mullin has already caught the eye of James Horan.

Mullin was called into the senior panel last season on the back of impressive showings with the U-20s and was an unused substitute in the Super 8s contest against Mayo in Croke Park.

It has been a busy winter for the young defender as he was part of the Kilmaine team that claimed a Connacht junior title and started at wing-back in an experimental Mayo side that defeated the Underdogs in October.

A player with no shortage of silverware to date – he won a schools All-Ireland in 2017 with Ballinrobe – he could be part of a fresh crop of Mayo players ready to make an imprint on the starting team.

Peadar Ó Cofaigh Byrne (Dublin)

“He’s an absolute beast, but he’s mobile as well. So you’re going to see a lot more of him.” Those are the words of Brian Fenton, the five-time All-Ireland winner speaking shortly after their latest Sam Maguire success.

Ó Cofaigh Byrne was part of the Dublin U-20 team that reached this year’s All-Ireland final, with his black card a significant contribution to Cork’s victory on the day.

The 6’6” midfielder is touching on 100kgs and offers a formidable presence around the middle third. Jim Gavin saw enough in the Cuala man to give him his chance during the Super 8s dead rubber against Tyrone this year and was part of the match-day squad for the All-Ireland final.

Used for large parts of his underage club career at full-back, Ó Cofaigh Byrne is likely to become a bigger part of new manager Dessie Farrell’s plans over the coming 12 months and recently captained his club to an U21 county title.

Eoghan McGettigan (Donegal)

The Donegal forward line is becoming an increasingly competitive environment, but Eoghan McGettigan is doing his best at club level to catch Declan Bonner’s eye.

The Naomh Conaill man has starred at centre-forward on their journey to an Ulster final, kicking six points in the semi-final win over Clontibret.

Eoghan McGettigan, left, has been a key part of Glenties’ success this season
Bonner in fact drafted McGettigan into his larger panel in the earlier part of the year, and his lively performances in the 11 jersey, not to mind deadly finishing, should see him put forward a better case for Donegal inclusion.

Jack Woolley secures Olympic qualification in taekwondo

courtesy of RTE

Jack Woolley has enjoyed a remarkable year ahead of the 2020 Games

Dublin taekwondo star Jack Woolley has secured his place at next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Following on from his French Open silver medal last month in Paris, Woolley had to wait until the final qualifying event took place before his place at the Olympics was guaranteed.

It was Wooley’s eighth podium finish of the year, following on from his successes around the world, including gold medals in the Australian and Turkish Open and he will now become the first Irish athlete to compete in taekwondo at the Olympics.

The 21-year-old Tallaght native also won silver medal at the US Open and the European Championships.

And as a result of Friday’s outcome, where Chinese rival Yushuai Liang failed to reach the final of the World Taekwondo Grand Slam, the South Dublin Taekwondo star secured his spot at the 2020 Games.

“I’m just relieved to be honest,” said Woolley, speaking to The Echo.

“We got really excited about this two weeks ago, thinking we had done it, and then when we heard it might not happen, it was just the worst feeling in the world.

“But now that I’ve qualified, I’m just so relieved. I’m still waiting for it to sink in.

Bratislava confirmed as city to host Slovakia v Ireland

courtesy of RTE

Mick McCarthy will bring his team to Bratislava

The Slovakian FA have confirmed that the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final will be held in Bratislava.

Slovakia had been playing in Trnava while their stadium in the capital was being renovated.

They did use the new Tehelné Pole against Paraguay in March but it has yet to host a game at total capacity of 20,000 so doubts remained over the choice of venue.

However, they confirmed today that the game will be held in Bratislava.

It takes place on Thursday 26 March, kick-off 7:45pm Irish time.

Ireland are entitled to 5% of the tickets, which is around 1,000 but the FAI are hoping to secure more for visiting fans.

The winner of the game will play Bosnia and Herzegovina or Northern Ireland in the Path B play-off final.


Lowry wins prestigious Golfer of the Year award

courtesy of RTE

Shane Lowry won The Open on Irish soil

Shane Lowry has been awarded the Golfer of the Year award, edging the victorious European Solheim Cup team to the coveted title.

The Offaly native secured this year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush and was duly recognised by the Association of Golf Writers.

Lowry secured this year’s title with just a handful of votes to spare ahead of Catriona Matthew’s side who recorded a remarkable victory over the USA at Gleneagles.

“It is a huge personal honour for me to be voted as the 2019 Golfer of the Year by the Association of Golf Writers and it’s many members around the world,” said Lowry.

“To be chosen by the men and women who report on our game across the globe on a weekly basis is very special and it’s an honour to join the illustrious names on the Golf Writers Trophy, which includes many multiple major winners and Ryder Cup captains.

‘”I very much look forward to celebrating this award with all of the golf writers at the annual AGW dinner at Royal St George’s ahead of my Open Championship defence next summer.”

The award is open to any golfer or golfers born in Europe and is voted on by members of the association who have offer three preferences.

Dublin outpacing rivals on and off the pitch

courtesy of RTE

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifted Sam Maguire for the fifth time in a row this year

To the victors come the spoils.

In a year that they became the first county to win a senior men’s five-in-a-row, and recorded a hat-trick of ladies titles, Dublin have announced record commercial income of €2,355,250.

That is an increase of 34% on the 2018 figure of €1,553,394 and almost double the €1.2m earned in 2015, the year that the first of the five consecutive All-Ireland football championships was captured.

Dublin didn’t release a breakdown of that income but the increase can attributed to a number of factors.

A new five-year deal with main team sponsors AIG is believed to now be worth around €1m a year as opposed to the previous record sum of €800k annually.

A growing number of secondary commercial sponsors, from ‘hydration partners’ Ballygowan to ‘official sleeping partner’ The Gibson Hotel, have hitched their wagons to what is now a phenomenally successful brand.

Dublin were reportedly selling 30,000 replica jerseys and 100,000 items of county merchandise in 2016 so we might assume that figure has soared in a historic, triumphant year.

For example, Cork made €260k on jerseys and merchandise in 2019 despite their football and hurling teams both exiting the championship at the quarter-final stage.

In comparison to Dublin, this year’s runners-up Kerry earned €786k in commercial revenue while Cork, who have the country’s second most lucrative sponsorship deal with Chill insurance, were third with €639,500, a decline from the 2017 peak of €708,621.

Dublin commercial manager Tomás Quinn (L) at an event in AIG last year
Despite their financial buoyancy, Dublin have spent less on their inter-county teams than rivals in recent years. The 2019 figure of €1.37m was a very small increase on the year before .

Kerry, Cork, Galway and Mayo have all outspent the Dubs in recent years but some of that differential must be put down to expenses for players that have to travel longer distances to training than their Dublin counterparts.

How do these counties earn less but still keep up in spending terms? Mostly through fundraising, which Dublin effectively don’t have to do – they raised just €88,445 this year.

Kerry, by contrast, raised over €500k through their Cairde Chiarraí supporters club, golf classics, greyhound racing nights and now well established events in the USA.

Cork, who are facing a multi-million euro debt on the redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh, recorded an annual deficit of €550k this year.

Their team spending rose by over €100,000 to €1.62m while commercial income declined by almost €60k. Profit from their members’ draw was down to €160k, half of the 2015 figure.

One of the factors in Dublin’s commercial success over the last five years has been the appointment of former player Tomás Quinn as a full-time commercial and marketing manager.

Roscommon, Mayo and Wexford have all followed suit in creating similar positions and Cork identified hiring a commercial manager as a key priority in their annual report.

Dublin recorded a €1m surplus this year but their financial accomplishments could lead to renewed calls for pooling of income to help less wealthy counties compete or a reassessment of the €1.3m that the GAA invest annually in the capital in games development.

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