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12 February 1998 Edition

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Sportsview: Reds need to keep their nerve

What a turn around in the fortunes of Cliftonville Football Club. From finishing at the wrong end of the inaugural Premier Division last season to their long-suffering fans' buses being attacked by a Billy Wright-orchestrated loyalist mob in Portadown, the club is now sitting pretty on the top of the Six-County Irish League.

Barry O'Connor's 20-yard first-half strike was enough to see the Reds four points clear at the top of the table with a 1-0 win over Portadown at Solitude on Saturday. The Reds did however slip up on Tuesday night with a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Crusaders. They still remain four points clear.

As the championship race enters the last quarter of the season the North Belfast side are on course to take the title and claim a first ever place in the European Cup. Hang on in there lads.

In the FAI Cup there were some interesting results over the weekend and some cracking cup ties to look forward to in the FAI Cup. Shamrock Rovers found themselves knocked out by Athlone Town, St Pat's beat Cobh, while the last of the non-leaguers, Whitehall Rangers, went out to Longford Town.

The draw for the quarter finals sees League toppers St Patrick's Athletic take on cup holders Shelbourne in a Dublin derby. Both clubs have hit the big time in recent years, taking over from the traditional big two of Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers, and it promises to be a battle royal. Cork City vs Sligo Rovers is the other big tie, leaving some of the `lesser' sides a chance of cup glory.

Robbed at Tynecastle!


The chance for Celtic to go top above Hearts and Rangers was lost again. After Rangers lost to St Johnstone and draw against Dunfermline at Ibrox things were starting to look up.

Celtic were by far the superior side against Hearts, scoring in the 40th minute through Jackie McNamara and having two goals disallowed. After Hearts' sprightly start the Celts stamped their authority on the game, running the show from every position on the pitch. Hearts substitute Quitongo spoiled the Celts return to the top of the table with a late undeserved goal in the 89th minute.

Dons debate hots up


The papers were again full of conflicting reports regarding the Dublin Dons. Hammam still reckons he has the backing of National League clubs. He was in Ireland again, this time giving a press conference at Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel.

Meanwhile, Wimdledon fans under the guise of the Wimbledon Independent Supporters' Asssociation are reported to have planned a mass demo in Ireland over the next few weeks. They deserve the support of all Irish soccer fans.

There is also some controversy over Ireland playing Jamaica in the soccer friendly in London. Some journalists are saying the FAI cannot oppose Wimbledon's move to Dublin yet want to play a `home' international in London. Utter rubbish. The two situations cannot be compared. London has a large Irish and Afro-Carribean population and the match affords them the chance to see their homelands in action. Bad news for Irish fans in London however came on Tuesday with the announcment that the English FA has blocked the match because it might have an effect on English league attendances that weekend.

In the world of GAA the final of the Inter-Provincial Railway Cup was won by Ulster, beating Leinster by 20 point to 17 at Clones.

BY CIARAN HEAPHEY


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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