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21 May 1998 Edition

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Sportsview: Let the battles commence

Championship time is well and truly on us again, and Ulster provided the entertainment last week with the meeting of Tyrone and Down in the Preliminary Round at Omagh. Down won through with the experience of the older players, particularly Ross Carr and Mickey Linden, proving decisive.

Tyrone were missing a number of key players due to injury; their forwards were never expected to shine without Peter Canavan and although they scored two goals, it is steady point scoring that grinds out victories in the Championship. That said, midway through the second half it looked as if Tyrone were going to pull off a shock.

Down always seem to get better as the summer ploughs along - their style suits the firmer ground. They now look like contenders for the Ulster title. Armagh are their next opponents and they should beat them but these neighbouring counties have an intense rivalry and Down certainly will have their work cut out.

Ulster however is the most competitive of the provinces and predicting the eventually winners is always tough. I have a sneaking suspicion Donegal could do the business.

In Leinster the usual preliminary games between the `weaker' counties continue. Westmeath disposed of a Longford side hard done by, despite the 3-14 to 1-13 scoreline in favour of Westmeath. Interest only gets going here when the big guns come in, namely, Meath's meeting with reigning champions Offaly and the Dub's meeting with Kildare.

Connacht kicks off this weekend with the holders Mayo taking on Galway. Should be no problem for the Mayo men. The big game in Munster is between All-Ireland holders Kerry and arch rivals Cork. After a disastrous league campaign Kerry could well lose their titles to the Rebel County.

In hurling Cork won the National Hurling League title at the expense of Waterford, who had a litany of wides in a game which had an under-generous seven-point winning margin for Cork. The Rebel County back to winning ways just in time for the Munster title and all-Ireland glory, which has been absent by the Lee for some time, by their standards.

FAI Cup replay


Staying with Cork, the city's soccer team took the FAI Cup home on Saturday night in Dalymount Park for the first ever time. One has to feel sorry for the Shelbourne lads, finishing second again after finishing runners-up to St Pat's in the league after contributing so much entertainment to this year's campaign. Derek Couglan's 73rd minute strike was the difference betwen the two sides.

And finally, Hearts won the Scottish Cup, giving them their first trophy in 36 years. And (ha, ha) you know who finished with shag all!

BY CIARAN HEAPHEY


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