Toulouse, then the All-Blacks

CARDIFF’S Millennium Stadium is a place of mixed emotions for Mun- ster men — there was the gut-wrench- ing defeat to Leicester in 2002 and the natural high of beating Biarritz four years later.

Marcus Horan saw action on both those days, but Cardiff was the fur- thest thing from his mind on Sunday afternoon as Munster threatened to throw it all away against a battling Saracens side.

He admitted as much after the heart-stopping 18-16 victory. “We were feeling the pressure,’ he said yeaterday (Monday). “There were a

few line breaks that they made at the end but everyone was battling hard to keep them out.

‘I didn’t realise they were so close — | thought they needed a try and I only realised how close they were at the end. Really, it was nail-biting stuff. It was a classic semi -final.

“Everyone expected us to breeze through it, but Saracens are a well- drilled side and we were under no illusions.

“I don’t know if there was a huge confidence among the fans. There is an expectation built up over the past few years with what we’ve achieved getting to the latter stages of the competition but as a team, we’ve suf-

fered so many disappointments that we can’t take anything for granted. With Alan Gaffney over them, we knew we couldn’t take anything for granted and they’ve some great bat- ase

“We knew what we were up against and we tried to block out what the Supporters were feeling before the game. We put ourselves under pres- sure in the last few minutes. It must have been hell for our supporters but at least we came out the right side and it was a good test for our defence,” he added.

Only then did Horan allow his mind fast-forward to the Millen- nium Stadium on 24 May. “Looking

ahead, it should be a great occasion. Like ourselves Toulouse did enough to get through. That’s what a semi- final is all about, even if you have to win ugly.”

Winning ugly on 24 May would do too. Then Munster could think ahead to a showdown with the All-Blacks on November 18th next to mark the reo- pening of the redeveloped Thomond Park. Thirty years and a few weeks to the day of that 12-0 win that made Munster famous in the first place.


Hanley happy to slay demons

AS CLARE manager Colm Hanley says himself, comparisons with last season’s All-Ireland decider with Derry were inevitable. In that Croke Park meeting, Derry stung Clare with a late, late win but Hanley says this experience was used by Clare to defeat Derry on Saturday evening.

“We knew we had it in us to win the league,” he says. “In fairness, we were the better team on the day and we followed through on that. I still think we were the better team when Derry beat us in Croke Park last year, but this time we stayed going.

“It’s obvious that there would be mention of that game, particularly as we were meeting Derry in another national final and in Croke Park we just didn’t put them away, so it was pleasing to do that this time round.”

As the clock ticked down and with Clare leading, Derry were thrown something of a lifeline with four minutes of injury time announced.

“When the few minutes of extra time was announced at the end it was a real flashback to our last game but even if the referee played ten minutes added time, we never looked like conceding.

“It goes to show that we’ve learned from that experience and hopefully that’s something we can use in the months ahead because Clare really showed enormous conviction.”

With the league secured, Clare move on with the championship on their minds and three more weeks of training has been scheduled before the players take a week off at the end of May.

‘The season was divided into two sections at the start of the year. The league and the championship. We wanted to play well first and fore- most in the league and maybe secure a win. Now that we’ve got the title, it’s full steam ahead for the champi- oyeravl On

“But we’re not looking at Croke Park just yet. We’ve three tough group games to get through against

Offaly, Down and Antrim with our first outing on June 29. But for now, we’re just delighted with the way things have gone in the league. The ereat thing 1s, we have a nice mix of experience and emerging talent and that augurs well for the future.”


Home advantage key for Clare

EVERYTHING is going for Clare — they rode their luck to beat Down in the semi-final and have been handed a home tie in the final.

Playing in Cusack Park will, how- ever, pose its own problems for Deir- dre Murphy’s team and the added anxiety to perform well in front of their home supporters will no doubt add some pressure.

Donegal are a strong physical side and it was this strength throughout the field that saw them through to a 1-13 to 2-4 win against Waterford to qualify for Sunday’s decider. Clare are without doubt the more skilful side and despite having the lack of natural ball winners in the midfield area, their work rate and eagerness in this pivotal position makes up for any lack of physical presence.

Captain Louise Henchy is a Trojan worker at midfield and has recently struck up a great playing relationship with both Sandra Malone or Fiona Lafferty. Ideally Henchy should be at

centre forward but with Tammy He- hir still struggling to regain full fit- ness she is likely to again command the central role on Sunday.

Defensively Clare has searched all year for the right combination. The loss of Coolmeen’s Grace Lynch to London for this year’s league was major blow, yet the recent return to county training of her club mate Sinéad Eustace is a big boost for the ornate

While Eustace may or may not start on Sunday she will definitely play some part in proceedings. Sinéad Kelly of West Clare Gaels is also a player who is maturing into a serious inter county star. Kelly relishes the battle and gained much experience from her club’s progress to the All- Ireland final last year.

She is sure to play a big game this weekend and won’t lack in confi- dence or experience. Lorraine Kelly is also another player who won’t be overawed by the occasion. Although sometimes a slow starter the Fergus Rovers player has the uncanny knack

of getting the better of her opponent as games go on. If she gets into the game from the start in the final she could be pivotal to Clare’s chances CO) Herero ice

Up front though is where Clare will be expected to do most damage. Young player of the year Eimear Considine of Kilmihil is having an outstanding tournament to date. The Kilmihil ace, newly graduated from last year’s All Ireland U-16 B win- ning team, has contributed an incred- ible 6-5 to Clare’s total in this year’s league campaign.

The aplomb in which she took some of these scores belied her tender years and she is the perfect compliment up front for such established players as Niamh Keane (Banner Ladies) and Aine Kelly (Fergus Rovers).

Aine Kelly is no slouch either and has clocked up a formidable 3-11 in the Suzuki league to date so hope- fully this strike rate will continue on Sunday. The key however to success on Sunday could be the perform- ances of the West Clare Gael’s duo

of Marie Kelly and Majella Griffin. Kelly is a workaholic forward and often both creates and finishes her scores. Majella on the other hand is the ‘Maurice Fitzgerald’ of Clare ladies football. Often anonymous, but when in possession exudes class and has an uncanny accuracy when it comes to scoring. Her kicking and fielding technique is a joy to watch and she is without doubt the most ac- complished footballer that will be on view next Sunday (and that includes the Cork and Kerry match).


Foottfall is not helping trade

DESPITE more people on the streets, retailers in Ennis admit there has been a dip in the level of business ac- tivity in the town.

A more cautious customer, rising rents and rate levels and a reduc- tion in parking spaces are among the principal reasons behind a gradual slowdown, Say retailers

On a broader level, the overall downturn in the economy is high- lighted as another contributory fac- ro) a

Retailers also believe that a recent survey carried out by Retail Excel- lence Ireland and CB Richard Ellis doesn’t provide an accurate reflection of the business picture in Ennis. The

survey carried out in March 2007 showed that footfall on Ennis’ streets was up 39 per cent, bucking the trend at national level, which showed over- all footfall on Ireland’s streets to be down 17.3 per cent.

Gearoid Mannion, Chairman of the O’Connell Street Trader’s Associa- tion, said the findings were a snap- shot and didn’t factor in the changes in customer spending habits.

“Pedestrians aren’t necessarily shoppers. We had this before when Ennis Town Council tried to trum- pet the findings of a similar survey. Foottfall equals people on the street. That could be young children, babies in buggies. It doesn’t measure wheth- er or not people are buying.

‘Most businesses would be finding

themselves in a tight situation, with rents going up and rates too. It’s not completely drastic, that’s for sure, but the spender is becoming a bit more cautious and a small bit of reality is setting in. It is a competitive market- place and retailers are going to have to be more competitive.”

Oliver Moylan, owner of the Ennis Cash Company, believes activity has levelled off. He maintains this is due to the loss of parking spaces along Ennis’s main thoroughfares.

“At the moment, a lot of businesses in the town are struggling to sur- vive and a lot of places have closed down.

“When you take away parking on the main street, you keep away peo- ple who are in town to go shopping.”


Retailers say survey not a true reflection

THE INCOMING president of the Midwest Marketing Association has rubbished reports that says there are more shoppers in Ennis than ever.

Nationwide research carried out by Retail Excellence Ireland and CB R1- chard Ellis put Ennis in the top two in terms of percentage increase foot- fall in the main shopping areas.

The survey said that hourly footfall in O’Connell Street in March of last year was up 39 per cent. The only

other centre surveyed which enjoyed an increase was Patrick Street in Cork, which was up 50 per cent, ac- cording to the research.

The Ennis figures were up on the 1,917 shoppers recorded in March 2006 to 2,658. Ennis and Cork were the only two centres to show an in- crease. Others were down by up to 48 per cent.

But Ennis retailers say that if that was true then, it’s no longer the case.

Olwyn King, sales manager with The Gift Venue in Abbey Street and

soon to be chair of the Midwest Mar- keting Association, said that “this 1s definitely not the case. It’s absolutely dead around town. You’d do more business on Monday now than on a Saturday.”

Having been in retail in the town for 10 years, Olwyn says she “can’t see how there could be increased footfall. I think people just aren’t coming into town. It’s frightening to see how quiet town is. You only have to look at all the vacant premises.”

The situation with parking and the

opening of the bypass are contribu- tory factors, the sales manager be- WAVene

“There isn’t enough parking and there is virtually no parking for coaches – just a couple of bays at the Temple Gate which is a long walk. “The tourists aren’t coming in, par- ticularly the US tourists. It’s a combi- nation of a lot of things but everyone is feeling the pinch.”

CEO of the Ennis Chamber of Commerce, Rita McInerney is not so convinced that the figures are

wrong. “Business is steady in Ennis. It’s possibly an exaggerated rise but they are a reputable company and it is encouraging that it is an indication of an upward trend,” she said.

She added that “as a county, we have done extremely well in recent times and you couldn’t continue at Webel eaten “We have to look at our competi- tiveness in terms of rates and energy costs and there needs to be some assistance for the retail sector from Government in those terms.”


RiverSide support

MORE than eight in 10 people in Ennis support the development of a major retail park in the town, a new SUT Voa Ol tbe the

The proposed RiverSide Quarter development at Cusack Park is sup- ported by 84 per cent of people in Ennis, according to the survey.

Crest Retail Excellence Ireland was commissioned by the Aisling Chiosoig Partnership to survey at- titudes of Ennis residents to current shopping choice in Ennis as well as shopping habits and attitudes of resi- dents to the Cusack Park project. “The results show that a world-class retail development within Ennis town centre will be unequivocally

welcomed by most people. It is also the opinion of the great majority of Ennis residents that the proposed Cusack Park development will vast- ly benefit the town’s prosperity,” a spokesman for the partnership said.

At a time when many town centre traders are closing their doors, the Aisling Chiosoig Partnership plans a €350 million mixed-use develop- ment to be known as the RiverSide Quarter.

The 10-acre Cusack Park is cur- rently the subject of a rezoning sub- mission to Ennis Town Council by Clare GAA.

The survey was carried out in En- nis town over the first week in March. A sample of 839 respondents were interviewed on three separate days.


Danone dream ends

THE dream of winning a place in the National Final of the 2008 Danone

Nations Cup, and possibly going on to represent Ireland in the World Fi- nals in Parc de Princes, Paris in Sep- tember, has ended for valiant Clare Rare b sete

Avenue United and Lifford had won the honour of representing the Clare

League in the South West Regional final of the Danone Nations Cup, which took place on Saturday in Rathkeale.

The competition was fierce through- out the day with several games de- cided by penalties.

Avenue United put on a talented display in the group stages earning them a place in the Finals where they were unlucky to lose on penal- ties to Killarney Celtic (Kerry). To

get there Avenue beat St Brendan’s 2-0 in their opening tie, while they then beat Mungret 1-0 on penalties to secure their final place.

In the shoot with Killarney Celtic in the final out both Liam Kearney (Kil- larney Celtic) and Eimhin Courtney (Avenue United) scored excellent Opening penalties for their respective teams. Shane Cronin also scored a terrific penalty despite Avenue’s keeper going the right way while Brian Guilfoyle’s effort skimmed the crossbar and went over.

When Darren O’Docherty stepped up to take his teams final penalty and despite the pressure he held his nerve and slotted the ball home thus ensuring a trip to the National finals for himself and his team

mates. Elsewhere fellow Clare league representative’s Lifford failed to progress past group Stages.


Councillors attack Harneys credibility

COUNCILLORS have demanded that Minister for Health Mary Harney come clean and honour commitments made to the people of Clare regarding the future of Ennis General Hospital. Ms Harney’s credibility came under attack at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Clare County Council.

Members used the occasion to voice concerns over the lack of a definitive response on the future of Ennis Gen- eral Hospital.

Mayor of Clare Patricia McCarthy said current uncertainty and the ab- sence of honesty were a “dreadful indictment of the Government and of Mary Harney herself”.

Cllr McCarthy said, “I have been in politics for over 30 years and the thing I value most is my word. I am not saying Mary Harney is dishonest, but people are giving commitments in the interest of political expediency.”

The meeting was also told that a de- cision over the retention of 24-hour A and E at Ennis General Hospital and on the proposed €39 million in funding earmarked for Ennis rested with Brian Gilroy, National Director of the Health Services Executive.

There was also a warning to Fianna Fail members representing Clare in the Dail and to the party’s local grassroots ahead of next year’s local A TeL wey a Ise

Peter Considine, a senior member of the party and a long-serving mem- ber of Clare County Council, said that while there had been some 1m- provements at Ennis General Hospi- tal, “If that €39 million were to slip off the table, then a lot of people in the county will have to consider their position.”

Cllr Considine, who is recovering from a life-threatening illness, said he owed his life to the staff of Ennis General Hospital. “I wouldn’t have made it to Barefield or Clarecastle, let alone Limerick,” said Cllr Considine.

The chamber was debating a series of motions on Ennis General Hospi- tal. Cllr Joe Arkins (FG) asked that Minister Harney make a definitive statement on the future of the hospi- ee

He added that if past commitments were not honoured, Clare’s repre- sentatives in the Dail “would have to realistically consider their position”.

Cllr Pat Daly (FF) urged all mem- bers to write to Brian Gilroy at the HSE and ask him to keep Ennis Gen- eral open. Cllr Sonny Scanlon (FG) said, “I have the greatest respect for Timmy Dooley and the rest but they are only names.”

Cllr Brian Meaney (GP) said a recent report on an outbreak of Clostridium Difficille at Ennis Gen- eral Hospital highlighted significant ODKOLO) PON sLFO MOO ComorO lO bream E-LOVU IB [oe


Gearing up for next W TO talks

THE wagons have started to circle ahead of next months WTO talks with the Minster for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan, travelling to Berlin last week for a meeting with her German counterpart, Horst See- etae

According to Coughlan, the pair discussed a wide rang of WTO rfre- lated issues and agreed that the latest developments posed great dangers to EU agriculture and they expressed strong dissatisfaction with the direc- tion the talks were taking.

Both Ministers were agreed on the need for balance under the current proposals and that EU agriculture could not be sacrificed for the sake of a deal.

Following on from her meeting with her German counterpart, Coughlan has arranged a further meeting with Commissioner Mandelson, to take place today.

Coughlan is likely to use the op- portunity to outline her dissatisfac- tion with the current direction of the talks on WTO and the serious dif- ficulties that could emerge for Irish agriculture.

A large number of Clare farmers attended the national IFA protest against WTO in Dublin last week.

“Despite it being a very busy time on farms – naturally more than 10,000 farmers protested. The large rally gives a definite mandate to President Padraig Walsh to try and persuade our government and Eu- ropean politicians for a complete u-

turn on the deal that is proposed,’ said IFA Chairman Michael Lynch.

“No deal is better than a bad deal and with food inflation and scarci- ties in parts of the world why should European and Irish consumers be forced to become dependant on food from South America while their own agriculture industry is made redun- CP Tal a

Meanwhile, speaking in the Dail last week, Clare TD, Joe Carey (FG) put pressure on Coughlan to stand strong on the WTO.

“Mr Mandelson is following an his- torical British obsession with cheap food. The UK can no longer feed it- self and this mode of thinking was fine when they had an Empire behind them but we now live in a different world,” he said.

“You Minister must not fall into the trap of thinking that protection of the Single Farm Payment will suf- fice and keep people happy at this time. This is not at issue here. This is not a time for presentation and mealy mouthed responses.

You have previously not acknowl- edged the seriousness of the deficien- cies of Brazilian beef and at this time both you and the Taoiseach need to send out a strong and unequivocal signal from the Council of Ministers that this deal in its current state is just not on.”


McMahon welcomes new age limit

CLARE farm leader Martin McMa- hon has given a qualified welcome to the EU Commission to raise the age limit at which the vertebral column must be removed from cattle from 24 to 30 months.

Speaking after the EU announce- ment, the ICMSA’s Chairperson of Beef and Cattle Committee and O’Callaghan’s welcomed the deci- sion but said that it was further rec- ognition of the substantial drop in BSE numbers and the need now to re-examine the need for certain BSE regulations.

According to McMahon the deci- sion will remove a significant cost

for meat processors and thus will enable them to boost returns to beef JET UNAS ESE

“The occurrence of BSE cases in Ireland has virtually come to an end. It is therefore very clear that the controls in animal feed are working effectively and that BSE regulations must be further reviewed to take un- necessary costs out of the system,” he said.

“Some regulations are no longer relevant or scientifically justified and are simply adding costs on farmers and the processing industry. These superfluous regulations must be taken out of the system as soon as possible.

“A clear example of this is the regu-

lation to test all cattle over 30 months for BSE. There has been a proposal at EU level for over 12 months to raise this to 42 months but ICMSA has been very disappointed with the level of progress on this issue.

“ICMSA has received a govern- ment commitment under “Towards 2016’ to increase the age limit and this commitment must now be im- plemented without delay.

“ICMSA estimates the delay to be costing Irish beef farmers €6m per annum and we stress that this is an utterly unnecessary cost at a time when beef farmers are facing other escalating input costs.”

McMahon stressed that the news must be only a first step in stripping-

out unnecessary costs for beef farm- ace

Meanwhile, supermarkets in Japan announced last week that they had removed beef products from their Shelves following the discovery of spinal columns in a consignment supplied by the US.

Spinal columns are designated as a specified risk material for bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE.

According to Daiei Inc, its 333 out- lets had beef products from the fac- tory on sale. After removing them, a notice was put up that read, “Taking customers’ concerns into considera- tion, the sale of these products from the concerned packer has been halted until an inspection proves it is safe.”