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Campus plans earn support from FIFA

Drafting of legislation to merge the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority has commenced and a new statutory body replacing the two -- Sports Ireland -- should be in place by the end of next year.

The decision to merge the two was announced late last year and in recent weeks the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has written to sports bodies to confirm the process is now under way.

Sports Ireland will be based at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown and will be responsible for all aspects of Irish sport -- high performance, participation, research, athlete support, facility development and management, and so on.

Steady progress continues to be made at the campus, as the FAI, IRFU and GAA press ahead with plans to put playing pitches there. FIFA's awarding of a $500,000 grant towards the project was a significant boost last week. As campus chief executive Barry O'Brien noted, it was "a vote of confidence by an international sports federation in the future of the National Sports Campus".

Next month, work will begin at the campus on developing multi-sport all-weather facilities which will be open to the public.

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IN the song With God On Our Side, Bob Dylan tried to put words to the futility of war and how your enemy one day can be your friend the next. Given that Graham Nash described him as "one funky-looking dude on a golf course," and Dylan spoke about his own game with the words "I swing it like a baseball bat," we're pretty sure he wasn't thinking about the Ryder Cup.

The USA team this weekend, however, do appear to have the advantage of divine support. There's history here, of course. In 2006, captain Tom Lehman famously sported a bracelet inscribed WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) which prompted many at the time to suggest that the good Lord probably wouldn't have joined in the victory dance on the 17th at Brookline.

This weekend, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson represent born-again Christiandom on the team. Simpson is particularly open about his faith, branding himself on Twitter as "a sinner loved by a saviour." When he won last summer, he declared: "I'd be stupid not to thank my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, because it was tough out there and I was nervous."

In 2007, after Johnson won the Masters, he said: "It being Easter, my goal was to glorify God, and I hope that I did that today." Bubba Watson, too, reflecting on his green jacket victory, remarked: "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will."

But if God loves everyone equally (even the sinner) why would he desert the Europeans in favour of their American opponents?

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IN the second half of the St Patrick's Athletic-Shamrock Rovers game last Tuesday, an unseemly tussle developed on the touchline between Rovers' left-back Shane O'Connor and fourth official Paul Tuite.

The ball had gone out for a throw-in, and O'Connor, anxious to get on with the game, took one of the balls that Tuite was guarding. Tuite grabbed it from him, and they tussled until O'Connor finally gave up and went in chase of the ball that had been kicked further down the line.

It was surreal to see an official slowing the game down, but Tuite had the law on his side -- the match ball can only be changed with the permission of the referee to ensure that only the regulation ball is used.

In UEFA games, there is an insistence on speeding play up. In the Inchicore situation, O'Connor was lucky he wasn't booked, as he had been booked earlier. How farcical a sending-off would that have been?

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THOSE looking for a glimmer of hope when Ireland host Germany in the World Cup qualifier on October 12 in the Aviva might like to note that it is Germany's 39th away qualifier, stretching back to 1934 -- and they have yet to be beaten on foreign soil.

Their only two losses in World Cup qualifiers have been at home -- to Portugal for the 1986 World Cup, and to England for the 2002 competition. So it's the 39th step for the Germans and, if they are superstitious, that is three times 13. After Kazakhstan, that's about the only crutch we Irish can hang on to.

John Greene, Fergus McDonnell and Seán Ryan


Sunday Indo Sport