TUESDAY marks the 50th anniversary of 'Coad's Colts' against the 'Busby Babes' when Shamrock Rovers became the first Irish club to play in the European Cup, squaring up to the might of Manchester United in the first leg of their preliminary-round tie.
Dalymount Park was jammed to the rafters on September 25, 1957 as 46,000 fans watched United, then English champions, put six goals past a Rovers team led by player-coach Paddy Coad.
The scoreline flattered United as Noel Peyton twice hit the woodwork while Liam Whelan, a local Cabra lad, scored twice for United early in the second half.
No one present could have imagined that less than five months later, the gifted Liam, along with Roger Byrne, Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor and David Pegg, who all played at 'Dalyer', would lose their lives in Munich.
With Coad outstanding, Rovers went down fighting 3-2 in the second leg at Old Trafford on October 2 where Jimmy 'Maxie' McCann became the first League of Ireland player to score in a European club competition.
CLUBS continue to over-reach themselves financially in the eircom League of Ireland and are ignoring the protocol from Merrion Square, which insists clubs cannot spend more than 65 per cent of turnover on players' wages.
A pilot scheme by the FAI's Licensing Department for the 2006 season has confirmed the worst fears. Only 11 clubs were compliant, and of the other nine -- Dublin City disbanded and Limerick lost their league status -- three of them spent over 100 per cent of turnover on wages.
One club, Shelbourne, spent a massive 161 per cent of turnover on players' salaries.
ONE IN A MILLION
CLIVE CLARKE'S recuperation from a major heart scare has been helped by the sale of the colt he co-owns, Myboycharlie, a Group One winner, to the powerful Coolmore Stud for a cool £1m.
The Hammersboy Syndicate includes Clarke, Teddy Sheringham, Matthew Etherington, James Collins, Carl Fletcher and Danny Gabbiadon.
CUP ROUTE OPENED
THE FAI are offering a route to the lucrative Setanta Cup for the winners of the First Division, provided they defeat the eircom League Cup winners in a play-off.
The First Division title appears to rest between Cobh Ramblers and Finn Harps while Derry City and Bohemians meet in the League Cup final at the Brandywell on Tuesday, October 9.
THE IFA's economy-first approach to travel is to be reassessed after Manchester United's Johnny Evans was fined for a drink-related matter in the wake of Northern Ireland's recent defeat in Reykjavik, following an earlier fine to Keith Gillespie.
"Maybe we should have chartered a flight home straight after the game," said IFA chief executive Howard Wells.
"The players had free time on their hands and they were frustrated with the way the game was lost at the end of a long time away."
With a chartered plane and a clutch of private jets at the ready, Republic of Ireland players are back in their cots in jig-time these days.
STEPHEN KENNY'S excellent Cup pedigree continued last week when Dunfermline beat three-time winners Airdrie to reach the semi-finals of the Scottish Challenge Cup. They will play Ayr United at home next month.
While the Pars have yet to fire in the league, they are also through to the third round of the CIS Cup. They play Hearts at Tynecastle on Tuesday.
THE fine-tuning for a 10-team League of Ireland Premier Division in season 2009 has yet to be worked out, much to the consternation of the clubs. A three-down, one-up, scenario is likely next season.
With 10 teams, the season will be run over 36 matches, with teams playing one another four times, twice at home, twice away.
SOCCER ON TV
Today: AZ Alkmaar v Ajax, 11.30 Setanta Sports 2; Newcastle Utd v West Ham, 1.30 SS1; PSV v Feyenoord, 1.30 Setanta Sports 2; Hibernian v Celtic, 2.0 Setanta Sports 1; Manchester Utd v Chelsea, 4.0 SS1; Lyon v Lille, 8.0 Setanta Sports 2; Valladolid v Real Madrid, 8.0 SS2.
Monday: St Patrick's Athletic v Bohemians, 7.30 TG4; Cliftonville v Linfield, 7.45 SS2.
Tuesday: Reading v Liverpool, 7.45 SS2.
Wednesday: FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final, 1.0am BBC 2, Eurosport; Hull City v Chelsea, 7.45 SS2.
Thursday: FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final, 1.0 BBC 2, Eurosport; Real Madrid v Real Betis, 9.0 SS2.
Friday: Schalke 04 v Hertha Berlin, 7.30 Setanta Sports 1; Longford Town v Drogheda Utd, RTE Two 7.55.
Saturday: Motherwell v Rangers, 12.30 Setanta Sports 1; Manchester City v Newcastle Utd, 12.45 SS1; Birmingham City v Manchester Utd, 5.15 Setanta Sports 1; Norwich City v Sheffield Wednesday, 5.20 SS1.