FARREN TO FORE
IT may have been the last match of the season, but the players of Derry City and St Patrick's Athletic showed no signs of tiredness last Sunday as they battled against the elements for the honour of winning the FAI Carlsberg Cup. And no one seemed as fresh as City's flying striker, Mark Farren.
No wonder, for as he told me later, his season was really only beginning. "I missed between two and a half and three months because of injury, then I lost out in the UEFA Cup run because we were playing one up front and I couldn't get in as the team was doing so well," he explained.
Most impressive was the manner in which the ball "stuck" to him when it was played up to his feet. "That's something I've been doing a lot of work on," he said.
Although he's 24, Mark has only played up front for the last three years, converted from left-back by Derry reserves. He spent three years at Tranmere Rovers as a left-back; they must be mad at themselves for not trying the Donegal man in their attack.
THE GAFFER STEPHEN KENNY is in the great tradition of managerial 'fixers' - he takes over clubs in trouble, fixes the problem, and moves on to the next challenge. Sometimes, of course, a manager doesn't always move of his own accord, and Kenny has had experience of that side of the game also.
After earning his spurs with Tallaght Town and St Patrick's Athletic U21s, Kenny took on Longford Town when they were close to the bottom of the First Division. Three years there saw them ensconced in the Premier Division, in their first FAI Cup final and competing with distinction in the UEFA Cup (another first).
That alerted Bohemians, who were struggling in ninth position in the Premier. He saw them to safety and the Cup final in his first season, the League title the following year, and runners-up spot the year after, but defeat to Estonian side Levadia Tallinn earned him a shock sacking.
Derry City then snatched him up and he wrote the final chapter in that particular success story last Sunday with victory in the FAI Cup to go alongside the League Cup triumph and a runners-up spot in the League. Not to mention a fantastic eight-game UEFA Cup run.
No wonder Dunfermline have placed their trust in him. Today he faces his biggest test, with the visit of runaway leaders Celtic, on the back of two heavy defeats. A leaky defence appears to be his biggest problem, and just how well he deals with that will determine whether Kenny can cut it at this level.
ONE TO WATCH STEPHEN QUINN has always been one of the best players in his age group but, because of his lack of stature, he has lost out on international honours most of the time. A combative, fiery midfielder, who wants to be a winner, his small, wiry frame conceals a big heart.
Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock has a lot of time for Quinn, whose brother Alan is a regular first team player. Warnock sent Stephen out on loan to gain valuable experience with MK Dons and Rotherham United last season, but he has kept him at Bramall Lane this season as he feels he will need him in the Premiership.
Quinn finally made his Premiership debut last Saturday in the 2-1 win over Charlton, and he rewarded Warnock's faith in him with a competent display. Still only 20, Stephen has proved himself in the lower divisions and just needs a regular run in the Premiership as the next step in his career.
SAID AND DONE "PLAYERS pick the team, not me. Makelele, Essien and Frank Lampard are untouchable because of the way they play, not because I love them. Michael Ballack, John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, Ashley Cole and Drogba - they are untouchable. The right-back is not untouchable. that is why I try this and that. Sheva is not untouchable because of the way he is playing.
Jose Mourinho gets all touchy-feely about team selection at Stamford Bridge
SOCCER ON TV TODAY - Sky Sports 1: Barnsley v West Brom, 1.15; Chelsea v Arsenal, 4.0; Valencia v Deportivo, 8.0. Setanta: Dunfermline v Celtic, 2.0; Lille v St Etienne, 5.0; Lazio v Roma, 7.30.
TOMORROW - Sky Sports 1: Sheffield United v Aston Villa, 8.0
TUESDAY - Sky Sports 1: Nottingham Forest v Salisbury, 7.45
WEDNESDAY - Setanta: Blackburn Rovers v Nancy, 7.45. Sky Sports 1: Wigan Athletic v Arsenal, 7.45
FRIDAY - Setanta: Vfl Bochum v Borussia Monchengladbach, 7.0. Sky Sports 1: Luton v Southend, 7.45
SATURDAY - RTE2: Arsenal v Portsmouth, 3.0. Setanta: Fiorentina v AC Milan,7.15