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The Irish News Past Papers - Dec 24 1998: Celtic stars set to return but Craig Burley injury nightmare continues

Jackie McNamara and his Celtic team-mates return to the championship fray today against Dundee United at Parkhead
The Irish News Archive

A TRIO of Celtic stars are in contention for squad places in Sunday’s trip to Dundee after emerging unscathed from a behind-closed-doors friendly yesterday.

However, Craig Burley’s injury nightmare continues, the international midfielder breaking down in training, ending his hopes of returning from a two-month absence due to a groin problem.

Jackie McNamara, Marc Rieper, and Regi Blinker all played the full 90 minutes in the friendly match with Falkirk at Celtic Park, which the home side won 4-3.

The crucial goal came from young Irishman Liam Keogh, who had replaced Norwegian misfit Harald Brattbakk after he jogged the memory of coach Josef Venglos by firing a hat-trick.

Speaking after the practice match, Danish defender Rieper played down suggestions that he might make his first start since October 17.

“I don’t know, I think to play a full game is maybe a bit too much but it’s up to Josef and Eric if they want me to be part of the squad for that game.

“Certainly I’m very pleased to be back playing again and that’s the main thing”, he told the Celtic Hotline.

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IT will be a long time before the battle of the Ulster breaststrokers at the 1998 British Short Course Winter Championships in Glasgow will be forgotten.

The 100 metres breaststroke race set the pattern.

Andrew Bree (Ards), swimming first, clocked 1 minute 04.14 seconds, a new Ulster Junior and Senior record.

His senior clubmate Mark Craig quickly retrieved the senior mark with his own USR of 1:04.02 in the next heat.

And their arch-rival Michael Williamson of Lisburn kept the momentum up with a 1:04.80 personal best time.

That got the three warriors into the semi-finals, a new gala innovation which allows the fastest 16 from the heats to swim again, and the fastest eight of them to progress to the final.

Michael swam 1:04.57, another PB; Mark swam 1:03.71, another Ulster senior record; and Andrew broke both Ulster junior and senior records again in 1:03.52.

Nor was Mr Bree finished.

In the final of the 100 breast he lowered the double Ulster mark again to 1:03.26.

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CATHERINA McKiernan underwent a knee operation last week but the athlete last night insisted she remains on course to defend her London Marathon title in April.

The Cavan runner yesterday pulled out of the BUPA Great North Cross Country in Durham on Saturday week - an event she won last year.

But the Irishwoman, who travel from her Dublin base to her native Cavan for the Christmas break today, said she was confident of returning to competitive action at the Ras Na hEireann in Dunleer on January 17.

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SPARTA’S Donal Gallagher leads the entry for the 13th annual Greencastle Five Mile

Road Race on St Stephen’s Day.

Gallagher will be going for his fourth successive win in the Tyrone event.

Hazel McCausland is defending the women’s title.

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