Football/Soccer

In The Irish News: August 9 1997: Mick McCarthy backs Roy Keane being made Manchester United captain

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy (right) was happy when Roy Keane was appointed Manchester United captain 20 years ago.

Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy has backed Alex Ferguson's decision to appoint Roy Keane as Manchester United captain this season.

Keane was an automatic selection in the Republic's 22-man squad announced by McCarthy yesterday for the crucial Group Eight World Cup Tie against Lithuania at Lansdowne Road on August 20.

"I hope Roy makes a success of the job. There are a lot of people sitting in the wings hoping he will fall flat on his face as captain," said McCarthy.

"In 12 months' time I will be more than hopeful that the right decision has been made, and Roy proves himself at the highest level," he added.

Keane captained the Republic in a friendly against Russia in February of last year, after Andy Townsend retired injured at half-time. But it all went wrong for Keane in the final minutes of that game when he was shown the red card for allegedly kicking a Russian defender.

McCarthy has kept faith in the volatile Old Trafford man, though, and obviously is grooming him as Townsend's successor, hoping that maturity will come under Alex Ferguson.

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AFTER setting the hurling championship alight with his unrivalled skill against Galway, DJ Carey now believes Kilkenny can become the first beaten Leinster finalists to reach the All-Ireland final by beating Clare tomorrow at Croke Park (3.30).

The Cats' second-half comeback against Galway in the quarter-final was the game of the championship so far and Carey feels they can use that performance as a springboard to bigger things.

"There is no reason why we can't go on and win it from here, we're good enough," he said.

"We dug ourselves out of a hole against Galway but it was a position we should never have been in. When the team plays well we can probably beat anyone on our day."

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The exertions of running her two fastest career times in the earlier rounds took their toll on Ireland's Susan Smith in last night's women's 400 metres hurdles final in Athens.

Smith took seventh place behind surprise Moroccan winner Nezha Bidouane in a slightly disappointing time of 55.25 seconds. Bidouane (52.97) overtook Jamaica Olympic champion Deon Hemmings in the closing 10 metres to take the gold. Hemmings held on for silver (53.09) while defending champion Kim Batten was third (53.52).

Smith was up with the leaders over the first-half of the race but she tired noticeably over the final 150 metres. She admitted afterwards that she had probably gone out too fast over the opening 200m.

"My coach told me to take it out. Go fast and look for a medal. That's what I did. That's OK...I tried. I had nothing to lose. I'm really happy."

Corkman Mark Carroll, who had come into the championships following some encouraging performances around Europe, failed to qualify for tomorrow's 500m final after he could only finish 14th in 13.57.88 – 45 seconds outside his personal best – in his semi-final.

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Manchester United begin the defence of their Premiership crown at Tottenham on Sunday, with manager Alex Ferguson predicting the most open title race in years.

While the champions from Old Trafford have had around £50million worth of bids rejected as they looked to inject some continental class into a squad that also came within an ace of reaching the Champions' Cup final last term, the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Newcastle and Aston Villa have spent millions in a bid to halt United's run of four titles in five years.

And that prompted Ferguson to say: "I think that the way everybody has been buying and the intensity with which clubs have been spending money will make it a very interesting season.

"With so many players coming in and changing clubs, it makes it very hard to say who will be challenging this year".

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