In The Irish News on May 17 1997: McStay and di Canio blows for Celtic
CELTIC appears to be in the vicelike grip of some sort of curse. For the beleaguered club was yesterday rocked by two pieces of devastating news, the upshot of which is likely to be that captain Paul McStay and star performer Paolo Di Canio have played their last games in the green and white hoops.
McStay's 17-year professional career adds up to one of the most illustrious in Scottish football history and he has spent it exclusively at Celtic Park, despite having opportunities to move on.
Yesterday the wear and tear of almost two decades at the top resulted in the 76-times capped former Scotland skipper announcing his retirement from the game through injury.
On any other day the sad end of the playing days of the greatest modern-day Celt would have claimed the spotlight.
But the latest outburst from Di Canio, who signed on a four year contract in a £1 million move from AC Milan only 11 months ago, has changed all that – only days after he claimed that like McStay he would like to finish his career with the Glasgow side.
The point of no return for the winger at the club was yesterday reached after he lambasted Celtic managing director Fergus McCann by way of an extraordinary open letter to the club's supporters that was passed to an Italian journalist, in which he addressed them as "my dear friends".
In it he accused McCann of breaking a promise to improve his contract and claimed that other players would be reluctant to join Celtic while the present set-up remained and that the players currently there will be looking to make a fast exit.
Tyrone, the provincial kings for the past two years, are under starters orders. A terrible season so far is no form guide to what they have to offer the Championship. Tyrone might click, might not, and if not face the axe.
Down, Ulster's most successful county in All-Ireland winning terms of the 1990s, aim to make sure the latter occurs.
A race to the wire. It is anybody's game, guaranteed to be a highly-charged affair. And opinions are very much divided on this opening trial of contestants.
Crackling tension, anticipation, no lack of appeal, yet an air of apathy also appears to exist. Its breeding ground is the performance of Tyrone since last August's mauling by Meath in the All-Ireland semi-finals, and questions over the unknown quantity of what Down have left in the tank.
There were reports of match ticket sales being slow this week, and allowing for the game being live on TV, attendance at Clones is not expected to challenge the 28,000 for last season's preliminary round bout between Down and Donegal.
The Down senior hurling team to face Wicklow in tomorrow's Division Three encounter with Wicklow is as follows: G Clarke; P Monan, K Coulter, B Smith; M Mallon (capt), M Braniff, M Coulter (snr); S Murray, G Savage; B Coulter, M Bailie, J McCrickard; M Coulter (jnr), G McGrattan, N Sands. Subs: G Smith, C McGrattan, B Milligan, J McGrattan, M Blaney, B Birt, P Coulter, J Brown.
Darren Clarke further enhanced his Ryder Cup chances yesterday by breaking the course record with a 64 in the second round of the English Open at Hanbury Manor. However, Clarke's stay in the record books did not last long as American Jay Townsend weighed in with a 63 to move into third place at the halfway stage. Clarke is one shot further back in joint fourth place.