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In The Irish News - Feb 21 1998: Croatia up for as Republic launch Euro qualifying bid

Mick McCarthy's Republic of Ireland faced a tough start to their European Championship qualifying campaign
Andy Watters

THE Republic of Ireland face a tough start to their European Championship qualifying campaign when facing World Cup finalists Croatia and Yugoslavia in their opening games at the start of next season.

Mick McCarthy’s team, bidding to reach the Euro 2000 finals in Belgium and France, start with a game against Croatia on September 5 in Dublin followed by a visit to Belgrade on October 10 to face Yugoslavia.

“We have to play these fixtures at some stage and I’m quite happy that two of our first games are at home against Croatia and Malta before next Christmas,” said McCarthy.

“The last thing we wanted was back-to-back games against the Croatians and Yugoslavs and we have avoided that situation.”

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CELTIC head coach Wim Jansen has marked May 16 as a special date in his diary – but if his side reach the Scottish Cup final he predicts they will be well rehearsed for such an occasion.

Dutchman Jansen sees every game remaining this term as effectively being a final as Celtic aim for the treble of league and both domestic cups having already lifted the Coca-Cola trophy.

The latest of these so-called finals sees second-placed Celtic take on Kilmarnock at Parkhead with Jansen looking for a repeat of Monday’s convincing 2-1 Cup win at Dunfermline.

That victory was among Celtic’s most self-assured this term and backs Jansen’s assertion his side are not merely aware of the pressure on them, but relishing it.

“Every player needs to be really concentrated now for every match and I think they understand that is necessary as every game is a cup final for us now,” he said.

“The way we have played recent games has been very good as we have put pressure on the opposition from the outset and that is important from our way of playing.

“I am happy with the way my players have responded to the pressure and we need to have the confidence to keep going – we know the pressure is on.

“Every team we play against from now on will want to beat us. We know we have to win trophies by ourselves.”

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ST JOSEPH’S HIGH SCHOOL, Coalisland, produced a brilliant second half to inflict defeat on favourites St Mark’s Warrenpoint in this Ulster Bank McDevitt Cup (U14) Vocational Schools semi-final at Davitt Park, Lurgan, yesterday.

For the second successive day the Warrenpoint school bade goodbye to their title hopes, having lost their U16 All Ireland title to Holy Trinity Cookstown the previous day.

St Mark’s struck for two goals in the minute before half time through Eoin Harper to lead by 2-5 to 0-6 at the interval.

The game looked out of the reach of Coalisland three minutes into the second half when Eoin Harper sent to the net followed by a Gerry Leddy point to establish a nine point lead.

But St Joseph’s dug deep in their reserves of ability and strength. Gerard Toner raced in for a goal after ten minutes and then added a point.

Suddenly with ten minutes remaining Gerard Toner scored his second goal to level the game. In a fantastic finish St Mark’s struck for a goal from Liam Byrne and a point from Ciaran Fegan. Again St Joseph’s responded with four points to level the game with three minutes left. Then Paul Day capped a fine display with a goal which gave them the lead for the first time and they held out in a nail-biting finish.

They now meet St Mary’s Limavady in the final in Dungannon on March 6.

St Joseph’s scorers: G Toner (2- 3), P Day (1-0), W Whitehouse (0- 4), S McNeice (0-4), R O’Neill (0-3), P McGahan (0-2), J Hughes (0-1)

St Mark’s scorers: E Harper (3-3), R Sloan (1-2), L Byrne (1-0), L Ward (0-1), C Fegan (0-1), G Leddy (0-1)

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