FAI considering summer tournament


A CLUB tournament, featuring some of the top teams in Europe, is one of the projects being discussed by the FAI to mark the ending of the association's 75th anniversary in the summer.

Officials at Merrion Square state that a number of options are being examined and that the possibility of bringing four club teams to Dublin for a weekend extravaganza, presumably at Lansdowne Road, is one of them.

The competition, as envisaged at this point, would be on the lines of the recent pre-season spectaculars at Wembley, with semi-final games on a Saturday, followed by the final 24 hours later.

It is not clear which club teams the FAI has in mind but presumably, Manchester United is one of them. Liverpool could be another with the Continent represented by possibly Juventus and Real Madrid.

The advantages of the scheme is that at a time of year when it is pretty much impossible to organise full international games, club teams would be more receptive to the prospect of preparing for the new season by participating in a lucrative tournament.

The debit side is that there would be no direct Irish involvement and that the cost of staging it, even with sponsorship and the probability of big crowds at enhanced admission prices, would be considerable.

Ideally, the FAI would have preferred a full international to serve as valuable match practice for the World Cup meeting with Lithuania at Lansdowne road on August 20th but they concede that this is now highly unlikely to materialise.

The FAI has already published an official history to mark its anniversary and other celebrations, including a formal dinner ahead of the 1998 UEFA Congress in Dublin, are being examined.

Meanwhile, the association is expected to enter into formal discussions with its Liechtenstein counterpart before the end of the month, with a view to having the World Cup meeting of the countries, scheduled for Lansdowne Road on June 7th, brought forward to mid May.

Owen Coyle, the Republic of Ireland forward who has made more than 350 Scottish and English League appearances, yesterday joined Motherwell from Dundee United for a fee of £350,000.

He will link up at his new club with Tommy Coyne, another of the Scottish born players who qualify for Ireland under the ancestry rule. Ironically, it was as a replacement for Coyne that Coyle won his only full cap in the 1-0 win over Holland at Tilburg in May 1994.

At the time, he was playing with Bolton Wanderers, his only English club in a career which has encompassed spells with Dumbarton, Clydebank and Airdrieonians. Now after some occasionally inspired performances for Dundee United, he goes to Motherwell in the hope that at 30, he can stay in the top flight of Scottish football.

It was announced yesterday that Irish supporters hoping to accompany the national team to Cardiff for the meeting with Wales at Cardiff's Arms Park on February 11th, can purchase tickets through the FAI. They range in price from £13 to £21 and applications are now being taken at the FAI's ticket office (tel 01-6627828).