Benitez to give young crew Carling Cup chance

LIVERPOOL manager Rafael Benitez is ready to unleash some of the club’s promising youngsters against Crewe in the Carling Cup – but not at the expense of a place in the next round of the competition.

While strengthening the Reds first team for a Barclays Premier League title challenge has been Benitez’s priority he is also building for the future and bolstered the reserve side with an array of talented youth players.

The policy has begun to reap its reward as Liverpool won the Premier Reserve League title last season in addition to their back-to-back FA Youth Cup wins in 2006 and 2007.

Emiliano Insua, Damien Plessis and Daniel Pacheco in particular are three players who have received encouraging reports from reserve-team coach Gary Ablett.

All three will hope to be involved in the third-round clash against the Coca-Cola League One side but Benitez is wary of fielding below-strength teams in the competition.

The Spaniard had his fingers burnt in 2005 when he fielded an inexperienced team in an FA Cup match against Burnley and was criticised for being disrespectful to the tradition of cup competitions in English football.

“It’s an important competition for us but it’s also one which gives us the chance to use some different players,” said Benitez.

“We have to be careful though. We want to win the game and go on to win the tournament so while we can use some of our youngsters, we need to make sure we get the team right for winning.

Crewe will arrive at Anfield on the back of a 4-3 defeat at home to Southend at the weekend.

One player definitely in line to make his Anfield debut is Brazilian goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri, with first choice Jose Reina set to be rested.

Cavalieri, 25, was signed from Palmeiras in the summer.

Dubai proposal for Fitzgibbon final

by Fintan O’Toole

GAA President Nickey Brennan has revealed that next season’s Fitzgibbon Cup final may be played in Dubai.

Brennan made the suggestion at Saturday’s AGM of the Higher Educational GAA authority in Dublin.

The idea follows a request by All-Ireland SHC sponsors Etihad Airways to have a hurling match staged in the Middle East.

Said Mr Brennan: “Etihad have approached us about the idea of playing a hurling match in the Middle East. We’re just looking at the idea at the moment. We feel an exhibition match is not a great idea and I suggested on Saturday that the Fitzgibbon Cup final be a possibility for a game in Dubai.

“The idea has to start somewhere and we’ll look into it now and see is it viable. It’s the very early stages of the idea and no one should be running off thinking that this is a definite plan. We’re trying to come up with something to help our sponsors Etihad to promote hurling in their part of the world.”

Brennan also insisted that any proposal to play the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups before Christmas in order to alleviate player burnout could run into serious difficulties due to third-level exam timetables.

“I think there is a big problem with that proposal due to the semesterisation in colleges, which means there’ll be a lot of exams before Christmas.

“But the burnout debate is one that the third-level sector needs to contribute to and I’ve asked them to do that. We have management and Central Council meetings on Friday and Saturday week, and we’re expecting Comhairle Árdoideachais to come back to us with plans at that.”

One proposal that was passed at last Saturday’s AGM deals directly with the burnout issue, with Fresher students now ineligible to play in the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups. Brennan also welcomed some of the motions that were passed at Saturday’s AGM which should help avoid a repeat of the registration controversies that have marred the third-level GAA sector recently. Policing and military students are now allowed to only play at third-level in the first two years of their courses, while the Fresher competitions are now restricted to U21 players only.

“It’s no secret that the Sigerson Cup problems this year was a black mark on the GAA season. I found it disappointing and I said to Comhairle Árdoideachais that they needed to get their act together. They’ve addressed that with the subsequent motions and I’m hopeful that it will continue to be a very vibrant scene of the GAA.”

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