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Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Monday, 3 August 2009 13:09 UK

Irish minnows await Liverpool

By Stephen Fottrell

Ireland has already hosted one of the unlikeliest pre-season pairings of the summer - Shamrock Rovers and Real Madrid - but that match-up is about to be surpassed in the David versus Goliath stakes.

Steven Gerrard
Dunmanway are hoping to see Gerrard grace their team's borrowed pitch

Tiny Dunmanway Town from the southern Irish county of Cork are preparing to host the might of Liverpool - or at least a Liverpool XI, which they are assured will feature some of the club's big-name stars.

The amateur side, who play in the West Cork Soccer League, landed one of the coups of the summer when they optimistically invited last season's English Premier League runners-up to visit, only for the Reds to accept their offer.

They have since spent the summer readying the town, which has a population of around 2,500, for the arrival of one of the world's most famous club sides on Thursday.

The team has borrowed a local school's Gaelic Games pitch for the day and has drafted in just over 7,000 seats - from the same temporary stands used in Shamrock Rovers' narrow 1-0 defeat by Real Madrid in July.

Our capacity will go from one to 7,000 for this game

Dunmanway Town manager John Buckley

"We normally play in a farmer's field in front of around 20 people," manager John Buckley told BBC Sport.

"Someone might normally bring a deckchair or something to sit on, so our capacity will go from one to 7,000 for this game."

Buckley is a lifelong Liverpool fan himself and says the one-off game has created massive excitement in the area and nationally.

"The town has been painted red to welcome Liverpool and it's just given a huge boost to the area," he said.

"There will be fans coming from all over Ireland, as well as from England and beyond."

Club treasurer Andrew Healy says the local anticipation is akin to Nick Hornby's book Fever Pitch.

The team have recent signing David Hall, a local doctor, to thank for Liverpool's visit as he used a number of football contacts and perseverance to persuade the Reds to take them up on their offer.

The pitch in Dunmanway being prepared for Thursday's match
The temporary seating has transformed the local school's pitch

Hall has been made captain for the day for his efforts, but it is not the only highlight of his week as his wife is also due to give birth to their first baby on the day of the match.

"I don't think there's any chance of me missing this match," he said.

"But don't be surprised if you see me bolting from the pitch mid-way through."

The hosts have also been given permission by the Football Association of Ireland to draft in five players from teams in the League of Ireland - the country's professional and semi-professional divisions.

As for the team they will face, Liverpool say that it is likely to be made up mainly of reserves, but that there should be some big names travelling.

The Dunmanway manager, unsurprisingly, is hoping to see one name in particular on the opposing team-sheet.

"We're hoping that because Steven Gerrard didn't make the pre-season trip to Asia that he'll need the match practice," Buckley said.

"To see him here would be a dream come true.


"But I'm not bothered - even to be playing the reserves is a massive deal for us."

The tie was briefly threatened by an invasion of local rabbits, who dug holes in the pitch but have since been scared away by the construction of the temporary stands.

Hall - a Manchester United fan - is hoping his own charges will not display any "rabbit in headlights" symptoms and is confident of keeping the scores down for at least the first half.

"I'm a bit worried for my players to be honest, but we should be all right, we'll try and hold them out until half time," he said.

Buckley, meanwhile, is expecting many in the crowd to be cheering for the visitors, but is ready to put aside his Liverpool loyalties for the day and concentrate on his own team's efforts.

"We'll give it a good go and hopefully we'll outshine Shamrock Rovers' efforts against Madrid," he said.

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see also
Pre-season football photos
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Fans still hope to buy Liverpool
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Liverpool set focus on youngsters
28 Jul 09 |  Liverpool
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21 Jul 09 |  Europe
Gaelic David sizes up football giant
16 Jun 09 |  Europe

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