Tuesday, December 22, 2009

James McCarthy looking for loan move

James McCarthy is hoping to go out on loan in January after failing to break into Wigan Athletic's first team following his move from Hamilton Accies.

The 19-year-old Ireland Under-21 international linked up with The Latics last summer after joining in a deal that could rise as high as £3million depending on appearances.

However, McCarthy, who was a first-team regular during his time at New Douglas Park, has been restricted to just two appearances totalling 83 minutes under Roberto Martinez.

McCarthy knows he is one for the future and has stiff competition ahead of him for places in Martinez's squad, however, he is keen to continue his education by gaining more experience.

"It is a big squad and it is difficult to get in the team, and it is a big step up from the SPL to the Premier League," he told the Glasgow Evening Times.

"If something comes in and the gaffer is happy for me to go out on loan and get some first-team games then I will be happy to do that.

"If not, I just need to try and work myself into the Wigan team."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Keogh out for three months - One Team In Ireland

Ireland international forward Andy Keogh suffered a long-term injury blow and has been ruled out for three months after damaging a ligament and tendon in his ankle in training yesterday and is set to undergo surgery.

Wolves Manager Mick McCarthy said: “Very sadly, Andy has damaged his ankle ligaments and tendon and has to have an operation. He will be out for 12 weeks.

“It’s a huge blow, because he is a great kid and he was so devastated when he got the news after he did it yesterday. He was running through on goal and got clipped as he landed.

“He scored a goal jumping over Wayne Hennessey and just rocked his ankle.”

Keogh was arguably Wolves’ best player in pre-season and had a superb first month in the Premier League, with the winner at Wigan the highlight of his encouraging early performances.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Charlize Theron continues her Irish support

Ireland didn't get to the World Cup, but Irish fans have a new champion in the form of Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron.

South African Charlize hosted the World Cup draw in front of millions of viewers across the globe last night, and made her feelings clear on France contesting the World Cup.

The star is in a long-term relationship with Irish actor Stuart Townsend and is a regular visitor to these shores.

Stuart is a fan of the Irish football team, and must have been disappointed by the controversial game between France and Ireland which saw cheating Thierry Henry's handball lead to the decisive goal which brought France to the World Cup.

Oscar winner Charlize was asked by tournament organisers to host the draw as she's from South Africa.

A host of sporting stars from across Africa and David Beckham were also asked to be involved.

South Africa are in group A -- and France were drawn in the same group. This prompted a number of boos in the auditorium, which led the actress to say: "Sometimes, I think 'no comment' speaks louder than words."

During rehearsals for the draw a day previously, Charlize jokingly pulled out Ireland for the draw to the embarrassment of the 'under-fire' FIFA president and his corporate stooges.

Given blasts discredited FIFA President

Shay Given has spoken for the first time about The France v Ireland World Cup play-off game and called the result and referee decision an 'injustice'.

Speaking to the Daily Mail Given said ‘Had the tables been turned and it’d happened to France I’d love to have seen the outcome. That’s an interesting question to ask with Michel Platini being the head of UEFA and Sepp Blatter up there. You’d love to know the outcome then, eh?’

Given is as unimpressed by Blatter as he is by Swedish referee Martin Hansson. The Donegal man is a phlegmatic character but this is a situation you feel he will never be able to relax about.

‘I still feel angry about the whole thing,’ he said. ‘All the stuff from FIFA and Sepp Blatter — just rubbish. A couple of days ago Blatter said he’d spoken to Henry and how it wasn’t his fault, it was the referee’s. A couple of days on and FIFA say they’re going to look into Henry.

‘Blatter didn’t have the decency to ring up our captain, Robbie Keane, and say, “I’m really sorry”. Blatter’s saying, “Oh, I’ve just spoken to Thierry and it’s all OK”. All the Irish players are sitting thinking, “Oh, well done, brilliant. Just rub more salt in the wound, why don’t you?”

'I can’t get over it, I’ve had so many sleepless nights just thinking about it. And they show it on TV 20 times a day so it’s hard to forget. I know we’ve to move on but then we’ll get it again next year when the World Cup’s on. It just beggars belief.

‘The officials have said since it wasn’t their fault. What can you say? It’s all a load of b*******. And all that rabbiting on from Blatter? That’s b******* as well.

‘It’s hard to explain, even now to you. My sister says she’s not slept. Everyone is really hurt by it all. They say it’s only a game of football but it’s more than that with something like this.’

Richard Dunne tells FIFA to shove their award

Ireland defender Richard Dunne said talk of Fifa giving his side a special award following their World Cup exit was "taking the mickey".

Ireland were controversially eliminated by France in the play-offs when Thierry Henry's handball set up the winning goal for William Gallas.

Didcredited Fifa president Sepp Blatter said the Ireland may get "moral compensation".

But Dunne said: "It's taking the mickey - give the Irish a plaque instead of going to the World Cup. It's a sop."

Blatter has said Fifa's disciplinary committee will look into Henry's handball incident incident in the crucial second-leg play-off match last month.

But Dunne said any gesture would not make up for the fact he would not be participating in next summer's World Cup finals in South Africa.

"It doesn't affect me one little bit what Fifa will do with Thierry Henry," Dunne said.

"Whether he plays in the World Cup or not, I won't be. Whatever Fifa do will probably be wrong anyway.

"From the moment the rules were changed for the play-offs, when the seedings were brought in, it was decided they wanted France through.

"It's always the same way Fifa think about Irish football. Unless you are a massive country or have massive sponsorship you're not going to be welcome."

And the Aston Villa centre-half said the Republic had no interest in getting an award from Fifa: "They can keep it.

"I would be very surprised if Robbie Keane, our captain, was going over to collect it."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Charlize Theron mocks FIFA with Ireland ball

At this stage we all accept that it is the nearest Ireland will get to the World Cup draw.

Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron (34) yesterday pulled an 'Ireland' ball out of the bowl during a rehearsal for the much-anticipated draw, which will take place in Cape Town tomorrow. Ms Theron, whose long-term partner is Irish actor Stuart Townsend, pulled out the 'Ireland' ball instead of a 'France' ball. No doubt the discredited president of FIFA Sepp Blatter would not have seen the funny side as his organisation and its Fair Play code have been badly tarnished by Blatter's support for Henry and his recent admission that he cheated himself as an amateur player, and found it acceptable behaviour.

Theron was having a laugh at FIFA's expense after the recent Contraversy when Thierry Henry helped cheat his way to the World Cup finals in the play-off game against Ireland.

"Yes, she did, but it was only a joke," FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said.

FIFA are the biggest losers over Blatter's disrespect

On the day Fifa killed off any chance the rule changes the Football Association Of Ireland has been calling for might be introduced in time for next summer’s World Cup, John Delaney, The FAI chief described the game’s governing body as the “biggest losers” in the controversy that has followed the play-off game in Paris and Sepp Blatter (sort of) apologised for the “wrong interpretation” of his comments regarding the association’s request to be added to the line-up for the event.

Members of Fifa’s executive committee did not, in the end, get the opportunity to follow their president’s lead by laughing at the Irish association’s request after the FAI sent word they would prefer the matter was not considered. At least in this regard Blatter and co were able to accommodate their colleagues in Abbotstown.

The key elements of Delaney’s submission in Zurich; that video be used to assist referees, that extra match officials be used and that the rules of the game should be reviewed so as to allow for the retrospective punishment of players who commit game-changing offences, were effectively disregarded, however.

Thierry Henry’s blatant handball offence in Paris is to become the subject of a disciplinary hearing but the organisation announced that the other issues shall be referred to a variety of committees who will examine the merits of introducing video evidence and additional match officials at some point after this World Cup.

Delaney reacted angrily, meanwhile, both to Blatter’s decision to make public the association’s request to be handed a place at next summer’s finals and the Fifa president’s demeanour as he did it.

“Well, it (Blatter’s laughter) was inappropriate and it was disrespectful to our country,” he said. “It was a confidential meeting we had last Friday, everybody agreed that it would be a confidential meeting, so when you have that it means that everything is kept indoors.

“The suggestion about a 33rd team or an extra team playing at the World Cup was very much peripheral to the conversations that took place. There was an hour and a half of a meeting and I think that was discussed maybe for a minute or two within the hour and a half. And there were far more substantial issues discussed than that issue.

“What he chose to do was breach confidentiality in a way that suited him – in an a la carte fashion – and I was disappointed that a president of Fifa would behave in such a way.”

Blatter, meanwhile, provided a wonderfully 'qualified' expression of regret for everybody else’s behaviour in relation to his handling of the matter. “I would like to express my regrets,” he said, “to a wrong interpretation of what I said and, to the FAI, I’m sorry about the headlines going around the world. I have nothing against the Irish, they were very sporting when they came to Fifa.”

That barely seemed adequate for Delaney who said that he had contacted his opposite number at Fifa, general secretary Jerome Valcke, to complain about Monday’s carry on in Cape Town.

“I gather that Blatter has apologised today. And he should do because he insulted us as a country. I tried to impress upon him last Friday the hurt that was in our country over how the whole Henry incident had affected our ability to qualify for the World Cup, and he clearly didn’t understand that given the way he acted subsequently.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Discredited Blatter forced to apologise to FAI

Discredited Fifa president Sepp Blatter has issued an apology to the Football Association of Ireland after he was accused of breaking assurances of private discussions regarding the ongoing World Cup saga.

The row erupted in the continuing fall-out from Ireland's elimination by France after Thierry Henry's now infamous handball.

FAI claimed Blatter had gone against his word by making the talks public knowledge and that it was asked for the subject of a 33rd team in next summer's finals to be ignored at Wednesday's meeting of Fifa's executive committee in Cape Town.

The accusation came after Blatter had originally raised the subject at the Soccerex business conference in Johannesburg earlier this week and his words were greeted with laughter from some delegates and businessmen present.

Bungling Blatter said: "In this connection I would like to express my regrets - my regrets to a wrong interpretation of what I have said in the Soccerex.

"I have only announced they have asked it, but the presence in the Soccerex they don't took it very, I would say, seriously.

"So I regret what I have created and especially towards the Irish Football Association, I am sorry about these headlines going around the world.

"Contrary I have nothing against the Irish, they were very sporting people when they came to Fifa and it is a pity that it has been now communicated in this way.

Blatter's half-hearted apology is unlikely to quell the growing unease at his poor leadership over the last few weeks and his personal comments have made a mockery of FIFA's so called Fair Play code.

FAI criticise FIFA President Blatter

The Football Association Of Ireland today voiced its displeasure that issues in the meeting with FIFA were 'singled out in public by FIFA President Sepp Blatter despite his assurances that the meeting would remain private.'

Blatter jokingly revealed at a press conference that the FAI had requested a 33rd nation place at the World Cup in South Africa.

The FAI also said it requested that the matter would not be raised at today's FIFA Executive Committee meeting.

The Association said it knew an additional place at the World Cup was never a possibility, while also criticising FIFA president Sepp Blatter's handling of the issue.

The full FAI statement.

The Football Association of Ireland acknowledges that the suggestion of an additional place at the World Cup is not a possibility and has requested yesterday that it will not be raised at today's FIFA Executive Committee meeting.

The FAI has already clarified that this matter was peripheral, was not raised in any of its formal written submissions to FIFA, and was explored only fleetingly as part of a wide-ranging 90 minute discussion with that body. Regrettably the matter appears to have been singled out in public by Mr Blatter despite his assurances that the meeting would remain private.

Instead of diverting attention, we would prefer that Mr Blatter uses this opportunity to deal with the issues which have been raised formally for the benefit of football worldwide.

1) Ensure that FIFA's rules cannot be changed mid-way through a tournament, for whatever reason, commercial or otherwise.

2) Introduce video technology for matches at the highest level which has been resisted for too long and which would have avoided the error that led, in part, to today's meeting.

3) Implement additional goal line assistant referees for all FIFA international matches.

4) In future, introduce stronger sanctions for players involved in match defining breaches of the Laws of the Game.

5) Issue a clear statement that FIFA does not condone breaches of the Laws of the Game. For a man in Mr Blatter's position to empathise with someone who scored a goal by cheating is inappropriate.

The FAI raised these matters only so that the likelihood of such incidents recurring be reduced and now leaves their consideration in the hands of football's world governing body.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Liam Brady blasts Sepp Blatter

Ireland assistant manager Liam Brady has blasted FIFA president Sepp Blatter for revealing the supposedly confidential details of a meeting with the FAI.

Speaking at a conference in South Africa, Blatter stated that the Irish had enquired at the meeting as to the possibility of being invited to next summer's World Cup as a '33rd nation' after their controversial play-off exit at the hands of France.

Blatter was seen to join in with the laughter that this news created at the meeting, and Brady is disgusted with the FIFA president.

"I was told that the FAI went to a supposedly private meeting with Mr Blatter and officials from FIFA a couple of evenings ago," he told Sky Sports News.

"I don't think they believed that Mr Blatter was going to reveal what was said at the meeting. I believe that they agreed it would be confidential.

"But I'm afraid Mr Blatter is a bit of a law unto himself.

"I thought he was very disrespectful how he presented this fact the other day at a business conference in South Africa.

"He totally ignored most of the controversial things that went on that evening. He never had anything to say about those at all. Like Henry's behaviour after scoring that goal and how that stands within his campaign to have fair play within the game.

"You see the goal and Henry celebrates as if he's done nothing wrong.

"Is that fair play? Hardly. But Mr Blatter chose to talk about our request to be considered as the 33rd team.

"I think when we asked for that we knew there was very little chance of that happening. We asked because we wanted to have them respond in a measured way and see what they had to say.

"After all Mr Blatter is responsible for the officials. He didn't say anything about the appalling mistake the official made to miss such a blatant handball.

"He didn't even have the grace to acknowledge the behaviour of the Irish players after the game. Not one player got booked after that incident, not one player got booked after the match.

"There were 20,000 Irish fans in the stadium. Not one fan caused trouble in the stadium in Paris that night, or in the city that night.

"Now I think my country deserves a little more recognition from Blatter than the way he presented it to the press conference in South Africa yesterday.

"I think the man is a bit of a loose cannon and embarrassment to FIFA."

Brady was also disgusted with the way in which Blatter had seemed to treat the matter as a joke in South Africa, and his revelations had been greeted with laughter by some of the audience.

"The way he presented it was bound to be," Brady added.

"He was presenting it to business people, and he's very close to business people. I think people will be watching Mr Blatter and his decisions very closely from now on.

"And of course England will have a lot to do with him, because they're trying to get the World Cup in 2018 and Mr Blatter will have a big say in that."

Brady also hinted at a broader conspiracy in favour of the bigger European sides.

"I've been a player and gone to Paris a couple of times and been on the wrong end of decisions," he said.

"I think when it comes to the big teams and big business in football you'll find that they usually get the decisions.

"Forget about that. We can accept that. What we can't accept is how he's presented the case to the media in South Africa yesterday.

"He needs to show some respect."

Houghton brands Blatter 'a disgrace'

Ireland legend Ray Houghton has branded FIFA president Sepp Blatter ' a disgrace' and accused him of ridiculing the Irish public after laughing at, and blowing out of proportion the FAI's request to be the 33rd team at the World Cup finals. The FAI are said to be bemused by the manner in which Blatter highlighted that particular aspect of the meeting (33rd team) and, privately, are well aware that it's a fanciful notion. Nor, when they actually met with FIFA last Friday, did the FAI propose any kind of mechanism for accommodating an extra team in the World Cup finals in South Africa'

Indeed, a written submission made by the FAI to FIFA contained no mention of that suggestion and instead focused on improvements to the game such as video technology, extra officials and sanctions for individuals who bend the rules. 'In fact, in their written submission to FIFA preceding the meeting, the FAI had not even mentioned the idea of filling an extra berth at next summer’s finals in South Africa, instead concentrating on issues designed to prevent incidents such as the controversial French goal in Paris from occurring again.

Blatter and the executive committee chuckled as he announced this and Houghton, who won 73 Irish caps, said: 'What he's doing is taking the mickey out of the Irish public as if they don't really matter.

'It's a disgrace. They were laughing at the Irish public which is shocking. The players worked so hard for two years to get to the World Cup and then some fellow's laughing about it and he's the head of FIFA.

'I can't believe he's in the position he is. When you're looking for leadership qualities and someone to make a stand...what's going to happen to Thierry Henry? Nothing.

'What we're saying now is that you can cheat and score and it's alright. That sends out the wrong message to the kids and what we need is someone to say 'this is not going to happen.'

Ex-Liverpool & Aston Villa midfielder Houghton added: 'I think had it been England involved it would have been very similar to Ireland because FIFA don't think too highly of the English.

'Blatter's quick to criticise Premier League clubs for spending too much money but I didn't hear too much when Real Madrid spent £80 million on Ronaldo and £60 million on Kaka. Blatter didn't say the Spanish were spending too much.
'If it was France, Germany or Spain and certainly Brazil or Argentina there would have been mayhem. You only have to look at what they did to the play-off seedings.

'The biggest tournament in the world and they left it until three weeks before the play-offs to decide there would be seeds

'When you look at the way he's treated Ireland and the competition it underlines how he has not led FIFA particularly well. He's a man who does what he wants even though I couldn't tell you what he does. To be ridiculed twice, laughing at the Irish after the seedings change, is shocking.'

Blatter was roundly criticised for his silence last week and made his first foray into the global storm with comments in 'L'Equipe' on Sunday detailing correspondence with Thierry Henry and effectively absolving the French skipper while blaming match referee Hansson. "I definitely gained an advantage by pulling a defender's jersey in order to score a goal. And I didn't go and see the referee to tell him about it," said Blatter, in a slightly unfortunate reference to his days as an amateur player.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

FIFA President breaks silence to support cheat Henry

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has revealed that he telephoned France captain Thierry Henry to offer him support over his controversial handball in the World Cup play-off win over Ireland.

"I called Thierry, because he tried to get in touch with me," Blatter told French newspaper L'Equipe.

"He was honest by admitting that he did use his hand, but it wasn't his responsibility to tell the referee.

"When I was a centre forward in my junior team, I definitely gained an advantage by pulling a defender's jersey in order to score a goal. And I didn't go and see the referee to tell him about it."

Blatter's remarks are incredible as he seems to be condoning cheating within the game & it certainly makes a mockery of FIFA's Fair Play code.

To quote Blatter prior to the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign - 'Fair play should come before anything else ... These qualifying matches must epitomise fair play. They should encapsulate the sporting, moral and ethical principles for which Fifa has always stood. And they must leave a lasting impression!".

Blatter's words sound very hollow considering he has basically said that cheating is fine as long as you don't get caught.

Its difficult to see how he can support Fair Play within the game on the one hand and on the other, ring the perpetrator of the cheating to console him and offer him his support.

Article one of the FIFA fair play code reads as follows : "Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure. Playing fair requires courage and character. It is also more satisfying. Fair play always has its reward, even when the game is lost. Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame. Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly."

The Fifa president had previously refused to comment on the incident, prompting criticism from Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive John Delaney.

France's play-off with Ireland was poised at 1-1 on aggregate in the second leg in Paris when Henry controlled the ball with his hand twice before teeing up William Gallas for the decisive goal,the linesman had a clear view of the Henry handball yet for some reason failed to make any signal to the referree about the act of blatant cheating by the French forward. The cheating incident sparked furious protests from the Irish players that were taken up by the Irish government.

The revelation that Blatter personally contacted Henry follows soon after the announcement by UEFA boss Michel Platini that the play-off's for the next European Qualifying Championships will be weighted heavily in favour of the bigger nations, with the play-off draw being seeded and the teams offered the chance to play the second leg at home.

Friday, November 27, 2009

UEFA show that Fair Play is a thing of the past with Euro Championship announcement

In a decision sure to prompt anger in many European countries, European football’s governing body UEFA has confirmed that not only will the play-offs for the 2012 European Championships be seeded — but the seeded teams will then be guaranteed home advantage in the second leg.

The Irish Examiner has learned that FAI chief executive John Delaney has already written to UEFA to express his concern about the plan. While opposed in principle to the seeding of the play-offs, the FAI boss is understood to be especially concerned about the decision to give home advantage to the seeded team in the return leg.

With the dust on Ireland’s controversial defeat to France in the World Cup play-off still settling, the UEFA initiative will be widely interpreted as further evidence that, far from promoting concepts of fair play, football’s international authorities appear determined to load the dice in favour of the game’s big powers.

The FAI and Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni were dismayed when FIFA belatedly announced that the draw for the recent World Cup play-offs would be seeded, the decision from Zurich only confirmed in late September when it became clear that European football superpowers such as Portugal and France were unlikely to progress automatically to the cup finals in South Africa.

Then, in what was regarded by Trapattoni as a further obstacle to his team’s chances of progressing, the bad luck of the draw gave the French home advantage in the second leg — although, as things turned out in the Stade de France last Wednesday, it ultimately took a travesty of justice to ensure the home side’s progress.

But, for the play-offs for the Euro finals in Poland and Ukraine in 2012, the home and away factor will not even be left to chance, with UEFA yesterday confirming that the seeded teams will automatically get to play the return match at home.

In response to an inquiry from this newspaper, a UEFA spokesperson referenced article 7.07 of the governing body’s regulations for the 2012 European Championship. After stating that the eight runners-up in qualifying will contest play-off matches, Article 7.07 — with the devil, as ever, in the detail — continues: "The four ties are determined by means of a draw. The four runners-up with the best position in the UEFA national team coefficient ranking system are seeded for the draw. The play-offs are played according to the knockout system, with each team playing each opponent twice, in home and away matches. The seeded teams play the return match at home. The teams which score the greater aggregate of goals in the two matches qualify for the final tournament."

Perhaps the only small consolation is that, at least this time, the FAI, in common with all the other European associations, have been appraised of the play-off rules well before their national teams even start out on the long road to Poland and Ukraine.

Giovanni Trapattoni also knows that his team already faces an uphill task before the qualifying draw takes place in February, with UEFA having confirmed last week that Ireland will be third seeds when the balls go into the pots in Warsaw, alongside Northern Ireland, Scotland, Israel, Bulgaria, Finland, Norway, Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The UEFA coefficients which determined these seedings are based on a complicated system involving performances in the 2006 World Cup finals and preceding qualifying campaign, Euro 2008 and its qualifying campaign and 2010 World Cup qualifying. But, although UEFA say that "more recent results are given greater consideration", Ireland’s unbeaten run in the regulation World Cup qualifying campaign was still evidently not enough to get them a place as second seeds alongside the likes of Czech Republic, Romania, Sweden and Turkey — all of whom failed to even make the play-offs.

The qualifying campaign for Euro 2012 will comprise six groups of six teams and three groups of five. The nine winners and best runner-up will qualify directly for the finals, with eight remaining runners-up contesting the play-offs. As co-hosts, Poland and Ukraine qualify automatically.

The draw takes place in Warsaw on February 7.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

FAI admit 'defeat' over calls for France replay

Ireland have been forced to admit defeat in their efforts to be granted a replay of their World Cup play-off clash with France.

Having seen FIFA reject their appeals to have the second leg of the tie replayed because of Thierry Henry's handball in the run-up to William Gallas' decisive goal, the Football Association of Ireland, backed by both French skipper Henry and Ireland captain Robbie Keane, had turned to the French Football Federation.

However, the FFF have ruled out the possibility, and France will now take their place in next summer's finals in South Africa while Ireland will remain at home, the victims of what they believe has been a gross miscarriage of justice.

FAI chief executive John Delaney said today: 'We regret that despite our best efforts for a replay, which would have restored the integrity of the game in front of a world-wide audience, our calls appear to have fallen on deaf ears at the French Football Federation.

'Without doubt, the credibility of fair play has been damaged by this incident in front of a worldwide audience.

'Despite our deep disappointment, we thank our players, the wonderful Irish fans and the Irish public at large for their support, as well as the solidarity of the French people.

'We will continue to call on FIFA to take action to ensure that such damaging examples of cheating are not allowed to recur

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trapattoni vents his fury at FIFA

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has vented his fury at FIFA in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

'I would like to know what have I done to (Sepp) Blatter,' Trapattoni said. 'If he explains it to me at least I would be calm.

'I often go to schools and speak of fair play. Perhaps I am a dreamer. FIFA has violated the rules imposing top seeded teams in the play-offs. It's treachery.

'I think even (UEFA president Michel) Platini was against this revolution.'

Trapattoni continues to play Wednesday's events over and over in his mind.

'There's this double handball from Henry on Gallas' goal and on top of that (Sebastien) Squillaci was offside,' Trapattoni said.
'It's murder.

'Even a blind man would have seen the double handball by Henry. The linesman was on line as the images show and he had perfect vision.

'I am certain that Mr Hansson (the referee) was in contact with the fourth official and to those who were looking at the images in slow motion.

'Why, when he understood that he had made a mistake, did he not change his mind? I think the time has come to have tv replays for these extreme cases. In 30 seconds you avoid colossal errors.'

Trapattoni had harsh words for the referee. 'FIFA has done a great job,' he said. 'For France v Ireland, you needed a top referee, instead they have sent a Hansson nobody.'

Thursday, November 19, 2009

FAI to challenge Henry cheating

The Football Association of Ireland today (November 19) confirmed that it will lodge a complaint with FIFA, following last night's World Cup play-off match between France and the Republic of Ireland in Paris.

Conclusive video evidence of a deliberate hand ball by Thierry Henry, which led to France's additional time goal, has been seen by millions of football fans worldwide. The blatantly incorrect decision by the referee to award the goal has damaged the integrity of the sport and we now call on FIFA, as the world governing body for our sport, to organise for this match to be replayed. The hand ball, was recognised the FIFA commissioner, the referee observer and the match officials, as well as by the player himself.

There is precedent for the invalidation of such results. In 2005, the Bureau of the FIFA World Cup organising committee reached a decision to invalidate the result of a World Cup qualification match between Uzbekistan and Bahrain on the basis of a ‘technical error by the referee of the match'. The Football Association of Ireland is hoping that FIFA and its Disciplinary Committee will, on behalf of football fans world-wide, act in a similar fashion so that the standards of fair play and integrity can be protected.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ireland travel to Paris at full strength

Ireland go into their World Cup play-off second-leg with France at full strength with no injuries to report.

It is do-or-die for Giovanni Trapattoni's men as they prepare to fly to Paris on Tuesday trailing 1-0 from the first-leg at Croke Park.

Ireland performed admirably on Saturday but still fell to a deflected 72nd minute Nicolas Anelka strike, handing the French the initiative ahead of the return match on Wednesday.

However, having trained on Monday assistant boss Marco Tardelli highlights that the team will be at full strength and go into the clash full of confidence despite the deficit.

"We have no injuries and we have a very high morale. There are no problems," he said.

"We are ready for the next match."

The Green Army will start to descend on Paris tomorrow with between ten and fifteen thousand Irish expected in the French capital.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Keane sends out rally call to the Green Army

Ireland captain Robbie Keane has urged the team to become national heroes by beating France in the World Cup play-off.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side host France at Croke Park on Saturday before Wednesday's return leg in Paris.

"If you look on paper, they have got world-class players all over the pitch," said Keane.

"But the one thing we do have is desire and commitment, and a team that's desperate to do well."

Keane believes qualifying for the finals at the expense of such a star-studded team would be remembered forever as Ireland's greatest achievement.

French manager Raymond Domenech can call upon a collection of global stars such as Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka and William Gallas.

However, Keane's believes Ireland's sheer bloody-minded determination can earn Trapattoni's men a place in next year's finals in South Africa.

"There are players who have never been in this situation before, players who play in the Championship who may never have the opportunity they have now," added Keane.

"They are fortunate enough to be able to leave players like Patrick Vieira out of the squad.

"We just can't do that, that's the gulf between the two nations."

Trapattoni also called on his troops to raise their game from the battling display in last month's 2-2 draw against Italy at Croke Park.

"We need the same spirit, we need the same performance, we need the attitude we have had in the games throughout qualification - but we have to add some more," added the Republic boss.

"Every player must in these 180 minutes add something more to his performance.

"We must avoid nervousness. These are important games and, in important games, in my experience, some players can lose their cool.

"They have to keep their heads and play as we have done until now and, with this mentality, we can play on an equal footing with France."

Trapattoni was in relaxed mood as he conducted his pre-match press conference in a packed suite at the Grand Hotel in Malahide.

He opened by enquiring, with a smile, where the French journalists were in the room and, after a show of hands, said apologetically: "I don't speak French," before adding: "I don't speak also English."

But, despite his humour, his resolve was clear as he contemplated the task ahead of his players.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trapattoni has no fear of French team

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni is refusing to rest on his laurels as he plots France’s World Cup downfall.

The 70-year-old Italian will lead Ireland into play-off battle with the 1998 winners, refusing to look back on all the success his distinguished career has brought him to date and concentrating only on what lies ahead.

Asked at Ireland's training headquarters in Malahide this afternoon where victory over Raymond Domenech’s men would rate on his curriculum vitae, he replied: “In life, the next result is the beautiful one, the most important one. The rest is memories.”

Trapattoni put his players through their paces this afternoon as they prepared for the biggest two games in the nation’s recent history.

There was anger in Ireland last month when it was revealed that the draw for the last eight remaining European berths would be seeded, pitching the Irish into battle with one of the four bigger names.

However, while Trapattoni and his players head into the showdown with their heads held high after negotiating their 10 qualifiers without a single defeat, the French and Domenech in particular find themselves under the spotlight as they seek a route to South Africa via the back door.

But a squad packed with big names such as Thierry Henry, Karim Benzema and Nicolas Anelka does not frighten the Republic boss.

He said: “I’m not afraid about this team. I know the quality of the France players, but our players at their clubs play against Arsenal, against Manchester United.

“France achieved second place in the group like us and we were one of only five unbeaten teams.

“We have a few creative players – maybe France have more and other teams have more still.

“But football is concrete. We are not a theatre, La Scala or Madison Square Garden; it’s football.

“Football is ball, pitch, opponent and mentality, that’s football.

“Results are results, a show is a show and results are different to the show. That is our belief.”

Trapattoni’s mantra since he took up his job in May last year has been to concentrate on the fine detail of how to win – or at least, not lose – football matches, and it was a theme to which he returned as he started his preparations in earnest for Saturday night’s first leg at Croke Park.

He said: “We must prepare carefully and study every little detail for these two games because in these 180 minutes, we can achieve qualification for South Africa.

“We are conscious these will not be easy games. It will be important not to make little mistakes, silly mistakes and if possible, not concede a goal at home because if we concede a goal in Dublin, it’s a very great advantage for our opponents.

“Nerve is very, very important in these games. We must remain calm in every little situation because silly mistakes or distractions can cost you a goal.”

Domenech’s faith in astrology has been ridiculed in France, and while Trapattoni insists the Frenchman can use whatever methods he wants to select his side, he prefers to rely on his own.

He said: “In the past, some managers have gone to tarot readers. But I am a believer and I believe in other things.

“He has his habits and I have my habits.

“Help yourself and God will help you as well. But I’m not God, I’m not St Patrick, I’m human.”

Fulham midfielder Damien Duff, who has shaken off an Achilles problem, was able to train with his team-mates, but Hibernian counterpart Liam Miller was tonight having a scan on a calf injury which could yet rule him out of the two games.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Doyle has no fear of France

Wolves striker Kevin Doyle believes that Ireland are capable of upsetting France in their upcoming World Cup play-off games.

The striker feels that, despite their underdog status, Ireland have an excellent chance of advancing to South Africa at the expense of Raymond Domenech's side, beaten finalists in Germany in 2006.

"We're feeling confident we can win although other people will feel we don't have much chance," Doyle told BBC Sport.

The 26-year-old was unfazed when his side were drawn against the 1998 world champions, and is confident of progressing after a strong campaign in the group stages.

"There's a reason why they are in the play-off draw because they haven't done well in their group," he said.

"We drew with Italy twice and we could have easily beaten them.

"They are the world champions and we can do the same against France.

"I've played against bigger teams all my life and got results against them. I don't fear them. I'm looking forward to it."

With the first leg to be played on Saturday at Croke Park, Doyle believes that a clean sheet will give Ireland an excellent chance, putting the onus on the oppositon in the return leg at Stade de France.

"That would be massive for us. Do that and go to Paris and score a goal there," added Doyle.

"That's what we're going to have to do to go through."

On the back of an unbeaten group campaign, Doyle believes that there is confidence within the squad to seize the chance to fulfil a personal ambition.

"Getting to the World Cup would be a dream," he added.

"I've just gone 26 and I don't know if I'll get another chance in four years. We have the chance to do it now."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ireland squad named for crucial play-off games with France

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has left Steve Finnan, Steven Reid, Andy Reid and Clinton Morrison out of his squad to face France in their World Cup 2010 qualifying play-off.

It had been rumoured that Finnan would be included to address issues with cover in defence. Steven Reid has been played for Blackburn in recent weeks but Trapattoni has opted not to bring the midfielder back into the squad.

Trapattoni has repeatedly omitted Andy Reid from Ireland squads since clashing with the Sunderland midfielder when the side played Georgia in September.

Hibernian striker Anthony Stokes has been called into the squad and Coventry striker Leon Best is also included.

The matches will take place on 14 and 18 November, with Ireland at home for the first leg.

Shay Given
Keiren Westwood
Joe Murphy

John O'Shea
Richard Dunne
Stephen Kelly
Kevin Kilbane
Eddie Nolan
Sean St. Ledger
Paul McShane
Darren O’Dea

Aiden McGeady
Damien Duff
Darron Gibson
Glenn Whelan
Keith Andrews
Liam Miller
Stephen Hunt
Andy Keogh
Liam Lawrence

Kevin Doyle
Robbie Keane
Shane Long
Leon Best
Anthony Stokes

Friday, October 23, 2009

‘Going Green On November 14’ campaign continues to gather pace

The ‘Going Green On November 14’ campaign continues to gather pace with radio interviews, email campaigns, a Facebook group and Twitter pages all being used to publicise and create a momentum within the whole island for the upcoming World cup play-off game with France on November 14th.

Fans from the Ireland supporters forum – You Boys In Green, have been working overtime to try and create the conditions that will turn Croke Park into an Irish fortress for the game.

Even President McAleese has been contacted at Áras an Uachtaráin about wearing Green on the day of the match.

Every radio station, newspaper, media outlet and interested party in the country is being contacted and the hope is that corporate sponsorship can be obtained for card displays, Green t-shirts, huge flags etc.. to turn Croke Park green in mid November and turn the decibel level up to a point that the French team will know what the roar of Ireland’s 12th man sounds like when they come out of the tunnel at Croke Park on the 14TH of November.

The demand for tickets for the home and away legs is huge and both games are already guaranteed sell-outs. An FAI spokesperson said that the demand for tickets for the away leg in Paris was astronomical and with only 8500 tickets available to the Irish fans from official sources, many will use contacts from the previous Irish invasion by 30000 fans of Paris in 2004, to secure tickets for game in France.

For all the latest news on the ‘Going Green On November 14’ campaign visit YBIG, join the Facebook group or follow the campaign on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

French running scared of Irish support

The French Football Federation (FFF) have struck a blow to hopes of Ireland fans after restricting the away side's allocation to 8000 for the second leg of the World Cup play-off in the Stade de France.

The French are running scared of a potential Irish invasion of Paris.In 2004 Ireland were backed by a 30,000 strong support as they held France to a 0-0 draw in a World Cup qualifier in Paris.

Ireland were able to draw such a large contingent of fans into the stadium as match tickets were available online or by telephone and they were snapped up by the Green Army.

But it seems the French have learned their lesson and the tickets will only be available to buy in person.

Ireland host France at Croke Park in Dublin first before the return leg at the Stade de France four days later to decide which of the two teams qualifies for South Africa.

France coach Raymond Domenech, with bitter memories of 2004 when the huge Irish turned up and outsang their French hosts, demanded on Monday that Ireland be limited to a quarter of the total 80,000 available tickets for the Stade de France, namely 20,000.

'We can't have the Irish having more tickets than what they should be allowed, 20,000 - with 60,000 French fans around them,' Domenech told AFP.

The French Football Federation (FFF) proved even stingier on Wednesday when they allocated just 8,000 tickets to the Irish fans.

The FFF's decision was in accordance with their ticket allocation policy during the World Cup qualifiers, although it appears they have also taken Domenech's concerns to heart.

The FFF said no tickets would be sold over the internet to either set of fans, with tickets for the 18 November match going on sale from French retail outlets on Thursday.

The FFF said in a statement: 'The Irish supporters are taken care of directly by their federation, with 10 percent of the total ticket allocation being allocated as was done for all the other World Cup qualifiers.

'There will be no sale of tickets over the internet.'

A maximum of four tickets will be available per transaction and per person and tickets, once bought, would not be transferable.

French football officials added they would be cracking down on the re-sale of tickets at the stadium but also through the internet.

Monday, October 19, 2009

World Cup play-off draw - Ireland v France

Ireland will meet France in the World Cup play-offs after the draw was made at FIFA headquarters in Zurich this afternoon.

The two legs will be played on Saturday, 14 November and Wednesday, 18 November, with the Republic at home for the first leg.

Draw for the European World Cup play-offs:

Ireland v France
Portugal v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Greece v Ukraine
Russia v Slovenia

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

100 caps Given to captain Ireland

Shay Given will captain Ireland in Wednesday night's final World Cup qualifier against Montenegro as he wins his 100th senior international cap.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has handed the 33-year-old Donegal man the captain's armband as he and full-back Kevin Kilbane each complete a century to leave themselves only two adrift of Steve Staunton, Ireland's most-capped player.

The Manchester City keeper takes over from Robbie Keane, who may play only 45 minutes at Croke Park as Trapattoni attempts to keep his players fresh for next month's play-off.

Given goes into the game knowing he must avoid a second caution of the qualifying campaign if he is to make himself available for the first match of the play-off.

Midfielders Keith Andrews and Aiden McGeady are likely to be rested for just that reason, while striker Leon Best is also on a yellow card.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keane on 'heartbreaking' Italian draw

Ireland's dramatic 2-2 draw with Italy may have secured them a 2010 World Cup play-off place but for captain Robbie Keane the result triggered mixed emotions.

Ireland thought they had snatched a win over the world champions when Sean St Ledger put them into a 2-1 lead with three minutes remaining on Saturday.

That would have pushed the Irish to within a point of Italy in Group 8 and given them every chance of gaining automatic qualification for South Africa if results went their way in the final batch of qualifiers on Wednesday.

But just as the 70,000 crowd at Croke Park were celebrating, Alberto Gilardino levelled in the final minute to send Italy through and the Irish to the play-offs.

Gilardino's killer blow left Keane and his teammates feeling as though they had lost the match.

Keane reflected: "Of course, that's the reaction you have after the game.

"If it was the 60th minute or something, it's a bit different, but the last few minutes, it's a bit heart-breaking.

"We are in the play-offs now and everyone always expected us in the play-offs. But when you are that close, who knows?

"Italy could have drawn (against Cyprus) on Wednesday. You never know.

"To be this close, it's obviously difficult. But we have to pick ourselves back up. It's done now."

Ireland's Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni bemoaned his side's lack of experience.

"We are happy but we are also disappointed because the last two minutes we need this experience because we are a young team; we only have four or five senior players.

"I am sure this will be for us a great lesson because we could have won."

He continued: "But we must not defend the result. The last five minutes we must keep the advantage in a game, we must play we must play slowly. But with three minutes to go, we concede to a counter attack. That is inexperience when you are 2-1 against the world champions.

"That is a silly mistake or habit, to always go upfront. We must learn to control the situation. In training, we have worked on these situations.

"I thought we had it won. But we had too much enthusiasm in the final minutes. We were also tired. But it is difficult when you are building a team and you have 20 or so players from six or seven different clubs. Each of them has different habits at their own club."

Ireland were upset at FIFA's decision to introduce a seeding system for the play-offs, meaning Trapattoni's team are set to face the likes of France, Russia, Portugal or Sweden.

Asked who he wanted to meet Keane replied: "I don't know. Which teams are in it - France, Portugal?

"There are tough teams in there and I am sure we will get one of the toughest teams, there's no question about that.

"We never get an easy ride, do we? No matter what, it is going to be tough.

"We will see who we get. France, Portugal, Ukraine or whoever, it's going to be tough.

"They all have quality players in their team. No matter who we get, it is going to be difficult - but we always make it difficult for ourselves."

Friday, October 9, 2009

St Ledger looking to continue dream

Ireland defender Sean St Ledger admits Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Italy is the biggest game of his career.

The central defender has started Ireland's last five games and is set to continue at Croke Park as Giovanni Trapattoni's men attempt to pip the Azzurri to top spot in Group Eight.

Ireland need to guarantee a win to keep their hopes of an automatic qualification spot for next year's tournament in South Africa alive, and 24-year-old St Ledger believes they have nothing to lose.

"I would imagine that, when the fixtures came out, this would be the game everyone was looking at and, from a footballer's point of view, it is probably the same," he said.

"You have to take each game one step at a time but, now the game is here, it is massive.

"It's massive. It's the biggest game of my career to date. We are playing one of the great football nations, not just now but in terms of history as well.

"If you look at the importance of the game, realistically, we are probably looking at the play-offs and that's going to be tough for us.

"But we have got nothing much to lose. We can go out there and try to beat the Italians."

"St Ledger has had a busy year which has seen the defender move from Preston to Middlesbrough on a short-term deal with a view to a permanent move, as well as being thrust onto the international scene.

"Only a few months back I wasn't in the squad at all and now I have got five caps," he added. "It's like a dream come true.

"I wasn't in the squad to go to Italy, which was obviously disappointing at the time, but it is going to be strange walking out with the likes of Gattuso and people like that.

"Only a couple of years ago, I was playing against Bradford in front of 2,000 people and their dogs. It's a major difference but something I would like to taste more of."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Given wants to give the Irish a party next summer

Shay Given is desperate to give the Irish nation a chance to dance in the streets as he once did by securing another trip to the World Cup finals.

The Irish keeper was a teenager back in 1994 when Ray Houghton’s strike at Giants Stadium in New York saw off the mighty Italy and sparked one of the most memorable nights in Ireland’s football history.

Fifteen years on, 33-year-old Given will be between the posts as Ireland attempt to repeat the feat against the Italians, the reigning World champions, at Croke Park on Saturday evening with a place at next summer’s finals in South Africa at stake.

Asked about that night, Given said: “I was in Lifford, back in Donegal with the family watching it. It’s a special memory.

“Looking back over the history of Ireland, it was a special goal. Ray Houghton chipped (Gianluca) Pagliuca and we were celebrating around the cars in Lifford as if we had won the World Cup.

“It was a special atmosphere and great memories, and it is up to us as a team to try to recreate some of those memories. The only way we can do that is to get back to the World Cup.

“There will be young guys growing up in Ireland wanting to support us and South Africa next year, and it is up to us to get the country there.”

Even victory at the weekend would leave Ireland with work to do when they meet Montenegro in Dublin on Wednesday evening with Italy currently four points clear at the top of Group Eight and hot favourites to claim the one automatic qualification spot.

However, Given, whose side need two more points to at least clinch a play-off berth, is determined to heap as much pressure as possible on Marcello Lippi’s men for the final game at home to Cyprus.

He said: “Of course we would love to top the group, and that rules out the play-offs.

“But obviously, Italy are in the driving seat and even if they lose on Saturday, they have still got Cyprus at home on the Wednesday.

“But we would like to put the pressure on the Italians in the last game.

“We need two points to guarantee second and hopefully, we can get three on Saturday and then we will see what happens on Wednesday.”

There has been dismay and anger within the Ireland camp since they met up at their training base in Malahide on Tuesday at FIFA’s decision last week to seed the draw for play-offs, an announcement they believe leaves them at a considerable disadvantage.

However, Trapattoni, who called for the rule to be changed in the future, is nevertheless confident his team can get results against the best – as they did when they drew 1-1 in Italy in April – and Given agrees.

He said: “We will not be afraid of anybody, but I just feel what FIFA did was wrong.

“But when it comes around to if we do end up in the play-offs, then whoever we get picked against, we will be right up for it and results like the one away in Italy against the world champions will give us huge belief whoever we are drawn against.”

Given, like full-back Kevin Kilbane, will win his 99th senior international cap, if selected, against the Italians, and they would then become just the second and third Irishmen to complete a century against Montenegro, following in the footsteps of Steve Staunton.

However, that will all be secondary as the Manchester City goalkeeper attempts to make a return trip to the biggest stage of all after playing at the 2002 finals in the Far East.

He said: “It was the highlight of my Irish career to play in the World Cup finals.

“The Houghton goal was the highlight as a fan, but to actually play in a World Cup finals is something very special and something I want to be part of again.

“There are two massive games coming up and a lot of points at stake and important points. We have got to really focus on what we do as a team and not on me getting 100 caps.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

John O'Shea - World Cup qualification would be huge

Manchester United's Waterford born defender John O'Shea has revealed his strong desire to go to next summer's World Cup with Ireland, having missed the squad back in his country's previous appearance in the competition in 2002.

The versatile defender failed to make the Ireland cut for the World Cup in 2002. Now firmly entrenched in coach Giovanni Trapattoni's plans, he admits that making it to the World Cup would be as big as anything he has achieved with the Red Devils.

"Obviously Mick stuck with the squad that got him there and there was no problem with that," O'Shea said to The Irish Independent.

"It would have been great to go. To get to a World Cup would be huge, it would be up there with anything that I've done. Time's running out, as they say."

Ireland play Italy at home on Saturday, and look to have a play-off spot all but guaranteed. If they are able to defeat the Azzurri, they may even have a narrow chance of topping their qualifying group, should they beat Montenegro at home & Italy fail to beat Cyprus.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FIFA in play-off u-turn

Ireland will face a daunting World Cup play-off clash against one of Europe's top teams after FIFA made a dramatic u-turn and confirmed they will use a seeding system for the European play-offs.

After a FIFA meeting in Rio de Janeiro last night, President Sepp Blatter confirmed: "We have decided on seeding the teams into two groups of four, taking the Fifa world rankings into account, with the top four in one pot and the others in another pot."

"There will be a separate draw to decide home and away," he added of the two-leg ties to determine four European places at the 2010 finals in South Africa.

FIFA originally planned to host an open draw for the eight best runners-up in the nine European groups, but with the likes of Germany, France and Portugal all in danger of securing a play-off spot, at best, FIFA have decided to employ a seeding system.

That would certainly leave Giovanni Trapattoni's men, currently ranked 38th, in the second tier should they secure second spot in Group 8, with Russia, Croatia, Greece and Serbia also potential opponents this November.

Irish fans would have been hoping for a kind draw against the likes of Slovenia, Bosnia or Slovakia, but that possibility now seems unlikely if FIFA stick to their guns.

It is believed the prospect of a World Cup tournament without commercial heavyweights Germany prompted the u-turn.

However, FAI Chief Executive John Delaney remains optimistic about Ireland's chances in spite of the revised seeding system.

Speaking in today's Irish Daily Mail, Delaney insisted: "I'm not too sure where that [seeded draw] will place us but we've got concentrate first on what we've got to do.

"We've got to try and beat Italy and take it to the last game. And if we end up in the play-offs, we'd have been delighted to have got to the play-offs at the start of the group and we'll take what we get."

He added: "All I will say is that and team who finishes second mustn't have been top team in their group, obviously. So it gives you a chance."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Duff & Folan out of Italy clash

The injury worries are mounting for Giovanni Trapattoni ahead of Ireland's October World Cup qualifiers against Italy and Montenegro.

Fulham have confirmed that Damien Duff will be out of action for two to three weeks after picking up a calf injury in last weekends defeat to Arsenal at Craven Cottage.

This is likely to ensure that Duff will miss the Ireland v Italy game on October the 10th, however the hope is that Duff may recover in time for the second of the World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro on Wednesday 14 October.

Meanwhile Hull City's Calab Folan has also emerged as a serious doubt for the crucial Group 8 games. The striker, currently on-loan at Middlesbrough, tore his hamstring at training and could be sidelined for up to six weeks.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ireland squad announced for World Cup qualifiers

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has announced a provisional 27 man squad for the upcoming World Cup group 8 qualifiers against Italy & Montenegro in Croke Park next month.


Shay Given, Manchester City
Keiren Westwood, Coventry City
Joe Murphy, Scunthorpe United


John O'Shea, Manchester United
Kevin Foley, Wolves
Richard Dunne, Aston Villa
Stephen Kelly, Fulham
Kevin Kilbane, Hull City
Eddie Nolan, Preston North End
Sean St. Ledger, Middlesbrough
Paul McShane, Hull City
Darren O’Dea, Reading


Aiden McGeady, Celtic
Damien Duff, Fulham
Darron Gibson, Manchester United
Glenn Whelan, Stoke City
Keith Andrews, Blackburn Rovers
Liam Miller, Hibernian
Stephen Hunt, Hull City
Andy Keogh, Wolves
Steven Reid, Blackburn Rovers
Liam Lawrence, Stoke City


Caleb Folan, Middlesbrough
Kevin Doyle, Wolves
Robbie Keane, Tottenham Hotspur
Shane Long, Reading
Leon Best, Coventry City

Trapattoni signs two-year extension with Ireland

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has agreed a two-year extension to his current contract with the FAI.

Speculation had been rife that a new deal was near completion, and it is now understood that the Italian has signed a two-year extension to his current deal, which was due at the end of the present campaign.

Welcoming the new contract, FAI chief executive John Delaney said 'We are very happy to agree a contract extension with Giovanni Trapattoni. The players and everyone on the FAI Board of Management have been tremendously impressed by the professionalism, dedication and commitment of Giovanni Trapattoni and his team.

Trapattoni revealed: 'I am delighted to continue my job with the FAI. This squad has huge potential. Our results demonstrate what self belief and structure can achieve and I am really looking forward to continuing the work we have begun.'

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Leon Best hoping for South African dream

Leon Best has been dusting off his old World Cup videos as inspiration for Ireland’s final push for South Africa 2010.

The Coventry City striker’s heroes include, not surprisingly, the likes of Brazil’s Ronaldo whose majestic presence in previous competitions provided the stuff that boyhood dreams are made of.

But that dream is just two games away from becoming a reality for the Sky Blues’ centre-forward who was called up for his country for the first time in June and has been on a high ever since.

Seemingly a firm part of Irish boss Giovani Trapattoni’s plans for the future, Best is playing some of the best football of his young career at the moment, clearly having taken a huge injection of confidence from his international progress.

His most recent run-out came in a friendly against next summer’s competition host nation, South Africa, following up his first cap against Bulgaria.

“It was a great experience and a good win,” said the in-form front man who celebrated his 23rd birthday recently.

“I enjoyed it out there and it is always great to be involved with the squad. I hope to be involved in every single squad and game now. Definitely. I get such a buzz playing in the stadiums and in front of the Irish fans and with the likes of Robbie Keane and John O’Shea.

‘‘I could only dream about it before and now it is happening for me and I need to grasp every chance.

“I thought I gave a good account of myself against South Africa and I was just disappointed that I didn’t get a goal, which is always a good feeling when you go on as a sub against a good team.

‘‘The possession was all South Africa but they didn’t have a shot which goes to show how we did against them. And we can win games. I went on with Caleb Folan up front, which was easy because he is a great target man and that’s different for me because then I am not the one always flicking it. I have to spin off him which I enjoy because I get more chances.

‘‘Hopefully it will help my game because I am playing a different way, so if Coventry ever sign a Dion Dublin again I’ll be running off him rather than being the target man for a change.”

Looking ahead to next month’s crunch qualifiers, he said: “We have got a big game against Italy coming up in October, so hopefully I will be involved in that.

‘‘We have got two more and both are at home, so hopefully we can win those and get to South Africa. The other game is against Montenegro.

“It would be a great achievement getting to the World Cup because it’s the sort of thing you only ever dream of.

‘‘I have got videos at my house of past World Cups so to think that I could be involved in it would be a dream come true.

‘‘I used to watch people like Ronaldo and Romario for Brazil when I was younger so it would be amazing to go to the finals.”

For the time being, however, he wants to keep his form and fitness, and the goals coming for Coventry.

He had scored three in City’s first seven prior to yesterday’s trip to Preston – his best start to a season at the Ricoh Arena.

Enjoying his partnership with Clinton Morrison, who got his fourth of the season in Tuesday night’s gutsy 3-2 victory over Sheffield United, Best said: “We have got a good little competition going and the great thing is that we are both getting some goals at the moment.

“This is my best ever start because in previous years I have always ended up injured just before the season starts or early on in the campaign and that has set me back.

‘‘But I am feeling fit at the minute and just want to keep doing well for my club and see where that gets me with my country.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ireland Under-17 squad announced for qualifiers

Ireland Under-17 manager Sean McCaffrey has today named an 18 man squad for the Under-17 UEFA qualifying first phase qualifiers in Bulgaria later this month.

Ireland will play against the host nation Bulgaria, Latvia and Sweden with the aim of securing a top-two finish in the group to progress into the Elite section of the qualifying series.

Ireland Under-17 Squad

Sean McDermott - Arsenal
Jack Bonham - Watford
Ben Glasgow - Arsenal
Michael Barker - Belvedere
Richard Bryan - Aston Villa
Derrick Williams - Aston Villa
Neil Yadolahi - St. Kevin's Boys
Sean McGinty - Manchester United
Brian McGroary - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Shane Byrne - Leicester City
Carl McHugh - Reading
Frankie Sutherland - QPR
Callum Webb - Arsenal
Anton Rodgers - Chelsea
Kevin Knight - Leicester City
George Smith - Southend United
Daniel Purdy - West Ham United
Aiden O'Brien - Millwall.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Whelan signs new four year deal with Stoke

Ireland central midfielder Glenn Whelan has signed a new four-year contract with Stoke City.

The Dublin born player joined the Potters in January 2008 from Sheffield Wednesday for £500,000.

"I'm obviously delighted, once we got it all sorted, it was just a case of getting it signed and I'm really happy."

The 25-year-old, who has won 10 caps for Ireland, has made 50 appearances for the Potters.

"Talks have been going on for a while, but with the transfer window going on I think they were more concerned with bringing new players in and then they would deal with me afterwards, but I'm happy it's all done now."

The former Manchester City trainee helped Stoke win promotion from the Championship in 2007/08, but found it difficult to hold down a regular first-team place in their first season in the top flight.

However, a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Aston Villa in March brought him back into manager Tony Pulis' plans, and he is now a regular in the starting line-up.

Whelan has also played an important role for Trapattoni's Ireland as they continue their campaign to book a place in next years World Cup finals in South Africa.

"I've been working very hard in the last 12 months to get into the team and I think the reward of a new contract has come from that," added Whelan

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Former Ireland boss Kerr criticises Trapattoni

Former Ireland boss Brian Kerr has again criticised Current Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni over his stewardship of the national side. Kerr said Trapattoni’s idea of watching players club games on DVD was a “load of baloney”. He added that for the Italian to attend ‘a dinner here and there’ displayed little regard for the well-being of Irish football in general.

Speaking to Brendan Crossan in today’s Irish News Kerr said “I don’t think Trapattoni does himself any favours by not going to watch players playing, I genuinely think the manager has a duty to be interested in the well-being of the overall game instead of going to the odd dinner here and there.”

He continued “I don’t think Trapattoni has any interest in the development of Irish football, but that’s up to him and he probably took the job on those terms. Maybe other people don’t share that view. He picks a team for a match and that’s it.”

On the issue of Liam Brady & Marco Tardelli covering most of the scouting needs in Britain and sending DVD’s of games to Trapattoni, Kerr said “ I think it’s a load of baloney because you can’t see the players properly in terms of what they do, or where they move to in a game. I don’t care what age you are or how much experience you have, you need to see the players by attending games.”

“Other people’s opinions are not the same as yours because you have in your own mind what you’re looking for. But look, they’re doing fine and I’d let them at it..”

And speaking about Ireland’s chances of reaching next years World Cup finals in South Africa Kerr commented “It looks now that they’ve a good chance of beating some of the other play-off teams, but you wouldn’t want to be playing France or Portugal”

“To some degree, Irish people will put up with anything as long as they get to the World Cup finals. The media are more critical…The reality is we have an exaggerated view of our players because they’re playing in English football and are on our television screens”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ireland 1 South Africa 0

A great free-kick by man of the match Liam Lawrence gave Ireland victory over South Africa in Limerick tonight.

Stoke City midfielder Lawrence set a curling and dipping 37th-minute strike beyond the dive of South Africa goalkeeper Fernandez.

Speaking after the game Lawrence said he was "absolutely delighted" to score and said "everyone had given a good account of themselves"

The decisive goal came against the run of play as South Africa had created a lot of early pressure.

However, Ireland should have doubled their lead in the second half but sub Leon Best's shot was well saved.

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni had made a string of changes for the low-key Limerick friendly.

Only Kevin Doyle, Keith Andrews and Sean St Ledger remained from the side which beat Cyprus 2-1 in Saturday's World Cup eight qualifier in Nicosia.

Ireland captain Kevin Doyle said "it was a good win in difficult conditions and so many fresh faces, we had the better chances and worked hard for the win"

O'Shea out of Ireland friendly

John O'Shea is out of Ireland's team to face South Africa in a friendly in Limerick this evening.

The defender has returned to Manchester United to have scans on a calf problem.

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni said the 28-year-old had been sent back to his club in an effort to prevent the damage from getting any worse.

O'Shea joins Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Robbie Keane, Kevin Kilbane and Stephen Hunt in the list of absentees for the match at Thomond Park in Limerick.

Manager Trapattoni had allowed Given, Dunne, Keane and Kilbane to return to their clubs.

Hunt misses the friendly at Thomond Park because of personal reasons.

Celtic defender Darren O'Dea, who is currently on loan at Reading, has been called up to the squad.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cyprus 1 Ireland 2

Robbie Keane was Ireland's hero once again as he snatched victory in Cyprus to keep our World Cup dream very much alive.

Keano glanced home Damien Duff's 83rd-minute cross to claim his 40th senior international goal and three precious points, just as it looked as thought Ireland would have to settle for a fourth successive draw during the qualifying campaign.

Keane's winner came as news of victories for Group Eight leaders Italy and third-placed Bulgaria filtered through, and will send Ireland into their remaining games, against Italy and Montenegro at Croke Park next month - knowing second place is there for the taking, and top spot is not beyond possibility.

Ireland have played a game more than both the reigning world champions and the Bulgarians, but remain just a point adrift of the Italians and five ahead of Bulgaria.

Trapattoni's men were in front within five minutes when Kevin Doyle fired home a fifth-minute opener, but Marios Elia levelled after 30 minutes after Shay Given had pulled off a great save to deny Ioannis Okkas.

Ireland had chances to win the game before Keane did just that - goalkeeper Sofronis Avgousti denied Glenn Whelan with a superb 50th-minute stop - but they were made to work hard for a win which had the travelling fans inside the GSP Stadium dreaming of South Africa as they departed.

Ireland could hardly have got off to a better start as they forced Cyprus on to the back foot, just at they had done at Croke Park in October last year.

Full-back Avraam had little option but to concede a fifth-minute corner as Doyle closed on Duff's cross, and the visitors took full advantage.

John O'Shea met Stephen Hunt's cross beyond the far post and headed it back into the mix, and after Keith Andrews' shot had been blocked, Doyle turned and smashed the loose ball past Avgousti.

It was dangerman Aloneftis who had provided Okkas with his chance, and while he was kept quiet for much of the first half by O'Shea and Hunt, when he did get himself into the game down the left, Cyprus looked dangerous.

The equaliser arrived from that flank with half an hour gone when, after Dunne had dispossessed Okkas inside the penalty area and Sean St Ledger had blocked Avraam's shot, Elia made no mistake to lash the ball into the bottom far corner.

Ireland's response was swift and concerted, and they might have regained the lead had Andrews' 36th-minute effort from distance been a foot closer to Avgousti's right post or had Kevin Kilbane been able to keep his header a fraction lower seconds later.

Charalambides headed over at the other end five minutes before the break, but Trapattoni's men left the pitch at half-time knowing the game was very much there for the three points.

Just as they had done in the first half, Ireland started strongly in the second, and might have been back in front twice within the opening five minutes.

First Hunt headed a Duff cross into the side-netting from an acute angle, and then Whelan forced Avgousti into a top-class save with 50 minutes gone.

Keane's knock-down from Doyle's cross fell perfectly for the Stoke midfielder, who struck it first-time towards the top corner, only for the goalkeeper just to get his fingertips to it.

There was an anxious moment for the visitors, however, with 61 minutes gone when Okkas looked to have got marginally the better of Dunne as the pair raced into the box shoulder to shoulder and the striker ended up on the floor.

But Austrian referee Thomas Einwaller was not impressed, much to the annoyance of the locals.

But it was left to Keane to do what he has done so often in the past, beating Avgousti to Duff's 83rd-minute cross to glance a header home and send the 'Green Army' home in expectant mood for the remaining two home games in October.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Three points essential for Ireland

Ireland have an added incentive to claim all three points against Cyprus in Saturday’s crucial World Cup qualifier.

Trapattoni's Green Army travel to Cyprus knowing victory would strengthen their grip on second place in Group Eight and move them to the brink of securing a World Cup play-off spot. It also continues the possibility of catching current group 8 leaders Italy in the final games of the qualifying group.

But the whole Ireland squad will also be keen to avenge the 5-2 humiliation they suffered on their last visit to Nicosia in October 2006, which wrecked their chances of qualifying for Euro 2008 and was probably their most disappointing result in recent Irish history.

Some of the players involved have spoken this week about putting the record straight, and although Cyprus slumped to a 6-1 friendly defeat by Albania last time out, they also lost their game prior to the 2006 triumph over Ireland 6-1 to Slovakia.

Since then, Trapattoni has revitalised the Ireland squad and steered them into a realistic position to reach their first major finals since the 2002 World Cup in Japan/Korea.

The Italian boss has brought a real stability to the Ireland camp by keeping faith with the same core of players and he named the same 24-man squad as for the friendly against Australia last month, in which Ireland suffered only their second defeat in 13 games under Trapattoni.

However, Preston defender Sean St Ledger has been struggling with a knee injury so new Hull City signing Paul McShane has been added to the squad, which will also face South Africa in a friendly at Limerick's Thomond Park next Tuesday.

Hull team-mate Caleb Folan started the last qualifier - a 1-1 draw in Bulgaria - but the striker is doubtful with an ankle problem so Leon Best, Kevin Doyle and Shane Long could be battling it out to start alongside Robbie Keane up front.

Keane scored the only goal as Ireland beat Cyprus 1-0 at Croke Park back in October and they remain unbeaten in their qualifying campaign.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

At last its a 'Dunne' Deal

Aston Villa have completed the signing of Ireland defender Richard Dunne after the Premier League ratified his £6million move from Manchester City.

Dunne was unable to finalise his switch to Villa Park on Tuesday despite the paperwork having already been sent off to the Premier League.

However, the delay has proved short-lived and Villa have now confirmed the capture of the Dublin born Ireland international.

Villa boss Martin O'Neill had been keen to improve his options in the centre of defence after losing Martin Laursen to retirement and selling Zat Knight to Bolton.

Dunne will be in contention to make his Villa debut in the local derby against Birmingham City Sunday week & his move will allow him to now concentrate on Ireland's crucial World Cup qualifier against Cyprus on Saturday.

City boss Mark Hughes paid tribute to Dunne "Richard has been outstanding for Manchester City. He is the ultimate professional and has served the club magnificently.

"Winning the player of the year award for four consecutive years tells you everything about him. We all wish him well for his future career at Aston Villa.

"It would have been difficult for Dunney to stay given his standing at the club and I understand that. I wasn't going to stand in his way.

"I could have tried to stop him going and said I wanted him as a squad player, but out of respect for what he has done for City I wasn't going to do that."