Sunday, May 31, 2009

Argentina to play Ireland for new stadium opener

Argentina will be the first team to take on Ireland at the new Aviva Stadium, the FAI have announced.

The two-time World Cup winners will visit Dublin for the clash on August 11, 2010 at the new 50,000 capacity stadium, marking the first international match in the arena since construction began in place of the old Lansdowne Road.

The stadium is on schedule to open for the original date set of late summer next year.

John Delaney, CEO of the FAI said: “I am very happy to have reached this agreement with Argentina, who will be fitting opponents to mark an opening international match of such significance.

"Aviva Stadium will be joint owned by the FAI and the IRFU and represents the single largest infrastructural project in the Association’s history. I look forward to welcoming Argentina to Dublin next year to help us celebrate that achievement.”

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trapattoni praise for Ireland debutants

Giovanni Trapattoni hailed the new-found richness of his squad after seeing an Ireland side featuring six debutants emerge from a rugged friendly with Nigeria with a 1-1 draw. The Africans also fielded an experimental line-up but the Irish manager said his makeshift team's display gave him renewed hope for the future.

"I was a little bit afraid before this match because Nigeria are not just one of the best sides in Africa but in the world," said the Italian. "They are faster and stronger than European teams and are also very at ease with the ball. But our new players showed great performances and personality and now I have real options for the future."

Some of the newcomers will have made stronger impressions than others. The Coventry City striker Leon Best was perhaps the most promising, his robustness and dynamism giving him a menacing presence up front. Though Trapattoni expects Caleb Folan to be fit for next week's World Cup qualifier in Bulgaria, he admitted that Best could fill the role if required.

"He showed he can be a strong target man and this is what we want because it allows Robbie to have the space to play between the midfield and the striker," said Trapattoni. Keane and Best linked well, the Tottenham Hotspur player twice putting his young partner through on goal only for Best's shots to be repelled first by Sam Sodje and then by the goalkeeper Austin Ejide. Best also headed against the post after another debutant, Sean St Ledger, had nodded a Liam Lawrence free-kick back across goal.

With right-back a regular area of concern for Ireland, Kevin Foley was perhaps the newcomer that Ireland most needed to succeed but the Wolves defender endured a difficult introduction to international football. He was at fault for Nigeria's goal, Mike Enemaro exploiting his sluggishness to turn a low Femi Olubayo cross into the net from seven yards.

That setback roused Ireland and they twice went close before Keane equalised eight minutes later, collecting a canny Keith Andrews through-ball before rounding the goalkeeper and rolling the ball into the net. "The first half was a very beautiful game and our goal was lovely," gushed Trapattoni.

The second period was less attractive, mainly because both managers made a raft of changes as their attention shifted to next week's qualifiers.

Ireland had the majority of possession but lacked the creativity to conjure clear-cut chances. A miscued clearance by Ejide gave them their best opportunity of the second half but the goalkeeper redeemed himself by acrobatically flipping Shane Long's 30-yard lob wide.

Despite all the new faces, it was a familiar figure whom Trapattoni singled out for praise. After seeing Keane claim his 39th international goal, Trapattoni enthused: "He was great again and his morale is very high now. He is so important for us because he is the one who gives time to our other players."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trapattoni expecting tough test

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is sure Nigeria will provide tough opposition in their friendly at Craven Cottage on Friday.

The Italian is hoping for a meaningful test before the World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria on 6 June.

Trapattoni said "It's a very difficult game and a good test for some new players.

"I want to see Sean St Ledger playing against a strong team like Nigeria and Liam Lawrence can enrich our squad."

Preston duo Eddie Nolan and St Ledger are in line to make their debuts, while Stoke midfielder Lawrence is expected to start after impressing in the Potters' Premier League survival campaign.

The 27-year-old is hoping to cement his place on the right-hand side of the Ireland midfield.

He said: "If I do get that chance it's up to me to take it. One thing I do is work hard and do my best every week no matter what game it is and I think the fans appreciate that even if you're having a bad game."

With Reading striker Kevin Doyle ruled out with a calf strain and Hull's Caleb Folan suffering from a knee injury, Coventry's Leon Best looks set to partner Robbie Keane in attack. He is more than grateful for the opportunity.

The Nottingham-born former Southampton striker said: "I feel as if it's a blessing. I think my season's been up and down but to get a call up for the full international team is great. I'm just delighted to be here.

"It's a massive learning curve and I think if I do get thrown in then all the players will help me. It's a lot different but it's still football.

"Hopefully I can do everything the manager wants me to do and I can see the certain resemblance between me and Caleb."

One of Trapattoni's biggest tasks might be lifting the spirits of some members of his squad who have ended their club seasons on a sour note by failing to make play-off finals or, in Damien Duff's case, scoring an own goal that confirmed his side's [Newcastle] relegation.

The legendary manager had some simple advice for the player when he arrived for training.

He said: "He was not happy but I spoke with him and told him he has to score a goal in the other half."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ireland's Gibson ends Manchester United's Premiership winning season with a win

Derry's Ireland midfielder Darron Gibson was delighted with his match winning performance for Manchester United in their 1-0 victory at Hull City today.

Gibson capped a breakthrough year for the 21-year-old with his glorious strike, which he admitted he would savour as his first in the Premier League.

"It was my first goal in the Premier League so it has to be one of my best," he told MUTV.

Gibson will travel with the United squad to Rome, and after playing a significant role in the club's Carling Cup success, as well as making his first start for the Republic of Ireland back in October, is already reflecting on a memorable season.

"I think this season has been brilliant for me," he added.

"I have played more games than I thought I would have so I have been happy. My aim now for next season is to push for a place and to try and push for a place each week."

He added: "I think the win today shows just what the squad has in terms of strength and depth. It shows anyone in the squad can come in and do a job."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Trapattoni hints at Ireland extension

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has given his strongest indication yet that he would like to extend his tenure as Ireland international manager.

Trapattoni’s two-year deal with the FAI expires in May of 2010 – a month before the World Cup finals in South Africa – but speaking yesterday in Dublin, the 70-year-old managerial veteran indicated that he has longer-term plans for the Irish job.

Asked if he would like to stay for the 2012 European Championship, Trapattoni replied: "Marco (Tardelli) and I have said before that we are proud to be managing Ireland. We would be very happy to be able to continue this work, we don’t want to leave it halfway and not finished. I think we’ve done a good job – we haven’t excelled, we can do a little better and there’s more to do. We have some young players and there is room for improvement so we want to work on that."

The FAI have said that they will only comment on contracts when there is something new to report but, last month, when asked about the manager’s position, chief executive John Delaney remarked: "The preference for any football club or national association is to have somebody for a longer period of time. But we’re in the results business and everyone knows that."

And results is what was uppermost in Giovanni Trapattoni’s mind yesterday as he unveiled a 25-man squad for the friendly against Nigeria on May 29 at Craven Cottage in London which will then be cut to 22 for the crucial World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia on June 6. The manager made no bones about the importance of the game in Bulgaria in shaping the outcome of the group and, especially, the battle for second spot and a play-off place. The Irish currently lie second in Group 8, two points behind leaders Italy and five head of Bulgaria who have a game in hand.

"The result of that game will be most important for our qualification," Trapattoni said. "And for Bulgaria, it could be the last opportunity to keep their qualification hopes alive. We want to keep a distance between us and them in the table so, while we will look to win, it’s very, very important that we don’t lose."

Trap’s understandable desire to give Kevin Doyle every chance to prove his fitness by naming the struggling Reading striker in his squad shows the importance of Doyle to the managers plans. Doyle sustained an Achilles injury in the first leg of his club’s semi-final promotion play-off and, while an initial scan wasn’t definitive, there was a general acceptance that he was unlikely to be fit for the game in Sofia.

However, Trapattoni yesterday revealed that Doyle will train again this week and have a second scan to see if there is a fresh reaction to his injury.

"I had this injury when I was a player and I have had many players who have had it," said Trapattoni. "Muscular injuries are very dangerous. Only if we are 100 per cent certain that he is fit will we decide he can play because a new injury in this position could be very difficult to recover from for September. Because he’s an extremely important player for us, I cannot run the risk of making the injury worse and having him out for two months."

Hull City’s Caleb Folan now tops the list of candidates to partner Robbie Keane should Doyle be ruled out, although Trapattoni could also turn to Shane Long or Andy Keogh.

Providing extra attacking cover – but much more likely to see action in the friendly against Nigeria – is Coventry City’s Leon Best, one of five uncapped outfield players in the squad, alongside Liam Lawrence (Stoke City), Sean St Ledger (Preston), Eddie Nolan (Preston) and Kevin Foley (Wolves).

John O’ Shea will be excused the Nigeria game to allow him time to recover from the Champions’ League final while the manager also made clear that Damien Duff will not be playing at left-back for Ireland as he has been in recent weeks for Newcastle United.

Meanwhile, no Trapattoni press conference is ever complete without reference to the self exiled Stephen Ireland, and the Italian couldn’t suppress a wry smile when asked what he made of Roy Keane’s suggestion that the manager should sleep outside Ireland’s house if that’s what it takes to entice the Manchester City man back into the Irish fold.

"I say ‘thanks to Roy’ and if he wants to help me then maybe he can sleep outside Stephen’s house," said Trapattoni. "It is up to Stephen to say that he wants to come back. Maybe he will review in his head that he wishes to come back in the future or maybe next season.

"That is important. The first time I saw him I could see his quality. He moves the ball well and passes it immediately before they can take it off him.

"But I cannot force him. I cannot force him."

Yet, the manager continues to resist eliminating Ireland altogether from this World Cup plans.

"No, no. Maybe during the summer, near the sea he can think about it, and ‘oh’. We have people who have the heart for the Ireland team and the Irish people. We are Italian but will do all we can to get the results for Ireland.

"But Stephen Ireland must decide. I think he is a little bit shy but I don’t know why.

"But if his view is that ‘at the moment I am quiet, I am happy and I stay at home with my family’ then that’s okay. That’s what he decides. It’s not my decision, it is his decision."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ireland squad announced for Nigeria friendly

Giovanni Trapattoni today named a squad of 25 players for the forthcoming International friendly against Nigeria on May 29 in London

Ireland Squad:


Shay Given - Manchester City
Dean Kiely - West Brom
Keiren Westwood - Coventry City


Eddie Nolan - Preston North End
Sean St. Ledger - Preston North End
John O'Shea - Manchester United
Kevin Foley - Wolves
Paul McShane - Sunderland
Richard Dunne - Manchester City
Stephen Kelly - Birmingham City
Kevin Kilbane - Hull City


Aiden McGeady - Glasgow Celtic
Damien Duff - Newcastle United
Darron Gibson - Manchester United
Glenn Whelan - Stoke City
Keith Andrews - Blackburn Rovers
Liam Miller - QPR
Stephen Hunt - Reading
Andy Keogh - Wolves
Liam Lawrence - Stoke City


Caleb Folan - Hull City
Kevin Doyle - Reading
Robbie Keane - Tottenham Hotspur
Shane Long - Reading
Leon Best - Coventry City

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kevin Doyle ruled out of Bulgaria qualifier

Ireland striker Kevin Doyle is set to be out of action for up to a month with a calf injury.

The Ireland international sustained the problem in the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Burnley and will now miss Ireland's crucial World Cup qualifier with Bulgaria on June 6.

Doyle's injury is a blow to Ireland and Trapattoni may decide to start with a Robbie Keane/Caleb Folan front line.

Reading physio Jon Fearn said "Kevin has damaged muscle in his calf but the scans show no damage to the Achilles tendon. It`s difficult to assess how long he`ll be out, but it should be no more than four weeks."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Celtic bid for McCarthy rejected

Celtic have had an offer for 18-year-old midfielder James McCarthy rejected by Hamilton Academical.

The Scottish Premier League leaders tabled their bid for the Ireland u21 international on Wednesday and talks have followed between the two clubs.

But Accies manager Billy Reid said on Thursday: "The club have received an offer for James. I can say at this stage that it will be rejected."

However, the player would prefer a move to Celtic than to an English club and an improved offer appears likely.

Hamilton had already rejected a bid of about £500,000 from Portsmouth for McCarthy, who has represented Ireland at under age level.

A number of English Premier League clubs were again represented at New Douglas Park on Wednesday as McCarthy played in Accies' 1-0 defeat by Falkirk.

And Everton, Newcastle, Tottenham, Middlesbrough, Wigan, Blackburn, Sunderland, Wolves and Ipswich have all been linked with the teenager.

But the player's agent, Willie McKay, said: "It is a dream for a kid from Glasgow to play for Celtic or Rangers and, if Celtic can come close to the offers made by other clubs, they must be favourites as he would love to play for the club.

"His family will have a big say in where he eventually goes.

"Celtic know how much Premiership clubs are offering and I'm sure they would be prepared to pay what would be a lot of money for a teenager."

McKay thinks the 18-year-old is likely to become the highest-paid teenager in Scottish football history should the deal be concluded.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell and Accies chairman Ronnie MacDonald held discussions about McCarthy on Wednesday, but no agreement has yet been reached.

And a deal is unlikely to be concluded until relegation-threatened Hamilton secure their place in the Scottish Premier League next season.

However, McKay believes that the time might be right for McCarthy, who was voted PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year, to move and ensure Hamilton's production line of promising youths continues.

"He resisted going to Liverpool to stay at Hamilton and I think the boy showed his loyalty to the club," said the agent.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ireland need to remain focused for Bulgaria clash.

The challenge for the Ireland squad over the next month will be to maintain their fitness and sharpness at a time when some of the non-Premiership players would be expecting to head off on holiday for a well earned rest after the rigours of tough season.

And with the Premiership finishing on May 24th and Ireland not due to play the crucial away game against Bulgaria until June 6th, the onus will be on the players to maintain a strong focus on the game in Sofia.

Victory would put Ireland in a strong position for the remaining qualifying matches with their sights set on overhauling Italy and claiming that one automatic qualifying place in Group 8 for the finals in South Africa next Summer.

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni will select his squad for the match against Bulgaria next week and will be looking forward to bringing his squad together for the friendly against Nigeria in London on the 29th of May. The Friendly may well give some fringe players the chance to impress Trapattoni prior to the remaining World Cup qualifiers and could see players like Sean St Ledger and young SPL player of the year James McCarthy receive a call up for the Nigeria clash.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Coppell blames Doyle's passion for Ireland for dip in club form

Reading manager Steve Coppell attributes Kevin Doyle's significant dip in form to his international exploits with Ireland.

“This is the conflict with international football,” Coppell said “I know how much playing for your country means to players, especially for the Irish boys here at Reading.

“Ireland had some important games and he wanted to play even though he wasn’t fully fit. I couldn’t stop him but it meant he came back to us worse off and we have suffered because of it.

“Saying that, he has got to play for his country. I would never tell anyone not to because it is an honour.

“But after all that has happened, we do feel that we are owed. It is time for him and all the senior players to deliver.”

Doyle played for the first half in today's 1-0 away defeat to Burnley in the Championship semi-final play-off game today.

And Doyle branded himself “stupid” for playing through the pain barrier and now admits a brief rest when the injury first arose would have cured the problem.

“My knee feels so much better now than it has for the last 10 weeks or so,” he said. “It started a few weeks before I last joined up with Ireland towards the end of March and it’s been at me ever since.

“If I had stopped playing then it probably would have been right in no time. But I would have missed Ireland’s games against Italy and Bulgaria which were big World Cup qualifiers, as well as some big ones with Reading.

“But I kept taking painkillers and anti-inflammatories and made it worse. That’s why it’s taken longer to clear up than it should have.”

And he admitted: “It wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine. I just didn’t have a chance to rest it. Looking back now I was stupid. Had I missed one or two games at the time I would have been fine.

“No-one knows I’ve been playing with a sore knee either so I haven’t been doing myself justice. It was stupid of me. At 25 I really should know better and hopefully next time I will.”

Saturday, May 2, 2009

McCarthy named young player of the year

Ireland U21 star James McCarthy capped off a remarkable season when he was named as Scotland's young player of the year last night.

Celtic's Scott Brown was voted the players' player of the year at the Scottish PFA awards, but midfielder McCarthy, still only 18, took home the young player award.

McCarthy, capped twice at U21 level by Ireland, has scored six goals in 33 SPL games for Hamilton this season, including both goals in a vital 2-1 win for the relegation-threatened side in a win over Kilmarnock on Saturday.

Meanwhile Hamilton Academicals manager Billy Reid believes that James McCarthy’s immediate future still lies at New Douglas Park, despite the interest the youngster has attracted from a host of top clubs.

Reid watched the 18-year-old put in one of his most impressive shifts for the club on Saturday, tearing Kilmarnock apart and scoring both goals in his side’s 2-1 win.

Although there are plenty of teams who would love to pry the young Irish under 21 international away from Lanarkshire come the summer transfer window, Reid hopes he can hang on to his prized asset for a little longer.

“He’s in no hurry to leave, but if something comes up and James thinks it’s right for him and the club we’ll sit down and that could be the case” said Reid.

“But I think he sees the education he’s getting at this club.

“There were eyebrows raised when he didn’t go and sign for Celtic or Liverpool when they were interested at 15 years old, but I think he’s been proven right.

“He’s matured as a young man and is enjoying his football here.”

Young Player of the Year nominee McCarthy more than justified his inclusion in the list of candidates for the award in the crucial relegation dogfight, displaying all the credentials that have earned him endless praise over the season.

His manager believes that when the starlet is at peak fitness he can be simply unstoppable.

“He has no weaknesses” insists Reid. “Whatever’s thrown in front of him he deals with it, on and off the park, and all credit to him.

“He’s been running on empty on recent weeks. We tend to forget he’s only 18 and you can see at training that he’s tired.

“It’s been a long season for him, but the few breaks we’ve had recently have helped him enormously.

“When he’s fresh, he’s a fantastic football player who has everything. Vision, pace, goals and he links up the play, and he works back the way as well which is important.

“He is outstanding.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Roy Keane on Stephen Ireland

Roy Keane has spoken about the continuing saga regarding Stephen Ireland's self inflicted exile from the Ireland international squad and the criticism of Trapattoni regarding Andy Reid's exclusion from the squad during the present World Cup qualifying campaign.

“I remember hearing about Brian Clough trying to get Archie Gemmill to sign for Forest – he slept on his sofa. That’s what I’d do with Stephen . . . well, I wouldn’t sleep on his sofa, I would sleep outside his house to try and get him back for Ireland,” he said.

“I’m sure (Giovanni) Trapattoni has done all he can to get him back, but he would obviously make a big, big difference to the Irish team. He’s pure quality, the lad. He’s been one of the most consistent players in the Premier League this season, in an inconsistent Manchester City team.

“But, having said that, if he doesn’t want to play – and he’ll have his own reasons, stuff we might never know about – then that has to be respected. Unfortunately. But you never know: never say never. He’s retired from international football, but lots of players have done that and come back,”
he laughed.

Would Ireland, long-term, regret his decision not to play for his country? “Ah well, I don’t think you have regrets, but you do make mistakes. What I would say to him if I ever bumped in to him in Manchester – whether or not he’d want to chat to me I don’t know – is ‘listen, your career is over before you know it. If you have the opportunity to play for Ireland under a good manager then go for it’.

“As I said, I don’t know the lad, I’ve never met him, he might have a reason for not coming back and we have to respect it, whatever it might be. But I’d persevere – if I was Trapattoni I would literally sleep outside his house.”

The prospect, though, of Keane sleeping outside Trapattoni’s house in an effort to convince him that Andy Reid is worth an international recall seems remote. “The fuss about Reidy being left out of the squad is unbelievable, way over the top,” he said of the player he signed for Sunderland in January of last year.

“Andy Reid doesn’t deserve to be in the Irish squad at this moment in time. He’s not doing enough.

“That’s what I like about Trapattoni, he’s an experienced manager, he looks at players who are in form, who are playing week in, week out. It’s not as if Ireland are having bad results. I think they’re doing very well, I have to say I’ve been impressed – look at the players we’ve got, I think they’re all playing to their maximum. The likes of Reidy, (Lee) Carsley, one or two others, don’t have too much to complain about, to be honest with you.

“Trapattoni has more experience than all of us put together, so I wouldn’t dare question what he’s doing.”

He did, though, question Trapattoni’s “loyalty” to a couple of his players, who Keane refused to name, ones he said were “playing on past reputations”. “You pick players on their form. (Fabio) Capello seems to do it. It’s all well and good being loyal to players, but there’s a fine line between loyalty and stupidity. One or two players just turn up and they’re picked for Ireland. One in particular . . . he’s picked every time he comes over, I can’t work that one out.”