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."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reading delighted with O'Dea loan deal

Reading manager Brendan Rodgers is delighted that Celtic and Ireland defender Darren O'Dea has joined on loan until January.

The 22-year-old has signed a new three-year deal with Celtic but has been sent out on loan to get first-team experience.

O'Dea turned down a number of clubs to join the Royals, who have shipped seven goals in just five Championship games.

"Darren is a very talented young player and I think he will do very well for us," Rodgers told the club's official website.

"I am delighted to bring in a player of his quality. I have known him since he was 14 and tracked his career since.

"He will be looking to get more games under his belt, but he also has good experience, including the Champions League. He's also been a captain at Celtic and that is a massive club."

O'Dea has captained the Ireland's Under-21 side on a number of occasions and Celtic manager Tony Mowbray told the youngster that he still has a future at Parkhead.

"He reassured me that it's just a case of getting experience now and coming back to play for Celtic," O'Dea said.

"I had a couple of clubs that I had to make a tough decision over but I felt that Reading was the right club to go to and somewhere I can improve as a player.

"I want to play as many games as I possibly can and do as well as I possibly can - and to win games."