Friday, December 24, 2010

Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Daoibh

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

Monday, December 20, 2010

Birmingham eye up Keane move

Birmingham are planning to steal Robbie Keane away from the grasp of rivals Aston Villa in a £6million January transfer window swoop.

Tottenham are prepared to listen to offers for Ireland striker Keane during the winter transfer window, with Harry Redknapp valuing the 30-year-old record Irish goalscorer at around £8m.

Villa have had a long-standing interest in the Dublin born player but are reluctant to meet that price. Birmingham are also looking to pay less but are prepared to meet Keane's £65,000-per-week wage packet at Spurs.

Keane has fallen down the pecking order at Spurs but Blues boss Alex McLeish sees him as the perfect partner for 6ft 7in front-man Nikola Zigic.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spartak warn Villa over Aiden McGeady move

Spartak Moscow have warned Aston Villa off making any move for Ireland international winger Aiden McGeady.

Villa were rumoured to be interested in McGeady prior to his move to Russia this summer from Celtic and it has been reported they may now reignite their interest during the January transfer window.

McGeady has been hugely impressive at Spartak and the club's sporting director Dmitri Popov insists the Ireland international is not for sale.

"McGeady is certainly not for sale," said Popov. "It is not true that he is unsettled in Moscow.

"No one has approached us from Villa yet but, if they do, our answer will definitely be a no."

McGeady received glowing praise this week from ex-Manchester United star Andrei Kanchelskis - "I'd give him 10 out of 10. There haven't been many better. His quality on the ball has been excellent, his pace and mobility is now Spartak's biggest threat.

"I like his attitude. He's a winner, he doesn't give up on anything. This is a quality that all top professionals need, but not every talented footballer has it. He plays 100pc for the team. It's now clear this is a player with a big, big future."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ireland v England June 2011

It is being reported today that the FAI are in talks with the English Football Association to secure a glamour friendly international between Ireland and England at the Aviva Stadium in June next year.

The game, if confirmed, will take place on Wednesday 8 June and will be the first senior international between the two countries since the Landsdowne Road game of 1995 - a game which was famously abandoned after 28 minutes when English fans rioted and ripped out seating after David Kelly had put Ireland ahead in the game.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ireland's Coleman named Everton player of the month

Rising Ireland international Seamus Coleman has been named Everton’s player of the month for November.

The Donegal born player had a memorable month as he cemented his position both as a regular in David Moyes’ first-team plans and as a fans’ favourite.

The highlight for the 22-year-old was surely in the opening game of Everton’s schedule as he scored his first Premier League goal for the Blues at Blackpool.

Coleman helped the Seasiders clinch promotion last season while on loan at Bloomfield Road and showed his growing maturity by refusing to celebrate.

The gesture was well-received by the home support, as had been his gutsy style and contribution to their success in last season’s Championship play-offs.

Coleman appeared as a substitute in the 1-1 draw with Bolton but was back in the starting line-up for games against Arsenal and Sunderland.

There was also a second call-up to the full Ireland squad with Coleman an unused substitute in the draw with Norway last month. Trapattoni's decision not to play Coleman during the game raised many eyebrows among Irish supporters who thought he thoroughly deserved a place in the starting eleven.

Coleman told evertontv: "I was delighted when I got the text to tell me I had won. I had a good month and it was great to get my first Premier League goal."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lennon predicts bright future for Ireland's Richie Towell

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has predicted more first-team action for young Irish international Richie Towell after his impressive debut for the Bhoys last weekend.

Dublin born Towell came off the bench to make his first competitive appearance for Celtic in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Lennon hopes to see Towell in the side more often.

"I thought Richie did great against Inverness," Lennon said. "I thought he was one of the bright sparks of the day. He had an abundance of energy, was good at winning the ball back and passed well throughout.

"He was also involved in Paddy McCourt's goal, which was our second. He has no reason to be critical of himself because he did exactly what we asked him to do and he can feel proud of himself.

"I would like to think that he would be involved more and more as the season progresses. We have been pretty pleased with how he has done in the last year. His level of performance has been consistent.

"We have a few players out at the moment and that maybe helped him get his chance at the weekend but, regardless of that, I am sure he will feature more and more as the season progresses."

Speaking after his impressive debut Towell said: "It was brilliant hearing the crowd's reaction and being in the middle of it all. It's what I've always dreamed of.

"It's been frustrating sitting on the bench all season and that's why I was so delighted to come on.

"I just want to show that I can compete at this level and hopefully the gaffer will give me another chance because I don't like sitting on the bench - I want to play every week.

"I thought the fans reacted well to me and I was pleased with how I did when I came on. I kept the ball and then I won the tackle for Paddy's [McCourt] goal so they were all cheering for that."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ciarán clark has no regrets over Irish international decision

Ciarán Clark insists he has no regrets about deciding to pledge his international future to Ireland rather than England.

The 21-year-old Aston Villa centre-back ­underlined his massive potential with two goals in the 4-2 defeat by Arsenal on Saturday.

Clark, who has played for England Under U-20’s, impressed as an emergency midfielder against the Gunners, but is standing by his choice to represent Ireland and hopes to make his debut for the senior team against Macedonia in March.

“I’ve made my decision, I am Irish,” said Clark.

I’ve played for England in the younger age groups but the time has come and I’ve decided to play for Ireland if selected. All my family is based in Ireland. If selected I’m sure I will have so much support over there.

“I am just looking forward to the next international game now as I was injured for the last one but there are a lot of games before then for Villa.”

Of his goals against Arsenal he said: “I didn’t have time to celebrate, I just wanted to get the ball back and push on for the next one.”

Meanwhile Villa boss Gerard Houllier has sung the praises of Clark after the youngster netted twice in the defeat to Arsenal.

After going into the interval two down, Clark twice brought Villa to within a goal of the Gunners before Jack Wilshere's stoppage-time header secured the points for Arsene Wenger's men.

The brace was the 21-year-old's first-ever senior goals for the club and Houllier is looking for the defender-turned-midfielder to push on.

The French boss said: "Ciaran can play centre-back, as he did against Blackburn last week, but I think, because he has footballing qualities, he can help as a defensive midfielder.

“We played him there because we are practically depleted in midfield.

"Ciarán is doing that very well at the moment and he can also score goals.

"He almost did against Chelsea, when he hit the post. He is developing. He is coming up well."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stoke boss delighted with Walters progress

Stoke boss Tony Pulis has praised the impact of Irish international Jon Walters since his arrival at the club in the summer.

The 27-year-old international scored two goals in the Potters' 3-0 win against West Brom last weekend, taking his tally to four for Stoke.

Walters previously plied his trade in the lower leagues before moving to Stoke from Ipswich Town, and Pulis is delighted with his attitude and commitment.

"Jon has not just been bought in respect of what he is going to do in the first team," he said.

"He has also been bought as a player who will mix in with the group and his attitude and commitment to everything he does, both on and off the pitch, is absolutely first-class.

"The players have really taken to him. We have a good spirit at the football club and the secret is to try and maintain that spirit and togetherness. Jon has moulded in so well.

"Obviously we are delighted he has got four goals already this season, but it's also his application and attitude around the place.

"As a lad, he has really mixed in and grown with the group."

Stoke's win against the Baggies was their third successive victory and it came after a run of four league defeats.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Houllier keen on bringing Gibson to Villa

According to reports in today's Daily Mirror, Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier is interested in bringing Manchester United's Darron Gibson to Aston Villa.

The Villa boss is said to be keen on the Derry born Irish midfielder, but would need a major favour from old rival Sir Alex Ferguson to get his man.

Gibson, 23, is a squad player at Old Trafford but Houllier believes he would be a key man in his first XI.

Villa will try to sign Gibson in January, either on loan or on a permanent basis. They believe they may be able to tempt United into loaning him out if it means getting him regular Premier League games and improving his long-term career prospects.

The Ireland international is renowned for having a powerful shot but has yet to develop into a first-team regular at Old Trafford.

Houllier knows he will face a battle to persuade United but the loan option gives him some hope, especially with Gibson still struggling for regular first team games.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Clifford looking for first Pilgrims goal

Ireland U21 international Conor Clifford wants to start getting in among the goals during the second month of his loan spell at Plymouth Argyle.

And there would be no better time for the 19-year-old Dublin born Chelsea midfielder to open his account than against Brentford at Home Park tomorrow.

Argyle have lost their last three matches in all competitions, and are 19th in League One, one position below Brentford on goal difference.

So, even at this relatively stage of the season, it is an important match for the Pilgrims.

The loan deal which will see Clifford stay for another month was being finalised today.

Clifford has already made five appearances for Argyle, and been a hit with manager Peter Reid.

The Ireland international admitted he had been pleased with the way he had settled at Home Park.

He told Herald Sport: "I think I have done quite well, but there is still a lot more I can give to the team.I'm happy enough with how I'm playing. Hopefully, I can just keep it up and get a few goals.I haven't got off the mark yet, but hopefully, I will get my first one tomorrow."

Clifford had a scoring chance near the end of Argyle's 1-0 defeat at Tranmere Rovers last Saturday, but he shot wide.

He said: "When I came here, the gaffer (Peter Reid) had me sitting in the midfield, to get used to it really.

"But now he has taken my reins off a bit and I can play my proper game.

"I will be trying to get forward a lot more, to get some shots in, and to get closer to Brad (striker Bradley Wright-Phillips)."

Clifford had not played any first team football before signing on loan for Argyle and has enjoyed the experience tremendously.

"I have loved it" he said. "It's brilliant I have got games under my belt.

"The whole idea was for me to come down here and play some games and get good experience.

"The gaffer has been brilliant. He has thrown me in and I have been in the team ever since I have been here, so it has gone really well.

"The results haven't been as good as I would have wanted, but I'm staying for another month so, hopefully, we can get a few more wins."

Playing in League One has certainly been an eye-opener for the Dublin-born midfielder.

Clifford said: "It's more up in the air, and more of a battle, than I'm used to, but it has been good to learn a different style of football.

"I think I have dealt with it quite well.

"It was a shock at first, though, because back at Chelsea the reserves is more tippy-tappy, nice football."

Chelsea have closely monitored the progress of Clifford while he has been with Argyle.

Clifford said: "Steve Holland (Chelsea's reserve team boss) and Neil Bath (the academy manager) have been in contact with me a few times.

"They were really happy for me to stay here because I'm playing games and it's good experience for me.

"I have signed for another month and, hopefully, I will do well and we will see what happens then."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ireland 1 - Norway 2

Morten Gamst Pedersen was Ireland's tormentor as Norway came from behind to snatch a late 2-1 victory at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last night.

The Blackburn midfielder ruined keeper Shay Given's record 109th appearance for Ireland by curling home a superb 34th-minute free-kick to cancel out Shane Long's fifth-minute penalty.

But there was worse to come for Giovanni Trapattoni's men when Pedersen provided the cross from which Erik Huseklepp scored the winner with just four minutes remaining.
Ireland made a flying start Long's fifth minute run on to John O'Shea's through-ball caused the normally redoubtable Brede Hangeland all sorts of problems and prompted him to haul his man to the ground.

Icelandic referee Kristinn Jakobsson immediately pointed to the spot and with Robbie Keane absent, Long took over spot-kick duties and calmly despatched the ball low to goalkeeper Jon Knudsen's right and into the bottom corner.

A Norway side boasting nine of the men who started last month's qualifier victory in Cyprus, a win which maintained their 100% start, was at sixes and sevens in the opening stages, and they might have fallen further behind with 12 minutes gone.

Kevin Doyle's pass was perfectly weighted for Liam Lawrence to drive in a low cross, and although Knudsen palmed the ball just inches out of Long's reach it fell for Damien Duff. His left-foot drive was firm and accurate, but the keeper recovered to kick it off the line.

With 34 minutes gone, Pedersen laid Hangeland's crisp pass off to Thorstein Helstad and Stephen Kelly handled as he slid in in an attempt to regain possession. Pedersen took charge of the resulting free-kick and curled a superb left-foot shot high to Given's right to give Ireland's most-capped international no chance.

The game opened up as time ran down with both sides looking for a winner, and it took a brave block by Glenn Whelan to keep out John Arne Riise's 76th-minute piledriver from getting anywhere near Given.

However, the Manchester City man was beaten for the second time with four minutes remaining when Pedersen's cross left him cruelly exposed and Huseklepp took full advantage at the far post to snatch victory.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trapattoni names squad for Norway friendly

Giovanni Trapattoni has named his Ireland starting eleven for Wednesday night's friendly international against Norway at the new Lansdowne Road stadium.

Teenager Greg Cunningham will win his third senior international cap. The 19-year-old Manchester City defender, currently on loan at Leicester, will line up at left-back with manager Trapattoni having little choice but to ring the changes with his squad having been ravaged by injury.

Darren O'Dea, who is currently on loan from Celtic at Ipswich, will partner John O'Shea in central defence with Stephen Kelly on the right, while Liam Lawrence, Keith Fahey, Glenn Whelan and Damien Duff will make up the midfield quartet.

Kevin Doyle, who yesterday underwent a scan on a broken bone on his hand, will be joined by Shane Long in attack with goalkeeper Shay Given wearing the captain's armband.

Ireland 11 to take on Norway

Given (Manchester City); Kelly (Fulham), O'Shea (Manchester United), O'Dea (Ipswich Town), Cunningham (Leicester City); Lawrence (Portsmouth), Fahey (Birmingham City), Whelan (Stoke City), Duff (Fulham), Long (Reading), Doyle (Wolves).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Trapattoni to give youth a chance

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is likely to give some of his younger players an international start due to the number of senior players who have reported injured ahead of Wednesday's friendly game with Norway in Dublin.

The Irish boss has lost six of the players he initially named for the game and has further doubts over Sean St Ledger, Paul Green and striker Kevin Doyle, who were due to be assessed today.

Captain Robbie Keane is out with an ankle injury, Kevin Kilbane has withdrawn with a back problem and Richard Dunne, Paul McShane and Caleb Folan have varying knee injuries.

In addition, Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson has not reported for the squad due to a family illness.

Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark was named in a revised squad on Friday afternoon, but damaged a calf in the warm-up before Saturday's Premier League draw with Man United and has withdrawn.

As a result, Trapattoni has signalled his intention to have a look at young Everton defender Seamus Coleman, Greg Cunningham, who is currently on loan at Leicester from Manchester City, and Stoke striker Jon Walters. Celtic's Darron O'Dea and Stoke's Marc Wilson are also likely to feature during the game.

Trapattoni, who is awaiting Aiden McGeady's arrival from club duty with Spartak Moscow later today, said: "We are missing many injured players, but it is important in this friendly game to look at other young players.

"The likes of Coleman, Cunningham and Walters, it is very important for them and for us.

"The players, we know, but with us, they can increase in confidence and personality.
"It will be important in the future that these players are available to us."

St Ledger and Green will have scans on knee injuries today, while Doyle will have further examinations on the broken bone in his hand.

Wednesday's game is the first since last month's Euro 2012 double-header, which saw Ireland lose at home to Russia and draw in Slovakia.

However, Trapattoni insists there will be plenty at stake.

He said: "I have said many times in the past, there is no such thing as a friendly game for the national team.

"When players play for their country, when they have that shirt on, they have pride, they must be proud because they are playing for their country."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ciarán Clark gets Ireland call

Ciarán Clark has been called into the Ireland squad for next week's friendly game against Norway at Lansdowne Road. His call up to Trapattoni's senior squad follows a report from FIFA this morning indicating that there is still a chance they may be in a position to consider his application to play for Ireland in time for the match.

Clark, who qualifies for Ireland through his mother and grandparents, opted to play for the 'The Boys In Green' at senior level after talking to club-mate Richard Dunne, who is in line to win his 64th cap against the Norwegians.

The 21 year old Central defender recently agreed a new three-and-a-half year deal with Aston Villa and has put in some impressive performances for Gerard Houllier's side at central defence and also filling in at central midfield.

Robbie Keane, Paul Mc Shane and Caleb Folan are out of the Ireland squad to face Norway on Wednesday in the Aviva Stadium.

Everton's Seamus Coleman has kept his place in the panel and could be set to make his debut with McShane ruled out.

Ireland squad to face Norway:

Shay Given, Keiren Westwood, John O'Shea, Seamus Coleman, Richard Dunne, Sean St. Ledger, Greg Cunningham, Kevin Foley, Kevin Kilbane, Stephen Kelly, Darren O'Dea, Marc Wilson, Darron Gibson, Ciaran Clark, Glenn Whelan, Paul Green, Liam Lawrence, Stephen Hunt, Aiden McGeady, Keith Treacy, Damien Duff, Keith Fahey, Jonathan Walters, Kevin Doyle, Shane Long.

Graham Carey flourishing during loan spell

Huddersfield Town boss Lee Clark says he is "quietly confident" of keeping Ireland U21 international Graham Carey with the Terriers beyond the January transfer window.

The 21-year-old Dublin born player signed a six-month loan from Celtic in the summer and has started the last 12 straight matches as Town have moved second in League 1.

Clark is a big fan of the Ireland Under 21 international and said recently: "We have been in ongoing dialogue with Neil Lennon and Alan Thompson, who I know very well, and I am very, very hopeful of doing something.

"Graham loves it here, we love having him here and I think he is an exceptional young player.

"He has shown that with the goals he has scored and the ones he's set up, he's got a beautiful left foot and he's a very talented footballer.

"As I've said, we are in constant dialogue with Celtic and, while you can never say 100% until it's done and dusted, the conversations we've had with Celtic have been on a positive note and it's just a matter, really, of clearing things up at board level.

"We want it to happen, that's what I can say, and I'm quietly confident that we can progress things on Graham."

Midfielder Carey signed for Celtic in 2005 from Shelbourne's youth set up. He made his senior Celtic debut as a substitute against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League ion December 2009. He was regularly named as a substitute for Celtic in the SPL 2009–10 season before been loaned out to St Mirren in February 2010.

Carey has been capped for Ireland at every youth level up to U21 level.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Clubs jostle for Duffy loan move

Everton boss David Moyes has yet to decide on the best loan move for promising Irish full back Shane Duffy.

Everton recently refused a loan request from League two side Northampton Town for the young central defender and a number of Championship sides including Preston and Leeds United, and League one side Southampton are believed to have approached the Toffee’s looking to take the 18 year old Ireland international on loan.

Preston manager Darren Ferguson has been linked with an approach for Duffy as he looks to shore up his goal-leaking defence, and he attended the Everton reserve game on Monday to monitor Duffy’s progress.

Speaking after last night's defeat to Barnsley, Ferguson said: “I'm hoping to get three bodies in and I will be on the phone all day on Wednesday - the positions will become clear when they are done deals.”

It remains to be seen if Duffy will be joining Ferguson at Deepdale, or if another Championship club is deemed more suitable for Duffy’s continued progress.

Coyle rues missed chance to capture Coleman but lauds his progress

Owen Coyle knows all about the threat that Ireland international Séamus Coleman is likely to pose to his Bolton team tonight. Coyle spotted the Irish winger’s potential when he tried to sign him from Sligo Rovers during his time in charge at Burnley.

Killybegs born Coleman maintained his stellar rise in the game last weekend by scoring Everton’s equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Blackburn, and he continues to earn plaudits for his attacking style and vigour.

“I had Seamus in at Burnley,” said Bolton boss Coyle. “He came in and played a trial game for us and he got injured after 10 minutes and he was unfortunate.

“He caught his knee and was out for four to six weeks but as soon as he was back fit, everybody was talking about this young player. If he’d played the full game and not picked up the injury we probably would have signed him.

“But he went back to Sligo and got himself fit again and by that time there were bigger clubs than ourselves at Burnley looking at him, with Everton being one of them and he moved there.”

Coyle added: “He went about it with such vigour and enthusiasm, I liked him straight away before he’d even played, and you see how he’s evolved at Everton.

“He had a great loan spell at Blackpool and now he’s pushed himself into the Everton first team. David Moyes has been very good with him and very clever with him because he gave him a little sample of the European stuff last year and knew that the Championship with Blackpool would serve him well. He’s been proved right because he’s been terrific.

“He’s getting better and better. He’s a full back but he can play further forward and he’s just an outstanding young player with a real sense of purpose, a real sense of drive and I love that type of player.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Robbie Keane a doubt for Norway game

Robbie Keane has become a doubt for next week’s friendly game against Norway after Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp revealed that the Irish captain is struggling with an ankle injury.

Spurs are waiting on the results of a recent scan which will reveal the seriousness of the damage and It’s another set back for the Irish record goal scorer , given that he was guaranteed some much needed game time in the Dublin friendly clash.

Giovanni Trapattoni said that he was keen to use the Norway friendly to give Keane and goalkeeper Shay Given a good run out, especially considering they are currently out of their club first teams.

“I know he’s not fresh like two or three years ago, but for us now he’s still very important,” said the Irish boss. “It’s important that he plays against Norway. I think now he is not fit because he can only play 10 minutes here and there for Tottenham. But he’s 30, not 34 or 35.”

Keane has only started a couple of games with Spurs this season, and has been hotly tipped for a move away from White Heart Lane in the transfer window in January. Redknapp has acknowledged that the 30-year-old has been very frustrated since the arrival of Rafael van der Vaart pushed him further down the striker pecking order.

His lack of sharpness was evident in last month's Euro qualifiers with Russia and Slovakia, especially in the Slovakia game where he missed a penalty and missed two other decent opportunities in a 1-1 away draw.

Keane is clearly in need of a move away from Spurs and irrespective of his inclusion in the Norway friendly game next week, his priority has to be getting back playing club football on a weekly basis.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trap to blood new talent in Norway friendly

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has revealed he will blood some of the new Irish talent currently making waves for their club teams in the friendly against Norway at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday week.

Trap included the uncapped trio of Séamus Coleman, Marc Wilson and Jonathan Walters in his 27-man preliminary squad for the workout against a side currently leading their Euro 2012 qualifying group ahead of Portugal and Denmark.

With one eye firmly fixed on the European qualifying game against Macedonia in March, Trapattoni admitted the team starting in eleven days' time will be strong but fringe players will get some game time over the ninety minutes.

"This game will be an opportunity for two or three young players like Keith Treacy, Séamus Coleman, Greg Cunningham and also Mark Wilson to face a strong team.

"There needs to be balance in our team between the new, young and senior. We can make six substations plus the goalkeeper during the game.

"A positive result will be good for morale because we felt aggrieved about drawing with Slovakia in the last game.

"We played well and missed a penalty. A win would have kept us top of table with Russia but that is gone and we have to think about the future. That starts with the friendly against Norway.

"They (Norway) haven't many creative players but they are strong, physical and tactical. I have watched them play against Portugal, France and Iceland and they are a strong team.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Trapattoni names Ireland squad for Norway friendly

Giovanni Trapattoni has named his 27 man Ireland squad for the November 17 friendly against Norway at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.

Trap has included three uncapped players in his panel and while he already knows all about the merits of Donegal's Seamus Coleman and Antrim's Marc Wilson, he will get a closer look at Stoke striker Jon Walters for the first time.

Wolves winger Stephen Hunt is back in the squad after returning from a long-term foot injury but there is no place in the squad for his former Wolves teammate Andy Keogh. Damien Duff, Darren O’Dea and Stephen Kelly, who all missed the last two matches through injury, are named in the squad for the match later this month.


Shay Given
Keiren Westwood


John O'Shea
Seamus Coleman
Richard Dunne
Sean St. Ledger
Greg Cunningham
Kevin Foley
Paul McShane
Kevin Kilbane
Stephen Kelly
Darren O'Dea


Marc Wilson
Darron Gibson
Glenn Whelan
Paul Green
Liam Lawrence
Stephen Hunt
Aiden McGeady
Keith Treacy
Damien Duff
Keith Fahey


Jonathan Walters
Robbie Keane
Kevin Doyle
Caleb Folan
Shane Long

Shane Long deal extends Reading stay

Ireland international striker Shane Long has penned a new contract deal with Reading that will keep him at the club until 2012.

The Tipperary born player was linked with a move to Birmingham City during the summer, but the deal sees the former Cork City star extending his five year stay with the Royals.

Long who scored his first international goal for Ireland in a friendly 1-1 draw against Bolivia in 2007 impressed during last month's European qualifying games with Russia and Slovakia, scoring against Russia in Dublin and putting in a man of the match performance in the 1 -1 draw away to Slovakia.

Royals Manager Brian McDermott said, "I'm delighted Shane has committed to the club by signing a new contract with us.

In this calendar year he has scored 13 goals, more than any other member of our squad, in 2010 he has been a key reason behind our consistent home form, and he continued to make history by scoring twice against Aston Villa in our first FA Cup quarter final for 83 years.

"From a personal point of view, his winner at Anfield in January won us a memorable FA Cup game at Liverpool - a victory I'm sure was instrumental in me getting this job. I am grateful to Shane, as I am to all the players who played a part in that fantastic win.

"People sometimes forget that Shane is still a very young footballer. For a 23-year-old striker, very much still learning his trade in a difficult role, he has done a really good job for us. He is one of our own and I'm very pleased he remains completely committed to Reading Football Club."

Speaking after signing his new Reading deal Long said "I've been at the club a long time and enjoyed every year here. It's nice that the Chairman, manager and club showed faith in me and offered me a new deal. I was delighted to snap it up when I got the chance."

"I enjoy it here, I've been through ups and downs and things are looking on the up since the manager came in. He brought us up from a relegation battle, the club is back on the way up again and it's nice to be part of it."

"This is my sixth season here, I've enjoyed every one and I'm going for a testimonial!"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sean St Ledger a target of Liverpool and Villa

Aston Villa are prepared to match bids from Liverpool in an attempt to beat their Premiership rivals to the signing of Preston and Ireland defender Sean St Ledger

Villa scouts have watched the Ireland international regularly while Liverpool assistant boss Sammy Lee has also been keeping a close eye on the progress of 25 year old StLedger over the past month.

St Ledger has recaptured his form and fitness after a difficult past 18 months where he saw a move to Middlesbrough collapse and tentative inquiries from Celtic come to nothing.

However, Preston are struggling to shed their debts and will be willing to listen to offers in January with an asking price of around £4million.
Villa manager Gerard Houllier knows he has an advantage over his former club Liverpool as St Ledger is a Villa fan and has partnered Richard Dunne at international level.

Houllier said: 'If we spot a good international player who can add something, we'll take him. We will have one or two coming in January.'

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Moyes prepared to send Duffy on loan

Everton boss David Moyes feels the time may now be right to send promising young Irish international Shane Duffy out on loan to gain first team experience.

The Toffees are believed to be willing to allow the Derry born defender to go on loan, although he clearly remains firmly in Moyes plans, having made the bench for the recent Premiership clash with Spurs at White Heart Lane.

No doubt Moyes decision was swayed by the positive impact a loan spell at Blackpool last season had on the development of fellow Irish international Seamus Coleman and feels a similar experience would be hugely beneficial to 18 year old Duffy.

Moyes said: “I'd like to put Shane out on loan. We've been keeping an eye on him at first (since his injury) and keeping him indoors. He's very good in the air though, and could have come on against Crouch (v Tottenham). If we find the right club he could go on loan.”

Duffy has been progressing well since his return from the serious injury he sustained in an Irish training game accident back in May.

Everton recently refused a loan request from League two side Northampton Town for the young central defender and he is likely to be on the radar of a host of clubs looking to take the player on loan, now that the Toffee’s boss has decided he has recuperated enough from his horror injury.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

David Meyler returns ahead of schedule

Ireland international David Meyler makes an ‘ahead of schedule’ return to competitive action when he gets a first real run-out for Sunderland Reserves tonight.

The Cork born Under 21 international has been sidelined since May when he ruptured knee ligaments in Sunderland's last home game of the season against Manchester United.

The very promising Irish midfielder twisted studs in the turf and damaged ligaments so badly that it was thought at one point, that the whole of this season could be spent recovering from the serious injury .

However, the earliest it was realistically thought he could be back playing football was the end of December, but he has astonished medical staff with the speed of his recovery, and after successfully coming through a behind-closed-doors game last week, is due to face Liverpool's second string

Meyler, 20, who was signed by Steve Bruce's predecessor Roy Keane from Cork City in 2008, started seven games for Sunderland last season prior to the injury, making his debut at the end of December.

He immediately caught the eye of manager Steve Bruce for his huge work rate during games. The Black Cats boss admitted he was stunned when the ProZone stats showed the volume of ground being covered by Meyler during a game, even surpassing that of Premiership marathon man, Cesc Fabregas. Bruce Said: “The lad’s miles above everyone else. He got through 13-and-a-half kilometres against City, which is phenomenal”.

The timing of Meyler’s injury could also not have been worse for the young player, as he had just been selected by Giovanni Trapattoni to take part in a senior Ireland training camp, which was due to take place the week after he sustained the ligament injury in May.

Sunderland will be keen not rush Meyler back too early, but the likelihood is, he will be back challenging for a Sunderland place after Christmas. He will also be keeping a close eye on his Ireland international chances, with a fit Meyler likely to be pushing for a squad place in the upcoming Carling Nation’s Cup competition, which starts in February against Wales in Dublin.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

McGeady claims the points for Spartak

Ireland winger Aiden McGeady scored an injury-time winner from the penalty spot as Spartak Moscow edged past Rostov 2-1 in the Premier Liga clash at the Luzhniki Stadium.

The home side had gone behind to Anri Khagush's 24th-minute strike. However, Welliton equalised shortly before the break when McGeady got past two Rostov defenders to send over a cross for Welliton to head home just before half time, and when referee Alexander Gvardis pointed to the spot in the dying seconds, McGeady kept his cool to convert his second goal for Spartak since his nine and a half million pound move from Celtic.

McGeady has settled well in Moscow and has given Spartak an added attacking option with his impressive penetration down the wing. The Irish midfielder’s initial apprehension when making the first transfer move of his career seems to have passed and he has settled into the different Russian style of football, with the ball being played far more on the ground than in the SPL with former club Celtic.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Damien Duff due back at training after injury

Ireland international winger Damien Duff is due to return to training next week as he steps up his recovery from a calf injury that forced him to miss Ireland's recent European qualifiers against Russia and Slovakia.

The 31 year old Dublin born international has been sidelined for the past month, but could be back for the home clash with Aston Villa on Saturday week.

Fulham Boss Mark Hughes said: "He should be joining in training on Monday and by the weekend we're hoping he'll be an option for us."

It remains to be seen if Duff will be fit enough for inclusion in the Ireland squad for the upcoming friendly against Norway on November 17th.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Marc Wilson - A central midfield solution for Stoke and Ireland

Ireland international Marc Wilson will be hoping to see more game time for Stoke in the coming weeks after putting in a solid shift in central midfield for the Potters against Man United last Sunday. And the trip to Goodison Park tomorrow is another opportunity to try and cement a starting place in the Stoke midfield.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis has raised a few eyebrows at the Britannia stadium over his sparing use of the versatile midfielder, with Wilson making just his second Potters start since his £3 million move from Portsmouth this summer.

Stoke managed to beat several Premiership clubs to Wilson’s signature, with West Brom boss Roberto Di Matteo & West Ham manager Avram Grant big admirers of the County Antrim born player.

Pulis will have to decide if he sticks with the Rory Delap/Dean Whitehead central pairing, which has had limited success this season or introduce Wilson for one of the two mentioned above.

Certainly the Delap/Wilson pairing sounds more attractive as you combine the industrial work of the defensive midfield with some quality on the ball from Wilson.

Wilson’s ability to use the ball intelligently could therefore make a difference particularly if a ball-winning grafter like Rory Delap was deployed alongside him to give him some protection.

The Ireland international appears to possess the qualities that the Stoke engine room has been lacking. Against Man United last week and in spite of the odd lapse of concentration, Wilson brought composure and vision to a midfield that is in need of some inspiration and flair.

On the international scene, and with Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni reviewing the makeup up of the central midfield positions, Wilson may be just the person to step in and shore up the current midfield weakness in the Irish team.

He certainly offers more than Paul Green and it would be interesting to see him start next month’s Norway friendly in the centre alongside Glen Whelan or even possibly Darron Gibson. Add to that his versatility and experience at right-back and right-midfield positions, and he sounds like an ideal candidate to be part of the Irish squad for years to come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mark Noble switching to Ireland?

Reports today are suggesting that West Ham’s Mark Noble has decided to switch his international allegiance from England to Ireland.

The 23 year old central midfielder has played all his youth and first team football for West Ham and despite his still relatively young age, is their longest serving player, joining the club as a full time trainee in the summer of 2003 and making his first team debut at the age of 17 in the Carling Cup against Southend in 2004.

Noble is seen as a combative central midfielder, always strong in the challenge and has a fantastic engine enabling him to play an old fashioned box to box central midfield role. And its no coincidence that Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland side have been struggling in the central midfield area for the past year, with Glen Whelan, Darron Gibson and Paul Green all failing to stamp their authority in the central midfield position during recent internationals. Ireland assistant boss Marco Tardelli was at Upton Park last night to see West Ham seal an extra-time victory over Stoke and a place in the Carling Cup quarter-finals.

Noble has represented England at u21 level and is believed to have been approached previously by Ireland when Steve Staunton was manager of the international side, a request that was declined by Noble at the time.

If the reports suggesting Noble’s change of international direction are true, it will come as a surprise to some in England who thought the Hammers midfielder could still challenge for a squad place in Fabio Capello’s side, although dislodging Gerrard and Lampard was an unlikely scenario for Noble.

There has been no formal or official confirmation from Noble or the FAI on the international allegiance issue, as yet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Shane Duffy remains firmly in Moyes plans

Ireland international Shane Duffy seems to be very much in the future plans of David Moyes after the Everton boss refused a request from Northampton Town to take the 18 year old central defender on loan.

Despite the return from injury of Phil Jagielka, Toffee’s boss Moyes is keen to keep the Derry born defender in his sights and its likely that Duffy will see first team football as the season progresses.

Duffy has made huge progress since his horror injury in May when he underwent life-saving surgery after suffering a freak accident in an Ireland training camp match, he suffered a laceration to his liver after colliding with Irish amateur team goalkeeper Adrian Walsh during the training match at Gannon Park.

Less than eight weeks after the injury, Duffy was back training at Everton and his progress has continued with his return as reserve team captain and his call up to the bench for the clash with Tottenham last weekend.

Earlier this month Duffy also played an important central defensive role as Ireland progressed to the elite stages of the European U19 championship with wins over Serbia and Luxemburg.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Robbie Brady in contention for Man United debut

Ireland u21 international Robbie Brady is in contention to make his senior debut for Man United in tonight's Carling Cup tie with Wolves at Old Trafford.

The winger is very highly rated by Alex Ferguson and all at the Carrington training ground, and despite being out injured for seven months last year he has managed to get a run of games in the reserves and progress to the fringes of the first team squad.

The former St Kevin's Boys player has long been tipped for the top, and turned down the advances of a host of Premier League clubs to choose the Red Devils.

He trains with the first team squad on a regular basis and has recently made a step forward with his country by making his U-21 debut. The 18-year-old also helped Paul Doolin's U-19 side qualify for the elite phase of the European Championships with a goalscoring contribution in Bulgaria earlier this month.

Brady arrived at Old Trafford in 2008 and immediately impressed, but spent almost seven months on the sidelines last season.

Manchester United reserve manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently earmarked Brady as a player to watch now that he has overcome his injury woes.

"He came to our club two years ago and went straight into the reserves, which is unusual," said Solsjkaer. "But then last season he had a torrid time with loads of injuries that really restricted him and his development.

"This year, I've got him through pre-season with no injuries. He's got a very good left foot, and he's Irish so he's a very a good competitor. He's enthusiastic, he's quick and although he's not a big lad -- he's probably my size -- he wins more or less everything in the air.

"We've just got to work on his fitness and, if we can get him super fit ,then he'll be a very, very good player."

Brady has been a part of Ireland's international youth set-up for the last four years, progressing throuth the u15,u17 & u19 teams and last month make his u21 debut in the European u21 qualifier against Switzerland at the Cornaredo Stadium, Lugano on 3 September.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Paul George commits to Ireland

Rising Celtic starlet Paul George has committed his international future to Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland. The 16 year old striker is believed to have contacted the FAI requesting to be considered for selection.

George from Killough in County Down recently signed a three year deal with the hoops and spent last year on the Celtic Academy’s innovative school programme at St Ninian’s High, he has already made an appearance for the first-team, coming on as a substitute in a friendly match with AZ Alkmaar at the end of last season.

Speaking at the time of George's contract announcement, Celtic Head of Youth, Chris McCart said: “We are absolutely delighted to have secured Paul for the next three years.

“Paul is a player we have had over here for two years now. He has settled into Scotland has been part of our schools project at St Ninian's for the last year and is the type of player that is an entertainer. He has very good skills, but is also dedicated and hard-working too.

Confident Clifford starts well at Pymouth

Ireland u21 international Conor Clifford put in a fine performance in his debut for Plymouth against Huddersfield on Saturday.

The 19-year-old, Dublin born midfielder was signed on a one-month loan from Premier League champions Chelsea late on Friday afternoon, he then started for the Pilgrims the following day.

Clifford only met the Argyle squad for the first time shortly before kick-off.

The one exception was winger Craig Noone, who had collected him from Plymouth railway station on Friday.

Clifford admitted it had been a whirlwind experience for him, and also an enjoyable one.

He told Herald Sport: "Craig Noone picked me up from the train station and I stayed with him last night.

"So, basically, I went into the dressing room, put on the kit and went out and played.

"I didn't know anyone's name, but the lads were good to me. They looked after me on the pitch and helped me through it."

Clifford continued: "It was strange sitting down in the dressing room, with no-one knowing who you are.

"It did feel a bit awkward that I was starting, and other lads who had been training all week weren't.

"But I'm here to play football and it was brilliant (Argyle manager) Peter Reid threw me in.

"I wasn't expecting that at all, but he showed great faith in me. He told me to relax, to go out there and express myself, and not to be nervous."

Clifford followed those instructions, soon winning over the Green Army with his confident, positive approach.

Reid made his move for Clifford after seeing him in action for Chelsea reserves when they won 5-4 away to West Bromwich Albion last Wednesday.

Clifford said: "I played well in that game and I got a call from Frank Arnesen (Chelsea's director of football) that night.

"He told me Peter Reid had been in contact with him, and it happened really quickly from there."

Clifford thought Argyle were good value for their victory over Huddersfield.

Striker Bradley Wright-Phillips grabbed his sixth and seventh goals of the season as the Pilgrims won at Home Park for only the second time this term.

Clifford, an Ireland under-21 international, had not played any senior football before.

His previous experience had been limited to academy and reserve team action for Chelsea.

Dublin-born Clifford said: "It's very different to what I'm used to.

"Back at Chelsea there is a lot of tippy-tappy, nice football, but this is proper men's football.

"I thought the lads dug in and we all worked well for each other. It's a brilliant result."

Clifford was impressed with Wright-Phillips, who scored both of his goals after the ball was flicked on by his strike partner Rory Fallon.

"They were great finishes," said Clifford. "Every time Brad got a chance it looked like he was going to score."

Having broken into the team so soon, Clifford is now determined to try and stay in it.

His loan spell is initially for one month, but it could be extended later on.

Clifford said: "I'm still learning the game, and it's all good experience for me playing in front of big crowds and with these lads.

"I just want to keep myself in the team and keep playing well for Plymouth."

Clifford has become the third aspiring young Premier League player to be snapped up by Reid.

Goalkeeper David Button and midfielder Dean Parrett are both on season-long loans from Tottenham Hotspur.

Button was recalled to Argyle's starting line-up against Huddersfield after recovering from an ankle injury, while Parrett was an unused substitute.

Clifford said: "Not a lot of managers would take the risk with young players, but Peter

Reid seems to really have trust in us.

"I know Dean really well from playing against him up at Tottenham. He helped me a lot as well."

Holloway sings the praises of Seamus Coleman

Blackpool boss Ian Holloway has sang the praises of Seamus Coleman for his impressive progress at Everton this season. Ireland international Coleman spent three months on loan at Blackpool last season and played in the play-off final which saw Blackpool promoted to the Premier league.

In his column for the Independent on Sunday, Holloway wrote: "Seamus Coleman is a wonderful young fella who will be a top-quality attacking right-back in the Premier League. He thanked me earlier in the week for helping him during his loan spell at Blackpool last season. But its me who should be thanking him because I don't think he will ever fully realise how much he helped us.

"I had a situation where one of my players got injured and I needed some cover. I chose Seamus at Everton and we did a loan deal. It was one of the best things I did because he came in and added a new impetus and helped us go all the way to Wembley in the play-offs and win promotion.

"He helped us achieve something we probably didn't dream of. I love the way he plays. He runs with the ball and has a great touch. I tried to get him back on loan this season but David Moyes said no because Seamus would get in his first team. Typical Moyesey, he is a man of his word and put Seamus in. I saw him create Tim Cahill's goal in the Merseyside derby last week and I'm pleased for the lad."

Coleman is likely to feature in Giovanni Tapattoni's Ireland team in a friendly against Norway in Dublin next month.

Whirlwind week for Greg Cunningham

19 year old Ireland international Greg Cunningham said that Saturday's Championship defeat at Swansea was a tough start to his loan spell at Leicester City.

The Galway born defender was thrown into the action at the Liberty Stadium just 48 hours after completing the loan switch until January from Manchester City.

Cunningham replaced the more experienced Bruno Berner at left-back and had a gripping personal duel with flying Swans winger Nathan Dyer as well as picking up a cut knee.

Cunningham said: "It was a tough game against a team who knocked it around well."

His battle with Dyer was one of the eye-catching duels of the day and it was about honours even at the end.

The youngster said: "He is a very good player and it was a test for me but I tried to stick to the task."

Cunningham was also in the wars and had to leave the field for treatment during the second half of the contest before returning to complete the 90 minutes.

"I got accidentally caught on the knee by Chris Weale's studs. They wanted to stitch it but I said that would take too long as I wanted to get back out there and stitch it later."

Cunningham's City's debut completed a whirlwind few days for the youngster.

He said: "I played for our reserves on Tuesday night at Wigan and then I was told Leicester wanted me on loan so I went there on Wednesday and met the lads for training on Thursday. They are a great bunch who really made me welcome. I want to play as much as I can while I'm here because I can already see it is a fantastic club with great fans."

City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson was in charge of Manchester City during Cunningham's first year at Eastlands, although their paths rarely crossed.

Cunningham said: "He was with the first-team squad at Carrington while I was with the Academy at Platt Lane so I didn't see him much.

"However, he had a good season and he has proved to be a good manager wherever he has gone."

His long-term aim will be to impress current Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini as he looks to add to his Carling Cup appearance at West Brom earlier in the season, an appearance that rules him out of Leicester's clash with the Baggies tomorrow night.

He said: "I'll just work hard each day and try to get as many games as I can between now and January and see what happens."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

James McCarthy suffers serious injury

Ireland midfielder James McCarthy was carried off the pitch today in what looks to be a severe ankle or ligament injury whilst playing for Wigan against Bolton at the DW stadium.

The 19 year old international sustained the injury when he was tackled from behind by Bolton's Fabrice Muamba, in the Premier League clash.

McCarthy received several minutes of treatment before being carried from the pitch, and was eventually taken to hospital for an x-ray.

McCarthy was expected to be named in Giovanni Trapattoni's squad for next month's friendly clash against Norway in Dublin however that now seems unlikely due to the seriousness of the ankle injury.

Wigan Manager Roberto Martinez, speaking after the 1-1 draw, said that they will know the seriousness of the injury within the next 12 hours.

"He is going to the hospital now, and we will find out over the next 12 hours," Martinez said.

"His right ankle looks in a bad state, and we just hope that it is not as bad as we fear."

"It's a real shame, because he's been performing in a very special manner."

"When you look at the replay, he clearly gets his ankle first," said Martinez. "It's disappointing, it's from behind but the intent is to play the ball."

Bolton boss Owen Coyle, who has followed McCarthy's career as he came through the youth ranks at former club Hamilton, shared his Wigan counterpart's concern.

Coyle stated: "My thoughts are to make sure he's OK, because I've known him as a young kid progressing all the way through to where he is now and there's no doubt he's destined for a glittering career.

"Hopefully he's back very soon. Certainly from my position it looked an innocuous challenge. They both went to shut the ball."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Conor Clifford on loan to Plymouth

Ireland Under-21 midfielder Conor Clifford has signed for Plymouth Argyle on a month's loan from Premiership champions Chelsea.

The Dublin born, 19 year old midfielder captained Chelsea to victory in the FA Youth Cup final in May, scoring the winner in a 2-1 (3-2 agg) victory over Aston Villa.

Clifford has signed for the Pilgrims until late November and it's a great opportunity for the former Crumlin United player to experience regular first team football with a team who are currently in need of an injection of skill and stability in their midfield.

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti held back on sending Clifford out on loan after pre-season training in August as he wanted the player to spend time training with the Chelsea first team.

He is eligible for the clash against Huddersfield at Home Park on Saturday.

Argyle boss Peter Reid told the club's official website: "I've had him watched and he can see a pass, and he was very enthusiastic to come and play here.

"The Chelsea management team of Carlo Ancelotti and Ray Wilkins have helped greatly and I'm delighted to have him here.

"I'll decide whether he starts tomorrow but he has a good chance."

Cunningham gets valuable game-time with Leicester

Nineteen year old Ireland international Greg Cunningham looks set to get some regular game-time at club level after joining Sven Goran Eriksson's Leicester City on loan until January.

The young Manchester City star is Eriksson's fourth recruit since taking over as City boss goes straight into the squad for Saturdays Championship clash at Swansea.

Galway native Cunningham played in the Carling Cup for Roberto Mancini's side this season after three appearances as a substitute during the previous campaign and he signed a new four-year deal at the club in August.

The highly talented left back made his Ireland debut against Algeria in May and also came on as a substitute in the glamour friendly against Argentina in August.

Speakng about his latest signing Eriksson said: "He is a young player with a good left foot who likes to get forward. He played for Manchester City reserves earlier this week and he has been training all season, so his fitness should be good."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ciarán Clark commits to Ireland

Young highly rated Aston Villa defender Ciarán Clark is hoping to be in contention for a place in Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland squad next month following his decision to pledge his international future to Ireland.

Central Defender Clark is one of the brightest young stars at Villa Park and was called on to replace Richard Dunne last Saturday when he picked up an injury during the Premier League game with champions Chelsea, a game in which he impressed with his solid defending and cool head. And with a glancing header hitting the inside of the Chelsea post as the game neared its end, Clark almost broke his premiership duck after only four appearances for Villa.

Clark had been capped by England at underage level but after some discussions with Dublin born Dunne, Clark has decided to commit to Ireland. The 21-year-old has strong Irish connections as his mother is from Drumshambo, Co Leitrim, his father, although born in Scotland, grew up in Donegal and all four of Clark's grandparents were born in Ireland.

"I played for England at youth level but I didn't think I was going anywhere in that department. So when a young lad gets an opportunity like I have with Ireland, it's very hard to turn down," says Clark.

"Richard Dunne played a big part in me linking up with the Republic. He mentioned it to the Irish officials. And then they contacted me and Aston Villa at the start of the season.

"They gave me time to think about it to make a decision and I think I could be in contention for the next international if all the paperwork has gone through. It's fingers crossed. I have to keep working hard and hoping that it will happen," added Clark.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

McGeady enjoying Moscow style

Ireland international Winger Aiden McGeady has settled quickly in Moscow and has said that it's a 'pleasure' to play for Spartak Moscow ahead of their Champion's league clash with Chelsea on Tuesday.

The 36 times capped Irishman is expected to run out against the Blues in their UEFA Champions League encounter after making the move to the Russian club in the summer.

Former Celtic man McGeady has enjoyed a successful start at Spartak, who are unbeaten in seven games since his debut last month.

The 24-year-old winger, who spent six years playing for the hoops, has produced a goal and four assists in six appearances for the Moscow outfit.

McGeady admits his new club's approach is entirely different to what he was used to in Scotland, but insists he is relishing the change.

"I like their style. It's not like the direct game in Scotland, the team look to pass and move. It's a pleasure to play."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Niall Quinn backs David Meyler return

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn is backing Cork born midfielder, David Meyler to return from his injury nightmare stronger than ever.

The Ireland u21 international returned to training with Sunderland this week after cruciate ligament damage, but it will be some time before the Irishman is back in red-and-white stripes.

Along with Jordan Henderson, Sunderland midfielder Meyler was one of the finds of last season. The young midfielders were handed five-year contracts as reward for impressive maiden seasons as established first-teamers.

But while Henderson’s star continues to rise – with rumours he is on the verge of elevation to the full England squad only weeks after his Under-21 debut – Meyler’s progress has been stalled by a horrific injury picked up against Manchester United in May.

Meyler has stepped up his rehab and begun light training after undergoing surgery on a ruptured cruciate knee ligament he suffered in Sunderland’s final home game of last season, against Manchester United in May.

But the Ireland international – who had just been called into the senior international squad before being stricken with injury – will not play again until the New Year.

The 21-year-old made a big impact for the Black Cats last season and will be welcomed back with open arms when he returns.

Sunderland chairman Quinn said: “Dave was feeling pretty sorry for himself, as you can imagine, but he is feeling a lot better now.

“He has always dreamt of playing for Ireland, and it looked as though that was going to happen over the summer, but it had to be put on the back-burner.

“What has happened might even make him appreciate his footballing career even more when he comes back, and he will want to come back stronger than ever.

“He’s a very valued part of what we are about here.

“For the way he came in and took things by the scruff of the neck last season, we’d be especially pleased to see him back fit again.

“We’ll take our time with it because he has a great career ahead of him.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

McCarthy & Wilson in line for Ireland start

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has indicated that James McCarthy and Marc Wilson are likely to play in next month's friendly against Norway at Lansdowne Road, and has also commented on some press criticism stating that he is overly cautious with team selection and system.

The Irish boss said : "Over two years we have shown you and your colleagues that we have changed many players," he said. "Yes, we had Keane, Doyle, Kilbane, Dunne, Given, Duff but there was no Lawrence, no Andrews, no Green, no Fahey. The others are new."

And with the Norway friendly next month and the Celtic cup tournament games starting in February, Trapattoni has a number of opportunities over the winter months to assess fringe players and blood some new faces before the European Championship qualifying action resumes in March at home to Macedonia.

"Obviously we look for others," he said. "We have already the names and we follow them over the next month. Maybe James McCarthy we look at him. Sure. But not only him. We look every moment to change and put the new players in the team. We saw Marc Wilson when he used to play at the back but he was not a defender and he likes to play midfield now. He’s clever, he’s tall and he reads the game very well. And we will look at other options.

"The tournament next year will also be a chance to try the new players but, remember, these are also games against Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We cannot afford to take it easy in these games. And we also have a responsibility to protect the young players. For example, if you play badly and lose the game, then you risk damaging these young players. You can give them the possibility to grow but within reason. You have to think about the balance of the team."

Trapattoni also suggested that he would not rule out experimenting with different systems and tactics.

"I repeat to you: I’m not afraid to change the system," he said. "In the past, I thought that Stephen Ireland could play behind the striker. Before Slovakia, we considered playing Shane Long on the right and McGeady behind the striker. Do you remember where James McCarthy played against Brazil? McCarthy can also play behind the striker. You need to be technical to play that role. I had many ideas before the game in Zilina but, on the night, we were good on the pitch. It all depends on the players you have available."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Long and Fahey lauded by Irish boss

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has hailed the great performances of replacements Shane Long and Keith Fahey as Ireland picked up a vital point last night in Slovakia.

Long was given his chance up front because of Kevin Doyle's knee injury, while Birmingham midfielder Fahey came in for his first competitive start after Liam Lawrence failed a late fitness test.

And both played their part in the 1-1 draw, with Fahey sending over the free-kick which resulted in Sean St Ledger giving the visitors the lead, while Reading forward Long was a constant menace to the Slovakia defence.

Trapattoni said: 'I thought Shane Long and Keith Fahey played great games. For the future we can have confidence in them knowing the options we have in the squad.

'We have time in the future, our next game is a friendly. I can maybe play one or two other young players and we can start the qualification again with more confidence.'

Last night's display capped a terrific international break for Long, who scored his first competitive goal in Friday's 3-2 defeat to Russia.

Trapattoni believes there is plenty the 23-year-old still has to learn about the tactical side of the game, but he is confident the raw ingredients are there.

'We thought about it in training because he's young,' Trapattoni added. 'We played a tactical game in training.

'He can show us pace but he is still young to master the tactical side of the game. He has technical quality and in the future he will understand.'

Group B looks set to be one of the tightest groups in the whole competition, with Russia now two points ahead of Ireland, Slovakia and Armenia courtesy of their lucky 1-0 victory in Macedonia.

Defeat to Slovakia would have left The Boys In Green with a major uphill battle but Trapattoni believes the reverse fixtures next year, when they play away in Russia then at home to Slovakia, are likely to prove decisive in sorting the final standings in the group..

'We have again this combination of games,' he said. 'Our group is very balanced. Russia won but only 1-0 and Macedonia missed a penalty.

'There are many situations that can happen. It's not about today or tomorrow, there are many games. It's important we believe in our performance, our attitude and our system.'

Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss agreed, adding: 'The group is very even and Ireland, Armenia and Russia all have great teams so it all depends on the next games.'

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Slovakia 1 - Ireland 1

Ireland got their European 2012 qualifying campaign back on course with a battling draw against Slovakia in Zilina - but were left to rue Robbie Keane's missed penalty just before the end of the first half.

After Sean St Ledger's opener had been cancelled out by Jan Durica in the 36th minute, Ireland were handed a glorious chance to retake the lead in first-half stoppage time when Aiden McGeady was felled by The Slovakian goalkeeper, Jan Mucha.

But the goalkeeper made up for his error with a fine save, and, as Slovakia dominated most of the second half, Ireland were left hanging on for a point which keeps them level with their opponents in Group B.

Giovanni Trapattoni made two enforced changes from the side that lost 3-2 to Russia on Friday, with the injured Kevin Doyle and Liam Lawrence replaced by Shane Long and Keith Fahey. Both Long and Fahey impressed during the game and did not seem out of place in the starting eleven.

All the talk in the build-up to the match had been about the Ireland's perceived negative tactics against Russia and their reliance on the long ball. But they dominated possession in the early stages and, after a couple of scares when Kornel Salata headed over and Juraj Kucka shot wide, took a thoroughly deserved lead in the 16th minute.

Durica fouled the impressive Shane Long wide on the right and, when the Slovakia defence failed to deal with Fahey's free-kick, St Ledger squeezed a shot inside the post.

Midfield duo Whelan and Paul Green, who had struggled so badly against Russia, were better than their last outing, but their are clearly still big problems for Ireland in the central midfield area.

In the 36th minute, from their first corner of the game, Slovakia equalised as Hamsik's cross was flicked on for Durica to power a header in off the crossbar. Whelan was left somewhat exposed for the goal with none of the big Irish defenders guarding the back post.

Ireland should arguably should have retaken the lead four minutes later after great work from Long down the right but Keane could not get enough of a touch to turn it in. Keane is clearly suffering from the lack of first team football with Spurs and looked like a player who was missing that killer touch, that has served Ireland so well in the past.

Paul Green then picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Darron Gibson.

With the half entering injury time, Ireland were presented with a glorious chance to move back ahead when Mucha was adjudged to have brought down Aiden McGeady as he ran onto a through-ball from Richard Dunne.

Keane stepped up but his penalty was too close to the keeper, who made up for his mistake in the best possible fashion.

Slovakia started the second half with renewed purpose and Shay Given nearly paid the price for taking too long to clear as Stanislav Sestak closed in, with the ball cannoning off the striker but away from goal.

In a reverse of the first half, it was the The Boys In Green who were camped in their own half, with Whelan's ambitious volley from 40 yards the sum total of their efforts as the clocked reached 65 minutes.

Trapattoni made his first substitution in the 71st minute, bringing on Andy Keogh for the impressive Fahey, while his opposite number introduced Stoch and Filip Holosko.

Ireland had a good chance with five minutes to play when the ball broke to Keane eight yards out but, after turning smartly, the captain could not keep his shot down. And despite of the constant singing of Ireland's heroic 12th man (the supporters), who once again did the country proud with their unyealding support for the team, Ireland return home with a point.

But overall, a point is not the worst result for Ireland and they remain in the hunt for qualifiction, but with the Russian's scraping a lucky 1-0 win away in Macedonia this evening, they are clearly now the front runners to win group B.

For Trapattoni the problems surrounding the central midfield pairing continues to be a major concern with neither Whelan, Gibson or Green looking like the solution to the long term effectiveness of a strong, confident midfield. On the plus side, both Fahey and Long impressed with their positive play and direct style.

It is hoped that Trapattoni will use next month's friendly game aganst Norway to blood some of the new, upcoming players who are currently on the fringes of the squad like Marc Wilson, James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman. This will hopefully give the manager more options prior to our next qualification game against Macedonia in March 2011

Ireland team named for crucial Slovakia clash

Giovanni Tapattoni has named his Ireland team for the crucial European qualifier against Slovakia in Zilina this evening.

As expected, Shane Long is a straight replacement for the injured striker - Kevin Doyle, and will partner Robbie Keane up front.

The back four remains unchanged from the Russia defeat last week with O'Shea, Dunne, St. Ledger and Kilbane all starting.

The suspect midfield pairing of Paul Green and Glenn Whelan get a chance to redeem themselves for their poor performance last week and Tapattoni will be be expecting a much more commanding shift from the key central midfielders.

The only other change from the starting eleven last Friday is the inclusion of Keith Fahey for the injured Liam Lawrence on the right wing. Aiden McGeady retains his place on the opposite wing and Shay Given starts in goal.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shane Long ready take his chance against Slovakia

Shane Long is ready to take the place of the injured Kevin Doyle for Ireland's crucial European qualifier against Slovakia tomorrow evening.

Ireland are looking to bounce back from Friday nights 3-2 defeat by Russia in Dublin but were dealt a serious blow yesterday when striker Kevin Doyle was ruled out of the match in Zilina with a knee injury.

With manager Goivanni Trapattoni seemingly committed to playing two up front, either Long or Doyle’s on-loan Wolves team-mate Andy Keogh looks certain to be given a start

And it's the 23-year-old Tipperary born striker Long who looks the favourite after coming off the bench to score Ireland's second goal against the Russians.

Long said: “Nothing’s set in stone yet but I’d love to get a run on Tuesday night. It’s a massive thing to play for your country and I’ve only started once for Ireland in a competitive game.

“If I get the nod, I’ll be ready. It’s nice coming off the bench when the other team’s a little bit tired but I feel like I’ve been playing well for my club and it’s nice to show what you’re about.

“With the players we have in the squad, when you do get the chance you’ve got to take it. That adds to your own game a bit when you know it’s now or never, you go out and give it your all and hopefully it’s enough.

“They’re big boots to fill so there’s going to be extra pressure on whoever comes in up front but I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s a big game and if we can get three points it would turn the table right round.”

Ireland go into the match locked on six points with Slovakia and Russia after losing their 100% record in group B, and Long admitted the stakes have now been raised heading into what is expected to be one of the most difficult matches of the current campaign.

The striker said: “We’ve got pride and it’s not nice to lose at home but if we get a win in Slovakia it will redeem things a bit. Three from six points wouldn’t look so bad.

“At the start of the group stages we thought maybe draw our away games and try to win as many home games as we can but after Friday three points is more of a reasonable target for us.”

A lot of the focus in the aftermath of Friday’s loss has been on the Republic’s reliance on the long ball, with defender Richard Dunne particularly critical.

Long, though, has a different perspective, and is happy to take over from Doyle as the target man.

“I feel I’m good in the air as well,” he added. “Defenders don’t expect me to get up there but I can surprise them and if it comes long I’m sure I can deal with it.

“I don’t think we set out to play like that against Russia but it was hard to pass through the middle. We seemed to get a few shots off from that approach and it seemed to work so why change something that works?"