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?"

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Issue 24 - You Boys In Green magazine

Issue 24 of You Boys In Green magazine is now available for download and to read online. This months issue features:

Barry MaGuire exclusive
Interview with Ipswich's new signing Mark Kennedy
Clinton Morrison is our Cult Hero
League of Ireland, Pats, Sligo and Drogs
The Recent trip to Armenia
Slovakia next week - what to expect
Aiden McGeady - the lowdown
You Girls in Green

Click the link in the sidebar to read online

Kevin Doyle to miss Slovakia game

Ireland striker Kevin Doyle has been ruled out of Tuesday's European Championship qualifier against Slovakia due of a knee injury.

The Football Association of Ireland said this morning that the Wolves player had returned to his club for treatment.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has decided not to call up a replacement with the remaining 21 players fit to travel.

Ireland need to secure three points against Slovakia after losing 3-2 at home to Russia in Friday's Group B match. Either Shane Long or Andy Keogh are likely to replace the injured Doyle in Ireland's starting eleven.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ireland 2 - Russia 3

Russia withstood a late onslaught from Ireland to claim a crucial 3-2 victory in their Euro 2012 qualifying Group B game at Lansdowne Road last night.

The visitors led through first-half goals from Alexander Kerzhakov and Alan Dzagoev, as well as a deflected strike from Roman Shirokov.

Ireland responded through Robbie Keane's penalty and a close-range effort from Shane Long, but Russia held on despite pressure from the home side in the final ten minutes.

The Boys in Green were outplayed for much of the match but all is not lost as there are enough games left in the group to right this wrong.

However, confidence will have taken a hit and will need to be restored before Tuesday's crucial tie against Slovakia in Zilina.

Slovakia's defeat to Armenia earlier in the day had left the door open for these sides.

With 20 minutes remaining Russia appeared to be coasting to an easy victory after subduing a previously vociferous home crowd.

Russia manager Dick Advocaat had sounded a warning to Ireland that his side would hurt them if they stood off. Unfortunately for the home fans, that view proved wide of the mark for the first hour.

Advocaat had sprung something of a surprise by opting for Kerzhakov to lead the attack in place of Pavel Pogrebynak, but the Zenit St Petersburg man was to repay his manager's faith in him.

It looked good for Ireland as they began brightly, creating several chances in the one attack after Igor Akinfeev parried Aiden McGeady's shot.

Keane's follow-up cross clipped the bar with Kevin Doyle lurking, McGeady then had a penalty appeal turned down, before ending the action with a low shot that flashed across goal.

Kerzhakov opened the scoring for the visitors on 11 minutes with a goal that will have angered Giovanni Trapattoni.

Ireland failed to clear Andrei Arshavin's low free-kick to the front post. Sergey Ignashevich flicked the ball across goal, where Kerzhakov was able to fire home, despite the presence of three Irish players on the line.

In a pulsating and entertaining encounter, Russian tried to exploit their pace on the counter-attack as Ireland went searching for an equaliser.

Given could only push away an Igor Denisov shot and Kevin Kilbane completed the clearance. John O'Shea almost turned the resulting corner from Dzagoev into his own net.

Ireland were rattled when Dzagoev doubled the lead with a goal of real class just before the half hour. Kerzhakov dummied Alexander Anyukov's cross from the right and the ball fell perfectly for Dzagoev to beat Given.

Minutes later, Sean St Ledger was lucky to stay on the field for a hefty challenge on Dzagoev that could have yielded a red card.

Russia were more comfortable on the ball and passed with ease through Ireland's midfield.

Yet Ireland could have got back into the game if they had taken two chances that came their way late in the half.

Akinfeev easily saved Doyle's tame effort after the striker had made space for the shot.

Keane then failed to pick out his team-mate from the byline after skipping past Yuri Zhirkov.

Ireland were fortunate that Anyukov did not put Russia further ahead after a mix-up between Paul Green and Kilbane soon after the restart. However, that reprieve was short-lived.

Shirokov's shot struck the shin of Dunne and whipped past Given. Even more galling for Ireland was that replays showed the shot was off-target.

At the other end, Akinfeev did offer Ireland some hope with less than convincing saves from McGeady and Glenn Whelan.

With the situation looking desperate for Ireland, Giovanni Trapattoni made a bold move by introducing striker Shane Long for Liam Lawrence.

The second half also saw the introduction of Darron Gibson and Keith Fahey as Trapattoni sought to quell Russia's midfield superiority.

Keane gave Ireland a lifeline when he earned a penalty after minimal contact from Zhirkov. The captain sent Akinfeev the wrong way for his 45th international goal. The crowd roared back to life.

Lansdowne Road was rocking when Long reduced the deficit once again on 78 minutes.

Akinfeev did well to keep out another effort from McGeady, but Long was on hand to force home the rebound.

Ireland pushed hard for the equaliser and there were some hair-raising moments at both ends, notably when substitute Pogrebynak missed the proverbial sitter in injury-time.

Ireland remain top of Group B on goal difference but will need to produce better football if they are to be there when the campaign ends.

Republic of Ireland: 1 Given; 4 O'Shea, 2 St Ledger, 5 Dunne, 3 Kilbane; 7 Lawrence (14 Long (62), 6 Whelan (15 Gibson '66), 8 Green, 11 McGeady; 9 Doyle (12 Fahey '71), 10 Keane.
Subs not used: 16 Westwood, 13 McShane, 17 Keogh, 18 Cunningham.
Booked: St Ledger, Doyle.

Russia: 1 Akinfeev; 2 Anyukov, 3 V Beretzutsky, 4 Ignashevich, 5 Zhirkov; 6 Shirokov, 7 Denisov, 8 Zyranov (15 Semshov '68); 11 Dzagoev (14 A Beretzutsky '85), 10 Arshavin; 9 Kerzhakov (16 Pogrebynak '80).
Subs not used: 12 Gabulov, 17 Bystrov, 18 Bilyaletdinov, 19 Bukharov.
Booked: Denisov, A Beretzutsky.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ireland team announced for crucial Russia qualifier

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has named an unchanged team for Friday's UEFA European Championship qualifier against Russia at Lansdowne oad


Shay Given (Manchester City), John O'Shea (Manchester United), Sean St Ledger (Preston NE), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Kevin Kilbane (Hull City); Liam Lawrence (Portsmouth), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), Paul Green (Derby County), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow); Robbie Keane (Spurs), Kevin Doyle (Wolves).

Ireland looking for three points against Russia

Andy Keogh has insisted that Ireland will go into their European Championship clash with Russia in expectation rather than hope.

Their credentials will be put to the tests over the next several days when they play Group favourites Russia in Dublin on Friday and their conquerors last time out, Slovakia, in Zilina next Tuesday.

However, Keogh insists the belief manager Giovanni Trapattoni has instilled in his players over the last two and a half years means they will approach the double-header confident they can emerge with two positive results rather than hoping they do.

He said: “It’s the mentality the manager has brought to the team. He has had the core of players now for a couple of years and he has drilled his tactics and his mentality into us.

“Coming to our home patch, we are going into the game looking to win and wanting to win.

“We are playing the two teams who are going to be up there with us competing to qualify, and the more points we can take from them, the better to try to open up a gap.

“If we continue the type of form we have had in the last two games, we should look good.

“It’s more of the same. We won the last two games, so you can’t complain about that, and there were some good performances as well.”

Keogh has played much of his recent football for Ireland as a midfield replacement, and he could well be needed to provide back-up once again with Damien Duff having withdrawn with a calf injury and Stephen Hunt yet to return to the squad.

But the 24-year-old, currently on loan at Cardiff from Wolves, knows whoever plays on Friday evening, the Irish will have to produce their best form to emerge with the result they desire.

He said: “They are very good. They will be very dangerous, especially on the counter-attack.

“But we will just concentrate on ourselves, try to keep the type of form we have had in the last two games and worry about us scoring and beating them.”

Trapattoni is almost certain to pair skipper Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle in attack once again.

Doyle has been in fine form for Wolves and has scored in two of his last four games for Ireland.

Keogh said: “From what I hear from the lads, Kevin has been playing very well week in, week out.

“Kevin is the type of player who can come in and do a great job for Ireland, as he does in every game he plays.”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dunne fitness boost for Ireland

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has been handed a welcome fitness boost with the news that Richard Dunne is expected to be fit to face Russia in the side's European championship qualifier on Friday evening at Lansdowne Road.

The Aston Villa defender has been forced to sit out training with the Ireland squad this week, however a scan today revealed no major injury and the Dublin born centreback is expected to return to training on Thursday morning

Dunne has been an integral part of Trapattoni's squad and has played a central role in a solid defence that have conceded just seven goals in their last eight games.

Ireland have six points from their opening two qualifying games and victory against Russia and Slovakia would give 'The Boys In Green' control of Group B at this early stage of the campaign.

Lawrence looking for maximum points

Irish winger Liam Lawrence is focusing on another six point haul as Ireland face a pivotal week in their Euro 2012 qualifying group.

Ireland launched their Group campaign with victories over Armenia and Andorra last month, but will take a significant step-up in class over the next few days when they meet Russia and Slovakia, who are first and second seeded teams in Ireland's Group.

Dick Advocaat’s Russia side arrive in Dublin for Friday night’s clash at Lansdowne Road still angry after their 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Slovakians in Moscow, and a positive result for Giovanni Trapattoni’s men would send them to Zilina next Tuesday knowing they could strike a significant blow in the race for qualification.

Lawrence for one believes all six points are there for the taking.

The 27-year-old Portsmouth midfielder said: “I think we can give anyone a game and we can beat anybody, and I do think that six points is within our reach.

“They are two massive games, especially on Friday. It’s going to be a really tough game, but we have come through these tough games in the past and we have got to again.

“They will be stung a little bit and they will be hurting from that defeat.

“I am not sure they will be looking forward to coming here, so hopefully we can catch them again and we can get the win.”

Speaking about Ireland's resolve Lawrence said: “That will be put to the test on Friday because they are one of the biggest sides in the world and they have got some fantastic players.

“But it is going to be up to us, it’s on our turf and hopefully we will give them a good game.

“We have learnt from those games in the past and hopefully it will stand us in good stead for Friday because we are going to have to call upon all our experience and everything we have got for these two games.”

Lawrence started both games last month despite heading away on international duty with his move from Stoke to Portsmouth still up in the air, and is in line to win his 11th senior cap against Russia.

That could bring him into direct conflict with Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin as he attempts to provide support for full-back John O’Shea.

Asked how he will deal with the hugely-talented Russian, he said with a smile: “I will just leave him to Josh – that’s his job.

“He is a fantastic player, he is brilliant. He does it week in, week out and we will certainly have to watch him.

“We will have to double up all over the pitch – but that’s when we are at our best, when we are pressing teams and getting at them and hunting them down.”

At club level, Lawrence is simply happy to be back playing regular 1st team football, even if it is in the Championship, after finding himself surplus to requirements at the Britannia Stadium, and is confident that will benefit him in his international career.

He said: “I had to leave Stoke to play regular football, and I feel now I am getting back to the player I was 18 months or a year ago.

“I know you say it’s a lesser league, but I just need to be playing regularly and I will be better when I come to these games now.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shay Given ready to face the Russians again - 14 years on.

Shay Given will rekindle memories of one of the proudest moments of his Ireland international career when he runs out against Russia on Friday evening at Lansdowne Road .

The 34-year-old Donegal goalkeeper made his debut for 'The Boys In Green' in a friendly against the Russians at Lansdowne Road in March 1996.

More than 14 years on, Given is in line to win his 107th cap at the same venue, against the same opposition, although this time, there are three precious Euro 2012 qualifying points at stake.

It has been a difficult few months for the Lifford player, who is still widely regarded as one of the best in the business.

He said regarding the Manchester City situation: "It's not ideal, obviously, maybe more so for the outfield players because they have got to physically run around for a lot longer than I will be running around, I suppose.

"But all I know is whoever the manager picks on Friday, we will give our all for our country, as we have always done.

"That's all you can ask in any sport, to do your best, and I am sure Glenn and Robbie and myself will do our best come Friday night."

Ireland launched their campaign with reasonably routine victories over Armenia and Andorra last month, but know the challenge this time around is far stiffer with Slovakia, who have already beaten the Russians in Moscow, awaiting them in Zilina next Tuesday evening.

Given said: "It's a different level. We have only got off to a good start, we know that, and that's all we could do last month.

"But we know these two games will probably prove where we are as a team and ultimately if we are going to qualify for the European Championships."

Asked if a draw would be a good result, the goalkeeper replied: "Would I take a draw on Friday night? Ideally, we are at home and we want to win, obviously, but we must not lose as well.

"I don't know. It's a good question. We want to win the game, but we know Russia have got some great players and it is going to be one of the most difficult games in the group."

Andrey Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak will be among the biggest threats to Ireland's hopes.

Given said: "They are big, strong, physical guys - but Richard Dunne is pretty big and strong as well.

"He plays in the Premier League every week and Sean St Ledger has been fantastic since he came into the squad, and they will relish the challenge."

Dunne sat out part of training this morning as a precaution as he manages a persistent back problem, but there were no further concerns.

Given will inevitably cast his mind back to 1996 as he completes his preparations and reflect upon a major landmark in his career.

He said: "I remember it quite well, actually. Lots of family and friends and cousins came to watch the game.

"We lost 2-0, which wasn't ideal, but I got to play for my country, which I never thought I would do growing up in Donegal, so it was pretty special."

Dunne misses training but 100% ready for Russians

Richard Dunne took no part in Ireland’s training session this morning in Malahide but Marco Tardelli is “100 per cent” certain the defender will be fit for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Russia at home and Slovakia away.

Dunne made his comeback from injury for Aston Villa at the weekend and while assistant manager Tardelli admitted he was still slightly niggled by the injury, he insisted today’s absence was purely precautionary.

“He feels well but it is better for him to have the rest for one day,” Tardelli told reporters at the end of training in Malahide. “It is a precaution and there is no problem.”

Dunne is due to train with the rest of the squad tomorrow and Tardelli has no concerns over his availability to start on Friday when Russia come to Lansdowne Road.

Tardelli hopes to gain at least four points from the double-header, a tally that would put Ireland in a position of real strength at the top of Group B, but is under no illusions just how difficult a task lies ahead.

After a shaky start, Russia will arrive in Dublin desperately needing a win to get their campaign back on track and despite their defeat at home to Slovakia, Advocaat’s squad have real strength in depth.

“The Russian team are a very good team with good qualities and they have important players, some who play in England and Germany,” Tardelli cautioned. “The Russian team maybe has better quality than Slovakia but Slovakia are very tough. They are two different teams

“All the players must do their best. Like the other matches . . . we need to press the Russian team because they can play well in the midfield.

“They are a quality teams with many quality players. Arshavin, Pavlyuchenko and other players with Zenit. They are very good technically but with pressure in midfield it is possible for us to attack and it’s possible for us to play well.”

Monday, October 4, 2010

Marc Wilson gets Trapattoni call-up

Stoke City defender Marc Wilson has been drafted into Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland squad ahead of their crucial European qualifying double-header against Russia and Slovakia.

Wilson from Aghagallon in County Antrim recently made a quick return to the Premiership after moving from cash strapped Portsmouth to Stoke City in a three million pounds deal in early September.

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis speaking at the time of Wilson’s move to The Potters said "He showed great maturity last season in what was a very difficult time for Portsmouth, so he will give us more competition for midfield places."

Wilson received his first international call up from Trapattoni in March this year when he was included in the squad for the glamour friendly against Brazil at the Emirates stadium in London. Speaking at the time of his first senior call-up Wilson said “It was always my dream to play for the Republic. I had grown up supporting them, Words could not describe my feeling when I heard about the call-up.”

Wilson has previously represented Ireland at u18, u19 and u21 levels.

Duff & Andrews out of Ireland qualifiers

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni will have to plan for crucial Euro 2012 qualifiers against Russia and Slovakia without the services of Damien Duff and Keith Andrews, who were today both ruled out of the double header.

Both players arrived in Dublin ahead of the match but after scans were sent back to their clubs. Fulham winger Duff is struggling with a calf injury, while Andrews has an ongoing groin complaint. Both players missed the opening two qualifying matches through injury.

Duff picked up a head wound in Saturday's draw with West Ham before subsequently appeared to be limping as he left the pitch 20 minutes before the end. Andrews also had to sit out Blackburn's visit to Stoke.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Good and bad news for Trapattoni ahead of crucial Euro qualifiers

Less than six days before Ireland’s crucial Euro 2012 qualifier against Russia, Richard Dunne has provided a welcome boost for manager Giovanni Trapattoni after playing the full 90 minutes for Aston Villa against Spurs today.

But there may well be concern among Trapattoni's management team over Damien Duff, who picked up an injury during Fulham’s 1-1 draw at West Ham. Duff limped off 20 minutes from time holding his left calf. The winger missed the wins over Armenia and Andorra last month with a calf injury.

Dunne, who missed the last two Villa matches with a knee injury, was restored to the heart of Villa’s defence but was unable to prevent his side losing 2-1 at White Hart Lane this afternoon.

Dunne was up against Roman Pavlyuchenko, who he is likely to face in Dublin next Friday, and was fortunate not to concede an early penalty when the Russian’s shot hit his hand, the referee deciding it was unintentional.

Marco Tardelli’s recce to the Britannia Stadium, where Stoke faced Blackburn, turned out to be a wasted trip.

The Irish midfield partnership of Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews had been due to go head-to-head but Andrews was an unused substitute while Whelan was only introduced in the 90th minute as Stoke won 1-0.

Elsewhere, Keith Fahey made a rare start for Birmingham against an Everton side with Seamus Coleman in their ranks. And it was the defender who will enjoy the bragging rights when the squad assembles in Malahide tomorrow night as the Toffees recorded their first win of the season, ending Birmingham’s 18-month home unbeaten run.

Kevin Doyle will have to wait for his first league goal of the season after Wolves were beaten 2-0 at Wigan. James McCarthy, overlooked by Trapattoni for the qualifying double-header, started for Wigan.

In the Championship, Keith Treacy opened the scoring for Preston against Reading but the Royals earned a point when Ian Harte's corner was only half cleared and Jem Karacan fired home. Liam Lawrence was also on the scoresheet, his late penalty enough to grab Portsmouth a point against Middlesbrough.

Darren O’Dea, who has already been ruled out of the Ireland squad, was in line to make a surprise appearance for Ipswich but suffered a recurrence of the knee injury he picked up during training with Ireland last month in the warm-up at Portman Road.

“Darren has been struggling with a knee problem since he went away with the last international squad,” explained Ipswich manager Roy Keane after the 2-1 win over Leeds. “We thought we’d take a chance but as soon as he went out for the warm-up he said he was struggling.”

Ireland, who top Group B with a maximum six points, meet Russia at the Aviva Stadium next Friday before facing Slovakia in Zilina the following Tuesday.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Seamus Coleman gets Ireland call

Everton defender Seamus Coleman has been called into the Ireland squad ahead of the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Russia and Slovakia.

The Donegal born full back has been hugely impressive in little more than 180 minutes of first team action this season and despite the Toffees' poor start to the campaign, he comes into Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad for the first time as a result of a calf injury to Stephen Kelly.

Keith Treacy and CSKA Sofia striker Cillian Sheridan are both on standby for the squad having initially been named in a provisional 26-man squad last month.

Midfielder Keith Andrews is due to make his first start of the season for Blackburn Rovers against Stoke tomorrow. Andrews came on as a sub last weekend and played 70 minutes for the reserves in midweek.

Richard Dunne is available for Aston Villa after missing the last two matches with a back injury.

Ireland face Russia at Lansdowne Road next Friday before travelling to Zilina to face Slovakia on October 12th. They currently top the group on six points, ahead of Slovakia on goal difference.

Aiden McGeady will have precious little inside information to impart to his teammates ahead of the Russia game after only one of the Spartak Moscow winger’s teammates was included in Dick Advocaat’s squad and defender Sergei Parshivlyuk is unlikely to start in Dublin.

McGeady will, however, be well aware of the dangers posed by Aleksandr Kerzhakov. The Zenit St. Petersburg striker was cast into the international wilderness following Russia’s World Cup play-off defeat to Slovenia last November. But two hat-tricks in his last three club matches led to a dramatic recall from the Dutch coach as he desperately seeks to rescue the Russians’ qualifying campaign.

Advocaat’s side come into the match under severe pressure following their defeat in Moscow to Slovakia. The reaction to that shock has been predictably scathing and despite claiming he would not bow to the “frenzy in the press or speculations of the fans”, Advocaat has done exactly that.

Dmitri Torbinski and Dmitri Sychev – two of the players singled out for criticism in the Moscow sports dailies – have been cut adrift while Denis Kolodin and Alan Kasaev are also dropped. In come Igor Denisov, fit again after a foot injury, and the uncapped pair of Parshivlyuk and Pavel Mamaev of CSKA Moscow.

Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko, yet to start a competitive game under Advocaat, will be vying with Kerzhakov and Stuttgart’s Pavel Pogrebnyak for the lone striker role, while Andrey Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev should provide extra firepower from the flanks.

Ireland squad :

Goalkeepers: Shay Given, Keiren Westwood, Joe Murphy

Defenders: John O’Shea, Seamus Coleman, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Greg Cunningham, Kevin Foley, Paul McShane, Kevin Kilbane

Midfielders : Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan, Darron Gibson, Paul Green, Liam Lawrence, Aiden McGeady, Andy Keogh, Damien Duff, Keith Fahey

Forwards : Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle, Shane Long.

Carling Nations Cup fixtures announced

Ireland will take on Wales in the opening game of the Carling Nations Cup next year.

The four-team competition, which will be staged in Dublin, will start in February 2011 with NI and Scotland also taking part.

Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland will open proceedings against the Welsh on Tuesday, 9 February with NI and Scotland clashing a day later.

Trapattoni said: 'The Carling Nations Cup is a tournament that we would very much like to win, particularly playing at home in Dublin.

'The matches will provide us with a good opportunity to see our players in games with a real competitive edge at an important time in our bid to qualify for 2012.'

Scotland boss Craig Levein added: 'Now that the schedule has been announced we are really looking forward to our visit to Dublin next year.

'This exciting new competition brings together four groups of passionate fans and also allows me to test my squad, in a competitive environment, in the middle of our Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.'

Carling Nations Cup fixtures:

8 Feb: Ireland v Wales
9 Feb: NI v Scotland
23 May: Ireland v NI
24 May: Wales v Scotland
26 May: Wales v NI
27 May: Ireland v Scotland