Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Irish fringe players need to impress Trapattoni to secure Euro 2012 squad place

Seamus Coleman is one of a number of young Irish internationals focused on making the Ireland squad for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland next summer, but all must convince Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni to include them on the European adventure.

The Everton defender is one of a number of players fighting to make Trap’s final 23 man squad for the Group C games against Croatia, Spain and Italy.

The Killybegs born midfielder knows he has to find favour with his international manager before the Euro 2012 squads are named next May.

“The only thing to do now is to play well for your club week in and week out between now and the end of the season and show the manager what you can do,” said the Goodison Park favourite

Meanwhile Trapattoni has challenged James McCarthy to find his voice and force his way into Ireland's squad for the Euro's.

McCarthy put in a man-of-the-match performance for Wigan against Chelsea last Saturday and Trapattoni sent the 21-year-old midfielder a message of congratulations afterwards.

Trap said - "James did well and I sent him a message saying 'bravo'," said Trapattoni. "He answer me also. He can grow very well. But, he is still a little shy. He can play many good balls. But he can call for the ball too. Sometimes, he is free. If he is more vocal, he can improve 30pc more.

"When I was a young player, I played immediately. In the past, James didn't play. But now he's started playing again and that's very, very important because he has a good quality."

And Trapattoni has also warned Darron Gibson that it's in his best interests to seek a new club when the transfer window opens in January.

"I know the way he thinks and this is his intention, I know he wishes to go for this situation but it depends on what agents and his manager will say," Trapattoni said.

"Gibson has great vision and he shoots very well. but in the Wolves game, Manchester United won 4-1 and he was on the bench so it is hard for him."

Although Derry born Gibson is still in Trapattoni's plans, the Italian admits that he will find it hard to select him for next summer's European Championships if he does not start playing more regularly by getting a move away from Old Trafford.

"It is a problem now that he stays on the bench. In one month it is very difficult to recover your condition,"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

McClean upbeat about future

Former Derry City winger James McClean made an impressive debut last weekend after new Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill gave the 22 year old his chance to shine at the stadium of light, and the Irish international hopeful duly obliged by delighting the Wearside faithful with a stunning impact performance after entering as a second-half substitute.

McClean, who recently stated that it was his dream to represent Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland side, will have done his future international prospects no harm with his eye-catching Sunderland debut.

Signed by previous manager Steve Bruce in a £350,000 summer buy from Derry City, first-team opportunities have been hard to come by.

However, when given one by O’Neill, McClean grasped it with both hands and played a key role in the Black Cats’ dramatic comeback.

He said: “When I arrived, I just wanted to get into the team as soon as possible.

“I did not honestly expect it to be as quick as it has been.

“I came here with the mindset of working hard every day in training, trying to improve as a player and eventually getting into the team.

“Now I am just delighted to get my debut out of the way, but I am not taking anything for granted, I know it is only one game.

“I will continue with what I have been doing in training and try to improve.”

Of his debut, McClean revealed any pre-match nerves he might have had were eased by a quiet word from O’Neill prior to coming on the pitch.

He added: “It was not a bad debut at all with the manager’s first game in charge and to get the win as well. It was an all-round good day.

“I just came on and played my own game and it was a great moment. The manager just told me to go on, play my normal game and not be nervous.

“That gave me the confidence to just go on and do what I have been doing in the reserves.”

Last weekend’s win over Blackburn ended a winless run of five games for Sunderland and McClean has credited new gaffer O’Neill for providing the spark to inspire the team to victory.

He continued: “The new manager has come in and been a breath of fresh air.

“He has given the lads a lot of confidence by being upbeat. It has rubbed off on the players.

“Training has been different as every manager has their own style, but there have not been big changes.

“You could see what it meant to the fans to have Martin O’Neill.

“For him to gain a win in his first game in charge made it the perfect day.

“His managerial record speaks for itself. When you are a player like myself coming through the ranks, it gives you a confidence boost when there is someone like him in charge

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Clubs flock to monitor Sheppard

Skysports.com understands a host of clubs are tracking Shamrock Rovers striker Karl Sheppard.

Sheppard is out of contract at the end of the month and the news has alerted a number of clubs in England to his possible availability.

Should Sheppard leave Shamrock Rovers any compensation for his signature would be minimal as he has only been at the League of Ireland club for a year and joined them on a free transfer.

The likes of Sunderland, Blackpool, Cardiff, Watford and Peterborough are all thought to be keeping tabs on the Ireland Under 21 international.

Sheppard will have the ideal chance to put himself in the shop window when he lines up against Tottenham in the Europa League on Thursday with scouts set to watch the former Everton youngster.

Sheppard's exclusive agent, Dan Fletcher, admits it comes as no surprise that a number of sides are interested in landing the 20-year-old forward

"Karl's had a great season for Shamrock, he's scored 10 goals and is the first striker name on their team sheet,"

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ireland confirm Polish base

Ireland will be based in Gdynia in Poland for Euro 2012, the Football Association today confirmed

Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli visited Poland this week to sign off on the base camp for the finals.

Gdynia is located in the Pomeranian region of Poland and is part of a metropolitan area around the city of Gdansk, known as Tricity. The team will be located at the Sheraton Sopot Hotel.

Trapattoni said: "I am very happy that we have been able to secure Gdynia as a base camp for Euro 2012. This base meets and exceeds all of our criteria, having a good training ground, being close to the airport and being based in Poland.

"The hotel and training facilities are excellent and provide us with a well-positioned base with all of the facilities required for the championships."

The Irish team will train at the Municipal Stadium in Gdynia, a new ground with a capacity of 15,000.

Ireland's first match will see them transfer to the Municipal Stadium in Poznan to face Croatia on 10 June.

Ireland will then play Spain in the Gdansk Arena on 14 June and in the final Group C match, Ireland will take on Italy in Poznan on 18 June.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trapattoni lifts manager of the year award

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has won the Philips Manager of the Year award after guiding the national side to their first major championship finals in 10 years.

The Italian was in competition with Dublin football manager Pat Gilroy, who led the capital side to their first All-Ireland title in 16 years, Brian Cody, who lifted the Liam McCarthy trophy with Kilkenny, and Leinster's Heineken Cup-winning coach Joe Schmidt.

But the award, which was announced at a ceremony in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin on Wednesday afternoon, was given to the 72-year-old in recognition of his achievement of guiding the 'Boys In Green' to second place in Group B and the subsequent 5-1 aggregate win over Estonia in the play-offs.

The last time the award went to an international football manager was in 2001 when Mick McCarthy brought Ireland to the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan/Korea.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Italy. Euro 2012 draw

Ireland face a tough group after being drawn against world and European Champions Spain, Italy and Croatia in Kiev on Friday evening.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side, who will play all of their Group C games in Poland, kick off their finals campaign against Croatia in Gdansk on 10 June.

Ireland will remain in the port city for the clash against tournament favourites Spain on 14 June, before travelling to Poznan for the side's final group game against Italy on 18 June.

Speaking after the draw Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni said: "We have to think about football where anything is possible, we have to play with the same mentality we have shown and I am confident. I know Italy better but every game is different, Spain are also a very, very strong team but we have to think about our moment. It is important now that our squad is complete with no injuries."

Ireland V Croatia - Sun June 10,Poznan.
Ireland V Spain - Thu 14 June,Gdansk.
Ireland V Italy. - Mon 18 June,Poznan.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trapattoni agrees new Ireland deal

The FAI has agreed a new two-year contract with Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni and his assistant Marco Tardelli.

The new deal was announced in a statement today. It will begin in July 2012 and continue for the duration of the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign. Fitness trainer Fausto Rossi will also continue in his role.

Trapattoni has secured his new contract on the back of Ireland's successful qualification for Euro 2012.

Commenting via an official FAI statement, the 72-year-old said: "I am very happy to continue my job with the FAI. I have always said that Marco and I believe very strongly in the work that we are doing to grow and develop the Irish team.

"It is a huge honour and a privilege to represent the Irish team and we look forward to continuing this important task."

FAI chief executive John Delaney said: "On behalf of the FAI Board of management, we are very happy to agree a contract extension with Giovanni Trapattoni and his team of Marco Tardelli and Fausto Rossi.

"They have done fantastic work with the squad, bringing us to qualification for a major tournament for the first time in ten years, increasing our world ranking to 21st and introducing many new players for the future.

"Giovanni's experience, professionalism and achievement in qualifying for EURO 2012 has impressed everyone including the players and the FAI Board."

Commenting on O'Brien's financial support, Delaney added: "The FAI Board of Management are particularly grateful to Denis O'Brien for his continuing contribution which gives the Irish team and supporters the benefit of Giovanni's services into the next World Cup campaign."

O'Brien also commented on the deal. He said: "Giovanni Trapattoni has done a tremendous job in bringing Ireland to qualification for the Euros for the first time since 1988.

"His professionalism, experience and close working relationship with the players has developed a squad which has grown in self-belief and determination.

"The squad is showing plenty of potential for further improvement during the coming campaign. I am delighted to continue my partnership with the FAI, Giovanni Trapattoni and the Irish squad."

FAI President Paddy McCaul said: "I am delighted that we have been able to retain the services of Giovanni Trapattoni. He brings a wealth of experience and a great working relationship with the FAI and the players.

"The fact that we have gone into the last two campaigns as third seeds and have finished second in both, as well as being seeded for the play-offs in EURO campaign, speaks volumes about his ability to deliver.

"I would like to congratulate Giovanni, Marco and Fausto on this renewed appointment"

Friday, November 25, 2011

FAI announce EURO 2012 ticketing information

The draw for UEFA EURO 2012 will take place on December 2nd in Kiev, Ukraine. Ireland are 4th seeds and the draw will determine our entry into one of four groups, A, B, C or D.

Each of the four groups will play matches across two host venues in one of the host countries, either Poland or Ukraine.

• Group A will play matches in the Polish cities of Warsaw and Wroclaw

• Group B will play matches in the Ukranian cities of Kharkiv and Lviv

• Group C will play matches in the Polish cities of Poznan and Gdansk

• Group D will play matches in Ukranian cities of Donetsk and Kiev

Depending on the venues drawn on December 2nd, the number of tickets allocated by UEFA for Irish supporters will range from between 6,000 and 10,000 per match.

Ticket allocations for Irish supporters

In order to distribute tickets fairly to supporters during the UEFA EURO 2012 championships, an FAI Fan Sales Portal will be set up on www.uefa.com from December 12th 2011 until February 29th 2012.

Those entitled to apply for tickets through this portal will include:

1. Supporters who have attended away matches during the EURO 2012 qualifying campaign.

2. Vantage Club Members

3. Current Season Ticket Holders (Season 2011/2012)

4. Active Block Bookers

Please note: Clubs, leagues and affiliates who have a ticket allocation with the FAI will be contacted by the FAI separately.

In total there are more than 6,500 individuals in these groups and each person will be entitled to apply for a maximum of two tickets per person for each of the group stage matches involving the Republic of Ireland in UEFA EURO 2012, as well as the knock-out stages of the tournament should Ireland progress.

How do I apply?

If you are entitled to apply for tickets by falling into the categories above, you will be contacted by the FAI during the week commencing December 5th and ending December 9th. You will be provided with a password that will allow you to log on to the FAI Fan Sales Portal on www.uefa.com

This portal will open on Monday December 12th @ 9am and will close on February 29th 2012 @ midnight. The FAI Fan Sales Portal on www.uefa.com will invite you to apply by registering your information and providing payment details.

Please note that applications on this portal are not made on a first come, first served basis so it is sufficient to register and apply any time between December 12th 2011 and February 29th 2012.

A maximum of two tickets per match can be requested by each applicant.

If your application is successful, your payment will be deducted and you will be notified by March 15th 2012 as to the success of your application and beakdown of tickets.

Please note that Terms & Conditions will apply to the FAI Fan Sales Portal and will be available online once the portal opens.

NB Applicants will be given the option to apply for tickets for Quarter-Final, Semi-Final & Final tickets should Ireland qualify for these rounds. Successful applicants for the above will receive match Tickets for the Group Stage fixtures, and then Vouchers for the knock-out stages which can be redeemed prior to match day should Ireland qualify for that particular match. If Ireland are eliminated at any stage the applicant will be refunded the appropriate amount and their Vouchers rendered invalid.

If you do not fall into the above categories, there are three further options available:

1) Book packages through Abbey Travel, the FAI's official travel partner.

2) Book packages through Thomson Sport, the licensed travel partner of UEFA EURO 2012.

3) Apply through the UEFA European Re-sale portal which redistributes tickets based on availaibility of returns.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ireland 2014 qualifying fixtures announced

Ireland will start their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil away to Kazakhstan.

Following a meeting at the headquarters of their German counterparts in Frankfurt, the Football Association of Ireland announced today that agreement has been reached over their fixture schedule.

September 7, 2012
Kazakhstan v Ireland

October 12, 2012
Ireland v Germany

October 16, 2012
Faroe Islands v Ireland

March 22, 2013
Sweden v Ireland

March 26, 2013
Ireland v Austria

June 7, 2013
Ireland v Faroe Islands

September 6, 2013
Ireland v Sweden

September 10, 2013
Austria v Ireland

October 11, 2013
Germany v Ireland

October 15, 2013
Ireland v Kazakhstan

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Euro 2012 seedings revealed

Ireland are in the fourth group of seeds for the Euro 2012 finals draw, UEFA confirmed today.

Giovanni Trapattoni's 'Boys In Green', who completed a 5-1 aggregate play-off win against Estonia last night, have been drawn alongside Denmark, France and Czech Republic in Pot 4.

Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, who have already been allocated to groups A and D respectively, are in the top group of seeds alongside reigning world and European champions Spain and 2010 World Cup finalists the Netherlands.

England have been allocated a spot in the second pot alongside Euro 2008 runners-up Germany, 2006 world champions Italy and Russia.

Pot 3 contains shock Euro 2004 winners Greece, Croatia, Portugal and Sweden.

The pots have been decided on the countries' UEFA coefficient rankings, except for the co-hosts.

The draw for the finals, which will be broadcast live on RTÉ Television and RTÉ.ie, will be made in Kiev on 2 December.

Seedings for Euro 2012

Pot 1: Spain, Netherlands, Poland*, Ukraine*.
Pot 2: Germany, Italy, England, Russia.
Pot 3: Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Sweden.
Pot 4: Denmark, France, Czech Republic, Republic of Ireland.

* Poland already allocated to Group A, Ukraine already allocated to Group D.

Ireland secure qualification

Ireland confirmed their place at next summer's European Championships with a 1-1 draw against Estonia in the second leg of their Euro 2012 play-off.

Already four up from the first leg, Ireland looked to be coasting when Stephen Ward fired home the opener after keeper Pavel Londak failed to hold Kevin Doyle's header.

However, Estonia battled back and captain Konstanin Vassiljev equalised with a long-range strike that Shay Given could only push into the net.

It failed to spoil the party atmosphere at Lansdowne Road as Ireland celebrated qualification for their first major tournament in ten years and their first European Championships since 1988.

There were wild scenes of celebration as most of the 51,151 fans, including new president Michael D Higgins, stayed behind to acknowledge the players on a lap of honour.

Trapattoni had made three changes from the side that had won in Tallinn, as John O'Shea, Kevin Doyle and Stephen Hunt replaced Stephen Kelly, Jonathan Walters and Aiden McGeady.

The Estonia team showed six changes from the first leg hammering, with injury and suspensions also playing a part in Tarmo Ruutli's selection.

The FAI aided the party atmosphere by providing over 50,000 green cards for fans to show their support. It was like the last day of school, as these became paper airplanes that cascaded down onto the pitch.

Down on that now littered pitch, Trapattoni's side produced a show, in the first half at least, with Damien Duff once again the main entertainer.

Two chances fell Robbie Keane's way inside the opening six minutes as Ireland began in a positive mood, matching that of the home fans.

The skipper controlled Doyle's flick-on but keeper Londak rushed out to block with his feet and Estonia bundled the ball away.

Estonia were then caught out as Hunt squared a free-kick to Duff on the edge of the box. Londak parried straight to Keane, who somehow failed to find the target from five yards.

For all the show, there was still plenty of graft, notably from Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews in central midfield.

Taavi Rahn tried to end the home's side's high spirits with a crunching challenge on Duff that yielded a yellow card.

It was not all one-way traffic, as Estonia often pushed on with four men in attack. Ward was on his toes to stop Vassiljev's through ball reaching Vladimir Voskoboinikov.

Estonia suffered a blow when they lost the impressive Dmitri Kruglov to injury after just 17 minutes. It was to get worse for the visitors on the half hour.

Ward has established himself as first choice left-back, but he showed he has not lost his striker's instincts by grabbing the opening goal.

Duff's corner was headed goalwards by Doyle and when Londak once again failed to gather, Ward was on hand to fire home from close-range.

At the other end it was a mainly quiet first half for Given, but he got down well to save from Voskoboinikov and was commanding in coming for crosses.

As half-time approached, Duff and Doyle combined again to set up Keane, but the captain's toe-poked attempt at goal drifted wide.

Vassiljev gave the away fans something to cheer about on 57 minutes with a long-range equaliser that Given should been have equal to.

The Estonia skipper is well-known for his shooting prowess, but Ireland stood off him and allowed the shot that skimmed off Given's fists into the net.

Substitute McGeady had an immediate impact as his clever reverse pass found Keane in space. A superb block by Ragnar Klavan kept the scores level.

Ireland were clearly stung into action by the goal and Londak was tested by Doyle's low strike and Richard Dunne's powerful header.

There were standing ovations for Keane and Duff when they were withdrawn, which was as much for their work in the career as on the night.

It was as exercised as the home fans got in the final quarter as the game wound down to an anti-climax.

Doyle almost capped another fine performance with a late headed winner, but it mattered little as the team were already well on their way to Poland and Ukraine.

Qualification will have also strengthened Trapattoni's hand in contract talks with the FAI, as attention turns to the draw for the group stages in Kiev on 2 December.

Ireland: 1 Given; 4 O'Shea, 2 St Ledger, 5 Dunne, 3 Ward; 7 Hunt (12 McGeady '59), 6 Whelan, 8 Andrews, 11 Duff (15 Fahey '79); 9 Doyle, 10 Keane (17 Cox '67).

Subs not used: 16 Westwood, 13 McCarthy, 14 O'Dea, 18 Walters.

Estonia: 12 Londak; 17 Jaager, 3 Rahn, 15 Klavan, 5 Kruglov (7 Puri '18); 20 Saag, 23 Teniste; 14 Vassiljev, 13 Vunk, 10 Lindpere (9 Kink '54), 8 Voskoboinikov (11 Purje '73).

Subs not used: 22 Kotenko, 19 Barengrub, 6 Dmitrijev, 2 Sisov.

Monday, November 14, 2011

O'Shea and Doyle back for Ireland

John O'Shea and Kevin Doyle are back in the Ireland team for tomorrow night's Euro 2012 play-off second leg against Estonia in Lansdowne Road.

Stephen Kelly at right back and Jon Walters in attack are the players that make way for the returning duo.

O'Shea comes back into the side following a hamstring injury, while Doyle returns from suspension to partner Robbie Keane in the Irish attack.

In a third change to the starting team from the first-leg encounter in Tallinn, Stephen Hunt takes Aiden McGeady's place on the wing, but Giovanni Trapattoni has indicated that Spartak Moscow man McGeady will play the second half of the game.

The Irish management team also confirmed that LA Galaxy requested Keane return to the United States following Ireland's 4-0 away win in A. Le Coq Arena. However, the team's captain has chosen to remain in international camp for the second leg.

LA Galaxy play Houston Dynamo in the final of the MLS Cup on Sunday, which explains the California team's desire to get the Ireland international back to the States.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kelly out of Ireland v Estonia play-off

Stephen Kelly is out of Ireland's Euro 2012 play-off decider against Estonia on Tuesday night at Landsowne Road.

The Fulham defender has been ruled out with a groin injury, although John O'Shea has recovered from a hamstring problem and is likely to slot into the right-back position.

Ireland Assistant manager Marco Tardelli confirmed Kelly's absence following training in Malahide this afternoon.

The Italian also revealed that midfielder Damien Duff was able to take part in the session despite returning from Tallinn with a rib injury.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Robbie Keane - Confidence was key

Ireland captain Robbie Keane believes their Euro 2012 play-off tie against Estonia is all but over after their 4-0 first-leg win.

Keane scored twice as his team thrashed their nine-man hosts in Tallinn.

"It is a great result. This game should be over now and if we don't qualify we'll be devastated," said Keane ahead of Tuesday's return leg in Dublin.

"We deserve to go through because of the way we have played in the campaign. There is confidence in the squad."

Estonia will be missing missing first-choice keeper Sergei Pareiko and central defenders Raio Piiroja and Andrei Stepanov through suspension for Tuesday's return leg.

But Giovanni Trapattoni was keen to stress that his side must keep their focus.

"The cat is in the sack, but the sack is not closed," said the 72-year-old. "The cat is in it, but it's open - and it's a wild cat.

"But we have to have respect for our opponents for what they have achieved in this qualification campaign.

"At this moment, we are near qualifying at 4-0. But I repeat the same sentence: don't jump the gun."

Keane, who has now scored 55 international goals, was full of praise for his fellow goalscorers after Keith Andrews opened the scoring and Jonathan Walters notched his first international goal.

"Jonathan Walters is brilliant," added Keane. "He's a handful and he deserved to score. Keith was superb from the start and he drove us on from midfield."

Andrews admitted the result had come as a bit of a shock.

"It hasn't sunk in yet. It's hard to believe we have come here and won 4-0," said the Ipswich Town midfielder.

"I thought we played very well, harried them and fortunately got the result.

"If we keep a clean sheet it will be a fantastic night on Tuesday. Over the past few years this group has really come together."

Trapattoni : Be proud

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni believes the stunning 4-0 win over Estonia in the first leg of the Euro 2012 qualifying play-off last night demonstrated the progress his players have made in recent times.

Ireland stand on the verge of qualifying for the tournament in the Poland and Ukraine after a comprehensive success over their hosts, demonstrating great attacking quality, a feature often lacking under the Italian.

He said: "We came into the situation where players didn't answer the call to join the squad. They understood how serious we were and we called them up on merit. We brought in 10 or 12 young players and showed mentality and character.

"After the Carling Nations tournament and the Italy and Macedonia matches, we decided this (attacking) approach. Years ago maybe not, now we can be confident.

"I told you yesterday that many time I have been at the end of the cliff. Matches like this are what I call top level matches. But achieving one objective is not important. We must focus on what comes next and the future. I do not look back."

The Aviva Stadium will host the second leg on Tuesday on what is
likely to be a celebratory night with the Republic on the verge of

Trapattoni is looking forward to trying to seal a place in Euro 2012.

"The fans pay the tickets and it's a great sacrifice. We deserve to
celebrate this result.

"We must be proud. All the players called up must be proud. The
players answered us and when you call the players sometimes they didn't answers. Now they all do and they all believe."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Keane looking for victory against Estonians

Robbie Keane has insisted that Ireland will be going all out for victory in tonight's Euro 2012 play-off clash against Estonia.

Giovanni Trapattoni's 'Boys In Green' will start in Tallinn knowing that a draw would be a decent result to take back to the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday evening. However, Keane is adamant that a win will be the only thing on their minds as they attempt to take a major stride towards qualification for next summer's Euro finals.

He said: "Listen, as players, you don't go into a game thinking you are going to draw, it's impossible to do it. You go into every game thinking you are going to win it, so we are going into this game thinking that we can win it because there is no reason why we can't."

He added: "We have the players to do it and we have the mentality to do it, so there's no reason why we can't do it.

"We go into every game with the same mentality, that we can win this and we can score goals."

Ireland's recent run of form backs up Keane's claims - they are unbeaten in nine games and have conceded just one goal in the process.

Keane is confident that is evidence of the improvement they have made under Trapattoni's guidance in the last three and a half years or so.

He said: "You have seen over the years since the manager has come in, we have grown as a team, we have got better with each game and that reflects in our performances and the fact that we haven't lost too many games.

"Of course, we are a better team. The players are getting more experienced and able to handle different situations, so we are certainly a better team than we were a couple of years ago."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Walters prepared to 'put head on the line' for Irish qualification

Ireland striker Jon Walters says he won't be afraid to mix it up with Estonia's defenders if required by Giovanni Trapattoni during the Euro play-off's.

The Stoke City player is vying for a starting birth with Simon Cox, for Kevin Doyle's place and is adamant that he will play whatever role he is asked to in Friday's away encounter.

Walters said: "I am not the sort of player to shirk out of anything, I'll go wholeheartedly into anything so if that's putting myself about or doing whatever needs to be done, I'll do that.

"I have the scars on my head and eyebrows to prove that. I'll get involved and get mixed up in whatever needs to be done."

28-year-old Walters played just over 10 minutes of the last group game but may have done enough to pip Simon Cox for a starting place in Tallinn.

He is also Stoke's joint top scorer this season with five goals in 21 appearances, compared to Cox's one goal in six games for West Brom.

With Robbie Keane having come through three games with LA Galaxy after his injury, Walters is hoping that he gets the nod to partner the Irish captain in attack. He says that his ability to play with different types of strike partner may give him the edge.

"I've played with so many different strikers over the past few years, five or six in the past year while I've been at Stoke. I think that adaptability is one of the attributes of my game and playing well with different players and linking up," he said.

"Whatever the manager asks you to do or how to play, you try and if it's a different job I am asked to do - whether it's to hold it up or flick it on and behind, I'll try my best to do that.

"[In the last game against Armenia] after about 30 seconds of coming on, Doyler got sent off so that changed what I needed to do. I went up there just to hold up the ball and keep the pressure off our defence for a little while, that was my job and hopefully I did that quite well."

"Obviously, it's only the halfway point after the first game and we've got to concentrate on getting through. but getting a goal away from home is always important and with such a good defensive record, that we have as a team, if we can get a goal it can be enough.

"They've done exactly the same as we've done to get where they are. They're not going to be pushovers and they're not going to be easy. We may not have heard of them so much in world football but you tend to find players from countries like that are technically very good.

"As soon as you underestimate teams you get a kick up the backside. So that's the last thing anyone in the squad will be doing. It's the worst thing you can do."
with Simon Cox - man of the match in the last qualifier against Armenia - for Kevin Doyle's place and is adamant that he will play whatever role he is asked to in Friday's crunch encounter.

Walters said: "I am not the sort of player to shirk out of anything, I'll go wholeheartedly into anything so if that's putting myself about or doing whatever needs to be done, I'll do that.

"I have the scars on my head and eyebrows to prove that. I'll get involved and get mixed up in whatever needs to be done."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tardelli stresses the importance of Irish Euro qualification

Ireland assistant boss Marco Tardelli has told Ireland's players they could be preparing for the most important games of their lives as they attempt to book a trip to the Euro 2012 finals in Poland & Ukraine next summer.

Ireland face Estonia in a two-legged play-off over the next seven days with a place at next summer's tournament at stake.

A World Cup winner himself, Tardelli knows exactly what kind of exposure that can give a player even beyond the honour of representing their country on the big stage.

He said: "It's the match of their life for many players. It's important to qualify because the players need a boost as well in terms of new contracts and visibility.

"The European Championships give the players good visibility and for some players, maybe it is the last chance to be seen around the world.

"It's important, and it is important also for the Irish people.

"If a player plays in the Championship and maybe he plays well at the European Championships, it's possible to sign a new contract or play in the Premier League or in another country.

"This is important. I don't know for other players, but for me, it was very important because I am very close to my country, and I think these players are very close to their country.

"I felt very emotional when I stood on the pitch during the national anthem. I don't know for other players, but I think it's the same thing."

Whatever else qualification would bring - and contract extensions for manager Giovanni Trapattoni, assistant Tardelli and the rest of the staff could depend on it - it would end a 10-year wait for Ireland.

Not since Mick McCarthy's side reached the 2002 World Cup finals in the Far East via a fiercely-contested play-off against Iran has the nation contested a major finals.

There have been close calls, and no closer that two years ago when only William Gallas' controversial strike with the help of Thierry Henry's infamous handball in Paris saw France squeeze past Ireland before hitting problems in South Africa.

Those memories remain painfully vivid for many of the players, but Tardelli insists they must be consigned to history.

Asked if the events of that night still hurt, he said: "No, it's finished. We must focus on Estonia because it's very important."

Ireland head into the play-offs as favourites, although Tardelli has warned it would be dangerous for the players to believe that.

He said: "I don't think so. When we knew the draw, we were very happy because we drew Estonia, but Estonia thought the same thing. After the draw, Estonia were very happy because they drew Ireland.

"We are not favourites. We have a 50% chance like Estonia. We are not favourites - if we think we are favourites, that is very dangerous."

While skipper Robbie Keane was a welcome sight on the training pitch at Malahide this morning, keeper Shay Given and key defender Richard Dunne were absent, along with midfielders Keith Andrews and Keith Fahey.

However, Given was having treatment for a stiff neck and back and Dunne and Fahey for minor knee problems while Andrews was simply rested, unlike unfortunate Millwall keeper David Forde, who has returned to his club with a thigh problem, with Motherwell's Darren Randolph taking his place.

Tardelli said: "Shay Given and Richard Dunne needed a rest.

"Richard has a little problem with his knee and also Shay Given has a little problem with his back, but I think it is possible for them to return tomorrow."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Whelan hopeful of Play-off success

Irish central midfielder Glenn Whelan is confident that ' The Boys In Green ' will qualify for Euro 2012 and that the team will use the play-off defeat to France two year's ago as motivation for the two-legged encounter with Estonia.

Ireland travel to Tallinn for Friday's play-off first leg clash against Estonia, before next Tuesday's return fixture at Lansdowne Road, with a place at the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine up for grabs.

Whelan said that the players did not want to experience the losing feeling that the Irish team experienced in Paris after the infamous Thierry Henry hand-ball incident, which prevented Giovanni Trapattoni's side from progressing to last year's World Cup in South Africa.

Whelan said: "The lads that were involved know the feeling of that final whistle in France when we got beaten, and nobody wants to have that feeling again.

"So we can use that as motivation going into both games against Estonia and change things around after the last time and hopefully qualify, which will give everybody a big lift."

The Stoke City midfielder also gave an insight into his role with the Ireland team compared to the more advanced position that he plays for his club.

Whelan, who at club level is well known for linking up with the Stoke strikers and consistently peppering opponents' goals with long-range shooting, admitted that he would like more opportunities to play a similar role when wearing the green jersey.

But the Dubliner emphasised that his main concern is to do the job asked of him from Trapattoni and that he had no problems playing any role asked of him.

Whelan added: "The manager wants to keep a clean sheet, not concede goals and has got a defensive mind.

"But you go out and you're told by the manager what to do and if you don't do that, there are other players waiting to come in.

"I think every player would like to get a little more forward and adventurous but if the manager wants you to do a role then you have to do it."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Trapattoni encourages Irish fans to ‘Go Green on November 15’

The Football Association of Ireland, in association with Three and supporter’s group, ‘You Boys in Green’ today (November 4) joined the campaign to encourage fans to ‘Go Green on November 15’.

The campaign aims to encourage fans all over the country to get behind the team by wearing green on November 15 when Ireland take on Estonia in the second leg of the EURO 2012 Play-off in Aviva Stadium. The game, which has been sold out will decide Ireland’s EURO 2012 fate.

Three have come on board to create an atmosphere at the game by providing 50,000 green cards for fans to hold up as the team line out. They are also providing face painters, which will be at various locations around the concourse of Aviva Stadium to encourage supporters to ‘Go Green With Pride’.

Fans are invited to do something to display their support for the team. This could be anything from wearing a green tie to work, to dying their hair green! The FAI are also asking supporters to upload their photos of fans ‘Going Green on November 15’ to their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/faiofficial).

Martin Clarke, member of You Boys in Green said: "We really want to create the best possible atmosphere in the Aviva Stadium on November 15. A lot of hard work has been put in from forum users on YouBoysInGreen.ie and we are encouraging everyone to wear green for the home match against Estonia. We want to bring as much colour and atmosphere into the stadium as possible on November 15. We are working closely with the FAI regarding flags, pre-match entertainment and music. So we encourage everybody to Go Green on November 15."

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni said, ‘Our fans have stuck with us throughout this campaign, so we hope that they will stand shoulder to shoulder with us as the team line out on November 15. The atmosphere in Aviva Stadium will be great, but we would like everyone to go green on November 15 to show their support for the team.’

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Coleman credits GAA background for Toffees progress

Ireland international Seamus Coleman believes his background in Gaelic football has put him in good stead for life in the Premier League with Everton.

The 23-year-old tasted success with underage Donegal teams and well as his club side Killybegs before opting to pursue a career in soccer when former Sligo Rovers manager Sean Connor saw enough of the St Catherine’s defender to offer him a contract in the League of Ireland. Five years ago tomorrow Coleman made his first team bow as a late substitute in a 5-0 FAI Cup replay loss at Derry City’s hands before joining the Merseyside giants just over two years later after a couple of excellent seasons at the Showgrounds.

Had fate decreed otherwise, Coleman might well have played before the 81,436 supporters who descended on Croke Park in August for Donegal’s All-Ireland semi-final against the eventual champions, Dublin. He was a recognisable face in the crowd instead, able to attend as he recovered from an ankle ligament injury.

“Gaelic was always my No1,” Coleman told The Guardian. “I played bits and pieces of soccer but I didn’t have a serious commitment to it. Gaelic was my chosen sport but when I was 18 I was offered a chance with Sligo and €150 a week. I thought I should at least give it a go because I could always go back to Gaelic if it didn’t work out. That was the plan anyway, but I haven’t looked back since, to be honest. It’s been unbelievable.

“I’d played Gaelic all my life and I loved it. I was on the county teams and we’d been quite successful. It was a tough decision to leave it behind. I didn’t want to leave a team that had all my mates in it. I still follow Donegal and Killybegs and keep in touch with the lads there. I’ll go whenever I can. I was playing Gaelic every week for my home town and we were winning, so it was difficult to move away from all that but, at the same time, I’d wanted to play in the Premier League in England since I was a boy.”

Coleman’s first appearance for Everton was one he has since put down to experience. Two years ago, the right-back was thrown in on the opposite flank at Benfica’s Stadium of Light, with the striking talents of Pablo Aimar, Javier Saviola, Oscar Cardozo and, particularly that night in Lisbon, Angel di María. And similarly to the Bradywell on his Sligo bow, Coleman’s debut was a demoralising 5-0 loss.

Redemption came in early December at Goodison Park when Coleman was flung from the bench in the first half to play significant roles in the lead-up to goals from Louis Saha and Tim Cahill as Everton came from two down to force a home point against Tottenham Hotspur. The strength, energy and honesty he brought to Everton’s right wing that night, which secured a regular first-team role the following season, was born of his own education.

“I think some of my Gaelic experience has been useful here,” he says. “It’s a harder game for a start. If you get pushed you get straight back up. You don’t roll around looking at the referee for a free-kick and you wouldn’t get one if you did in Gaelic. It’s a fight – nothing too serious, but it is pure determination and I think I brought that with me here. I just had to play soccer the way I played Gaelic and thankfully it worked out.”

After a successful loan at Blackpool where Coleman played a significant role in the club’s dramatic promotion via the play-off finals, there was a repositioning on his return to Goodison. Last September at Craven Cottage, Everton manager David Moyes opted to push Coleman on from right-back to the wing and by the time the tills were totted at the end of the campaign, the Killybegs native was named the club’s young player of the year, scoring five goals and obtaining four international senior caps. He’ll be making the trip to Tallinn next month for the crucial Euro 2012 play-off, having been named in Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad on Friday.

This season, Coleman’s steady rise on the progress chart was stunted before it got a chance to develop. In a pre-season fixture against La Liga side Villarreal, Coleman was the victim of a horrendous challenge from Carlos Marchena. The ligament damage wasn’t as bad as initially feared but it meant a lay-off of four weeks but Coleman, in his own innocent way, made his way back to fitness and set up Saha’s leveller against Chelsea in the Carling Cup on Wednesday before starting against Manchester United on Saturday. He’s still living the dream.

“I got injured at the wrong time and came back quicker than I was expecting,” he adds. “I played a few games and I think I could have done better in them but it’s a long season,” he says. “This season has been harder. Teams know more about you in your second season and you have to adapt. The manager has spoken to me a few times about what I need to do and what I can add to my game. Last season was fantastic for me and I need to build on that now.

“I do find it hard to believe where I am. I’d never say no to a photo or an autograph because a couple of years ago I was the one asking. You will never hear anyone in the changing room complaining about the club’s finances. We are at Everton to do a job. We’ve got great supporters who are fully behind us and, let’s be honest, we are spoilt rotten. The facilities are fantastic, the kitchen staff, everyone, is so friendly and I just love the place. I will never take it for granted, that’s for sure.”

By Alan Foley - Donegal Democrat

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ireland squad for Estonia play-off

Giovanni Trapattoni has included Shane Long in his 26-man Ireland squad to face Estonia in the Euro 2012 play-offs next month.

West Brom ruled Long out for 'up to six weeks' after he was injured by Alan Hutton's two-footed lunge during the first half of their 2-1 Premier League win at Villa Park.

However, Long believes he has a chance of proving his fitness and so has been included in the squad. Robbie Keane is expected to be fit.

Ireland travel to Talinn for the first leg on 11 November and play the return at Lansdowne Road on 15 November.

Making the announcement, the Irish boss Trap said: "There is no room for complacency as we prepare for our two games next month. We will remember that Estonia have as much right to be in the play-off as ourselves.

"They have had some very good results in their group beating Serbia and Slovenia. They also caused Italy a lot of problems. These games will be a huge challenge for us, and we must maintain the correct mentality from start to finish."

Ireland squad for the EURO 2012 play-off against Estonia on 11 and 15 November:

Shay Given, Keiren Westwood, David Forde, Stephen Kelly, Stephen Ward, Richard Dunne, John O'Shea, Sean St. Ledger, Darren O'Dea, Paul McShane, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Keith Andrews, Keith Fahey, Darron Gibson, Andy Keogh, Damien Duff, Aiden McGeady, Stephen Hunt, Liam Lawrence, Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Simon Cox. Jon Walters.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ireland supporters podcast Part 2 available online

Click HERE to listen

This is episode 2 in our series as excitement builds ahead of the playoff clash with Estonia. On this epsiode, two dedicated Irish supporters join us to give their views.

We have John from YBIG.ie, a Raheny man looking forward to jetting off to Tallinn. We also have Paul from Foot.ie, a Rossie living in London.

We discuss:

0.00 Introduction

3.20 Players discussed on foot.ie - Darren O’Dea

4.10 Sean St Ledger

5.00 Trapattoni not looking at club form of Irish players ( Leon Best, Marc Wilson)

16.00 Formations and Wes Hoolahan

18.00 Estonia

22.10 Foot.ie discussion about plastic paddy’s (Kevin Nolan, Jamie Noble, Jamie O’Hara)

28.00 YBIG.ie Go Green on November 15th Campaign

The show is by the fans and for the fans and if you want to get involved you can mail us as TheWorldsTalking@gmail.com

Friday, October 21, 2011

Conor Henderson commits to Gunners

Ireland Under 21 international Conor Henderson has signed a new Arsenal contract to commit his long term future to the Gunners.

Henderson has yet to make the breakthrough into the first team at the Emirates Stadium but is rated extremely highly by club bosses.

The midfielder was a regular for the reserves last term and travelled with Arsene Wenger's senior squad for the pre-season trip to Germany, only to suffer a knee injury that has kept him sidelined for the past few months.

Henderson was handed his first professional contract with the gunners in 2008, with the left footed central midfield player instantly impressing the management with his ball skill and strength.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Long keen to secure Irish play-off start

Irish striker Shane Long has set his sights on forcing his way in Ireland's starting line-up for the crucial Euro 2012 play-off games against Estonia.

Long was a surprise ommission for the decisive group match with Estonia in Dublin last week, which saw Ireland secure a runners-up spot.

But the suspension of Kevin Doyle for the first leg of the play-off, and doubts over the fitness of Robbie Keane, have given Long an extra incentive ahead of next month's fixtures.

Long was again man-of-the-match for West Brom during Sunday's 2-0 win over Wolves at the Hawthorns.

He said: "It was disappointing not to play against Armenia but it was the right result.

"We now have Estonia in the play-offs and hopefully we can get to the Euros and make it a good summer next year.

"There are a lot of games for West Brom before that so hopefully I can stake my claim in those games.

"People say I've got a great chance to start with Kevin Doyle suspended and Robbie Keane injured.

"Kevin is missing and I would like to think I am a natural replacement for him.

"But I thought I may start the last game as well, and it wasn't to be, so we will have to see what happens.

"Hopefully I can keep doing what I am doing here at West Brom, keep putting in performances, and the Irish manager will take note.

"The manager didn't say why I didn't play against Armenia. He just told me I was on the bench and to make sure to be ready if I was needed."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ireland v Estonia in Euro play-off's.

Estonia stand between Ireland and a place in the Euro 2012 finals following today's play-off draw in Krakow.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side will be away in the first leg on either Friday, 11 November/Saturday 12 November, with the return tie at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday, 15 November.

Estonia have never reached the finals of a major tournament, and this is Tarmo Ruutli's side's first play-off appearance.

The other pairings see Turkey take on Croatia; the Czech Republic will play Montenegro, while Portugal will face Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Former Ireland striker John Aldridge has backed the team to beat Estonia and qualify for the finals.

Asked if he thought Trapattoni's side would go through, he told Sky Sports News: "Yes. We've got the greatest travelling fans and it would be great to see them on the road again."

"We travel better than we play at home, we've had better results away than we have had at home."

Aldridge added on his hopes for the first leg: "They will try to get a clean sheet, try to get a win which would set us up nicely."

Aldridge admitted the suspension of striker Kevin Doyle, still waiting to hear the length of his punishment after being sent off in the qualifier against Armenia on Tuesday which the Republic won 2-1, would be a blow to the team's chances.

However, he backed Shane Long to fill the breach.

"Shane Long has done really well when he has deputised for either Robbie (Keane) or Kevin so it's a great opportunity for him."

Ireland and Estonia have met twice before, in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.

The Irish, then under Mick McCarthy`s management, won both games 2-0, with defender Richard Dunne, a scorer against Armenia, on target in each match.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

UEFA confirm Ireland seeded for play-offs

UEFA have confirmed that Ireland will be seeded for the Euro 2012 play-off draw alongside Portugal, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

Giovanni Trapattoni's 'Boys In Green' are the third highest ranked side out of the eight play-off qualifiers in UEFA's coefficient list.

Ireland will now face Montenegro, Turkey, Estonia or Bosnia and Herzegovina in the two-legged play-off.

Thursday's draw for the UEFA EURO 2012 play-offs takes place in Krakow, Poland.

Ireland through to Euro play-offs

Ireland secured a Euro 2012 play-off spot after a dramatic 2-1 win over Armenia, but it came at a price as Kevin Doyle was sent-off in the second half.

The striker is now certain to miss the first leg of the play-offs and will need some generosity from UEFA to avoid a two-game ban.

With injured skipper Robbie Keane struggling to make next month's double header, Ireland's striking options are limited for their biggest game in two years.

However, Giovanni Trapattoni will take some comfort from a fine performance by Keane's replacement Simon Cox.

Cox's inclusion over Shane Long had prompted much talk and he had the chance to repay his manager's faith after ten minutes.

Doyle flicked on for Cox, who turned well but was crowded out as he tried to shoot. Doyle fired straight at Berezovsky when the ball came his way.

At the other end, Ireland's defence was cut open by Marcos Pizzelli's pass. Shay Given was happy to see Yura Movisyan's heavy touch push the ball wide.

Ireland were given a huge boost just before the half hour mark, as Berezovsky was sent-off for handling Cox's lob outside the box.

McGeady was instrumental as Ireland doubled their lead through Dunne. The winger danced away from his markers to cross. Petrosyan flapped at the ball and Dunne knocked it into the net.

Armenia were rewarded for their efforts as they caught Ireland napping to get back in the game. Mkhitaryan was given too much space and fired low, although Given will feel he should have done better with the shot.

The game became stretched as Armenia pushed for an equaliser, which left gaps at the back. Duff found McGeady in space but he hesitated and was quickly closed down.

Doyle compounded a disappointing evening by picking up a second yellow card when he caught Karlen Mkrtchyan with his elbow.

Jonathan Walters' impressive late cameo will have done little to harm his chances of starting that play-off first leg, alongside man-of-the-match Cox.

Ireland: 1 Given; 4 O'Shea, 2 St Ledger, 5 Dunne, 3 Kelly; 7 McGeady (15 Hunt 68), 6 Whelan (17 Fahey '76), 8 Andrews, 11 Duff; 9 Doyle, 10 Cox (13 Walters '80).

Subs not used: 16 Westwood, 12 Coleman, 14 Long, 18 O'Dea.

Booked: St Ledger, McGeady, Doyle.

Sent-off: Doyle.

Armenia: 1 Berezovsky; 4 Hovsepyan, 15 Mkoyan, 16 Aleksanyan, 20 Hayrapetyan; 9 Malkyan (23 Petrosyan 29'), 6 Mkrtchyan; 10 Ghazaryan (11 Sarkisov '62), 8 Pizzelli (22 Manucharyan '53), 18 Mkhitaryan; 14 Movsisyan.

Subs not used: 21 Badoyan, 17 Artak Edigaryan, 7 Artur Edigaryan, 3 Yuspashyan.

Booked: Petrosyan.

Sent-off: Berezovsky.

Attendance: 45,200

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ireland team to play Armenia

Simon Cox will start in attack alongside Kevin Doyle for Ireland in tomorrow's vital Euro 2012 qualifier with Armenia in the Aviva Stadium. It was widely expected that in-form West Brom striker Shane Long would partner doyle, in the event of Robbie Keane failing his fitness battle.

Stephen Kelly comes in for the suspended Stephen Ward.

Richard Dunne returns from his ban to the Irish central defence with Darren O'Dea dropping out.

Ireland team to play Armenia:

Shay Given, Stephen Kelly, Sean St Ledger, Richard Dunne, John O'Shea, Aidan McGeady, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan, Damien Duff, Kevin Doyle, Simon Cox.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Keane a major doubt for Armenia game

Ireland skipper Robbie Keane is being given every chance to prove his fitness ahead of Tuesday night's Euro 2012 showdown with Armenia in Dublin.

The 31-year-old Dublin born striker is a major doubt for the game at the Aviva Stadium which will decide Ireland's Group B fate as they attempt to secure a play-off berth.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni yesterday revealed Keane was to undergo a scan on a sore abductor muscle, and it was later confirmed that his chances of making the game were minimal.

Today it emerged the problem is actually an adductor muscle injury, and while assistant manager Marco Tardelli was refusing to rule the Los Angeles Galaxy frontman out of a fixture in which his country need to avoid defeat to finish second in the group, the chances of him playing appear to be slim.

Tardelli said: "Robbie has a little problem, but we are hopeful he will recover. It will be very difficult, but we are hopeful.

"It's the same problem he had after the last match in Los Angeles.

"Yesterday, he had a scan and he has a little problem - a big problem, not a little problem."

Asked to put a percentage on Keane's chances, Tardelli said: "I don't know. It is better to ask the doctor. There is very little possibility that he will recover, but we are hopeful."

But asked further if he would have been able to play had the game been today amid suggestions he could be sidelined for a fortnight, he added: "No, no, I don't think so."

Keane and his team-mates endured a gruelling trip back from Friday night's 2-0 victory in Andorra, which involved a three-hour coach journey from the Pyrenean principality to Barcelona and then a delayed flight of almost the same length, eventually arriving back in Dublin shortly before 7am yesterday.

Those members of the squad who played at the Estadi Comunal were rested from an open training session at Tallaght Stadium yesterday afternoon, but the bulk of them, Keane excepted, were back in action at a windswept Gannon Park in Malahide this morning.

Among them was Stoke striker Jonathan Walters, who met up with his colleagues on their return after missing the trip to Andorra with an ankle injury.

He and West Brom pair Shane Long and Simon Cox are the leading candidates to partner Kevin Doyle in a new-look front two if Keane does indeed miss out.

All three have impressed for their country in the recent past with Long in particular having established himself as a genuine option for Trapattoni's starting line-up.

However, Tardelli was giving little away today.

He said: "We have many options. We have Walters, Long, Cox - we have many options.

"We are confident in all our players. We have different solutions, but we will wait and see tomorrow."

Richard Dunne will also be available once again after serving a one-match ban in Friday's game, although left-back Stephen Ward will replace him on the sidelines after picking up his second yellow card of the campaign in Andorra.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Andorra 0 Ireland 2

Kevin Doyle's 10th international goal set Ireland on the road to a comfortable victory in Andorra as Giovanni Trapattoni's men completed the first half of their European mission.

Doyle's seventh-minute strike gave Ireland an advantage they never threatened to surrender and when defender Ildefons Lima deflected Aiden McGeady's shot into his own net 13 minutes later, the points were effectively safe.

Russia's victory in Slovakia means they will win Group B if they beat the Andorrans at home on Tuesday evening, but a draw with Armenia will be enough to send the Republic into the Euro 2012 play-offs.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trapattoni names Ireland team for Andorra qualifier

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has named his team for Friday's Euro 2012 Group 2 qualifier with Andorra.

John O'Shea replaces Stephen Kelly with Sean St Ledger coming in for the suspended Richard Dunne from Ireland's last game in Russia.

Trapattoni has resisted the temptation to bring Keith Fahey into the midfield after he hinted at using the Birmingham midfielder in training earlier this week.

Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews start in the middle of the park.

Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady continue on the wings with Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle leading the Republic attack.

Ireland team to play Andorra:

Shay Given, John O'Shea, Sean St Ledger, Darren O'Dea, Stephen Ward, Damien Duff, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan, Aidan McGeady, Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hodgson hails Shane Long Premiership start

West Bromwich manager Roy Hodgson believes club record signing Shane Long will prove to be the Barclays Premier League’s bargain buy of the season.

The Ireland international met up in Dublin with his Ireland team-mates yesterday ahead of this week’s crucial Euro 2012 qualifiers against Andorra and Armenia, 24 hours after scoring his third goal since his £5million summer move from Reading.

It was Long's first since opening the season with goals against Manchester United and Chelsea, and a welcome boost ahead of a critical week for his country in which he will be under additional pressure to score the goals which could take Ireland to the finals in Ukraine and Poland

Hodgson was delighted with the Tipperary born players' overall contribution and was keen to remind supporters that the 23-year-old has been signed as a player for the future, who just happens to have been thrust into the top flight, and international football, ahead of the normal schedule.

Hodgson said: 'I don't think we paid a lot for potential. The figures quoted are wrong, I am not saying how much it was but I have seen the quotes. He might be the bargain of the year as it turns out.

'He came from Ireland where he was playing hurling, then at 17 he went straight into Reading and became a star player within two or three years.

He got into the Irish national team and then into the Premier League, so it is a meteoric rise and we are talking about a young lad of 23/24 who started very late and is still to some extent learning the game.

'I am not at all surprised it has taken time for him to settle, in fact it has taken less time than I thought with what the Premier League is.

'He had a flying start with a goal against Manchester United and today his all-round play was very good, his target play was good and he was a threat in front and behind defender, rarely gave the ball away and of course his work rate is outstanding.

Hodgson consulted Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni as part of the long process of adding Long to his squad.

He saw off interest from Premier League rivals Newcastle and Stoke, and the lure of better wages, plus the prospect of top flight football after a promotion season in the Championship with West Ham or Leicester.

The experienced Hodgson also promoted the cause of West Brom striker Simon Cox before his successful summer call-up.

Cox has only started two games for his club, both in the Carling Cup, and did score against Bournemouth. He has just two substitute appearances to his name.

Hodgson revealed the fourth striker in Trapattoni’s squad, who is keeping out Newcastle’s in-form Leon Best, came close to a third at the Stadium of Light.
He said: 'I have a relationship with Giovanni and where he was exceptionally good was in transfer deadline week.

'It took a long while to get the Long transfer through and he had actually joined up with the Ireland squad but Giovanni was very good and let him spend the day with us and complete his medical.

'It suits Ireland to have him playing in the Premier League and with Doyle, Long and Keane and Cox as well. They look strong.

'Simon was in good form and was unlucky not to get on today and under normal circumstances I would have put him on with Peter not at his best but I didn't want to destroy Peter and was hoping he would produce a bit of magic late in the game. But I was wrong on that one.'

Monday, September 26, 2011

Shane Duffy extends loan spell

Scunthorpe United have extended the loan stay of Ireland U21 international Shane Duffy.

The Derry born centre-half has impressed during his month at Glanford Park and the Iron were keen to extend the deal.

Saturday's 2-1 victory over Yeovil Town was the 19-year-old's fourth appearance for United and Scunthorpe boss alan Knill has persuaded Premier League side Everton to allow him to remain on a month by month basis.

"I've spoken to Shane and he is benefiting from playing in someone's first team," said the Iron boss.

"It's better he plays in a competitive team that is playing quite well rather than the reserves.

"That's what they sent him to us for, to learn, and that's what he's doing. And I have to say, I think he's getting better.

"The thing I like most about him is when the ball comes into the box, he really wants to head it – before anybody else. He's a proper centre-half."

Both Duffy and fellow Iron Irish international Niall Canavan have been called up into the latest Ireland U21 squad.

The pair have been selected for the forthcoming UEFA 2013 European Championship Qualifier versus Liechtenstein which will take place on Tuesday, October 11.

Canavan is currently out of action with an ankle injury but, should he be fit, he will join up with the squad alongside Duffy the day after Scunthorpe's home clash with Leyton Orient.

The pair would then return to training ready for the away game at Brentford on Saturday, October 15.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Trapattoni names squad for crucial Euro qualifiers

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has named a 27 man squad for the Crucial Euro qualifiers against Andorra and Armenia next month.

Jon Walters and Seamus Coleman both return to the squad and Wigan's James McCarthy is also named in the Irish midfield

Shay Given Aston Villa
Kieran Westwood Sunderland AFC
David Forde Millwall AFC

John O'Shea Sunderland AFC
Kevin Foley Wolves
Stephen Kelly Fulham
Stephen Ward Wolves
Richard Dunne Aston Villa
Kevin Kilbane Derby
Sean St. Ledger Leicester
Darren O'Dea Leeds
Damien Delaney Ipswich Town

Glen Whelan Stoke
James McCarthy Wigan
Seamus Coleman Everton
Keith Andrews Ipswich
Keith Fahey Birmingham
Andy Keogh Leeds
Damien Duff Fulham
Aiden McGeady Spartak Moscow
Stephen Hunt Wolves
Liam Lawrence Portsmouth

Robbie Keane LA Galaxy
Kevin Doyle Wolves
Shane Long West Brom
Simon Cox West Brom
Jon Walters Stoke

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paul George makes first competitive Celtic start

Ireland U19 international Paul George made his first competitive Celtic appearance last night in the 2-0 victory over Ross County in the Communities League Cup.

George from Killough in County Down came on for the last few minutes of the game and only for an excellent close range save late on from County keeper Frazer, he could well have marked his debut with a first senior goal.

The Irish winger recently stepped up to Paul Doolin’s Under 19 squad and played in the Serbian double-header last month in Belgrade.

The 17 year old signed a three year deal with Celtic last summer and spent last year at the Celtic Academy. He made a previous appearance with the first-team, coming on as a substitute in a friendly match with AZ Alkmaar last year.

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, he is the type of player that is an entertainer. He has very good skills, but is also dedicated and hard-working too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Robbie Brady continues to impress at the Tigers

Ireland U21 international Robbie Brady could have scored a hat-trick, but ended up without a goal to his name on Saturday, as Hull beat Portsmouth 1-0 at the KC Stadium.

The Manchester United on-loan winger was thwarted three times by Pompey keeper Jamie Ashdown, whose heroics were enough to limit the Tigers to just one goal, scored by the equally impressive Robert Koren early in the first-half.

Dublin born Brady, who is on loan with Hull until the end of the year, was the most potent attacking force for Nigel Pearson's side and had two curled efforts saved by the superb Ashdown. The stopper also prevented the Irish youngster from close-range following a chaotic goalmouth scramble.

Brady has been turning heads all over the Championship with his superb displays for Hull and has caught the eye of commentators and pundits alike, who are tipping the young winger for a massive career ahead.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

O'Brien signs new Rams deal

Ireland U19 defender Mark O'Brien has signed a four-year deal with Derby County

The 18-year-old Dublin born international has seized his chance in the first team this season, featuring in all seven Rams games.

O'Brien has started six matches at centre-half, starting in place of the injured Shaun Barker in five of the club's six Championship matches.

Manager Nigel Clough told the club website: "He has been playing well and deserves his contract."

O'Brien, who will now stay at Pride Park until the summer of 2015, had to undergo heart surgery in Novemer 2009.

And Clough has been impressed with how he has come back: "He has had to overcome some challenging hurdles but his attitude has been exemplary.

"He has taken his chance because of the injuries.

"He has shown to everybody he is an honest, brave and committed player who will put his head where some players would not even put their feet."

The new deal is the latest chapter in O'Brien's remarkable story.

Only months after making his first-team debut for Derby as a 16-year-old at Watford on the final day of the 2008-9 season, O'Brien was told he needed heart surgery.

He had the operation in October 2009 and was back in action for the Academy six months later.

His progress was hindered towards the end of last season when he underwent surgery on his ankle and then injuries to a number of the club's centre-backs opened the first-team door for him.

But he is not taking anything for granted.

"I feel I am still easing my way in because anything can happen," said O'Brien.

"Shaun Barker, Russell Anderson and Jake Buxton can come straight back in for me, so I cannot think I have got my feet under the first-team table or anything like that.

"My aspirations are the same as they were at the start of the season. I wanted to be a part of the squad and get some games under my belt. That has not changed.

"Hopefully I can keep progressing.

"All I can do is try to keep playing and doing as well as I can."

O'Brien's first League start came in the 1-0 win at Watford last month and he also helped the team to keep clean sheets in the victories over Blackpool and Doncaster Rovers.

Clough has been delighted with the youngster's attitude.

"It has been exemplary when you think what he has gone through for such a young person, never mind a young footballer," said Clough.

"To come through and get in the side, everybody is delighted for him. He is back on the pitch, he is healthy and he is playing well.

"He deserves his deal.

"He is ahead of schedule and it is out of necessity he is in the team.

"When you look at the centre-halves on our books, certainly they are more experienced than Mark but he has come in and taken his chance.

"Until such time as somebody is fit who we think is better than him and can do a better job, he will stay in the team."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Trapattoni praise for Dunne and Given

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni saluted Richard Dunne and Shay Given for their heroic performances in a precious 0-0 draw in Moscow.

Dunne produced two superb blocks and ended the game with four stitches in a head wound as Ireland managed to cling on for their first ever point in Russia.

Given was equally resilient as the Donegal man pulled off a string of fine saves, including a vital late stop from Konstantin Zyryanov, to claim a seventh successive clean sheet for his team which kept them firmly in he race for Euro 2012 qualification.

Trapattoni said of Dunne's performance: "He was fantastic. I thank God that we had Richard in this game.

"He sacrificed himself because he went back on to the pitch with four stitches. He understood the need to stay on the pitch.

"Shay Given also saved two or three goals. They were fantastic saves."

Dunne had to have stitches after suffering a head wound in a challenge on Yuri Zhirkov which cost him a second booking in as many games which will rule him out of next month's trip to Andorra.

He was made to change his shirt, but with no number five replacement on the sidelines, goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly had to write the number on a plain shirt in felt-tipped pen.

Trapattoni said: "In life, these things happen. We forgot the reserve shirt. We wrote the number five and thank God, he went back on to the pitch immediately."

Ireland were under the cosh almost from the off as Russia set about the task of easing their way further clear in the race for automatic qualification from Group B.

Trapattoni was quick to admit that his team had ridden its luck on the night.

He said: "It is impossible not to recognise that we have been lucky in this 90 minutes.

"The determination and the application on the pitch of the team, particularly of the senior players like Richard Dunne, Shay Given, Keith Andrews, Aiden McGeady was the pull for the younger players who gained confidence from them.

"That balance allowed us to achieve what I call a golden point.

"With this result, we can look to the future because we have cleared a big obstacle tonight.

"I told the players St Patrick was looking down on us tonight."

Speaking after the game Irish hero Dunne said :

"We probably weren't fancied to get anything here, everyone from front to back did a job. It gives us something to build on and hopefully keeps us in the competition."

Dunne added: "It was a tough game. We knew we had to come here and try and put in something similar to what we did in Paris [in the World Cup play-off against France].

"The second half was quite tough. The pitch is so fast and you have to be on your toes.

"But we knuckled down and put in a performance we can be proud of."

Meanwhile in the other group two game Armenia scored four second-half goals to crush Slovakia and keep alive their hopes of reaching the Euro 2012 finals.

The result means Armenia move up to third in the table, one point behind Ireland and three points behind Russia.