Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Long fast becoming a serious striking option for Ireland

Shane Long's hunger to further his career has only been increased by his emergence as a top striker on the international stage

The Tipperary born Ireland striker scored his sixth goal in 19 senior appearances for 'The Boys In Green' in Tuesday night's 3-2 friendly defeat by World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay, and was also instrumental in winning the penalty which led to his side's second.

Long said: "They came fourth in the World Cup, so they are a very good side. One of the lads said nine of the players who started in the semi-final played again on Tuesday night, so they are obviously a quality side. They had two good centre-backs, so it was a big learning curve for me."

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni played Long as the lone striker after being impressed by his performance as a replacement for the injured Kevin Doyle in Saturday's 2-1 Euro 2012 qualifying victory over Macedonia, and was again impressed by his performance.

Long admits he has benefited greatly from being a regular in the Reading starting eleven this season, and his 18 goals so far this term are testament to a player becoming a seasoned hit-man in front of goal .

The former Cork City player is constantly honing his skills, and his great performance against Uruguay was another opportunity to see just how far he has come this season.

Long added: "I am learning every day and 90 minutes every week is helping me progress. Tuesday's game is only going to add to that.

"They were good defenders. They knew what they were doing and could buy a foul as well, so it was a bit tough up there.

"But I gave as good as I got and I would like to think I caused them a bit of trouble."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ireland v Uruguay team

Stephen Kelly will captain Ireland in tonight's friendly with Uruguay.

The 27-year-old Fulham defender will take over the armband from Robbie Keane who has been released as manager Giovanni Trapattoni takes a look at some of his back-up players.

Kelly, who will win his 21st cap, was an unused substitute in Saturday night's 2-1 Euro 2012 qualifier victory over Macedonia.

Having made his first competitive appearance off the bench against Macedonia, Wigan's James McCarthy will start behind the lone striker Shane Long between Andy Keogh and Liam Lawrence and in front of Keith Fahey and Paul Green.

Kelly will be in the centre of defence with Ciaran Clark on the left, Darren O'Dea in the centre and Kevin Foley on the right.

Keiren Westwood continues in goal in the absence of Shay Given.

Kelly admits he cannot wait for his big night. 'It's a huge honour, a huge privilege. The boss told me this morning,' he said.

'It's something you always dream of when you are a kid, first of all to play and represent your country, and then to lead your team out is just one of the of the greatest honours I can possibly ask for in football. I'm extremely happy.

'I have not played for a couple of months, but fitness-wise, I have always been an extremely fit player and being able to come in and play 90 minutes now, I don't think will be a problem to me.

'I am just looking forward to the opportunity and hopefully it's something I can really enjoy.

'It's going to be a difficult game - Uruguay are a strong side. [Luis] Suarez has pulled out, but it still doesn't affect their potency and how tough a game it is going to be.

'It is something I'm really looking forward to and I am delighted with the privilege. Hopefully we can go out there and give a really good account of ourselves.'

Ireland team to play Uruguay in an international friendly at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday 29 March:

Westwood; Foley, O'Dea, Kelly (capt), Clark; Lawrence, Fahey, Green, Keogh; McCarthy, Long

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ireland 2 Macedonia 1

Ireland moved joint top of their Euro 2012 qualifying group with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Macedonia at the Aviva Stadium.

Aiden McGeady's first international goal put Ireland ahead in the second minute and Robbie Keane added a second from close range midway through the half.

Macedonia responded just before half-time when Ivan Trichkovski deceived Richard Dunne and slotted past Keiren Westwood.

Ireland were dealt a severe blow when Kevin Doyle limped off early in the first half with what looked to be a serious knee injury.

There was further bad news for the home side as a caution for Dunne rules him out of the return game in Skopje in June.

The three points tonight, coupled with Russia's earlier draw in Armenia, sees Trapattoni's 'boys in green' level at top Group B with Slovakia and Russia.

Highly-rated James McCarthy was introduced as a substitute late on and received a rapturous welcome from the home crowd.

McCarthy played a crucial role, along with fellow substitute Keith Fahey, in steadying a ship that had been rocking in the second half after a bright first period.

Giovanni Trapattoni's players delivered the positive start he called for, but they were helped by some poor goalkeeping from Edin Nuredinoski.

McGeady had never scored in his previous 37 games for Ireland but he found the net less than 90 seconds into his 38th.

The winger tricked his way into space and fired low towards goal. Nuredinoski could only watch the ball go through his grasp.

The keeper looked rattled by that early mistake, as he fumbled a Damien Duff shot in the seventh minute. Fortunately for Macedonia, he gathered at the second attempt as Keane closed in.

Doyle was forced off with a serious knee injury in the 16th minute. Shane Long came on in his place, but only after a delay that had Trapattoni remonstrating with the fourth official.

The Italian had preached a shoot-on-sight policy in the build-up to the game and Nuredinoski was at fault again as Keane doubled Ireland's advantage.

Darron Gibson's free-kick from the edge of the box was fumbled into Keane's path and the skipper tapped home his 46th international goal.

Long, who has been in fine form this season for Reading, had a chance to stretch the lead. Keane flicked Kevin Foley's ball around the corner to Long, who beat Boban Grncharov but fired wide.

However, there were warnings for Ireland that they would not have it all their own way, as Trichkovski twice caused concern with long-range efforts.

It was Trichkovski who got Macedonia back in to the contest on the stroke of half-time.

The previously quiet Goran Pandev escaped from Kilbane to pick out the winger, who fooled Dunne and calmly slotted the ball past Westwood.

There was another scare for Ireland as Pandev could have levelled matters minutes into the second half, but he could not steer Goran Popov's cross on target.

Grncharov almost ruined Long's looks with a high tackle that should have brought a red card and not the yellow one issued by referee Istvan Vad.

Duff has been among the goals lately and he went close on the hour mark after McGeady picked him out at the back post.

The Fulham man was involved again minutes later as he dispossessed Popov and picked out Keane, but the skipper could not find the unmarked Long.

Macedonia passed their way back into the game by dominating possession, causing jitters in the home defence. Bookings for Dunne and Gibson were a sign of Ireland's growing frustration.

Westwood kept his side ahead on 75 minutes with a great block from Trichkovski after Muhamed Demiri's long ball had deceived the back four.

As Macedonia pushed for a late equaliser, the home side sought to catch them on the counter attack, but the tactic caused frayed nerves amongst the home support.

Any confusion over McCarthy's allegiance was ended when he replaced Keane in the 87th minute. Such was the anticipation that there were cheers when the 20-year-old went out to warm up.

Despite some nervy moments towards the end, Ireland head to Skopje in a good position in the group, but the absence of Dunne, and possibly Doyle, for that encounter will make a tough assignment even trickier.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ireland team for Macedonia qualifier

Keiren Westwood, Darren O'Dea and Kevin Foley will all make competitive debuts for Ireland in Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Macedonia.

Coventry keeper Westwood was always going to come in for the injured Shay Given to win his sixth senior cap, while Wolves defender Foley takes over from John O'Shea at right-back.

However, O'Dea, currently on loan at Ipswich from Celtic, has been drafted in as a late replacement for central defender Sean St Ledger, who has finally had to admit defeat in his efforts to shake off a knee injury picked up in a training ground collision with Ciaran Clark on Tuesday.

Kevin Kilbane will make his 65th successive competitive start in a back four which will also include the fit again Richard Dunne, while Manchester United's Darron Gibson will partner Glenn Whelan in central midfield with Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady providing the width.

Robbie Keane, captaining his country for a record-equalling 40th time, will start alongside Kevin Doyle in attack after finally shaking off the calf injury which has sidelined him for much of the last six weeks.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has confirmed that Wigan midfielder James McCarthy will be involved at some point, although Jon Walters is not now due to join up with the squad until after the game following the birth of his third child.

Ireland XI: Westwood, Foley, Dunne, O'Dea, Kilbane, Duff, Gibson, Whelan, McGeady, Keane, Doyle.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shane Duffy makes Burnley loan move

Everton's Irish U21 international Shane Duffy has joined promotion hopefuls Burnley on loan.

The 19-year-old Derry born centre half has been an unused substitute for David Moyes' side eight times this season. He has agreed an initial temporary move to Turf Moor before Thursday's deadline and will hope to build up his first-team experience.

Duffy joined Everton's Academy as a 16-year-old and after progressing through the Goodison Park ranks made his first-team debut in a Europa League tie in December 2009.

He will link up with the Burnley squad next week when he returns from Ireland Under 21 duty and could make his debut against Ipswich Town on 2nd April.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

George secures point in U17 Euro elite opener

A last minute goal from County Down’s Paul George gave Ireland U17’s a share of the points in their 2-2 European Elite stage qualifying opener against Denmark in Greece this afternoon.

John Morling’s Ireland team took the lead thanks to Arsenal’s Philip Roberts who slotted home after a period of Danish pressure. The Danes equalised just before half time and looked like they had secured the three points when Zohore scored with only two minutes of normal time left.

However with less than a minute remaining of added time, Celtic ‘bhoy’ Paul George equalised for ‘The boys In Green’ to keep us well in contention going into Friday’s difficult clash against hosts Greece, who defeated Latvia 2-0 in their opener today.

IRELAND – Joe Coll (Manchester United), Colm Horgan (Salthill Devon), Tommie Hoban (Watford), Steven Smith (Arsenal), Sean Kavanagh (Belvedere), Kealan Dillon (Derby County), Darragh Lenihan (Belvedere), Luke Gallagher (Cherry Orchard), Kenny McEvoy (Tottenham Hotspur), Philip Roberts (Arsenal), Sam Byrne (St. Josephs Boys).

Substitutes: Ian Lawlor (Manchester City), Paul George (Celtic), John Kavanagh (Ringmahon Rangers), Pierce Sweeney (Belvedere), Michael Hyland (Southend), Bradley Garmston (West Brom), James Murphy (Reading).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

McCarthy set for Macedonia qualifier

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has confirmed that James McCarthy will play for Ireland against Macedonia in Saturday evening’s Euro 2012 qualifying match.

McCarthy, who is still eligible to declare for either Ireland or Scotland trained with the rest of the Ireland squad this morning in Malahide.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez fuelled speculation about the midfielder's future earlier in the week when he claimed that McCarthy would not be rushed into make a decision, much to the bemusement of the FAI, McCarthy and his family.

However, Ireland boss Trappatoni has announced that McCarthy will feature against Macedonia, with a substitute's appearance being most likely.

“I’ve had to contend with this for a few years,” McCarthy remarked last week. “But it has really all stemmed from other people wanting it to happen. I am, and will remain, an Ireland player. I hope to play against Macedonia next weekend and that will put any talk of Scotland to bed once and for all.

“It reached new levels, went too far really, when I withdrew from the Ireland squad to play Wales. It was all above board. I was not long back in the Wigan team after three months out with an ankle injury and I was still taking things slowly as I didn’t want to risk anything. But this became a huge story and all the talk of me playing for Scotland resurfaced.

“My phone never stopped ringing. I’ve never received so many text messages and listened to so many voicemails. It was mental really. I’ve never been so popular!

“Trapattoni flew across to England to see me and we met at a hotel. He wanted to look me in the eye and ask if I was happy and committed to Ireland. I told him I was happy and wanted to play for him. It was a good meeting. We were both satisfied at the end of it. I appreciate the interest from Scotland but don’t want to go back on my word.”

Elsewhere, Centre back Richard Dunne has joined up with the rest of the squad, which assembled in Malahide last night, after staying behind at Aston Villa to continue treatment on his damaged shoulder, while midfielder Darron Gibson, who has a toe problem, is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.

Striker Leon Best did meet up despite missing Newcastle's Barclays Premier League defeat at Stoke on Saturday with an ankle injury, but he was sent for a swim this morning as his team-mates trained at Gannon Park.

Damien Duff (Achilles) and Seamus Coleman (ankle) also sat out, while Jonathan Walters will join up with the squad on Thursday with his wife about to give birth any day now.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Coleman gets the perfect tonic before International duty

Everton’s 2-1 win over Fulham, and a Seamus Coleman goal was the perfect way for the young Killybegs born international to head into next Saturday's Euro 2012 game against Macedonia and the Uruguay friendly the following Tuesday.

The young Irishman says the win over Mark Hughes' side has given Everton a big lift ahead of the fixture gap, and he hopes to see the team return to Merseyside with the same level of optimism once the international fixtures are complete.

Coleman is one of David Moyes' players who will be heading off on international duty, and the 22-year-old is delighted to be leaving on the back of a home victory.

"It's what we wanted - especially going into the international break," Coleman toldevertontv. "We wanted to go away on a high so we can come back on a high.

"The win was very important. There was a good buzz in the changing rooms and everyone will head away with their countries in high spirits - it wouldn't be nice going away with a defeat so it's exactly what we wanted."

Coleman netted Everton's opener against the Cottagers for his sixth goal of the season after beating Mark Schwarzer with a powerful header from Leon Osman's cross on 35 minutes.

And with half of his tally coming from headers, Coleman revealed he's been putting in extra effort in training to increase that number before the term ends.

"Steve Round has helped me a lot since I've moved position," he continued. "Whether it be heading it into goal or heading it back across goal for someone to tap it in, it has been worked on.

"I've got a few chances at the back post in the last couple of games and the opposition goalkeeper had saved a few, so I just watched it onto my head and tried to put it back across goal and thankfully it went in.

"The deliveries coming in from the left hand side are great whether it be from Osman or Baines. I have had a few chances and maybe I should have headed a few more goals, but I'm glad I got one today."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Celtic look to secure Westwood deal

According to reports in today's press, Celtic boss Neil Lennon is ready to sign Coventry’s Ireland keeper Keiren Westwood in a free transfer swoop.

Lennon wants Westwood to join his top SPL outfit in the summer but may try and tie him to a pre-contract shortly if he can sort out personal terms with the highly-rated Irish shot-stopper.

Westwood has refused to sign a new deal with the Sky Blues and is the number one choice of Lennon.

Celtic were also keen on Ireland and Manchester City keeper Shay Given on loan but that deal will be too expensive while Westwood can be signed on a free at the end of his contract.

Westwood cut his teeth at Newcastle and starred for Carlisle before establishing himself as a top keeper with Coventry - but the time is now eight for him to move on to bigger things.

Everton and a number of other Premiership clubs are also keeping an eye on Westwood

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ireland U21 squad for Portugal Friendly

Ireland U21 manager Noel King has Included Coventry City goalkeeper Michael Quirke who receives his first Ireland international call-up as does Preston North End midfielder, Adam Barton.

Another notable inclusion in King's squad is the highly rated Arsenal midfielder, Conor Henderson who recently made an impressive first team debut for Arsenal in their FA Cup replay with Leyton Orient.

Everton centre back Shane Duffy and Chelsea on-loan midfielder Conor Clifford are also named in the 17 man squad.

Ireland squad

Ian McLoughlin - Stockport County FC (on loan from Ipswich Town)
Michael Quirke - Coventry City FC
Richie Towell - Hibernian FC (on loan from Celtic)
Shane Duffy - Everton FC
Gavin Gunning - Motherwell FC (on loan from Blackburn Rovers)
Shane O'Connor - Ipswich Town FC
Rob Kiernan - Wycombe Wanderers FC (on loan from Watford)
Damian McCrory - Dagenham & Redbridge FC
Adam Barton - Preston North End FC
Mark Connolly - Bolton Wanderers FC
Conor Henderson - Arsenal FC
Jamie Devitt - Hull City FC
Sean Scannell - Crystal Palace FC
Conor Clifford - Chelsea FC
James Collins - Shrewsbury Town FC
Joe Mason - Plymouth Argyle FC
Paddy Madden - Carlisle United FC

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ireland squad for Euro qualifier named

Giovanni Tapattoni has named a 29 man squad for the crucial Euro 2012 qualifier against Macedonia on March 26th and the friendly game against Uruguay on March 29th.

Speaking at the team press conference this afternoon Trapattoni said "Macedonia is a big match for us in our aim to qualify for Euro 2012. Playing at home in the Aviva Stadium is important and we will be keen to build on our recent home performance against Wales. Three days later we will take on Uruguay who have announced a full strength squad to come to Dublin, including Forlan and Suarez. This will be a very good challenge for our players, particularly after Uruguay's strong performance in South Africa last summer."




St. Ledger





Friday, March 11, 2011

Clifford hopeful of extending County loan spell

Ireland U-21 international Conor Clifford is keen to extend his loan spell at Notts County from champions Chelsea until the end of the season.

The 19-year-old Dubliner moved to Meadow Lane on a one-month loan in early February but is eager to remain.

Magpies boss Paul Ince has been impressed with the former Crumlin United players performances and will discuss keeping him for the rest of the campaign with the club's chief executive.

"I'd love to stay with Notts until the end of the season," said Clifford. "I'm really enjoying playing in meaningful games rather than in the reserves at Chelsea, and I want to keep playing to gain as much experience as I can."

Clifford captained last season's Chelsea FA Youth Cup winning team, scoring the winner in the Final against Aston Villa with a long-range strike.

He began the season on loan at Plymouth, has started three league games for Notts, against Colchester United, Brentford and Leyton Orient, and has made two substitute appearances, against Exeter City and Charlton.

"I've been delighted to play almost every game since I've came here. I think I've done all right but I know I can give an awful lot more if I stay for the rest of the season," he added.

"I'm still getting to know the lads and the way we play and I haven't really played where I normally play, in the centre of midfield. I've been playing out wide. It's a bit frustrating but it's all good experience for me wherever I play.

"Hopefully I can sign on again, play more games and get better."

Ince has four central midfielders with more experience than Clifford in his squad – Neal Bishop, Ricky Ravenhill, John Spicer and Kevin McDonald, on loan from Burnley.

"We've got enough in that central midfield department, but I think Conor has done ever so well since he's been here.

"He plays with a lot of energy. I will sit down with Jim (Rodwell) and see where we stand," he said.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Paul George gets Irish call-up

County Down born Celtic youth player Paul George has received his first call-up for Ireland, as U17 manager John Morling named him in his 17 man squad for the UEFA Championship, elite qualifying phase which takes place in Greece at the end of this month.

Ireland will compete with Denmark, Greece and Latvia for the one available place in this year's eight team UEFA Championship finals which take place in Serbia in mid May. The ‘Boys In Green’ eased to qualification from the first qualifying phase last Autumn, emerging from a group containing Albania, Malta and Norway.

George from Killough in County Down signed a three year deal with Celtic last summer and spent last year at the Celtic Academy. 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.

Ireland U 17 squad

Joe Coll - Manchester United FC
Ian Lawlor - Manchester City FC
Colm Horgan - Salthill Devon FC
John Kavanagh - Ringmahon Rangers FC
Tommie Hoban - Watford FC
Pierce Sweeney - Belvedere FC
Steven Smith - Arsenal FC
Sean Kavanagh - Belvedere FC
Kealan Dillon - Derby County FC
Darragh Lenihan - Belvedere FC
Luke Gallagher - Cherry Orchard FC
Kenny McEvoy Tottenham Hotspur FC
Mikey Drennan - Aston Villa FC
Bradley Garmston - West Bromwich Albion FC
James Murphy - Reading FC
Paul George - Celtic FC
Sam Byrne - St. Josephs Boys FC

Robbie Keane boost for Ireland

Giovanni Trappatoni received a welcome boost today with the news that Robbie Keane will resume full training with West Ham this week.

Record Irish goalscorer Keane, who resumed light training early last week is now ready to rejoin the Hammers first team squad.

Ireland face Macedonia in a crucial Euro 2012 qualifier in Dublin in three weeks time and a fit Robbie Keane would be an important boost to an Irish forward line already showing top form with the recent goal scoring displays of Wolves Kevin Doyle and Readings Shane Long.

Dubliner Keane has been sidelined for almost a month after picking up a calf injury in just his second game for the Hammers following his January loan move from Tottenham.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Westwood a doubt for Ireland Euro qualifier

Giovanni Trapattoni's goalkeeping problems for the upcoming European Championship qualifier against Macedonia later this month continue to mount with news that Keiren Westwood failed to return for the second half as his Coventry side went down to a 4-1 home defeat to Bristol City at the Ricoh Arena.

Manchester City keeper Shay Given is already out of the crucial qualifier after undergoing surgery on a shoulder injury.

Early reports from the Ricoh Arena suggest Westwood could be out of contention for six weeks.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Arsenal boss pleased with Henderson debut

Ireland youth international Conor Henderson made his Arsenal debut last night in the 5-0 FA Cup defeat of Leyton Orient.

The 19-year-old technically gifted midfielder is renowned for his ball-playing abilities and is a regular in the Arsenal reserve side.

Speaking after the final whistle Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said "He has done well, and shown that he is technically at the level that we request here. He has a nice, smooth left foot and good build. He would have been involved a long time ago but he was injured."

Henderson signed a contract extension at the Emirates last summer after progressing through the junior ranks of Liam Brady’s youth set-up. He was handed his first professional contract with the gunners in 2008, with the left footed central player instantly impressing for Steve Bould's young Gunners, and was involved with the Arsenal squad at the end of last term for the trip to Wigan. Arsenal boss Wenger also included the winger in his pre-season training camp in Austria.