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.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Keane focused on three points from Russia qualifier

Ireland captain Robbie Keane has admitted Tomorrow's Euro 2012 qualifier with Russia is a game 'The Boys In Green' cannot afford to lose if they are to maintain hopes of qualifying for the finals in Poland.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side were held by Slovakia last Friday in a disappointing performance in the Aviva Stadium and trail Russia by two points with three rounds of games remaining in Group B.

Russia emerged with a 3-2 victory in the first meeting of the teams in Dublin and Keane feels Ireland need to bring home a result ahead of games with Armenia and Andorra in the Aviva next month.

Keane told a press conference ahead of the game in Moscow: "It is a game we can't lose. We want to still be in the hunt when the last two games come around and it is vitally important we are in amongst it. There are nine points to play for. We're well aware of that.

"Our main focus is getting three points tomorrow and there is certainly a lot of games to play and anything can happen.

"I think our performances away from home, in this campaign and the last, have been very, very good. We are coming here with a lot of confidence. Of course it is always nice to come into a game on the back of a win but it wasn't the case. The most important thing is we didn't lose.

"We'll be looking for the same tomorrow and hopefully the three points. There is no reason why we can't win. Our main aim is to get something out of this game and why not? Why can't we?"

Ireland must also cope with the Luzhniki Stadium's artificial pitch, a surface Keane experienced with Tottenham Hotspur last year in Switzerland in a Champions League qualifier.

He warned his team-mates they must adjust to the pitch as quickly as possible.

"I played last year for Tottenham against Young Boys. It is certainly different to what we're used to. When we played them we were 3-0 down after 20 minutes because we couldn't get used to the pace of the pitch.

"That is something we'll try to get into the lads early doors and try to get used to the pitch as soon as possible. It is obviously going to be a complete change."

Keane was passed for the game despite a back problem while Stephen Kelly and Darren O'Dea also came into the team.

Ireland team to play Russia:

Shay Given, Stephen Kelly, Richard Dunne, Darren O'Dea, Stephen Ward, Damien Duff, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Aidan McGeady, Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ireland 0 Slovakia 0

Ireland's hopes of automatic qualification for Euro 2012 are in the balance after an abject 0-0 draw with Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium.

The home side produced a nervous and sloppy display that allowed the visitors to control possession and territory.

A number of fine saves from Shay Given and a Sean St Ledger block on Marek Hamsik made sure the visitors left with just one point.

Richard Dunne could have snatched an undeserved winner but he failed to make a good connection with Stephen Hunt's cross in injury-time.

Slovakia got the point they came for and they could have had all three but for some last-ditch defending by the home side, which ensured a record sixth successive clean sheet.

Russia are next up for Ireland on Tuesday and on the evidence of this, Dick Advocaat's side will be confident of taking the three points.

A late booking for St Ledger means he misses the trip to Moscow, giving Trapattoni a further problem ahead of a crucial tie.

Shane Long's calf strain saw Trapattoni revert to his tried and trusted front two of Keane and Doyle, while Stephen Ward took Kevin Kilbane's place at left-back for his first competitive start.

Hamsik started for Slovakia despite pre-match doubts about the captain's fitness, but danger man Robert Vittek had to make do with a place on the bench.

Doyle's initial omission had caused some surprise but he seemed lethargic and was replaced by Simon Cox midway through the second half.

It was a game full of grunt but lacking in guile. There were more stray passes than incisive ones, with almost all of the neat touches coming from the men in blue.

Slovakia began with their traditional counter-attack style, but began to play more in Irish territory as the half wore on and they sussed out what they were up against.

Ireland were grateful to Ward and Dunne for two goal-saving tackles, while Given did well to keep out Miroslav Stoch's shot and a glancing header from Filip Holosko.

The visitors were also cheered on by vocal support in the north stand, leading one Irish fan to aggressively encourage those around him to respond. His pleas went unanswered.

One sloppy pass apart, it was Duff who was once again Ireland's main source of danger.

Jan Mucha was finally called into action on 38 minutes. A clever one-two between Duff and Keith Andrews saw the winger draw a fine parry from the Everton keeper.

Referee Pedro Garcia's whistle was a nagging feature of the opening 45 minutes, but most were glad to hear him call for half-time.

Slovakia were the first to threaten after the break as Stoch picked out Vladimir Weiss. His shot took a slight deflection and slipped past the far post.

Moments later at the other end, Duff found space after coming inside and linking with McGeady, but his shot flew over Mucha's cross bar.

St Ledger ensured a dominant Slovakia stayed scoreless when he threw himself in front of Hamsik to deny the skipper an opener after a slip-up by Dunne.

Cox's introduction had little effect as Weiss ghosted past a static Irish defence. Ward cleared for a corner with Holosko threatening.

If there was one Irishman you would want a chance to fall to, it would be Keane. Yet he wasted the opportunity to score his 52nd international goal.

The skipper drifted off Martin Skrtel as Duff's cross made its way over. Keane's header lacked the class that we have come to expect from him and cleared the bar.

Keane then turned creator by controlling Dunne's punt downfield and finding Cox. The striker twisted away from his markers but shot wide with Andrews free on the overlap.

Stephen Hunt was introduced to big cheers with five minutes remaining and many will wonder why he was given so little time to make an impact.

It was his cross that picked out the unmarked Dunne, who somehow got under the ball as it dropped perfectly for him.

Ireland: 1 Given; 4 O'Shea, 2 St Ledger, 5 Dunne, 3 Ward; 7 McGeady, 6 Whelan, 8 Andrews, 11 Duff; 9 Doyle (18 Cox '64), 10 Keane.

Subs not used: 16 Westwood, 12 Foley, 13 O'Dea, 14 Lawrence, 15 Hunt, 17 Keogh, 18 Cox.

Booked: Dunne, St Ledger.

Slovakia: 1 Mucha; 2 Pekarik, 3 Skrtel, 4 Durica, 5 Cech; 6 Karhan, 19 Kucka (21 Guede '77); 17 Hamsik, 10 Stoch; 7 Weiss (18 Jendrisek '85), 13 Holosko (11 Vittek '88).

Subs not used: 12 Putnocky, 8 Jez, 9 Stesak, 14 Michalik.

Booked: Kucka, Skrtel.

Referee: Pedro Garcia (Portugal).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shane Long rewarded with Irish start

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has rewarded Shane Long for his strong start to the season at West Brom with a starting place for tomorrow’s vital European Championship qualifier against Slovakia, with Kevin Doyle the player to miss out.

Kevin Kilbane has failed to recover from a back injury and will return to Derby County this afternoon. Damien Delaney has been drafted in to the squad to replace the veteran left back.

The rest of the line-up is along expected lines, with Shay Given passing a fitness test to take his place in nets, with John O’Shea named at right back and Richard Dunne and Seán St Ledger filling the central defensive slots.

Keith Andrew and Glenn Whelan have been named in central midfield, with the wide berths going to Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff. Robbie Keane will partner Long up front.

Wigan midfielder James McCarthy will also be called into the squad later this evening after he takes part in the Under-21 match against Hungary in Sligo.

Ireland: Shay Given, John O'Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Stephen Ward, Damien Duff, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan, Aiden McGeady, Robbie Keane and Shane Long