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