Author Archive

Premier League Preview: Jose’s Blues Are The Boys To Beat


With the new Premier League season fast approaching, it’s hard to look beyond an old foe of many managers and fans alike from stealing the limelight once the season gets underway.

This summer’s transfer window and indeed all of the summer’s talk has been shaped around three men, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Arsenal’s pursuit of the Uruguayan, Wayne Rooney and his transfer request and Spur’s Gareth Bale who is being courted by Real Madrid.

One team, with the exception of a handful of Rooney rumours, has slipped under the radar as they plan to wrestle back a title that they won back to back in 2005 and 2006, and they have Jose Mourinho back to steer them there. Continue reading

Five Irish Players Who Need A Move This August

kdAs all football fans know, the summer transfer window is a time of upheaval with fresh starts, new challenges and last chances for managers and players alike. However, sometimes there is a select few players that may be in need of a move to rekindle or enhance their international career.

Here we take a look at five Irish stars who all need a move before the transfer window slams shut at the end of August. Continue reading

Key Battles: Borussia Dortmund V Bayern Munich

Jerseys of German football clubs BayernWhen Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich line out on Saturday night in Wembley Stadium, the very first all-German final, there will be a number of battles which could shape the destiny of the trophy nicknamed “Big Ears”. The more experienced Munich side will be making their third appearance in a Champions League final in four years, whereas Dortmund will have youth and attack on their side. Continue reading

Young Irish Abroad #6 Karl Sheppard

Rather fittingly, Reading have signed a young Irish Striker from the League of Ireland.

That striker is Karl Sheppard, who moves to Berkshire from back to back League of Ireland champions Shamrock Rovers. The Ireland under 21 cap was born in Dublin on 14 February 1991. Sheppard began his career with Portmarnock and played at schoolboy level for Shelbourne, before joining Everton in 2007. Sheppard never really got up and running for Everton, failing to break into the first team, and came back to the Emerald isle to sign for Galway United in 2010.

 The Dublin native impressed for the Tribesmen, scoring a handful of goals and playing the majority of games that season. The displays Sheppard showed in April of that year seen him win the Airtricity SWAI Player of the Month Award. Sheppard’s parting gift to Galway was the winner in the promotion/relegation playoff, keeping United afloat.

He then moved onto to reigning champions Shamrock Rovers for the 2011 season, where he won the league, Setanta Cup and scored in the Europe League Group stages against PAOK Salonika. This was enough to alert Brian McDermott and Reading, who have good history in bringing Irish strikers through. Sheppard is very comfortable being the lone striker but he was forced to operate from the right hand side from time to time last season. His move to Reading will now give him the platform to fulfil his undoubted potential.

When asked about his Irish predecessors at Reading, he said “”It was massive, seeing the likes of Kevin Doyle and Shane Long come over and do well, and Hunty as well, it’s a good thing,” he said in his first interview on Reading FC Player. “The history of bringing good Irish players through is something that intrigued me into coming here. There was interest from a few other Championship clubs as well but once I heard that Reading were in, there was only one club for me.”

Young Irish Abroad #5 Greg Cunningham

20 year old Galway native Greg Cunningham is the first player to feature in the series “young Irish abroad” that has been capped for Giovanni Trappatoni’s Ireland.

The young star has resurfaced as an emerging young talent following a serious injury picked up at the start of 2011. The Manchester city left full back fractured his tibia while on loan at Leicester City. At the time he had shown much promise playing twelve games, until being ruled out for 4 months.

For Cunningham, who began his career with Mervue United, the emergence of Stephen Ward as an Ireland regular has been a disappointment for him, as Ward has all but sewn up that role for the European Championships. The former Mervue star is currently on loan at Nottingham Forest, and is in a consistent run of form, starting the last seven on the bounce. He is a good strong naturally left footed full back, and can play left midfield also. His relative youth means he is a definite star in terms of the future, but his experience in Trap’s set up, having played three times since his debut against Algeria in the RDS. His recovery back from a bad injury also shows a battling quality and determination which is to be admired in any player.

Cunningham, who is 21 in the new year, knows that it will be difficult to shuffle his way back into Trapattoni’s plans before the EURO 2012 squad is announced “It would be brilliant to even get the attention of Mr Trapattoni over the next few months, of course I would love to play in the finals like every Irish player,” Cunningham said speaking to the Evening Herald arlier this year. “It’s going to be very difficult for any of us young lads to get into that squad but I want to make it hard for the manager to not pick me, that means doing as well as I can for Forest — or Man City if I go back there when the loan is up in the New Year.”

Like previous players in the series, he will find it very difficult to get into the squad, but will strive to be there none the less.

Young Irish Abroad #4 James McClean

The Airtricity League is by no means known as a contributor when it comes to footballers for its national team, but after Keith Fahey, read James McClean.

The Derry born winger has declared for the Republic after rejecting a call up to represent Northern Ireland. “It was a blow seeing Irish League players being called up before me to the Northern Ireland squad, but having got the call I was relieved,” McClean said in the Belfast Telegraph. “However, it’s always been my dream to play for the Republic and hopefully that will become a reality now that I’m going to be a Sunderland player.” This was McClean speaking in August 2011 and now that he is a Sunderland player; his dream may well come true.

He is a player who is quite like the Robbie Brady, who we featured in week one,  but is more comfortable out wide left. He began his career playing with Derry City, where he made 73 appearances and scored 18 goals. His £350,000 move to Sunderland, triggered a call up to the Northern Irish Squad in the IFA’s mind, but it triggered much better thoughts in James’ mind if you’re a Republic fan.

The exciting winger is yet to prove himself on Wearside, but his exciting performances for Derry and his seven appearances as a youth player for the North show some signs of greatness, while his performances at the Dublin Super Cup may have sealed the deal in Sunderland’s eyes.  That tournament did field some criticism from within the league in Ireland, but it has seen Daniel Kearns and James McClean move across the water, as well as massive interest in Daryl Kavanagh of St Patricks Athletic and Derry full back Daniel Lafferty too.

The manager who signed McClean for Sunderland, Steve Bruce, has recently been sacked and proud Northern Irish man Martin O’Neill has taken over. This can be viewed two different ways for McClean. O’Neill could snub the Northern Irish born Republic star, or he could embrace his young talent and nurture him to becoming a top player like he did with Aiden McGeady at Celtic. The experience and fair nature of the former Wycombe, Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa manager would lead me to believe the latter.

If McClean can race his way into the Sunderland side from the bench, then we may see a new talent emerge for the Boys IN Green. Of all the players reviewed so far, and still to be reviewed, I feel that James McClean is the rawest, but has the potential to be exciting for the Republic beyond 2012.

Follow Sunderland AFC winger James McClean on twitter @JMcC19.

Ireland drawn against Spain and Italy at EURO 2012

Ireland narrowly missed a reunion in European Championship terms with England, but drew manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s home nation instead.

The boys in green will also face current World and European champions Spain, aswell as Slaven Bilic’s Croatia. Drawn in Group C, the Irish will find it difficult to qualify from the group, but  they can take solace in the fact that they have performed solidly against bigger nations under Giovanni Trappatoni’s stewardship.

Ireland’s group games will begin in Poznan, where they will face Croatia on June 10. The group will finish with an interesting tie against Italy back in Poznan, after Spain take on the Boys in Green on June 14 in Gdansk. Controversial RTE pundit Eamon Dunphy expressed his opinion on the draw, “I don’t think it is terrifying. It is challenging, but there are worst draws.”

The travelling waves of supporters are likely to be delighted with the locations, as Poznan and Gdansk are both strong footballing areas. The games will also be exciting for fans, as Trap and Tardelli will be able to pit their wits against some of Europe and the World’s greatest.

Another side issue from the draw is that a money spinning friendly against our Anglo rivals is now back on the cards in the Aviva in the months preceding the finals.

Elsewhere Germany and Netherlands will face off in group C, while France and England will also tackle each other in Group B.


Poland Netherlands Spain Ukraine
Czech Republic Denmark Rep. of Ireland France
Greece Portugal Croatia Sweden
Russia Germany Italy England

Young Irish Abroad #3 Jeff Hendrick

Jeff Hendrick’s start as a Rams player will leave him in the hearts of Derby County fans forever. The young Dubliner scored a 72nd minute winner against bitter rivals Nottingham Forest in September, when the Derby team only had ten men.

Hendrick, who will turn 20 in the New Year, has made 22 senior appearances for Derby, scoring twice. Although he is still relatively inexperienced, he would have gained some experience in the recent under-19 championships during the summer, where the Irish team were knocked out by eventual champions Spain.

The Rams youngster is a busy midfielder, with an eye for a pass and a strength of positioning, which would be invaluable in Giovanni Trapattoni`s` team. His performance and goal in a local derby against Forest with just ten men was testament to his ability to play under pressure, which again against a big side would be a plus.

He began his Derby career as a youth and signed professional terms in the summer of 2010, after making an appearance in the final league game of that season against Cardiff.  His performances to date have seen him attract interest from the Premiership in the shape of Aston Villa and West Brom, both who possess current Irish talents, Richard Dunne, Shay Given and Shane Long.

Another positive feature to his game is the way he has turned in impressive performances against other quality central midfielders. In the Forest derby, he came toe-to-toe with former Irish international and Andy Reid, as well as Champions League winner Jonathan Greening. He has also faced off with Kevin Nolan, Papa Bouba Diop and Julio Arca, all proven Premier League players. What’s more is that Hendrick has kept Paul Green, a player TrapaTtoni favoured in his early days, out of the Derby team.

Hendrick has represented Ireland at all levels bar senior, and was shortlisted for under-17 player of the year in 2010. He scored the only goal in a one nil win against Poland under 19s in 2010 to secure qualification for the under 19 championships, where he played in all the games. After that tournament he was called into Noel King’s under-21 team, and has made three appearances to date.

Hendrick is definitely a talent to be reckoned with, maybe not for the EURO 2012 campaign but most definitely for the World Cup Qualifiers, along with Robbie Brady and Barry Maguire, the previous two young stars.

Young Irish Abroad #2 Barry Maguire

Dutch born midfielder Barry Maguire will be known to Irish fans, even though the VVV Venlo star hasn’t pulled on the green shirt since he was 15.

The defensive midfielder, born in Tiel, Netherlands on 27 October 1989, rejected a call up for Under 21 duty in 2009 from the then Under 21 manager Don Givens. He instead opted to stay with Holland and has won caps with them at 19’s and 20’s levels.

Maguire is a strong player with good positioning and from what I’ve seen loves a tackle and would get stuck in at any time. This would be perfect for the system played by Giovanni Trapattoni as he likes to play with two holding in the centre of midfield, usually Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews.

The situation with Maguire could be levelled with the Jamie O’Hara saga, but on a lower level. O’Hara has said he would like to represent England, which is fine, but as Johnny Giles wrote recently if he had a change of heart then we should take him. Barry Maguire has had a change of heart, but we haven’t gone for him, yet. He has just turned 22 and with his adaptability of playing out wide or at the back, he would be a fantastic player to have in the squad, even for his versatility alone.

The former Fc Utrecht man, who helped his former side knock Celtic out of Europe the season before last, has been vocal with his intentions to come back and play for Ireland. He said in an interview in 2010 that “If Ireland rang me in the morning and asked me to come and play for them, I would say yes without a thought. I would like to play for the Irish team again but I have no contact at all from them”, before adding “It’s a while since I played for Ireland at any level, five years now I think, but I have said all along that I have strong connections with Ireland, through my dad, and Holland, as I was born there, but the connection with Ireland was always strong for me and now I’d like to play for Ireland”.

Many people might feel that he might have to wait a while longer, but having played over 115 senior games in his five years as a professional he comes with a wealth of experience, having debuted for FC Den Bosch at the age of 17.

A place in the EURO 2012 squad may be undeserved, but Barry Maguire is a solid player and a definite prospect for the Irish squad in the near future.

Young Irish Abroad #1 Robbie Brady


In his new exclusive column, Irish News Review Sport writer Damien Byrne will cast his eye over the future of Irish football.The First player to feature on this new and exciting column will be Robbie Brady, the Hull City winger currently on loan from Manchester United.

Robbie joined the Manchester United academy in 2008, and signed professional terms in July 2010. He is regarded as a hot prospect and has represented Ireland at all levels bar senior level.  Altogether he has made 14 underage appearances, scoring 5 goals.

His prospects of a senior call up might not be long in waiting, with winger Damien Duff nearing the end of his international career, even though Giovanni Trapattoni is in the process of persuading his older gems into a few more years in the green of Ireland.

I’ve seen Brady play on a few occasions for Hull, namely against Blackpool in the Championship, and he seemed like a very lively winger, who looked equally adept on both his right and left foot. He would definitely, as any young player, have to see big improvements in his game to play for Manchester United, but I do feel an area of his game that would need attention to play in Traps style would be his defence side. Sounds strange to say that of a winger but even Damien Duff, the player I would liken Brady to, has had to do his fair share of defensive work to fit in Traps team. He seems strong on the ball, and has the ability to be an explosive player with his pace.

The move to Hull is just the tonic for 19 year old Brady to learn the hard graft of tracking back and becoming physically strong as the Championship is a difficult level for the best of stars to adapt to, just ask Sam Allardyce and some of his big names at West Ham.

The Dubliners Under 21 performances of late have been top quality, firing both goals in a 2-1 win over Austria and he is expected to start for Ireland Under 21s in the Showgrounds against Liechtenstein this evening in an Under 21 EURO 2013 qualifier. To date, the fiery winger has made 15 appearances for Hull, scoring once.

Should he continue his performances he may well see himself fast tracked into the senior set up as Trap prepares his troops for next summers Euro 2012.