Author Archive

Rovers Face Russian Challenge

Image

Shamrock Rovers continue their European adventure tonight with a tough tie in the snow and ice away to crack Russian outfit Rubin Kazan.

The pointless Hoops will be hoping to avenge their opening group A defeat to Kazan, when the Russians left Tallaght with an impressive 3-0 win.

This evening’s game is made all the tougher for Michael O’Neill’s men, however, by the fact that Rovers haven’t played a competitive game since the 3-1 defeat to PAOK Salonika four weeks ago.

O’Neill did bring his men to Sweden last week for a warm up friendly with Malmo, which the Hoops lost 2-0.

This is the second last opportunity Rovers will have to gain a historic first European group stage point, but O’Neill is well aware of the danger that Kazan represent.

Speaking ahead of the match, the Rovers manager said he fully expects the Russians to qualify out of the group with Tottenham.

But for Kazan to do that that, then a victory against Rovers is a must, given that their last game is away to PAOK, who they trail by a point going into the final two group games.

O’Neill’s only concern will be to get some sort of reward out of his teams involvement in the Europa League, which will end with am eagerly awaited home game against Harry Redknapp’s high flying Spurs.

The Rovers manager has picked a strong side for the clash with Kazan, packing his midfield to avoid being over-run in the same way they were when the sides last clashed.

Free-scoring Karl Sheppard will perform the lone frontman role, but will have adequate support coming from Stephen Rice and Billy Dennehy in the midfield.

Arch marksman Gary Twigg has been held back on the bench, with O’Neill admitting the Scotsman has been struggling to regain fitness due to injury.

O’Neill said: “He has had health problems and he tried to solve them without surgery and surgeons. As far as he is ready to play here in Russia, it’s difficult.”

Speaking on the match, O’Neill said: “It will be one of the most difficult games for us this season. We have already played against them and we know our strength and capabilities. I think Tottenham Hotspur and Rubin will progress to the next round but in football anything can happen, anything is possible.”

Teams:

Shamrock Rovers: Thompson, Sullivan, Oman, Murray, Stevens 
Rice, Dennehy, Finn, Turner, Paterson, Sheppard.

Subs: Brush, O’Donnell, McCabe, Twigg, Kilduff, O’Neill, Ricketts.

Rubin Kazan: Ryzhikov, Kaleshin, Sharonov, Cesar Navas, Bocchetti, Ryazantsev, Noboa, Natcho, Karadeniz, Haedo Valdez, Martins.

Subs: Berezin, Ansaldi, Bystrov, Nemov, Kasaev, Dyadyun, Kverkvelia.

Advertisements

Boys In Green Back To The Grindstone

After the euphoria of qualifying for Euro 2012 on home soil on Tuesday night, the Republic of Ireland players were back to the grindstone at their British clubs this afternoon.
Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni will be delighted to see a number of his squad get on the scoresheet in a day of mixed fortunes for the Boys in Green.
Tallinn goal hero Jonathan Walters kept his fine form going for Stoke with an eight minute goal that gave his team an early lead in a five-goal thriller with QPR.
Unfortunately for Walters his cool early strike failed to ignite a Potters win as they fell to an uncharacteristic 3-2 home defeat.
Fresh from his first competitive international outing in two years during the celebrations in Dublin on Tuesday, winger Stephen Hunt also notched up a goal with a penalty for Wolves against Everton at Goodison Park.
However a Toffees comeback meant Hunt also finished on the losing side as the under-pressure Merseysiders claimed a 2-1 win over former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy’s men.
There was better news for the returning Shane Long, who had the heartbreak of missing out on Ireland’s historic 5-1 play-off win over Estonia through injury.
Striker Long returned to the West Brom side for the first time in four weeks and marked his comeback with a brilliantly headed winner to seal a 2-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, Celtic striker Anthony Stokes did his best to gain Trap’s attention by scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Inverness.
The Dubliner has been out of favour with the Irish boss since failing to turn up for a summer tournament, but will be hoping to regain a place in the 23-man that will eventually travel to Poland and Ukraine next June.
Stokes is now Celtic’s leading league goalscorer with nine goals to his name as the Hoops desperately try to overhaul arch rivals Rangers commanding ten point lead at the top of the SPL.
Elsewhere, Trapattoni will have been delighted at the return to action of Derby midfielder Paul Green, who came on as a second half sub for the Rams in their Championship clash with Hull.
Green was very much in favour with the Italian during the early stages of Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, before succumbing to a devastating knee cruciate injury which had kept him out of the game for the past nine months.
But Green, who has earned nine Irish caps and scored a goal on his debut in a 3-0 friendly win over Algeria, played the last eight minutes today as derby crashed to a 2-0 home defeat.
His return from injury could well provide Trapattoni with another midfield option as he outs together his final Euro 2012 squad together over the coming six months.

Euro Odyssey For Boys In Green

Irish fans can begin planning their Euro 2012 trips in earnest this morning after Giovanni Trapattoni’s men finished off the formality of qualifying for the tournament on home soil last night.
Over 51,000 green-clad fans packed into the Aviva Stadium to cheer the Boys in Green on as they looked to finish off Estonia and book their place amongst Europe’s elite in Poland and the Ukraine next summer.
There was a celebratory mood in the stadium from the off as Dublin witnessed one of its biggest ever football parties.
Following the team’s heroic 4-0 away win in Tallinn on Friday night, last night’s game was always likely to be something of a damp squib with the Irish team eventually settling for a 1-1 draw as they eased through to the finals.
In his typical cautious fashion, Trapattoni took no chances with his team selection, picking an almost full strength first eleven to see the job through.
That meant there were recalls for the injured John O’Shea at right back, while Wolves striker Kevin Doyle came back in to partner Robbie Keane up front after missing the first leg through suspension.
Winger Aiden McGeady was also rested on the night, with Stephen Hunt coming into the team for his 31st cap.
Ireland started brightly enough and could have had a goal within the first five minutes when Doyle flicked on a Shay Given clearance into the path of Robbie Keane.
However the Irish record goalscorer couldn’t add to his impressive tally of 53 international goals as the Estonian keeper Pavel Londak blocked his effort at close range.
Londak was called into the action again soon after when he was forced to parry a shot from Damien Duff, which Keane again latched onto and he looked destined to score, only to see his shot sail wide of the near post.
Spurred on by their early escapes, Estonia started to work their way into the game with Konstantin Vassiljev, their most impressive performer in Tallinn, conducting affairs from central midfield.
However, they continued to look vulnerable at the back, and they finally succumbed 14 minutes before the break after central defender Ragnar Klavan had needlessly conceded a corner.
Doyle got his head to Duff’s left-wing corner and the keeper could only push the ball out to full-back Stephen Ward, who thumped it past him and into the back of the net.
Trapattoni celebrated on the sidelines as the party in the stands went into full swing with qualification now assured.
Given made his first save three minutes later when he got down to claim Vladimir Voskoboinikov’s skidding drive, but his evening was passing largely without incident.
The Estonians returned for the second half in determined mood and once again took the game to Ireland, although it was Ward who came closest to altering the scoreline when he forced Londak to save after cutting inside on to his right-foot from Glenn Whelan’s pass.
Joel Lindpere, whose return to the international fold for the play-off had sparked such excitement, departed having made little impact with 54 minutes gone, although his side’s fortunes changed markedly three minutes later.
Vassiljev picked the ball up inside the Ireland half and having made ground, smashed a 30-yard missile towards goal.
The ball dipped and swerved and although Given managed to get a hand to it, he could not keep it out as the Irish conceded just their second goal in 11 games.
Central defender Richard Dunne might have restored the home side’s lead when he met Keith Andrews’s clipped 67th-minute cross with a firm header, but he directed the ball straight at a grateful Londak.
But there was to be no further drama as the Republic of Ireland qualified on home soil for the first time.
Trapattoni’s men are now likely to be seeded fourth when the draw for the finals is made in Kiev on December 2.
It means our likely opponents will be one of hosts Poland, Ukraine, Spain or Holland in Pot One; England, Italy, Germany or Russia in Pot Two, and, Croatia, Sweden, Greece or Portugal in Pot Three.
Current UEFA co-efficient rankings mean that Ireland are joined in the fourth pot by Denmark, France and the Czech Republic.
Despite what is likely to be a very tough draw, goalkeeper Shay Given said the Irish will be up to the challenge.
He said: “The most important thing is getting there and a lot will depend on the luck of the draw.
“There are some fantastic teams there, but we are sure that some of those teams won’t want to play Ireland either. We are looking forward to mixing with the big teams, just like the good old days.
“I think someone said we were 50/1, so I think we are worth a fiver of anyone’s money.
“Obviously, there are a lot of bigger nations and better teams than us, but on our day, as we have proven over the last number of years, we can play against the best teams.”

Hurling Set For Cracking Final Clashes

The quest for provincial club glory has stepped up a gear in Hurling with a number of big semi-final clashes decided on a busy day of action.
The Leinster hurling championship is destined to end up in either Wexford or Offaly after Oulart-the-Ballagh and Coolderry advanced to the final later this month following nail-biting victories.
The Munster decider should also prove to be a cracker after Clare’s Crusheen advanced to play Na Piarsaigh of Limerick in two weeks time.
After dispatching of Kilkenny’s James Stephens in the previous round, Wexford’s Oulart-the-Ballagh started as strong favourites to see off the challenge of Laois champions Clough/Ballacolla.
However Oulart, who built up a commanding six point lead after just eleven minutes, were forced to survive a strong second half comeback from the Laois men to eventually triumph 3-12 to 2-11.
Oulart led by 1-4 to 0-1 early on, with Eoin Moore rifling home an early goal for their first score of the game at Wexford Park.
Clough/Ballacolla bounced back thanks to a Michael McEvoy goal after a great pass from Stephen Maher, but Oulart held a 1-8 to 1-2 interval lead.
A Willie Dunphy goal and a brace of points cut the deficit to the minimum on the restart, before Oulart claimed their second goal through Shaun Murphy.
The hat-trick was soon completed for the Wexford champions by Rory Jacob and despite the best efforts of Willie Hyland, the O’Moore men could not produce a shock result.
Meanwhile in the other semi-final Coolderry got the better of Dublin champions Ballyboden St. Enda’s.
Ken Hogan’s Coolderry side progressed to the November 27 final following an impressive 1-18 to 0-15 victory at Parnell Park.
They recovered from a sluggish start to hit nine of the first half’s last 11 scores, with Barry Teehan cracking a fine goal past Dublin All Star goalkeeper Gary Maguire, who did well to keep out an effort from Eoin Ryan.
Ballyboden, who had taken an early lead through Niall McMorrow, were still in contention at the break trailing by 1-11 to 0-8.
David Curtin and David O’Connor added to Ballyboden’s tally early in the second period and they kept Coolderry goalkeeper Stephen Corcoran busy throughout.
But free-taker Damien Murray had the biggest influence on the game. He sent over eight successful placed balls and Eoin Ryan (0-4) and Cathal Parlon (0-6) were just as accurate from play.
Their combined efforts were enough to book the Offaly club’s first Leinster SHC final appearance since 1980, when they lost out to Ballyhale Shamrocks.
Coolderry’s delight was matched further south in Munster with Na Piarsaigh sweeping Ballygunner aside with a stunning second half display at Walsh Park.
With a strong wind at their backs, the Limerick club quickly closed the half-time deficit – 0-10 to 0-4 – and powered through to their first senior provincial decider thanks to goals from Shane Dowling (2) and David Breen.
Waterford champions Ballygunner had started well, with Pauric Mahony accounting for five of their first half points. Brothers Brian and David O’Sullivan also weighed in with scores.
Mahony extended their lead to seven points early in the second half and it was looking good for Niall O’Donnell’s men.
But Na Piarsaigh soon took over. Dowling, the young forward who captained the Limerick minors this year and also played for the Under-21s, was central to their revival.
He slotted over three quick-fire points and found the Ballygunner net in the 48th minute. His second goal, which came just three minutes later, edged his side into a 2-7 to 0-11 lead.
Mahony kept Ballygunner in the hunt with his seventh point of the encounter, but Na Piarsaigh finished strongly to take a 3-9 to 0-12 verdict. Points from Pat Gleeson and Brian Hartnett sandwiched Breen’s late major.
The Munster final in two weeks’ time will see Na Piarsaigh battling it out with Clare champions Crusheen who ran out 0-19 to 1-10 winners over Carrigtwohill in today’s other semi-final tie.
At Pairc Ui Chaoimh, the Corkmen started brightly with Tomas Hogan firing them ahead with a seventh-minute point from distance. The movement between their forwards was particularly effective, led by county star Niall McCarthy.
Carrigtwohill merited their 0-8 to 0-6 half-time lead and might have had a goal but for Clare net minder Donal Tuohy brilliantly denying Stephen Dineen.
Crusheen took their time to settle, however they began to click coming up to the break. David Forde finished off an excellent four-man move with a point, and Pat Vaughan swapped late points with Carrigtwohill captain Mickey ‘Da’ Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald had a goal-bound shot saved by Tuohy on the resumption, and Crusheen soon raised their game. Tellingly, it took Carrig 21 minutes of the second half to add two points to their tally.
The Clare side tightened up in defence and their midfielders and forwards worked well in unison, setting up some terrific scores from Forde, Jamie Fitzgibbon and Gearoid O’Donnell.
Impressively, they found an extra few gears to pull 0-17 to 0-10 clear and all but seal their qualification for their first Munster SHC final.
With a minute left, Fitzgerald nicked the ball into the Crusheen net following a ball in from McCarthy but it was too little, too late. Free-taker Vaughan and Gerry O’Grady had the final say for Michael Browne’s ever-improving team.

Rampant Irish Crush Estonia

The Republic of Ireland have all but booked their place in the Euro 2012 finals after a scintillating second half blew away nine-man Estonia in Tallinn.
In one of the most important games in manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign, the Boys in Green let loose to score four goals to break the hearts of the stunned Estonians.
Captain Robbie Keane proved the hero of the hour once again as he made one goal and scored a brace himself to lead Ireland to a 4-0 win and leave Tuesday’s second leg at the Aviva Stadium little more than academic.
The game also proved to be a dream first start for Keane’s strike partner Jonathan Walters, who nodded in the crucial second goal midway through the second half to settle Irish nerves.
The huge travelling band of Irish fans were in good voice at kick-off time at the Le Coq arena, with hopes high that Ireland could finally banish their play-off bogey by beating a team placed 34 places behind them in the FIFA ranking table.
The Irish team took to the field in their familiar 4-4-2 formation and apart from missing full-back John O’Shea and suspended striker Kevin Doyle were at full strength for the crucial play-off tussle.
The visiting team started brightly, penning Estonia back in their own half, with Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady looking effective on the wings.
The early pressure paid off in a big way on 13 minutes when midfielder Keith Andrews burst into the box to head the Irish into a deserved lead.
The Ipswich man found space between two Estonian defenders to get his head on the end of an Aiden McGeady cross to send a bullet of a header into the bottom corner past the outstretched reach of Estonian goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko.
The goal should have set the tone for an Irish onslaught, but as has been the case for almost all of the Trappatoni era, the team sat back on their lead and allowed a limited Estonian team to dictate the play for the rest of the first half.
However despite some neat touches in the middle of the park from the home side, they rarely threatened Shay Given’s goal.
Their neat build up play was hampered by some terrible decision-making closer to goal, with a number of their players, including Konstantin Vassiljev and Ragnar Klavan, trying to shoot from impossible angles.
The pressure which appeared to be building on Ireland eased with every shot that sailed over the bar or harmlessly wide.
As their frustration began to mount Estonia suffered a hammer blow just ten minutes before half time, when defender Andei Stepanov was given his marching orders for a reckless challenge on Robbie Keane as the Irish striker bared down on goal.
Stepanov, who had already been booked for a foul on the marauding McGeady, could have no complaints about his red card but it was still a cruel blow for an Estonian team playing in the biggest game of their lives.
It was the type of break that Ireland needed to wrestle control back from the Estonians and despite a fairly lacklustre start to the second half, they eventually started to make their extra man pay.
With McGeady remaining a torn in the Estonians’ side, it was no surprise that the Spartak Moscow man was heavily involved in Ireland’s second goal on 68 minutes.
The tricky winger made a bursting run on the left before cutting inside and unleashing a shot which Pareiko could only parry to the onrushing Robbie Keane.
The LA Galaxy man used all his vast international experience to keep his cool in a crowded box by lobbing the ball back across goal over the heads of a number of Estonian defenders for Jonathan Walters to gleefully head home at the far post.
Walters goal was the cue for wild celebrations amongst the Irish contingent as everyone in green, both on the pitch and in the stadium, began to dream of a first European Championship finals appearance since 1988.
And that dream was to become ever more a reality as Ireland opened up in the last 20 minutes to lay siege to the Estonian goal.
It took just three more minutes of pressure for the Irish to register their third goal, with captain Keane showing his poacher’s instincts to follow up on a low free from Andrews which Pareiko parried and Keane duly dispatched the rebound into the net.
It was all proving a bit too much for a dispirited Estonian side, who were unfortunately reduced to nine men on 77 minutes when central defender Radio Piiroja picked up his second yellow card for a rough tackle on Keane.
The home side’s night of horror was compounded nine minutes later when substitute Stephen Hunt was fouled in the box to give Ireland a penalty which Keane cooly dispatched to wrap up a famous Irish win.
Afterwards, manager Giovanni Trapattoni appeared a little emotional as he paid tribute to his team for a truly professional performance.
And well the Italian could be delighted as every man in his first eleven stepped up to the mark.
Goalkeeper Shay Given did everything that was asked of him, full-backs Stephen Kelly and Stephen Ward had probably their best ever games in an Irish shirt, whilst central defenders Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger barely put a foot wrong all night.
The midfield pairing of Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews proved more dominant than they have in many previous games, while on the wings Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady kept themselves busy throughout.
Further forward, Robbie Keane and Jonathan Walters could both be delighted with their performances as they grabbed crucial goals on the night to ensure that Ireland will now most likely take their place at the summer football festival in Poland and Ukraine next year.

Rovers Aim For First Europa Points

THE Airtricity League title may be firmly in the bag but champions Shamrock Rovers have no intention of taking it easy just yet with three big Europa League games still to come.
The Hoops’ European odyssey continues at Tallaght Stadium tonight as Michael O’Neill’s men entertain Greek side PAOK Salonika.
After three defeats so far in Group A, Rovers will be hoping tonight is the night they finally manage to gain the points their valiant efforts to date have deserved.
And in truth this is the game they most likely had earmarked as one they could win – or at least draw – after they were grouped with PAOK, Tottenham and Russian side Rubin Kazan.
Rovers came close to snatching a draw in Greece just a fortnight ago, when a brave effort fell just short in a cruel 2-1 defeat.
PAOK had dominated much of the possession that night, but after Karl Shepherd equalised for Rovers early in the second half, a draw momentarily looked on the cards.
In the end, Salonika had to thank their classy Portuguese playmaker Vieirinha for winning the game for them with a stunning strike on the hour.
Rovers will be boosted by the fact that PAOK coach Laszlo Boloni has a number of injury problems as his side head for Tallaght.
Striker Stefan Athanasiadis, defender Pablo Contreras, midfielders Pablo Garcia, Stavros Tsoukalas and Vladimir Ivic plus forward Apostolos Giannou are all ruled out, while Giorgos Katsikas, Leonardo and Juliano Spadacio are ineligible.
Michael O’Neill has no such worries and has a fully fit side to choose from and has felt confident enough to leave star striker Gary Twigg on the bench after just returning from an injury break.
In Twigg’s absence, in-form Karl Shepherd will lead the line and O’Neill said he is confident his side can get a result.
He said: “A win would round off what has been a great season domestically. The team has done great things already this season with retaining the league and winning the Setanta Cup.
“So a win will be our aim in the next three games and the team have shown themselves as capable of achieving that.”
But the Rovers manager is not taking anything for granted ahead of the visit of PAOK, who have taken five points from their opening three games and remain unbeaten in Group A.
O’Neill added: “This is a top side. Maybe they are not as well known as other teams in the competition, but it will be a tough game.
“PAOK are consistent performers in Europe year after year and already this year they have drawn with Tottenham and away at Rubin Kazan. They’ll be very confident coming here to get a result but we have to make sure that isn’t the case.”

TEAMS:

Shamrock Rovers: Thompson, Sullivan, Sives, Murray, Stevens, McCabe, O’Donnell, Turner, McCormack, Dennehy, Sheppard.

POAK: Chalkias, Miroslaw Sznaucner, Cirillo, Malezas, Lino; Arias, Lazar, Georgiadis, Fotakis, Vieirinha; Salpingidis.

Monaghan Beat Galway In Play-Off Opener

Monaghan United have placed one foot firmly in the Airtricity Premier Division following an impressive first-leg promotion/relegation play-off win over Galway Utd.
The First Division side added more woe to Galway’s ill-fated season with a 2-0 victory at Gortakeegan which almost certainly means they will jump back into the top division for the first time in ten years.
The sides will meet again for the second play-off instalment at Terryland Park on Friday night, when John Brennan’s Galway men will desperately seek out a three goal win which will save their season.
Such a victory for Galway would seem unlikely, however, in a season which has seen them win just a singe league game – a 1-0 win over Bohemians way back in March.
Victory for Monaghan in this play-off would also help banish the painful memories of losing out to Bray Wanderers on penalties at the same stage last season.
Roddy Collins’ side looked well placed to win the tie this time around thanks to goals from midfielders Michael Isichei and Sean Brennan.
Isichei’s opening goal came after 13 minutes in a game Monaghan dominated, when he tapped home from a low cross from Brennan.
Monaghan remained on top into the second half with Galway midfielder Oscar Sibanda having to clear off the line before Aidan Collins crashed the rebound off the underside of bar.
Tempers flared late on when both sides were reduced to ten men.
Galway substitute Sean Gavin and Monaghan midfielder Eric Foley will miss the return leg as both were sent off following an off the ball clash on 81 minutes.
Six minutes later Monaghan got their second goal when Jordan Keegan did well after the ball hit the corner flag, to cross for Sean Brennan to shoot low past Galway keeper Conor Winn.

Monaghan United: Gabriel Sava; Paul Whelan, Aidan Collins, Alan Byrne, Shane Grimes; Michael Isichei (Paul Byrne 64, William McDonagh 85), Eric Foley, Ryan Brennan, Jordan Keegan (Jason Marks 88); Declan O’Brien, Sean Brennan
Substitutes not used: David Byrne, Philip Byrne, Mark Grace, Jake Rossiter

Galway United: Conor Winn; Paul Sinnott, Yob Som, Laurence Gaughan, Gary Kelly; Jin Gu Kim (Sean Gavin HT), Bobby Ryan, Alan Murphy, Oscar Sibanda (Eduardo Silvera 76); Mikey Gilmour, Ronan Cauldwell (Steven Walsh 89)
Substitutes not used: Willie Enulbe, Dara Duggan, Eric Brown, Eric Holland

Referee: Derek Tomney