Posts Tagged ‘ Stephen Hunt ’

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

Boys In Green Look To Set Premier League Alight

The Premier League kicks off next weekend and Irish fans will have a keen eye on proceedings as the World Cup qualifiers loom. Following a poor Euro 2012 campaign, Irish fans will be eager to see the Boys In Green performing well for their clubs before Kazakhstan and Germany come calling.

Something that has become a recent trend is the number of Irish stars who are dropping down a level and this trend has certainly been prevalent this summer. Both Keith Andrews and Simon Cox have swapped West Brom for The Championship while Darren O’Dea scored a surprising move to Major League Soccer side Toronto FC. Of course with Wolves been relegated that further reduces the number of Irish players plying their trade in the top flight. Kevin Doyle, Stephen Ward, Stephen Hunt and Kevin Foley all look set to remain at Molineux and help the club bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt. Sean St Ledger, Keith Fahey, David Forde and Paddy Kenny will also be prominent features in the Championship this term while the likes of Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady are still plying their trade outside the British Isles.

But what about those Irish players remaining in the Premier League?

Everton will be hoping to qualify for Europe this term and will be buoyed by the fact that they have retained the services of long serving manager David Moyes, who spurned the advances of Spurs after Harry Redknapp was dismissed from White Hart Lane. Moyes has added smartly to his squad given his limited resources with both Stephen Pienaar and Steven Naismith joining The Toffees. Much is expected of the free scoring Nikica Jelavic but this hardworking Everton outfit will be largely reliant on the skill and tenacity of Seamus Coleman combined with the graft and experience of Darren Gibson, who seems rejuvenated having left Manchester United last January. Shane Duffy will be hoping to establish himself in The Toffees defence following some superb displays last term.

Robbie Brady will be hoping to break into the senior international set up quite soon. The Manchester United player has enjoyed a solid pre season and Alex Ferguson sees him as an adequate competitor for Patrice Evra’s full back position. With Evra ageing, Brady’s time looks set to be on the horizon although few would have expected the winger to convert to a full back following his tremendous displays on loan at Hull City last season

James McClean will be hoping to maintain his sensational start to life in the Premier League with Sunderland. Martin O’Neill will have his first full season at the Stadium of Light and despite the lack of transfer activity on Wearside you can expect Sunderland to push for a top ten finish while enjoying a solid cup run. John O’Shea will continue to hold up the rearguard while Keiren Westwood looks resigned to a number two role yet again. David Meyler will be hoping to have an injury free season and catch the eye of Giovanni Trapattoni in the process.

Hope springs eternal at Villa Park as the new season ushers in the era of Paul Lambert as Aston Villa boss. The club have overhauled their managerial structure and have rid of some players who simply weren’t up to scratch. There is still a strong Irish contingent at Villa Park though and it remains to be seen whether Shay Given and Richard Dunne will pack in international football in order to further their club careers. Ciaran Clark will be hoping for another solid season while under 21 star Samir Carruthers may well break into the first team following his substitute appearances last term. Stephen Ireland will be looking to re-establish himself among the Premiership elite and could be a key player for Lambert who will be aiming for a top eight finish and perhaps a league cup win. Keep an eye out for Enda Stevens, Graham Burke and Derrick Williams, three upcoming Irish stars who may well burst onto the scene this year.

Fulham are another side hoping to crack the top eight this term following a ninth place finish last season under the guidance of Martin Jol. The Dutchman has done well to retain the services of Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele thus far as both players have courted interest from many clubs. Damien Duff and Stephen Kelly will be hoping to pick themselves up following Euro 2012. Duff will be looking to recover his form of old while Kelly, who recently signed a new contract, will be hoping to fend off new signing Sascha Riether to make the right back spot his own.

West Brom will do well to build on their tenth place finish from last term. Steve Clarke has taken over at the helm and opted to show Andrews and Cox the door. Steven Reid and Shane Long both remain at The Hawthorns and the latter will face increased competition for a starting berth this term following the arrivals of Markus Rosenberg and Romelu Lukaku.

Jon Walters will be hoping to set the Premier League alight this term following his appearances at Euro 2012. The striker will be hoping he can find the golden touch to fire The Potters to a better finish than last year. Glenn Whelan, Marc Wilson and Rory Delap all remain at the Britannia and will be key players as Tony Pulis’ side seek to build on a 14th place finish.

Wigan Athletic will be looking to avoid the drop again this season and will be delighted that manager Roberto Martinez has stayed with them. Martinez masterminded their terrific end of season form last year which saw solid wins over the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. With limited resources he will do well to repeat that feat. There will be a heavy reliance on James McCarthy, who was a key player last term and was forced to miss Euro 2012 due to his father’s illness. Conor Sammon is the only other Irish player at the DW Stadium but for all his apparent strength goals have been hard to come by for the ex League of Ireland star and he will need a big change if he plans on cracking Trap’s plans.

QPR have enjoyed a great summer with their new found wealth enabling them to buy talented stars such as Park Ji Sung and David Hoilett. It’s been all change at Loftus Road, particularly in the goalkeeper ranks where Paddy Kenny has departed for Leeds United. Brian Murphy remains with QPR as a capable deputy to new number one Robert Green. Mark Hughes side shouldn’t have to worry about having another relegation battle this season.

Norwich City will be hoping second season syndrome doesn’t strike this term. It’s been all change at Carrow Road with ex Ireland international Chris Hughton replacing Lambert in the dugout. Hughton will do well to keep the Canaries up and will be looking to Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington as key players in doing so. Both players excelled last term with Hoolahan the most impressive. The former Shelbourne star has been unlucky this past week as he was forced to withdraw from Ireland’s friendly with Serbia due to injury. Nonetheless, he will be buoyed by the fact that he has finally caught the eye of Trapattoni. Marc Tierney may well earn an Ireland call up in the near future and the full back is one worth watching.

Premier League newcomers Reading will be aiming for top flight survival this term but under the guidance of Irishman Brian McDermott many expect that to be a formality. Promoted last season as champions, this Reading side features a host of Irish players. Following an impressive season last year Ian Harte was widely tipped for a shock return to the Ireland set up for Euro 2012. While that never happened it won’t discourage the ex Leeds United star who will be hoping to show he still possesses the quality to compete in the top flight. Noel Hunt will be hoping to blaze a goal trail which will earn him a return to the Ireland side while Jay Tabb is another Irish star involved with the first team. Pierce Sweeney, recently signed from League of Ireland side Bray Wanderers, may feature this term while ex Shamrock Rovers ace Karl Sheppard has been loaned to Accrington Stanley.

Playoff winners West Ham United have returned to the Premier League and will have solid ambitions which won’t feature a relegation battle. Sam Allardyce has added some fine talent to his squad and has made Irish keeper Stephen Henderson permanent, following a loan spell from Portsmouth last season. Joey O’Brien is the only other Irish player at Upton Park and he will be hoping for a standout season having been called up to the Ireland squad for the upcoming Serbia game. The three times capped star hasn’t pulled on the green jersey in over four years and will be hoping he can re-establish himself within the Irish setup. The 26 year old certainly has time on his side and time will tell if he can live up to the hype that was associated with him during his days with Bolton Wanderers.

With the World Cup qualifiers fast approaching and Trapattoni open to shuffling his pack, the time is ripe for a new star to emerge and stake his claim for a starting place.

Premier League Stars Who Began Careers As Fledgling GAA Players

With the Irish GAA League and the English Premier League having just finished up and players, fans and commentators already looking forward to the summer’s Championship, Irish News Review takes a look at footballers who might have made it big in GAA were it not for their love of the beautiful game.

5 – Stephen Hunt

Stephen Hunt currently plays in left midfield for Premier League side, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and for Ireland’s international team. Born in Laois he spent most of his childhood in Clonea-Power, County Waterford and grew up around hurling and Gaelic football. The two local villages were GAA centres, one football and the other hurling and he recalls his first image as that of a hurley in his grandmother’s house. “It was more hurling, hurling, hurling, to be honest, when I was little.” He built for himself the reputation of a quick corner forward and had he kept going, may have challenged further stars in that position years later – Dan Shanahan or John Mullane. Evidently the young Hunt had some measure of talent; he represented Waterford at both under-16 level and at the Tony Forristal Cup. His father joked that he committed a mortal sin in GAA circles by selecting soccer over hurling. Hunt began playing at Waterford County where he met future Manchester United star John O’Shea and soon moved across the water as a trainee with Crystal Palace. Following four years at Brentford FC he left Griffin Park to ply his trade at Reading and Hull before transferring to Premier League side Wolves in 2010, where he still plays today, still known for the speed and work rate playing as a teenager for Clonea-Power GAA.

4 – Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn, noted for his ability as a striker both in the air and on the ground, is often considered as one of the best soccer players the country has produced. Some, however, may not know that it was in Gaelic games he got his first sporting start, and still continues to shine. The young Quinn excelled in both sports, playing his football for Robert Emmets in Dublin, and underage hurling and football for the Dublin inter country team, playing in the All Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Final in 1983. He turned down a potentially lucrative offer to play Australian Rules football before settling on soccer as his sport of choice. After an unsuccessful trial at Fulham he joined North London giants, Arsenal, signing a professional contract at just seventeen years of age. March 1990 saw his transfer to Manchester City where he became a huge favourite of the Citizens. A bad injury ended his City career and he finished his football life at Sunderland, returning soon after his retirement with an investment consortium, eventually securing their survival in the Premier League. But his love of Sunderland was matched by that of the Gaelic games and following his retirement from football, Quinn returned to the Gaelic arena, winning a Junior C county title with Kildare club side Eadestown.

3 – Denis Irwin

Denis Irwin, born in County Cork, was one of the most consistent players to ever play under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, part of the treble winning team of 1999, and chosen by Bobby Charlton was one of the best players the club has ever seen. In his younger days, however, Irwin’s future was supposed to be played out on not on the pitch at Old Trafford but those of Croke Park and Páirc Uí Chaoimh and he was mentored by John Allen, whose own future would see him manage the Cork senior hurling team to an All-Ireland Championship in 2005, not to mention back to back Munster titles. Irwin himself saw his sporting career elsewhere and he began with Leeds United, then playing in the old football Division Two and was given a free transfer to Oldham Athletic. In perhaps one of the bargains of the century, Alex Ferguson signed Irwin for £625,000 in 1990 and the rest, as they say, is history.

2 – Shane Long

Born in Gortnahoe, County Tipperary, Shane Long was born into a county with a rich hurling pedigree. A talented athlete, it was perhaps no surprise that he played both Gaelic football and hurling for local club Gortnahoe-Glencoole GAA before graduating to the Tipperary minor team under Babs Keating. He playing in Croke Park in the All-Ireland Minor Semi-Finals in 2003 and 2004 as a forward with some pace, unaware he would be back again in the not too distant future, this time in the green shirt of the Irish football team. Long had also played youth soccer with St. Kevin’s in Two Mile Borris before moving on to St. Michael’s in 2002 and then Cork City two years later. Reading coach Eamonn Dolan, whose brother Pat managed Cork City, saw promise in Long and fellow Cork player, Kevin Doyle and Long signed for the English club in 2005. Despite an excellent final season for the club he signed for West Midlands side West Bromwich Albion in August 2011, marking his debut with a goal against Manchester United. Long was reputed as a fast paced hurler with a potential for goals and during his Premier League career thus far has done little to change that reputation.

 1 – Seamus Coleman

Rising Everton star, Seamus Coleman, recently went on record to state how his early background in Gaelic football helped establish himself as a Premier League footballer. “Gaelic was always my number one,” he told The Guardian. “I played bits and pieces of soccer but I didn’t have a serious commitment to it.” As a young lad in Donegal, Coleman regularly played for the underage teams and he believes this gave him a tougher edge over his opponents and a distinct disliking for play acting indulged in by bigger names, something which would be ignored by a Gaelic referee and laughed at by the supporters. Though he felt Gaelic football was his calling, an opportunity in soccer came a-knocking when Sligo Rovers offered him €150 a week to join their side. Following a recommendation from former Rover’s player/manager Willie McStay he was signed by Premier League side, Everton where he has managed to break into the first team on the right side of the park and was nominated for a PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2011. Gaelic football remains an important part of the Donegal man’s life and he still keeps up with the fortunes of his old club, Killybegs.

Conservative Trap Names Predictable Euro 2012 Squad

“It has not been easy choosing 23 players because we have many other very good players who deserve to be here.”  The words used by the wily tactician that is Giovanni Trapattoni as he announced his squad for the 2012 European Championships. Despite the Ireland manager’s quotes to the context, it would have been a difficult decision to decide the vast majority of the players who are now in the squad.

At half three yesterday the Italian announced his squad for Ireland’s Euro 2012 campaign. The squad featured: 

Shay Given, Keiren Westwood, David Forde, Richard Dunne, John O’Shea, Sean St. Ledger, Darren O’Dea, Stephen Ward, Stephen Kelly, Kevin Foley, Glenn Whelan, Darren Gibson, Keith Andrews, Keith Fahey, Damien Duff, Aiden McGeady, Stephen Hunt, James McClean, Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle, Simon Cox, Shane Long, Jonathan Walters.

Standby: Darren Randolph, Paul McShane, Paul Green, Seamus Coleman, Andy Keogh.

The phrase “as expected” comes to mind when describing the squad, which is far from a bad thing. Continuity is a necessity at international level, something Trapattoni and his team have done right over his tenure as Republic of Ireland manager.

The first 11 picks itself, Given, O’Shea, Dunne, St.Ledger, Ward, Duff, Andrews, Whealan, McGeady, Keane, Doyle. The squad members are there to be used but only if necessary. The likes of James McClean, Stephen Hunt, Jonathan Walters, Shane Long and Simon Cox will have a good chance of getting on the pitch in Poland with the latter trio more then likely to replace Kevin Doyle after he runs himself into the ground. But aside from that, injuries not withstanding there will be very little change in the team.

James McCarthy will be one player who will not be on the plane to Poland after announcing his decision to withdraw from consideration after his father was diagnosed with cancer. “I have made the very difficult decision to withdraw my name from selection from the Euro 2012 squad following the diagnosis of my father with cancer and an ongoing requirement for treatment” he stated.

“I have discussed this with the manager. He was very understanding and I thank him sincerely for that.”I take this opportunity to re-affirm my complete commitment to playing for the Republic of Ireland, It is a huge honour and source of great pride for me and my family.”

He went on to wish his teammates luck stating “despite not being present, I would like to wish the manager and my team-mates every success at the tournament and hope that Irish fans can understand the reason for my decision at this difficult time.”

Ireland’s Euro 2012 campaign starts on Sunday June 10th in Poznan when the Republic of Ireland takes on Croatia. Four days later on June 14th they take on world and European Champions Spain in Gdansk. The final fixture takes place on Monday June 18th when the boys in green take on Italy.

Has Trapattoni got his squad right? Will the team be good enough to compete with Spain, Italy and Croatia? Can the team advance beyond the group stage? All interesting questions all will be answered next month.

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.