Boys in Green impress against Team USA

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Robbie Brady

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

The Republic of Ireland put their Euro 2016 qualifier defeat behind them with a fine 4-1 victory over the USA in the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night. Two goals from Robbie Brady and a goal each for Anthony Pilkington and James McClean helped the Irish overcome an attacking American side, who were inadequate in front of goal.

On what was a cold and windy night at the Lansdowne Road venue, Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill made a clean sweep and put out an entirely different starting eleven compared to the team that lost to Scotland last Friday. Debuts were handed to Cyrus Christie at right back, while, David McGoldrick partnered his Ipswich Town teammate, Daryl Murphy up front.

The Boys in Green got off to a great start when McGoldrick played a lovely through ball to Anthony Pilkington. The Cardiff City midfielder completed the move a lovely chip over the keeper with the ball resting at the back of the net and earning him his first international goal. 1-0 Ireland in the opening ten minutes.

Team USA didn’t falter though. They consistently attacked the Irish end and their offense paid off just before half time. A poor attempted pass by Irish captain David Meyler was picked up by the Americans and played into the box. An attempted clearance landed to USA captain, Jozy Altidore, whose cross was met by the head of Chris Wondolowski. The header was met by Mix Dsikerud with the Rosenborg midfielder rising up to slot the ball past Shay Given.

Altidore could have put his side into the lead just before the stroke of half time when his shot crashed off the crossbar and went over. However, the first half ended with the sides all square with the Irish on the back foot in the latter of the half.

However, Ireland came out to second have rejuvenated. They upped the tempo in their game and went on the attack. Cyrus Christie sent a fine pass up the flank to Pilkington. However, Daryl Murphy couldn’t connect to his cross and it went out of play.

It wasn’t long after when Man of the Match, Robbie Brady got his first goal of the game. The Hull City midfielder played a nice one-two with McGoldrick and his shot went passed USA keeper, Hamid. It was the newcomer’s second assist of the game, not a bad way to cap off your international debut.

The game went back and forth with attempts at both ends with the American finishing leaving a lot to be desired. However, James McClean, who replaced Pilkington mid way through the second half, got Ireland’s third goal after collecting the ball on the edge of the box. With the crowd shouting for him to shoot, McClean obliged. His shot deflected off Geoff Cameron, sending the keeper the wrong way.

Brady completed the scoring with less than five minutes to go. His free kick curling into the top left hand corner of the goal. It was a lovely goal that topped off a solid Irish performance.

Speaking after the game, manager Martin O’Neill was pleased with the result, saying, “It was nice to win the game. I thought it was a bit tentative in the first half. We scored from our first proper attack of the game, a great through ball by David McGoldrick and Pilkington took it well. I thought America really came into the game then and probably deserved their equaliser. I thought the second half performance was really terrific. To score the goals that we did was astounding.“

With a good victory and display behind them, the Republic of Ireland squad can look ahead to the next match, a visiting Polish side. O’Neill was pleased with his squad’s response to the Scotland defeat but they need to bring a display, like that in the second half, with them in March of next year when they host the Group D leaders.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Elliot ’85), Christie, Pearce, Clark, Meyler (C), Quinn, Brady, Pilkington (McClean ’62), Murphy (Hendrick ’77), McGoldrick (Long ’77), Stokes (McGeady 60′)

Substitutes: Randolph, Keogh, Coleman, O’Shea, Walters
Goals: Pilkington (7′), Brady (56′, 87′), McClean (’82)
Yellow CardsMcGeady (90′), Meyler (93′)

USA: Hamid, Morales (Garza ’65), Besler, Diskerud, Bedoya, Beckerman (Ream ’87), Alitdore (C) (Rubin ’76), Wondolowski (Wood 45′), Cameron, Chandler (Morris ’76), F.Johnson

Substitutes: S.Johnson,Ibarra, Green
Goals: Diskerud (39′)
Yellow Cards: Beckerman (37′), Altidore (66′), Cameron (85′)

Referee: Pawel Raczkowski (Poland)

Man of the Match: Robbie Brady

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O’Neill ‘delighted’ with assistant Keane

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Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane at Republic of Ireland training

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

Ahead of Tuesday’s friendly match with the USA, most of the discussion at today’s press conference with Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill was around his assistant manager Roy Keane and his actions of late. O’Neill was quick to defend Keane but seem irked at having to talk about his assistant rather than the players and the game ahead.

The Toffees not so sweet

At a press conference on Sunday evening, Keane blasted Everton for their behaviour in regards to releasing players to the Irish squad in particular Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy. Asked if his comments will have a distraction on the team, O’Neill said, “Every single time that you mention Roy, there either seems to be a distraction or another issue. Let me tell you straight, I’m delighted to have him. He has been terrific, really terrific. He has been great around the lads, he has been everything I wanted him to be.”

“There are some things that materialise, that aren’t of his doing to begin with. He has a mind of his own, He can say what he wants. Unless, it is absolutely and utterly in contradiction in what I’m saying to you then I do not have a problem with it. It is not an issue all the time,” said the manager.

Speaking about Keane’s comments regarding the club, Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, speaking to Sky Sports, said “I am a big fan of Roy Keane but he does say some stupid things. That is just totally, totally unfair. We absolutely love our players going on international duty. We would never, ever get in that way of that. Roberto Martinez will be as shocked as everyone at Everton Football Club.”

When made aware of Kenwright’s comments, and asked if he will speak to the Everton manager, O’Neill responded, “I think that I will talk [talk to him]. It is not my job to read the newspapers every single morning. Honestly, I have other things at this minute to do. I’m not saying they are more important but they are issues I have to address. So, I might get a chance to go down there and find out exactly what was said on both sides and then I will take a view.”

Grealish indecision

The manager was also asked about comments made by Roy Keane about Jack Grealish and his father over the young Aston Villa winger’s indecision to choose between the Republic of Ireland and England. Speaking to the media yesterday, Keane said, “I don’t ask Jack anymore. Sometimes it’s respect, you don’t want to pester people but, unfortunately, a lot would be coming from Jack’s dad. Knowing his dad, we could be waiting a bloody long while.”

Speaking about Keane’s comments, the manager said, “I have spoken to Jack and his father some time ago. They were not in any great hurry at that particular time. I left it entirely up to them. If Jack pulls out of the U-21’s and wants to concentrate on his club football, good luck to him. I understand Roy is not going to be running around there asking Jack’s father every single day has he made his mind up, let them decide themselves.”

Pushed on the topic and asked if the sentiment of the message was not pleasant, there was an awkward silence in the room as O’Neill felt he did not need to add to what he had already said.

Christie and McGoldrick set for Irish debuts

In terms of Tuesday’s game, O’Neill confirmed that both Robbie Keane and Darron Gibson will miss out, with both returning to their clubs. Gibson is out due to a slight knee injury. Keane has returned to LA Galaxy to prepare for their MLS Western Conference Championship game this weekend.

Newcomers to the squad, Cyrus Christie and David McGoldrick will start the game according to the manager. Asked about whether or not it was a relief to have a natural right back in the shape of Christie in the squad, O’Neill commented, “Yeah, very much so. That’s something we are looking at obviously. Of course, there is young [Matt] Doherty at Wolves and [Brian] Lenihan as well who has just gone out on loan. I have seen a lot of Cyrus play and I think that he has shown a real keenness to come and join us, which is good. I think he is looking forward to it and at least, it is a natural position for him rather than having to make do with David [Meyler] at full back.”

Tuesday’s game will undoubtedly be a great test for an Irish squad that is low on morale after the agonising defeat to Scotland. However, it will be interesting to see if players like Christie and McGoldrick can take their opportunity to start with both hands and stake a claim for the next qualifier against Poland in March. O’Neill believed it will be a good test for a number of players that didn’t feature on Friday night’s defeat. A win and a good performance against the American’s, even if it is only a friendly, will be a small boost ahead of the crunch match against the Poles next year.

 

Inferior Ireland suffer defeat in intense Scottish fixture

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Aiden McGeady

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

It was not the homecoming Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill expected as his side lost 1-0 to Scotland at Celtic Park in what was a fiery encounter. A beautiful curled shot from Shaun Maloney separated the sides in this crucial Euro 2016 qualifier. The former Celtic manager and his current side will be disappointed to drop points in this tie but over the ninety minutes the home side proved why they deserved all three points.

A short corner from Maloney and a poor defensive effort from the Irish let him drift into the box and complete a beautiful one-two with Scott Brown, which included a fine back heel pass from the Scottish captain, and the Wigan Athletic midfielder finished off the move with a well placed shot into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

McGeady intimidated at former home

The pre-match build-up was marred by some controversies including former Scottish international Gordon McQueen calling for the home fans to give Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy a “horrible” reception. With the latter injured, it was left to McGeady to face the home reception. It didn’t take long for the home crowd to show their displeasure at the former Celtic player.

McGeady looked shaky at times as if overawed by the occasion. Booked early on the game for a challenge from behind on Steven Fletcher, McGeady gave away possession on a few occasions and was close to getting booked for a second time towards the end of the match for dissent when he crept close to a Scottish free kick.

He did show some good passages of play in the early part of the second half. The pick of the bunch being a shot at the edge of the box. The ball looked as if it was heading for the bottom right hand corner but was saved by Scottish keeper David Marshall.

Good Scottish offence

The Scottish started the game at full pace, attacking the Irish defence with any chance they got. They almost took an early lead when Maloney sent a cross into the box and was met by Fletcher. The Sunderland forward had an free header but his effort went over the bar.

The Scots also had some luck. They could have gone down to 10 men before half time when Grant Hanley, already booked for a tackle on Shane Long, which was possibly a red card, looked to have elbowed Irish goalkeeper David Forde. However, he was given the benefit of the doubt by the referee.

The Irish started the second half with a bit more pace and swagger about them. They attacked the Scottish goal on numerous occasion, however, Marshall was on form and wasn’t to be denied a clean sheet.

The best effort from the Irish was from a James McClean corner that was met by the head of Jon Walters. The Stoke man’s header met the head of Long, whose effort at goal was stopped by Marshall again after the ball went straight into his hands, killing the attack.

The Scots also went on the attack and were close to going ahead when Steven Naismith was allowed to work the ball into the box and pass to Chris Martin. The Derby County striker’s shot just went wide of the goal.

Martin’s club teammate, Jeff Hendrick was lucky not to be sent off after a silly push on Naismith. The free kick was met by the head of Walters and crashed off the crossbar and out. The resulting corner was the what killed the game. The Irish defence was caught napping and allowed Maloney and Brown the space to pull off a great one-two and for Maloney to cap it off with a wonderful goal.

Robbie Keane, dropped from the starting eleven was brought on after the goal to try and make an impact on the game but it led to nothing as Scotland got a vital three points and place themselves in third place in Group D, one place ahead of the Irish.

O’Neill disappointed but backs players

Speaking after the game, the Irish manager discussed his disappointed about the score line but seemed to be upbeat about his team’s overall performance. “For the away side, I thought we were dealing with things reasonably well and the goal’s naturally a disappointment to us but it’s far from failure,” said O’Neill.

Discussing the goal, O’Neill conceded that his side allowed the home side have too much time on the ball rather than closing them down. “It wasn’t a case were they [Scotland] acted very, very quickly. There were three, four, five, six seconds there and we should have seen the danger. They had two men out for it and naturally, we should have had two, we did eventually but the third man was always a spare for them and we didn’t deal with that situation,” said the manager.

With seven points on the board from a possible twelve, the Republic of Ireland can say they are still in the mix for one of the top 3 places. However, the squad will be bitterly disappointed that they could not build on their performance from Gelsenkirchen last month and claim at least another point away from home, in what would have been a certain boost to morale ahead of the next competitive fixture against group leaders Poland in the Aviva Stadium next March.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Forde, Coleman, O’Shea (C), Keogh, Ward, McGeady, Hendrick (Keane 78′), Gibson (Quinn 68′), McClean, Long (Brady 68′), Walters

Substitutes: Randolph, Given, Clark, Christie, Meyler, Pilkington, McGoldrick, Pearce, Murphy
Yellow Cards: McGeady (15′), Hendrick (30′), Coleman (59′),Quinn (90′),

SCOTLAND: Marshall, Whittaker, R.Martin, Hanley, Robertson, Maloney, Mulgrew, Brown (C), S.Fletcher (C.Martin 56′), Naismith, Anya (D.Fletcher 88′)

Substitutes: Gordon, Gilks, Berra, Dorrans, Bannan, Greer, Burke, Russell, May, C.Martin
Goals: Maloney (75′)
Yellow Cards: Hanley (12′), Robertson (82′)

Referee: Milorad Mažić (Serbia)

Man of the Match: Jon Walters

LOI Supporters: Making a Vital Difference

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Bohemian FC Fans

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

Ahead of tomorrow’s FAI Cup Final, League of Ireland fans arrived to the home of Irish football to discuss the domestic game and the crucial work carried out by supporters in an effort to keep Irish clubs surviving and thriving.

Organiser Niamh O’Mahony was happy to see representatives from a number of clubs attend the event and discuss the potential that is currently in the League of Ireland.

“There are a lot of good things that go on in the league. We’re not perfect, we have a lot of work to do, there’s a lot more to be done but we can start to take small steps in the beginning and I think the most interesting thing about this workshop is that no matter who we asked for help, everyone said ‘yes’ because they really liked the idea of something that was going to be showing the league for the potential it has,” said O’Mahony.

Family Friendly

FAI Competitions Director Fran Gavin opened proceedings by joking that it was “lovely to get a warm welcome from League of Ireland fans.” Gavin spoke highly of the domestic game. He said that the Irish game is attractive to sponsors and he hopes to make an announcement in the near future in regards to deals with the league and cup.

Gavin pointed out the need for the league to shift towards a family friendly environment. The result being that more kids will come to see their local side play rather than staying at home.

This was something that was also brought up by John Kennedy, vice chairman Cork City. He discussed the approach taken by the club and their family section at Turner’s Cross.

The club have a policy of “Positive Support” in the family section, which includes no smoking, no booing and showing appreciation for everyone on the pitch, be it players, the referee or even the entertainment at half time. He says this policy has worked well for the club and the feedback has been great and the family section has been increasing gradually.

Supporter Liaison Officers

One of the most intriguing sessions at the workshop was the discussion around the role of the Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) at a club. Arne Christian Eggen, an SLO for Norwegian club Rosenborg, discussed what is involved in the role and how it can have a positive effect on the relationship between a club and it’s supporters.

Eggen claimed that clubs need to be educated first about what an SLO is and what duties are undertaken by the person in that position. He claims his club have benefited from the improved relationship with its fans.

He also discussed the part the SLO plays in discussing security of matches with local police and again the positive effect that can have at a community level and also how it affects the atmosphere at a game.

Could the SLO position play a positive role in club/supporter relations in Ireland?

Niamh O’Mahony commented on the current situation with SLOs in Ireland; “Every club already has one [SLO] but what we found with this workshop was that the SLO role is not being talked about, people aren’t being educated about it and we have a lot of work to do in that area. The reason we had that session was because I think the role has a huge potential for football clubs.”

“I think supporters should be demanding an SLO and asking who their SLO is. I think the FAI are aware that they need to do more but it has to be from all three sides [FAI, the clubs and the supporters].”

Volunteers 

Representatives from Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians discussed the initiatives at their respective clubs that are based purely on supporters volunteering.

MOST (Montpellier and O’Devaney Gardens Striving Together) is one of the projects that is supported by Bohemians, which aims to divert young people from a path that could lead to prison, by building relations with the Garda through shared activities. This includes bringing the young people to Mountjoy Prison to talk to prisoners about prison life.

The First Steps Programme was set up by Shamrock Rovers as a way to keep local talent at the club and to develop a relationship with them. There are 15 volunteers who take part in weekly training sessions for kids aged between 4-19 years old. The programme is supported by the club but runs based on the help of the volunteers.

O’Mahony was keen to stress the importance of supporters acting as volunteers at their local clubs; “The difficulty I think we have is we need people to help themselves and not to be focused on the bigger issues that you can’t do anything about but taking it step by step and going ‘look that is happening and it’s really good and we can do that ourselves and tweak it slightly and it can really work out and make a difference.’ Because nothing that was discussed here today was big on resources, needed €10,000 worth of investment, none of it did, it was all voluntary, it was all free, the costs are time and resources. And if people and clubs and supporter’s trusts and groups realise that actually their time and resources are a huge, huge resource to every League of Ireland club.”

Fan Engagement

Attracting new supporters is arguably one of the hardest things a League of Ireland club faces today. Some ideas were discussed including discounted tickets for local students, graffiti that displayed a positive message about the club and community and photo competitions. All had positive results that attracted more people from the local community to their respective clubs.

With great ideas being done by some clubs as a way to market to fans. Were other clubs ignoring basic marketing techniques in attracting the public to their club?

“It’s such a tough thing to just survive the last couple of years that I know there is a huge fear out there that if they do something different it’ll affect what they have now and that’s a very difficult thing to get over,” said O’Mahony

“However, what we see clubs doing is ad hoc and it’s not strategic. If you’re going to do something think about what you want from it and how you measure whether it succeeds or not and then you’ll start to have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t work. I think there is a fear of even trying to do things in the league at the moment and that is the biggest obstacle right now.”

Future Workshops

With many fans coming from various parts of the country, the question remains whether the Irish Supporters Network plan to take this workshop on the road.

Commenting on any future plans for the workshop, Niamh O’Mahony said “We’d like to do it again and certainly moving it around the country is a good idea because this league now, particularly going into next season with Galway, Sligo, Derry, Finn Harps, it‘s a long road down [to Dublin] for them. So maybe it’s not a regional workshop but maybe the annual workshop moves around.”

For more details on the Irish Supporters Network and any details on forthcoming events, go to www.heartofthegame.ie