Thursday 28 October 2010

Mission Accomplished for Russell

Managing an Airtricity League club is never stress free but UCD manager Martin Russell has more reason than most to enjoy the final game of the season. UCD's status in the Premier Division was secured a couple of weeks  ago so it's mission accomplished in that respect. And final opponents  Sporting Fingal, with its core of former UCD men, play the kind of football Russell relishes. 

"We're looking forward to going to the Morton Stadium," says Martin, "We like to test ourselves again good footballing sides and Liam Buckley's team still have lots to play for so it should be an entertaining match." 

Ironically, as the season ends, the Students have everybody fit so it looks as though Sean Harding, who has missed most of the season, might continue where he left off in his comeback match against Sligo Rovers last week. 

Such is the wear and tear of an Airtricity season and the competition for places at UCD that no player has played in all League fixtures this term,  although skipper Evan McMillan is on course for almost the full set having missed only the opening fixture. 

UCD entertain Bohemians in the final of the "A" Championship in the Bowl on Monday and will be anxious to avenge the defeat the Under 20 side suffered when Bohs came from a goal down with five minutes left to play to snatch a 2-1 victory in the semi-final of their competition. 

The "A" championship final kicks off at 7.45pm. 

Nobby Stiles sells World Cup 1966

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Spain Dominate Nominations

The shortlist for the prestigious Ballon d'Or, given to the best player in world football, is dominated by members of Spain's World Cup-winning squad, while just three players from the Premier League have made the running.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, Sunderland forward Asamoah Gyan and Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas have been nominated for the award, but that is the only Premier League representation, and there are no Englishmen in the line-up.

Wayne Rooney might have expected to pick up a nomination, having scored 34 times last season to be voted Premier League Player of the Year, but his year has been marred by disappointing performances.

Frank Lampard, who helped guide Chelsea to the Premier League title with 27 goals, also missed out.

Fabregas was one of seven members of Spain's World Cup-winning squad to be shortlisted.

Andres Iniesta, who scored the winning goal in the Johannesburg final against Holland in July, is among the contenders along with his Barcelona team-mates Xavi, Carles Puyol and David Villa.

Spain captain Iker Casillas and his Real Madrid colleague Xabi Alonso also make the list.

Barca's Argentina forward Lionel Messi and Brazil right-back Daniel Alves, Atletico Madrid forward Diego Forlan - who scored five goals at the World Cup and received the Golden Ball award - and Real Madrid pair Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil make up 11 players nominated from La Liga.

Inter Milan quartet Samuel Eto'o, Julio Cesar, Maicon and Wesley Sneijder are also included after winning an unprecedented Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League treble last term, with their former coach Jose Mourinho heading the candidates for the inaugural World Coach of the Year award.

Messi is the reigning Ballon d'Or winner and Fifa World Player of the Year.

The awards have now been merged, so the best player in the world will now be recognised by a single accolade - the Fifa Ballon d'Or.

The final decisions will be made by the captains and head coaches of the national teams as well as by international media representatives selected by France Football. The winners will be revealed in Zurich on Jan 10.

World Player of the Year nominees: Xabi Alonso (Spain), Daniel Alves (Brazil), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Julio Cesar (Brazil), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Maicon (Brazil), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Muller (Germany), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Carles Puyol (Spain), Arjen Robben (Holland), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Holland), David Villa (Spain) and Xavi (Spain).

World Coach of the Year nominees: Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea), Vicente del Bosque (Spain), Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Pep Guardiola (FC Barcelona), Joachim Low (Germany), Jose Mourinho (Inter Milan/Real Madrid), Oscar Tabarez (Uruguay), Louis Van Gaal (Bayern Munich), Bert van Marwijk (Holland) and Arsene Wenger (Arsenal).

Keane isn’t cutting the Mustard

Friday 22 October 2010

RTE Sport: Johnston named Player of the Year

RTE Sport: Johnston named Player of the Year

Wayne Rooney has apologised

Wayne Rooney staying at Manchester United

Trent Johnston Wins Player of the Year

All-rounder Trent Johnston was the clear-cut winner of the Cricket Writers of Ireland international player of the year award at a function in Stormont, Belfast last night

The 36-year-old smashed the Irish wickets in a season record with 58 in the 38 games he played and has now passed the 200 wickets and 2000 runs landmarks.

The young player gong went to 18-year-old spinner George Dockrell, who proved himself as a rising star on the international scene in his debut season. The Leinster left-armer began the year playing at the Under-19 World Cup before making his senior debut in Sri Lanka at the end of January.

The club player of the year award went to Railway Union and former Ireland opening bat Kenny Carroll, who hit 680 runs and took 24 wickets for the Sandymount side. Stephen Warke was the latest inductee to the RSA Hall of Fame. He won 114 caps for Ireland and captained his country 39 times.

Wage report shock for Real

Tuesday 12 October 2010

ARCHIVES - Catenaccio or Bust for Il Trap?

Having accrued numerous honours during nearly five decades in football the Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is focused on ensuring his team emerge victorious in their EURO 2012 qualifying encounter against Slovakian in Zilina. By his side will be Marco Tardelli which is logical given the striker spent ten years of his playing career at Juventus with “Il Trap”. 

But both know that they are entering uncharted territory as both are used to winning with this Irish team. 

In his last job the Italian supremo heralded his arrival to Austria by securing the national title in his first season and with the support of the wealthy club owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, the richest club in the country could have expected nothing less than to retain the title in the second season. However it was not to be and the Republic of Ireland gained his services. 

Giovanni Trapattoni’s coaching career has spanned over three decades during which he managed eight different teams - Juventus, Inter, Bayern Munich, Cagliari, Fiorentina, Benfica, Stuttgart and Salzburg - winning a total of 23 trophies in all. Amidst these titles are ten championship titles spread over four different countries with seven league triumphs form his time in Italy. 

In Germany he won a Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich in 1997 and another title in Portugal with Benfica in 2005. In terms of records Trapattoni is up with all-time European list alongside Austrian coach Ernst Happel and two Scots, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jock Stein who each have 26. 

Amidst all the glory and success there are a couple of less glorious moments on the exceptional CV the major one being his time managing Italy between 2000 and 2004. Beaten in the Round of 16 at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan the Italian went one worse at the EURO 2004 when the team exited in the first round in Portugal. 

His second time at Bayern Munich was more controversial than the previous stint but winning the Bundesliga title spared his reputation after a fall out with some key players at the club. Years later he returned to Germany but with Stuttgart and that all ended after eight months when Stuttgart won only five games in 20 matches in 2005. 

The club president at the time of his departure at Vfb Stuttgart said "Giovanni Trapattoni is an absolute gentleman and one of the most successful trainers in the world. Nevertheless, his work with the team has not been as efficient and successful as we had hoped." 

When the Republic of Ireland were drawn in the same qualifying group as Italy for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa it must have been appealing to Trapattoni to take on his country of birth. Born on St Patricks Day the trip to South Africa would have been a fairy tale finish. However it was not to be either for him. 

The defeat last Friday to a razor sharp Russian side managed by a crafty Dutchman, Dick Advocaat - raised on total football - highlighted two very contrasting styles as the Italian is a disciple of Catenaccio - the system beloved by so many Italian managers. 

In its most literal translation the word means "door bolt" and describes a system that focuses on defence with a highly organised back line designed to prevent the opposition from scoring goals against – with goals for coming from whatever scraps are won on the break. 

Managers like Fabio Cappello are also enthusiasts of the system and base their game around a four- four-two system that can struggle to cope against teams that play fast diagonal balls. As a professor of football, Advocaat would have clearly known the weakness of the Irish team ahead of the match at the Aviva Stadium. 

Widely lauded for the system that stemmed the leaking of goals that pervaded the Steve Staunton era it has proven more challenging to please fans when the team is seeking goals – or trying to win matches at home. Albeit on Friday two were scored with one coming from a set piece - following a dubious penalty. 

Clearly the evidence against France in the 2010 World Cup play off in Stade de France showed that the team - released of the shackles – can play attacking football at speed. 

The arguments of whether Andy Reid and Stephen Ireland could add to the mix is one of those debates best left for the pub as they are not part of the Manager's plans and are now absentees. That fact notwithstanding, it is clear their style was counterproductive to the defensive straight jacket that Trapattoni prefers - and to great effect so far it has be said. 

However in Zilina on Tuesday something more creative is needed as once again Trapattoni enters the choppy waters of criticism – to which he is accustomed – that brought about the end to his Italian national career and his time at Bayern Munich. 

It is unlikely he will emerge from the Slovakia encounter without the three points on Tuesday as the players know now that when the straight jacket no longer works they have to take their own action. 

Especially if they want to make the 2012 finals.


First published October 12 2010

Thursday 7 October 2010

Students Remain Focussed

Despite an unbeaten three game run culminating in the defeat of Airtricity  League leaders Shamrock Rovers last Friday, UCD manager Martin Russell is taking nothing for granted as his squad heads west on Saturday in an attempt  to consolidate its Premier status at the expense of fellow playoff contenders Galway United. 

"The run has been good for our confidence and points tally but that apart it's history," explains Mr Russell. "This League is very competitive and there have been occasions when we might have won games that we didn't."

"An example was our one-nil defeat at the hands of Galway at the Bowl in July.  It could be just as tight at Terrylands on Saturday and we need to be fully  focused to perform to the best of our ability. This is a very important game." 

Beleaguered Galway boss Sean Connor agrees, citing the clash with UCD as the  biggest game in Galway's history over the last fifteen years in appealing  for maximum support for his team on the night. 

"If we lose we're in the playoffs," is Mr Connor's honest appraisal. 

For UCD Chris Mulhall has made good progress since his hamstring strain  against Rovers but remains doubtful. Long term absentee Sean Harding has  started training again but is some way from returning. Otherwise Martin 

Russell has a full squad raring to go including some regular members of the  team now only sidelined by the excellence of those who have deputised for  them.