My Footballing A-Z for 2014!

30 Dec

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A is for Aiden. I watched Ireland beat Georgia in September while on my holidays in Kusadasi. In the 90th minute, Aiden McGeady’s world class goal almost resulted in my overturning the bar table in delight, wonder and relief. I got some strange looks but not a shit was given. One of the goals of the year.

B is for Brazil. The 2014 World Cup was held in the country that gave us probably the greatest international team of all in 1970. Sadly the 2014 version and the country itself went into meltdown in a 7-1 semi-final humiliation by eventual winners Germany.

C is for Croly. Trevor Croly’s 2nd year in charge of Shamrock Rovers proved to be a massive disappointment. Negative and unattractive football, bizarre after match comments and an early petering out of the League of Ireland challenge saw Croly depart before the end of a dismal season for Rovers fans.

D is for Delaney. The CEO of the FAI covered himself in own goals in November. From overseeing a ticket shambles involving Irish fans for the match in Glasgow, to having his association threaten legal action against publications denying it was himself murdering the ballad “Joe McDonnell” in a Dublin bar, for which he soon admitted it was his “singing”, to his bully-boy tacticts towards the “best fans in the world” who dared protest peacefully over his performance, to moaning about invasions of privacy despite allowing camera crews and social journalists follow and report his every move, the myth of John the Baptist was beginning to look more like John the Gobshite.

E is for Euro Qualifiers. Ireland began their quest for Euro 2016 qualification with four matches between September and November. Two wins, a draw and a defeat leave Martin O’Neill’s team in a challenging position for the two automatic places for the party in France. A reasonable haul given the opening four assignments.

F is for Fenlon. The only real choice to succeed Croly above as Rovers’ Manager towards the end of the 2014 season. Rovers’ demanding fans will expect a proper challenge for the title in 2015 after three successive flops since the 2011 title win under Michael O’Neill. Fenlon will acknowledge the expectation.

G is for Glasgow. A cracking couple of nights on an Ireland away trip was softened by Ireland’s defeat at Celtic Park against Scotland in November. Celtic Park’s roar usually has me joining in, but ex-Celtic’s Shaun Maloney’s goal brought the roar from the Tartan Army and not the Boys in Green. It was a sickening moment.

H is for Hoodoo. St Patrick’s Athletic finally ended a 53 year FAI Cup hoodoo by finally lifting the silverware by defeating Derry City 2-0 in the final. The hoodoo baton now lies a few miles up the Naas Road to Rovers.

I is for Idiotic. The FAI’s Gestapo-esque disciplinary regime, meaning that players who accumulated four bookings in 2014 will miss the opening game of the 2015 season.

J is for Jay. Jay Beatty, a young Celtic fan became an internet sensation after he was filmed on Live TV being carried around Celtic Park at the end of the 2014 season lap of honour by his hero, Celtic’s Georgios Samaras. The Greek FA continued the friendship by inviting Jay to see Samaras in the World Cup and Jay and Samaras were further honoured with an award by the Greek Sports Journalists in December. A real feel-good story in 2014 this.

K is for Keane. There’s only one Keano goes the song. Er not quite! Robbie continued to accumulate his record goals tally for the Irish team while Roy continued to attract headlines for being involved in a hotel fight prior to the Scottish game, rumours of player bust-ups at Aston Villa and the release of his second autobiography also. Keanos, Keanos, Keanos……….

L is for Laughing Stock. The Rangers FC. Nothing to add.

M is for McGinley. This is football and golf. Paul McGinley’s outstanding captaincy of the European Ryder Cup golf team led to a convincing victory of the Americans. That I was lucky to play schoolboy football with McGinner from Under 9 to Under 16 and that I can still see him selling “Soccer Reporter” at the Milltown Road end of Glenmalure Park in the 80s is what gives this the football angle.

N is for Neil. Neil Lennon departed Celtic after a pretty successful first stint at football management. That he did so despite being assaulted on the touchline by a Hearts fan, being sent bullets and other threats in his mail, being told he brought it on himself by Scottish journalists only made my admiration for the guy even higher. Thanks Neil. Has ended 2014 with a very impressive early spell at Bolton in The Championship, this guy knows his onions.

O is for O’Shea. Scorer of THAT goal in Gelsenkirchen in October. If my delight at McGeady’s goal on my holidays was palpable, O’Shea’s goal sent me completely berserk on my couch as he steered in our equaliser in the 94th minute against World Champions Germany in his 100th Irish appearance. I screamed the living room down, sent the dog running for cover, climbed my other couch and probably had my French next door neighbour ready to call the Gardai for noise pollution. Moment of the year.

P is for Protest. Further to D above, Irish fans decided to hold a peaceful protest at the USA friendly match in November at Lansdowne Road as a result of the Glasgow ticket shambles. The FAI saw fit to send in heavy-handed stewards and Gardai to “quell” the protest. Despite the protest banners not contravening Stadium regulations, banners were confiscated and faced with stadium regulation leaflets, stewards tore them up in front of angry fans. John Delaney subsequently stated he didn’t have an issue with fans making their feelings known.   Make up your own mind about that gem from Delaney.

Q is for Quinn. Stephen Quinn had an excellent 2014 under Martin O’Neill and was testament that if you keep plugging away, recognition can and will follow. Quinn’s parents both passed away in his early 20s and he almost quit the game, but at the age of 28 finally got his first competitive start in that September victory over Georgia. He is now very much a Premier League player at Hull City and the Clondalkin lad’s honesty and perseverance a real example to others in his profession.

R is for Roche. Stephanie Roche became not only an internet sensation, but has been voted into the Top 3 goals of 2014 alongside James Rodriguez and Robin Van Persie for her wonder goal while playing for Peamount United. She will attend FIFA’s Balon D’Or award ceremony where the decision on whose goal was voted the finest will be announced. She could well win it and should really.

S is for Stevie G. Stephen Gerrard’s slip in a crucial Premier League game against Chelsea became an iconic image in 2014. With Liverpool pushing for their first title since 1990, Gerrard slipped in possession of the ball 30 yards from goal, allowing Chelsea’s Demba Ba to score a crucial goal. Liverpool lost the match and their momentum, Gerrard’s slip has become a song taunting the hapless Liverpool skipper.

T is for tickets. The FAI’s utter incompetence in allocating the 3,200 or so tickets to Irish fans for the Scottish match in Glasgow became a real sore point for fans. People with 100% away attendance records, people with season tickets that supposedly gave them “priority” for away games and people promised tickets by FAI officials, saw themselves left to source tickets from the SFA instead. Despite fair and reasonable questions being put to the FAI over this affair, none of them were answered and CEO John Delaney sought to blame the SFA instead, despite the SFA granting the usual 5% to the visiting nation. Some people were granted tickets who hadn’t even been to a home game before! You couldn’t make this shit up, it could only be done in Abbotstown.

U is for Unstoppable. Cristiano Ronaldo deservedly took that accolade as his incredible scoring feats in La Liga took Real Madrid to their tenth European Cup/Champions League triumph. While he disappointed with Portugal in a dreadful World Cup performance, his power, pace and goals were just unstoppable in 2014. He’ll be around for a while yet.

V is for Villain. Luis Suarez almost single-handedly drove Liverpool to the brink of Premier League glory. He also became World Cup villain when he bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini in a World Cup Group match in Brazil. His antics were truly appalling, leading to a hefty and proper punishment from FIFA given it was his third proven bite on an opponent. A smashing footballer, but a headcase.

W is for World Cup Winners. Germany deservedly lifted the World Cup in Brazil thanks to an extra-time winner from Mario Goetze in the final against Argentina. Germany’s young team had promised much in 2010 and they delivered four years on, with their 7-1 dismantling of hosts Brazil in the semi final being notable both for Germany’s ruthlessness and Brazil’s brittleness. They are worthy World Champions.

X is for X-Rated. Whether it’s x-rated tackling or language from the terraces, football isn’t the place for the faint-hearted. If you’re a linesman at Tallaght Stadium or most League of Ireland venues, one mistake and a flurry of x-rated abuse will come your way. Roll on March!

Y is for Years. Twenty seven now to be precise since Rovers won the FAI Cup. The term “cup specialists” looks pretty silly now. That the 1987 win over Dundalk remains so vivid in my mind to complete a third successive League/Cup double for Rovers only adds to frustration of such a barren Cup run. The drive for 25 continues in 2015!

Z is for zzzzzzzzzzzz. The abiding memory of watching Rovers under Trevor Croly, or your emotion reading this.

Happy New Year all!

Phelim Warren, 30th December 2014

@freewheeler12

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