Archive | December, 2015

My Footballing A-Z for 2015

31 Dec

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A is for Apeshit. We all adopted this mode in October when Shane Long ran onto Darren Randolph’s long clearance, sprinted clear of the German defence and smashed his shot past Manuel Neuer at the South Terrace end of Lansdowne Road to give Ireland a pivotal 1-0 win over the World Champions Germany in our quest to qualify for Euro-2016. Everybody went apeshit, what a moment.

 

B is for Bullshit. Following on from a brown stuff reference, Roman Abramovich had enough of it from his Chelsea manager and Jose Mourinho was sacked in his second stint with the club in December. I won’t miss his bullshit for one moment, good riddance Mourinho.

 

C is for Champions of Ireland and that title again went to Dundalk, who added the FAI Cup to the cabinet in November. It’s very difficult to retain the League Of Ireland, but Stephen Kenny’s team did so with relative ease having captured the 2014 title in the final match with Cork City. Losing Richie Towell however will be a test of Dundalk’s mettle, but they’ll still be the team to knock off their perch in 2016.

 

D is for Damien Duff. Football said goodbye as a player to Damien Duff after a wonderful club career in the UK and a glittering 100 cap Irish career. It was a pity his joining Shamrock Rovers didn’t amount to more than a few appearances but his body was telling him it was time to admit defeat injury-wise. A true Irish footballing legend. Ní bheidh a leithéid arís.

 

E is for Euros. We have Euro 2016 to look forward to in June. We’re there, we’re going, that’s all.

 

F is for Fog. Our first leg Euro 2016 play-off match in Bosnia will forever be remembered as the half we didn’t see, either if you were in Bosnia or watching at home as fog enveloped much of the pitch at the start of the second half. Robbie Brady’s wonderful solo goal could only be appreciated at the third camera angle and what a shame, given it was a superb effort from a now first choice class player in Brady.

 

G is for Germany. See A above.

 

H is for Hill. Football said Rest in Peace to Jimmy Hill. For football fans of my age and slightly younger, Hill was the face (and chin) of televised football when we were growing up, from his first punditry on UTV’s The Big Match, to his switch to the BBC and Match of the Day’s frontman. Modern players revelling in riches can also be grateful to Hill for his work in the abolition of the maximum wage.

 

I is for Ireland. A special year for football both sides of the border as both nations made it to the European Championships next Summer, the first time in history both nations will take part in the same tournament.

 

J is for Jocks. The Scottish sort, not the item of clothing. The Jocks will mind the islands next Summer while ourselves, Northern Ireland, Wales and England will invade France. Feed the dogs please Jocks.

 

K is for Keane. Robbie will be on the plane next Summer, but not necessarily get any action but he will be an integral part of the squad that goes to France. His class in supporting those who got the nod from O’Neill ahead of him in the closing games of the qualifiers was clear and barring injury, he must go to France and will. Roy’s influence and importance (and apparent happiness) has grown also as the campaign continued and Martin O’Neill stressed the input of Roy in helping our qualification to France. There’s only two Keanos.

 

L is for Lansdowne. It’ll always be Lansdowne to me and the Roar came back in the German win and certainly in the second leg play off against Bosnia in November when qualification was secured. The new stadium finally rocked into action in both those matches, long may this continue.

M is for Martin. Our classy, intelligent and passionate international team Manager. No question he had many hairy moments in qualification but seems to have learned a lot about his players and his team set up as the group went into the business end of things. Personally, I was delighted for Martin O’Neill in attaining qualification.

 

N is for Nutsy. Shamrock Rovers’ boss Pat Fenlon’s nickname. 2015 was a largely disappointing year again for Shamrock Rovers in Nutsy’s first full year in charge and despite a third place finish and European football acquired, Rovers were out of contention for the title early enough in the year. The loss of Keith Fahey to a retirement resulting injury didn’t help his strategy, but he’ll know his team must challenge better in 2016 to keep the fans onside and keep his own job.

 

O is for O’Neill, Michael that is. I have so much time for Michael O’Neill after his managership of Shamrock Rovers brought successive League titles 2010 and 2011 and bringing Rovers to Europa League group stages in 2011, so it shouldn’t have surprised us too much that he brought his native Northern Ireland to Euro-2016 qualification. That he should bring the team to top spot in the qualification group however, is an outstanding achievement. They have a very tough group with Germany, Poland and Ukraine but they’ll give them all a game, you can be sure about that.

 

P is for Paris. A very much aniticipated return to Paris beckons in June, scene of the heartbreaking Hand of God goal scored against us in November 2009 (hard to believe that’s six years ago). Sweden will be our opponents in the Stade De France, hopefully our emotions coming out of there will be different next time around.

 

Q is for Qualified. See E above.

 

R is for Redmond. Ireland’s kit man Dick Redmond became an internet sensation when Ireland qualified for France when he charged into the victorious Irish dressing room dressed as Superman and hollering “I’M SIXTY AND I’M GOING TO FRANCE”………one of the funniest moments of the footballing year.

 

S is for Shane. Long’s goal against Germany as in A above was the standout moment in my footballing year but things can get even better for Shane Long in 2016. He has pace, aerial power and intelligence, if he can improve his goals to chances ratio, he’ll be a hot property by the time we’ve all returned from France.

 

T is for Trip. As soon as the draw was made for Euro-2016, thousands of fans were plotting their various routes to France.   Planes, trains, automobiles, campervans, bicycles, scooters, hitching, will all be used and anywhere to get the head down for the night (or morning as will more likely be the case) will be found and used. Irish fans are resourceful and will do anything to support the boys in France.

 

U is for Understanding. Wives/partners that is. It’s fair to say a majority of them will never understand our utter passion and love for teams, be they club or country, but they are fairly understanding when we come to them saying “I’m going to France/Kazakhstan/Timbuktu to a match. Once we get the gaff painted or decorated before the next away trip.

 

V is for Van Gaal. Looking as forlorn this year as he did in 2001 when Jason McAteer’s goal beat his Dutch team and knocked them out of qualification for the 2002 World Cup. His philosophy of football hasn’t worked thus far at Man United and he will likely be joining Mourinho shortly as an out of work Manager. Another I won’t miss if/when it does happen.

 

W is for Walters. What a year Jonny Walters had for the Irish cause, weighed in with a massive winner against Georgia at Lansdowne Road but it was his two goals in the second leg play-off against Bosnia that elevated him to legendary status. His Irish background and tradition was also notable in his dedication of qualification to his late mother and his 100% honesty and heart and no little skill in the green shirt has brought him eternal love and respect from the Irish public.

 

X is for Xavi, who retired from top flight football in 2015 having helped Barcelona to the Champions League. One of my favourite players ever, skilful, creative, mentally tough and a winner. Thanks for the memories Xavi.

 

Y is for Year. It’s a been a great one and Happy New One to all!

 

Z is for zzzzzzzzzzzzz, Sky Sports News and listening to Thierry Henry’s punditry.

 

Happy New Year folks!

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It’s all about attitude Killian

22 Dec

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So Killian Brennan has rejoined Rovers. To say opinion is divided among Rovers’ fans is probably the understatement of the remaining days of the year. The club’s official announcement on its Facebook page has given rise to comments varying from “welcome back” to the four letter c word and plenty of varying complimentary and derogatory comments regarding his return.
There is no doubting Killian Brennan’s ability as a footballer. His stints at Derry City, Bohemians and St Patrick’s Athletic marked him out as a player of real quality having returned from England to sign for Roddy Collins’ Dublin City in 2003. An excellent passer of the ball, a decent finisher and a set piece expert, Rovers fans were delighted when he signed for the club for the 2012 season as Rovers looked to build on successive League titles in 2010 and 2011. What happened was almost as mysterious as what happened to Rovers’ Manager Stephen Kenny that year.

Football fans of every club are the same. We hope we’ll compete for honours. Sometimes we win titles, the odd Cup success is always welcome. We can’t expect to win all the time, even though we hope we will. What we do expect however is application, honesty of effort and pride in the shirt. Being a Shamrock Rovers player demands it. Rovers, like every club, has had its share of mediocre or ordinary players who absolutely made up for their limitations by giving 100%. Fans will accept nothing less.

Killian Brennan gave anything but 100% in 2012. The wheels of the wagon very quickly fell off for Stephen Kenny’s team after he was appointed Manager following Michael O’Neill’s departure after three years in charge. Kenny signed Brennan. Two goals in twenty four appearances was derisory enough for a player of his ability (his goal to game ratio for Derry was 1:10, almost 1:4 for Bohs and 1:6 for St Pats), but what galled me (and doubtless a sizeable contingent of Rovers fans) was his clearly dreadful attitude on the park as Rovers surrendered their title with little or no fight and Stephen Kenny paid with his job in less than a season. While stalwarts such as Stephen Rice, Gary Twigg and Craig Sives tried manfully to stem the bleeding in an utterly forgettable year, Brennan threw the toys out of the pram early in the season when Kenny substituted him in a 1-1 draw in Cork. It was however the Good Friday mauling at Inchicore when Pats beat the champions 5-1 that enraged Rovers’ fans and in particular Killian Brennan’s abject performance from left back. I understand players can have bad games, that match was a shocker from everybody (apart from a young Seán Gannon on the other side of the back four), but it was Brennan’s clear lack of effort and disrespect to the Rovers’ fans that signalled an early end to his relationship with Hoops fans. Kenny’s early departure did nothing to improve Brennan’s displays nor mend that falling out with the fans. His departure to St Pats for the 2013 season was not regretted by Rovers fans.

Two of his brothers, Ryan and Gavin have since played for the club (Ryan has recently joined Bray Wanderers). To this observer, Ryan, despite being plagued by injury, always had a go. His attitude could never be questioned. Gavin, after a very ropey start, won over the fans by the season’s end. Why? Attitude, plain and simple. He knuckled down and after a misguided social media outburst, did his talking on the park and can look forward to a decent 2016 at the club in my opinion. Killian Brennan has more ability than both Ryan and Gavin, but in terms of attitude, he lags miles behind. Rovers fans will hope he has learned his lesson from 2012 and that his brothers will have given him some fraternal advice and that he hits the ground running and shuts his doubters up in 2016.

Stephen Kenny has shown incredible resolve since 2012 to lift successive titles with Dundalk in 2014 and 2015. It is hoped Killian Brennan can show similar and bury the Big Time Charlie memory of his utterly disastrous first stint with Ireland’s most successful club. It is also hoped Pat Fenlon is proved brave rather than silly in signing Brennan. Over to you Killian.