Tag Archives: germany

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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Martin O’Neill: Irish Tinkerman?

13 Oct
O'Neill got his mojo back in the win over Germany

O’Neill got his mojo back in the win over Germany

What to make then of Martin O’Neill’s first ten qualification matches as Irish gaffer? A record of five wins, three draws and two defeats has been enough to progress Ireland to the perilous play-off situation next month and with a goals record of 19 scored and only 7 conceded, I think it’s fair to laud the Derryman on making the play-offs in a group containing World Champions Germany, an always formidable Poland and an improving, if ultimately careless Scotland under Gordon Strachan.

Much has been made of O’Neill’s team selections since the group got under way thirteen months ago away to Georgia. The big questions before that opener in Tbilisi were would he go Trapattoni-like with a rigid and strait-jacketed 4-4-2? Would he play three at the back as he often did at Celtic? 4-5-1 (when defending) or 4-3-3 (when attacking)? Would the mercurial and forgotten (under Trapattoni) Wes Hoolahan finally find a regular place in the starting eleven?

In that first game away to Georgia, he elected to play three in central midfield with Whelan, McCarthy and Stephen Quinn getting the nod, flanked by McGeady and Walters, with Robbie Keane on his own up front. Ireland won the opener 2-1 in what was a very patchy performance, rescued by McGeady’s injury time wonder goal. In eight of the subsequent nine qualifiers he went for the three in the middle. The game he didn’t was Scotland away where Darron Gibson and Jeff Hendrick made little impression with Long and Walters getting no service up front and McClean and McGeady totally ineffective out wide, where Scotland deservedly won 1-0 at Celtic Park.

O’Neill always kept everyone guessing as to his starting eleven and I would wager that includes his players. Below are the amount of changes he made to the starting eleven from game to game following that opener in Georgia:

Gibraltar (home), five changes,won 7-0

Germany (away), three changes, drew 1-1

Scotland (away), five changes, lost 0-1

Poland (home), seven changes, drew 1-1

Scotland (home), two changes, drew 1-1

Georgia (home), two changes, won 1-0

Gibraltar (away), one change, won 4-0

Germany (home), four changes, won 1-0

Poland (away), five changes, lost 1-2

While losing players to injury and suspension is always an issue in international football, I’d be doubtful that many teams with the same pool of players available as Ireland would make as many changes from game to game as O’Neill did. The five changes from the memorable win at home to Germany to the disappointing loss in Warsaw three days later were in my opinion unduly excessive. In my opinion, Christie (superb against Germany) should have been retained and moved to left back for the exhausted Ward with Brady remaining in midfield where he excelled against Germany with Hendrick and McCarthy That midfield three showed more than enough in that remarkable victory to merit being kept together in a match where a victory or 2-2 draw was very much attainable and thus avoiding the shark-infested waters of the play-off. With O’Neill breaking up that trio, reverting Brady to left back (a position he is still coming to terms with) and not convincing Hoolahan to give it socks for an hour or more in Warsaw stunted the massive momentum the team created after beating the World champions. In a game we should have taken to Poland from the off, the return of Whelan alongside McCarthy and Hendrick saw us return to ponderous and predictable midfield graft rather than the mobile and progressive stuff we saw with Brady, McCarthy and Hendrick three days previously. While not in the social media league of Glen Whelan-bashing, I really feel a corner was turned in terms of midfield passing and mobility in that Germany victory and bringing Whelan back handed over a pre-kick off initiative in Warsaw and our attacking play on the night bore that out in what was as bad a performance as the Glasgow defeat (which Whelan missed to be fair!) in terms of the dearth of attacking play and chances created.

So Martin O’Neill has many conundrums and dilemmas ahead of next month’s play off, the draw for which is next Sunday.

Over the ten games, he started twenty four different players.  Those ten games didn’t reveal a clear identity or philosophy of play under O’Neill apart from the expected honesty of effort and pride in the shirt. A philosophy seemed to be emerging with the Herculean performance over the Germans, or was that merely a one off or false dawn given the subsequent disappointment in Warsaw?

O’Neill really needs to find the correct blend in his midfield three that makes this team more threatening coming forward. Performances such as in Warsaw, Glasgow and the first half at home to Poland cannot be allowed to continue. He must do without Walters (and John O’Shea) for the first leg of the play-off. Walters has been a real stalwart in the campaign for his application , tenacity and nicking of crucial goals such as the winner against Georgia and the opener against Scotland at home. He will be missed, but maybe it gives Hoolahan another chance as a roving wide player with (hopefully) a fully fit again McGeady on the other side and and the central trio of Hendrick, McCarthy and Brady given their head again.

A bold approach can see us on that plane to France, leaving Scotland at home next Summer to mind the two islands. Ruthless and brave decisions have to made by O’Neill. Let’s hope he gets those decisions right over the next 180 minutes of football.

Footnote:

For the record, below is the list of players who started matches in the qualifying group.

John O’Shea 10

Jonathan Walters 9

Glen Whelan 7

James McCarthy 7

Jeff Hendrick 7

Seamus Coleman 6

Robbie Keane 6

Wes Hoolahan 6

Robbie Brady 6

Aiden McGeady 5

Shay Given 5

Marc Wilson 5

Stephen Ward 5

James McClean 4

David Forde 4

Richard Keogh 3

Cyrus Christie 2

Shane Long 2

Daryl Murphy 2

Darron Gibson 2

Stephen Quinn 2

Ciaran Clarke 2

David Meyler 2

Darren Randolph 1

*************************************************************************************************************************************************

Phelim Warren, 13th October 2015

@freewheeler12

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