Ireland’s run-in for World Cup qualification

On Friday the 24th April Ireland played out an intense 0-0 draw with Wales to mark the halfway point in the qualification stages to reach Russia for the World Cup in  2018.

So far they’ve played 5 matches and gone unbeaten picking up 11 points leaving them joint top but with Serbia edging them out on goal difference.

The results have been as follows:

Serbia 2-2 Republic of Ireland-FK Crevna Zvezda-Belgrade

Republic of Ireland 1-0 Georgia-Aviva Stadium-Dublin

Moldova 1-3 Republic of Ireland-Zimbru-Chisinau

Austria-0-1 Republic of Ireland-Ernst Happel Stadium-Vienna

Republic of Ireland-0-0 Wales-Aviva Stadium-Dublin

Considering that the boys in green were away for the Austria and Serbia game if they keep up this form they look set to qualify for Russia.

The next 5 games are:

Republic of Ireland vs Austria-11th of June-Aviva Stadium-Dublin

Georgia vs Republic of Ireland-2nd of September-Boris Paichadze National Stadium-Tbilisi

Republic of Ireland vs Serbia-5th of September-Aviva Stadium-Dublin

Republic of Ireland vs Moldova-6th of October-Aviva Stadium-Dublin

Wales vs Republic of Ireland-9th of October-City Stadium-Cardiff

With a couple of tough games and Seamus Coleman out for the foreseeable future it looks tough but I believe Martin O’Neil’s men have enough to qualify automatically or through the play offs.

 

Ireland’s Journey Through the 6 Nations

Ireland had a very up and down tournament with big wins and disappointing losses so let’s look back at it.

Scotland 27-22  Ireland

To say the tournament got off to a bad start would be an understatement. Joe Schmidt’s men, who were picked to be the champions, never turned up against the Scots. It was the first half that killed Ireland, with Stuart Hogg getting a double in tries. Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson tried to mount a comeback but 2 late penalties from Greg Laidlow  got them the victory.

Italy 10-63 Ireland

Then, when you talk about big wins, here’s a great example. Ireland rampaged through Italy on this day with CJ Stander and Craig Gilroy both grabbing hat-tricks. Stander and Keith Earls both crossed twice in the first half and Paddy Jackson got a 100% conversion rate. Italy brought back ten points with a converted penalty-try and a penalty, but to no avail. Stander completed his hat-trick in the second half, before being replaced by Gilroy, who also got three tries. Gary Ringose also got one to seal up the score.

Ireland 19-9 France

In Ireland’s first home game they continued their winning ways. France were 6-0 up and had a try disallowed, but Conor Murray got them into the lead just before the break with a converted try. Into the second half Ireland went nine points further ahead, thanks to Johnny Sexton’s penalties. France pulled 3 back from Camille Lopez with a third penalty, but straight after Paddy Jackson restored the lead to nine after yet another penalty.

Wales 22-9 Ireland

After two wins on the bounce, Wales put a stop to that with a commanding win over the boys in green. Ireland opened the scoring with a Johnny Sexton penalty. Wales hit back with last years top try scorer George North getting over the line while Sexton was in the sin-bin for a HIA. Paddy Jackson got Ireland back in front with a penalty while Sexton was still in the bin. It was short lived as Halfpenny got a penalty just before the end of the half so they went into the break leading. North got his second try just after the half with Halfpenny converting. Sexton cut the deficit by 3 with another penalty but it was to no avail, as Jamie Roberts put one under the post in the last 3 minutes to wrap it up with Halfpenny converting again.

Ireland 13-9 England

England had the 6 nations  wrapped up but there was a lot more riding on this like the winning record of 18 wins in tier one rugby and the Grand Slam. Ireland started well, with Sexton kicking them three points ahead early on. Then, around 25 minutes, in Iain Henderson got over the line with a conversion from Sexton, but thanks to a penalty put over by Owen Farrell, it was 10-3 going into the break. Farrell cut the lead to 6 points with another penalty. Sexton relieved mounting pressure on Ireland with another penalty to make it 13-6. Farrell kicked over again but it turned out to only be consolation, as England were left with a sour taste in their mouth lifting the 6 Nations.

 

 

 

Herrera sees red as Man United get the cup Blues

In a high-tension match, Chelsea edged out Manchester United in a fiery affair at Stamford Bridge to have a chance at the home double this season.

Mourinho and Conte were involved in some clashes on the sidelines during a heated game in which Herrera was shown a red.

The Man United coach had a rough time from the home fans on the sidelines, but calmly reminded them of the three trophies won by him at the Bridge during his time at the helm.

The Reds had an obvious game plan of not letting Hazard play by means of fouls, but eventually pushed it too far, with Herrera being the victim. Herrera’s first yellow was virtue of a body check on the Belgian. Then, just 15 minutes later on the 35′, he got a second yellow for a trip on the Blues’ number 10 seconds after Fellaini had just fouled him.

The one man advantage made it easy for Chelsea to dominate proceedings from then on, with United rarely getting out of their half and Chelsea having target practice on De Gea. The winner on the 51′ minute came from unlikely source and deserved man of the match N’Golo Kante.

Kante’s goal was a low drive from the edge of the box that caught Man United’s shotstopper by surprise and curled into the left bottom corner.

Rashford (who had been bed stricken by sickness the previous couple of days) had a chance to draw things level late on. It was a quick counter attack in which he had Cahill on the ropes, but Courtois came to the rescue, coming out quickly to save Rashford’s goalbound effort.

Chelsea go on to Wembley for the FA Cup semi final, where they have drawn Tottenham in a highly anticipated clash on April 22nd.

 

The Premier League Round Up

Last weekend was an eventful one so let’s delve right into the action.

Manchester United 1-1 Bournemouth

Man Utd were held to  a one-all draw against the Cherries. Rojo scored first on the 23′ for United then King equalised with a penalty on 40′. Mings and Ibrahimovic were involved in a few incidents including a head stamp and a nasty elbow. Surman got sent to the stands for pushing Ibra over after already picking up  a yellow just on half time.

Leicester City 3-1 Hull City

Leicester contuined their winning ways after coming from behind. Clucas struck  Hull in front  within 14′ but then the Foxes got three without reply from Fuchs (27′), Mahrez (59′) and an OG from Huddleston on the 90′ mark.

Stoke City 2-0 Middlesbrough 

Stoke ran out winners at home against relegation-threatened opposition Middlesbrough. It was an Arnautovic first half  double (29′,42′) that was the difference between the two in the end.

Swansea City  3-2 Burnley

Swansea got a crucial win at home against fellow relegation fighters Burnley. It was Swansea who got the first score thanks to talisman Llorente on 12′ then the Clarets’ main man got them back into it with a penalty from Gray on 20′. Sean Dyche’s men got in front after the break thanks to Gray again on62′ but it wasn’t enough as Olssen brought it back quickly ib 69′. The Swans then waited right up until the end but their main man Llorente was there again on the 92′ to win it.

Watford 3-4 Southampton

Southampton got the three points in a seven-goal thriller at Vicarage Road. Troy Deeney started off the scoring early on the 4′ but Southampton got two before the break thanks to Tadic 29, and a first of a Redmound double 45+2′. Okaka then started off a frantic last 10 minutes bringing it back to a draw on 79′. The Saints then got two in three minutes thanks to their main man at the moment Gabbiadini 83′ and a second of the double from Redmound 86′. Watford pulled one back thanks to Doucoure 90+4 but it was too little too late as Southampton got the win.

West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Crystal Palace 

Palace got a crucial win in their bid to stay in the Premier League at the Hawthorns. Allyardyce will be relieved to have two wins on the bounce and get out of the rut they were in. He has Zaha and Townsend to thank as two second half goals 55′ and 84′ respectively earned them the three points.

Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal

Liverpool got a big win in the race for a Champions League spot against rivals for the spot, Arsenal. This loss now puts massive pressure on Wenger after being completely outplayed by the ‘Pool with many fans calling for a change since the Munich embarrassment. Firmino started off the scoring on 9′ and then Mane doubled the lead before the break 40’. Welbeck pulled one back to give hope for the Gunners on 57′ but just before full time, Wijnaldum put a stop to that on 90+1.

Tottenham Hotspurs 3-2 Everton

Spurs beat Everton to cut Chelsea’s gap on the top to six points. Kane’s double looked to give Tottenham an easy time, 20′ and 56′, but Lukaku pulled one back to make it a nervous last 10 minutes. Then Alli calmed Spurs’ fans with a goal on the 90+2.Valencia got one back a minute later 90+3′ but it turned out to just be a constellation with Tottenham getting all three points.

Sunderland 0-2 Manchester City 

Sunderland remain rooted to the bottom of the table after yet another loss, this time to Man City. Aguero opened up the scoring just before half time on the 42′ then 10 minutes into the second half, Sane doubled the lead 52′ to give City a comfortable win.

West Ham United 1-2 Chelsea FC

Chelsea extended their lead at the top with a win against West Ham. This puts Chelsea 10 points ahead of nearest rivals Tottenham and set for the title this year. Hazard broke the deadlock on 25′, finishing off a nice counter attack. Costa doubled their lead just after the break on the 25′ mark but the Hammers had other ideas with Lanzini pulling one back at the death 90++2′. Unfortunately for them, it turned out to be only a consolation.

Gaelic This weekend:All you need to know

Its an action packed weekend of GAA so let’s get straight into it.

Men’s Football

Division one-Saturday

Dublin vs Mayo-Croke Park-Throw in 19:00

Cavan vs Donegal-Kingspan Breffni Park-Throw in 19:00

Tyrone vs Monaghan-Omagh-Throw in 19:00

Sunday

Rosscommen vs Kerry-Dr Hyde Park-Throw in 14:00

Division 2-Sunday

Kildare vs Fermanagh-Newbridge-Throw in 13:00

Meath vs Galway-Pairc Tailteann-Throw in 14:00

Clare vs Cork-Cusack Park,Ennis-Throw in 14:00

Derry vs Down-OwenBeg-Throw in 14:30

Division 3-Sunday

Tipperary vs Longford-Semple Staduim-Throw in 13:00

Armagh vs Offaly-Athletic Grounds-Throw in 14:00

Louth vs Antrim-Gaelic Grounds Throw in 14:00

Sligo vs Laois-Markievicz Park-Throw in 14:30

Division 4-Saturday

Limerick vs London-Gaelic grounds(Limerick)-Throw in 19:00

Sunday

Leitrim vs Carlow-Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada-Throw in 14:00

Waterford vs Westmeath-Ardmore-Throw in 14:00

Wicklow vs Wexford-Joule park Augham-Throw in 14:00

There is no women’s football on this weekend.

Men’s Hurling

Division 1A-Saturday

Dublin vs Waterford-Croke Park-Throw in 17:00

Sunday

Killkenny vs Cork-Nowlan Park-Throw in 14:00

Tipperary vs Clare-Semple Stadium,Thurles-Throw in 15:00

Division 1B-Saturday

Limerick vs Offaly-Gaelic grounds(Limerick)-Throw in 17:00

Sunday

Galway vs Laois-Pearse Stadium-Throw in 14:00

Wexford vs Kerry-Innovate Wexford Park-Throw in 14:00

Division 2A-Sunday

Carlow vs London-Netwatch Cullen Park-Throw in 13:00

Westmeath vs Armagh-TEG Cusack Park,Mullingar-Throw in 14:00

Antrim vs Kildare-Cushendall-Throw in 14:00

Division 2B-Sunday

Rosscommen vs Meath-Athleague-Throw in 12:30

Derry vs Wicklow-Owenbeg-Throw in 12:30

Mayo vs Down-Elverys MacHayle Park,Castlebar-14:00

Division 3A-Sunday

Monaghan vs Louth-Iniskeen-Throw in 14:00

Donegal vs Tyrone-Letterkenny-Throw in 14:00

Division 3B-Sunday

Sligo vs Fermanagh-Markievicz Park-Throw in 12:30

Warwickshire vs Leitrim-Paric Na hEireann,Birghnaham-Throw in 14:00

All camogie games were postponed this weekend.

*All tickets to games can be bought on http://www.GAA.ie

 

My Champions League Round 16 Predictions: Part 2

This week kicks off the first leg of the other four games in the Champions League round 16 and again I’m trying to predict the results.Last week I got 2/4 of the games but I’m going for all four this week.

Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid

With Atletico Madrid topping their group over Bayern Munich, they got matched with Leverkusen, who finished second  below Monaco in their group. I have a feeling this one is going to be close but with Madrid coming out on top. I think Griezman will be the difference overall, maybe not with a goal but with his overall play. So I’m going with an Atletico Madrid win.

Manchester City v Monaco

Monaco topped their group over Bayer Leverkusen and Manchester City came second under Barcelona.  Monaco are  currently topping the Ligue I and City are currently sitting on second in the EPL but I think City will pull through. Even with them being shaky at the back and Monaco’s Falco flying a the moment, I think City’s midfield and forwards have the better quality to pull them through. So I’m going to go with a Man City win.

FC Porto v Juventus

Juventus came first in their group over Sevilla, while FC Porto came second to Leicester City in their group. Out of the four games, this game is the easiest to predict. I think Juventus’s quality all over the pitch will just be too much for Porto, much like the Arsenal vs Bayern Munich match. So I’m going for a Juventus win.

Sevilla v Leicester City

This is the opposite to the match above, with Sevilla coming below Juventus and The Foxes finishing above Porto. Leicester are currently struggling in the Premier League, with relegation a very real threat, and Sevilla are doing extremely well in the La Liga, currently third, just three points behind leaders Real Madrid. Based on this and how much better the players are performing, I think it’s a clear winner. I’m going to go with a Sevilla win.

My Champions League Round 16 Predictions:Part 1

Next week kicks off the first round of the Champions League round 16, and I’m going to do my best to predict the winners and losers of each match.

PSG vs FC Barcelona

This match is one of the big two in the draw. With both teams dwelling in second in their respective leagues (disappointing for both of them), they’ll be looking to win this competition. PSG haven’t looked the same since Ibrahimovic left for Manchester United this summer and, without him, I just don’t see them causing Luis Enrique’s men enough problems, so I’m going to go for a win for Barcelona.

Benfica vs Dortmund

After a great group stage in which they topped the UCL group with Real Madrid, Dortmund drew Benfica. Benfica only scraped qualification, finishing one point above Besiktas. Even with Jonas, I don’t see Benfica getting out of this. I think the quality of Aubameyang and Reus up front, as well as the quality of Bartra and so on at the back, will pull through. I’m predicting a Dortmund win.

Real Madrid vs Napoli

As I mentioned earlier, Madrid finished second in their group, while Napoli topped theirs. I can’t see this tie being anything other than a win for Zidane’s men, thanks to their quality all over the pitch. Even with Napoli’s trio of Mertens, Callejon and Insigne, they have to get past Real’s brick wall of a defence, and then not concede against Ronaldo (among others), which leads me to predict a win for Real Madrid.

Bayern Munich vs Arsenal

This is the other of the two big games, with these two having a recent history of playing each other in the Champions League (4 out of the last 5 seasons). After Chelsea’s thumping of Arsenal at the weekend, they’ll be out looking for blood but, unfortunately, I don’t think that’ll be enough to beat the current German champions. I think Bayern outmatch them in almost all, if not every, position on the pitch, and will be too much for Wenger’s men to handle. Due to this, I’m going with a Bayern win.

My top 3 of this Premier League weekend

In an action-packed weekend of sport, these three games shone through; 17 goals from a London Derby, a relegation 6 pointer, and a 9 goal thriller.

Arsenal vs Chelsea

The first game of the weekend was arguably the biggest. With Conte’s men leading by 9 points, it was up to Wenger’s men to stop them. They failed this task, conceding within the first 13 minutes to a header from Alonso. The Gunners were calling foul, as Alonso knocked out Bellerin with a flying elbow while jumping for the ball. Hazard then doubled Chelsea’s lead with an outstanding run from the halfway line on the 53rd minute, brushing off Coquelin and turning Mustafi. Arsenal made a mess at the back, with Cech passing straight to Chelsea’s Fabregas, who lofted it calmly into a open net in the 87th. Giroud got a goal with a header from 6 yards out in the 91st minute, but it was little consolation.

Everton vs Bournemouth

This is never the game you would have expected to be the 9 goal thriller, but that’s the Premier League for you! The match started off badly for the Cherries, after conceding a free kick in the first 10 seconds. Everton then attacked, with Lukaku curling one into the top corner from the edge of the box in the first minute. In the 23rd minute, Lukaku pulled it back for McCarthy (whose shot was blocked), but it rebounded back off McCarthy and rolled into the back of the net. Then, in the 29th minute, Eddie Howe’s men messed up at the back, with the ball rolling to Lukaku, who just had to slide it past the Bournemouth keeper.

The Cherries started the second half brightly, with Wilshere chipping it to King, who just knocked it in on the 59th minute. Bournemouth pulled another back, thanks to King again knocking it in after a low ball from Fraser on the 70th minute. Lukaku made it 4-2, with a jumping volley after Coleman’s chipped cross in the 83rd minute. Lukaku got his final goal after a backheel throughball from Barkley, leading to Lukaku shoving off defenders and sliding it home. In the 90th minute, Arter finished off another goal: after the ball pinballed around the box, Arter knocked it in on the line, while Everton defenders claimed it had gone out. Then, in the 93rd minute, Barkley finished the game off after a clearance lead to him running from the halfway, knocking it past the keeper who raced out, and rolling it into an empty net.

Crystal Palace vs Sunderland

This was another game you’d expect to be a cagey affair, yet it actually produced 4 quality goals, with Sunderland running rampant.  Kone got the first on the 10th minute after a free  was whipped in from Laroson. His original header was saved but not caught and a Sunderland player contested with the keeper for the rebound, after which Kone swept home the finish. N’Dong got the second, with a smashing effort from 25 yards out hitting the inside of the post and going in. Defoe got the third, with another sweeping effort from inside the box into the opposite corner in the 45+1st minute. Defoe got another two minutes later, with Januzai (again the provider) threading it through to Moyes’s main goalscorer, who turned his man and finished near post from 6 yards out.

Shane Long downs the ‘Pool

On Wednesday the 25th of January, Southampton  sent Liverpool crashing out of the EFL cup semi-final with a 2-0 aggregate win. Claude Puel’s side are the first Southampton team to reach a league cup final since 1978. This result is a continuation of Liverpool’s bad form, with only one win out of their seven matches in 2017, including a loss to bottom-of-the-Premier-League Swansea.

Southampton had made two changes going into the game, with Virgil Van Djik missing through injury. He was replaced by  Jack Stephens in centre back, which allowed Stephen Davis the honour of being captain while filling in for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Klopp made three changes to his side. This included the selection of Joel Matip, indicating that Klopp’s dispute with the Cameroonian over his eligibility had been put aside. Louis Karius, Daniel Sturridge and Trent Alexander-Arnold also returned to the squad.

Southampton could have wrapped up the tie in the first leg at St Mary’s, if not for poor finishing. This showed again in Anfield, with NathanRedmond presenting Tadic with a gilt-edged chance from six yards out, only for Karius to make a necessary save. A couple of minutes later, Redmond again escaped from the young Alexander-Arnold and sent an inch-perfect cross to Davis, who unfortunately smashed it wide.

Liverpool eventually grew into the game and came out fighting in the second half. Emre Can scared the Saints fans with a powerful shot that Forster was forced to deflect backwards before managing to snatch off the line. Goal-line technology deemed it not a goal. Sturridge would probably not enjoy watching the highlights, after he wasted two solid chances for the Reds. His first missed opportunity was from six yards out, where he skied it, and the second came six minutes later via a cross from Henderson, which Sturridge headed over the crossbar.

The closest Klopp’s side came after that was a wide effort from the brilliant Philippe Coutinho on 78 minutes. There were two possible penalty shouts in the last 10 minutes, with an apparent handball against goalscorer Shane Long on the 84-minute mark, and a controversial Stephen Davis tackle on Origi in the 90th minute. Referee Martin Atkinson awarded neither.

The Davis tackle led to a corner from which, instead of Liverpool grabbing the equaliser, Southampton got the winner. A fast counter attack (which has so often been associated with Klopp) from one box to the other was eventually finished by Shane Long, following a lung-bursting run. This led to jubilant celebrations from fans, players, and coaching staff alike.

Opinion:How Irish media is joining the English trend of hyping football players

With the rise of  websites like Balls.ie, Sportsjoe.ie and The42, a lot more Irish players are getting a lot more attention than they would have gotten five or ten years ago. This is fantastic and leads to more opportunities to find players like Daryl Horgan (a very talented player). In my opinion, he may have been overlooked without these websites posting articles about him, which would have meant no move to Preston North-End and no Ireland cap. However, this now seems to have led to sports websites trying to over-hype more and more under the radar players, to try and garner another success story.

No one loves taking the mick out of the English media for overhyping more than the Irish, but some Irish websites have begun to do it with already established players. An example of this would be the Robbie Brady transfer saga to Norwich. Balls.ie were posting stories about a move by Brady to a Premier League side with a transfer fee of £25 million.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Robbie Brady as much as the next Irishman and I will never forget that night in Lille, but £25 million is asking a bit much. Norwich fans have stated their discontent with Brady over social media, saying he is a different player with the green jersey on, and perhaps they’re right. However, these websites are only seeing the international Brady who could be worth that much, and not his current club form.

At the end of the day, I believe these websites should (deservedly) hype up some of these players, but keep in mind not every Irish player will be the next Robbie Keane .