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Mooney ready to shake off the shackles

15 Dec

Published by, 15 December 2012

JOHN MOONEY WAS at home while his Ireland team-mates celebrated at the World Twenty20 Qualifier in Dubai. When those same team-mates were willing the rain clouds to fade faster than the Sri Lankan daylight so that they could fight to the last at the T20 World Cup, Mooney was at home again.

Injured again.

The man who hit arguably the most important shot in Irish cricketing history, the final boundary off England’s James Anderson at the 2011 World Cup to spark a party the likes of which Bangalore will never see again, has been a bystander for most of the team’s recent milestones.

Mooney almost laughs as he reels off his injury list. “As long as I’ve been playing cricket, I’ve never seen anyone with a grade two hamstring tear from playing cricket,” he says of the injury which cut short his involvement at the T20 qualifiers.

That was only the beginning. Add in a thumb dislocated in taking a catch against Afghanistan and then a snapped tendon in the middle finger of his bowling hand, the latter of which sidelined him for 12 weeks and ruled him out of the World Cup, and you could understand if he feels a bit sorry for himself when asked to reflect on 2012.

That’s not Mooney though. He sees the bigger picture, both in terms of what the team has achieved without him and in setting his most recent disappointments within the broader context of his career as a whole.


Ireland’s ‘Green Machine’ prepare for more twists in an unlikely tale

1 Dec

Published by TheScore,ie, 1 December 2012

IT’S FUNNY HOW things work out.

It’s summer in Quilmes, a day which should peter out into a mild Saturday evening, but Ireland will face some local heat when they take on hosts Argentina in the Champions Challenge I semi-finals.

It’s a tournament that they very nearly didn’t make it to. But for an against-all-odds fundraising blitz which tapped into a small but feverishly committed hockey base, they wouldn’t even be here.

Yet now they are 70 minutes away from the final, from valuable points to further their rise up the world rankings, and from a statement to underline the power and potential of an enduring, engaged grassroots.

Back at the beginning of October, the road to Quilmes hit a dead end before the Green Machine ever got its engine started. There was a worrying hole at the top of the senior men’s structure left by the departure of Paul Revington, the 2011 FIH Coach of the Year who guided Ireland up to 15th in the world as well as to the brink of a historic place at the Olympics.

Their London dream dashed by a cruel swipe of a Korean stick in the final minute of the final qualifier — on home soil in Dublin, no less — Revington left for pastures new and took up an offer to coach Malaysia. The need to find a candidate with the vision to build on his good work became more urgent when long-serving team manager Peter Jackson also stepped down.

But what followed stunned Irish hockey when, in a move that was as sudden as it was unilateral, the Irish Hockey Association withdrew the team from Champions Challenge I. The players were as shocked as anyone — they had not been consulted in advance — but the IHA explained that “after much soul searching,” they could not see how they would be suitably prepared in time to compete.

When the fog of confusion lifted, it became clear that financial reasons as much as any other consideration lay at the heart of the decision. An extra €108,000 had been allocated earlier in the year to give both the men’s and women’s teams every chance of qualifying for the Olympics (the women’s team were also beaten in their qualification final). The disappointment had faded but the gaping budget deficit remained.


How Shane Long brought down Roman’s empire — and 5 other games that shaped di Matteo’s Chelsea reign

21 Nov

Published by, 21 November 2012

AS CHELSEA MANAGER your days are inevitably, and literally, numbered but that won’t be much consolation to Roberto Di Matteo this morning.

Although that prized first Champions League title and a bonus FA Cup are safely ensconced in the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet, Roman Abramovich’s brief fling with di Matteo came to an abrupt halt today 262 days after it started.

Last night’s 3-0 defeat against Juventus left Chelsea on the brink of the dubious honour of becoming the first Champions League winners to hand back their European title in the group stages the next season.

Abramovich acted with characteristic speed, axing the Italian who barely outlasted his predecessor Andre Villas-Boas (256 days), Avram Grant (247) and Luiz Felipe Scolari (223) in what is unquestionably the most dangerous job in football.

These are the six games that defined di Matteo’s time in the dugout. Was it really all Shane Long’s fault he got the sack?


Darkest before the dawn as Trapattoni looks forward to new era

16 Nov

Published by, 16 November 2012

A YEAR THAT started with so much promise for Giovanni Trapattoni and the Republic of Ireland ended on Wednesday night with a feeling which has become all too familiar: defeat.

If last November’s play-off win against Estonia was the high point of the Italian’s reign, much of what has happened since has been laced with bitter disappointment.

Once upon a time it was convenient to point to an unbeaten run which reached 14 matches and spanned 16 months, but there’s little comfort to be found in the cold hard facts now. They speak for themselves.

2012: Played 12. Won 4. Drawn 3. Lost 5. Scored 14. Conceded 20.


Method in the madness as Trap readies Greek play

14 Nov

Published by, 14 November 2012

MAYBE IT WAS nothing more than end-of-term fatigue but there was a hint of the surreal about Giovanni Trapattoni’s pre-match press conference in Malahide yesterday afternoon.

If there are fears that tonight’s friendly against Greece will be staid and predictable, Trapattoni’s team announcement was anything but.

The tone was set when the Italian arrived, much later than originally scheduled, and opened by mistakenly listing Darren O’Dea in his starting XI when it is Ciaran Clark who will earn his third cap and partner captain John O’Shea in the centre of defence.


Trap the believer knows stakes are high

11 Nov

Published by, 11 November 2012

A FRIENDLY AGAINST Greece might not be the most attractive show in town next week but Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni accepts that this is not just another meaningless international break.

On Wednesday night the stakes are higher.

The balm of time hasn’t soothed the pain of last month’s 6-1 horror show against Germany, and though beating the Faroes stabilised a ship that appeared to be fatally holed below the waterline, Trapattoni knows that the healing is still a work in progress.


Master mind: 5 things Jimmy McGuinness will bring to Celtic

9 Nov

Published by, 9 November 2012

JIMMY WON THE matches that mattered.

Now Jim McGuinness is set for a brand new challenge when he joins SPL kingpins Celtic as a performance consultant with the club’s youth system.

The mastermind behind the most impressive GAA revolution and evolution in recent memory, McGuinness turned heads as he ripped up Donegal football and started again, managing the county to their first All-Ireland title in 20 years.

The Glenties native is used to total control but in his new part-time role in Scotland, he will go from being the undisputed top dog to a rather minor cog in a much larger sporting machine.

But what can McGuinness bring to Celtic’s youth system? And what can young guns at the Glasgow giants learn from his brilliant success in the north-west over the last two seasons? [...]

Croly ready to lead Rovers revival

8 Nov

Published by, 8 November 2012

TREVOR CROLY SAT down on Tuesday night and started to draw up a “to-do list” for his new job as Shamrock Rovers manager.

Bringing in a replacement for Gary Twigg, Rovers’ iconic striker and three-time Golden Boot winner who left for Portadown at the end of the season, is one of his top priorities.

But before he tries to reboot the attack and bring it into the post-Twigg era, Croly knows there’s one thing he must do if he is to succeed where his predecessor Stephen Kenny failed: he has to patch up the Hoops’ leaky defence.


House of horrors: 5 things we learned from Ireland v Germany

12 Oct

Published by, 12 October 2012

Trap’s possible 4-3-3 was always going to mean 4-5-1

BAR A PROMISING opening 15 minutes in which they briefly seemed like they might put it up to Germany, Ireland were on a containment and damage limitation exercise from the outset.

In his pre-match press conference, Giovanni Trapattoni said that his starting XI allowed for a flexibility between 4-3-3 and 4-4-2, depending on the evening’s circumstances. In reality, it turned out to be a defensive 4-5-1 with Jon Walters flying solo up front.

The two wide men Aiden McGeady and Simon Cox got up to offer some support during the opening minutes but their presence in attacking positions became a less frequent sight as the game wore on and Ireland played with 10 behind the ball. [...]

Friday night lights ‘an opportunity’ for young Irish stars, says Giovanni Trapattoni

12 Oct

Published by, 12 October 2012

AFTER ALL HE has been through this week, it came as no surprise when Giovanni Trapattoni touched on the twin topics of miracles and faith at his pre-match press conference in Malahide yesterday.

Losing Glenn Whelan, Sean St Ledger and James McClean to injury on Monday was enough to cast a pall over the build-up to tonight’s World Cup qualifier against Germany.

By the time the full ramifications of Robbie Keane’s Achilles’ “knock” became clear, it must have felt like the penultimate blow in a week of a thousand cuts for the Italian.