Friday, April 27, 2012


Former Ireland midfielder Ray Houghton believes that Ireland's participation at Euro 2012 will be a big boost for a country hard hit by a property crash, a deep recession and austerity budgets.
Robbie Keane will star at the Euro Finals

"There is a feel-good factor about the national team in Ireland. They will get behind their team and it will alleviate the current situation," Houghton told Reuters in an interview.
"The anticipation and the build-up in Ireland is much bigger than what it is in England, where I live now," said the former Liverpool and Aston Villa midfielder, who scored Ireland's first-ever goal at the European finals against England in 1988.
Houghton's header past Peter Shilton gave Ireland a famous 1-0 victory over their fierce rivals.
Ronnie Whelan bettered that effort with a spectacular volley in a 1-1 draw with Russia and the Irish were unlucky to lose to eventual winners Netherlands as they failed to progress in the eight-team tournament.
After an absence of 24 years, Ireland beat Estonia in the playoffs to qualify for only the second time and are drawn in Group C against Croatia, Spain and Italy. The Irish will play all their group games in Poland.
Houghton believes that they will have to take something from their opening game against Croatia on June 10 in Poznan to have any chance of progressing.
"We have to remember that Ireland are up against the last two winners of the World Cup in Spain and Italy, so that first game is hugely important. If we don't take something there, we'll struggle," he said.
Capped 73 times by Ireland, Glasgow-born Houghton was the architect of two great opening results for Ireland - his header against England in the 1988 win and the looping shot against Italy at the 1994 World Cup in the United States, giving Ireland another precious 1-0 triumph.
"I never get tired of talking about those goals but hopefully in the future someone else will come along and do something similar," he said.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Galway's young hurlers
Galway and Dublin played out a pulsating 0-26 to 2-20 draw in their Allianz Hurling League relegation play-off in O'Connor Park

Both defences were in control in the first half and Paul Ryan’s frees left Dublin 0-9 to 0-7 in front at the break. A Conor McCormack goal after the restart put daylight between the sides but Galway leveled before again conceding to Ross O’Carroll.

Joe Canning sent it to extra-time but despite Ryan O’Dwyer and Alan McCrabbe seeing red, Galway were unable to close out it out and a late Niall McMorrow ’65 forced a replay next Saturday.

It had taken four minutes for Galway to open the scoring through a Damien Hayes point but Danny Sutcliffe responded for Dublin and Galway never led for the remainder of the first half, with Joe Canning struggling to get into the game at full forward.

Corner-forward Davy Glennon had two excellent goal chances but on each occasion Gary Maguire in the Dublin goal was equal to the threat and he produced two top-class saves to keep his side in front.

Anthony Cunningham moved Canning from full forward into the half-forward line and after being held scoreless for the first 35 minutes, he exploded into the game in the second period, taking ten scores in all.

He needed to produce that return because an early Conor McCormack goal left five points between the sides and put Dublin in a very strong position. Galway showed great character to dominate the third quarter with Canning prominent, and seven out of eight points left them a point in front at 0-15 to 1-11.

However, hesitancy in the Galway defence cost them in the 55th minute and Dublin corner-forward Ross O’Carroll, who had had a very quiet game up to that point, produced a great finish to put his side back in front.

The sides exchanged points from there until the closing stages, Dublin maintaining a slender lead. Damien Hayes produced a fine score with five minutes to go to reduce the deficit, but Niall McMorrow responded for Anthony Daly’s men and again when Galway produced another score from Canning, Johnny McCaffrey popped up with a point on 68 minutes that looked like it would seal the deal for the Dubs.

However, Galway kept pushing and Canning showed great patience to take points from two 25m frees while most of the crowd was baying for an attempt on goal.

His decisions were justified when Galway won the last puckout of the game, drove the ball down to the left corner and Canning himself was able to field and drive the ball over the bar from a tight angle.

Galway maintained their momentum in the early stages of extra-time and two frees from Canning, allied to a red card for Ryan O’Dwyer for an off-the-ball incident, left the Tribesmen in a very happy position.

Dublin were given a lifeline when Barry Kelly awarded a penalty for a foul on O’Carroll by Ger O’Halloran, but Alan McCrabbe’s penalty was deflected wide and the Craobh Chiaráin hurler had to settle for a point from the resultant ’65.

McCrabbe was again the centre of attention moments later when he too was sent to the line by Kelly after a very late pull in the Dublin full forward line.

Cyril Donnellan pointed in the 10th minute of extra time to leave the scores at 0-24 to 2-16 at the mini break, but the All-Ireland football final of 1983 was brought to mind by many in the crowd as Galway failed to push on against Dublin despite a two-man advantage.

Dublin did well to keep the ball away from the free men operating in the Galway back line and after the first four points of extra time were shared, a late point from Daire Plunkett and a Niall McMorrow ’65 were enough to keep both sides in Division 1A of the National Hurling League, for another week at least.

Galway: Fergal Flannery; Kevin Hynes, David Collins, Ger O’Halloran; Niall Donoghue, Fergal Moore, Tony Óg Regan; David Burke (0-1), Barry Daly; Conor Cooney (0-1), Niall Burke (0-5, 0-4 frees), Cyril Donnellan (0-2); Damien Hayes (0-2), Joe Canning (0-12, 0-6 frees), Davy Glennon.

Subs: Iarla Tannion for Canning (blood), Bernard Burke for Cooney (blood), Johnny Coen (0-1) for Donoghue, Iarla Tannion for Daly, James Regan (0-1) for Glennon, Pádraig Brehony for Cooney, Bernard Burke for Niall Burke.

Extra-time Subs: Padraig Sheil for Kevin Hynes, Jonathan Glynn (0-1) for Bernard Burke, Niall Burke for David Burke.

Dublin: Gary Maguire; Niall Corcoran, Peter Kelly, Ruairí Trainor; Paul Schutte, Joey Boland, Shane Durking; Johnny McCaffrey (0-1), Michael Carton; Conor McCormack (1-0), Ryan O’Dwyer, Liam Rushe; Ross O’Carroll (1-0), Danny Sutcliffe (0-3), Paul Ryan (0-9, 0-8 frees 0-1 ‘65)

Subs: Simon Lambert (0-1) for Trainor, David Treacy (0-1) for O’Dwyer, Oisín Gough for Schutte, Niall McMorrow (0-3, 0-1 free 0-1 ‘65) for McCormack, Alan McCrabbe (0-1, ’65) for Carton

Changes before Extra time: Ryan O’Dwyer for Boland, Martin Quilty for McCaffrey.

Extra-time Subs: Daire Plunkett (0-1) for Ryan, Peadar Carton for O’Carroll, Eamon Dillon for Treacy,

(c) RTE Sport. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Rob Kearney scored two tries
Leinster are into the Heineken Cup semi-finals again after a comrehensive defeat of Welsh side Cardiff Blues 34 points to 3, scoring four tries in the process.

Ironically, it was Cardiff who opened the scoring at Dublin's splendid Aviva stadium with a penalty by Leigh Half-Penny.

It proved to be their only score of the entire game as Leinster sprang into life with a Jonathon Sexton penalty on 8 mins.
Ica Nacewa then finished off a fine move by the Leinster backs to score in the corner, converted by Sexton.

The Irish provincial side dominated upfront to lay the platform for good posession and full-back Rob Kearney ran in under the posts for a second Leinster try on half an hour, converted again by Sexton.

Cardiff were being totally out-played by the reigning Champions and Brian O'Driscoll scored a welcome try for him, having been out for the Six-Nations after shoulder surgery, Ireland's talisman clearly enjoyed the moment.
Sexton's conversion made it 27-3 to Leinster coming up to half-time.

Cardiff Blues had a mountain to climb and they changed tack in the second-half playing tap and go rugby in a bid to get an early try to get back into the match.
Leinster showed their defensive mettle and put the game well out of reach 6 minutes into the half with another fine move ending in a second try of the game for Rob Kearney.
Sexton made it four conversions out of four to open up a 31 point gap.

Cardiff, to their credit, never gave up and kept attacking the Leinster line, they almost breached it through Matthew Jenkins, but the Video ref adjudged that the ball had slipped from his hand an inch from the line.

Cruel luck on the Welshmen and that was as close as they got to a score in the second-half as Leinster ran out impressive winners of an entertaining game.

Man of the Match: Rob Kearney

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Man of the match, Isa NacewaIsa Nacewa proved to be be the vital difference between Leinster & Munster in this Rabo-direct Pro 12 League sell-out-game at Thomond Park on Saturday evening.
In a hotly-contested game between Leinster & Munster in which penalty-kicks were the order of the day as both packs went for the jugular from the off, it was Leinster who took the lead through a Jonathan Sexton penalty on 10 mins.
Ronan O' Gara soon levelled with a shot of his own to make it 3-3 as both sides engaged in a physical on the pitch without quite reaching the skill-level to find the killer score in the game.
Leinster's Sexton scored two more penalties on 36 & 39 mins while Munster's wise old head O'Gara put one over to make it 9-6 coming up to half-time.

The repeated infringements at the countless scrums finally gave vociferous Welsh referree Nigel Owen no choice but to send both Marcus Horan & Mike Ross to the sin-bin.

Strangely, it resulted in a suddenly improved match to watch as the game became quicker, full of movement and devoid of tedious scum-time machinations.

Leinster's Isa Nacewa made a great burst towards the Munster try-line only to be stopped short by some aggressive tackling to keep him out.
A further penalty by Johnny Sexton extended Leinster's lead and when Sub McFadden landed a spot-kick on 60 mins to leave it 15-9 to Leinster, it looked bad for Munster on their home-ground.
To add insult to injury, sub Ian Madigan booted over  a great drop-goal to seal the win for Leinster in Thomond Park.

This was the Celtic league, which Leinster also lead but the Heineken Cup quarter-finals are up for both teams next week-end, that's where it really matters.
After Saturday's match, Leinster will be slight favourites to progress in that competition.