ALL THINGS IRELAND: 2016
IRELAND BEAT NEW ZEALAND FOR THE 1ST TIME 40-29 IN HISTORIC WIN IN CHICAGO...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

CONNACHT DEFEAT TREVISO 47-8 IN THE PRO12 LEAGUE

Connacht continued their fine run of home form as they ran in seven tries against the Guinness PRO12’s basement side Benetton Treviso to win 47-8.
Tom McCartney’s first-half double and scores from Danie Poolman and Denis Buckley secured a try-bonus-point before half-time, and a commanding 28-3 lead for the hosts.
And John Cooney, Quinn Roux, and Jack Carty completed the scoring as Connacht eased home, meaning Braam Steyn’s try for Treviso was no more than a consolation.

The Irish outfit were unbeaten in four Guinness PRO12 games at the Sportsground prior to the match, but were dealt a blow when they lost Matt Healy in the warm-up with Poolman coming in on the wing.
The visitors started well, probing for an early try on the Connacht five-metre line after Jake Heenan was stripped of the ball, but while the home side’s defence stood firm they were pinged and Ian McKinley made it 3-0 from the tee.
Connacht forced a turnover and then a penalty deep in Italian territory, with Marnitz Boshoff kicking to the corner the Guinness PRO12 champions decision to turn down a routine three points was justified when McCartney rumbled over on 12 minutes to give the hosts the lead – Cooney making no mistake with the conversion.
But while Cian Kelleher immediately saw yellow after accidentally taking out McKinley in the air, Pat Lam will have been thrilled to see his side absorb Treviso’s pressure for the duration of his time on the sidelines.

     

Buckley got in over the ball to win a vital turnover on 23 minutes, which led to Connacht’s second try of the afternoon.
Bundee Aki found Nepia Fox-Matamua, and the Kiwi-born flanker’s beautiful flicked pass was gratefully grasped by Poolman who ran in to score, with Cooney nailing the conversion again.
Things went from bad to worse for Treviso as Simone Ferrari saw yellow for persistent fouling at the breakdown, and just after the half-hour mark John Muldoon was just held up after crossing the whitewash.
But Connacht’s pressure told and they got their reward when McCartney doubled his tally for the afternoon in the right corner.
And the Galway outfit had their try-bonus point before the interval as Kelleher, Cooney and Aki put the ball through the hands for Buckley to score.
Cooney’s flawless kicking continued as he converted both to make it 28-3 at the interval, and while Treviso stabilised slightly after half-time, ten minutes into the second half Connacht were over again.
A brilliant training ground move off the back of a lineout just outside Treviso 22 saw Poolman come off his wing and offload for Cooney to score under the posts, and Roux added try number six from a five-metre scrum moments later.
Lam rang the changes for the hosts around the hour mark, and Treviso began to threaten when they won a penalty at scrum time, and after setting up a five-metre rolling maul knocked the ball on over the line on 65 minutes.
But just a minute later the Italians got their first try for their efforts, using their strength up front to drive Connacht back over the line and Steyn touched down at the back of the scrum.
McKinley’s conversion attempt was unlucky to hit the right post, and there was still time for Carty to go over for Connacht’s final try of the afternoon under the sticks.





Sunday, November 27, 2016

INJURED IRELAND STILL BEAT AUSTRALIA 27-24

 Ireland completed a hat-trick over the big three of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in this calendar year. Remarkable stuff.
Ask the average Aussie his impression of November internationals in Dublin and chances are rain and cold will feature in the first sentence. Not this time. It was a perfect setting for rugby: still and mild and yet another full house in a stadium that is sold out for Ireland's games until the end of the season.




 

And the quality of the contest was first class. For the first 39 minutes Ireland were as close to optimum performance as was reasonable to expect from a side minus O'Brien, Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw. When coaches talk about injuries being an opportunity for others they dream of stuff like this. Josh van der Flier was man of the match, and Garry Ringrose had a tremendous game.

Perhaps the best bit for Joe Schmidt was that his side looked beaten in the third quarter, by which stage their backline had been hastily rearranged and the fuel tank looked perilously low. At that point there was a clinical look to the Aussies who made light of the fact that they've been bouncing around departure lounges since August. This was their 14th test since early June. Perhaps that's why, from the outset, Ireland passed up shots on goal in favour of going to touch and forcing their opponents to defend without rest.


Three times in the opening 12 minutes they chose the corner instead of the sticks. By the time we got to the hour mark, however, they looked like they would gladly settle for a shot on goal. The alarm had been set with a lovely set-piece try for Dane Haylett-Petty just before the break, giving the Aussies a sniff at 7-17, and then they set about an Irish side who came out for the second half with a makeshift backline. At that point, with Bernard Foley launching forwards down the middle before hurting Ireland out wide, you could only see an away win.

And yet Ireland, as they had done in Chicago three weeks ago, rallied with a try when they needed it most. When Keith Earls got over in the corner on 66 minutes, to put his side 27-24 ahead, we didn't think it would be the last score.
You could feel the tension as both sides put bodies on the line trying to change that picture.
For Ireland it was an appealing vista for almost all of the first half. The binning of Dean Mumm for tipping Tadhg Furlong when cleaning him out was crucial.
Ireland took immediate advantage, going to touch, mauling for 30 metres and then shifting wide where a lovely little combination between Earls and Iain Henderson saw the lock get over from 20 metres. Jackson's conversion put the home team 10-0 in front.

By the half-hour mark Michael Cheika lad lots to worry about: the scoreline, the penalty count (1-6 in Ireland's favour; it would be 3-13 by the finish); and two choke tackles conceded, which killed their momentum. The scrum was also beginning to lean in favour of Ireland.

Constantly Ireland were looking to get the ball out the back and motor down the wide channel. Mostly this involved Andrew Trimble, who for all his qualities lacks the gas to scare opponents at this level. He hobbled off on 31 minutes which meant Joey Carbery slotted in at full back with Zebo shifting to the wing.

Even when things went wrong for Ireland they went right. When they put their fourth kickable penalty to touch, and botched the line-out, Ringrose managed to scoop up the loose ball that followed and with a great finish evade Mumm to touchdown, the conversion made it 17-0.

Had it stayed that way until the break it would have completed as good a 40 minutes as Ireland have produced, anywhere, anytime. The gloss was taken off it, however, in the 40th minute when a horrible kick from Jackson gave the Wallabies a decent platform 40 metres out, and from there they produced a lovely set-piece move to put Haylett-Petty over by the posts. A scoreline of 17-7 had an altogether different feel to it.

And that was exacerbated by the non-appearance after the break of Jared Payne. The rearranged backline now featured scrum-half Kieran Marmion on the wing and Keith Earls at centre. Marmion did well to interrupt a certain looking try for Henry Speight a couple of minutes into the second half, but a few minutes later the Wallabies were over in the same spot through Tevita Kuridrani. And with Bernard Foley's conversion, a three-point game.
 

Jackson pulled three back for Ireland but on 57 minutes Foley was standing over another conversion, this time replacement Stefania Naivalu scored out wide within a minute of coming on. And with that the Aussies were a point ahead. He made it four with a penalty on the hour mark.



It didn't stay that way. When they needed it most Ireland managed that lovely try for Earls on 66 minutes, and Jackson goaled to put his team 27-24 in front. Remarkable it stayed that way until the finish, an appropriate tribute to captain Rory Best on his 100th cap. The hooker has rarely been better.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

IRELAND WIN IN AUSTRIA TO TOP THE GROUP

Ireland's first ever victory on Austrian soil has opened the door to a world of possibilities. 
2016 was a major tournament year, but this result could have a significant impact on Martin O'Neill's ambitions to bring Ireland to another one in Russia in 18 months time.
 


The last away triumph in a qualifier of this magnitude came in Scotland back in February 1987. These are the games that Irish sides are not supposed to win.
And, while time froze in time added on when the unmarked Marc Janko headed wide in a crowded goalmouth, this was a result that Ireland earned.
James McClean's 48th minute effort did the job and the most satisfying aspect of the outcome for O'Neill will be the fact that if there was a period where his team rode their luck, it was before the goal as opposed to afterwards.
His patched up side responded to adversity to grind out a crucial success over an Austrian group that is already staring elimination in the face.
At the end, they had run themselves into the ground. Jon Walters could barely walk. Seamus Coleman crawled after David Alaba in the late drama. But they stood firm at key junctures to make a big statement.
It didn't look likely earlier in the evening.

Ireland were level at the break after a chaotic opening half at the Ernst Happel Stadium where the loss of Glenn Whelan forced a tactical switch that was unable to affect the general flow of proceedings.
Specifically, it was Austrian pressure and frantic defending from the visitors that bordered on the agricultural.
Not that Austria screamed assurance.

What they had was the urgency that comes with being under pressure following a tardy start to the group, so they pressed high and their movement was sharper in the early exchanges as their full backs wandered forward to expose the absence of width in Ireland's diamond.
They had three chances inside the opening five minutes that left Ireland on the back foot knocking the ball behind for corners and hanging on for dear life. Lumbering attacker Janko tested Darren Randolph from their clearest opening.


Whelan suffered a thigh issue that forced him off with the SOS sent out for David Meyler. He spent a couple of minutes at the base of the diamond in front of the back four but it clearly wasn't going to work so competitive debutant Harry Arter was switched inside next to him with McClean and Jeff Hendrick splitting wide and Wes Hoolahan operating behind lone striker Walters in a 4-2-3-1.


McClean had started the match playing off Walters and did get away one right footed shot but Ireland were struggling to execute the plan.
Still, they had to live on their nerves in the new set-up with a brilliant last ditch Coleman tackle denying Arnautovic before Ciaran Clark made a goalline clearance to block Janko after Marcel Sabitzer almost capped a slick passage with a deft chip over Randolph came back off the bar.
Ireland did have a reasonable spell before the interval, though, and they could have seized a lead against the run of play from an excellent team move with Robbie Brady getting forward from left full to engineer a one two with Norwich colleague Hoolahan and then send in a terrific cross that Walters scooped over the bar from close range. A glorious chance.
The fear was that Ireland wouldn't create another.


But that view paid too much respect to an Austrian operation that have creaked since they travelled to France with high expectations and failed miserably. Their star turn, David Alaba, is out of sorts and the fault lines were evident before the break.
It was just a matter of Ireland being good enough to expose them. And, three minutes after the restart, they struck with a rapid fire break.
Meyler started the move by gaining possession in his own half, pushing red shirts aside and cleverly switching the ball inside Hoolahan. Austria were stretched, and Hoolahan took the time to gather himself and spot McClean racing unguarded down the left side with Florian Klein dragged out of position.


The weight of his through ball was perfect - this again proves the playmaker can make his presence felt on the road - and it invited McClean to bound into the area and drive the ball through the legs of Ramazan Ozcan and into the net. Every element of the goal was fantastic.
Austria were rattled and, suddenly, Ireland played with composure.
Hendrick lifted his performance level several notches and Arter showed a combative streak by getting stuck into proceedings. Walters had a goal disallowed and Hoolahan did waste another situation where Austria had overcommitted and Ireland had men over.
Ciaran Clark's header was hacked off the line in another scramble with Brady's set piece deliveries threatening - he would later blot his copybook with a silly caution for kicking the ball away which rules him out of Wales in March.

That was rash, yet Austria's overall discipline was  dreadful with skipper Julian Baumgartlinger setting the wrong example by fouling himself in the book and risking a second caution for indolently choping down Hoolahan.
Irish teams have a bad habit of ceding the ball in this position and looking for trouble but, as the game entered its final quarter, they had managed to keep the Austrians at arm's length and restrict them to speculative shots from distance.
Hoolahan was replaced by David McGoldrick and a tireless shift from McClean, who had lifted the away end with a rousing run just beforehand, ended due to injury with five minutes remaining. Aiden McGeady got the nod.
Austria huffed and puffed without breaching the line. Shane Duffy won headers, Coleman hustled and harried, Arter and Meyler closed space and Walters bravely attempted to run down the clock.


At the death, the good work was nearly undone when a cross shot found its way to Janko but he was facing the wrong direction and sent the ball off target. The Irish celebration started seconds later, conscious that they are now headed in the right way, sitting top of Group Don 10 points, two clear of Serbia who drew 1-1 in Wales.

Austria: Ozcan, Klein, Dragovic, Hinteregger, Wimmer (Ilsanker 78); Baumgartlinger, Alaba; Schopf (Schaub 58), Sabitzer (Harnik 73), Arnautovic; Janko
Ireland: Randolph, Coleman, Duffy, Clark, Brady; Whelan (Meyler 22); Hendrick, Arter; Hoolahan (McGoldrick 78); McClean (McGeady 85), Walters




Sunday, November 6, 2016

IRELAND BEAT NEW ZEALAND 40-29 IN HISTORIC VICTORY


Ireland produced a stunning display to record a first ever win over New Zealand at the 29th attempt and end the All Blacks' run of 18 straight wins.
Tries from Jordi Murphy, CJ Stander and Conor Murray helped the Irish to a 25-8 half-time lead, then Simon Zebo scored his side's fourth try in the corner.



The world champions fought back to move to within four points but Robbie Henshaw's late try ensured the victory.
The sides will meet in another Test match in Dublin in two weeks' time.

This was Ireland's first success over the Kiwis in 111 years and it came about in sensational fashion as Joe Schmidt's men repelled a stirring second-half comeback by Steve Hansen's side.

TJ Perenara, Ben Smith and Scott Barrett added to George Mola's first-half try for the New Zealanders but despite some sustained late pressure, they fell short for the first time in their past 19 encounters with top-tier nations.
The match was the first of four autumn internationals for both sides, played in front of a capacity crowd of 60,000 at Soldier Field in Chicago, a venue chosen in an attempt to increase the exposure of the sport.
The teams will meet again at the Aviva Stadium in a fortnight after Ireland host Canada next Saturday and Steve Hansen's side face Italy in Rome on the same day.


From the start, the Irish effort appeared to be fuelled by the memory of former international and Munster head coach Anthony Foley, who died suddenly last month.
Prior to kick-off Ireland lined up in the shape of a number eight, the jersey worn with distinction by Foley for many years, while their opponents performed their traditional pre-match haka.


Ireland made light of the aura of invincibility surrounding the three-time world champions in a first half which they mostly dominated to go in 17 points to the good at the break.


Schmidt's side produced a performance of accuracy, purpose, pace and skill as they denied the All Blacks quality possession and repeatedly frustrated their efforts to win their own line-outs.


The Irish display bore echoes of the Test between the sides in Dublin in November 2013 when they built up a 19-0 lead, before ultimately losing 24-22 after conceding a last-gasp converted try, but there was to be no repeat of that outcome this time.

New Zealand prop Joe Moody was sent to the sin-bin for a tip tackle.
Moala raced through for a fifth-minute try after Waisake Naholo had carved a way through the Ireland defences but the turning point of the opening period came when front-rower Joe Moody was yellow-carded for a tip tackle on Robbie Henshaw.


Ireland made good use of the prop's 10-minute absence as Murphy rumbled over after a rolling maul and then fellow flanker Stander surged over the line following a break by Rob Kearney.


Murphy was subsequently carried off after turning his knee in a freak incident but seven minutes before the interval Murray produced a moment of magic, darting through a gap in the New Zealanders' defence to run in his third try in five Tests against the Rugby Championship winners.


The All Blacks' half-time deficit equalled their biggest ever at that stage of an international match.

The Irish momentum continued on the resumption, their relentless defensive efforts thwarting the normally ruthlessly efficient All Blacks, and Zebo increasing the advantage by touching down in the corner.
Replacement Perenara reduced the arrears by diving over near the posts and then full-back Smith managed to ground the ball beside the flag before being tackled into touch by Andrew Trimble.


Scott Barrett took advantage of some poor Ireland tackling to score on his international debut and when brother Beauden knocked over his third conversion of the game, the All Blacks trailed by just four.
Ireland continued to defend heroically however, forcing their opponents into a series of uncharacteristic errors, and a historic triumph was assured when Henshaw showed raw strength to score under the posts after Jamie Heaslip broke clear.


Line-ups:


Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); A Trimble (Ulster), J Payne (Ulster), R Henshaw (Leinster), S Zebo (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); J McGrath (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), T Furlong (Leinster); D Toner (Leinster), D Ryan (Munster); CJ Stander (Munster), J Murphy (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), C Healy (Leinster), F Bealham (Connacht), U Dillane (Connacht), J van der Flier (Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), J Carbery (Leinster), G Ringrose (Leinster).




New Zealand: B Smith; W Naholo, G Moala, R Crotty, J Savea; B Barrett, A Smith; J Moody, D Coles, O Franks; P Tuipulotu, J Kaino; L Squire, S Cane, K Read (capt).
Replacements: C Taylor, O Tu'ungafasi, C Faumuina, S Barrett, A Savea, TJ Perenara, A Cruden, M Fekitoa





Thursday, November 3, 2016

IRELAND NAME TEAM TO PLAY NEW ZEALAND IN CHICAGO

The Ireland coach Joe Smidt has named the side that will take on the world champions at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday afternoon. (15:00 Local / 20:00 Irish Time)



Rory Best leads the side and is joined in the front row by Tadhg Furlong and Jack McGrath.

Devin Toner and Donnacha Ryan are paired in the engine room with Jordi Murphy and CJ Stander on the flanks either side of vice captain Jamie Heaslip.
Conor Murray starts at scrum-half with Johnny Sexton returning to the No.10 jersey having missed the South African tour due to injury.
Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne are re-united in midfield while Andrew Trimble and Simon Zebo fill the wing positions with Rob Kearney at fullback.
The uncapped Joey Carbery and Garry Ringrose are named in the replacements alongside Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier and Kieran Marmion.

IRELAND team to play New Zealand - Saturday 5th November, 2016
15. Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
14. Andrew Trimble (Ballymena)
13. Jared Payne (Ulster)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster)
11. Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster)
10. Johnny Sexton (St Mary's College/Leinster)
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)


1. Jack McGrath (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
2. Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (c)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
4. Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)
5. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)
6. CJ Stander (Munster)
7. Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster)

Replacements
16. Sean Cronin (St Mary's College/Leinster)
17. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
18. Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht)
19. Ultan Dillane (Galway Corinthians/Connacht)
20. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)
21. Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)
22. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Leinster)
23. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)




Saturday, October 22, 2016

REST IN PEACE ANTHONY FOLEY: LEGEND OF MUNSTER

Anthony Gerard Foley (30 October 1973 – 16 October 2016) was an Irish rugby union player and head coach of Munster. He was attached to the same squad during his entire professional playing career.
He was a member of the Munster team that won the 2002–03 Celtic League and was the winning captain during their 2005–06 Heineken Cup success.

Foley played for Ireland from 1995 to 2005, and captained the squad on three separate occasions.
Foley made his professional debut for Munster against Swansea in November 1995, a game that was also Munster's first ever Heineken Cup fixture.

 He was in the Munster team that lost 8–9 to Northampton Saints in the 2000 Heineken Cup Final, and was again the runner-up when Munster lost 15–9 to Leicester Tigers in the 2002 Heineken Cup Final. Foley was finally on the winning side when Munster won the 2002–03 Celtic League.
When Mick Galwey resigned as Munster captain, Foley narrowly lost to Jim Williams in a vote to decide the next captain.

When Williams left Munster in 2005, Foley became the new captain, and in his first season in the position, he led Munster to victory over Biarritz Olympique in the 2006 Heineken Cup Final.

Foley had played in all but one of Munster's first 78 Heineken Cup games until a shoulder injury sustained during Munster's 21–19 victory over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in their first game of the 2006–07 Heineken Cup caused him to miss his sides subsequent victory over Bourgoin, as well as back-to-back games against Cardiff in December 2006.

He stood down as captain at the beginning of the 2007–08 season, making way for Paul O'Connell. He was dropped for Munster's final fixtures of the 2007–08 Heineken Cup, and announced his retirement for the end of the season.
Foley made his debut for Ireland against England in the 1995 Five Nations Championship on 21 January 1995. He scored a try on his debut in an 8-20 defeat. He went to the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, and played as a replacement in one pool game against Japan which Ireland won 50-28.

He missed the 1999 Rugby World Cup, but was selected for the 2003 Rugby World Cup, featuring in two of the pool games against Romania and Australia.

Foley captained Ireland three times: in 2001 against Samoa, and in 2002 against Romania and Georgia. His last international was against Wales in the 2005 Six Nations.

In total Foley played in 62 matches for Ireland and scored 5 tries against England in 1995, Romania in 2001, Fiji in 2002, France in 2004, and Wales in 2004.

In March 2011, it was announced that Foley would take over as Munster forwards coach at the end of the 2011 season. He temporarily replaced Gert Smal as Ireland's forwards coach during the 2012 Six Nations Championship, after Smal was forced to miss the remainder of the tournament with an eye condition.

Foley signed a contract extension with Munster in May 2013.
The following year it was announced that Foley would succeed Rob Penney as Munster's head coach, signing a two-year contract that began on 1 July 2014.

Foley became head coach of Munster when Rassie Erasmus came in as Director of Rugby in July 2016.

He was married to Olive; the couple had two children.

His father Brendan Foley and sister Rosie Foley also played rugby for Ireland. Foley played Gaelic football for his local GAA club Smith O'Briens in the parish of Killaloe, County Clare. He lined out for Smith O'Briens GAA club in a Munster junior club football semi-final in 2010. He played inter-county hurling for Clare at underage level alongside former Munster rugby player Keith Wood.
Foley died in his sleep on Sunday 16 October 2016, while staying at a hotel in the Paris suburb of Suresnes with the Munster squad; heart disease had caused an acute pulmonary oedema. The team was preparing to face Racing 92 in its opening game of the 2016–17 European Rugby Champions Cup.


The match was postponed as a result of Foley's death.
President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny made tributes to Foley, and the Irish flag flew at half mast at government buildings in Munster.

His body was returned to Killaloe for his funeral and burial which took place on 21 October.


Rest in peace young man.









Friday, October 7, 2016

IRELAND BEAT GEORGIA IN DUBLIN THANKS TO CAPTAIN COLEMAN

Seamus Coleman's first international goal gave the Republic of Ireland a narrow victory over Georgia in their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Dublin.
Coleman, 27, made a strong run down the right, cut into the box and slotted home after the ball ricocheted into his path thanks to two fortunate rebounds.
It was a victory which the Irish barely deserved from a match which produced little creativity and goalmouth action.
The Republic are one of four Group D teams with four points from two games.

Austria and Wales drew 2-2 in Vienna and Serbia won 3-0 in Moldova in Thursday's other two Group D encounters - suggesting this could be a very competitive group.

For Martin O'Neill's men, this match and Sunday's game with Moldova represent an important few days in their quest to reach the finals in Russia, with anything less than six points a blow to their qualification hopes.
With only the group winners guaranteed an automatic place in the finals, the chance to pick up maximum points against the supposed two weakest teams in the group is crucial to Ireland's ambitions of qualifying for a first World Cup finals since 2002.
The Republic had won all of their previous seven contests with the Georgians, six of them in competitive fixtures, including two one-goal victories in the qualifiers for Euro 2016.
But on Thursday, Georgia, who had lost 2-1 at home to Austria in their opening group game, posed the greater threat in a largely uninspiring first half.
Valeri Kazaishvilli turned and fired a left-foot shot wide of the post in the 17th minute and then the visitors struck the woodwork twice in quick succession with eight minutes of the half remaining.
Levan Mchedlidze thundered a header off the crossbar and when the home side failed to clear, the ball fell to Guram Kashia, whose looping header back over Darren Randolph bounced off the post.
Under-strength Republic battle to three points
The game was the Republic's first since O'Neill signed a deal to continue as manager until the end of the present campaign - and their first competitive home game since reaching the last 16 of Euro 2016.
They started their qualifying campaign with a 2-2 draw in Belgrade last month but Daryl Murphy, the man whose late goal earned them a draw against Serbia, was among eight players ruled out through injury.
Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, Harry Arter, Stephen Quinn, Kevin Doyle, Aiden McGeady, Anthony Pilkington and Marc Wilson were also absent.
And against a stubborn Georgian side it took an improved second-half performance for O'Neill's team to secure a third win in their last 10 matches.
The Irish showed greater intensity after the resumption and Coleman's strike gave them the boost they needed but scarcely deserved on the balance of play.
James McClean had a header ruled out for offside and the lively West Brom winger later saw another effort cannon off the underside of the bar during a lengthy spell of injury-time caused by a head injury to Robbie Brady, who was forced to retire hurt after receiving treatment following a clash of heads with Georgia defender Solomon Kverkvelia.
The Football Association of Ireland later said Brady was conscious in the dressing room but went to hospital as a precaution for a scan.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

MAYO FAIL TO WIN SAM AGAIN

Dublin retained the All-Ireland SFC title for the first time in 39 years with a tense one-point replay final victory over Mayo at Croke Park.
A dramatic rematch lived up to expectations as Sam Maguire stays in the capital. With the 1-15 to 1-14 win, the Boys in Blue become the first Dublin team to claim back-to-back All-Irelands since the victorious sides of 1976-77.



The game had numerous highlights, with each side losing important players to black cards, while Diarmuid Connolly slotted away a second-half penalty for the Dubs.


After a fiery first half, Dublin led by one at break, 0-10 to 1-6, in front of a crowd of 82,249.

There was drama even prior to the opening whistle as Dublin boss Jim Gavin made three switches with Paddy Andrews in for Bernard Brogan, Paul Mannion replacing Michael Darragh Macauley, while Michael Fitzsimons came in for David Byrne. Mannion played in a forward role with Paul Flynn roaming closer to midfield. Contrary to pre-match speculation, Kevin McManamon retained his starting place.

Mayo also made a late change with keeper Rob Hennelly taking over from David Clarke between the posts in a surprise move from manager Stephen Rochford.


The Dubs started well, kicking four points between the fourth and sixth minutes, with Dean Rock back on form from dead balls after struggling at times during the drawn game.


Rock kicked all but two of Dublin’s first-half tally – Connolly and McManamon scoring the others - while they managed to survive the loss to Johnny Cooper to a 20th-minute black card, with Byrne taking his place.

Mayo scored the opening goal two minutes prior to that as Aidan O’Shea set up Lee Keegan to raise a green flag, but the Connacht side lost the latter to a black card on the stroke of half-time.


Tempers threatened to spill over in the aftermath of that call from referee Maurice Deegan, who played over eight minutes of first-half injury-time due to the lengthy delay caused by a number of incidents.


Keegan’s departure was bad news for Mayo as he had once again been assigned to mark Dubs star forward Connolly – although the St Vincent’s man was one of three players booked just before the break, along with Mayo’s Donal Vaughan and Dublin defender John Small.
Small could count himself lucky to stay on the field after TV replays appeared to show him tripping Andy Moran.

If there wasn’t enough excitement in the first half, the second period delivered even more.

Mayo had scored two points through Cillian O’Connor and Conor O’Shea to take the lead, but a high ball in from Flynn on top of Hennelly caused real trouble for the Mayo keeper.
He spilled the ball to Paddy Andrews and then took down the Dublin forward, the keeper earning himself a black card.

Mayo had scored two points through Cillian O’Connor and Conor O’Shea to take the lead, but a high ball in from Flynn on top of Hennelly caused real trouble for the Mayo keeper.
He spilled the ball to Paddy Andrews and then took down the Dublin forward, the keeper earning himself a black card.

It looked like the Dubs had their opponents on the ropes at this stage, with Brogan introduced for Andrews while Macauley came on for Mannion as it seemed Gavin wanted his men to close out the game.
But Mayo continued to fight and they scored two points while holding Dublin scoreless for 12 minutes before Brogan got the Dubs back on track.
It was a one-point game on 56 minutes after Patrick Durcan kicked a super point for Mayo, but Dublin sub Cormac Costello proved to be a great introduction as he kicked two points just minutes after coming on.
O’Connor once again put the minimum between the sides with less than five minutes left in normal time, converting his eighth free of the match.

But with his biggest kick of the match, nearly six minutes into injury-time, O’Connor’s shooting boots failed him as he put a free wide when in a position to draw the contest as he did two weeks ago.

And the Dubs held on retain their title with a one-point win.


So the agonizing sixty five year wait goes on for never-say-die  Mayo.


Friday, September 30, 2016

DUNDALK 1-0 MACCABI TEL AVIV: HISTORIC WIN FOR THE LILLYWHITES IN EUROPA LEAGUE

Stephen Kenny's side became the first SSE Airtricity League team to win a European group stage fixture thanks to Ciaran Kilduff's second-half winner

Dundalk remain unbeaten in the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League after vanquishing Maccabi Tel Aviv at Tallaght Stadium.
After a first-half in which the Lilywhites outplayed their Israeli visitors, Ciaran Kilduff repeated the feat he performed in Alkmaar by arriving off the bench to tap home a deserved second-half winner.

On his return to Tallaght Stadium, the former Shamrock Rovers striker scored just seven minutes after replacing striker David McMillan, registering in the process arguably the most iconic strike in his current club’s history.

Midfielder Patrick McEleney did extremely well to pick out Daryl Horgan with a well-timed cross-field pass that found the wily winger in space inside the Maccabi box.
After feigning to drive towards the byline, the 24-year-old cut back on his right foot before finding Kilduff waiting graciously inside the six-yard box to guide the ball first-time past Predrag Rajkovic.

It was just reward for the Lilywhites, who had less possession and a lower pass completion rate than their Israeli opponents but ultimately enjoyed the better opportunities, with McEleney and Horgan the primary creators against more fancied opponents.

McEleney had an excellent opportunity early on, after collecting a headed McMillan flick-on, but ultimately squandered a one-on-one with Rakjovic, while Horgan failed to take advantage of excellent build-up play from left-back Dane Massey and midfielder Robbie Benson, firing a low shot straight at Rakjovic from just inside the area.

But ultimately, while the two threatened and teased at several points throughout the contest, when it came time to deliver, their execution was flawless, as the duo laid the roots for a fitting finish by Kilduff and a momentous win for Dundalk.

This win for the Lilywhites marks the first victory by an Irish club in European group stage football, and moves Stephen Kenny’s side into second place in Group D following Zenit St. Petersburg’s 4-0 home win over AZ Alkmaar.

Shota Arveladze’s side remain pointless, and have now lost their last eight European group stage fixtures.



Friday, September 16, 2016

DUNDALK EARN FAMOUS DRAW IN HOLLAND


DUNDALK made history on an epic night in Holland by coming from behind with 10-men to draw with AZ Alkmaar on their Europa League group stage debut.

Ciaran Kilduff's 89th minute header prompted pandemonium in the away section at a shocked AFAS Stadium as Stephen Kenny's side bounced back from the dismissal of captain Stephen O'Donnell to secure a famous point.



The result will boost the coffers by another €120,000 - more than the prize for winning the League of Ireland but this was all about the achievement.


And this ranks up there with the great Irish performances in Europe as Kenny's charges achieved their target of picking up points at the first attempt.

They looked in trouble after an hour of power was undone by poor decision making.

The League of Ireland champions were extremely competitive at the home of Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar but they fell behind to a goal from nothing when keeper Gary Rogers needlessly raced from his goal to cut out a long ball from centre half Rens van Eijden with AZ's Stijn Wuytens getting there quicker and suffering a blow to the head as he converted.

After a long and worrying delay, Wuytens was stretchered off and later regained consciousness in the dressing room.


The picture was rosier at the interval after a first half which fell in line with Kenny's pre-match thoughts.
He suggested that Dundalk's positive approach would lead to situations where their defence ended up in a game of 4 v 4 with AZ's pacey and youthful attackers.
However, he may not have envisaged that scenario coming to pass inside two minutes, though, and it led to a fortunate escape when Iranian Alireza Jahanbakhsh struck the post.

The League of Ireland champions steadied the ship thereafter with centre halves Andy Boyle and Brian Gartland calm and composed, and O'Donnell an influential figure. He was unlucky to pick up his first caution.

Daryl Horgan was dangerous going forward and might have given the Lilywhites a shock lead but Sergio Rochet was able to cut off his dangerous run.

Dundalk did ride their luck just before the interval when Fred Friday's close range attempt was ruled out for offside. Replays showed it was the wrong call.

That incident led to some tensions between the bench and the locals were anxious as the lowest ranked side in the competition demonstrated that they weren't phased by the step up to this level.

In that context, the soft opener was difficult to swallow and it was Dundalk that initially struggled to recover. They were seriously on the ropes when skipper O'Donnell was dismissed after a careless challenge resulted in a deserved second booking.

But Kenny's charges regrouped and his subs made a huge impact. Chris Shields' made a lung bursting run that culminated with a free kick that the wonderful Horgan set up for a towering header from Kilduff.

Nine minutes of injury time followed, but they ended with a famous Irish celebration.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IRELAND FIGHTBACK TO EARN 2-2 DRAW IN SERBIA

Ireland had taken the lead early through Jeff Hendrick, but Tadic and Kostic fought back for the Balkans team before Murphy swooped for a late leveller:




Daryl Murphy came off the bench to score a potentially crucial equaliser as the Republic of Ireland started their World Cup qualifying campaign with a battling 2-2 draw against Serbia.

Ireland looked to be heading for defeat with 10 minutes left in Belgrade on Monday, but second-half substitute Murphy headed home Robbie Brady's corner to restore parity for Martin O'Neill's men.
The visitors were ahead for almost an hour following Jeff Hendrick's opener, which found the net via a deflection off Branislav Ivanovic after two minutes.
But on a pitch soaked through by a day of torrential rain, Southampton midfielder Dusan Tadic wreaked havoc in Ireland's penalty area and he provided the assist for Filip Kostic to equalise for Slavoljub Muslin's side.
Tadic then scored from the penalty spot to deservedly make it 2-1 to Serbia, but Ireland rallied late on and Murphy delivered a final twist in a dramatic opening Group D encounter.
Ireland made a great start when Robbie Brady's second-minute free-kick was parried by Pregrag Rajkovic and John O'Shea's cross bounced to Hendrick, whose shot found its way past the goalkeeper via the leg of Branislav Ivanovic.
Serbia attempted to muster a quick comeback and Filip Kostic drew a smart save from Darren Randolph following a mazy run.
Ireland struggled to provide for lone striker Shane Long, but - while dominating possession - the closest Serbia came to finding the net was from a Matija Nastasic shot that trickled wide after a goalmouth scramble.

Despite struggling to get out of their own half Ireland went close to adding a second when Jonathan Walters arrowed a fine header towards goal, only to be thwarted by Rajkovic.
At the other end, Randolph was fortunate not to concede on the stroke of half-time when he parried a cross to the feet of Aleksandar Mitrovic, but the Newcastle United striker did not react quickly enough to level the scores.
Ireland looked brighter after the break but endured a scare when Antonio Rukavina flashed a shot just wide from the edge of the box and shortly after Serbia drew level.
Tadic, who caused Ireland's defence problems throughout, received the ball in the penalty area and flicked it over the head of John O'Shea before presenting Kostic with a simple finish from close range.
Randolph fought to keep Ireland in the game with a good double save from Tadic, but the Southampton man made no mistake in making it 2-1 from the penalty spot after Jonathan Walters brought down Kostic.
It should have been 3-1 when Randolph dropped Filip Mladenovic's shot at the feet of Andrija Pavlovic, but the substitute could only hit the crossbar despite having an empty net to aim at.
James McClean then headed over the crossbar before Rajkovic parried a Long attempt out for a corner, but the ensuing dead ball was whipped in by Brady and clinically headed in by the unmarked Murphy to send Ireland home relieved to have salvaged a point from a game that looked to be slipping away from them.


Monday, September 5, 2016

TIPPERARY WIN THE ALL IRELAND HURLING FINAL

                  Tipperary 2-29 Kilkenny 2-20



The Book of Hurling has no end. Its most recent decade of Septembers has been defined by the bitter-keen ceaseless rivalry that has for a century defined the winter and summer talk between the neighbouring counties of Tipperary and Kilkenny.


       

On a heavenly Sunday afternoon in Croke Park, Tipp finally bettered the most brilliant force of modern times with a performance that merged sublime artistry with the spices from their own hell’s kitchen.
They hurled their way to their 27th All-Ireland title – easily among their sweetest – through a fire of intent which Brian Cody and all of Kilkenny will well recognise. It was, after all, a furnace of their making.
An absorbing All-Ireland final finished 2-29 to 2-20, ending Kilkenny’s bid to bring the Liam MacCarthy Cup back to the Marble City for a third year in succession.
Related  Massive turnout for Tipperary hurling champs’ homecoming
Nicky English: Tipp beat Kilkenny by playing like Kilkenny
No looking back in amber for Tipperary after six years of hurt.

“Yeah they hurt. Mother of God, they did hurt,” said Tipperary’s manager, Michael Ryan, recalling the September heartbreaks Kilkenny has inflicted on his classy Tipperary team.
“But you move on. You can’t live your life looking over your shoulder. Today was a brand new day.”
In truth, it felt like that too. If there was trepidation in the balmy afternoon among the Tipp fans, it was understandable. They were in a treacherous place: fancied to win against one of the most phenomenal forces any sport has seen. And Kilkenny settled into this final the way your grandfather settles into his armchair.
Crease and crevice:

They know every crease and crevice of this day and matched Tipp score for score for the first half-hour. Then, on 44 minutes, the Cats concocted a goal that was as scarily familiar as it was unexpected: a tap-in from Kevin Kelly, one of the Kilkenny new kids.
Suddenly, Cody’s team were up 1-14 to 0-15. And this, now, was Tipperary’s time to gaze into themselves. Rise or melt. What followed was an irresistible spell of play. Tipp outscored their tormentors by 1-8 to 0-2.

The hardest win came in a dazzling rush at the end, framed by the bewitching play of John “Bubbles” O’Dwyer, Noel McGrath and Séamus Callanan, the big Thurles man who shot nine points from play.
Cody has been a vivid conductor on so many wild Septembers, but he could only stand with arms folded as Tipp galloped to liberation. Tipp’s year. The page turns – blue and gold.


(c)The Irish Times



Monday, August 29, 2016

DUBLIN EDGE OUT KERRY IN THRILLER AT CROKE PARK

Dublin 0-22 Kerry 2-14


Stoppage-time points from sub Eoghan O’Gara and Diarmuid Connolly finally saw Dublin past Kerry in an enthralling All-Ireland senior football semi-final at Croke Park this afternoon.


In front of a packed house at GAA HQ, the Sky Blues kept their dreams of back-to-back Sam Maguire wins alive as they saw off the Kingdom by just two points to book a final spot with Mayo on 18 September.

For Dublin, it’s the latest in a recent line of big-game victories over their traditional rivals, following on from final victories in 2011 and 2015, and a semi-final success in 2013.

Referee David Gough left the pitch to a chorus of boos from Kerry fans at full-time and the Meath whistler was pelted with match programmes and other items as made his way down the Cusack Stand tunnel.

The free count was heavily weighted in Dublin’s favour and a few close to goal, particularly in the second half, outraged Kerry supporters, while there was also a disputed ’45 that went Dublin’s way.
There was also a highly-controversial episode in stoppage time when Peter Crowley appeared to be hit with a frontal charge by Dublin’s Kevin McManamon – but Gough allowed play to continue.

That was at a stage when Kerry were attacking through Crowley and had a free been given, there was every chance that the game would be tied up again.

But Dublin broke and Connolly slotted over a beautiful point off his left boot from the Hogan Stand side of the field.
In the final minute of normal time, it appeared that Kevin McManamon would be the scourge of Kerry once more – as his point put Dublin 0-20 to 2-13 clear.
Kerry equalised when sub Stephen O’Brien fisted over but there was still time for O’Gara and Connolly to strike and send Dublin into a fourth final in six years.

Hill 16 erupted at full-time as Kerry struggled to come to immediate terms with another devastating loss against Dublin.
And yet it had all looked so good for the Munster champions at half-time as a magnificent run of 2-4 without reply approaching the break turned this game on its head.
In front of a sell-out Croke, Dublin controlled the first 25 minutes and were five points clear when Connolly slotted over a 24th-minute point to establish a 0-09 to 0-04 lead.
But Kerry were brilliant before the break, pressing high and attacking Stephen Cluxton’s restarts, as the Dublin goalkeeper looked unusually shaky.
Kerry rattled off three points without reply before an equalising goal arrived on the half-hour mark.
Paul Geaney pounced to pick off a Cluxton kick-out aimed for Johnny Cooper and a quick exchange of passes saw the ball end up in the Dublin net, Darran O’Sullivan the scorer after Donnchadh Walsh kept the move flowing.
Cluxton sent a kick-out over the touchline shortly afterwards as Dublin, clearly ratted, attempted to see out the remainder of the half before retreating to the sanctity of the dressing room.

But there was more havoc to come as, following a Cooper point, Anthony Maher’s long delivery saw Geaney beat Cluxton to the punch and the umpire rightly reached for the green flag.



Another Cooper free before half-time saw Kerry lead by 2-08 to 0-09 but Dublin were level within 15 minutes of the restart, roaring out of the traps to reel in the Kingdom.
Kerry managed to tag on just a solitary point in that crucial period following the interval but Dublin were humming, raising six white flags.
The final 20 minutes were simply gripping, Kerry re-asserting themselves to open up a three point lead with the clock running down.
But Dublin hit back again with four points on the spin – two Rock frees sandwiched in between efforts from Philly McMahon and McManamon.
Dublin saw the finishing line but there was still plenty of injury-time drama to come – with Jim Gavin’s holders the last men standing.


DUBLIN: S Cluxton; P McMahon (0-01), J Cooper, D Byrne; J McCarthy, C O’Sullivan, J Small; B Fenton (0-01), M.D. MacAuley; P Flynn, K McManamon (0-02), C Kilkenny; D Rock (0-12, 8f, 2 45s), D Connolly (0-03), B Brogan (0-02).
Subs: P Andrews for Flynn (46), P Mannion for Small (50), E O’Gara (0-01) for MacAuley (60), M Fitzsimons for Cooper (67), C Costello for Brogan (70+1).
KERRY: B Kelly; S Enright, M Griffin, K Young; A O’Mahony, P Crowley; T Morley; A Maher, D Moran (0-01); P Murphy (0-01), C Cooper (0-05, 4f), D Walsh; K Donaghy, P Geaney (1-04), D O’Sullivan (1-00).
Subs: S O’Brien (0-01) for O’Sullivan (39), J O’Donoghue (0-01) for Donaghy (50), B.J. Keane (0-01) for Walsh (52), B Ó Beaglaoich for Morley (56), B Sheehan for Maher (58), M Ó Sé for Geaney (67).



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

KATIE TAYLOR LOSES HER CROWN IN RIO OLYMPICS


Irish boxing legend Katie Taylor has graciously thanked her fans for their support following her disappointing exit from the Rio Olympics today.
 



The 30-year-old was beaten by Finland's Mira Potkonen on a split decision today at the quarter-final stage, meaning that her gold medal defence failed at the first hurdles.

Her 10th defeat in her 178 fights clearly upset her and she fought back the tears during her post-fight interviews.


Three of those defeats have come in 2016 after today's shock and losses at the European Olympic qualifiers in April and the World Amateur Championships a month later

She tweeted this evening: "In the midst of a disappointing year, I just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the amazing support. I love you all."
After winning 18 championship golds in her career to date, Taylor has already cemented her place as one of Ireland's greatest ever athletes.

Friday, June 24, 2016

IRELAND BEAT ITALY TO QUALIFY FROM GROUP E IN THE EURO'S


Result: Italy 0 Rep Ireland 1


Robbie Brady’s late header sent the Republic of Ireland into the knockout stages of the European Championship for the first time after a 1-0 win over a much-changed Italy side in Lille. Ireland will play hosts and favourites France in Lyon next Sunday.
Robbie Brady scores the winner against ItalyBrady’s goal sparked wild celebrations among the thousands of noisy Irish fans who dominated the crowd in Lille but it was nothing more than the Republic deserved. Ireland had strong claims for a penalty when James McClean was shoved by Federico Bernardeschi late in the first half. But Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan was unimpressed and the Republic, despite being far the better side in the first half, went in goalless at the break.

Ireland controlled possession but much of the game but needed to take their chances when they came along. It seemed unlikely that they could keep such high energy levels up for the whole of the second half in a hot, humid atmosphere played under a closed roof in Lille.

Italy coach Antonio Conte made nine changes from the side that had beaten Sweden and the defeat took a little wind from their sails ahead of their second-round match against Spain in Paris next Monday. Substitute Lorenzo Insigne had his team’s best chance when he hit a post with a fierce shot in the 76th minute.

The Azzurri looked as if they might steal a late winner and keep intact their record of not conceding in the knockout stages. But Ireland substitute Wes Hoolahan had other ideas. His looping cross into the Italian area was met by Brady’s header – and Ireland were in the knockout stages as one of the best third-placed teams.
Key moment:
Robbie Brady’s 85th-minute winner for Republic of Ireland, rising between Italy’s defenders to head Wes Hoolahan’s cross past keeper Salvatore Sirigu. Just as it looked as if Ireland might flag and Italy’s attacking substitutes might steal a late winner, the Norwich City midfielder’s goal sent Martin O’Neill’s side into the knockout stages.
Man of the match:
Midfielder James McCarthy typified Ireland’s energtic approach against an Italy side that had already qualfied for the knockout stages as group winners.
Matter of fact:
The defeat for Italy meant no team reached the knockout stage with a 100 per cent record.
Talking point:
Centre-backs Leonardo Bonucci, captain in the absence of the rested Gianluigi Buffon, and Andrea Barzagli were the only two Italians from the Sweden starting line-up to begin the final group match in Lille. For Italy coach Antonio Conte, playing Bonucci was gamble as the Juventus defender was a booking away from missing the Spain game.
Stats:
Goal attempts
Italy: 5
Rep Ireland: 12
Attempts on target
Italy: 4
Rep Ireland: 6


Monday, June 6, 2016

CONNACHT WIN FIRST EVER PRO 12 FINAL

Guinness Pro12 Final: Connacht 20 Leinster 10


CONNACHT claimed their first ever Guinness PRO12 title after a 20-10 victory over Leinster in the Murrayfield final.
The determination of Pat Lam's men to attack paid off with first-half scores from Tiernan O'Halloran and Niyi Adeolokun and they wrapped up victory when Matt Healy crossed after the break.

Leinster were looking to claim their fourth crown in three years but they could only muster a Jonny Sexton penalty and a late Sean Cronin try as they failed to rise to the occasion in front of a record final crowd of almost 35,000.
Connacht booked their place in the play-offs by topping the league table but before kick-off few gave Ireland's least successful province much hope against the Dublin powerhouse.
While the Edinburgh face-off was Leinster's ninth appearance in the final, their Galway rivals were making their first appearance in the competition's showpiece climax.
However, the only nerves on show came from the pre-match favourites, who fumbled their way through the first 40 minutes.
Connacht's underdogs by contrast were ice cool as they took just 13 minutes to carve out the opener.
Centre Bundee Aki's break did enough to disrupt the Blues' defence before O'Halloran turned Rob Kearney inside out as he sprinted home. AJ MacGinty nailed the conversion.
With Ireland lock Devin Toner absent for Leinster following the unexpended death of his father on Friday, the last thing Blues' coach Leo Cullen needed to see was Mick Kearney being forced off with concussion.
But Connacht were in no mood to show compassion and struck again after 22 minutes.
Leinster could not cope with the speed with which the Galway men put the ball through their hands and were unzipped when Adeolokun found himself up against the flatfooted Luke Fitzgerald out wide. The Nigerian winger was by no means clean through but his chip-and-chase was perfectly executed as he darted home for the score.
MacGinty pulled his attempt at the extras wide but made amends with a penalty soon after.
The half-time break offered Leinster a chance to finally catch their breath and Sexton's penalty three minutes into the second period was a welcome sight.
However, the green waves continued to crash forward. Hooker Tom McCartney almost danced home for the unlikeliest of tries, only to be held up after Sexton's last-gasp tackle.
But that only delayed the inevitable, with Connacht's third touchdown coming after 57 minutes when MacGinty saw the space in behind the ragged Leinster defence and measured his grubber kick with precision for Healy to run onto and dot down.
MacGinty's goal-kicking, though, was not quite as accurate as he smashed the conversion against the upright.
Leinster substitute wing Zane Kirchner thought he had given his side hope when he dived over in the corner but had his celebrations cut short by referee Nigel Owens after spotting Ben Te'o's forward pass in the build-up.
The Dubliners finally grabbed a try when Cronin ran in with 12 minutes left but even then it came in controversial style as Owens refused to stop play despite seeing O'Halloran knocked clean out following a brutal collision with Kirchner.
Legs were tiring in the Connacht camp but the composure which served them so well in the early stages never wavered as they held out for their maiden Championship triumph.




Sunday, April 17, 2016

CONNACHT DO THE DOUBLE OVER MUNSTER



Saturday, April 2, 2016

CONNACHT LOSE AGAINST ULSTER 18-10



Saturday, March 26, 2016

IRELAND 1-0 SWITZERLAND

Shane Duffy wasted little time staking his claim for a place in the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 squad as Martin O’Neill’s side beat Switzerland 1-0 at the Aviva Stadium.
The Blackburn Rovers defender rose majestically in the second minute to divert his header into the path of Ciaran Clark, who scored the only goal of the game at the Lansdowne Road venue.
And the makeshift central defensive partnership did not put a foot wrong all night as a disciplined Ireland secured the slender victory.
Earning just his second senior cap, the 24-year-old was one of the two new arrivals named in the starting XI alongside Brentford midfielder Alan Judge, who was making his debut in tonight’s encounter.
And the game kicked into life straight away as Ireland raced down the left flank to win a corner inside the opening 60 seconds.
Martin O' NeillThe first was dealt with but a second corner followed moments later and this time, Robbie Brady’s outswinging delivery was met perfectly by Duffy, who guided the ball goalwards. Clark was perfectly placed inside the six-yard box to guide the ball past YannSommer in the Swiss goal.
Duffy’s fine header quickly banished any early jitters and the former Everton man was again involved four minutes later, showcasing his defensive attributes as he intercepted a whipped cross from the right to head clear.
By contrast, Judge spent the opening exchanges marooned out wide on the right and his only involvement was a well-hit cross early on before giving the ball away in the 11th minute, which sent the visitors on a dangerous counterattack.
The ball was worked well down the left before a tempting delivery was rolled across the box, but Duffy had dashed the length of the pitch back into position to get a vital touch to guide the ball back to keeper Darren Randolph.
Ireland were looking comfortable after the opening exchanges but the Swiss were getting some joy down the flanks as Blerim Dzemaili and Haris Seferovic threatened the Ireland goal, but both efforts missed the target.
Seferovic’s header from a corner flew just over the bar after the striker had easily beaten Clark in the air.
Judge and McGeady had now switched wings in an effort to get the Brentford man more involved.
But the game was held up after 23 minutes as Kevin Doyle had to be stretchered off with what looked like a knee injury.
Daryl Murphy replaced the Stateside striker in a like-for-like substitution as the manager appeared happy with his traditional 4-4-2 formation.

With half an hour played, Ireland were just about worthy of their lead but the direct style was doing little to please the eye, as ball after ball was launched at the centre-forwards.
The midfield were essentially being bypassed, which was doing little for Judge, who was looking to get on the ball but to little avail.
The Swiss sought to get back on level terms in the 34th minute and it took an alert Randolph to save a deflected Xhaka effort from the edge of the box.
The visitors were starting to look dangerous, yet it was Ireland who almost doubled their lead in the 37th minute after a quick free-kick was well worked out to Coleman, who cut inside and clipped a delightful ball in for Long to meet at pace.
The Southampton striker’s headed effort crashed off the inside of the bar and Long then attempted to divert the rebound back on target but there was no pace on the ball and it was easily saved.
Breel Embolo was played in on the right five minutes before the break as Switzerland attempted to draw level before half-time and while the midfielder got to the ball well before the advancing Ireland keeper, his clipped cross could not find a white shirt to turn the ball home.
There were no changes after the break as the formation remained and Ireland were happy to try to find space over the top of the retreating Swiss line.
And it must be said, the visitors were struggling to deal with the direct approach as Murphy muscled his way in down the left and dragged a cross back, which just eluded Long before McGeady was unable to threaten with the loose ball.
But again it was the Swiss who were trying to create with some neat play and angled deliveries, endeavouring to work the ball into the final third.
And they were almost rewarded as the impressive Dzemaili produced a textbook slide-rule pass to send Embolo racing through on goal, but this time Clark was alert to the danger and raced across to clear.
The substitutes arrived en masse in the 61st minute as Eunan O’Kane and Jonny Hayes came on for their senior debuts, along with James McCarthy.
The game, as expected, took a turn for the worse with all the new arrivals –with more following shortly after – and it appeared that Ireland were looking to run a training ground routine of holding onto a slender lead.
And to their credit, they executed it quite well, allowing the Swiss to enjoy possession without threatening.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s odd hopeful ball over the top for Long to chase failed to reap any rewards.
But the visitors almost grabbed an equaliser in the 82nd minute after a slight mix-up between Coleman and Randolph allowed the ball to be clipped inside before sub Shani Tarashaj’s shot from the edge of the box rolled just past the wrong side of the post.
With all the changes, Ireland were left without a striker for the final seven minutes, with James McClean left to lead the line while Wes Hoolahan dropped deep into the now midfield five.
A rare lapse of concentration by the Swiss almost allowed Ireland in to grab an undeserved second in the last minute as O’Kane raced clear, but his clever effort from distance flew past the post.
So another successful night at the office for the Ireland manager, whose side are getting into the habit of winning and building confidence ahead of this summer’s main event, not a game to get too excited about though.

Republic of Ireland:Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark, Shane Duffy, Robbie Brady; Stephen Quinn (James McCarthy 61), David Meyler (EunanO’Kane 61), Alan Judge, AidenMcGeady (Jonny Hayes 61); Kevin Doyle (Daryl Murphy 26 (Wes Hoolahan 72)), Shane Long (James McClean 84).


Switzerland:YannSommer; TimmKlose, Michael Lang (SilvanWidmer 82), BreelEmbolo, Ricardo Rodriguez (J-Francois Moubandje 79), FabianSchar, AdmirMehmedi (PajtimKasami 72), Granit Xhaka, HarisSeferovic (RenatoSteffan 61), BlerimDzemali (ShaniTarashaj 72), ValonBehrami.