Friday, June 24, 2016


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.
Goal attempts
Italy: 5
Rep Ireland: 12
Attempts on target
Italy: 4
Rep Ireland: 6

Monday, June 6, 2016


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.