ALL THINGS IRELAND: September 2016

Friday, September 30, 2016


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 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 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 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.
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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