Sport in brief



Phelan claims he took charge while Fergie took glory

Alex Ferguson’s former right-hand man Mike Phelan has made some interesting comments regarding his five year spell as United’s assistant.

“[Ferguson] was the head of the establishment, there’s no doubt about it and rightly so. He didn’t get to where he’s got through not being a big decision maker but he’ll be the first to admit that a lot of people played their part in that.”

“We all were undercover in that respect. We weren’t the face of what was going on but that was our job.”

Additionally, Phelan revealed in the Daily Mirror that Ferguson used to make key choices by the toss of a coin.

“Part of my job was to hold him back because he could come out with some very strange decisions at times.”

Best suffers hand injury and Iain Henderson ruled out for six weeks

Ulster’s injury list has taken another blow as Iain Henderson has been ruled out for six weeks after a hamstring strain has been reported.

The injury to the back row comes soon after Rory Best’s hand injury sustained against New Zealand on Sunday.

Nicholas Bendtner: “I’m sorry for breaking into my own house”

Arsenal striker Nicholas Bendtner has publically come out and apologised for being arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage on his apartment in London.

The Arsenal striker was held in Hertfordshire station by police on Monday. Writing on his Instagram account today, he explained that he accidentally damaged a door as he tried to force it open after it became stuck.

“On Saturday night after our win against Southampton I went out with my family and friends for dinner,” he wrote.

“After our dinner we all wanted a night swim in my gym so we changed to shorts and brought towels down.”

“As we arrived at the gym my key fob changed the colour from red (locked) to green (open) but the door remained closed. We thought the door was stuck so we tried to open it and it caused some damage. I apologise for any inconvenience for my neighbours and I have paid in full.”

Dubs set to remain in Croke Park for spring series, reveals GAA director general Paraic Duffy

GAA general director Pádraig Duffy has confirmed that Dublin’s footballers will return to Croke Park for the Spring Series next year.

“There may be a problem with double bills but it’s definitely going ahead with football and it’s a matter for Dublin after that,” Duffy said at the launch of Sportsfile’s “A Season of Sundays” book.

Baines out for rest of the year with broken toe

Manchester United target Leighton Baines has been ruled out for 6 weeks, the club have confirmed.

The England international was forced off early in the second half of the high tempo 3-3 clash with Liverpool on Saturday. While he left Goodison Park walking unaided, refusing crutches offered to him, an x-ray of his right foot after the match revealed a broken toe.

Darragh Collins

Another must-win game for Arsenal



Arsenal face yet another must win match in the Champions League tonight as they host French side Marseille.

The Premiership leaders sit at the top of an extremely tight group with Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund and Rafa Benitez’s high-flying Napoli side.

Depending on the result in the night’s other game Arsene Wenger’s team could secure qualification to the next round.

Reports in France suggest that Marseille manager Élie Baup may field an under-strength side, with qualification out of reach for the nine-time French champions.

The London side will be hoping French internationals like Mathieu Valbuena and Dimitri Payet are given the night off at The Emirates Stadium.

Theo Walcott could return to the side after a hamstring strain, although Lukas Podolski is unlikely to appear despite returning to first-team training yesterday morning.

Wenger will hope to see another dominant performance from midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

At his pre-match press conference the Frenchman spoke of the Wales international’s qualities, stating that while last season Ramsey would sometimes lose confidence with a mistake, he is now sure of himself.

“He does not hide to take the ball, and when he makes a mistake, he doesn’t hide again. For me that is a quality. He is always available to take the ball and play. Aaron is now a confident boy”.

Ronan Morrissey

Chelsea look to secure European qualification



Chelsea can seal their place in the second round of the Champions League tonight with an away victory over the Swiss side FC Basel.

So far this season Jose Mourinho’s side have failed to achieve the level of consistency synonymous with the Portuguese manager’s team, stuttering domestically to struggling West Brom and Newcastle United in the last month.

Chelsea have striker Fernando Torres back after a slight groin injury kept him out of the clash with West Ham at the weekend, but David Luiz remains unavailable after bruising his kneecap in training last week.

Mourinho has stressed that nothing should be read from his decision to drop Ashley Cole to the bench in favour of Cesar Azpilicueta, stating that his intention is purely to rest the left-back.

“Ashley is a top professional… he’s not the kind of personality you need to leave on the bench to send him a message to him to make him realise that he has to give more”.

Swiss outfit Basel can claim confidence from the fact that they beat Chelsea in London earlier on in the competition.

Their counter-attacking style has seen them remain undefeated in the Swiss league since August, with the rapid duo of Mohammad Salah and Valentin Stocker wreaking havoc down the flanks.

Ronan Morrissey

FIFPro “cautiously optimistic” of resolving Belhounis dispute



 The International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) are “cautiously optimistic” an agreement will be reached with Qatari authorities that will see French footballer Zahir Belounis leave the country.

Belounis has been trapped in the Gulf state because its labour laws prevent workers from leaving the country without an agreement from their employers.

FIFPro today announced that a delegation led by board member Mads Øland will travel to Qatar for urgent talks with the country’s football authorities and organisers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The representative organisation hopes to lay the foundations for the abolition of the kafala sponsorship system which Belounis claims restricts footballers’ rights in Qatar.

FIFPro’s Communications Director Andrew Orsotti told News Anois that dialogue between local authorities in Qatar and the organisation have been “progressing at a high level”.

Orsotti continued: “we’re hopeful the player will soon be able to leave the country”.

He continued to stress that FIFPro remain “extremely cautious” surrounding the Belhounis case as they’ve heard of “multiple broken promises” offered to the player from back as far as the beginning of October.

Belhounis wrote an open letter to former 2022 World Cup ambassadors Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola earlier this month asking for them to intervene on his behalf.

The Frenchman has been in dispute with his former club al-Jaish over two years of unpaid wages, stating that he has been forced to sell his personal belongings in order to provide for his family.

Ronan Morrissey

Cricket deserves praise for understanding complexity of mental illness



The writer Mark Rice-Oxley believes cricket should be praised for understanding the complex mental issues a number of players have suffered from in recent years.

Rice-Oxley, who has been studying depression in the sport for a number of years, believes the sport has made great advances in the past decade compared to other sports.

The author was speaking after the English batsman Jonathan Trott was forced to return home from Australia yesterday evening due to a stress related illness.

Rice-Oxley told News Anois: “there is a far more forgiving environment in cricket toward mental illness now and much of this is thanks to Marcus Trescothick”.

Trescothick, once a talisman for the English national team, was forced to leave the international scene in 2006 due to a stress related illness.

Rice-Oxley said: “once this wall had been broken down it led to a much greater degree of understanding in the global cricket society and with mental illness matters public understanding is absolutely crucial.

Rice-Oxley warned that the “crazy scheduling” involved in international cricket would guarantee that players will continue to develop mental illnesses, with frantic travelling meaning players can often go months without seeing their friends.

“The international game is full of amazing highs but also, often more frequently, such demoralising lows”, said the experienced writer.

The Australian test player Ed Cowen defines the psyche of cricketers as “spending more time thinking about our next inevitable failure than our next success”.

In order to soften the severe psychological strain test cricketers endure Rice-Oxley argued that confrontation is required between cricket players and international authorities.

However before that could occur the players would have to unite in their belief, something unlikely to happen in the future as some players are keen to maximise their wage while others, often older, are more aware of the effect intense travel can have on the mind.

Rice-Oxley labelled some of the early press treatment of Trott in the Australian media as “crass and insensitive”, while he was extremely critical of Piers Morgan, who yesterday tweeted that winners never quit in relation to the English batsman’s affairs.

“Sport is often painted as a gladiatorial contest… but finally we’re beginning to see the stigma attached to mental illness in sport dissolve”.

Ronan Morrissey

OPINION – Playing the ‘Long’ game



At the start of this season Shane Long was left in a state of dismay. With West Brom happy to let the player leave on transfer deadline day to Hull all the while recruiting new strikers, Long would have certainly felt like he was unwanted at the Hawthorne’s.

The deal subsequently broke down due to the deadline passing, the Tipperary man was left in an awkward position at the club.

After the ‘Baggies’ signed Victor Aniechibe for a club record fee as well as French veteran Nicholas Anelka and Sunderland star Stephen Sessengon for their attack, Long must have certainly felt his position in the pecking order had dropped significantly, he would have been correct.

He struggled for fitness and form but failed to feature on a regular basis for the club. When he did it was as a substitute or on the flanks.

Desperate to become the Republic Of Ireland’s main striker, Long would have been allowed to feel aggrieved after being the clubs top goal scorer in the previous campaign. He would now have to prove to Clarke that he was still central to the clubs development. Frustration was also apparent on an international scale as Long was dropped from the starting line up by interim manager, Noel King.

A turning point for Long was certainly his performance against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge after he converted a good header against Mourinho’s side, topped with a strong overall performance. Long maintained his goal scoring form with a well-placed finish in the Republic of Ireland’s victory over Latvia.

With a lot of hard work put in place, Long was granted the opportunity to start in last night’s Midlands Derby at Villa park, he needed a performance and he provided one to a devastating effect by scoring two magnificent goals. His first oozed pure quality. Magnificently touching down a direct pass with his right foot, he then fired in a powerful low shot with his left. His second goal was a mark of a confident striker. Long was like a man possessed for the remainder of the game, showing for every ball, chasing down lost causes and battling with the Villa defence for every opportunity. His persistence paid off after closing down the Villa defence, he intercepted a poor pass, defeated a defender and chipped it over Brad Guzan demonstrating his class. It was a performance which received much appraisal from his manager Steve Clarke who said after the game,

“Shane’s been working hard for that type of performance he’s in a good moment, strikers are like that, they like the ball set in the back of the net… The second goal came because he reads the game well, her reacted to an under hit pass from the Villa defence and he pounced on it and it was another really, really terrific finish so it’s good for Shane, he’s been in a good run of form for us and hopefully he can keep it going.”

It is plain to see that Long is a confidence striker. On his day he’s a hardworking, fast finisher who is ruthless in front of goal, but when things aren’t going his way he can often become petulant and frustrated. A determined Long, speaking to RTÉ spoke of his ambition to become a key figure for Ireland in the aftermath of the Latvia game saying,

“I’ve only started in the competitive games in the last year of Trapattoni’s campaign so hopefully I can force my issue and get into the gaffer’s though for the qualifiers.”

An out and out goal scorer is much needed in the Republic Ireland squad at the moment with Robbie Keane coming into the twilight of his playing career. Many believe Long can be the man to fulfil the position. Speaking to News Anois today was West Bromwich Albion’s head of supporters club, Del Delaney who said,

“On his day he’s a good a centre forward that I’ve seen at the club. He’s got all of the attributes you need to be a top centre forward. He’s definetly restored himself as our main man after last night’s performance and I think that if he maintains that kind of form then we will be lucky to hold onto him after the January window.”

For Long to take his game to the next level, consistency is crucial instead of random moments of brilliance.

One thing is for sure, if Long maintains this level of form then he will certainly become one of the most feared strikers in the premiership, which is essential to his international career.

Darragh Collins 

Sligo confirm Flanagan as new manager



The Sligo GAA board announced yesterday that Pat Flanagan had been appointed senior football manager for the coming season.  Flanagan carries a wealth of experience, having brought his previous inter-county Westmeath team from Division 3 to Division 1 of the National League. He also managed both Clara (Offaly) and Tyrellspass (Westmeath) to County triumphs.

Speaking to News Anois today, Sligo GAA boards PRO Maurice Sweeney said:

“I am delighted with the appointment. We have had our eye on Pat for a long time. He was our first choice and I am thrilled to have him appointed. He brings a massive amount of experience to the team and you only have to look at his previous success to see that.”

Flanagan has been employed for one year term which will be revised at the conclusion of the season. He will be meeting the players this week in addition to deciding on a back room team, which consists of a portion of the management of the Sligo under 21 side.

Darragh Collins

All Black’s search for perfection

Credit S Maguire

Credit S Maguire

WORLD champions New Zealand head into this Sunday’s match against Ireland in search of their 14th win from 14 games this season.

After romping home in this year’s rugby championship 9 points clear of South Africa, New Zealand landed in Europe looking to end the year with three more victories. Both France and England pushed the All Blacks to the limit but ultimately fell short as the Kiwi’s racked up the necessary victories.

Jackson Burt, an All Black fan living in Wellington, described the team as ‘the best All Blacks squad I’ve seen in years. We have plenty of depth in the back line and when they’re firing like they were in the rugby championship they’re extremely dangerous.’

Dan Carter will most likely miss the clash against the Irish after pulling up injured early against England last weekend. Predicting ‘a comfortable win 38-16’, Burt reckons the Irish are still to be taken seriously adding: ‘O’Driscoll is always a worry when he has the ball’.

In 27 matches between the teams, the best Ireland have managed is a 10-10 draw in 1973. Not many are expecting Ireland to register their first ever victory this weekend, but one never knows!

Simon Maguire


Poland vs. Ireland preview


Credit FAI’s Facebook

IT is not so long ago that Irish fans invaded the Polish city of Poznan en masse. It will be a far cry from the scenes of Euro 2012 tonight. Only a few hundred Irish fans are expected to travel to Poznan to see their team face off against Poland.

The excitement surrounding the Martin O’Neill appointment was only heightened after an impressive 3-0 victory over Latvia. Ireland played with an adventure and abandon that had not being seen under the Giovanni Trappatoni era.

O’Neill is expected to experiment for the clash with Poland as he surveys his options for Euro 2016. Robbie Keane is definitely out of the game with an Achilles injury. However Ireland is not the only side under a new regime.

Poland’s World Cup campaign was dismal as they only finished above Moldova and San Marino. They won only 3 of their 10 matches. In addition to that they conceded 12 goals in that time.

Since then Waldemar Fornalik has been sacked as manager and has been replaced by Adam Nawalka. In contrast to O’Neill’s reign with Ireland, Nawalka’s era as Poland manager got off to a disaster.

They were comfortably beaten 2-0 at home by Slovakia and were lucky it was not more as the Slovak’s spurned a number of guilt edged opportunities.

They are not without their star performers, however. Their goalkeeper, Artur Boruc, has been in impressive form. This season he has only conceded 5 goals in 11 games for his club side Southampton. It is the lowest of any club in the English Premiership.

Furthermore, in Robert Lewandowski they have one of the best strikers in the world. He is the highest scorer in the German Bundesliga so far this year with nine goals. In addition to this he has scored 18 times in 56 games for Poland.

The Polish have not scored in their last 3 games but with a revamped Irish defence to take to the field tonight that could well change.

As both sides continue to develop under their respective new regimes we can see goals. Poland only lost once at home in their qualifying campaign. Ireland though is rejuvenated under Martin O’Neill.  A draw is the most likely result tonight.

Indeed that result would be a far cry from what occurred at Euro 2012 too.

John Lillis

Top 5 things we hope to see in tonight’s match


Credit FAI’s Facebook

Wes Hoolahan

AFTER years of deliberation, O’Neil finally made a decision that we all knew had to be done: he started Wes Hoolahan. The Norwich playmaker granted hasn’t had
the best of seasons so far this year; however his overall ability certainly justifies
a starting place. He was exciting to watch against Latvia and produced a
fantastic performance which received much appraisal from Keane in particular.
Fearless in showing for the ball and positive in his attacking movement,
Hoolahan was a breath of fresh air for the Irish fans and it will be anticipated that
he will be seen in the green jersey again tonight.


No one can deny that the Irish team has had its fair share of passion over the
years, but it was evident that there was a massive air of optimism at the Aviva
last week with the atmosphere at a fervent high from the Irish faithful. The
inclusion of the big name management staff was always going to have that affect
but no one can deny that we must maintain this optimism and positivity and
believe that we can succeed, and if there’s any man to inspire that into his
players, it’s Mr Keane.

Attacking full backs

In the Trappatoni era it was almost like the full backs were banned from going
past the half way line; however in the first instalment of the O’Neil era we saw
Coleman and Ward given a licence to surge attacks down the flanks and get an
overlap on the opposition. Coleman gave an energetic second-half display,
capped by a wonderful run and cross for the third goal, while Ward was also a
positive presence down the left hand flank, and thrived in his new role.

Shane Long stepping up to the mark

With the West Brom man tipped to start tonight, Irish fans are hoping to see the
26-year-old become a strong goal scoring presence for the team. Long hit 13
goals last season for West Brom, and after a transfer deadline day deal to Hull hit
the rocks, he has been mainly used sparingly by his club or thrown out on the
left-hand flank. Long has 10 international goals in as many as 42 appearances for
the Republic. On his day he is a devastating, pacey finisher with an admirable
work ethic, however the new management will require those attributes on a
more consistent basis for Long to succeed on an international level. With the
in-form Anthony Stokes now breathing down his neck, Long will certainly need to
up his game and he has a wonderful opportunity of doing just that in Poznan

Positive play

John Giles made an interesting remark in the analysis of the Latvia game, he
said: ‘What you want to see from your team, is that when they don’t have the
ball they are doing everything they can to get it back and when they do they are
using it in a constructive manner, and that’s what we saw from the Irish team
tonight, for the first time in a very long time indeed.’
I don’t think he could have summed it up any better. Ireland performed
admirably last week in a manner which made the country proud. Gone were the
long aimless passes and negative play from the boys in green and long may it

Darragh Collins