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Celtic gaffer Neil Lennon lets rip at Hibs Photo by: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images

Sports Digest: Celtic boss Neil Lennon vents fury at Hibs

\"Celtic

Celtic gaffer Neil Lennon lets rip at Hibs Photo by: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images

Celtic boss Neil Lennon was scathing in his criticism of Hibs after the 1-1 draw on Saturday when he described some of the tactics employed by Pat Fenlon’s team as more rugby than soccer.

A brilliant goal from youngster James Forrest sealed a point for the Scottish champions in Edinburgh ahead of Tuesday night’s Champions League clash with Ajax.

But Lennon was highly critical of the way Hibs played the game on a day that saw Kris Commons pick up a serious hamstring injury.

Lennon said at his post-match press conference, “Look, I’ll get criticized because people will say it’s a man’s game, and it is, no question, but the tackles were late, high, reckless.

“I’m all for competitive football, no one more than myself, but seriously, they were borderline tackles.

“I didn’t really say it to Pat but I made my feelings pretty clear to the fourth official. I don’t think it was any player target in particular, it was across the board.”

The Parkhead boss added, “We didn’t get what we deserved today, which was the three points.

“I’m delighted with the attitude of the players. It was very difficult for them after being away for two weeks on international duty, you could see some of them were not at their best today.

“I’m glad to get that game out of the way.  I’m glad to get the international break out of the way.”

Hibernian boss Fenlon defended his players in the wake of the Lennon criticism after Irishman Paul Heffernan had fired the home side ahead. When told what Lennon had said, Fenlon replied, “Good.”

He added, “That means the message is getting across to my players, that we want to go and compete and get in people’s faces.

“We worked tremendously hard and we made sure Celtic knew they were in a game and that’s what it was about today.

“You’ve got to be because if you stand off them and let them play then they will tear you apart and we weren’t going to let them do that.”

Celtic captain Scott Brown has received a three-match Champions League ban for his red card against Barcelona and missed Tuesday’s game against Ajax as the club consider an appeal.

Mick McCarthy Favorite for Old Irish Job

The message from sleepy Suffolk was clear at lunchtime last Friday – Mick McCarthy is only waiting for the FAI to offer him his old job back as Ireland manager.

He has yet to publicly commit to an interest in returning to a position he quit 11 years ago after a European Championship defeat to Switzerland.

And he may yet face stiff competition in the race to succeed Giovanni Trapattoni, with even Roy Keane likely to get a call from the FAI headhunters Ray Houghton and Ruud Dokter to determine his level of interest in the vacancy.

But everything appears to be pointing to the probability that McCarthy will be the chosen one in the absence of any commitment whatsoever from former Celtic boss Martin O’Neill.

Privately O’Neill, linked with the Middlesbrough vacancy after Tony Mowbray was sacked on Monday, has told friends that he would turn down an FAI offer at the present time as he awaits the chance of a Premier League return in the sacking season.

And already many of the FAI suits who will rubber stamp the recommendation made by Houghton and Dokter are distancing themselves from the O’Neill storyline.

Which leaves Keane and McCarthy as the only two likely candidates – and only one of them enjoys an endearing relationship with the FAI and chief executive John Delaney. All of which makes McCarthy’s latest public comments on the subject both enlightening and relevant.

The remarks were made at his pre-match press conference as Ipswich manager last Friday, just over 24 hours before a home defeat to Burnley did little to keep the locals happy.

And they were made against the backdrop of constant speculation in the Irish media naming McCarthy as the favorite for the job he once held, a job he has always said he would go back to in the future.

That future may be sooner rather than later, and the former Ireland captain is clearly thinking about it.

He told reporters, “If somebody asks me the question (from the FAI), I tell you what I’ll do -- I’ll tell them.

“I think if anybody wants to ask me the question then they should ask Marcus Evans (the Ipswich owner) first because I’m under contract here until June 2015.

“I could rule myself out but I’m not. But I’m not ruling myself in either. It might be that I would just like to be asked and I say yes, or I might like to be asked and say no.  But I haven’t been asked.”

Asked by the media present if the constant speculation around him is irritating or flattering, McCarthy added, “Probably all of those things at times.

“It’s a mark of the job I did in Ireland that they’re actually coming back and supposedly putting me in as favorite. That’s nice as well, isn’t it? That’s lovely.

“I remember 12 months ago I had to take over a club – a good club – that was bottom of the Championship.

“I had to put my backside in the bacon slicer – we had seven points from 13 games – and I did it and I’ve done a good job. We’re doing all right this year.

“I can’t help speculation but until they ask me – and it might never happen – that’s all I’m going to say.

“I love being here, I love the job. I’m not asking for it (the Irish job) and I’m not courting it. I’m not trying to do anything with it.”

McCarthy’s words have been interpreted as a “come and get me” message by many pundits in Ireland amid stories the FAI will finally seek contact with Ipswich this week.

They will do so after a series of meetings between CEO Delaney and senior players last week when McCarthy’s candidature was endorsed before and after the Kazakhstan game which Ireland won 3-1.

Ireland captain Robbie Keane had backed a McCarthy return to the Ireland job before the final World Cup win over Kazakhstan and fellow veteran Richard Dunne was singing from the same hymn sheet.

Dunne said, “Mick is a credible contender. He obviously said he might be interested, maybe, in it and having worked with him before I really enjoyed it, so if he was the FAI’s choice, that would be great.”

The next manager will have almost a year before a competitive fixture, and Dunne says the time will be needed to mould a new side and a new mentality.

The QPR defender added, “There are a lot of things to be done over the next 11 months. I think the squad will probably be re-shaped and restructured and a new style of play, whatever the new manager wants.

And Dunne is in no rush to quit international football. “Obviously, I will get to an age where it’s not in my hands anymore. Whoever comes in might want a fresh start and new players, so I will just have to wait and see whether I am selected or not.

“But I don’t feel there’s any need for anyone to come out and make big statements that they are retiring or that they are this or that. I’m either picked or I’m not, it’s not really down to me.”
 
Noel King Takes Critics in Stride

Noel King was involved in a heated exchange with RTE’s Tony O’Donoghue afterwards, but not even that could take away from his enjoyment of a 3-1 win over Kazakhstan in Ireland’s final World Cup qualifier.

With the identity of the next Ireland boss still unknown, King secured his first victory as interim manager thanks to a Robbie Keane penalty and further goals from John O’Shea and an own goal from Kazakh scorer Shomko.

Andy Reid was one of the stars of the show on his return to the fold after he was frozen out by Giovanni Trapattoni.

King said, “I was so pleased for him, so pleased for him. He was disappointed not to play in Germany.

“He’s a wonderful little character, he’s a wonderful little player. He’s a throwback. He was immense.”

Asked about his two game spell in charge of Ireland -- and he may well keep the job for next month’s two friendlies -- King admitted, “It’s been tiring, it’s been harrowing, it’s been fantastic.

“Working with the players, who are terrific, really professional players, was terrific and enjoyable and, I would imagine, educational for everybody.”

As stories emerged of unhappy tweets from Shane Long and James McClean before the game, King insisted he had no problems inside the Irish dressing room.

“I have addressed the group and I understand. How would you be happy spending 10 after days and not playing? Try it, it’s horrendous,” he said.

“I don’t mind if they are unhappy, that’s life. They may have been unhappy, but not one of them sulked and not one of them didn’t perform any of the things I was asking them to do.”

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