The Roy Keane and Martin O’Neill show begins!


Or maybe he will quickly come to the conclusion that Irish players are no longer guaranteed games in the biggest Premier League clashes.

Keane will certainly have had a reminder of that fact on Sunday when he rolled up to his Old Trafford stomping ground for Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Arsenal in the top of the table clash.

Not one Irish player started that game. Not one Irish player featured on the bench for either United or Arsenal in the biggest Premier League fixture of the weekend, arguably the biggest game in Europe last week.

And that’s the real problem facing O’Neill and Keane in the nine months or so before the European Championship qualifiers kick off next September.

They will discover very quickly this week that they are working with very limited resources. It is how they maximise their resources and get the very best out of those players that will determine their success over the next two years.

They need everyone available to Ireland to play for Ireland, so O’Neill’s hint that he is open to the idea of a return for Stephen Ireland among others is to be welcomed.

And they will need to trawl the English leagues for top class players whose parents may qualify them to play for the boys in green.

As O’Neill said the other day, the buck stops with qualification by Ireland for the extended European Championships to held in France in 2016.  That is all matters now for O’Neill, Keane and the players working with them in Malahide as we speak.

Who puts down the cones on the training ground is irrelevant really. But is funny to think that Roy is now Stan – or Maurice Setters!

(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)

Sideline Views
GAA: Bit of a hullabaloo down in Tipperary where the great Hayes Hotel is in danger of going out of business thanks to Ireland’s economic recession and a simple lack of custom. One local politician believes the GAA should buy the hotel and turn it into a museum, honoring the fact that it is the birthplace of our national games. Good idea. And while they’re at it, they could buy every pub in the country that ever hosted a GAA meeting. That’ll kick-start the economy fairly quickly!

SOCCER: We’re not involved in the World Cup playoffs this weekend, but we should keep an eye of them. Portugal against Sweden will be a cracker, but the best games of all could be the two matches between Ukraine and France. I’ll be shouting for the Ukranians. The French don’t deserve another World Cup appearance after cheating their way to the last one.

RACING: Nice touch by JP McManus who bought a round for every punter at Towcester when AP McCoy rode his 400th winner on Thursday. Not sure if even he could afford the same thing had AP passed the 400 winners mark in front of the massive crowds at the Cheltenham festival, however.

HURLING: Kieran McGeeney’s new role with the Tipperary team is to work on the mental side of their game. Good job too. As an Armagh man I doubt he knows much about the skills side of hurling.

IRISH rugby badly needs some new talent to come through the ranks as the likes of Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell approach the end of their careers. We particularly need young forwards, so Jack McGrath’s very impressive debut at prop against Samoa on Saturday is to be welcomed. He looks the real deal and is going to put real pressure on Cian Healy with Leinster and Ireland in the coming months which can only be good news for all concerned – bar Healy of course.

IT was sad, as he said himself, that Owen Coyle had to rubbish stories from some quarters last weekend that he left James McClean out of the Wigan team to play Yeovil in a row over Remembrance Sunday poppies. McClean did get into trouble on this issue at Sunderland last season, but Coyle says his omission was purely down to injury and we should believe him.