Neil Lennon eyes Rangers title battle
Irish Voice Sports Digest
Celtic manager Neil Lennon offered sympathy to Aberdeen counterpart Craig Smith after an early red card for defender Andrew Considine cost the Dons dearly in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semifinal.
Considine was sent-off in the 18th minute for a foul on Gary Hooper, and even though Irish striker Anthony Stokes missed the subsequent penalty Aberdeen were always on a hiding to nothing after the incident.
The numerical advantage paid off for Celtic in the second half when Charlie Mulgrew, Joe Ledley, Kris Commons, from a second penalty, and substitute Shaun Maloney all scored to set up a meeting with Motherwell in the May 21 final.
“Psychologically for Aberdeen it was damaging,” said Lennon. “But I do think it was a penalty and in the interpretation of the laws of the game, the referee probably had no choice but to send him off.
“I think it is one rule that could be doing with being looked at. If someone makes a genuine attempt to get the ball and is beaten, then maybe a penalty and a yellow card is punishment enough.
“There are cases where people are going through and are deliberately brought down and that is a different scenario altogether.
“But if someone has made a genuine attempt and is beaten by a bit of pace, I think that needs looking at.”
Lennon did have some anxious moments before Celtic found their scoring boots after halftime at Hampden Park.
The Bhoys boss added, “Anthony Stokes could have had a couple in the first half and Gary Hooper started the second half brilliantly and, but for goalie Jamie Langfield, we could have been more comfortable winners.
“We just needed to tidy up our final ball at times and move it quicker. And obviously Charlie is capable of delivering that kind of ball which he didn’t do in the first half.
“We got our rewards for that and it set the tone for the rest of the game. I know it was 10 men but sometimes 10 men are difficult to break down.
“So I have to give credit to the players, they were excellent.”
The cup final will close the season for Celtic, but Lennon’s immediate thoughts are focused on the title battle with Rangers.
He added, “We have something to look forward to at the end of the season but the main priority is the championship.
“The cup final is an incentive but it’s gone now. We are on a decent run and performances like that won’t do us any harm.
“We have a big week now, Kilmarnock on Wednesday and obviously we are at Ibrox on Sunday. So we can put the cup final on the back burner and concentrate on what we really want.”
Irish striker Stokes rued his penalty miss and admitted, “It was just a poor penalty. It’s just one of those things, I don’t think it affected my game. I think I actually played quite well overall.
“It was one of those things, me and Hoops could have stayed out there for hours and we might not have nicked a goal the way things were going for us.”
Marco for Trap?
MARCO Tardelli has confirmed he wants to succeed Giovanni Trapattoni as manager of the Ireland soccer team.Currently the assistant boss, Tardelli made his intentions clear at an FAI press conference in Dublin on Friday.“When and if Giovanni decides to step down, I would be very honored to be able to stay here,” said Tardelli just a week after Trapattoni confirmed he wants to lead the Irish team into the next World Cup qualifiers.“I think our work is very good and I would like to carry it on. We find many young players for the future. We have to evaluate the work that’s been done so far, and evaluate on the basis of the project.“It’s true that the results are important, but let’s not forget we have gone up 10 points in the world rankings.”FIFA confirmed last week that Ireland are still 34th in the world rankings after their recent European Championship win over Macedonia.
RONAN Finn came to the rescue for champions Shamrock Rovers with a last gasp equalizer in Friday night’s 1-1 Dublin derby draw with Shamrock Rovers in the Premier Division of the Airtricity League.Sligo Rovers maintained the pace at the top of the table with a 1-1 draw in Dundalk while Derry took advantage with a 4-1 win at Galway United. UCD scored a late goal to draw 1-1 at St. Pat’s, while Bray Wanderers maintained their recent good form with a 2-1 victory at home to Drogheda.
IRISH striker Jon Walters scored twice as Stoke City hammered Owen Coyle’s Bolton 5-0 in Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal. Stoke will play Manchester City in the decider after their 1-0 win over Manchester United in the other semi.“As good a day as I’ve had in my career? Yes, I suppose it is. We will savor the victory then focus on the league,” said Walters.“We really wanted to achieve something this year. Everybody wrote us off before the game but we’ve proved them wrong.”In other Irish premiership news, QPR goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, Reading defender Ian Harte and Norwich midfielder Wes Hoolahan are the Irish players on the PFA Championship team of the season. No Irish player made it onto the Premier League team.
ULSTERMAN Paul McCloskey may yet get another shot at world light-welterweight champion Amir Khan after a farcical finish to their WBA title fight in Manchester on Saturday night.McCloskey’s camp demanded a rematch, but Khan blatantly refused after the referee stopped the fight after six rounds when he claimed an accidental clash of heads left the Irishman with a “bad” cut above his eye.Khan was ahead on all the judge’s scorecards at that stage and won the fight on points, then refused to even consider a rematch for McCloskey at the post event press conference.That conference almost erupted into another fight as McCloskey’s manager Barry Hearn all but accused the Englishman’s camp of cheating, and demanded an enquiry by the British Boxing board of control.Then on Monday, Khan’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya offered an olive branch to the McCloskey camp when he told the Guardian newspaper that he would consider another clash between the pair.“Yes, everybody wants a rematch. And you never know, right? Not in this game. Does he deserve a rematch? Yes, he does. But now we have to go and unify the title,” said De La Hoya as Khan and his team look for a unification fight with WBC and WBO belt holder Timothy Bradley.Hearn is determined to pursue his man’s case and said, “I’ve spoken to Robert Smith from the British Boxing Board of Control. They will launch a full investigation with the WBA, and ask for a rematch.”
An angry McCloskey said, “The doctor looked at my eye and I asked how was it. He said, ‘Quite bad.’ So I thought it was.“I walked over to my corner and it was wiped by a towel and it stopped right away. So why was I stopped? Why was the doctor in the ring? He just jumped through the ropes. He wasn’t asked to come in.“I heard that Amir told the radio that I wanted the fight stopped myself. What’s that about?“It’s a disgrace. After that performance, is he a pound-for-pound champion? I don’t think so.”
Cavan’s Andrew Murray extended his unbeaten run to 24 fights with a points victory over Blackburn’s Graeme Higginson on the undercard.Fellow Irishman Jamie Kavanagh beat English journeyman Sid Razak on the same bill.
RORY McIlroy failed to seal the deal for a second Sunday in a row when he finished third at the Malaysian Open just a week after his Masters disappointment.
Italian teenager Matteo Manassero won the tournament two days short of his 18th birthday after McIlroy had led for much of the way in Malaysia.
“At this moment I’m pretty disappointed but it was a good week,” said McIlroy.
“I started off really well in the tournament. To shoot the scores that I did considering the travelling from Augusta to Malaysia is a pretty good effort.
“I’m disappointed with the result but everything else was positive. I’m proud of myself at how I picked myself up from last week and the way I came back on the back nine on Sunday.”
MUNSTER booked a home playoff date in the Magners League with a 13-6 win away to the Scarlets on Saturday night. Leister’s 34-26 victory over Ulster at the RDS leaves them on the verge of the play-offs while Connacht went down 26-12 at home to Cardiff . . .
CONNACHT center Keith Matthews is out for six months with a ruptured Achilles tendon, while scrum-half Conor O’Loughlin has been forced to retire . . .
FORMER Ireland international Alan Quinlan has confirmed that he will retire when his Munster contract expires at the end of the season . . .
MUNSTER captain Paul O’Connell could return by the end of the season after initial fears over the extent of his recent ankle injury were eased . . .
IRELAND’S George Clancy will referee his first Heineken Cup semi-final when Northampton Saints meet Perpignan on May 1 . . .
ULSTER full-back Adam D’Arcy has signed a two-year contract extension, but Jamie Smyth is to leave the province for Wales.
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