Sports Digest - Good and bad as Ireland’s game against Estonia looms
Sunderland defender John O’Shea is a serious doubt for the game
“The one thing we can’t do is underestimate them and we won’t. They won in Belfast in their final qualifier and that’s no mean achievement.”
The Ireland squad to play Estonia in the Euro 2012 playoffs is: Shay Given, Keiren Westwood, David Forde, Stephen Kelly, Stephen Ward, Richard Dunne, John O’Shea, Sean St. Ledger, Darren O’Dea, Paul McShane, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Keith Andrews, Keith Fahey, Darron Gibson, Andy Keogh, Damien Duff, Aiden McGeady, Stephen Hunt, Liam Lawrence, Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Simon Cox, Jon Walters.
CELTIC boss Neil Lennon rounded on his players again after another Scottish Premier League setback, this time in a scoreless draw at home to Hibernian on Saturday.
Lennon, linked with the Leicester managerial vacancy over the weekend, fears his lackluster players could cost him his job as his side slipped 12 points behind leaders Rangers.
Irish striker Anthony Stokes and his frontline partner Gary Hooper bore the brunt of their manager’s frustrations with the Hibs performance and result.
“I thought the two strikers (Stokes and Hooper) were poor and I need some more consistency from them. If they are not scoring goals they need to bring something else to the team, and I thought the two of them were very flat,” blasted Lennon.
“I am really angry, they let the game drift away from them and that is not acceptable. I would like to make changes but the way the squad is stretched it is difficult to do that.
“There are a few who have been consistent like Ki and Joe Ledley but there are others at the minute who are happy to go along, riding on their backs and not really making the contribution that I want from them.
“I have to speak to them and out them, basically. I am not happy with some of them at the minute. I don’t think they are giving enough in terms of the quality of their play or effort and I will speak to them individually and tell them what I think and I am looking for a response from them.
“But you ask them questions at times and you don’t get answers.”
Lennon did claim he is unconcerned about his own job -- for now.
“The only way I would leave the job this season is if I decide I am not taking the club forward or I am not getting the performances that the fans merit.
“When you come in 3-0 down against Kilmarnock at halftime, or against any SPL side, you have to ask questions about myself. Today, I am not hugely concerned about my position, it’s more of a question of why I can’t get these players to be as consistent as last season.
“I have shown a lot of faith in these players, and they keep letting me and my backroom staff down at the minute. I don’t know if it really hurts them enough, or if they treat it with indifference.”
MICHAEL O’Neill has set his sights on a League of Ireland title treble as he prepares to sign a new deal as Shamrock Rovers manager.
The former Newcastle United striker’s Tallaght deal expires after the final Europa League group game against Spurs in December.
The 42-year-old has been in talks with the Rovers directors all season to secure an extension and is close to an agreement.
“There are only a few little issues to be resolved and I am confident they will be resolved very soon,” said O’Neill after captain Dan Murray lifted the Airtricity League trophy following Friday night’s 4-0 win over Galway United.
“I have enjoyed my time here and I hope that the Rovers fans and the board have enjoyed my time here as well.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us and I want to be the man to take the club forward. We’ve won the league for the last two years now and I want to win it for a third time next season.
“We haven’t won the FAI Cup in my time here so that will be a target as well.”
O’Neill may lose his assistant Jim Magilton in the coming weeks, with the former Ipswich boss hotly tipped to succeed Nigel Worthington as Northern Ireland manager.
Magilton may bring O’Neill with him to Windsor Park but in a part-time role as his number two.
Greek side PAOK are next up for Rovers when they visit Tallaght for their Europa League group clash on Thursday night.
“We’ll enjoy this title win over the weekend but it’s back to work on Monday, we want to win a game in this group,” added O’Neill.
NEWCASTLE United striker Leon Best is at a loss to explain his absence from the Ireland squad as Giovanni Trapattoni faces a striker crisis against Estonia.
Wolves star Kevin Doyle is suspended for the first leg of the playoffs in Tallinn and West Brom’s Shane Long is unlikely to play in either game due to a knee injury but still Best has been left out of the squad.
Best said, “Every time it’s mentioned it baffles me. I’ve seen what Trapattoni’s been saying in the papers about work rate but he only needs to ring up Newcastle and ask for my stats, it’s as simple as that.
“The Prozone stats will tell you that I’m doing nearly 10km a day. I don’t what it is. Obviously, if he’s saying I need to work harder then I need to work harder. He’s a man to learn off, he’s got the experience and he knows what he wants.
“With Newcastle it’s the best time of my club career so it’s not a matter of disappointment. It just made me sit back and think -- what’s going on here?
“What have I done wrong or what more do I need to do because I was getting in the squad when I was playing in the championship and not playing every week so it’s totally baffled and confused me.
“I’ve not spoken to anyone or heard from anyone in the FAI. I haven’t got anyone’s number there apart from the security and I don’t feel I am in a position to just ring Trapattoni and ask him why he hasn’t picked me.”
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