Sports Digest: Anthony Stokes eager for Celtic success


Irish striker Anthony Stokes wants Celtic to make the most of their Europa League reprieve when they take on Atletico Madrid in Spain on Thursday night.

Neil Lennon’s side is back in the competition because Swizz club Sion fielded five ineligible players against them as they won 3-1 in the playoff round.

Celtic will now take Sion’s place in a group which also includes Udinese and Rennes and even though Sion have appealed to UEFA, the Celts are preparing as normal for Thursday’s game.

“It is going to be a very difficult game,” said the Dublin-born striker Stokes. “They are a top side but we are glad to be back in.

“We didn’t do ourselves justice in the games against Sion so we just want to take our chance now that we have an opportunity to get back in there.

“The Europa League games are massive games and will be tough but on our day we can compete with anyone. Beating Motherwell 4-0 on Saturday gives us a bit of confidence but we know that we have to be at our best in the coming games.”

Stokes insists it will be business as normal for Celtic despite the Sion appeal.

He added, “We are trying not to focus on that to be honest. As far as we are concerned, we are back in the competition and are focusing on the game and if anything comes about at the appeal on Tuesday, we will deal with it then.”

James Forrest scored twice against Motherwell in that 4-0 win with Joe Ledley and Ki Sung-yueng also on target in a game that saw captain Scott Brown again miss out with an ankle injury.

“In terms of the work rate, commitment and the pace they played at against Motherwell, they will need to match that at least in Spain. But we might have set up the team differently,” Lennon said.

“Scott has one of those injuries where he needs rest but with the fixtures it is difficult to give him that rest. He tweaked it a little bit on Thursday and it was too sore to even train on Friday.

“It’s not like Scott to be like that, if he pulls out of training he must be in a bit of pain. So we will see how he is on Tuesday and hopefully he will be okay for Thursday.

“He is such a good player and a valuable player for us, I don’t like leaving him out at anytime and Thursday is a different type of game.

“Away from home in Europe he is the type of player that I would want in the team. We won’t have the lion’s share of possession and won’t create as many chances as we did on Saturday.

“We are hoping he will get through the two games but I will have to be advised by the medical team on that and obviously Scott himself.

“If I could choose it would probably be Sunday for the league against Rangers is the priority. But it would be a bonus if we had him for both games.”

Meanwhile Irish winger Paddy McCourt insists he is not leaving Parkhead after being assured by Lennon of his role in the team.

“It’s rare something would happen to you on transfer deadline day without you knowing so I wasn’t going anywhere,” McCourt told the Daily Record.

“Of course signing for Celtic was my dream but, at the end of the day, I want to play more football. That has been at the back of my mind a couple of times but I’ve spoken to the boss and I’m very much part of his plans.

“I’ve enjoyed my three years at Celtic but, as much as I love the club and being part of the club, I want to play. If I was to leave it would be with a heavy heart but it isn’t going to happen so I’m fully focused on playing for Celtic.”

Celtic have lost highly rated teenager Islam Feruz to Premier League Chelsea after he agreed to sign his first professional contract with the English side despite coming up through the ranks at Parkhead.

Dubs Calm

Dublin boss Pat Gilroy has claimed all the pressure is on Kerry ahead of Sunday’s eagerly anticipated All-Ireland final clash at Croke Park.

Kerry will contest their seventh All-Ireland decider in nine years this weekend while Dublin haven’t won the Sam Maguire since the 1995 victory over Tyrone.
“There’s a huge expectancy in their county that they’re going to win this game,” said Gilroy ahead of Sunday’s big game.

“That’s what Kerry do and that’s what they’re expected to do. So there’s a fair bit of pressure on them to go out and perform because Kerry have done this all the time against Dublin teams over the past 20 years.

“They don’t want to be the first that doesn’t. There’s a fair bit of pressure on them to perform and with us it’s a new experience and people in Dublin are happy because we’ve got to a final.

“It’s progress, but from our own perspective we want to win the game.”

The Kingdom will start the game as red hot favorites, and Gilroy believes that tag is justified as his side seek their first championship win over Kerry in 34 years.
“I don’t remember a Kerry team coming into a final playing as well as they’ve played,” added Gilroy.