Celtic have been dealt a major blow with confirmation that midfielder Beram Kayal will miss the rest of the season taking the gloss off a fine 3-0 Scottish Cup win at Peterhead.
Irish striker Anthony Stokes grabbed an impressive hat-trick on Sunday to ease Celtic into a fourth round date with bogey side Inverness or Dunfermline.
But the win was marred by news that Kayal’s ankle surgery has ruled him out until next August at the earliest after picking up the injury in the last Rangers game.
A statement on Celtic’s official website on Tuesday read, “Beram Kayal underwent surgery last night on his injured ankle and the club can confirm that, unfortunately, our worst fears have been realized and Beram will be out of action for at least four months.”
Manager Neil Lennon said, “This is very sad news for Beram. He has been brilliant for us and instrumental in our performances during the season.
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“He will definitely be a big loss for us, but more importantly we are disappointed for him to be missing such a large part of the season at a time when he was playing so well.
“Clearly his health and fitness is now our priority and we will be making sure he gets our total support during the coming period.”
Irishman Stokes took advantage of Gary Hooper’s absence through injury on Sunday to grab all three goals in a potentially tricky tie at Third Division Peterhead as he joined his fellow striker on 15 goals for the season in the race to become the club’s top scorer.
“I haven’t spoken to Gary yet but I may give him a text on the way home! It’s a bit of banter,” laughed Stokes afterwards. “The two of us see ourselves as goal scorers and it doesn’t affect us when we play on the pitch. If someone else is in a better position we give them the ball.
“I think that is us joint now -- I won’t remind him of that. I’m sure he would have liked to have played and tried to notch one or two but I’m sure it will be close come the end of the season.”
Celtic still have an interest in all three major Scottish trophies but Stokes insisted, “We are not looking at the treble to be honest with you. We are just taking each game as it comes. We knew coming up here that it was a tricky draw and we just wanted to get the result.”
Lennon was unhappy after the game about a challenge by Peterhead midfielder Jamie Redman on Joe Ledley which resulted in the Wales international being withdrawn after suffering a facial injury.
“I wasn’t happy with the challenge on Ledley but the referee deemed that to be accidental. There were a few meaty challenges going around but you expect that when you come away from home in the cup,” said Lennon.
Lennon has also dismissed speculation he is prepared to sell Celtic trio Kris Commons, Gary Hooper and Adam Matthews during the January transfer window.
Manager Lennon is currently talking to back-up goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska about a new contract.
“I have had a chat with Lukasz this week and I’ll speak to him again early in the week and hopefully we can get it resolved,” Lennon said. “I don’t think we’re far away now. I hope he will sign. We would like to keep him.”
Rapid Vienna’s Albania international striker Hamdi Salihi has said he would welcome a move to Celtic in the January transfer window while Nigerian midfielder Rabiu Ibrahim is training with the club this week after negotiating his release on a free transfer from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven.
Keane for Villa
Ireland captain Robbie Keane wants to sharpen his Euro 2012 goal scoring instincts during his return to the Premier League with Aston Villa.
Keane has signed a two-month loan deal with the English club ahead of the new MLS season with the LA Galaxy.
The Dubliner will return to Los Angeles at the end of February, by which time he expects to have played between six and eight games for Villa.
“Robbie is a top class player and he has made it clear he is here to play and to score goals for us,” said the Villa manager Alex McLeish, who tried to sign Keane on a permanent deal from Spurs this time last year.
Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni has approved the deal and believes the extra football will keep his striker sharp ahead of the European Championship finals.
Like Irish internationals Shay Given and Richard Dunne, Villa youngster Barry Bannan is excited by Keane’s arrival at the club ahead of Saturday’s expected debut against Everton.
“Robbie is a player I watched when I was growing up. If you are getting players like that, it is good for the club,” said Bannan.
“Robbie will add to the strength and the depth of the club as well. For the younger players, it is great to have a player of that caliber and experience in the squad even for a short spell.
“Our squad is pretty young experience-wise and having another wise head is only going to help us as a group. Robbie has been around for ages and played at the top level.”
Cox Scores 3
Irish striker Simon Cox sent a timely reminder to club boss Roy Hodgson and international manager Giovanni Trapattoni with an FA Cup hat-trick when he deputized for the injured Shane Long in a 4-2 win over Cardiff.
“Hopefully I showed what I can do on Saturday and that has given Roy a headache,” said Cox. “With the injuries we’ve got he said there could be a run of games for me at the moment, whether it be up top, on the left, the right or wherever.
“That’s all I’ve ever asked -- to get three, four or five games on the bounce, not just go in for one and out for the next regardless of the result.
“This next six months is one of the biggest of my career so far. If I am to guarantee my place on that plane I feel I have to be as fit and as sharp as possible, and in as good form as possible.”
James McClean added to his growing reputation with another goal as Sunderland knocked Peterborough out of the FA Cup on Sunday but the Derry born player will resist the calls to switch his international allegiances back to Northern Ireland.
New Northern boss Michael O’Neill wants players like McClean to play for the country of their birth but McClean is adamant he is sticking with the Republic despite playing for the North at underage level.
“I am following my dream and I want to play for the Republic of Ireland, there is no going back on that decision,” said Sunderland’s wing wizard.
“Michael O’Neill has been in touch with me twice since he got the job and was very nice to me but I am not going to change my mind.”
Derry City promoted coach Declan Devine to the role of first team manager in succession to his former boss Stephen Kenny. Brandywell favorite Devine will work with another former player Paul Hegarty after Kenny’s departure to take control at Shamrock Rovers . . .
The proposed friendly between Ireland and England won’t happen until November at the earliest after the English FA confirmed games against Norway and Belgium in the build-up to Euro 2012 . . .
Dundalk boss Sean McCaffrey has added Gary Shanahan, Chris Shields and Shane O’Neill to his squad while Nathan Murphy has re-signed with the Lilywhites a fifth season . . .
Sligo Rovers have strengthened their squad with the capture of young midfielder Lee Lynch from Drogheda United.
Ireland will go into the Six Nations without flanker Denis Leamy but with current captain Paul O’Connell committed to another two years at least in the green jersey.
Leamy has been ruled out for the rest of the season after agreeing to surgery in a bid to cure a long-term injury that has limited him to just four games for Munster since the World Cup.
O’Connell, who will captain Ireland in the Six Nations in the absence of the injured Brian O’Driscoll, has agreed a two year contract extension with Munster and Ireland.
“I have been lucky over the last ten years to play with a team like Munster which has such phenomenal support and I have enjoyed a lot of success during that time,” said O’Connell.
“So much has changed since my first games for Munster and Ireland, with Heineken Cup and Grand Slam wins, brand new stadiums and having the opportunity to play with so many good players, that it was always a very easy decision to remain in my home province.
“I am feeling really good both mentally and physically, which in part goes down to how well we are looked after here in Ireland, so I am looking forward to the remainder of this season and beyond and doing all I can to help make Munster and Ireland as successful as possible.”
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