Sports Digest: Celtic boss Neil Lennon says Anthony Stokes must fight for Irish


Neil Lennon has challenged Dublin-bound Anthony Stokes to win his place back in the Ireland squad -- at Celtic.

Stokes, in the Celtic squad for the Dublin Super Cup this weekend, is the big name absentee from Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad for next month’s friendly with Croatia.

The Dubliner failed to show up for the end of season games in May although he has since dismissed claims that tiredness was the reason for his no-show.

Fellow Macedonian truants James McCarthy, Marc Wilson and Darron Gibson are all included to face Croatia, but Stokes’s club manager isn’t surprised by his absence.

“Anthony didn’t show up for the Ireland games at the end of the season so he shouldn’t be surprised by that,” stated Lennon, whose team is at the Aviva alongside Inter Milan, Manchester City and the Airtricity League selection.

“He has got to work his way back into the Ireland scene, and the first place he has got to do that is with Celtic.

“He has plenty of time on his side and he has got the talent in my mind. Anthony needs a little more maturity in his game but he is definitely talented.

“He had a big season for us last term so he knows to look at where it all went wrong with Ireland and learn from that.

“If Anthony Stokes has a big season for Celtic then I am sure he will make it impossible for the Irish manager to leave him out.”

Celtic opened their season with a 2-0 win at Hibs on Sunday when Stokes scored in the first half and Ki Sung-yeung added a second before Gary Hooper missed from the penalty spot.

Lennon was surprised with how well his team hit the ground running in the earlier than usual start to the domestic season in Scotland.

“I thought we were outstanding in the second half,” said Lennon.  “It was probably more than I could have expected at this stage of the season.

“So I am obviously delighted with the performance, result and clean sheet. I thought the players adapted brilliantly.

“We got a break with the goalkeeping mistake but we had good control of the game and going forward we were excellent.”
Given’s Belief

SHAY Given believes Giovanni Trapattoni’s faith in his ability will help him prove his worth at Aston Villa after a season on the bench at Manchester City.
Given has signed a five-year deal at Villa Park after his move from City.
“I think my confidence is okay because the Ireland games kept me going,” said Given.
“You do get a little bit rusty because you're not playing so many games, but I'm excited to be getting back and getting match-sharp again.
“My two young kids kept me busy. It's about not losing the confidence in your own ability.
“The biggest thing missing was the buzz of match day and playing, so I'm just really excited about getting going again.
“It was frustrating, knowing you're training with no chance of playing, but the manager made a decision and you've got to respect that.”
After hinting that he may have to retire from international football to see out his five-year contract with Villa, Given insisted he will finish his career with the Birmingham club.
“I'm not frightened by the five years, I'm quite looking forward to a great spell at Aston Villa,” he added.
“You look at Brad Friedel, who's 40 and just signed a two-year contract at Tottenham, and Edwin van der Sar, who was 40 last season and probably had one of the best seasons of his career, so in terms of age, I want to play football as long as I can.”

Trap’s No Show

IRISH boss Giovanni Trapattoni has opted out of Saturday’s World Cup draw in Brazil, raising further question marks against his future.
Trapattoni has informed the FAI that he will not accompany Chief Executive John Delaney and President Paddy McCaul when they fly to Rio.
The Italian wants to lead Ireland into the 2014 qualifiers but has been left waiting on a new contract by the FAI.
He says he understands why the FAI won’t move on a new deal until Ireland’s 2012 European Championship fate is decided.
But now his decision not to attend the star studded draw -- after saying he would -- will be seen by some as an indication that all is not well on the contract talks front.
“Giovanni will not be attending the World Cup draw but the association will be represented,” confirmed an FAI source.
England coach Fabio Capello, Spain’s Vicente Del Bosque, French manager Laurent Blanc and Italy’s Cesare Prandelli are just some of the 38 national coaches who have confirmed their attendance for the draw at Rio’s Marina de Gloria.
Just last week, Trapattoni again suggested, at a press conference before the FAI annual meeting in Clare that he would travel to Brazil for the draw ceremony.
He has also made no secret of his desire to lead third seeded Ireland into the qualifying series and even speculated on the attractions of a draw featuring England or Italy as top seeds.
McCarthy Chase