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Celtic gaffer Neil Lennon Photo by: Google Images

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

\"Celtic

Celtic gaffer Neil Lennon Photo by: Google Images

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

WIGAN Athletic have issued a hands-off warning as Arsenal chase midfielder James McCarthy after Gunners boss Arsene Wenger renewed his interest in the Scottish-born Ireland star.
Wenger made an approach for McCarthy at the start of the summer but met with a swift rebuttal from Latics boss Roberto Martinez.
Now the Spaniard is keen to ignore Wenger’s latest interest in the 20-year-old after selling winger Charles N’Zogbia to Aston Villa.
“The players are under contract,” insisted Martinez, who may sign Derry City youngster James McClean as a replacement for N’Zogbia.
McCarthy is currently with Wigan at a pre-season training camp in Sweden. 
Meanwhile, Everton have been linked with Spartak Moscow’s former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady after missing out on N’Zogbia.
 
Sligo Toppers

SLIGO Rovers moved two points clear at the top of the Airtricity League of Ireland Premier Division table despite picking up just a point from a scoreless draw at home to St. Patrick’s Athletic on Saturday.
European commitments meant only two other domestic games were played. Derry City and Dundalk also played out a scoreless draw, while Drogheda United picked up a crucial three points with a 1-0 win at home to fellow relegation candidates Galway United.
Meanwhile, Shamrock Rovers are looking to keep their Champions League tie with Danish side Copenhagen alive ahead of next week’s return leg in Tallaght.
Manager Michael O’Neill brought his team to Copenhagen for Wednesday night’s first leg without the suspended Chris Turner and goalkeeper Alan Mannus, now playing with St. Johnstone in Scotland.
St. Patrick’s Athletic and Sligo Rovers are both in third round Europa League action in the Ukraine this week. Pats are away to Karpaty on Thursday night while Sligo travel to play Vorskla Poltava.

Kidney Extends

IRELAND coach Declan Kidney will go to the World Cup in New Zealand with a new contract already secured after signing a two-year extension to his current deal.
Kidney has signed on the dotted line with the IRFU as the countdown begins in earnest to the September finals.
Corkman Kidney and his assistant coaches Gert Smal, Les Kiss and Mark Tainton will now stay with the Irish team to the end of the 2012-13 season.
“It has been a privilege over the last three years to have been involved with the Ireland team and so I am delighted that the IRFU have offered me the opportunity to continue that work,” Kidney told the official IRFU website.
“To be able to work with the level of players and coaches that Ireland have had during that time is a chance that very few get, so it has been a wonderful experience.
“While the World Cup has been our focus in terms of developing the team and what we have been aiming at over the last number of years in terms of squad development, I think there are plenty more young players still to come through to international rugby and that is an exciting prospect for the future.”

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