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Sports Digest: Shay Given injury scare ahead of Estonia

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Celtic are now 12 points behind Rangers but with a game in hand over their Glasgow rivals after Gary Hooper’s late winner, set up by Irish striker Anthony Stokes and McCourt.

Stokes had leveled after an early opener from Michael Higdon in a game that saw Motherwell’s Meath born defender Tim Clancy sent-off.

The introduction of McCourt by manager Lennon made a big difference as Celtic came from behind to win for the third time in four games.

“It shows that there is a bit of character and it was great to get the goal in the later stages,” said McCourt afterwards.

“I was delighted to come on and contribute. If it had finished 1-1 it was a long way back. We said during the week that winning on Thursday and today was an absolute must. I think the manager and players knew that.

“I’m not saying that if we didn’t get it then the manager was going to get sacked because I don’t know, but as a group we knew these two wins were massive.

“Sunday at Motherwell was a very important win for everyone and it gives us a couple of weeks now to enjoy it and look to build on it after the international break.

“There is no getting away from it, I am sure everyone will say it, it has been a poor start so hopefully with these last two games we have turned a bit of a corner and we can go and put a string of results together.

“It is still going to be hard but to get the two wins going into the break will give us time to get a few players back. There are a lot of lads who have played a lot of games and who need a wee bit of a rest.

“As I said, we will get a few bodies back and hopefully we can close the gap back a bit.”

McCourt added, “The game was slipping away when I came on. I know I am getting put on to win the game, not to shore up the defense so I definitely feel that sense of responsibility and I am comfortable with it.

 

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Read More:

 

Ireland v. Estonia European Playoff: Maturity of Stephen Kelly will soften the loss of John O'Shea

Ireland game preview: I like Estonians – for now!

Ireland pull off miracle draw against Russia 0-0 in European Championship

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“The manager has used me as a substitute a lot, sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn’t and thankfully today I was able to help us get the three points.”

Coach Alan Thompson praised McCourt’s contribution. “How many times has he done it?” asked Thompson. “He did it at Dundee United last year and at St. Mirren and again here. That’s what Paddy is, he is a breath of fresh air -- for 10 minutes.

“He had a good hour against Rennes in midweek, he played in a big game at Ibrox last year. If he keeps doing what he did for 15 minutes he is going to be pushing for starts.”

Celtic have confirmed that former Dutch winger Bolo Zenden is training with the club with a view to signing a short term contract.

Zenden, who also played for Barcelona, Chelsea and Liverpool, is available on a free transfer after he was released by Sunderland at the end of last season.

“Bolo came in a couple of days ago and he trained on Saturday,” assistant manager Thompson told Sky Sports.

“He’s a free agent with an unbelievable CV. He wants to come, so we’ll have a look and see what we can do.”
 
Pareiko Not Sharp

ESTONIA goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko got a taste of what’s to come when he conceded four goals as Wisla Krakow lost 4-1 at Fulham in the Europa League last Thursday night, one of them to Irish winger Damien Duff.

Pareiko concedes that Duff and Ireland will present another formidable challenge in Tallinn for an Estonian side that knocked Serbia, Slovenia and Northern Ireland out of the playoffs.

“For us, coming second to Italy in the group was a big, big, accomplishment,” said Pareiko.

“We try to play the best game we can against Ireland. We know how they play. Of course, they are favorites.

“It is our first time in the playoff. Ireland have been in playoffs many times and have reached major tournaments but we played good all tournament.

“Our problems came against the teams that aren’t so good. I think we can cause problems against Ireland when we play.”
 
Soccer Shorts
MONAGHAN United and their colorful manager Roddy Collins are back in the Premier Division of the League of Ireland after beating Galway United in the playoffs . . .

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