Will Ireland Make New Years Call?

Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni has again urged Stephen Ireland to make the phone call that can resurrect his international career and revive his World Cup dream early next year.

Trapattoni could even welcome Ireland back in time for the World Cup qualifier against Georgia at Croke Park next February after the player's father Michael claimed he is ready to return.

"Mr. Trapattoni has been following the Stephen Ireland situation and will continue to follow it," said an FAI spokesman.

"His position in relation to Stephen is very clear and has not changed. The door remains open for Stephen to declare himself available for his country.

"If Stephen wishes to do this, all he has to do is make contact through channels he is well aware of."

FAI chief executive John Delaney has also welcomed the prospect of a return for Ireland.

"Any football fan including myself can see that Stephen Ireland is playing great football at the moment and would be an asset to any squad," Delaney told Star Sunday.

Cork-born Ireland walked out on his country after the 2-2 European Championship draw with Slovakia in Bratislava in what became known as Grannygate.

After claiming that two of his grandmothers had died, Ireland eventually revealed that his girlfriend Jessica had suffered a miscarriage after the FAI had paid for a private jet to bring him back to England.

Ireland hasn't played for his country since, repeatedly shunning approaches from first Steve Staunton, then Trapattoni, and his City teammate Richard Dunne.

A week ago the story moved forward again, however, when Ireland's father and the player both claimed that he could return in 2009.

Irish fans welcomed the news as Trapattoni's side look to qualify for the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010, and the FAI are keen for Ireland to return as well.

Delaney added, "I think it is also fair to say that Trapattoni has met the player, that the channels of communication are there and they are now open to the player to come back.

"As Giovanni has reiterated the lines of communication are open to the player and it is up to the player to say he is in or he is out. "If he says he wants to come back then I am sure everyone will be pleased to have him back."

Trapattoni met with Ireland when he took up the Irish manager's job back in May, and has also watched the player in action for Manchester City against Fulham in recent weeks.

Assistant managers Marco Tardelli and Liam Brady have also monitored Ireland's outstanding form for City this season.

"Giovanni was at the Man City-Fulham game a few weeks ago and he has met him previously as we all know," added Delaney.

"He has kept all channels open to the player. There have been different things said in the media with people asking will he come back or won't he.

"But the only way Stephen can make it clear is to use those channels of communication to speak to the manager. Those communication lines are open now, absolutely."

Ireland himself again admitted to difficulties regarding his international comeback in an English newspaper interview on Saturday.

"So much has gone on behind closed doors that I feel it's almost too difficult for me to go back," said Ireland. "But I've come out a stronger and better person so it's not something that worries me now."

The FAI are aware of Ireland's latest comments, but Delaney has also welcomed his father's confirmation that the player was not bullied when he was part of the international squad.

"I knew that there was no bullying going on and last week's article cleared that up," said the FAI boss.

With the resumption of World Cup duty almost upon us Delaney, Trapattoni and the FAI would like to resolve the Ireland issue as soon as possible.

"It would be nice to have clarity but we are all around football long enough now to know that when this one is solved one way or another there will be another one," claimed Delaney.

"From Giovanni's perspective I am sure he would like to have clarity on it, as would the football public."

McGeady Still Out

Irish winger Aiden McGeady could take his dispute with Celtic boss Gordon Strachan all the way to the Scottish Football Association (SFA).

McGeady, banned for two weeks and heavily fined after a dressingroom bust-up, was left out of Sunday's 3-0 win over Falkirk by the Scottish League leaders.

He will also sit out the forthcoming Old Firm showdown with Rangers, but McGeady has appealed the ban and could take his case to the SFA if the Celtic board backs Strachan's call.

Agent David Holbrook said, "As we stand at the moment, Aiden is waiting on a letter to explain the disciplinary measures taken against him.

"He has five days from receipt of the letter to appeal and he intends to do so, that has not changed. He has been fined two weeks' wages and excluded from training with the first team for two weeks.

"That takes him up to December 30. After that he will return to training with the first team and be available for the next match.

"There is every possibility that Aiden will be playing for Celtic while the appeal procedure is going through. Beyond that all I can say is that it is in an internal matter.

"Celtic will follow procedures and we will follow procedures. We can't get too far ahead of ourselves. We have to see what the letter says to see what the club's position is before we can frame an appeal.

"It is new ground for me and it is ground that I'm sure the club and Aiden didn't want to cover."

McGeady, on the news pages again for his off field activities this weekend, has been linked with a move to Blackburn in the January transfer window.

Celtic fans chanted his name at the start of Sunday's game when Georgios Samaras, Japanese midfielder Kiko Mizuno and Scott McDonald scored in the 3-0 win over Falkirk.

Manager Strachan refused to be dragged into the McGeady controversy afterwards. "We will keep that in house," he said.

Before the game, however, Strachan tried to downplay the importance of the dispute with McGeady in the greater scheme of things. He said, "For the media it was the story of the week but it's different for me.

"I will take you back to last Tuesday when we made the statement. Nothing has changed from then and that's it as far as I'm concerned. The statement is self-explanatory and that is all we have to say at this moment in time.

"There have been far, far, far, far - and I can keep going with these fars for a long time - worse weeks than this. Trust me. Far more."

Celtic have completed deals for Irish winger Niall McGinn and Czech defender Milan Misun, and are also trying to sign Dundee United goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska and Hungarian midfielder Szabolcs Huszti from Hannover.

Strachan, however, has dismissed stories linking him with former striker Craig Bellamy.

Kenna's Job

Galway United manager Jeff Kenna has signed a new deal with the Westerners that will keep him at the Terryland Park helm next season.

Linked with jobs at Cork City and Oxford United in recent weeks, Kenna said, "I had a number of things to consider since the end of the season and I am grateful to Galway United for allowing me the opportunity to do that.

"The best thing at this stage is to build on the progress we have made at Galway United and to that end I am really looking forward to the start of the new season."

Soccer Shorts

Premier League new boys Dundalk have been linked with a controversial move for Drogheda United captain Declan O'Brien. New manager Sean Connor has already signed Thomas Heary from Bohemians. Dundalk are also interested in Derry duo Declan Quigley and Billy Dennehy . . .

Roy Keane has been formally warned for future conduct by the Football Association's disciplinary board for remarks made by the former Sunderland boss during the 5-0 defeat to Chelsea in November . . .

Cork City have sorted a deal with their players for wages owned while the club was in administration, and have also signed a new kit deal with Hummel sportswear company . . .

Ireland's recent lack of form at under-21 level means Don Givens' side will only be fourth seeds in the February draw for the 2011 European Championships . . .

The League of Ireland has hit St. Pat's midfielder Gary Dempsey with a five game ban for betting against his club when they lost to Galway in October . . .

Former Irish goalkeeper Paddy Kenny could quit Sheffield United at the end of the season as he awaits a new contract offer from the Blades . . .

Brian Shelley is considering offers from Bohs, Derry City and St. Pat's after ending his contract at cash strapped Drogheda United . . .

Kevin Doyle, Shay Given and John O'Shea are the nominees for the FAI/eircom Republic of Ireland Player of the Year award for 2008 . . .

Steve Staunton's future as assistant manager at Leeds United is in doubt after his boss Gary McAllister was sacked on Sunday . . .

St. Patrick's Athletic look set to revert to a part-time status after telling their players a 30% pay cut will be enforced next season . . .

Young midfielder Darren Murphy has quit Cork City and signed for Conference side Stevenage Borough in England . . .

Steve Finnan could move to Arsenal or Spurs on loan in January after failing to settle at Spanish side Espanyol . . .

Sunderland midfielder Graham Kavanagh has extended his loan spell at Carlisle United until the New Year . . .

Brentford want to extend their loan deal for Reading's Irish defender Alan Bennett . . .

John Morling is the new manager of the Irish under-15 and under-16 international teams . . .

Drogheda United defender Graham Gartland has gone on trial at Leicester City . . .

Bradford City have offered Monaghan born striker Barry Conlon a new contract.

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