Robbie Keane playing with the LA Galaxy

It will come as little or no surprise to anyone to know that Robbie Keane has been named on the MLS Team of the Season after his explosive first term with the LA Galaxy.

In fact, the only surprise on the selection details that landed in my email basket on Tuesday morning concerned the absence of one David Beckham and a rather strange formation choice.

According to the judges for the MLS All-Stars, their team will play in a 3-4-3 formation, quite an adventurous one that really has little place in modern football.

The formation may give credence to the theory that the MLS is a footballing backwater in the greater scheme of things. There are certainly some critics in this part of the world of that persuasion, and they probably have a point.

Many of those same commentators would also have you believe that Keane, like the MLS itself, is second rate on the international stage.

They would also point to the current form of one Shane Long as reason enough to believe that Robbie should stay stateside when the World Cup business resumes in Sweden next March.

The Long supporters are having a field day at present. The former Tipperary minor hurler is on fire with West Brom in the Premier League and fully deserving of all the praise that has come his way of late.

With Long in superb form and the Baggies playing like a real team, West Brom are in the top three in England and their fans are dreaming of Champions League football next season.

Long himself is also attracting attention. On Monday, the Irish winger Stephen Hunt was in Dublin when he expressed the opinion that Long will be in the frame for the big clubs when the transfer window opens in January.

The West Brom boss Steve Clarke has already told those keen on Long to forget about doing business in the window. He wants to keep his top asset, and so he should after the Tipp ace’s return of 13 goals in 45 appearances since his move from Reading.

So where does all of this leave Ireland’s captain? If Long is as good as his current form suggests then why not ask Robbie to remain in the backwater with Thierry Henry et al next March?

Giovanni Trapattoni won’t agree. Thankfully.

As Stephen Hunt also stated on Monday, Trap is his own man. He doesn’t listen to critics and he won’t pay any attention to the backwater theory.

Trap won’t be in LA on Sunday night when the Galaxy and Robbie bid to win the MLS Cup in the sell-out playoff final against the Houston Dynamo.

The Italian will be watching on television I suspect, but there is little Robbie needs to do to persuade him that he is still the man to lead Ireland in Stockholm when goals will be a necessity.

Long is the man of the moment in Premier League terms, but he has scored just eight goals in 32 appearances for his country and has only ever started three matches for Ireland.

When he can match Robbie’s international scoring return, when he looks like a striker who can score 54 times in 122 caps, then he will have earned the right to start ahead of Robbie.

In the meantime, he may well be a running mate to Keane but no more. Backwater or no backwater, Robbie Keane is still here to stay as far as Team Ireland is concerned.

(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)

No Work for Tipp Star
HERE’S a sign of the times – the Tipperary ace Padraic Maher won his first Munster SHC club medal with Thurles Sarsfields on Sunday when he starred in their win over Waterford side De La Salle, down in Cork.
But Maher, like so many current GAA stars, is unemployed and doesn’t know where his future lies. After training as a plumber, Maher then took a physical fitness course in Limerick University but can’t find work.

“Only for I’m hurling for Sarsfields at the moment, I would have left the country for a couple of months and tried to work somewhere else until January and hopefully something might be there when you’d come back,” he admitted the other day.

“I’d love to go traveling for work but I’d find it hard to leave the hurling. I like it so much and it means a lot, and hopefully something crops up in the next few weeks because I’d hate for it to come to the fact that I would have to go somewhere to try and earn a few pound.

“Maybe seven or eight years ago, if you were an inter-county player, you would be guaranteed a job but that is no good to me now. The way things have gone, I’m not the only one, and you see other players like
Meath’s Joe Sheridan who went away and then came back.”
At a time when the GAA are working very hard to bring a major final to New York in 2014, it looks like a lot of their top players may get there before them.

There is, of course, no easy remedy in all of this. The next budget threatens to cut the government grants to inter-county GAA players and the whole country is preparing to get hit in the pocket.
Padraic Maher is one of the best hurlers in Ireland but that doesn’t protect him from the realities of the economic crash.

His story is a typical one.  Many top players have already left Ireland, many more will leave in the coming months.  The national crisis is also a GAA crisis. And nobody appears to have the answers.
Maybe that U.S. trader who stands to make over $6 billion profit on Irish bonds could get us all out of this mess.

Sideline Views
GAA: Great story from Donegal where musician Rory Gallagher, not the original one, is still basking in the glory of his “Jimmy’s Winning Matches” tune that epitomized the county’s All-Ireland winning summer. The YouTube video for Rory’s smash hit features him singing on the beach in Tenerife with a mate of his called Senegal Jimmy, the man who sells false Rolex watches for a living.
Senegal Jimmy is a star of the show, reeling off the names of parishes in Donegal and all across Ireland with great aplomb. He is also a major celebrity now with Irish tourists, and therein lies the tale.
It now transpires that “replica” Senegal Jimmys are parading up and down the beaches of Tenerife, pretending to know their Irish parishes and trying to sell unsuspecting tourists their fake watches.
Gallagher revealed, “I was talking to Jimmy and he’s delighted. Since the song took off, loads of Irish people are having their pictures taken with him and -- this is what he likes -- they’re buying watches off him.
“There are actually fake Senegal Jimmys -- counterfeit Jimmys -- on the island now. They’ve gone and learned a few Donegal town names and they’re targeting Irish tourists. In fact, Jimmy’s brothers, who also live on the island, are the best counterfeit Jimmies on Tenerife.” Great tale.

GOLF: Here’s a good bet – Rory McIlroy will take to his new Nike clubs like a duck takes to water. The Northern Ireland superstar brought the curtain down on his time with club makers Titleist by winning in Dubai on Sunday and topping the money lists in both the U.S. and Europe. Rory will start using Nike clubs when he returns to competition in the Middle East in January, but don’t for a second think it will affect his status as the world number one. That already looks like a done deal.

GAA: Dublin youngster Ciaran Kilkenny has begin his new life with Aussie Rules side Hawthorn and is already in the middle of pre-season training with the Melbourne outfit. The teenager prepared well ahead of his departure for Australia when he undertook some boxing training with national coach Billy Walsh and Ireland’s elite boxers. Ciaran revealed that Billy’s skills have toughened him up for the physical challenges that await in Aussie Rules – and they will be many!

IRELAND answered the critics with a seven try demolition job on a fancied Argentina side at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Jonny Sexton and Tommy Bowe grabbed two tries each to help ensure Ireland remain in the top eight of the world rankings ahead of the World Cup draw in London next week, but the star of the show was the young Ulster winger Craig Gilroy. He too crossed the Argentinean line and looked dangerous every time he got on the ball. The Young Guns are starting to make Declan Kidney think about his team for the Six Nations in February, and Gilroy is as good as any of them.

A SECTION of the Celtic faithful took great exception to their team’s latest Scottish League loss on Saturday when the Bhoys went down to Terry Butcher’s Inverness at Parkhead. One “fan” even engaged in a verbal row with manager Neil Lennon that saw the Ulsterman threatening to quit his job. Have these guys forgotten the Champions League heroics against Barcelona? And do they seriously expect anyone to beat Celtic to the Scottish title next May no matter how much their current European effort is taking out of them in league matches? Fans are entitled to their opinions, but we all know what opinions are like.