Former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady won the man of the match award as a second half substitute in Ireland’s 1-0 win over Bosnia on Saturday, then claimed he has nothing to prove to manager Giovanni Trapattoni.
McGeady is under threat from the arrival of James McClean onto the international scene, but appeared to book his place for the Euro opener against Croatia with Saturday’s performance.
“You can’t be much more pleased than coming on for 45 minutes and getting the man of the match award,” said McGeady afterwards.
“I was a bit surprised to be honest when I heard my name being put over the tannoy. Obviously it was very pleasing.
“I don’t have anything to prove to the manager. It is possibly some fans or some pundits that doubt me, or whatever.
“But the manager, I don’t think I have anything to prove to because he said to me before the game that you are in great form just now and we want to keep you fresh for the games coming up.”
Trapattoni praised McGeady afterwards. He said, “When we arrived here, McGeady was already a very good player, but every young player needs confidence.
“Now he is playing, playing, playing in another country, different football, and he is getting more confidence. Now McGeady is one of our strongest players.”
Irish captain Robbie Keane also praised McGeady and full debutant James McClean.
Keane said, “Aiden McGeady can light up the championship. I don’t want to put any pressure on him but he’s one player who can certainly make a difference to our team.
“James McClean did ever so well on Saturday, for somebody playing in his first full international.But I thought Aiden did superbly well.
“Every player needs competition, it keeps them on their toes. James came in and did very well, he’s doing well for Sunderland. So the competition for places is good.”
Keane has dismissed all fears about his fitness ahead of the Croatia game on Sunday, June 10.
The LA Galaxy striker arrived in Ireland with a hamstring injury and then damaged ribs in an accidental clash during Saturday’s win.
“The hamstring is fine but the ribs are in bits after that knee. Ah na, it’s fine,” said Keane. “I just found it hard to breathe. It took a few minutes to catch my breath again. It’s a little bit sore but it’s nothing too serious.
“It was all fairly innocuous, they are the sort of challenges you expect. My form hasn’t been too good but I feel fine now, though, and quite sharp.”
Speaking after the win, when his replacement Shane Long scored the only goal, Keane insisted he was happy with the outcome of Ireland’s final home before the Euros.
He added, “All the team played well really, it was important to get a win before we departed. It will give us a lot of confidence
“Bosnia are a very similar team to Croatia. They like to get the ball down and pass it. They did that a lot in the first half but didn’t really bother us too much after that. And then we managed to create a few chances ourselves.”
IRELAND boss Giovanni Trapattoni refused to confirm his final Euro 2012 squad early this week, and warned his walking wounded they must prove their fitness against Hungary in Budapest on Monday.
After losing Keith Fahey to a groin injury on Saturday night, Trapattoni won’t take any chances with the likes of Shay Given, John O’Shea, Darren O’Dea, Kevin Foley and Stephen Kelly who are all receiving treatment for knocks at the team’s Italian training camp.
Ireland were due to play a low key friendly against a local side in Italy on Tuesday night and will wrap up their Euro preparations against Hungary next Monday when all players must prove they are fit for the opening game against Croatia.
Given (knee) and O’Shea (ankle) are causing most concern but they did manage some light training on Monday.
“They will have to show us on Monday they are ready. Richard Dunne showed that to us on Friday,” said Trapattoni.
Trapattoni expects Given to return to full training on Wednesday with O’Shea to follow later in the week. “Given is all right for Wednesday training and John O’Shea will be 90% ready to play,” he said.
Paul Green has revealed his shock at his Euro 2012 call-up but insisted, “I’m good enough to play in the championships.”
The midfielder, who left Derby County when his contract expired at the end of the season, was a late call-up when Birmingham’s Fahey was ruled out.
Many pundits have criticized Trapattoni’s decision to opt for Green ahead of Wes Hoolahan but the midfielder insisted, “Everybody is allowed their opinion. I just come out here and do what I can.
“I think I can cope at this level. I would not be out here and I don’t think the manager would have me here if he did not think that.”
CELTIC striker Gary Hooper fancies a move to Barcelona – but only after his Parkhead contract expires in 2014.
Hooper told the Scottish Sun, “There’s no rush as I am happy at Celtic. We have the Champions League next season which I am looking forward to.
“We have the qualifiers to come and at the moment I am looking to my two years at Celtic. But one day Premier League. One day England. And then one day, Barcelona. That is the aim for me.
“We are seeing where these contract talks go but as far as I am concerned I have two years left at Celtic.”
HOLDERS Sligo Rovers are out of the FAI Cup after a shock defeat at home to Monaghan United in the third round last Friday night.
Beaten finalists Shelbourne had to go to a replay to see off Bray while Shamrock Rovers were 1-0 winners over Limerick. St. Pat’s hammered local rivals Crumlin 3-0 while non-league Cherry Orchard shocked former winners Longford Town . . .
SPANISH manager Vicente Del Bosque has kept faith with Chelsea striker Fernando Torres in his Euro 2012 squad after a long term injury ruled Barcelona’s David Villa out of the tournament . . .
ITALY have axed defender Domenico Criscito from their European Championship squad after police confirmed he is under investigation in a match fixing scandal . . .
CROATIA continued their warm-up for their opening Euro 2012 fixture against Ireland when they beat Estonia 3-1 in a friendly on Friday night . . .
IRELAND’S under-21 side lost 2-1 to Denmark in a friendly in Tallaght Stadium on Monday night.
LEINSTER’S quest for a Heineken Cup and Celtic League double ended in heartache when they were pipped at the post by the Ospreys at the RDS on Sunday night.
A last gasp Shane Williams try and a Danny Biggar conversion sealed a one point win for the Welsh side in a dramatic Rabo 12 final.
It was the second time in 12 months that Leinster failed to add the Celtic League title to the European Cup, and coach Joe Schmidt summed up his team’s disappointment afterwards.
“We are pretty gutted obviously,” said the Blues boss. “We knew that it was going to be tough and we had to be in front in the back half of the game.
“There was going to be a little bit of fatigue, and I think you get more fatigue when you are down to 14 men twice in the half for yellow cards.
“That means you have to overwork a little bit. We fell off a couple of tight tackles and maybe just didn't have things bounce our way.
“I thought it was a superb kick by Dan Biggar from the edge and it was pretty much the same thing he did to us last time to get a one-point win here back in March.”
GOLF: Ireland’s Peter Lawrie had double cause for celebration last weekend. First he finished fourth in the prestigious PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday, then he won one of 11 places at the U.S. Open qualifier in Walton Heath on Monday.
British Open champion Darren Clarke is out of the U.S. Open on medical grounds after doctors ordered he rest a groin injury . . .
RUGBY: Leinster scrum-half Isaac Boss and Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris have been ruled out of Ireland’s forthcoming tour to New Zealand. Kevin McLaughlin of Leinster has been called up as a replacement for Ferris. A decision on Paul O’Connell’s fitness will be made on Thursday before the team fly to New Zealand . . .
ATHLETICS: Wicklow’s Fionnuala Britton made the Olympic qualifying time for the 5,000 meter at a race in Morocco on Sunday. She has already made the qualifying mark in the 10,000 meters and the 3,000 meters steeplechase . . .
BOXING: Ulster’s Carl Frampton added the vacant IBF inter-continental title to his Commonwealth super-bantamweight belt when he outpointed Mexican Raul Hirales in England on Saturday night . . .
RUGBY: Munster prop Darragh Hurley has been forced into early retirement after failing to recover from a back injury.