The weekend just passed saw a number of shocks in the English Premiership, none bigger than Sunderland’s shocking 1-0 win over Premiership behemoth Manchester City.
Sunderland, given absolutely no chance by the bookies or TV pundits, are a famous, proud old club but even with owner Ellis Short ploughing some £80 million of his own money into them the last couple of seasons, they are complete minnows when up against Manchester City and their £650 million transfer money outlay, and £700 million annual wage bill. However, on the day, Sunderland matched City in every department, Lee Cattermole was absolutely immense, winning every single tackle he went in for, and frankly playing much more illustrious City players off the park.
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--------------- There were three strong Irish elements to the superb win.
John O’Shea, the Irish defensive veteran, playing in his first season at the club, was an absolute rock at the back. After less than 10 minutes his center back partner Wes Brown had to leave through injury and O’Shea had to help seldom used Matt Kilgallon through the remaining 80 minutes whilst also doing his job. O’Shea won every header and kept multi million pound star City striker Edwin Dzeko in his back pocket most of the day. A brilliant showing from O’Shea, which augers well ahead of the 2012 European Championships. O’Shea was absolutely immense.
Sunderland have now won three out of Irish manager Martin O’Neill’s first five matches in charge of the club. O’Neill has performed a minor miracle in changing the fortunes of the team, previously mired in nothing short of a deep depression. O’Neill has the team working hard and looking very organised and well drilled. The confidence the side showed against the Premiership leaders was fantastic.
Perhaps most excitingly of all, from an Irish perspective, O’Neill bravely chose to give a full debut to 22 year old ex Derry City starlet James McClean. The young Irish winger repaid this faith with a hard working display, full of promise. McClean looks skillfull, tough, willing and well able to compete at the Premiership level. If he gets a decent run in the side it could mean a full call up to the Irish side, and McClean would bring a very lively, fresh new look to the Irish attack. Giovanni Trapattoni, take note.