A New Irish Era

This past week saw Martin O' Neill and his Republic of Ireland squad fly out to Turkey for some warm weather training and a friendly game against the home nation on Friday. It came at a time when Ireland was suffering a very snowy and cold winter. It came at a time when there was also a frosty atmosphere between Martin O' Neill and the Irish fans after his meetings with Stoke City about their vacant managerial position. His decision to turn down the Stoke City job was a bit of a suprise to all of us who follow the Irish game closely. A lot of people felt it was his perfect way back into the Premier league and a job that would have given him day to day involvement with players, something he has commented in the past that he had missed. But it was not to be and he walked away from the negotiations with Stoke. We move on now and the  qualification for the European Championships in 2020 is next on the agenda but more importantly is the Irish managers challenge to build a side that is capable of making it to the finals.

Going into the game against Turkey it was for a variety of reasons that the Irish manager was without twenty of his players who had been involved in qualifying for the World Cup. O' Neill decided to go with a three five two system and the last time that was used was away against Mexico but it failed in that particular game. Seamus Coleman returned to the side after a year out of the game with the awful leg break he picked up against Wales. It was the highlight of the night to see the man from Killybegs back in an Irish shirt after what was a career threatening injury. Overall from an Irish point of view the game was awful and the men in green shirts did not even have a shot on target throughout the whole ninety minutes. This is something now that has become a big worry for everyone involved, not only did Ireland not have a shot on target but they created very little. Going forward over the next couple of games it is imperative that boss O'Neill unearths a midfielder who can create chances for the front men. It goes without saying that if you do not create chances you will not win games and when Turkey took the lead early in the second half you just knew the Irish would find it hard to get any sort of result. The one outstanding performance on the night for Ireland was from nineteen year old defender Declan Rice who made his debut and throughout the game showed maturity beyond his young years whilst putting in a superb performance. The West Ham player never looked out of place and although he can play for England he has committed to play for Ireland and is proud to do so.

A defeat away against a Turkish side by one goal to nil was not a disaster but it did throw up some questions. The Irish manager had to go with a lot of youth in this particular game and that has to be the way forward if he is to build anything positive. If Ireland are to qualify for the 2020 European Championships they need to find a plan to score more goals. Over the next couple of games it could be that Ireland will get goals from set pieces but if you look at the bigger picture this will not get you victories on a regular basis. The Denmark game showed us that if don't create goal scoring opportunities in a game the only outcome will be defeat, and after this game against what can only be described as an average Turkish side the remaining question for the Irish manager is where will he find a creative midfielder. Sadly I do not see anybody coming along on the horizon who can fill this role and that has to be a worry going forward for everyone involved. Next up for Ireland is another away game against France and another chance to experiment with team selection and systems, but ultimately everything needs to be sorted later in the year when the competitive games in the European Nations League start.

By David Meier

Here is Hoping For Shelbourne FC

Last weekend we saw the First Division of the SSE Airtricity League Kick Off. It followed on  a week after the Premier League had sucessfully kicked off with quite a few super games. One club who will be hoping to put up a good challenge for promotion this season are the lads from Tolka Park, Shelbourne FC. This is a club who over the past few years have had some difficult times both on and off the field. Quite recently the club has been looking for potential investors to give them the finances to try and mount a challenge to get the club back into the top tier of Irish football where they truly belong. The board of management are completely behind finding an investor but at this stage are not prepared to mention any names as it would break any confidentiality agreement with the second party. Shelbourne have a huge fan base and these fans are long overdue the good bragging rights for the Monday morning tea break in work, but without any financial input into the club, it could be a while before the dream is realised. The off the field business has absolutely nothing to do with manager Owen Heary and his players but it would help things to go forward if his side can mount a good challenge this season, as we all know it is easier to attract investors when things look like they are going well and are already on the up.

The Reds first game of this years campaign was away to UCD in a Dublin Derby, this UCD side will be one of the huge favourites to get promotion, so a good start for Shelbourne was a must. On the night it turned out to be a super game but Shelbourne lost out by the odd goal in three. Tim Molloy was the home sides hero when he scored the winner in the sixty fourth minute. The home side had been losing after James English gave Shelbourne the lead after twenty seven minutes when he put away a superb Rooney cross, the goal in fairness came totally against the run of play as UCD had been the far better side in the early exchanges. Shelbourne manager Owen Heary had handed debuts to David O' Sullivan and Dave Mulcahy and both put in a good shift for there boss and will no doubt get better as the season goes along once they settle into their new surroundings. The opening goal had rocked the home side but once manager O' Neill had got them in at half time and reorganised, there was only going to be one winner. UCD managed to pull level in the fiftieth minute when a fantastic run down the wing by Liam Scales led to a cross which Greg Sloggett hammered home. The winning goal came from Molloy who finished off a move which saw Georgie Kelly,s initial shot come back off the post. Shelbourne huffed and puffed after falling behind and should have equalised when a James English header landed in the goalkeepers arms, although it looked easier to score. The dying moments of the game saw Shelbourne pile on the pressure but alas it was not to be. Although it is not always nice to start a season with a defeat, the players can hold their heads high as they mounted a gallant effort to try and snatch a point.

Going forward, things look good on the pitch for Shelbourne as manager Owen Heary has his team playing a very attractive style of football and if they persist the winning results will come. Looking from a UCD perspective they have to be extremely happy with putting one over on a team that could well be competing for promotion place later on in the campaign, we will just have to wait and see.

Bohemians win Dublin Derby

The much loved SSE Airtricity League returned last weekend for the first round of games in the 2018 season. First up was a Dublin Derby between old foes Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers who as we all know have no love for each other at all. In the weeks running up to the game a lot of people were asking how both sides would do this campaign. The game was sold out for more than a week before Friday nights clash and there were even ticket touts outside the ground asking for anyone buying or selling a ticket, something I do not think I have ever heard outside a League of Ireland ground.

On the field both sets of players could feel the white hot atmosphere and for the first fifteen minutes it was a very scrappy affair with neither side really creating anything in a game that was shown live on TV. Sometimes these live games can be drab affairs and players are afraid to make mistakes in front of the cameras. Both sides had added new players during the close season and you could clearly see that both sides were having problems settling in. Rovers took the lead when Ronan Finn finished off a classy move by the hoops when an overhead kick by Burke came back off the post, mind you there was a hint of offside about the goal but as there was no VAR so the goal stood and it was one nil to the away side. From the moment Rovers went in front they took total control of the game and their slick passing was causing Bohemians all sorts of problems. When referee Paul McLaughlin blew the half time whistle you could see the home side just wanted to get into the dressing room and listen to the advice of manager Keith Long on how he wanted to change things, so as to get his team back into the game. Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors in these games but it was clearly evident at the start of the second half that the Bohemians manager had given his side a good talking too as they settled down a lot better in the second half and started to find each other with the ball. The game turned in the home sides favour when Dean Casey headed home a magnificent effort in the 72nd minute and it lit the fuse for a mad twelve minutes. Bohemians took the lead when a long clearance by goalkeeper Shane Supple was headed on and found Paddy Kavanagh in loads of space and he buried his shot past Horgan in the Rovers net. The two goals really rattled Rovers and the game was over as a contest when Casey headed home again to make it three one. It was a well deserved victory for Bohemians as they really put it up to Rovers and the away side seemed to collapse the longer the game went on. It was hard to figure what went wrong for Rovers after their first half domination and you have to be concerned if you are a Rovers fan when you see both your centre half,s playing as if they were total strangers to each other. All in all it was a super start to the season for Bohemians but Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley has a lot to do to lift his side after the defeat.

As a footnote to the outcome of the game you can not let the moment pass without heaping praise on referee Paul McLaughlin who was superb, you do not hear that said very often about a match official. Last Friday night Paul knew the importance of the Dublin Derby and refereed it accordingly, he let the game flow as best he could and was not blowing for free kicks every couple of seconds. Good refereeing can help a game flow and bad referee can destroy the prospect of a good game but on the night Paul was superb, high praise indeed from someone who can be highly critical of referees at times. Overall it was a great night back for the SSE Airtricity League and the events on the pitch did not let anyone down.

The Return of The SSE Airtricity League

It may not have goal line technology or have access to the new VAR system but what it does have is good old blood guts and passion. The weekend that has just passed saw the much anticipated 2018 season kick off and the excitement that had been building for the fans was just about to become reality. Following on from last season when attendances were up, this season could possibly be the best one yet. In the Premier League, Champions Cork City are there to be toppled and after their runaway campaign last season the other clubs have been building there squads during the winter break to try and wrestle away the title from the men who are based close to the River Lee. Cork City were magnificent last season and totally deserved a league and cup double. It is going to be a question of who can mount a challenge and sustain it throughout the campaign until the trophies are lifted at the end of the season.

Over the past few seasons it has been a case of who could win the title either Dundalk or Cork City. To make the league even more spectacular it needs more clubs to close the gap on the top two. Shamrock Rovers have been setting things up nicely and this season their fans expect to be a lot closer to challenging for honours than in the last few  seasons. I have been watching very closely to what is going on at the home of football in Dalymount Park and Bohemians Football Club have been slowly getting things right on the field under manager Keith Long who has gathered a very talented group of players. If they can get off to a good start this season and keep it going there could be good times around the corner for all those involved at the club. There is nothing better in Irish football than been sat in Dalymount Park when the home side are doing the business on the field and the team are been successful. There are a few other big clubs around the league that need improving on last seasons campaign, Saint Patrick's Athletic would be one of those clubs that need to turn things around because last year they really struggled and at one stage were in a relegation dog fight. As former Champions of the League, Saint Pat,s need a big season and manager Liam Buckley has to get right on the field or he could be in for a very hard time. There is no doubt that this season in the Premier League we are in for what one can only describe as a bumpy ride. At this stage it is hard to predict who will win the league but I will stick my neck out and go for Cork City to follow up on last seasons success and top the league again.

In England, the Championship is one of the hardest leagues in the world to get out of and in the SSE Airtricity League it is exactly the same. This season there are some big clubs trying to gain promotion from the second tier and as in England the favourites always seem to be one of the clubs that have dropped down from last years top tier. I feel that this seasons strong favourites to go straight back up are the team from the North West of Ireland Finn Harps under manager Ollie Horgan. One other club that need a big season are Shelbourne and their manager Owen Heary must hope for a bit of luck to go with his great management skills, to get this club back up where it belongs at the top table of Irish football. I have sat in the press box on many nights in Tolka Park and the positioning of the directors box is right in front where all the media boys and girls do their stuff. If there were points awarded for passion from the owners  of a club then Shelbourne would have a least twenty in the bag before the season even kicks off. I tend to compare Shelbourne with Leeds United in England because they have been on the same rocky road as the Yorkshire club for a couple of years now, ironically to add to this story is the fact that Shelbourne Chairman Joe Casey is a big Leeds United fan and regularly makes the trip across to Elland Road. There is no nicer and more genuine man in Irish football than Joe and if I were to grant him one wish I know he would want his beloved Shelbourne back in the Premier League.

It will be a long season in both leagues but it has the potential to be a cracker. There are going to be more games shown live on TV this season and this has to be a help for the promotional side of the league, but you can not beat the thrill of going to a ground each weekend to support your side. The fans in Ireland call it the best league in the world and I tend to agree with that. Over the next few months if it happens in the league I will be all over it letting you guys in the Football Family know what is happening in the SSE Airtricity League. All we can do now is let the games begin.

 

 

 

What Now For O'Neill ?

Last October the Republic of Ireland manager verbally agreed a new contract with his present employers. If you look back at what he has achieved since taking over the top you would have to be happy with his achievements. He has not had a huge pool of top quality players to call on and what he has done in my opinion deserved the offer of a new contract. The style of football has not been something to get you off your seats and do a Morris dance, but to get to the play offs from a very difficult World Cup qualifying group was an achievement in itself. The game against Denmark was a disaster as I have written about before and O' Neill was caught out tactically. It was a night when a plan B was non existent, in fact did Ireland even have a plan B. So with that campaign over it is time to prepare for the next challenge and finally get pen to paper on that contract. Yet what has happened over the past two weeks has thrown all the plans for the future up in the air and has left a few questions to be answered.

When Stoke City sacked Mark Hughes the worry was that Martin would be approached to takeover at the Premier League club in some sort of capacity. The fact that his proposed contract with the FAI had not been signed, left the door wide open for Stoke to make an approach and they duly did. The FAI were not in any position to refuse Stoke permission to talk to Martin as technically he was not their employee. It showed a massive error of judgement by the top brass within the corridors of Irish football not to have had everything signed and sealed after the Denmark game. A lot of the Irish fans are of the opinion that it was downright bad management. In the end Martin turned down the offer from Stoke but it has left a very bad feeling between the man from Derry and most Irish fans. It leaves huge questions over his Irish future and in fact his commitment to the Irish cause. The very fact he sat down with Stoke for talks and discussed becoming their manager highlighted the fact that if a better club or offer had come along he would have been off and left the Republic of Ireland in a mess. It will be very interesting to see how Martin explains his decision when he next sits down with the Irish media and more importantly has he done himself unrepairable damage with the fans. The next two Ireland games are away from home against France and Turkey in friendlies and he is a very lucky man these games are away from Dublin, as I feel he would have come up against a very hostile reception from the fans if these games had been played in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

When all these shenanigans were going on I watched social media for the fans reaction and a lot of the Irish fans wanted him gone and in some cases lads were prepared to drive him to Stoke. Martin now has a huge job ahead of him not only to start getting winning results but to also repair the damage he has done between himself and the Irish fans. The FAI have also got to look seriously at themselves, to leave a contract unsigned and still on the table was inexcusable and could have exploded in their faces. As we move on now to qualification for the 2020 European Championships it will be very interesting to see if Martin stays on as Irish boss or will the fans have ran him out of town.

 

 

Ireland's 2017

They say that the older you get the quicker the years go by and although I have never believed it, to be honest, this past few years have moved at a fair pace. So as all the Turkey and trimmings is put firmly to bed for another year let us reflect on what was an amazing year in Irish football. Managers get paid to produce results and looking back over the past twelve months the focus fell on Republic of Irealnd manager Martin O' Neill and in the domestic game Cork City's John Caulfield, two men who I know on a professional basis. They are so different in their styles of management, but both through their different ways get the job done.

It was always going to be difficult for Martin O' Neill and his Republic of Ireland squad to qualify for the 2018 World Cup Finals giving the fact that they were in a tough group which contained Wales, Serbia, Austria and the so called minnows Moldova and Georgia. For Ireland to get the play off spot was an amazing achievement with the squad of players that Martin could call on. The play off draw was favourable to as the Irish pulled out a Danish cracker. A nil all draw in Copenhagen was a superb result and gave the Irish fans real optimism when they returned to Dublin for the second leg. Alas that is where the Irish dream ended and a nightmare began. The tactics in the first leg were spot on and got the desired result through closing down and keeping things tight especially putting the chains on the Danes star player Christain Erikssen. In the return leg when Shane Duffy put the Irish one up it certainly looked like that the Irish had one foot on the plane to Russia. Sometimes you can score to early in a game and this was one of those days, the ball hitting the Danish net only woke the away side up and reminded them they had come to Dublin to do a job. Once the Danes had  equalised the Irish team did not have an answer, they seemed to crack under the pressure and did not have an response  for a team that kept coming at them in waves. The frustrating part for the fans was the fact that Martin O'Neill did not seem to have a plan B once the Danes equalised. It turned into an absolute farce and the Irish were eliminated from next years World Cup with a five one defeat. Erikssen in a lot of people's opinion is not in the league of been called " World Class " but on the night the way the Irish stood off him made him look like a world beater. It was a sad end to qualification for Ireland and if you look back at the group overall, O'Neill and his players failed to beat Austria, Wales or Serbia in Dublin. As Ireland go forward to their next qualifying campaign they must change the tactic of humping the long ball up to the front men in the hope that something will break for them, once they have fallen behind. Hopefully over the next couple of months Martin O'Neill and his side kick Roy Keane will devise a plan to qualify for the European Championships.

On the domestic scene it was John Caulfield's Cork City who were the top dogs, they won the league and cup double and were full value for their achievement. The men from beside the River Lee put together a magnificent season and beat Dundalk to the top honours. Over the past few seasons the two clubs have been in the forefront of Irish football and brought the league to a higher level. The 2017 season belonged to a great Cork side in many people's opinion. Winning the 2016 Cup Final gave Cork the belief that they could finally turn the tide and beat Dundalk to the number one spot. To win the league by seven points was a real statement and looking forward to this season, which kicks off on February 16th, it has the making of another promising campaign. Both Cork and Dundalk need more teams to step up to the challenge this season and make the league more competitive than just a two horse race. The upcoming season promises to be another terrific journey and if it is half as good as last years, we are in for a cracker.

 

Sadio Mané - Red Card Interpretation

The Barclays Premier League is the one that keeps on giving, week after week. No sooner have we gotten over one problem when another one comes hurtling along the line. Last weekend was no different and thanks to referees Jon Moss and Mike Jones we had plenty to chat about in the bars and clubs around the length and breath of the country. It was not the fact that these officials had been at the centre of controversy over the weekend, but in the way everyone interpreted their decisions.

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Jon Moss took control of arguably the biggest game of the weekend between Manchester City and Liverpool and the fall out from his decision to send off Liverpool's Mane for a challenge on the Manchester City goalkeeper is still going on. As a rule I very rarely have much time for the opinions of ex footballers when it comes to refereeing decisions as in my opinion they have not got an idea about applying the laws of the game. So when Jon Moss sent off Mane, cue the usual moaning as to what most of them saw as a bad decision. In fact this is where there is a strange twist to the story, as in my opinion on the day Jon Moss got it drastically wrong as well. As I was watching the game live on TV like most fans I thought to myself that it was a terrible decision to show a red card. In my opinion the player was only going for the ball and if we can not challenge for the ball anymore we may as well just pack the game in, I actually felt at the time that at worst it deserved a yellow card. The difference with this decision was that the challenge had endangered the City goalkeeper,s safety and that is why Jon sent off Mane. The Liverpool player must surely have felt hard done by, but that is the way the modern game has gone and in fairness we have to be thankful as it gives players better protection. A good friend of mine who is a former referee in South Africa, Errol Sweeney, got slaughtered on social media in the aftermath of the game when he posted that he thought it should only have been a yellow card as well. The laws of the game are laid down in front of people who play the game, but the most important thing is how to apply them. Jon Moss got it spectacularly correct on Saturday, not like quite a few of us who got it wrong or maybe it was our interpretation that was wrong.

If you fast forward from the incident that happened on Saturday and look at the one that happened in the Swansea and Newcastle game on Sunday you will see a totally  different outcome for a similar challenge. The referee in charge of this game was Mike Jones and in my opinion he is an accident waiting to happen every time he enters the field of play. Over the years Mike has given us some great entertainment with the decisions he has got horribly wrong. On Sunday, Mike had a tricky incident to deal with when a high boot by Newcastle,s Matt Ritchie caught a Swansea player around the head area, but it was only punished with a yellow card. The challenge was very similar to the one involving Mane on Saturday but on this ocasssion the colour of the card was different. The fact that the Swansea defender did not hit the ground or indeed need medical attention probably had a huge impact on Mike making his mind up as to what to do. I am not saying on this occasion that Mike was wrong but I also feel he was not correct either.

Both of these games brought about different outcomes for similar decisions, something that needs to be sorted out. Interpretation of the laws of the game are vital if the officials are to become more consistent and the only way they can get these big calls correct is to discuss them at meetings and work shops so as everyone is singing from the same songbook, but this will take a great deal of work and understanding. I do not see consistency improving anytime soon.

By David Meier

Ireland Down But Not Quite Out

This past week has seen the Republic of Ireland play two pivotal games in World Cup Qualifying Group D for Russia 2018. Going into the away game against Georgia and the massive home tie against fellow group leaders Serbia, manager Martin O' Neill knew that four points were a must to give Ireland complete control of the group.

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Going into the Georgia game I was always of the opinion that a point would be a super result in Tbilisi. Although Ireland got the point, it was the matter of how they played that was a real worry. Ireland took the lead after only four minutes when Shane Duffy headed home his first international goal for his country but that is we're the good news ended. Instead of pushing on and getting a second goal to see off the Georgians, the Irish were totally outplayed by the home side. Time and time again they conceded ground by giving away silly passes and I wondered sometimes did our lads know we were playing in green. After taking that early lead on the night, the way the Irish played it was only a matter of time before the home team scored and that they did in the 34th minute when Kazaishvilli found the net. It was a well deserved equalising goal by the home side as going behind in the fourth minute could have destroyed better teams. Overall it was a disappointing night for the Irish as they never really showed up as a team. The result brought all sorts of criticism from the media and the general consensus of opinion was that this performance had been Ireland,s worst in many a long day.

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The Serbia game did not need to be hyped up by manager O' Neill as Ireland knew this would be a game not to lose against a tricky and talented Serbian side. The Irish went into the game still reeling from the fall out from the Georgian game after all the media criticism thrown at them. The atmosphere inside the Aviva stadium was electric as the fans felt this could be another one of those special Irish nights in Dublin. Martin O' Neill made two changes in his side from the Georgian game, bringing in fans favourite Wes Hoolahan and David Meyler to replace Glenn Whelan and Harry Arter, it seem to do the trick early on as Ireland played with a much better high tempo sort of game. Early on, Shane Duffy thought he had grabbed his second Irish goal in as many games when he headed home after only ten minutes, but his joy was short lived when the assistant referee raised his flag for offside. This seemed to ignite the crowd and the Irish pushed on to try and grab that all important lead goal but it just would not come. Time and time again Ireland waisted chances with awful crossing into the penalty area, it was either a case of hitting it to long or not getting past the first defender. In the second half it was much of the same and I just could not understand why O' Neill did not tell the players at half time to get the ball to the goal line and pull it back, as I felt this was the way to break down a pretty resolute Serbian defence. Although the Irish were playing so much better than in the game against Georgia they also knew that the Serbians could cause problems, which they duly did in the 55th minute of the game when a Kolorov thunderbolt gave them a one nil lead. It was a shot that not many goalkeepers in the world could have saved and it was clinical on the part of the Serbians. It gave Ireland a huge mountain to climb and they really never got half way up as the away side dug in to hold onto their golden goal. In the 68th minute of the game Maksimovic was sent off for a foul on Daryl Murphy who would have been clear in on goal had it not been for the challenge. The ten men dug in and held on for the win although Ireland did really put it up to them, the home side even had a big call for a penalty late on when Murphy was bundled off the ball, but the Turkish referee waved play on and with that decision saw Ireland,s chance disappear.

Ireland now move on to play Moldova at home and Wales away and they know if they can win both games they could still make it onto the plane for Russia next year. The Irish teams destination has basically come down to two cup finals and both games take on a huge importance now, not only for qualification but for the future of Ireland manager Martin O' Neill. On paper Moldova in Dublin should be three points for the boys in green, but the Welsh game will be a huge occasion for both countries and with the Welsh on a great run now it might be the winner takes all for the second spot in the group that will see either side make the play offs.

Ridiculous Refereeing

Every season brings along new problems for every referee. At the start of each campaign the referees have been given new instructions for any law changes that may have occurred during the summer break. The most important thing from a refereeing point of view is that when you are given those guidelines it is how each official applys them. Different referees pick up on these instructions and when they apply them differently it causes all sorts of problems. I have always been of the opinion that a referee should rarely be seen in a game, if the viewer does not see the official for the ninety minutes you can be sure that official has had a good game. So as we head back into domestic football next weekend after the international break, what silliness has caught my eye in the first couple of games of this season.

One referee who certainly loves the limelight is Mike Dean. There are times when I see him officiate and he makes my blood boil, he comes up with some bizarre decisions and generally has been known to ruin a game. The last round of fixtures in the Barclays Premier League saw Mike take control of the Bournemouth versus Manchester City game and true to form he was centre of attention once again. A game that saw nine yellow cards and one red was the talk of the media circus on the Saturday evening. I do not know how he does it, but Mike seems to apply the philosophy that every time he blows for a foul in the game a yellow card must follow, it is an awful way to referee. In my opinion in this game Mike missed two blatant red cards when he did not give Kompany and Ake their marching orders, by failing to do so he gave himself loads of problems that could so easily have been avoided.

The way the game was refereed was very poor and to be perfectly honest officiating like this should not be allowed happen again. I have always stated that referees need to be consistent with their decisions and if they fail to be it can be  frustrating for players and managers. Mike Dean,s decision to show Raheem Sterling a second yellow card for celebrating in the crowd after an injury time winner for City was laughable. It was a goal that was going to win the game for his side and it came so late in the match you could understand the City players celebration, for god sake if we kill celebrating we may as well kill the game. Bournemouth,s  Charlie Daniels did exactly the same when he scored but no card followed his celebrations. It was as if Mike wanted all the attention on himself right at the very end of the game and by sending Sterling off and he got his moment. By the letter of the law Raheem was wrong when he went into the crowd as the players this season have been warned about this sort of behaviour, but with Raheem already on a yellow card a good referee would have turned a blind eye and not brought problems on himself.

I am sure as we go forward this season we will see loads of mistakes made by officials and I can understand that, but what I can not sit back and watch is referee,s trying to hog the limelight and be the centre of attention. It is a trend a few referee's have started and to be perfectly honest the game can do without these performing seals. As I mentioned earlier, in my opinion a referee should not be seen throughout a game, the only time I want to see the official is when he is stamping his authority on the game for bad behaviour by the players. I do hope we see the cream of refereeing come to the top this season as I do not want to be writing about idiots with whistles for the next nine months. So let us see what the next round of games bring, a lot of controversy I expect.

Shelbourne to face Shamrock Rovers

Last weekend we saw the first round of this seasons FAI Senior Cup. There is no doubt that this competition is the most prestigious one to win in Irish football. It is a special feeling to be involved in this cup and it is also great to be able to tell your children and grand children of the special feeling it was to take part.

Shelbourne travelled to Waterford to play the league leaders of Division One. The home side look a certainty now in my opinion to win the league and Shelbourne faced a tough challenge to try and get a result. On the night it turned out to be all so easy for Owen Heary's men who won three nil. It was a superb result for the men from Tolka Park as it has been a tough season for them, they are already resigned to the fact that they will still be in Division One next season. Shelbourne FC is not a Division One side and its club history will tell you that. The pressure is now off in the league campaign and it would be great to see them go a long way in this years competition.

SSE Airtricity Premier League side Shamrock Rovers also have a great history in the FAI Cup and have won it on twenty four occasions, a brilliant record in any walk of life. Stephen Bradley and his Hoops squad have in many pundits eye had an up and down season, but are still in with a big shout of getting back into Europe a place that Shamrock Rovers belong. In the first round of this years competition Rovers had a tricky tie against junior side Glenville, but came through it in a very professional way winning one nil. The men from Tallaght would be one of the favourites to win this years competition and add some more memories to what is already a fabulous history.

During the week I managed to speak with Shelbourne chairman Joe Casey and he was delighted to share his views with me and the site. I asked Joe how he felt about the draw and this was his informative reply

"It's a great tie for the club and gives our young team the chance to pit their wits against one of the best teams in the country, it is a nice distraction from the graveyard that is the 1st Division and it is lovely that the game will be played on the eve of former club CEO Ollie Byrne's 10th anniversary, you never know, his spirit might invoke memories of some clashes of the past".

I expect there to be a great crowd at the game this Friday night in Tolka Park and this should make for a very special occasion. It is a Dublin derby that will also bring out the neutral fan and hopefully when they see what is been offered on the pitch hopefully they will come back again to support the SSE Airtricity League.