Polished United Too Good For Hapless Spurs

23 Aug

By Damien Morris

Manchester United picked up their first win in their first game of the season at Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson made three changes to the team that won at The Hawthorns with Phil Jones and Jonny Evans coming in for the injured Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Patrice Evra returned to the team in place of Fabio to captain the side. Tom Cleverley partnered Anderson in central midfield with Nani and Ashley operating on the flanks Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney led the line with Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez, after having concussion warming the bench.

Tottenham left Luka Modric out of the matchday squad because of the ongoing speculation linking him with a move to Chelsea in the transfer window. He played Jake Livermore and Niko Kranjcar in central midfield with Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale on the right and left side of midfield respectively.

Rafael Van Der Vaart played just behind Jermaine Defoe in the forward line. They also gave a debut to American goalkeeper Brad Friedal.

The match started at a frantic pace with Manchester United creating the first chance when Wayne Rooney headed a cross from Nani straight into the hands of Brad Friedel.

Manchester United then had their first real chance of the game when Ashley Young ran with the ball on the left side he then squared the pass to Tom Cleverley who hit a low hard shot that was heading for the bottom right hand corner of the net which, to Tottenham’s relief Brad Friedel tipped around the post.

Tottenham started to have a good spell of possession as the first half wore on. Michael Dawson glanced a header over the bar from a corner while Gareth Bale fired in a shot with his right foot straight into the arms of David De Gea, the new goalkeeper Manchester United signed from Athletico Madrid.

Ashley Young then glanced a header just past the post from a cross from Wayne Rooney.

In the second half Manchester United played with so much more poise. They moved the ball around so much quicker than they did in the first half.

They were rewarded with a goal on the hour when Tom Cleverley hit a short pass to Chris Smalling who in turn played it back to Tom Cleverley.

He then hit in a first time cross into the box, which was headed in by Danny Welbeck. Old Trafford was now full of cheer. Manchester United then scored their second goal.

Ashley Young started the move he played the ball to Wayne Rooney who played it to Anderson. Anderson played it back to Danny Welbeck who back heeled it for Anderson to fire it into the net.

That had to be the move of the match. Danny Welbeck then got a standing ovation when he left the pitch to be substituted as did Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young for the effort they put in tonight.

Ryan Giggs, Javier Hernandez and Ji-Sung Park came on for them. The substitute Ryan Giggs provided the final goal when he hit in a lofted cross from the right hand side, which Wayne Rooney headed past Brad Friedel.

Friedel performed really well for Spurs tonight. He denied Jonny Evans and Tom Cleverley in the course of the game. Spurs ran out of ideas as the match wore on. They so need firepower upfront and a new central defender.

United judging by this performance will take some stopping on all fronts this season. They still have more players to come back into the team as well.

Misfiring Arsenal Caught Cold By Liverpool Resurgence

23 Aug

By Damien Morris

Liverpool registered a win over Arsenal in the lunchtime kick-off last Saturday.

The Anfield club beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium. Arsene Wenger was forced into making various changes to the team due to injuries and suspensions. Carl Jenkinson appeared in the Arsenal team, as Armand Traore and Kieran Gibbs were not fit. He played at right-back with Bacary Sagna switching over to the other side to play at left-back. Samir Nasri appeared in the team despite speculation linking him with a move to Manchester City. Emmanuel Frimpong replaced the injured Jack Wilshere in midfield.

Kenny Dalglish brought into Martin Kelly to play at right back. Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger played in central defence and Jose Enrique at left back. Luis Suarez was on the bench despite scoring against Sunderland last week. Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing were the front two for Liverpool.

Emmanuel Frimpong got a needless booking in the 7th minute after preventing Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson from taking the throw as he thought it was his throw. Liverpool created the first chance of the game in the 19th minute when Andy Carroll forced Wojciech Szczesny into a fine save with a fine header from a Jose Enrique cross from the left hand side after climbing above Bacary Sagna to create the chance. Arsenal get created their first chance of the match when Emmanuel Frimpong hit a low shot outside the area which Pepe Reina tipped around the post.

In the second half Arsenal started so bright when Robin Van Persie produced a fine save from Pepe Reina after fine approach work from Andrea Arshavin. Emmanuel Frimpong’s full debut turned sour when he got sent off after he got a second booking. The foul he committed on Lucas was deserving of a red card. Arsenal were now on the back foot after they were reduced to ten men.

Liverpool then produced a shot from Stewart Downing, which Szczesny tipped around the post. Kenny Dalglish then made a double substitution with Raul Meireles and Luis Suarez coming on for Dirk Kuyt and the ineffective Andy Carroll. Liverpool then made the breakthrough. Raul Meireles played a low pass into the box the Spanish full-back Miguel tried to clear it but it hit off the chest of Aaron Ramsey and past Szczesny, the Arsenal goalkeeper. Since Emmanuel Frimpong got sent off Liverpool have been creating the bulk of the chances.

Liverpool then wrapped it up in the 89th minute with their second goal. Lucas ran forward with the ball he then played a pass into Raul Meireles on the right hand side of the penalty area. He played a square pass across the box for Luis Suarez to guide it into the empty net. It was a job well done for Liverpool. They look a team that could finish in the top four while Arsenal look a team that is heading in the wrong direction. If they keep heading in the wrong direction a lot of Arsenal fans will be calling for Arsene Wenger to leave.

They will not be confident going to Old Trafford next week. Liverpool will be at home next week to play Bolton. This will be a huge test in how Liverpool are progressing under Kenny Dalgleish

Mayo V Kerry All Ireland Football Semi Final Preview

21 Aug

By Paul Walsh
GAA Correspondent
Follow him on twitter @walshpots

This was not the way it was supposed to be. The pundits, the bookies and everybody with even a passing interest in GAA, had this down as a Kerry V Cork semi final. The Mayo players and management however, did not read the script. Their second half performance in the quarter finals left the All Ireland champions frustrated and as they floundered, Mayo prospered and booked their appearance at Croke Park today. Despite Mayo’s impressive performance against Cork, they still enter this game as massive underdogs. Are we about to see another upset, or have the experts got it right this time?

Jack O’Connor in the lead up to this game has played down the favourites tag. In his opinion and as long as he has been involved with Kerry, they have always had to deal with expectation. They were expected to progress against Down last year, when their campaign came to a shuddering halt. Despite the history, tradition and the presence of a number of All Ireland winners in Kerry’s team today, they are not unbeatable. Mayo needs to believe, they are a first division team and provincial champions, and they should not fear this Kerry team.

Mayo teams of course have come to Croke Park before and froze like a rabbit in headlights, at the sight of a Kerry jersey. Nobody from the West recounts the 2004 and 2006 All Ireland finals with any fondness. Both days were massacres as Kerry had Mayo beaten by half time on both occasions. Mayo need to contain Kerry early on and continue their excellent defensive play, that has got them this far. Players like Donal Vaughan of Mayo, who stood on Hill 16 at the 2006 All Ireland final, need to use that hurt to erase the impression of Mayo being a team with a soft underbelly.

The Kerry team’s strength lies in the All Star forward line. Mayo did contain Cork, but that was a Cork forward line decimated by injury. Mayo has to plan how they contain Kieran Donaghy, Colm Cooper and Darran O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan in particular has been in fine form, with his back heel against Limerick a clear indication of the confident mood he is in. Probably no other forward in the country would have attempted his audacious flick and it’s this ability to improvise that makes the Kerry forward line son dangerous. For Mayo, centrefield as it was against Cork is a key battleground. The Mayo O’Shea brothers had question marks hanging over them coming in to the Cork game, concerning their mobility. However, they came out on top in their match up with Aidan Walsh and Alan O’Connor. Today they face Anthony Maher and Bryan Sheehan and this Kerry midfield pair, should not strike fear at the heart of Mayo. If Mayo could dominate here, it could go a long way towards a shock victory.

With all due respect to the teams that Kerry has played thus far, they have not been tested apart from the Munster final against Cork. Today will be a real test of their title credentials. All Ireland Championships are not given out based on reputations and there are three really hungry teams that want to deprive The Kingdom of another title. I expect Mayo to be competitive and it will certainly not be a repeat of the 2004 and 2006 All Ireland finals. In the end despite some misgivings I have to plump for Kerry. Their forward line should just give them the edge but by a gap of just 3 points or less.

Premiership Previews

19 Aug

By Damien Morris

Arsenal v Liverpool

Both Liverpool and Arsenal will be looking to register their first win of the new Premier League season. Liverpool had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Sunderland last week at Anfield after a promising first half performance. Luis Suarez looks like he will score a lot of goals this season in the Premier League playing upfront with Andy Carroll. Charlie Adam looks like he will fit well into the team. Liverpool are really capable of breaking into the top four if their new signings bed into the team well.

Arsenal on the other hand drew 0-0 with Newcastle at St James Park with their new striker Gervinho getting sent off after an incident with Joey Barton. Arsenal will also have to deal with the aftermath of Cesc Fabregas leaving for Barcelona and the possibility of Samir Nasri going to Manchester City. Arsenal will need to make a few shrewd signings if they want to finish in the top four this season. I don’t think as it stands they have the players that can get them a top four finish this season.

My Prediction

I can see this game providing us with plenty of chances and great football to watch. This is a very important game even at this early stage of the season. I find this game really hard to call so I’ll go for the draw.

Sunderland v Newcastle Utd

This is the first Tyne Wear derby of the new Premier League season. Sunderland and Newcastle will also be looking to register a first win of the new season. After both drawing with Liverpool and Arsenal respectively.

Sunderland look like they will finish in the top half of the table this season after signing various players like Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Sebastien Larsson, Connor Wickham. They were very impressive in second half against Liverpool last Saturday at Anfield. Sebastien Larsson got a great goal to deny Liverpool the three points. I think Sunderland will be hard to beat at home this season. I can see them challenging for the European spots.

Newcastle look a team that could struggle to finish in the top half of the league this season after losing Kevin Nolan to West Ham in the summer. They also have found it hard to bring in players that could improve the team sufficiently. They bought in Manchester Utd reject Gabriel Obertan who has yet to prove he can cut it at the top level of football. I think another new signing for them Djemba Ba will struggle to score goals in the Premier League. They did well last week to hold Arsenal to a 0-0 draw at St James Park. I think they will only just survive in the Premier League this season.

My Prediction

I can see this game providing us with plenty of courage from both sides. Both sides will not be afraid to play attacking football. I can see Sunderland winning this game 2-1.

Aston Villa v Blackburn Rovers

Aston Villa will be looking to register their first win of the season at Villa Park after drawing 0-0 with Fulham at Craven Cottage last weekend. Goalkeeper Shay Given was responsible for preventing Fulham scoring after making a string of fine saves. Charles N’Zogbia looks like he will add much needed creativity to this Aston Villa team. I think this team will finish in mid table this season.

Blackburn managed by Steve Kean began the season with a 2-1 loss at home to Wolves at Ewood Park managed by Mick McCarthy. They are nowhere near a team that can challenge for the European places. They are very lightweight upfront with Jason Roberts, Junior Hoilett and David Goodwille providing the forward options. They could be in for a long season battling the relegation trapdoor if they don’t strengthen their squad.

My Prediction

I reckon this game has the look of it being a one sided affair. I expect Aston Villa to be creating most if not all the chances in this game at Villa Park. They will want to send the fans home happy so I will go for a 3-0 Aston Villa win.

Everton v QPR

This will be Everton’s first league game of the season after their match with Tottenham got postponed at White Hart Lane last week because of the London riots. They have had no funds at their disposal to buy new players. David Moyes is still the manager. I reckon they will still be a team capable of finishing in the top half of the table with Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines and Mikael Arteta still at the club.

QPR managed by Neil Warnock got off to the worst possible start last week after losing at home 4-0 to Bolton wanderers managed by Owen Coyle. QPR played well in the first half of that game but as soon as Bolton scored they folded. Once Clint Hill got sent off and Kieron Dyer picked up a metatarsal injury you knew its wasn’t going to be their day. Adel Taarabt their star performer of last season drifted out of the game as the match wore on. If they play like that for most of the season I can see them getting relegated.

My Prediction

I can see this being very one sided with Everton really determined to start their season on a high note. I can’t see QPR getting anything from this game at Goodison Park. I’ll go for a 4-0 Everton win.

Swansea v Wigan Athletic

This is the first meeting of these two sides in the Premier League. Roberto Martinez the Wigan manager will be looking to put one over the club he used to manage and got them promoted from League One to the Championship back in 2008. Wigan will be looking for their first win of the season after drawing 1-1 with Norwich last weekend. Losing Charles N’Zogbia in the summer was a huge blow for them. I can’t see Wigan scoring many goals in the Premier League this season and keeping the goals out will be a problem for Wigan too. I think they will find it hard to stay in the Premier League this season.

Swansea managed by Brendan Rodgers began the season with a 4-0 drubbing by Manchester City at the Etihad stadium. That night they still played their passing brand of football that got them promoted from the Championship to the Premiership last season. They gave Manchester City plenty to think about in the first half. Scott Sinclair and Lloyd Dyer will be the key for them to stay in the Premier League for another season with the pace they provide to the team.

My Prediction

I can see this being a close game in this early season six pointer. Both sides will go for want to try and win as a draw in the long run might not suit both sides. I’ll do for Swansea City to edge this game 2-1 and pick up their first points of the Premier League.

Chelsea v West Brom

Chelsea will be looking to register their first win of the season after drawing 0-0 with Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium. They had a few penalty decisions turned down in the game. Florent Malouda and Fernando Torres looked really sharp for Chelsea last week. Chelsea will again be Manchester Uniteds challengers for the Premiership.

West Brom managed by Roy Hodgsson will be looking to get something out of this game. Shane Long looked really sharp last week in his first game for the club. I can see West Brom winning a lot of their home games this season. That will be enough for them to stay in the league.

My Prediction

The only team I can see scoring goals in this game is Chelsea. They have enough players in their team to hurt West Brom. West Brom don’t have the defenders in their ranks to handle this Chelsea team. I’ll go for a 3-0 Chelsea win.

Norwich v Stoke City

Norwich managed by Paul Lambert will be looking to register their first win of the new season after drawing 1-1 with Wigan. Wes Hoolahan looks like he will be a key player for the Canaries this season. I feel Norwich will need plenty of fight and spirit to stay in the Premier League. I don’t think ability will be enough to see them survive in the Premier League.

Stoke managed by Tony Pulis will be looking to win their first game of the season. Last week they did really well to shut Chelsea out. The match finished 0-0. Jonathan Woodgate settled really well into the team last week. I think Stoke will have no trouble staying up this season in the Premier League as their home record is so strong.

My Prediction

I think this will be an interesting tussle at Carrow Road. Norwich will like to pass it around as well as Stoke. I think Stoke are better than Norwich in all areas of the pitch. I’ll go for a 2-0 Stoke win.

Wolves v Fulham

Wolves managed by Mick McCarthy will be looking to build on their away win over Blackburn last weekend. Roger Johnson played really well on his debut last week. Stephen Fletcher looks a player that will score a lot of goals. I can see Matt Jarvis creating plenty for them this season. They will have no problems staying in the Premier League.

Fulham managed by Martin Jol look like they will be playing a great passing brand of football under his stewardship. They bought in John Arne Riise from Roma in the summer. He will be a great acquisition for Fulham. I can see Fulham scoring enough goals to keep them in the Premier League this season.

My Prediction

I think this will be another close game. I can see both sides creating plenty of chances in this game. I am going to go for a 2-1 Wolves win as they are at home.

Bolton v Manchester City

Bolton managed by Owen Coyle had an impressive start to the season beating QPR at Loftus Road 4-0. Chris Eagles looks like a really good singing for Bolton after creating two of Bolton’s four goals. Kevin Davies is getting better as the years go on. They are well capable of finishing in the top half this season providing there are no injuries to key players.

Manchester City managed by Roberto Mancini started the new season well with a 4-0 win over newly promoted Swansea City. Sergio Aguero looks a great signing for Manchester City after coming off the bench to score two goals and create one for Spanish midfielder David Silva. I think they are capable of finishing in the top three with that squad they possess.

My Prediction

 I think this will be a tight game with both sides showing decent form. I am going to go for Manchester City to edge this game 2-1.

Manchester United v Tottenham

Manchester United managed by Sir Alex Ferguson look a team determined to keep on winning trophies. Ashley Young and Phil Jones will bed in really well into team. Tom Cleverley looks like he will get plenty of games this season after impressing last season on loan at Wigan. David De Gea will in time be a great goalkeeper for Manchester United. With this squad we have now I can see no other than another Premier League title for Manchester United.

Tottenham managed by Harry Redknapp will be playing their first game of the season after their match with Everton at White Hart Lane was called off last week due to the London Riots. They have had a very quiet summer in the transfer market. Luka Modric looks like leaving the club for Chelsea. I think if they don’t strengthen in the transfer window they will find it hard to finish in the top four this season.

My Prediction

I don’t think Harry Redknapp will be happy to play Manchester United at Old Trafford as their first game of the new season. Manchester United are in inspiring form. I can see no other than a 3-0 Manchester United win.

Negative victories and positive defeats: The difference between Ireland’s ’07 and present World Cup hopes

18 Aug

Sean Farrell

Rugby Correspondent

Now this is exciting! The past two weeks have seen Declan Kidney pick international teams for tricky away fixtures. The goal – despite Kidney’s protests – was to get those finely tuned motors up and running. A slow and sure warm up before we click into gear on these, the last two laps of our test run before New Zealand.

First up was the damp squib of a game against Scotland, do we expect anything more from a trip to Edinburgh? Much more heartening was last weekend’s jaunt to Bordeaux. Another loss, yes, but the performance was only a decent set-piece away from a win deep in French rugby country.

Yet, the admirable display did more than add impetus to the warm up series or give hope for the future. It helped to banish some aspects of our last trip to Stade Chaban Delmas (cue dramatic score from movie thriller – dun DUN dun) in 2007.

The warm up to that French debacle saw us wander into the lion’s den (good Christians that we are.) It was a hot and heavy midweek match in Bayonne, the Southwest outfit at that time were languishing in the second tier of France’s domestic competition and so, seemingly without fear of reproach, set about systematically lifting our ponderous World Cup bid off the railway tracks.

Reports differ on which carriage was targeted first, what is beyond doubt is that our engine, Brian O’Driscoll, was mercilessly targeted Super 8 style by substitute Mikeana Tewhata. The Kiwi played the part of the disgruntled truck driver four years before JJ Abrams unleashed his blockbuster on the masses.

Denis Hickie, who touched down three times as Ireland limped to a 42-6 win, could scarcely believe his eyes: “I thought those sort of games were a thing of the past.” The winger told the Belfast Telegraph at the time, “Brian got a blatant punch in the face from a guy he wasn’t even looking at which is pretty cowardly, but what can you do?”

Little over a week later, Italy came across to Belfast to wish us well in our going away party. They swamped in bold as brass, ate all the cake and swilled the free booze. They ruined the whole Friday night and made me do something I never did before or since during an Irish match, I switched off early.

It was as bad as Ireland have played in the modern era, on a par with the narrow win over Georgia just three weeks later. Like the 14-10 win by the Garonne, the match by the Lagan went down to the wire too.

Matteo Pratichetti’s converted try perilously close to the final whistle shot Italy into a 20 -16 lead. It was too late to cancel the flight to Bordeaux, I sighed and did what any self-respecting Irishman does when faced with crushing disappointment: grabbed my coat and headed to the pub.

By the time I looked both ways, crossed the road and moped through the door 60 meters from my own threshold, Donal the barman seemed in philosophic mood: “Terrible weren’t they” he said in an incomprehensibly upbeat mood. ‘Yeah, awful’ I lamented ‘first loss to Italy since…’ As he set me straight, Donal’s eyebrows raised higher than the pitch of his voice “No. They won. O’Gara scored a try!”

Disbelieving, I settled down to analyse the highlights before my pint of stout settled, ROG had done it again. Nowadays the ageing fly-half is forced to compete for his place but it’s not long since he was one of the three reliable totems which Ireland could always pin their hopes on.

This occasion, though, was not an example of his enduring class but more a big jammy stroke of luck. The talisman broke onto a questionable pass from Andrew Trimble and then grounded the score in less than convincing fashion. Long story short: Ireland won, just as they did in Bayonne; happy days, nothing to see here. Let’s just look forward to the World Cup, it’ll be alright on the night…

We hoped for the best but got more of the same. A shoddy display and a win against mighty Namibia led to us to being well and truly found out by Georgia who spent the dying minutes camped on our line and eventually trundled over only to be held up by Denis Leamy. Nobody was being fooled by the results anymore.

Ireland went on to Paris to be outclassed by the hosts and (needing a massive win to qualify) lost again to our favourite South Americans, who revelled in the kick and defend laden game-pattern of the day.

Results are not everything, far from it. The win in Bayonne was a physical pummelling, the narrow escape in Ravenhill a disaster. Compare these games to recent weeks when Kidney has sent understrength teams to hothouse atmospheres and got within inches of a win on both occasions.

The performances are there and the mood is good, that’s what has supporters excited. Because on Saturday we will see a green XV close to the one Kidney would choose to face Australia on September 17th.

The exception is Felix Jones, however much he merits a starting place, the Munster fullback still has a way to go to gain Kidney’s trust in a match of major stature. Elsewhere, the pack is in place – only Stephen Ferris could muscle in there. The half backs are building an understanding, Gordon D’Arcy is back in midfield and the back three is extremely dangerous despite the absence of Tommy Bowe who, once fit, should walk back into the right wing position.

All that said; the rallying cry from the sponsors of these warm up games must be heard. The build-up starts here and our boys in green must put more than half a game together against both France and England. Going into the World Cup under the radar is all well and good, but going on the back of four defeats could make for an impossible climb.

From Bayonne to the brink of something special, the prospect of victory, the chance of defeat; I guess that’s what makes it all so exciting.

Ireland (v France): F Jones, A Trimble, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, K Earls; J Sexton, T O’Leary; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell (capt); S O’Brien, D Wallace, J Heaslip Replacements: J Flannery, T Court, M McCarthy, S Ferris, E Reddan, R O’Gara, L Fitzgerald.

Ireland XV (v Connacht) G Murphy; J Murphy, D Cave, I Keatley, F McFadden; P Wallace, I Boss; T Buckley, S Cronin, J Hayes;; M O’Driscoll, L Cullen; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, D Leamy. Replacements: D Varley, M Horan, D Ryan, N Ronan, C Murray, D Hurley, I Whitten

First Weekend of the New Premier League Season

15 Aug

By Damien Morris

What a weekend it turned out to be for Manchester United.Manchester United managed a 2-1 win over West Brom at The Hawthorns.

Wayne Rooney scored the opening goal in the 13th minute with a low shot past Ben Foster.

West Brom then equalized in the 37th minute with a goal by Irish striker Shane long.

This goal was aided by bad goalkeeping from Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea who let the shot from Shane Long slip under his body.

Ashley Young helped win match for Manchester United by providing low cross that hit of Stephen Reid past Ben Foster. The only downside for Manchester United was the injuries picked up by Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Rio Ferdinand will be out for six weeks with a hamstring injury. We won’t know how long Nemanja Vidic will be out till later on today.

Elsewhere Chelsea played out a dour 0-0 with Stoke at the Brittania Stadium. Didier Drogba was left out of starting line-up where Andres Villas Boas decided to go for a 4-3-3 formation with Florent Malouda, Fernando Torres and Salomon Kalou providing the forward options.

Liverpool could only draw 1-1 with Sunderland. Luis Suarez missed a penalty early on. He then opened the scoring by heading it past Mignolet after a great cross put in by new signing Charlie Adam.

Sunderland later equalised through Sebastien Larsson, who arrived in the summer from relegated Birmingham City. Arsenal played out a dull 0-0 with Newcastle at St James Park. Joey Barton was involved in incident that got Gervinho sent off from Arsenal.

With Fabregas already signed for Barcelona and Nasri almost certain to leave it could be a hard season for Arsenal for not just trying to win the league but being able to finish in the top 4 to qualify for Champions League.

QPR and Norwich City had mixed starts to the season. Norwich City played out a 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic while QPR lost at home 4-0 to Bolton Wanderers. Wes Hoolahan scored goal for Norwich after they trailed to a Ben Watson penalty.

QPR lost to goals from Gary Cahill, Danny Gabbidon (OG), Ivan Klasnic and Fabrice Muamba. Both of the newly promoted teams will need to adapt to life fast in the Premier League.

Aston Villa and Fulham played out a 0-0 draw at Craven Cottage but Blackburn lost 2-1 to Wolves at Ewood Park with Steven Fletcher and Stephen Ward replying for Wolves after going behind to a goal from Argentine striker Mauro Formica.

It now looks like being a great season for Wolves but a gloomy season for Blackburn Rovers.

Dubs and Premier County Face off In All Ireland Semi’s

11 Aug

By Paul Walsh

GAA Correspondent

Follow him on twitter @walshpots

Whatever happens on Sunday, it has been a historic season for the Dublin hurling team. They won their first national title since 1938 and they are appearing in their first All Ireland semi final since 1948.

The progress they have made has delighted both Dubs and neutrals alike, as their aggressive and hard working style has marked them out as an emerging force in hurling. The Leinster Final defeat to Kilkenny was the one blot on their copybook and it perhaps indicated that they are not quite ready to sit at the table of the hurling elites just yet.

Dublin did not perform in the Leinster Final and one senses they would relish a chance to face Kilkenny again, this time in an All Ireland Final, which could redeem their reputation. Standing in their way is a significant obstacle in the shape of reigning All Ireland champions Tipperary. They have impressed on their journey to Croke Park, dispatching Cork, Clare and Waterford with varying levels of ease. Their goal blitz in the Munster Final against Waterford is surely a performance that has been keeping Anthony Daly up nights, as he attempts to plot a course past the Premier County.

Dublin’s cause has not been helped by a spate of injuries. It has now been confirmed that David Treacy will miss Sunday’s game after sustaining a hamstring tear in training over the weekend. He joins the long list of Dublin players in sick bay, which includes Stephen Hiney, Tomás Brady, Conal Keaney and Oisin Gough. Dublin does not have the strength in their panel that Kilkenny or Tipperary have and will find it hard to absorb these losses.

Declan Ryan in contrast has an almost full strength panel to choose from. Seamus Hennessey is their only injury. I expect Tipperary to test the Dublin full back line early and go for goals. The Dublin full back line has had a mixed championship, largely due to injuries to key players. Peter Kelly impressed against Limerick but the full back line will be under sever pressure this Sunday, when they face off against Lar Corbett, Eoin Kelly and John O’Brien. Dublin needs to weather the early onslaught and gain a foothold in the game to have any chance. Ryan O’Dwyer the hat-trick hero from Thurles, will be a key man for Dublin. If he get good ball he can do damage to his native county.

I have to agree with the bookmakers on this occasion and I expect to see Dublin’s odyssey come to a shuddering halt this weekend. The injuries to key players and the quality of the opposition will be the decisive factors. Dublin will put up a battling performance but I expect Tipperary to win by at least 4 points. Tipperary has the ultimate motivation, as the Cats wait for them in the final. If they can defeat the Dubs, a mouth watering final lies ahead in September, as the Federer and Nadal of hurling are on course to meet again.