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Sunday February 23, 2020

VAR set to be used in Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers

courtesy of RTE

Video Assistant Referee has brought plenty of debate

Video Assistant Referee is set to be used in the Republic of Ireland’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers, pending FIFA’s final approval.

UEFA have made the proposal as VAR is set to feature more in the sport.

VAR will be used when the Europa League knockout games start on Thursday.

English trio Arsenal, Manchester United and Wolves, as well as Scottish pair Celtic and Rangers, have qualified for the last-32 stage of the competition.

UEFA’s referees committee chairman Roberto Rosetti said the VAR system had been successful in the Champions League this season, which paved the way for its use in the Europa League.

“We believe that VAR is a crucial project for football,” Rosetti said.

“I am very glad that we will now also have VAR in the Europa League, as it will provide vital help for referees to take correct decisions in these important matches.

“We’re very happy with the figures that we’ve seen in the UEFA Champions League group phase and play-offs – in 108 matches in total, 27 decisions have been corrected through the VAR system, which means that a decision has only been overturned every four matches – this shows the quality of the referees’ performances.

“In addition, we feel that the time taken to overturn a decision is important. So far this season, the average time for the correction of a decision has been one minute 30 seconds – 15 seconds less than last season.

“However, I would emphasise once more that – in compliance with its protocol – VAR is only for clear and obvious mistakes, and not for controversial situations.

“Football needs good referees above all – match officials with a strong personality on the field of play, who take correct and courageous decisions.”

Europe’s top referees studied VAR analysis and training at a UEFA winter course in Majorca last month. The officials were also given an update on VAR procedures.

In addition to this season’s European club competitions, VAR is also be used at the Women’s Champions League final, Euro 2020 and next year’s Women’s European Championship.

The draw for the World Cup qualifiers will be held on 29 November and begin in March 2021.

LOI Preview: Alan Cawley’s team-by-team guide

courtesy of RTE

The 2020 season gets underway tonight

Former Shelbourne and St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Alan Cawley casts his eye over every Premier Division club ahead of the start of the SSE Airtricity League season.

The RTÉ soccer pundit believes the top two will remain unchanged by the time the 2020 campaign comes to a close. However, Cawley also says that Shamrock Rovers are much better equipped to sustain a prolonged challenge to the reigning champions Dundalk this campaign.


The business that Dundalk have done is very good and they can give players longer contracts. The squad’s already settled and they only had to bring in two or three players.

Darragh Leahy and Greg Sloggett are great signings. I’m a big fan of Leahy who plays with Stephen Kenny’s Ireland Under-21s. I felt he had a real opportunity to go across the water but Dundalk is the next best thing, while Sloggett has arrived from Derry City and is excellent.

It will be interesting to see how Cammy Smith gets on in that creative midfield role. I think they are the team to beat this season.

Shamrock Rovers

I think they do have enough to put up a challenge this year. I still believe Dundalk are the team to beat but I expect Shamrock Rovers to push them all the way.

Liam Scales is an excellent signing from UCD. They also have Neil Farrugia, who was signed mid-season last year but was injured. With him fully fit, that will have a big impact on the team this year.

Rovers will beat everyone else, but it is the head-to-head games against their closest rivals, Bohemians and Dundalk, that are crucial. If you look at those eight games last year, Rovers only won one, against Bohemians.

Ciaran Kelly should prove to be an astute signing

Derek Pender is a big loss, but they have been active in the transfer market and Keith Long has assembled a good squad having brought Glen McAuley and Ciaran Kelly from St Pat’s. I was impressed when I saw both players last year and I am surprised that Kelly was allowed to leave.

Bohs have also brought in Callum Thompson on loan from Wolves and he is meant to be an exciting player.

Long and Trevor Croly have done a great job and they will be aiming for Europe again.

Derry City

The departures of Junior and David Parkhouse are a big loss. I think Parkhouse offered so much last year, pressing from the front, his work rate was unbelievable.

Walter Figueroa is a good signing from Waterford. I remember him from the game we covered in Dalymount, he was man of the match. But it is a lot to lose, half of their goals from Junior and Parkhouse. And to lose Barry McNamee is massive as well.

St Patrick’s Athletic

St Pat’s are the most interesting story, for me, going into the new season, purely for Stephen [O’Donnell]. I admired him a lot as a player and he is very determined so I am sure he is out to make a real impact this year.

He knows the game really well and does his homework and has his friend Pat Cregg alongside him now, so there is a good little team there. You would like to see them back challenging at the top again.

Robbie Benson is a brilliant signing, while Conor Kearns is a great goalkeeper. Jason McClelland is a good signing and Shane Griffin from Cork is am excellent acquisition, I’m a big fan of his. Luke McNally had a fine season at Drogheda and is back, while Rory Feely is also back from Waterford.

The problem last year was they didn’t score goals, so if they can up that, Pat’s can challenge for a top-four place.

Alan Reynolds continues to do a fine job at Waterford

Last season was tough at the club so for Alan Reynolds to keep them in the division was key.

The owner is behind them again and they have made signings. Mattie Smith from Dundee United and Tyreke Wilson, who would be well known from coming through the youth system at Cherry Orchard and going to Manchester City. He also played international football for Ireland at Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 level.

Robbie McCourt never really broke into the Bohs team but he did quite well in the games I saw, while Michael O’Connor looked a decent signing having come in from Linfield last August.

Scott Allardice and Sam Bone also add big physical presence, while Graham Cummins has signed having gone through a barren patch at Cork and Shamrock Rovers.

I think they can get in the mix to finish third or fourth as there is not much in those sides from third to eighth.

Sligo Rovers

They have been seventh in the last two seasons and if you look at the signings, Garry Buckley is a good signing from Cork but after that, unknowns.

Darragh Noone has come in from the First Division, Jesse Devers from Finn Harps, Will Seymore from America and the big Finnish lad at the back Teemu Penninkangas.

The big blow was losing Romeo Parkes, he was brilliant last year and then John Mahon, who I am a massive fan of, had that horrendous injury a couple of weeks ago.

It’s hard to be optimistic and the Showgrounds form needs to improve. Where will the goals come from? I’m a big fan of Ronan Coughlan, but after that, I’m struggling. Sligo could be fighting relegation with three other teams.

I think Liam Buckley got a bit of a free pass last year and things have to improve. They are a full-time set-up with great resources.

Cork City

Neale Fenn did not take over a peak John Caulfield squad, they have been decimated from the time that they were competing with Dundalk, so I think the fans need to be realistic as they were the third lowest scorers last season, so the manager needs time.

Turner’s Cross used to be the hardest place to go to, so they have to get that back.

The players that they have signed, Cian Coleman, Dylan McGlade, Cory Galvin, Conor Davis, that’s the market that Cork are in at the moment. They are not signing the best players in the league anymore.

The lads they brought in from England are unknowns who have been playing in lower leagues in England so it is going to be a difficult year.

They will be somewhere in and around mid-table, and they should be happy with that.

Ollie Horgan has added Shaun Kelly to his squad
Finn Harps

Ollie Horgan deserves massive credit. He does his homework, goes to matches and cares so much and I think he has done good business ahead of the new season.

Barry McNamee is a great player, while Shane McEleney who was at Larne and before that at Derry City is another good signing. They have brought in Kosovar Sadiki on loan from Hibernian, while Shaun Kelly and Karl O’Sullivan have signed from Limerick.

You really have to admire the job that Horgan is doing because it must be hard to attract players. They have a big start against Sligo and Derry.


It would be a shame to see the game move forward without a good Shelbourne side so it is great to see them back in the Premier Division.

Do they have enough to compete in the top flight? They will compete no problem but I can’t see them getting into the top five. They need to use this season to establish themselves and then build on that.

Shels have made good signings with Karl Sheppard and Gary Deegan, returning from England, will be a great signing if he remains fit. They have already given him the captain’s armband and he should be a shining light.

A lot rests on Ciaran Kilduff’s shoulders, although I am not convinced that they have enough goals in the team. If you offered them sixth or seventh now they would be delighted.

All you need to know: The Airtricity League is back

Follow all the weekend’s SSE Airtricity League Premier Division action with our live blogs on RTÉ Sport Online and the News Now App, and watch Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers live on RTÉ2 from 1.30pm Saturday


Joe Canning boost for Galway ahead of Tipperary clash

courtesy of RTE

Joe Canning is back in training

Galway hurling manager Shane O’Neill has received a big boost with Joe Canning set to be available for Sunday’s clash with Tipperary in Salthill.

It will be a first meeting between the counties since Canning landed a wonder point from the sideline to dethrone champions Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final in 2017.

That was Canning’s 11th point of the contest to seal a 0-22 to 1-18 win and they pushed on to defeat Waterford in the final to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the first time since 1988.

The counties, operating in different divisions in the league, have not met since with Tipperary failing to get out of Munster in 2018 while Galway didn’t qualify from Leinster last summer.

Canning was forced off during Galway’s defeat against Limerick
Canning, having scored seven points, went off injured in their 1-19 to 0-14 loss to league champions Limerick last week but O’Neill confirmed over the weekend that the Portumna man is back in training.

“Joe is fine, he’s back training,” said O’Neill. “He just got a hurley in the elbow and his hand wasn’t working. It was just a nerve thing.

“No other injuries, touch wood. So far so good. Everything has been fairly okay in that regard and we are just preparing for Tipperary at this stage.”

O’Neill is also boosted by former captain David Burke set to return soon after a brief period travelling abroad.

And full-back Daithi Burke is also closing in on a return after his exploits guiding Corofin to their third All-Ireland club football title in a row last month.

Galway won their opening league game against Westmeath before going down to Limerick last time out.

Premier League clubs vote to move summer transfer window

courtesy of RTE

This summer's window will close at 5pm on Tuesday, 1 September, with 31 August being a Bank Holiday

Premier League clubs have voted to move the closing date of the summer transfer window.

At Thursday’s shareholders’ meeting the clubs voted to revert to the traditional date at the end of August/early September after two seasons where the window closed on the eve of the campaign.

That means this summer’s window will close at 5pm on Tuesday, 1 September, with 31 August being a Bank Holiday.

A Premier League statement read: “At a Shareholders’ Meeting today, Premier League clubs voted to adopt a change to the Summer Transfer Window closing date for season 2020/21.

“This will move the closing date back to the traditional point at the end of August/early September.

“The 2020 closing date will therefore be 17:00 BST on 1 September (31 August 2020 being a UK Bank Holiday).

“Clubs agreed after discussing the topic at length at previous Shareholders’ Meetings.”

With the transfer window closing before the start of the Premier League season – but remaining open for most of Europe – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was among those to express the need for change.

“I don’t care when it closes, I only think it must close at the same time,” Klopp said in August.

“When they spoke about ‘Let’s finish it before the season starts then everyone knows their squad’ – that’s a good idea. But then the rest didn’t do it and that makes no sense.

“Can somebody explain what is the benefit for the Premier League? We don’t really have a problem but for other teams, their key players are still on the market and everything can happen.”

The PA news agency understands that the clubs also considered a “hybrid” model for the transfer window.

That would have seen a deadline of the start of the season – which is Saturday, 8 August – for domestic transfers and of September 1 for international deals, but having one deadline for both was preferred.

Clare get off the mark with victory over Kildare

courtesy of RTE

Sexton kicked four points

The expected bear pit that is Division 2 was reaffirmed in Ennis this afternoon as Clare kickstarted their campaign in determined fashion to end Kildare’s unblemished record by the bare minimum.

In front of just over 2,000 hardy souls in attendance, the hosts rolled with the punches and only hit the front for the first time in the 51st minute before a four minute brace of points from chief marksman Keelan Sexton proved enough for the Banner to relievedly prevail.

The inclement conditions were matched by a surprising indisciplined edge to proceedings that saw referee Barry Judge issue 15 cards over the 70 minutes.

Indeed, 11 of those were for the visiting side who crucially had Paul Cribbins sinbinned prior to the break before being permanently reduced to 14 players when Paddy Brophy received a second yellow in the 58th minute.

With the sides locked on level terms for the fourth time at 0-9 to 0-9, it would subsequently spur Clare on for victory as Sexton arrowed over from an acute angle in the next passage of play before adding an equally impressive clincher from the opposite wing four minutes later.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Jack O’Connor’s Kildare did have opportunities to secure a valuable draw but amidst five minutes of additional time, a Kevin Feely free was all the Lilywhites could muster to come up agonisingly short.

It was all so different in the opening period when Kildare, backed by a sizeable wind, opened up a 0-4 to 0-1 advantage, two from Neil Flynn frees, by the 13th minute.

However, once Clare warmed to their task, they would prove obstinate opponents, with main threats Sexton, David Tubridy, Gearoid O’Brien and captain Eoin Cleary all getting in on the scoring action as the hosts kicked five of the last seven points to regain parity by the break at 0-6 to 0-6.

Even without the temporarily sidelined Cribbin, Kildare got back on the frontfoot as midfielder Feely grabbed successive points inside the opening five minutes of the new half.

However, the gutsy home side never relented and once Gearoid O’Brien reeled in the deficit, the pendulum swung increasingly in their favour as Cleary and Sexton grittily closed out Clare’s first victory over Kildare since the 2016 Division 3 decider.

Clare: Stephen Ryan; Kevin Harnett, Cillian Brennan, Gordon Kelly; Sean Collins, Pearse Lillis, Dean Ryan; Ciaran Russell, Cathal O’Connor; Dermot Coughlan, Keelan Sexton (0-04), Gearoid O’Brien (0-03); Cian O’Dea, Eoin Cleary (0-03, 0-01f), David Tubridy (0-01, 0-01f).

Subs: Emmet MvMahon for O’Connor (51), Cormac Murray for Coughlan (59), Eoghan Collins for Ryan (70+2)

Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Peter Kelly, Mick O’Grady, Eoin Doyle; Con Kavanagh, Johnny Byrne, Shea Ryan; Kevin Feely (0-04, 0-03f), Liam Power; Paul Cribbin, Niall Kelly (0-01), Paddy Brophy (0-02); Jack Robinson (0-01), Daniel Flynn, Neil Flynn (0-02, 0-02f).

Subs: Kevin Flynn for P. Kelly (22), Keith Cribbin for N. Flynn (HT), Jimmy Hyland for Robinson (45), Adam Tyrrell for Cribbin (56), John Tracey for N. Kelly (64)

Referee: Barry Judge (Sligo)

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