Thursday, 27 June 2013

St Patrick's Athletic vs Bray Wanderers match preview. Friday, June 28th 2013.

The midsummer break is now over and league leaders St Patrick's Athletic welcome Bray Wanderers to Richmond Park for their first game back.

Top of the table Pat's will be looking to claim all three points as they continue to push on in an effort to claim the title come the end of the season. Having been defeated 2-1 by Dundalk in their last game before the break, it will be interesting to see how the Saints bounce back to this with the pressure surely being higher than normal due to this defeat. Previous to this defeat, Pat's had not lost since April, once again at the hands of The Lillywhites.

Saints manager Liam Buckley has stated his side have welcomed the break with open arms, continuing to say it was a good opportunity to give his players a rest and that they will not be taking the opposition lightly.

"The break was good to give some of our lads time off and the squad is all back in training now and look rested and ready to go again. We’ll need to be at it on Friday as Bray will be tough opponents." Said Buckley as he spoke to

“We’d a tight game in their place earlier in the season and since then they’ve been going well lately. Jason Byrne has been banging the goals in and they had good wins recently against UCD, Drogheda and Cork. We know they’ll test us and pose us problems, so we just have to apply ourselves as best we can and hopefully we’ll get a result.”

Jake Kelly, who moved to the Inchicore side from the Seagulls further enforced how his side will not be underestimating their opponents on Friday night.

“Bray came to Richmond last year and beat us 1-0 and also got a 3-3 draw against us in Bray so we don’t need any reminding of what they’re capable of. They can get goals from nothing as lads like Jason Byrne and Kieran Marty Waters are so dangerous. But we’re still confident in ourselves and we’ll be looking to win on Friday.” Kelly said as he spoke to

The home side go into the game without Killian Brennan, who is beginning a two match suspension following his sending off in the Dundalk game.

Bray will also be looking to continue their good form as they come into Friday's clash. The Seagulls have been performing above all expectations of late having won four of their last six games. 

The visitors also have the pleasure of having a full squad of players to choose from for the first time in seemingly forever. Danny and Kevin O'Connor are both available for selection following a prolonged absence before the break. Shane O'Neil and Eoin Hyland are also back in contention for a place in the squad having missed a few games prior to the summer break.

Bray's Director of Football Pat Devlin stated his happiness with how his side have recently lifted their levels of performance following an underwhelming start to the campaign. 

"I am happy with our performances especially in the final weeks before the break." Commented Devlin while speaking to

"We now need to move forward from here, we have a tough programme ahead of us and we hope to get more points on the board from the first phase. We need to push forward and we hope to strengthen the squad in the window. We are looking forward to the remainder of the season."

Bray will no doubt need to be at the top of their game in order to stand a chance on Friday. Two of the leagues form teams coming together does, however, mean the crowd at Richmond Park should be in for a treat.

Follow Conor Clancy on Twitter: @conorclancy9

Friday, 14 June 2013

Bray Wanderers vs Derry City Review. Friday, June 14th 2013

On a night of torrential rain and strong winds this clash at the seaside never looked like being an appealing game of football to watch. On a saturated pitch which allowed for little football to be played, form side Bray Wanderers hosted title hopefuls Derry City in the Carlisle Grounds.

Derry started the game and immediately set out to all watching that they would not be attempting to play the ball around too much as they shot straight from kick off. Derry dominated the early parts of the game squeezing a penalty appeal and the opening goal of the game into the first fifteen minutes of action. The opening goal came as Rory Patterson flicked the ball across the box for  Patrick McEleney to divert the ball home past Darren Quigley in the Bray goal. The game was providing no real entertainment and the highlight thus far proved to be three brave Derry fans leaving the enclosed stand to support their team from beneath the lashings of rain and gusts of wind on the opposite side of the pitch. This was a move which brought a smile to the faces of most and was met by applause from the vast majority of the Carlisle.

Bray then began to get the ball under control for the first real time in the game with twenty-five minutes on the clock. Kieran 'Marty' Waters attempted to feed Jason Byrne through but the conditions meant the ball skidded through kindly to the hands of Ger Doherty in the Candystripes' goal. Moments later a long ball was nicely touched on by Bray youngster Ismahil Akinade and Gary Dempsey drove forward past two City players before releasing the ball to Jason Byrne whose effort was tame and straight at Doherty.

As Bray found their stride Derry broke down and looked certain to make it 2-0 but for a superb last ditch tackle from Conor Earley to set up a Bray attack. Waters ran at the Derry defence before being brought down on the edge of the box. Dave Webster powerfully drove the ball at goal and were it not for a wonderful save from Doherty the score would have been level once more. The save was so good it even prompted Jason Byrne to go and shake the hand of the Derry keeper. The scores were level from the resulting corner, however. The man affectionately known as 'Izzy' by Seagulls' supporters found himself free in the box and looped his header inside the far post to draw Bray level on thirty-five minutes before making full use of the conditions in his celebration.

Bray went on to dominate the next ten minutes of play. Time and time again the ball was lofted into the Derry box where each time it was rather easily headed away.

Just as the fourth official indicated how long would be added on to the end of the half Quigley brilliantly parried away a speculative drive from Kevin Deery. It wasn't long before Quigley was beaten for the second time. On forty-seven minutes Rory Patterson glanced a Barry McNamee cross past the Bray shot stopper to restore his sides lead right on half time.

As the second half began, Bray had the wind behind them and it didn't take long for them to cause Derry a problem or two. Gary Dempsey found himself bearing down on Doherty's goal only to go down under a challenge but Bray's rather tame penalty shouts were turned down by referee Paul Tuite. Tuite was once again the centre of attention moments later when Marty Waters crossed was caught by the wind and dipped down, bouncing out off the crossbar before Ger Doherty picked up what appeared to be a back-pass from one of his defenders but the referee stood firm and turned down the appeals.

Bray soon found themselves with a mountain to climb as Paddy Kavanagh lost his man from a throw in and was allowed the space to easily roll the ball into the six-yard-box where Rory Patterson tapped home to double his tally and City's lead.

Bray did not give up, however and a long ball to Byrne cause confusion in the Derry defence and led to a corner which came to nothing. The warning signs were there. Shortly after Waters found himself to the left of the box, cutting in onto his weaker right foot his shot was blocked wide for another Seagulls corner. This time the end result was a goal. Dean Zambra's initial cross was blocked, but rebounded to him providing him with a second opportunity which he took full advantage of. His cross was met by the head of Patterson who put the ball into his own goal to give Bray a lifeline.

Shane O'Connor found himself lucky to remain on the pitch for the second time in the game following an off the ball incident with Patterson in which he appeared to kick out at the Candystripes' forward. Luckily this incident was not spotted by the referee. Earlier on in the game O'Connor appeared to have swung an arm at a Derry player. The second of these incidents resulted in O'Connor escaping any cards while Patterson picked up a booking for descent.

From here on in Bray will rightly feel they should have earned at least a point from the game. Firstly, Gary Dempsey broke the offside trap before trying to lift the ball over the onrushing Doherty only for his effort to go wide. Then came the best chance, and most surprising miss of the game. A long hopeful ball into the Derry box found Jason Byrne six yards out, completely unmarked. The veteran striker somehow managed the fluff his connection and the ball went wide. Byrne's reaction said it all as he stood with his head in his hands. Jason Byrne was once again involved as he beautifully beat two Derry players at once on the right wing before firing an extremely optimistic shot from range which never came close to troubling Doherty.

After this the game kind of just fizzled out with the only real chance falling to the head of Barry McNamee who should have killed the game but headed wide from right in front of Quigley's goal.

Derry held on to claim all three points and the celebrations of City boss Declan Devine showed that they had escaped with a lucky three points on the night. An important win for Derry, but an unfortunate and undeserved defeat for Bray.

Monday, 10 June 2013

AC Milan - Transition complete; Ready for Take Off.

It's fair to say that after an excruciating summer for the Rossoneri faithful last year, this season was always going to be an interesting one. It started off poorly, to say the least. Dreams of the Scudetto rapidly raced from the minds of Milan players and fans alike as they plummeted into a time of crisis. It was beginning to look unlikely that the seven time European Champions would even be representing their country in a European competition next season. Of their first ten games, Milan had won just three, drawing two and losing five in the process. This was not the form of a Europa League contender, never mind the form of a title contender.

On October 30th, Milan found themselves 2-0 behind away to Palermo thanks to two goals either side of half time. Milan looked spineless. Nobody was willing to fight for the cause. Nobody was willing to rally the troops and push the Rossoneri through. Milan were a wounded animal. An under-performing Bojan Krkic was brought on to replace an equally underwhelming Alexandre Pato. He made a difference. On 69 minutes Milan were presented with a glimmer of hope. A goal from Riccardo Montolivo, a rare consistent performer for Milan gave them new life. Milan pushed on and equalised on 80 minutes through Stephan El Shaarawy. They even could and perhaps should have won the game were it not for a few fluffed chances in the dying moments of the game. This was a turning point. From this point on, Milan were a different animal. The beast had been woken up. 

Results began to change and from November onwards, Milan were the form team in the league. January saw the exit of Pato and the arrival of one Mario Balotelli. Heads were being held high in the red half of Milan, even more so given that their run of good form coincided with a dramatic dip in form for their city rivals - Internazionale. From the 18th of November no team would pick up more points than Milan in Italy's top flight until the end of the season. 

The coming season will be different, very different. Milan have reasons to be positive. 

This summer will not see any major exits like last summer, primarily because they haven't got as many big name players this year. Last year they lost the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Antonio Cassano, Gianluca Zambrotta and Marc Van Bommel. On top of this Maxi Lopez and Alberto Aquilani both left following the expiry of their respective loan contracts as well as a plethora of rumours surrounding the futures of Pato and Robinho. This time round their main superstar is also their latest arrival and he's not going anywhere - Super Mario. Their young gun Stephan El Shaarawy has been attracting rumours which Adriano Galliani has firmly denied. The only real transfer talk coming out of the club is to do with the potential arrival of Carlos Tevez from Manchester City - a signing which would further strengthen Allegri's squad. The side have adapted from being focused on the above players to being focused on the likes of El Shaarawy, Montolivo, Balotelli, Pazzini. A new spine has been formed and it has been formed a lot quicker than many anticipated.

One huge plus that Milan will have for next season is simply having Mario Balotelli for a full campaign. His form since setting foot on Italian soil has been nothing short of remarkable. Scoring twelve goals in thirteen games he is beginning to make headlines for all the right reasons again and this will put a smile on the faces of Milan fans worldwide. It's clear that Balotelli feels loved at Milan, he feels like he's an important player to that team, something which was evidently lacking during his time in England. He is the main man now at Milan. All eyes are firmly on his footballing ability and it would appear that he is loving every minute of it. If he can take this form into next season then there is no reason why he can't be scoring title deciding goals come May 2014. 

Another factor which could very well play into Milan's hands is that Juventus will be giving more attention than ever to the Champions League. Having found themselves to be very unlucky to come up against a wonderful Bayern Munich side this season, Juve will want to show the world that they are well and truly back after years of suffering following the Calciopoli scandal. This might well see The Old Lady resting players in Serie A matches allowing teams to take points off them more so than they did this season and thus providing Milan with a golden opportunity. 

On top of these factors, Milan will have a new-found hunger, a hunger stronger than ever before to reclaim what they feel is their post at the summit of Italian football. Having seen Juventus win the previous two Scudetto's, Milan will do everything in their power to stop it from becoming a hat-trick of league titles for their enemies from Turin. Furthermore, winning a third consecutive title is by no means an easy thing to do and Juventus will face enormous pressures which could see them crumble and the Rossoneri will be waiting to pounce at any sign of weakness.

For the above reasons as well as others, I would not be the slightest bit surprised to see AC Milan emphatically bounce back this year. The transition is now complete, the Rossoneri are ready for take off.