Monday, September 05, 2005


Qualifier Countdown - 2 days away

We're now only a mere 2 days away from the crunch game between Ireland and France at Lansdowne Road.

On the injury front, France are sweating on the fitness of Lillian Thuram and Djibril Cisse. But there is great news on the Irish front as it's been revealed that Damien Duff will be fit to face France on Wednesday.

Both Duff and Matt Holland came through a training session successfully today.

"Damien got through the session so it looks like he will be OK" said Kerr.

"We had 23 players fit and training".

Fantastic news!

In other news, Ireland coach Brian Kerr and France coach Raymond Domenech have ended their war of words. Domenech was quoted as saying Ireland relied on long ball football against Israel which angered Kerr enough to claim the France manager was disrespectful earlier this week. But Domenech has now clarified his comments insisting he said that against Israel, Ireland did play long ball football but that that was unusual, though it shows that Ireland can resort to that tactic if the game requires.

"That's fair enough. We will not need Butros Butros Gali (former United Nations secretary general) to sort it out. I'll shake hands with him before the game," said Kerr.

As for the match itself, players on both teams have spoken of its importance. With Ireland captain Kenny Cunningham saying he believed Duff was Ireland's key man:

"We know about Zinedine Zidane’s ability to do the unexpected but we have Damien Duff. Hopefully he does it Wednesday night," said Cunningham.

"The days of him being a younger player with potential are over now. He’s a key component for us.

"When he first came into the squad he was very shy but we all knew the talent that he possesses. Now he’s matured as a person as well as a footballer and that can only be good for us.

"It takes time to bed into the international squad. I remember being told myself when I first came into the squad that it can take 10-15 caps to feel really part of the squad. Damien has now amassed over 50 caps and is a key man.

"He’s been a key player for us over this qualification campaign. It would be great for him personally to show the talents he has on the biggest stage in the world.

"Anyone who has watched our games over the last two or three years will have seen his development as a player, how he’s matured as a player and how big an influence he exerts over the whole team."

French striker Thierry Henry has also spoken of the match but has played down its importance:

"We are now concentrating fully on Ireland and this will be a very important match," said Henry.

"But on the other hand we should not try to score at any price because we are not obliged to win.

"Of course a victory would be better than a draw but we are not condemned to win.

"We will have to negotiate this match well with all the experienced players that we have.

"Of course we will try to go there to win even if this is not absolutely necessary. We will have to be patient and see how the match goes to strike at the right time."

What I found most interesting though was Patrick Vieira's comments on the match and the prospect of facing Roy Keane:

"He's their most important player and dictates play.

"Our meetings have always been heated but I won't be taking any backwards steps on Wednesday. I never give up."

Make no mistake Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane won't be taking any backwards steps either. And the same goes for all our players.

It's sure to be a great game. Hopefully all Ireland's players will be fit and ready. Victory IS within our grasp!

Come on Ireland!


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