By Ryan Bailey
With just a few weeks until the start of the English football season and a little over seven days until Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland take on Serbia in an international friendly, preparations are being finalised and it was another good week for the Irish.
|ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Aston Villa’s busy pre-season schedule continued last week as they played two more friendlies on their return from the USA. Shay Given, Ciaran Clark, Enda Stevens, Stephen Ireland and Samir Carruthers all played some part in the Villans' games at Peterborough and Nottingham Forest.
Shane Duffy, Darron Gibson and Seamus Coleman were all involved in Everton’s clash with Blackpool on Sunday while Norwich midfielder Wes Hoolahan continued his preparation for another season in the Premier League as he played in a 0-0 draw with MK Dons.
QPR maintained their unbeaten pre-season campaign with a 1-1 draw on Friday against Turkish side Trabzonspor and Irish under-19 international Michael Harriman played 45 minutes in a very strong lineup. Meanwhile, Joey O’Brien and goalkeeper Stephen Henderson made brief cameos for West Ham in their defeat to Ipswich.
James McClean and John O’Shea made their first appearances of the season as Sunderland lost 2-0 to Helsingborgs. The Irish duo were given extra time off following their involvement in Euro 2012 and only returned to training last week. Keiren Westwood continues to push for the number one jersey at the Stadium of Light with another composed performance between the sticks.
Damien Duff returned to club action this week when he lined up for Fulham in their comfortable 4-0 victory over French side Nice. While Stephen Kelly, fresh from signing a new contract at the club, made a brief cameo.
Noel Hunt and Ian Harte continue to prepare for life back in the top flight as they got more minutes under their belts during the week for Reading while Jon Walters kept up his good pre-season form with another impressive display for Stoke, who concluded their USA tour with a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City.
Elsewhere, strikers Shane Long and Simon Cox both featured in West Brom’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday.
Sean St Ledger played just nine minutes of Leicester’s pre-season game with Burton before limping off with a knee injury which will keep him sidelined for six to eight weeks, causing a headache for Giovanni Trapattoni.
Stephen Ward, Kevin Foley, Matt Doherty, Stephen Hunt and Antony Forde all got more minutes under their belts as Wolves finalised their pre-season preparations for the new Championship campaign. Stale Solbakken’s side beat FC Telford on Friday before losing to Premier League new boys Southampton on Saturday.
Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny captained Leeds United during their win over Preston North End on Saturday and Irish duo Paul Green and Aidy White also featured for Neil Warnock’s side.
Former Dundalk midfielder Daniel Kearns will be hoping to nail down a starting berth in the Peterborough midfield for the new season and the Republic of Ireland U21 international continued to impress as the Posh were beaten by Aston Villa during the week.
Colin Doyle kept a clean sheet as Birmingham eased past Plymouth. The ‘keeper was one of three Irish in the Blues lineup which included Stephen Carr and Adam Rooney.
Former Ireland midfielder Sean O’Driscoll’s reign as Nottingham Forest manager has got off to a promising start as his side overcame Aston Villa 3-1 at the City Ground. Andy Reid played a key role in the victory as he notched up 73 minutes in the Forest engine room while Alex Bruce made his Hull City debut in their draw with Hartlepool United.
Kevin Kilbane captained his new club, Coventry City, to a comfortable 4-1 victory over Accrington Stanley.
Joe Murphy was in goal for the Sky Blues, while former Cork City player Roy O'Donovan came off the bench as they prepare for life in the third tier of English football.
Former Bray Wanderers and Galway United striker Jay O’Shea and Irish international Stephen Gleeson featured for MK Dons in their draw with Norwich.
This weekend saw the start of the Scottish Premier League season as Celtic got their campaign underway with a narrow victory over Aberdeen.
Anthony Stokes started despite limping off in a pre-season friendly just a week ago while Niall McGinn played up front for Aberdeen.
Darren Randolph kept a clean sheet as Motherwell were held by newly promoted Ross County while Aaron Doran featured for Inverness CT.
Pat Fenlon and Hibernian’s season got off to the worst possible start as they were comfortably beaten by a Dundee United side which included Willo Flood and former Sligo skipper Richie Ryan.
The Tangerines also had five Irish players in the team which drew 2-2 with Dinamo Moscow in the Europa League Third Qualifying round, with Willo Flood finding the net.
Aiden McGeady has started the new Russian league season in fine fashion as he looks to put a poor Euro 2012 behind him.
The former Celtic winger scored a superb long-range effort in Spartak Moscow’s 2-1 victory over Volga Nizhny Novgorod midweek.
McGeady also featured in Spartak's 4-0 away victoy over rivals Dinamo Moscow on Sunday before being substituted in the second half.
Robbie Keane played 45 minutes of LA Galaxy’s friendly with Real Madrid before being named MLS Player of the month for July.
However, the Ireland skipper could not prevent Galaxy from losing heavily to Seattle Sounders on Sunday, as they went down to a 4-0 defeat.
|IRISH XI OF THE WEEKEND
Goalkeeper: Shay Given (Aston Villa)
Defenders: Kevin Foley (Wolves), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Shane Duffy (Everton), Stephen Ward (Wolves)
Midfielders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Willo Flood (Dundee United), Darron Gibson (Everton), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow)
Forwards: Shane Long (West Brom), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)