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Ireland run inspires confidence

Published: Thursday 17 February 2005, 13.00CET
Monthly review: The Irish national team are in good shape but these are worrying days for Longford Town FC.

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Published: Thursday 17 February 2005, 13.00CET

Ireland run inspires confidence

Monthly review: The Irish national team are in good shape but these are worrying days for Longford Town FC.
By Aidan Fitzmaurice

After a run of nine unbeaten games - and just two goals conceded in 810 minutes of football - Brian Kerr's Republic of Ireland national team are in good shape ahead of their next big test in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, away to Israel in March.

O'Brien's first goal
Last week's 1-0 home friendly win over UEFA EURO 2004 finalists Portugal, thanks to Newcastle United FC defender Andy O'Brien's first international goal, has raised expectations to new heights. However, winger Andy Reid, recently transferred to English Premiership side Tottenham Hotspur FC from Nottingham Forest FC, is wary of overconfidence.

'Can't get carried away'
"It was brilliant to beat Portugal but we have won a friendly and nothing more," he said. "The most important thing now is Israel in March and we can't get carried away. With the mentality that's in the squad I don't think it will be a problem for us." Irish captain Roy Keane is likely to be back for the match in Tel-Aviv on 26 March after missing the last two friendly games.

Longford threat
On the domestic front, Longford Town FC are battling to save their place in the UEFA Cup after they were denied a licence under the Football Association of Ireland's new licensing scheme. All 22 league clubs in Ireland were initially denied the permit they need to play professional football, though all but four received them on appeal. Longford's hopes now rest on a second appeal - should it fail, they may be barred from both the UEFA Cup and the Irish league.

Pre-season preparations
Some Irish clubs are taking in some sun in the build-up to the new league season, which kicks off on 20 March. Champions Shelbourne FC and Longford are in Spain, while Drogheda United FC are in a training camp in Turkey where they plan to play Polish and Ukrainian teams in friendly matches.

Transfer activity
Newly promoted Finn Harps FC have made their first major signing, snapping up local boy Ryan McGavigan after he was released by Leicester City FC. Shamrock Rovers FC have signed Will McDonagh from another English side, Carlisle United AFC, and Martin Cameron from Scottish club Gretna FC. They are also hopeful of tempting Irish centre-half Jason Gavin to join on loan from Bradford City FC but face competition from Shelbourne.

Last updated: 17/02/05 17.01CET

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