It wasn’t the best of year end finales for our Irish stars in England and Scotland as the weather, injury, loss of form, management decisions and the off season meant that ten of the squad failed to feature for their clubs.
None of the squad’s four keepers featured with Keiren Westwood and Shay Given missing out through injury, Dave Forde on the bench for Millwall and Darren Randolph’s Motherwell having their game with Dunfermline called off due to safety reason.
There was better news for the Irish defensive line as John O’Shea linked up at centre back alongside Wes Brown with his former team mate the only recognisable figure in a backline that contained Craig Gardner and Jack Colback in the full back berths.
However O’Shea and his team mates enjoyed a good day at the office keeping a clean sheet as Sunderland snatched a late winner to beat Manchester City.
Likewise it was good afternoon for Richard Dunne, eventually! The Tallaght man will have been glad to see his Villa team score three at Stamford Bridge after bringing down Didier Drogba for a penalty, the Ivory Coast International dusting himself off to open the scoring.
However that was as close as Chelsea got to scoring for the rest of the afternoon as Villa grabbed a vital three points.
A good year ended on a bad note for Sean St Ledger as he looks set to have played his last game for Leicester.
The defender was placed on the transfer list and left out of the squad for the 1-1 with Portsmouth while another Championship man, Darren O’Dea was part of a Leeds backline that couldn’t handle Ricardo Vaz Te, the former Bolton man scoring 4 goals as Leeds went down 4-1.
Stephen Kelly continued his recent run in the Fulham side as Martin Jol’s men drew 1-1 with a Norwich side that contained both Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan while Marc Wilson was part of a Stoke backline that conceded two at home to Wigan.
Stephen Ward moved from his usual left back position to a midfield role for Wolves 1-1 with Bolton and the versatile former Bohs star managed to go close with a couple of efforts, Ward was joined in midfield by Stephen Hunt who played 81 minutes of the game before coming off for the Kevin Foley.
Another versatile player Ciaran Clarke claimed an assist for Villa, the defender playing in a central midfield role set up Stiliyan Petrov for the crucial second goal at Stamford Bridge.
Damian Duff played the final 10 minutes of Fulham’s draw away to Norwich while at the Britannia James McCarthy, who has impressed a deeper lying midfield role of late was pushed further forward as Wigan claimed a point in a 2-2 draw.
Up front Jon Walters was the weekend’s star man as he scored and set up for Stoke against Wigan. The former Ipswich man scoring from the spot on 77 minutes following a hand ball on the line by Gary Caldwell and then 7 minutes later he turned provider as he headed the ball into the path of Jerome Cameron to score his first of the season.
Shane Long featured for West Brom as they went down at home to a late Everton goal. As always Long made himself available as a target man to hold up the ball however a missed header made it five games without a goal now. Simon Cox meanwhile will be glad to see the January window has opened as once again he was left rotting on the bench as WBA boss Roy Hodgson continues to ignore the striker.
Andy Keogh played 54 minutes as Leeds lost for the third straight game while Kevin Doyle started the match on the bench for Wolves, the Wexford man coming on for goal scorer Steven Fletcher after 68 minutes managing to go close with an effort near the death.
Weekend’s star man, Jon Walters: A goal and an assist is a good return for any striker and the 28 year old now has five of each for the season.
Good weekend for Stephen Ireland: A forgotten man at club and country (his absence in the Green more from his making), Ireland reminded everyone of this talents with a goal and an assist as Villa stunned Chelsea. While its fair to say Ireland won’t be going to Poland barring some heavy grovelling, it’s good to see the former Manchester City player getting some game time.
Could he force his way in? James McClean played his part for a patched up Sunderland side as they beat Manchester City. The Derry man is enjoying life under Martin O’Neill and having made a decision to opt for the Republic he could force his way into the reckoning if given a chance in a friendly.
Not the best of weeks for Anthony Stokes who despite seeing his side move to the top of the SPL with a 1-0 win over Rangers only managed four minutes on the field. The 8 goal striker has not played the full 90 minutes in a Celtic shirt since the 5-0 win over St Mirren and has not started the club’s last two games.
Off season:Robbie Keane
Did not play:David Forde
Sean St Ledger