Football

Wes Hoolahan to play A-League football for Jets

Wes Hoolahan has been dubbed ‘the Irish Messi’ by his new club.

Wes Hoolahan has been dubbed ‘the Irish Messi’ by his new club.

Gifted Irish football star Wes Hoolahan has signed a one year deal with Newcastle Jets after personal terms were agreed with the A-League club this week.

The 37-year-old said he was happy to have signed on to play for the Jets.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play abroad and I’m delighted that I’ll be playing in Newcastle this season,” Hoolahan said.

“There are some quality players throughout the league and I’m looking forward to testing myself in a new environment.

“I’m really excited to be in Australia, it’s an entirely new challenge for me and I can’t wait to get started.”

Jets boss, Ernie Merrick was pleased to have secured the signature of the experienced midfielder.

“Wes is a great get for us, he’s keen to come out and play in the Hyundai A-League and we’re confident he can bring a lot to the side,” Merrick said.

“He’s an attacking-minded midfielder who will fit seamlessly into the style of football we like to play, his passing range is superb and he’s great with the ball at his feet.

“Wes’ experience will be invaluable to us, from all reports he’s a model professional and the type of player that our younger guys will learn a lot from.”

Hoolahan will wear the number 8 in Newcastle.

The playmaker heads Down Under after a 10-game spell in the Championship with West Bromwich Albion last season, and via a recent pre-season training stint with League Two's Cambridge United.

Former Republic of Ireland international Hoolahan made a name for himself during a 10-year period at Norwich, where he scored 54 goals and made 78 assists in 351 appearances, including four seasons in the English Premier League.

The Shelbourne junior has gathered 43 caps and three goals for his nation - scoring a memorable goal against Sweden at Euro 2016 in France.

He joins Perth Glory’s Andy Keogh and Brisbane Roar’s irish duo of Roy O’Donovan and Jay O’Shea as the A-League’s Irish cohort.

Irish striker on path to Glory in Australia's A League

Family man: Andy Keogh pictured with wife Natalie and daughters Mia and Kaia.

Family man: Andy Keogh pictured with wife Natalie and daughters Mia and Kaia.

If the bookies are correct, Dubliner Andy Keogh will become only the second Irishman to claim an A League Premiership by the end of the month.

The talented Perth Glory striker has enjoyed a stellar season, helping his club to their first Premiers Plate, ending a 15 year silverware drought.

Along the way he’s scored 17 goals, making him the highest scorer in a single season in Glory’s A-League history.

Keogh told The Irish Echo: “I’m very proud. [Winning the Premier’s Plate] is long overdue but thoroughly deserved this year. Very happy, delighted to have played a part.”

Perth Glory have led the race all season, losing only two games on their way to claiming the plate with two rounds to spare after a 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets on April 14. Glory will next face Adelaide United for a place in the A League Grand Final.

Keogh, 32, joined Perth Glory in 2014 and although he went to play in Thailand a year later, he returned for a second spell with the club in 2016.

He has been Perth’s star striker since his arrival and this season, his most prolific to date, helped Tony Popovic’s team to the top of the table.

Andy Keogh in action for the Republic of Ireland against Sweden in 2013.

Andy Keogh in action for the Republic of Ireland against Sweden in 2013.

“I’m very happy with [my goalscoring record]”, he said. “I can’t complain with how the games have gone and the overall season. “Of course, we’ve come a long way this season and we don’t want to stop now. We want to take all the silverware and continue the good form.”

Keogh plied his trade with Leeds, Scunthorpe United, Wolves and Millwall and earned 30 caps for Republic of Ireland, scoring two international goals, before making the move to Perth where he had some family. While playing at Millwall, Keogh had a devastating striking partnership with Harry Kane who was on loan from Tottenham and is now England captain.

Keogh would become only the second Irish player to win an A League Grand Final after Liam Miller who claimed the honour with Brisbane Roar in 2014. Miller passed away from cancer last year at the age of 36.

“I played with him many years with the Irish team,” Keogh recalled. “To win the Grand Final and join his company as the only Irishmen to win one would be very honouring for me and very good for myself because we used to knock around together.”

Keogh says he loves playing A League soccer and believes the appointment of Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler as manager of Brisbane Roar reaffirms the competition’s international standing.

“Great. Good profile. Great player. It’s always good to have people of that stature representing teams in the A League,” Keogh said. “I’m sure he’ll bring a lot to the team and the league and attract a lot of good imports, good import players.”

Asked if Perth is home now for him and his family, Andy says: “Definitely, we’re getting our citizenship soon so it’s a place we’re calling home for the foreseeable future.”

Also key in Perth Glory’s successful season was former Aston Villa and Millwall defender Shane Lowry.

Born in Perth to Irish parents, Lowry played for Republic of Ireland up to Under- 23 level before declaring for the Socceroos.

Martin O'Neill leaves Irish job 'with heavy heart'

Martin O’Neill’s five-year term as manager of the Republic Of Ireland has ended.

Martin O’Neill’s five-year term as manager of the Republic Of Ireland has ended.

Mick McCarthy is the front-runner in the race to replace Martin O'Neill as Republic of Ireland manager after his five-year reign came to an abrupt close.

O'Neill, assistant Roy Keane and their staff parted company with the Football Association of Ireland on Wednesday after its chief executive John Delaney had held talks with the 66-year-old in London on Tuesday evening.

The split had looked increasingly inevitable after a poor Nations League campaign which drew to a close with Monday night's 0-0 draw with Denmark in Aarhus, during which Ireland failed to muster a single shot on target.

In a statement released on his behalf by the League Manager's Association, O'Neill said: "I have had the great honour of managing the Republic of Ireland national football team for the past five years and it is with a heavy heart that I leave this role.

"It was one of my lifetime ambitions to take charge of the Irish senior squad and I would like to thank the FAI board for giving me that opportunity."

He continued: "Knowing that the past year would be a transitional phase for the squad, I have capped twelve new players in the last nine games, with the aim that they become significant international contributors in the coming campaign.

"To the players, I reserve great praise and admiration for the phenomenal commitment they have shown whilst wearing the Irish shirt."

O'Neill's departure from a contract which was due to expire after his side's involvement in Euro 2020 was confirmed in a statement from the FAI.

It read: "The board of the Football Association of Ireland have mutually agreed with Martin O'Neill to part company.

"The FAI board will meet promptly to discuss the process of recruiting a new manager."

Delaney was thrilled to unveil his "dream team" management duo in November 2013 and his faith in the pair was initially rewarded when they guided the Republic to the Euro 2016 finals and then to the play-offs for this summer's World Cup.

Delaney said: "I would like to thank Martin, Roy, and the management team for the impact that they had with the Ireland team. I wish Martin, and the management team, the very best for the future."

Poor results - Ireland have won just one of their last 11 games and have not scored in 397 minutes of football - and uninspiring performances in the last year have seen O'Neill and Keane's stock fall alarmingly.

And the boos which greeted the final whistle in last Thursday evening's 0-0 friendly draw with Northern Ireland at a sparsely-populated Aviva Stadium are understood to have brought matters to a head.

Roy Keane also leaves his job as assistant manager to Martin O’Neill.

Roy Keane also leaves his job as assistant manager to Martin O’Neill.

The FAI is keen to make a swift appointment, with the draw for the Euro 2020 finals due to take place in Dublin on December 2, and, as one of the hosts, they do not want to be seen as presiding over a team in flux as Europe's great and good arrive in the city.

To that end, McCarthy, who took the Republic to the 2002 World Cup finals in the Far East during a previous spell in charge, represents an attractive proposition.

He has a proven track record, already has a relationship with the FAI hierarchy and, perhaps more importantly to a governing body still paying for the redevelopment of the Aviva Stadium, is available without the need to pay compensation after leaving Ipswich in April.

McCarthy is understood to be interested in the vacancy and would relish the opportunity to pick up the reins he surrendered in 2002 once again, although he has recently rejected approaches from two English clubs and remains in demand.

But, asked in 2016 if he could return to the Ireland job one day, he told the Irish Examiner: "If there's no manager in it and I'm out of work and someone asked me to do it, of course I'd do it."

McCarthy is by no means the only candidate, with Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and Hibernian counterpart Neil Lennon having also been mentioned in dispatches, while Brighton boss Chris Hughton and Dundalk's Stephen Kenny would have popular support, although Hughton in particular appears more than content where he is.

O'Neill's departure may not have come as too much of a surprise, although he had grown increasingly defiant amid a tide of criticism.

Speaking after last month's 1-0 home defeat by Wales, which all but confirmed the Republic's relegation from Nations League B, the former Celtic manager insisted they would qualify for the Euro 2020 finals.

Asked why he was so optimistic, he replied: "Because I'm good."