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Spanish soccer aces head to Kildare

Spanish soccer giants Villarreal FC are to follow in the footsteps of Real Madrid when they jet in to train at the exclusive Carton House, in Maynooth, Co Kildare

The squad will arrive in Ireland on July 22 for a six-day pre-season training camp, which includes two friendly games against Bray Wanderers and Athlone Town.

Star players such as Giuseppe Rossi, Jozy Altidore, Marcos Senna and Nilmar will be put through their paces under tight security on the hotel grounds.

Promoter Eamonn McLaughin, of Platinum One, said: "It'll be tight enough security, it won't be at the level of Real Madrid, but the training sessions will be closed to the public, as with all sessions."

"They're a very strong team, they finished seventh in La Liga and this season they were the only team to pick up a game against Barcelona in Barcelona."

Villarreal's management scouted Ireland as an ideal location for pre-season training, since Irish soccer teams are fully fit with the season in full swing. Manager Juan Carlos Garrido said his team will be put through a "stern test", judging by last year's Real Madrid versus Shamrock Rovers match.

"Our match against Athlone Town will be the first match of our busy pre-season schedule. It is a very important match and I aim to bring my strongest possible team for what is sure to be a difficult assignment."


The Athlone game takes place on Saturday, July 24, and the Bray Wanderers game on Monday, July 26. Tickets went on sale yesterday.

Eamonn said: "It's fantastic. They're going to travel with a host of Spanish media. It's a big, big, serious football club coming into Ireland."

English Premier League club Newcastle United is currently using the hotel's pitches, and Wolverhampton Wanderers and Middlesbrough are also among the clubs to hold pre-season training camps there in July.

Eamonn added: "Carton House worked very well last year for Real Madrid and we showed it to Villareal and they thought it was fantastic."

Carton House did not return calls for comment yesterday.