Kinsella's good year crowned
MARK KINSELLA'S rapid rise through the international ranks was recognised last night when he collected the prestigious FAI/Eircom senior 'Player of the Year' award.
Since making his Republic of Ireland debut in March '98, Kinsella has become a permanent fixture in the team, forging a formidable alliance with Roy Keane in the Irish engine room.
The 28-year-old Charlton Athletic midfielder had an outstanding year, contributing richly to Ireland's encouraging start to the World Cup campaign which yielded away draws against Holland and Portugal, and a home win over Estonia, where Kinsella scored his first international goal.
Now established as one of the leading midfielders in the Premiership, Kinsella worked a patient passage to the top, including a stint with Colchester United in the Conference.
"I'm delighted for Mark," said Irish manager Mick McCarthy at last night's awards' banquet in the CityWest Hotel.
"He's taken the demands of the international scene in his stride and I'd put him and Roy Keane out against any other pairing in the world and have no worries."
Kinsella was chosen ahead of Irish captain Keane, and the long-serving Niall Quinn for the accolade.
On a night for Dublin's finest, Richard Dunne's lion-hearted performances in the World Cup cauldrons of Amsterdam and Lisbon, followed by a goal against Estonia, merited his selection as the U-23/Young Player of the Year.
Senior: Mark Kinsella (Charlton Ath), U-23/Young: Richard Dunne (Man City); U-21/Olympic: Barry Quinn (Coventry); Eircom League: Pat Fenlon (Shelbourne); Youths: Joe Murphy (Tranmere); U-16: Stephen Brennan (Newcastle); U-15: Robbie Shields (Leeds U/Cherry Orchard) Schools: Alan Murphy (Galway Utd/Ballinrobe CS); Ladies: Ciara Grant (Arsenal); Ladies U-18: Caroline Thorpe (Arsenal); Intermediate: Brian Healy (Temple Utd); Junior: Keith Bruen (Portmarnock); Special Merit: Dr Tony O'Neill and Tony Sheehan; Hall of Fame: Joe Haverty. International: Pat Jennings.
FIFA PRESIDENT Sepp Blatter last night urged the FAI to continue with their plans to develop Eircom Park.
"A few years ago I sent a message of support and now that I have learned more about the project I am supporting it very strongly," said Blatter.
"As well as being a football stadium for the FAI it will also be a multifunctional venue and it can become a profit centre if it is well managed."
The FIFA president was guest of honour at last night's FAI/Eircom international awards but has had to cancel a meeting with Taosieach Bertie Ahern which was scheduled for this morning.
Blatter said he was hopeful that the problems with the players organisation FIFpro could be sorted out and expressed his satisfaction at the recent decision by the EU Ministers for Sport to support the proposed ban on the international transfer of U-18 players.
He said FIFA would make money available towards a centre aimed at keepeing U-18 players at home.
SCOTTISH LEAGUE: Celtic on a roll
CELTIC manager Martin O'Neill insisted that goalkeeper Jonathan Gould still had a future at Parkhead despite being dropped for Rob Douglas for the 4-1 win over St Johnstone.
The £1.2m signing was enjoying an excellent debut until Craig Russell scored a late consolation for Saints.
But O'Neill maintained that Gould was still part if his plans despite admitting that he had done nothing wrong ahead of the game.
Henrik Larsson scored twice while Chris Sutton and man of the match Lubo Moravcik grabbed a goal apiece to earn Celtic their 15th consecutive Premier League game without defeat.
A stray backpass from Aberdeen defender Thomas Solberg gifted Rangers a 2-1 win and three vital points at Pittodrie.