The former Manchester United player was an ever-present in O’Neill’s first campaign despite spending the latter half in near exile at Olympiakos following a change in management. He was still one of Northern Ireland’s most consistent performers despite his lack of game time in Greece and excelled in the summer tour of South America, putting in fine displays against Uruguay and Chile. Now back in England with Notts County, the 36-year-old is established as number with both club and country. “There’s no doubt about it, Roy is capable of playing at a higher level than League One but at this stage of his career the most important thing is that he is playing week in, week out,” said O’Neill. “The reports on Roy are very positive already and I went to see him myself earlier in the season when he was excellent. “He is still an excellent goalkeeper, he’s shown that with us, and now he’s back enjoying himself and playing with a smile on his face. “It’s good for us that both of our other keepers, Alan Mannus and Michael McGovern are playing regularly in the SPL but Roy is in a good frame of mind.” O’Neill had intended to cut two from his training squad before flying to Budapest on Thursday but the decision was made for him as MK Dons midfielder Ben Reeves – in line for a first cap after his display in the giant-killing of Manchester United – and Hull defender Alex Bruce withdrew. Reeves has a hamstring injury, while Bruce’s wife has gone into labour. They join Ryan McLaughlin (knee), Sammy Clingan (knee) and Stuart Dallas (leg) in pulling out of the match. Manager Michael O’Neill sees a Northern Ireland side with “more potential” as he prepares to begin his second qualification campaign at the helm. Press Association O’Neill’s maiden attempt was one to forget in terms of results, Northern Ireland finishing fifth in their World Cup group and winning just one of their 10 games. But during the qualifiers he oversaw a shift in both personnel and tactics, bedding in new players and experimenting with the recently-popularised 3-5-2. Now it is time for results, with a tightly-matched but hardly terrifying Euro 2016 group featuring Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland and the Faroe Islands. They kick off with one of their trickier tests, away to Hungary on Sunday night, but O’Neill is cautiously optimistic that things are heading in the right direction. “I don’t know if we’re a stronger squad than we were two years ago but I think we’re a squad with more potential,” he told Press Association Sport. “We’ve benefited from the time we’ve worked together, we’ve had a chance to build something, and there have been positives this summer in terms of the players’ club situations. “This time last year we still had four or five lads with no clubs sorted and it’s asking a lot of someone who is unattached to come in and play qualifiers. “But this time the ones who were looking – Craig Cathcart, Aaron Hughes, Chris Baird, Sammy Clingan, Roy Carroll – all got resolved nice and early. “All the players have had a decent pre-season and we’ll feel the benefit of that.” Perhaps the most crucial of that number to be back playing regular football is goalkeeper Carroll.
There’s a fundamental problem when discussing who the best point guard in college basketball is this year. The problem is many of the names in the conversation aren’t actually point guards.Whether it’s a player covering for an injury to a team’s regular starting point guard, or they are filling in for a position in which the team lacks any real talent in the first place, many of the point guards who are considered the best in the college game don’t really belong in the category.That said, there’s still no excuse for why it took Saturday afternoon’s game against Ohio State to enter Jordan Taylor’s name into the conversation, when all season he has done nothing less than put Wisconsin on his shoulders and climb.The junior from Bloomington, Minn. may not have the sensational statistics like other highly-touted “point guards” around the country (although 18.1 ppg and 4.8 apg isn’t half bad), but his value isn’t only qualified by numbers.His worth is measured by games like the conference opener against Minnesota when he had an answer for everything the Golden Gophers threw at Wisconsin.It’s measured by games like last week against Iowa, when at the end of regulation the Badgers were desperate for a score and Taylor hit a monster jumper to send the game into overtime. It’s measured by a game like Saturday afternoon against the top-ranked team in the land, when, no matter how great the deficit, Taylor was able to take the game over, scoring 21 of his game-high 27 points in the second half and march Wisconsin to the improbable comeback.However, regardless of how well Taylor has played and what he’s meant to his team, the national media has failed to appropriately recognize him.Recently the Blue Ribbon Selection Committee chose the 10 Bob Cousy Award finalists, who supposedly represent the top 10 points guards in the country. Inexplicably, Taylor was left off that list until after Saturday’s game against the Buckeyes.Taylor’s chances of winning the award are diminished because several of the players on the ballot are only marginally point guards.Nolan Smith only plays the point because freshman Kyrie Irving, who was supposed to shoulder the majority of the point guard duties for the Dukies, suffered an injury earlier in the season. Jimmer Fredette, another player of the year candidate, is more of a race car driver than a point guard. He leads his team in assists only because he regularly draws double teams leaving a lot of his teammates open.In similar fashion, Kemba Walker takes on the lion’s share of his team’s scoring responsibilities, as well. Granted he doesn’t have much talent around him and, between him, Fredette and Smith, is probably the truest point guard of the three. But even Walker is a shoot first, pass second player.Naturally, there are a few players on the list who actually appear to be point guards. But many of them (those not previously mentioned) pale in comparison to Taylor and the season he has put together for the Badgers.One of the most telling stats for a point guard is his assist-to-turnover ratio. The ratio demonstrates the efficiency and, more importantly (especially for a point guard), reliability of a player.Anyone who watches any level of basketball knows that one of, if not the most, important aspects of the game is the ability to take care of the basketball. Period.Obviously, the player who handles the ball most is the point guard.A point guard must distribute the ball, when his teammates are in the best possible position to score, while making sure he doesn’t force anything and create unnecessary turnovers.That’s his job, creating scoring chances (assists) and quelling mistakes (turnovers). Therefore, it would seem that the assist-to-turnover ratio is rather important. No?The best assist-to-turnover ratio among the 10 point guards (besides Taylor) up for the Bob Cousy Award is about 3-1 held by San Diego State’s DJ Gay and St. Mary’s Mickey McConnell.Taylor has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4-1. And he barely made it onto the list.OK,so maybe the committee that decides which players to nominate for this award undervalues this statistic. Maybe in this new age of basketball, the point guard, as we have seen in theNBAwith players like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams, now must establish themselves as scorers.That’s fine, but among the 11 finalists, Taylor sits fifth in points per game (and that’s behind three national player of the year candidates mind you).The fact that Taylor was only added (and added rather quietly to boot) after two great games shows that someone wasn’t paying attention. And if you think I’m just being a homer – truth be told, I’m actually a Marquette basketball fan.
Wages impasseAlthough promised for this week, the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and the Education Ministry has not yet signed the agreement to end the teacher’ salary impasse and is more than likely to do so by next week according to the General Secretary of the GTU, Coretta McDonald.The General Secretary made the disclosure during an invited comment on Friday morning.She explained that the agreement “still has a few things to clear up.”When further questioned she said that the GTU has to make sure that it signs a document which will benefit all their teachers, as such there are other non-salaryGTU President Mark Lyte and Education Minister Nicolette Henry following the meeting last week. Also in photo are other GTU executives and Education Ministry staffissues that are yet to be sorted out.McDonald had previously said the agreement would have been signed by Wednesday last.Last Friday, following a six-hour long discussion between the two parties, the GTU agreed to a 12 per cent increase for 2016 and eight per cent increase for 2018.The agreement came more than one month after the GTU called off a nationwide strike.Education Minister Nicolette Henry announced last week, “What we have proposed essentially is in so far as 2016 is concerned, we finalised at 12 and eight per cent respectively and for 2018, we’re at eight per cent and the debunching figure (is) the one that we shared earlier – the $350,000,000.”Although fewer smiles were seen on the faces of the executives after that meeting, GTU President Mark Lyte told this publication that the Union was satisfied with the amount being given to teachers. “We are walking away a lot happier than initially. We recognise that we were able to broker an agreement with the Ministry of Education that will bring a lot of satisfaction to our members, and I think that was the ultimate objective of this whole process to ensure that every teacher benefits significantly.”According to him, the previous offers tabled did not provide benefits for all teachers. In fact, some 80 per cent of teachers, he said, would not have benefited from the Government’s previous offer.It was explained by him that the increases for teachers will be paid in two tranches. “The increases are going to be paid in two tranches, because you know what teachers receive in 2016 would have an impact on 2017 and 2018, so we are going to have payments being done in December and payments being done in January 2019,” Lyte stated.A joint statement shared with the media last Friday from the two agencies said: “Having considered new information provided, which included salary benefits for all scales of teachers ranging from TS1 to TS19 and special and non-salary benefits, the two parties concluded discussions and have committed to the implementation of the agreement. The three-year 2016 to 2018 agreement will be signed in the new week”.