Saturday 21 October 2017

Trapattoni ready to lay his squad cards on the table

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

THIS afternoon at 3.30, Giovanni Trapattoni will walk into the press room at the Aviva Stadium carrying a sheet of paper that will make the summer for one group of Irish footballers, and break the hearts of another.

He would prefer if it wasn't this way. Trapattoni's squad announcements during a normal campaign rarely attract much headlines, given his propensity to extend the invitation far and wide. Squads ranging in size from 28-33 were the norm during the Euro 2012 qualifiers.

Tournament play is a different matter, however, with UEFA restricting competing managers to 23-man panels. It means inevitable heartbreak for men who travelled long distances on the road here, and that was before new faces like James McClean further complicated the picture.

There will be unhappiness today. Trapattoni will have to leave out at least one player who would have been planning for Poland. Others learned their fate before the February friendly with the Czech Republic. At least they've had time to prepare for disappointment.

But picking his 23 today seems fairer than calling in 27 for the Bosnia friendly on May 26, and then sending four unlucky losers home ahead of the flight to Italy the next morning. Having witnessed how upsetting that can be for the wider group during his time with his native country, Trapattoni has decided to lay his cards on the table now.

He hinted last week that one player may have a situation that makes his final choice a little easier, adding another layer to the guessing game. All will become clear today. Here's the situation as it stands.

THE CERTAINTIES (16)

SHAY GIVEN

The Donegal native has no reason to worry about his participation in the finals. Ireland's most-capped player must decide if this will be his international swansong.

KEIREN WESTWOOD

After standing in for the qualifying win over Macedonia, Westwood cemented his place as Given's deputy, although he's suffered a frustrating time at club level this term.

JOHN O'SHEA

It's time for him to tick the one remaining career box. Collected a stellar set of medals during his glittering Manchester United career. A major tournament appearance tops it off.

RICHARD DUNNE

Nervous times when he broke his collarbone in February, but he actually returned ahead of schedule against West Brom last week. Ireland's hopes of progression rest on his well-being.

SEAN ST LEDGER

A topsy-turvy season at club level, but he knows where he stands with Trapattoni and that's alongside Dunne in the starting XI. Should be fresh after his club season finished on April 28.

STEPHEN WARD

Called up by Trapattoni a year ago this week and did enough in last summer's extended gathering to hasten Kevin Kilbane's exit from the Irish stage. Certain to kick-off tournament at left-back.

DARREN O'DEA

Like St Ledger, he is grateful for the security at international level as a contrast from his day-to-day scenario. Guaranteed to travel as preferred cover for Trapattoni's first-choice centre-halves.

STEPHEN KELLY

Can operate in both full-back positions and in the centre of defence, so Kelly is a safe bet to be included this afternoon. He's enjoyed a decent season for Fulham as well.

GLENN WHELAN

A fixture in the qualifying campaign, Trapattoni trusts the strong-willed Dubliner, who has built on his Irish profile to become a well-paid Premier League regular at Stoke.

KEITH ANDREWS

The departure of Roy Hodgson from West Brom is the only bad thing to happen Andrews in 2012. He's finally been given a proper chance in the Premier League and will be important in Poland.

DAMIEN DUFF

Hard to believe that the freakishly talented kid, who was a star of Brian Kerr's Malaysian marvels, is now categorised as a veteran. His experience is vital in a system that requires controlled energy.

AIDEN McGEADY

A troubled time of late at Spartak Moscow, a slight concern given how he looked to have benefited from the move initially. The enigmatic winger delivered plenty of end product against Estonia.

STEPHEN HUNT

A question mark hung over Hunt when he spent a lot of the time on the sidelines after Christmas. Hernia operation looks to have cured his ailment, and Trapattoni will bring him along.

ROBBIE KEANE

The skipper made a big decision to relocate to Los Angeles last year, but it's had no impact on the quality of his Irish performances. He is still the man Trapattoni will rely on goal-scoring wise.

KEVIN DOYLE

A horrible year for the Wexford native, who looked well below par as Wolves fell through the Premier League trap door. A healthy Doyle is integral to Trapattoni's favoured system.

SHANE LONG

Trapattoni still feels that the Tipp lad can improve on his contribution with back to goal in a certain type of game, but he values his pace and that makes him a guaranteed traveller.

THE PROBABLES (4)

KEVIN FOLEY

Trapattoni has stressed that he wants to bring seven defenders and named that number in his initial Czech squad, so Foley should be okay. Can also cover in other positions. He's got a strong chance.

DAVID FORDE

The position of third 'keeper isn't totally locked down, but Forde stepped in last summer when others shied away, and kept a clean sheet in Liege against Italy. Bad time at Millwall of late, though.

SIMON COX

Probably a sure thing after his equaliser against the Czechs and the fact that he can slot into Keane's role if skipper suffers misfortune. Only concern is if Trap opts for one less striker.

JON WALTERS

Similar to Cox, it's hard to see Walters missing out unless the manager has ruled that five front men is overdoing it. He is a viable alternative to Doyle, a strong runner who won't shirk a challenge.

THE CUT LINE (6)

Keith Fahey

Consistently name-checked by Trapattoni on account of his ability to offer cover in the centre and in wide areas. The only fear is a niggling groin problem that has curtailed recent activity.

DarrOn Gibson

Finally left United to seize regular first- team football at Everton and has thrived there. But he missed the Czech game and Trap bracketed him with other members of this group last week.

James McClean

The springer who has forged an extremely convincing case for inclusion. Maintained a high level for Sunderland after initial impact and has even developed an aptitude for set-pieces. Contender.

James McCarthy

Recovered from a rocky patch to shine for Wigan in their impressive battle against the drop. His relationship with Trap is still complicated though. Faces nervous wait ahead of a big game tonight.

Paul Green

Late call-up for the Czech match and was summoned from the bench ahead of McCarthy. Trapattoni said afterwards that his experience could book a Polish trip. Definitely in considerations.

Seamus Coleman

Coleman is yet to see a minute of competitive action and he's behind McClean in the form argument.

KEEP THE PHONE ON (6)

Shane Duffy

The promising Derry lad was also drafted in for the Czech match after impressive shows for Everton, but didn't get a run-out. He may be one of the four names placed on standby.

Paul McShane

Distraught when he missed out in February, with the long-standing squad member squeezed out at time that mattered most. Best he can hope for is being on standby.

Andy Keogh

Often maligned for his inclusion, but the Dubliner has responded to his Irish exclusion by embarking on an impressive goal-scoring run for Millwall. Trap is well served for strikers, though.

Liam Lawrence

A starter in Paris who kicked off the Euros campaign on the right side of midfield and played his way out of the team with a dreadful display at home to Russia. No way, barring a spate of injuries.

Darren Randolph

Should Trap be concerned about Westwood and Forde's lack of minutes on the pitch, then he may look elsewhere for another goalkeeper, with Randolph impressing for Motherwell in the SPL.

Stephen Henderson

Realistically, the only other netminder in the frame. Henderson was called in late for the Czech game and has a bright future, even if he misses out here.

Irish Independent

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