Friday 20 October 2017

Hoolahan to pull strings in Trapattoni's hunt for goals

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

THE last time Ireland played the Faroe Islands, Giovanni Trapattoni was on the edge of a cliff, with the FAI on the verge of pushing him over.

A spirited win in Torshavn helped his cause, along with financial circumstances and the fact that Ireland still retained hopes of qualifying for next summer's World Cup in Brazil.

His future still hinges on the outcome of September's return double-header with Sweden and Austria; the pair of draws in March succeeded in keeping the show on the road, though against Austria Trap's men were 30 seconds away from a far brighter picture in Group C.

A comfortable win over the Faroe Islands tonight coupled with a draw in Vienna between the aforementioned rivals for second spot would build optimism heading into the summer.

Trapattoni's first job after weathering the Faroes storm was to go and watch Norwich in action and, while Anthony Pilkington's injuries make him an almost mythical figure in discussions around the future, Wes Hoolahan also benefited from the FAI's demand that the 74-year-old should go to more games.

COMPETITIVE

He makes his first competitive start tonight, partnering Glenn Whelan in the centre of midfield.

With goals the priority, the intention is that Hoolahan will help press forward and support strike pair Robbie Keane and Jon Walters, who linked well in Torshavn.

The manager's biggest decision for tonight revolved around the identity of his wingers and Simon Cox and Aiden McGeady get the nod, as training had indicated, with James McClean missing out.

"We can change the system during the game," he said. "McClean can't play right (some close to the player would disagree), Walters can play right, Cox can play right, McGeady can play right. We have the options."

Earlier in the week, Trapattoni strongly suggested Richard Dunne would start the game but pragmatism took hold and, after 11 months on the sidelines, he has decided that throwing the Dubliner in for a competitive game would be ambitious. He might be introduced in the second half or wait for New York, where he will likely play instead of John O'Shea against Spain.

"It's better for now that we go with the centre-backs, John and St Ledger," stressed Trapattoni. "Richard is out a long time. For this qualifier, we need fully fit players."

The onus will be on Ireland to take the initiative from the outset and avoid nerves creeping in. The Faroes are without key midfield operators and this will be a damage limitation exercise for them.

To boost their goal difference, Ireland need to inflict as much pain as possible.

Verdict: Ireland 5 Faroe Islands 0

Irish Independent

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