Ireland line up Azzurri for Big Apple reunion
An Ireland-Italy friendly at the scene of their famous 1994 World Cup duel is set to bring down the curtain on a lengthy end-of-season gathering for Giovanni Trapattoni's squad.
Plans for a summer trip to America have yet to be fully confirmed, but FAI sources have confirmed that a clash with the Azzurri on Saturday, June 11 is very likely.
The game would take place at Meadowlands, the new venue on the site of the demolished New York Giants Stadium, where Ray Houghton's strike secured a celebrated victory for Jack Charlton's side 17 years ago.
Italian press have been reporting for the last week that the game will take place on June 11, but the FAI are yet to officially announce their summer plans.
Trapattoni is keen to spend more time with the fringe members of his squad, and the United States now appears to be the destination despite tentative offers to go elsewhere.
A second game for the trip is on the cards, coming on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the potentially lucrative showdown with the Italians.
Trapattoni suggested Mexico as a possible opponent yesterday, but they are tied up in the Gold Cup tournament which kicks off on June 5. Therefore, the FAI may have to look at European or South American opposition. Boston, Philadelphia and Washington have all been floated as venues.
It means the busiest post-season for an Irish team since 1996 (apart from the 2002 World Cup) when Mick McCarthy's first summer in the job involved six games, with three of those in the US Cup.
Two games in the States this time around will bring the 2011 schedule to five matches. Ireland have two games in the Carling Nations Cup, with Northern Ireland in opposition on May 24 and Scotland on May 29.
After that comes the most significant game of the period, the Euro 2012 qualifier with Macedonia in Skopje on June 4.
Then, Trapattoni and his staff will head for America, with the timing of that sojourn set to ensure that the squad will be extremely developmental, similar to the group who will lock horns with Uruguay this evening.
Indeed, it is entirely likely that the roster for the Nations Cup games will have an emphasis on youth, with the Irish boss keen to keep his marquee names fresh for the Macedonian encounter.
"Against Italy, Mexico, or another country, it would be very important for this young team," said Trapattoni yesterday. "They can achieve more experience and against a famous team like Italy, I am confident it would be a good experience for them. It will help the players to understand."
Ireland last travelled to the US in 2007, with Steve Staunton bringing a depleted squad for clashes with Ecuador and Bolivia in New York and Boston respectively.
That experience proved a mixed bag in terms of identifying talent for the future. Kevin Doyle, Shane Long and Stephen Hunt were present, yet there was also the controversial decision to give a cap to US college student Joe Lapira.
END OF SCHEDULE
May 24: Ireland v Northern Ireland, Carling Nations Cup, Dublin
May 29: Ireland v Scotland, Carling Nations Cup, Dublin
June 4: Macedonia v Ireland, Euro 2012 Qualifier, Skopje
June 8/9: TBC v Ireland, Boston/Philadelphia/Washington
June 11: Italy v Ireland, friendly, New York