Sport Soccer

Monday 24 April 2017

McCarthy gets chance to mend bridges with Trap

DION FANNING

James McCarthy has assured Giovanni Trapattoni he will be in Dublin this week for Ireland's friendly against Croatia.

Trapattoni insisted in June that players would have to explain their absence from future squads or risk exclusion for the rest of the European qualifying campaign.

At that time, Trapattoni was reflecting on a successful end to the season. "They must be educated," he said of the players like McCarthy, Marc Wilson and Anthony Stokes whose absences had overshadowed the build-up to the Carling Cup games (although it wouldn't have taken much to overshadow them).

Trapattoni was agitated by their absences, talking about the need for the modern footballer to learn courtesies. Now they seem to have learned some lessons.

Trapattoni will be waiting for McCarthy, and the FAI, who know he could boost ticket sales, will be too.

"He assured us he will be over. He definitely wants to be a part of it. It's all fine now," Trapattoni said of McCarthy, but he gave no promises that he would play him.

Wilson may be less keen but he has informed the FAI that he is injured and won't be travelling, while Jonathan Walters, who came on as sub during Stoke City's Europa League play-off tie on Thursday, isn't expected to play but will travel to Dublin to have his calf injury examined.

More worryingly, Seamus Coleman left Goodison Park on crutches on Friday night, and while Ireland can withstand losing players for this week's game, Trapattoni won't want to be losing players for the key games in September against Slovakia and Russia. X-rays showed only ligament damage which could rule him out of those two games.

Club managers have been understandably critical of the timing of this week's international friendlies but there are a few Irish players who could do with a game.

Robbie Keane played for the New York Cosmos in Paul Scholes' testimonial on Friday but he is still searching for a club in England.

Trapattoni says he will look at Shane Long and Simon Cox together up front but hopes to give Keane 35 minutes while Kevin Doyle is also back.

Stephen Ward will be given another chance at left-back as Trapattoni looks for a long-term successor to Kevin Kilbane. Ward has impressed for Wolves in pre-season and he appears to have moved ahead of Ciaran Clark in that position for Ireland.

"Principally, we want to have confirmation on Stephen Ward first for the (qualifiers). But Ciaran is someone I'm sure of keeping an eye on, although we will play Ward this time. We know Clark well, but he's not playing that much at the moment, and we want to give Ward a chance in this game."

Trapattoni seems happy that the pretence of his summer holidays is now at an end. "I've pulled the plug on the holidays already," he said. "I've been watching DVDs, and have been keeping an eye on our players. I watched Villa play in Asia recently, I have watched Russia again two or three times, I have watched Slovakia again. We are preparing now for the Croatia game, but of course you get excited about the bigger games to come."

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