Trapattoni issues warning as fans get ready to party
FIVE years ago today, there was a lap of honour after a European Championship qualifier, but it was a very different kind of affair to what punters can expect in Dublin 4 this evening.
On that occasion, Steve Staunton and his players toured the old Lansdowne Road for the final time, with a routine 5-0 win over San Marino to mark the last senior international in the beloved, dated structure.
In the intervening period, senior players have occasionally longed for the intimacy of that venue, with the Croke Park visit and the early days at the Aviva Stadium more soulless than soulful.
The buzz around the Aviva after last month's victory over Armenia hinted at the atmosphere of old, and this evening's celebrations should really christen the brand new stadium in a football context.
But while management are aware that Ireland effectively sealed qualification in Tallinn last Friday, tonight will be remembered as the first time that the feat was officially secured in a home fixture.
So, the people will arrive expecting a party. The challenge for Giovanni Trapattoni and the players is to ensure that it doesn't develop into an anti-climax.
They have a proud record and want to end the campaign with a victory. Ultimately, it's about doing an efficient job and that's why the 72-year-old has taken no real chances with his team selection.
John O'Shea and Kevin Doyle (accidentally referred to as the 'great Damien Doyle' by the manager) are recalled from injury and suspension respectively, with the sidelined Stephen Kelly and the unfortunate Jonathan Walters missing out.
Aiden McGeady is rested with a view to coming in after the interval, with Stephen Hunt given a starting berth. Trapattoni wants to give those who contributed to qualification a chance to figure and spoke about introducing Keith Fahey and Walters or Simon Cox at some stage.
There is a certain element of uncertainty about the Estonian approach. Robbie Keane suggested they may look to keep the scoreline tight, whereas a counterpoint is that -- shorn of their two regular central defenders and their 'keeper -- they will have to come out and play rather than relying on a brittle rearguard.
Either way, Trapattoni wants a positive finish to the campaign. After conceding just once in their last 10 games, a clean sheet to maintain that fine run is a priority -- on a night where Shay Given will win his 120th cap, overtaking Northern Ireland's Pat Jennings in the all-time appearances list.
Keane will be desperate to get on the scoresheet, as he is two goals away from the record for the most goals in European Championship qualifying history.
"The qualification is still not finished," warned Trapattoni. "We haven't achieved it yet, so it would be dangerous to go on the pitch the wrong mentality.
"And we have the respect to people who have come to the stadium. Secondly, we have to respect our opponent. And, thirdly, for our own professionalism, we need to perform. We just can't go out there with presumption that we are in the tournament."
Keane was preaching a similar message, recalling a famous FA Cup game with Spurs seven years ago where they led 10-man Manchester City at half-time and lost 4-3. Richard Dunne was on the opposing side that day.
"In football anything can happen and the players are not stupid, they're not silly," he said.
Keane urged that fans remember Staunton's contribution, pointing out that he blooded some of the current squad. It took longer than the Louth man's much derided four- year plan for this team to finally have something to celebrate.