Trapattoni must study his form book
Irish boss may take ‘horses for courses’ strategy in absence of establishednames
After the exploits of the rugby team on Saturday and a record-breaking haul for the Irish at Cheltenham last week, the baton is passed to Giovanni Trapattoni's charges, who are in Dublin today to begin preparations for Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier with Macedonia.
Certainly, the bar has been set high for the Irish players, many of whom have endured an interrupted preparation to an extremely important Aviva Stadium encounter.
Trapattoni will have to make some difficult choices over the next couple of days, with the troubles experienced by his senior stars leaving the 72-year-old with a series of dilemmas. Shay Given and John O'Shea are confirmed absentees, while doubts hang over Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane.
Like a punter studying the form at Prestbury Park, he needs to weigh up all the relevant factors before reaching his final decisions. Here's the pinsticker guide to his 27-man squad:
Keiren Westwood (Coventry)
Form: Coming into this game with a bit of a question mark hanging over him after recent spell on sidelines at Coventry with a hip problem.
Horses for Courses: All of his five caps for Ireland have come in friendly encounters, so this will be a new test for the well-regarded netminder.
Chances of Starting: Sure thing.
David Forde (Cardiff)
Form: Solid season at Millwall for the Galway man, who has taken his time to make the breakthrough in England.
Horses for Courses: This is a first senior call-up for the ex-Galway United and Derry City netminder. Unfamiliar territory.
Chances of Starting: Likely to be first in line if Westwood endures a mishap.
Darren Randolph (Motherwell)
Form: The former Charlton man has taken well to life in Scotland and is an established part of furniture at Motherwell.
Horses for Courses: Uncapped, although he did join a similar gathering under Steve Staunton.
Chances of Starting: Here to make up the numbers, effectively. One for the future.
Richard Dunne (Aston Villa)
Form: Looks to have fallen out of love with the game at Aston Villa this year, unhappy with the change at the helm, and struggling with fitness in addition to discipline in the last month. Major doubt with shoulder problem.
Horses for Courses: For all that he is embroiled in stress at Villa, he has consistently delivered for Ireland and his leadership qualities come to the fore in this kind of fixture.
Chances of Starting: Nervous week of monitoring his fitness ahead, but if there's any chance he can be involved then Trap will give him his backing.
Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa)
Form: Has become a regular for his club this term, and only missed the weekend loss to Wolves due to suspension.
Horses for Courses: For all debut at left-back against Wales went well, a competitive qualifier against a team from a different part of the world would be a new experience for the London lad.
Chances of Starting: Likely to revolve around the health of Dunne. The loss of Given and O'Shea leaves Trapattoni short on rearguard experience.
Kevin Foley (Wolves)
Form: A fixture at Wolves who has returned to his favoured right-back role recently.
Horses for Courses: Yet to figure in a competitive game for Ireland, restricted to outings in friendly games. Trapattoni hesitant.
Chances of Starting: The absence of O'Shea has thrown up a vacancy at right-full, but you suspect that Trap might have other options in mind.
Sean St Ledger (Preston)
Form: It's been a difficult campaign for St Ledger, plying his trade at a club whose form has tailed off badly. They did get a morale boosting win at the weekend.
Horses for Courses: It's almost two years since he was thrown in against Bulgaria and since then, he's been assured of his place. Trapattoni has huge trust in the player.
Chances of Starting: Sure bet.
Stephen Kelly (Fulham)
Form: Coming into this game after a long lay-off. Injuries ruined his winter and in background at Fulham subsequently.
Horses for Courses: In the past, Trapattoni has turned to Kelly when injuries have struck. Certainly, has more competitive experience than the others who are vying to replace O'Shea.
Chances of Starting: Reasonably good, but the management must be conscious that the Dubliner is badly in need of a run.
Darren O'Dea (Celtic)
Form: Strange year for O'Dea, who was expected to push on with loan move to Ipswich, yet is spending plenty of time in a watching brief.
Horses for Courses: Has played in big games for Celtic, but is largely untried with Ireland and that's unlikely to change this week.
Chances of Starting: Big outsider.
Kevin Kilbane (Hull)
Form: After a frustrating first half of the campaign, has benefited from dropping down a grade with a series of confidence-boosting outings on loan at Huddersfield.
Horses for Courses: One of the few members in the squad who can remember Ireland's last jousts with Macedonia. That sums up his experience. Plenty of course and distance form.
Chances of Starting: May have been in jeopardy until O'Shea was struck down. Unlikely that Trapattoni will now change both his regular full-backs.
Marc Wilson (Stoke)
Form: A versatile performer who, conveniently, has been deputising impressively at right-back for Stoke in recent weeks.
Horses for Courses: This is unchartered territory for Wilson, who finally made his Irish debut as a sub in midfield against Wales last month.
Chances of Starting: May just have crept up the rails. Now a contender.
Damien Duff (Fulham)
Form: In fine fettle and ready for a first start in this campaign after wretched injury luck in September and October.
Horses for Courses: Has the class and the experience to make a huge impact in games of this nature. No fears on this score.
Chances of Starting: Good thing.
Darron Gibson (Manchester United)
Form: Mixed performance against Wales, with a superb goal putting a gloss on things. In and out of team at United, and continues to polarise opinions.
Horses for Courses: Trapattoni threw him in for competitive debut at home to Cyprus, a similar level of opposition, back in October of 2008. Has never really hammered down his place with conviction, though.
Chances of Starting: Sure to be a close-run thing, but might just shade it given his involvement in the Carling Nations Cup encounter.
Seamus Coleman (Everton)
Form: Was given a little break by David Moyes to recharge the batteries, and came back with a bang with a goal in Saturday's win over Fulham.
Horses for Courses: Plenty of outings with the Irish U-21 side in defence, but senior show restricted to appearance against Wales in midfield. Trapattoni could be considering him in either department.
Chances of Starting: Slim. More likely that he will be sprung from bench if Ireland are chasing the game, either at right-back or right midfield.
Glenn Whelan (Stoke)
Form: Was unable to leave Stoke in January, yet has actually got more of a look-in over the past month or so, a welcome development.
Horses for Courses: Trapattoni starts Whelan when he is available, and he can now be considered a reasonably experienced international performer.
Chances of Starting: Barring injury, he'll play.
Paul Green (Derby)
Form: Derby are going through a poor time of it at the moment, and Green has come in for criticism from certain quarters, including his manager Nigel Clough.
Horses for Courses: Started the four qualifiers in this campaign to date, and didn't set the world alight.
Chances of Starting: Lost a bit of ground to Gibson last month, and may find it difficult to turn that around between now and Saturday.
Liam Lawrence (Portsmouth)
Form: Was briefly sidelined with a calf problem, but came through 90 minutes for Portsmouth at the weekend.
Horses for Courses: Has grown into the team over the last 18 months, although he was one of the poorer Irish players in the loss to Russia in October.
Chances of Starting: Hasn't done a huge amount wrong, but others appear to have a stronger case for inclusion.
Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow)
Form: An improved player since his move to Spartak Moscow, and his terrorising of Ajax in the Europa League bodes well for his well-being.
Horses for Courses: Still only 24, but a seasoned campaigner. Has ability to improve on his Irish performances to date.
Chances of Starting: Surely has to play, only doubt is if Trapattoni -- who will pick Duff -- wants his other winger to be the kind who can drop inside like Lawrence or Fahey.
James McCarthy (Wigan)
Form: Has shaken off an ankle problem to prove his quality at Wigan, with the only distraction being ludicrous statements from his club manager and also from Trapattoni which placed him in an unfair situation.
Horses for Courses: Only has the one friendly appearance against Brazil under his belt, and Trapattoni says he is unsure in what position he will be most effective.
Chances of Starting: Down the list unless he really shines in training. A sub outing would be most welcome.
Keith Treacy (Preston)
Form: With Preston at the bottom of the Championship table, it has been a testing year for Treacy, who may also have shipped a minor knock for his employers at the weekend.
Horses for Courses: Trapattoni liked his showing against Argentina last August. No meaningful experience at this level, though.
Chances of Starting: No hope.
Keith Fahey (Birmingham)
Form: Comes into this game with a bit of an injury problem that medics need to assess. A shame, considering he has done well for Birmingham of late.
Horses for Courses: Made a strong case for regular inclusion with solid show against Slovakia in October. However, it was odd that he was only a late call-up for the Wales meeting.
Chances of Starting: Hard to see him figuring other than as a substitute although he has shown he can have an impact from the bench.
Robbie Keane (Spurs)
Form: Restricted to 22 minutes of first-team football since incurring a calf injury on his second outing on loan at West Ham. Has suffered a miserable campaign.
Horses for Courses: Keane was invaluable to Trapattoni in games of this nature in the World Cup campaign. Stuttering performances in October are a worry, but he won't be fazed by this kind of test.
Chances of Starting: Depends on medical bulletin. Similar to Dunne -- with other experienced heads absent, Trapattoni will be desperate to have him available.
Kevin Doyle (Wolves)
Form: Shining light at Wolves and sure to be buoyed by derby win over Aston Villa at the weekend.
Horses for Courses: Has proven his prowess in this sphere, and there are no doubts about his readyness for the task at hand.
Chances of Starting: Nailed on.
Jonathan Walters (Stoke)
Form: This has been a decent spell for Walters, who made a strong impression against the Welsh and scored for Stoke at the weekend.
Horses for Courses: No competitive experience so that's one negative in his column. But Trapattoni likes to have a physical option available.
Chances of Starting: Slim, but could be introduced at some point.
Shane Long (Reading)
Form: One of the outstanding players in the Championship in the last few months where goals have been plentiful.
Horses for Courses: Has been around the international squad for long enough now to know what it's about. Emerged from October ties with Russia and Slovakia with real credit.
Chances of Starting: If Keane is in difficulty, Long is a natural replacement.
Andy Keogh (Wolves)
Form: Not good. Now at Bristol City after earlier loan spell at Cardiff didn't work out. On the bench at his new temporary home over last couple of weeks.
Horses for Courses: Was sprung from the bench in opening qualifiers. Alas, others have made a stronger case with their performances for both club and country in the meantime.
Chances of Starting: No hope.
Leon Best (Newcastle)
Form: A good stint for Best at Newcastle following the departure of Andy Carroll. The only blot on his copybook came when he was pictured out on the town ahead of the 4-0 defeat to Stoke while he was injured although he did issue an apology last night .
Horses for Courses: Trapattoni had no fears about throwing Best into the fray in crucial World Cup qualifiers with Bulgaria, Italy and France.
Chances of Starting: An outside chance, perhaps even more distant with the ankle problem that has placed his participation in doubt.