Trapattoni's conservative party
- McClean fails to get first call-up - No room for new faces for Czech clash - McCarthy and Coleman facing battle for final place in Euro 2012 squad
EURO 2012 may be four months away, but by cutting his squad to 24 yesterday Giovanni Trapattoni indicated that he has already moved into full tournament mode.
Despite calls for new faces and the expectation that James McClean would be handed his first call-up, Trapattoni arrived in Waterford yesterday morning and named a squad that stayed true to his conservative convictions.
By paring the numbers down for the February 29 friendly against the Czech Republic, he got some of his hardest work done early. Of the 24 players named, 23 look set to be on the plane as long as they avoid injury. The only question remaining is who will be the one to miss out?
Liam Lawrence, Paul McShane and Andy Keogh were cast aside as the Italian got his streamlining done early.
He could have waited and kept the players involved right up until the final deadline on May 29, but instead he chose not to let them sweat and, injuries aside, they are unlikely to be involved.
It appears to be up to James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman to fight it out for the last available place. McCarthy seems to have the edge and may be given an opportunity against the Czechs, with Trapattoni admitting that he has been impressed with his recent club performances and that he could be ready to give him a try in a central midfield role.
Rather than extending his options by naming an extended squad with a sprinkling of new faces, the Ireland manager has aligned McClean with Manchester United's Robbie Brady, Everton's Shane Duffy and Norwich's Anthony Pilkington as stars for the future. Ciaran Clark can also be considered among that number, despite not being name-checked.
Even had he been selected for the Czech game, it's unlikely that McClean would have forced his way in for the Euros, but there was little to be lost by including the in-form 22-year-old for the friendly. If anything happens to Damien Duff or Aiden McGeady before the summer, the Sunderland winger could be pitched in having never been involved before.
At the heart of yesterday's selection are the loyalty and conservatism that have been regular features of Trapattoni's stewardship. The players who got him to Poland are the ones who will serve him there.
"This game is not the time. We begin the season for the Euros now," said the Italian. "All of this squad deserves to come with us. That is very, very important because they believe us, they know us.
"We have double options for each position. We have time if anyone suffers an injury, because we can change in the last days if needed but I hope we have all the squad.
"After this match, Marco (Tardelli) and I will continue to follow our players to keep a close eye on their fitness. In May, we will need to choose 23 players and leave some players out of the squad. It will be difficult for us as we have so many good players, who deserve to be with us for Euro 2012, but it is our job. It is a pity but we must choose."
Trapattoni spoke to McClean by phone on Thursday, praising his recent form and reassuring the youngster -- who received international clearance to play for Ireland this week -- that he was in his thoughts.
"I have seen him many, many times," he said. "I spoke to him. I said 'congratulations James'. He said 'thank you'. I said, 'you come with us, but maybe not now'. We have the assurance he can play for us and he said 'I wish to play'. I said: '100pc you will be with us in the future."
For now, the manager wants to "consolidate the balance" in his squad. He stressed that he has enough wing cover, with Simon Cox and Jon Walters able to slip into any space left by McGeady, Duff and Stephen Hunt. Coleman is another option, if he makes the cut.
Both McGeady and Coleman have contacted the manager to assure him that they will be fit to join the squad at the end of the month.
Trapattoni believes playing the Czechs will be good practice for Croatia and Spain, with Arsenal's Tomas Rosicky operating in the playmaking role filled by Luka Modric for the Croats and Xavi for the Spaniards.
The youth will have to wait, but the manager is hoping that the senior players will stick around to help him blood the next generation into the squad.
Asked if he thought captain Robbie Keane might hang on after this summer's tournament, he said: "I think I am sure (he will). I will speak with the older players, I will listen but I have trust and that is important. I will ask the seniors to help the young.
"If we can do this, it will be very, very important. They can show they are very proud Irishmen who can also help my team, not Trapattoni but the Irish team and Irish people. When you change immediately, it's not easy."
That summed up the day -- change doesn't come quickly in Trapattoni's world, and the young guns will have to bide their time.
IRELAND SQUAD -- S Given (Aston Villa), K Westwood (Sunderland), D Forde (Millwall); J O'Shea (Sunderland), S Kelly (Fulham), S Ward (Wolves), R Dunne (Aston Villa), S St Ledger (Leicester), D O'Dea (Leeds); K Foley (Wolves), G Whelan (Stoke), J McCarthy (Wigan), S Coleman (Everton), K Andrews (West Brom), K Fahey (Birmingham), D Gibson (Everton), D Duff (Fulham), A McGeady (Spartak Moscow), S Hunt (Wolves); R Keane (LA Galaxy), K Doyle (Wolves), S Long, S Cox ( both West Brom), J Walters (Stoke).