A dull party will do

Let's just get through this tricky send-off against bruised Bosnia without any shocks or injuries

Paul Hyland

THE only important thing to remember about today's big Euro 2012 send-off at Lansdowne Road is that Ireland are not Bosnia.

So many times in the past decade, it has fallen to Ireland to make up the numbers around this time of the year; fodder for those already qualified for European Championship and World Cup finals.

This time we can be a bit smug for a few hours in D4 and revel in the hype and palaver Giovanni Trapattoni has helped create.

Send-off games don't usually bring the kind of results we want, but nobody really cares. Back in '88, Jack Charlton took his team to Oslo and an awful 0-0 draw with Norway and a few years later, another dreary 0-0 against Turkey in Izmir was followed by a 3-0 win over Malta, then little better than a pub team.

Pre-US94, the Czech Republic gave us a lesson at Lansdowne Road and won 3-1 and Nigeria filled the same role en route to Japan/Korea, winning 2-1.

Bosnia deserve our sympathy too. They fell short of automatic qualification in Paris to a disputed penalty decision and we all know what it feels like to leave that city with your pocket picked.

So, they will do what all countries on the outside looking in do and try to prove that they should be in the finals themselves.


Such it was when Ireland travelled to Amsterdam in 2008 and gave the Dutch a hiding. The victory was grand but very hollow and our friends from Holland didn't mind throwing us a bone while they packed for Austria and Switzerland.

This won't be Bosnia turning up here to throw a few tackles in and generally make as if they care about the fact that they are in Dublin now instead of occupying a training camp and eventually, a place in the finals themselves.

They will provide a true test for Trapattoni's team and, potentially, a worrying reminder of how well the former Yugoslav nations have managed the break-up and reassemble to become formidable and respected teams in world football.

With Croatia looming, this might not be the best thing to happen to Trapattoni's men who have been universally confident and upbeat about the finals since they arrived in Malahide. It wouldn't do to take a lesson from Croatia's sundered cousins.


Trap's wild card in all of this is the man we all want to see and even if there is a risk that James McClean will carry too much expectation on his broad shoulders, it's probably as good a time as any to test his mettle.

People forget that McClean is no gawky teenager. He's a 23-year-old from Derry where life's lessons can be much more abrasive and attritional than you find in most urban environments.

He has a great attitude and a certain shyness which echoes Mark Hughes. A beast of a player on the pitch when he was in his pomp, Hughes spoke like a man in a confessional in civvies.

McClean has the same kind of relentless hunger for the ball and, if necessary, a physical battle. He is a player, of that there is no doubt.

It was telling that a certain stiffness was attached to the response to questions posed to both Aiden McGeady and Stephen Hunt about the new wonder winger.

They are very worried about McClean -- Hunt more than McGeady -- and a barnstorming performance from him today will nudge Trapattoni even closer to what would be a bold decision to start him against Croatia.

Trapattoni sees profit in McClean on the right flank over the long term and he did reiterate that all things being equal and everyone being fit, his team for Croatia would be Shay Given; John O'Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Stephen Ward; Duffer, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Aiden McGeady and, up front, Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle.

He's only three short of that for this game despite a week of scares. Keiren Westwood fills in for Given, Paul McShane for O'Shea and Darron Gibson for Andrews.

Trapattoni highlighted Gibson as someone who can be very important to Ireland, but there is also an element of reassurance involved in the fact that he starts against Bosnia.

In the last week of the season, the news from Goodison Park was not good about Gibson and if he does have a lingering problem, he needs to show Trapattoni that he can be relied upon to last the full trip.

It is interesting that Trapattoni has decided to tag on McShane for the duration. It's almost as if he expects to find himself a man down when the cut-off comes at the end of the month.

But for the moment, and at least until the game gets under way today, every player selected is still travelling to Montecatini, on to Budapest and then to Poland for the time of their lives.

Let's hope nobody is hit with the worst sucker punch of all and finds himself on crutches and the object of everyone's sympathy in Dublin Airport on Sunday morning with the wrong plane ticket in his hand.

Everyone who should be in the squad is in the squad with the obvious exception of James McCarthy and perhaps Seamus Coleman and while there have been arguments thrown out for people like Wes Hoolahan and Ian Harte, none carried much weight.

So fingers crossed then. A dull draw would do, with no injuries and no consequences would do nicely. And plenty of balloons.