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Cup a lifeline for Trap's men

IT'S the competition Premier League managers love to hate but for Giovanni Trapattoni, the Carling Cup is providing a lifeline for Irish players caught in a squad rotation trap.

Last night, Trapattoni's key men enjoyed some welcome target practice with successful results for both Robbie Keane, who scored and put in a 45 minute shift in Spurs' 4-1 Carling Cup defeat to Arsenal at White Hart Lane, while Kevin Doyle came on to bag a brace for Wolves in a 4-2 win over Notts County.

Liam Lawrence scored his first goal for Portsmouth while Keith Fahey and Glenn Whelan put some welcome miles into their legs.

Promising Everton defender Seamus Coleman, name-checked as a young player for the future by Trappatoni when he announced his squad for the Russia/Slovakia Euro 2012 double-header early this week, played a full part in Everton's shock exit to Brentford on penalties after extra-time last night.

But Trapattoni will be even more pleased tonight when he sees Shay Given finally make his season debut for Manchester City at the Hawthorns.

Greg Cunningham is also likely to start and the two Irishman will clash with an old friend when they meet Steven Reid, a bench-warmer at West Brom since the start of the season but a starter against Manchester City.

"I'm hoping to finish my career here and I want to do it in the Premier League," said Reid, who was effectively retired from international duty by Trapattoni.

While the Carling Cup is providing a positive environment for his players, Trapattoni will also watch Aston Villa's outing against Blackburn with trepidation to see if Richard Dunne's knee and back injuries allow him to play.

New boss Gerard Houllier will give Dunne a late fitness check to see if he is fit enough to lead the Villa defence.

Houllier has asked fans for patience while he builds a new philosophy at his new club, a request Stephen Ireland has also made after a start to his career at Villa Park which has been less than spectacular.

"Of course, I'm still getting to understand the players out there on the pitch, still finding my feet," said Ireland.

"I pulled my hamstring, but I'm getting there. I hope by Christmas everything will be good," he added.

Elsewhere, Darron Gibson is in Alex Ferguson's squad for a tussle with Scunthorpe.

So also is striker Will Keane, Manchester United's Academy Player of the Year last season. Will has been playing at Youth level for England while his twin brother, Michael, represents Ireland.