GIOVANNI Trapattoni sprang a major surprise at his squad announcement for the upcoming friendly with Argentina by omitting Wigan midfielder James McCarthy.
It appears McCarthy, like a number of Irish internationals before him, has paid the price for missing Trapattoni's end-of- season training camp and friendlies against Paraguay and Algeria last May.
Birmingham City midfielder Keith Fahey and Derby County's Paul Green get another chance to impress the Irish boss, while promising young Manchester City full-back Greg Cunningham is in line for another cap.
Shay Given has allayed fears his shoulder injury would force him out of the beginning of Ireland's Euro 2012 qualifiers in September after being selected by Trapattoni.
In response to questions over McCarthy's omission, Trapattoni insisted that it was "fair" to give the players that featured last May another chance.
"Let's say you're (Keith) Fahey," he said. "You came the last time and you played well. Now, of course, I want you to show me again that you can play well.
"If I don't call you and call McCarthy, who was tired the last time, it's not fair. I need this step by step, and it's possible to build."
Of scant consolation to McCarthy will be the news that he has been selected for Noel King's Irish Under-21 squad that will face Estonia on August 10.
Cunningham and Cillian Sheridan were also requested by King, but, significantly, Trapattoni asserted his authority and kept hold of the pair, meaning McCarthy could follow the same route to the senior international wilderness as Andy Reid and Lee Carsley, who missed Trapattoni's Algarve training camp in the summer of 2008.
While McCarthy did show up in Malahide in May to discuss his injury concerns with the Irish medical staff, two other players -- Portsmouth's Marc Wilson and Preston's Keith Treacy -- who were selected at the time but couldn't play through injury, have been handed another opportunity.
"I'm not forgetting," continued Trapattoni, when a few other absentees were mentioned. "I don't forget Seamus Coleman or (Stephen) Ward (another who missed May because of a setback)."
Brian Murphy, Eddie Nolan, Anthony Stokes and Leon Best are left out, though, despite reporting for duty. Best, who flew up the queue last autumn and even figured in the competitive games with France and Italy, was desperately disappointing in the training games at Gannon Park and is excluded, with Caleb Folan back in the picture.
The Irish boss watched this summer's World Cup in South Africa with interest and, of course, a large dose of regret. While the French and Italians faltered on the greatest stage, he believes that his group of players would have gone further in the competition, particularly given the improvement that was obvious in the comfortable pair of victories over Algeria and Paraguay.
"I was confident we could go to the last 16 or the quarter-finals," he said. "With our performance, our mentality and the way we play the game, the way we would have approached the competition, it would have allowed us to go further than the first round," he added.
While Fabio Capello has been criticised in England for sticking rigidly with the 4-4-2 formation that is also deployed by Ireland, a tournament which was dominated by teams operating a 4-2-3-1 system hasn't convinced the gaffer a change is likely.
In the past, he had spoken of a desire to dabble with one up front, yet the development of Kevin Doyle and the strengthening of his partnership with Robbie Keane has removed that curiosity. Instead, he plans to stick with the same modus operandi.
"When you play with one striker, you need a team that is able to grow with the ball," he said. "Spain, it was good, because they scored a goal. The problem is not 4-4-2, the problem is the players. It is about mentality."
Ireland (v Argentina , August 11)
Shay Given (Man City); Keiren Westwood (Coventry); Joe Murphy (Scunthorpe Utd); John O'Shea (Man Utd); Richard Dunne (A Villa); Sean St Ledger (Preston NE); Greg Cunningham (Man City); Kevin Foley (Wolves); Marc Wilson (Portsmouth), Stephen Kelly (Fulham); Paul McShane (Hull); Darren O'Dea (Celtic); Kevin Kilbane (Hull); Keith Andrews (Blackburn Rvs); Glenn Whelan (Stoke City); Darron Gibson (Man Utd); Paul Green (Derby); Liam Lawrence (Stoke City); Aiden McGeady (Celtic); Andy Keogh (Wolves); Damien Duff (Fulham); Keith Fahey (Birmingham City); Keith Treacy (Preston NE); Cillian Sheridan (Celtic); Robbie Keane (Tottenham); Kevin Doyle (Wolves); Caleb Folan (Hull); Shane Long (Reading)