Monday 18 February 2019

Anthony Pilkington gets long-awaited call-up to Ireland squad

Anthony Pilkington
Anthony Pilkington

Eleanor Crooks

GIOVANNI Trapattoni has named five uncapped players in the Republic of Ireland squad to face Poland in a friendly in Dublin next month.

The Italian has opted for a largely inexperienced squad and has left out the likes of captain Robbie Keane and Reading defender Stephen Kelly.

Norwich winger Anthony Pilkington, who has impressed for his club in the Barclays Premier League over the past two seasons, receives a first call-up, while West Ham keeper Stephen Henderson and Derby trio Richard Keogh, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon will also hope to win first caps.

Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne has been named in the squad, but a final decision on his inclusion will be made closer to the match as he is yet to play this season because of groin and hip problems.

Trapattoni said: "I have decided to use this friendly game as an opportunity to work with younger players to see their potential. As a result, I have given senior players like Robbie Keane and Stephen Kelly a break for this fixture.

"We saw a number of strong performances from our younger players in the second half of last year and we intend to build from those strong foundations, using this friendly match to introduce more new talent like Pilkington, Hendrick, Sammon and Keogh.

"I look forward to working with these players and seeing what they have to offer."

Trapattoni was due to travel to Dublin to give a press conference today but has stayed in Italy following the death this morning of his sister, Sister Romilde Trapattoni.

The Republic manager said: "I am sorry that I couldn't make it to Dublin today to announce the squad for the Poland game next month.

"It is important that I stay in Italy with family at this time after the passing of my sister this morning."

There is still plenty of experience in the squad with the likes of Dunne, Sunderland defender John O'Shea and Wolves striker Kevin Doyle, but there is no place for record cap holder Shay Given.

The Villa keeper, who retired after winning the last of his 125 caps in last summer's European Championships, has had a change of heart due to his lack of club action but is still struggling with a hamstring injury.

Given could well return for the World Cup qualifying double header against Sweden and Austria in March, which is likely to prove crucial for the Republic's chances of making the finals in Brazil.

Republic of Ireland squad to face Poland in friendly at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on February 6: Westwood (Sunderland), Forde (Millwall), Henderson (West Ham), Coleman (Everton), O'Shea (Sunderland), O'Dea (Toronto), McShane (Hull), Ward (Wolves), Clark (Aston Villa), Dunne (Aston Villa), Keogh (Derby), Cunningham (Bristol City), Pilkington (Norwich), Hendrick (Derby), McCarthy (Wigan), Meyler (Hull), Whelan (Stoke), Keogh (Millwall), McGeady (Spartak Moscow), McClean (Sunderland), Brady (Hull), Hoolahan (Norwich), Doyle (Wolves), Cox (Nottm Forest), Walters (Stoke), Long (West Brom), Sammon (Derby).

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