THE high attendance for an end-of-season gathering demonstrated the Irish players are preparing for a Wembley date which carries more weight than your average friendly, but it was the presence of someone who will not be involved that provided the main talking point in London last night.
Richard Dunne, whose last meaningful appearance came in the final Euro 2012 game with Italy, joined up with the group ahead of their training session at Watford's base in Colney, although he spent the training session working on his own with physio Ciaran Murray.
Involvement in Wednesday's meeting with England is out of the question for the clubless Tallaght man. However, if he demonstrates that he is in good health during the week, he could come into contention for Sunday's less-than-appealing meeting with Georgia, a development that might help to build interest around that Aviva Stadium encounter.
"We need him for the future," said Giovanni Trapattoni, who confirmed that – once he is fit – Dunne will be in his plans regardless of where his next move takes him, with suggestions that a switch to the Middle East and a reunion with Sven-Goran Eriksson is an option available to the 33-year-old.
The Italian is conscious that the central defender's unemployment makes his situation delicate; if he aggravated his long-standing groin problem by rushing back too soon then it could jeopardise his summer prospects.
And, on the flip side, Trapattoni indicated he would be reluctant to use him in Friday week's competitive meeting with the Faroe Islands in case that left his own defence exposed, even in a game where the attention should be focused on improving the goal difference situation at the other end of the park.
"We said we will go step by step," continued the Irish boss, "He cannot make a new injury."
Dunne's friend and colleague Robbie Keane will figure at Wembley after begging for permission from LA Galaxy, although the trade-off is likely to be missing out on the New York date with Spain on June 11.
Keane was in action for Galaxy against Seattle Sounders in the early hours of this morning and will not arrive in St Alban's until tomorrow, where a decision will be made on the length of his contribution.
"Galaxy didn't provide any instructions," said Trapattoni. "It depends how tired he is, whether he plays the first half, or the second half, or one hour."
The 74-year-old hinted at his squad announcement that he planned a 4-5-1 shape for England and says that it's still in his mind despite Keane's unexpected availability and the unfortunate recurring absence of Anthony Pilkington. He has spoken with the latter and does not harbour any doubts about the Norwich winger's commitment to the cause, particularly with his wedding set to rule him out of the other three games in this meet-up.
"The doctor at the club said it could worsen his problem with the knee," added Trapattoni (pictured).
While existing squad members are likely to fill the available starting berth, the withdrawals of Pilkington and Paul Green (hamstring) and doubts hanging over Glenn Whelan (calf) and James McCarthy (hamstring) have opened the door for Hull's Stephen Quinn to come in and have a chance of winning his first senior cap. It tops off a fine year for the 27-year-old Dubliner who will link up with fellow promotion winners David Meyler, Stephen Quinn and Paul McShane today.
"He is a good midfielder, quick and dynamic and has a good personality," said the Irish boss who gave the impression Quinn might be one of the six subs he intends to use during the match.
McCarthy did play a full part in training so he has a reasonable chance, and he is suspended for the Faroes game which Trapattoni is stressing as the priority.
Marc Wilson, also troubled by a calf issue, watched training and while his boss thinks his Premier League experience would make him important against England, he will avoid risks. In addition to Keane and Quinn, the party which trained in Watford's impressive facility will be joined by late arrivals Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Darren O'Dea (Toronto) and Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace) who are tied up with various club commitments.
Darron Gibson, on the other hand, is no closer to a return after merrily tweeting that he would be spending this week on his stag party in Marbella.
Trapattoni brought out a modified version of his 'never say never' mantra when asked if a return for the Everton man was imminent, but there is still a sense that the Derry native's answer will simply be 'never' under current management unless a summer break brings about a change of heart.
He has passed up the opportunity to participate in a unique occasion, and Trapattoni, who feels that a changed climate since 1995 should remove the possibility of crowd trouble, notes the desire in the ranks to secure a positive outcome. On Saturday, he bumped into Roy Hodgson and had little sympathy when the England manager bemoaned that his absentees include Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll.
"They have many other players," said Trapattoni, "But I like what I saw in training today. Our team knows the English players, and we can look for the good result."