Tuesday 24 October 2017

Trap hails Chelsea as a lesson for Ireland

GIOVANNI Trapattoni watched the Champions League drama unfold on Saturday evening and told his players they could learn something from Chelsea's unlikely success.

The 73-year-old had sympathy for his former employers, Bayern Munich, but he was still quietly satisfied by the manner in which the game developed.

It gives an up-to-date reference point for his team on the value of organisation in the face of an onslaught from a technically superior opponent.

"It was a very beautiful game," said Trapattoni yesterday. "I understand the great disappointment of Bayern. They were sure they would win as Chelsea were missing three or four players.

"But for us it is a good lesson because when there is the team with order, even if they suffer because the possession was for Bayern, they were able to win."

The Ireland manager went on to point out that his team are not forbidden from looking to spend time on the ball. "We have a good personality and we don't have fear. We can use our weapons and our strength."

But the Italian is a pragmatic man, and he will know that the key to progression from a tough group will be solid organisation. "Frustrating the life out of teams," as midfielder Keith Andrews put it.

After last week's training sessions with a fringe group, the established Premier League stars who've had long campaigns were present in Malahide yesterday for a lively training session.

There were absentees. John O'Shea worked in the gym as he continues to recover from an ankle complaint, while Glenn Whelan was given an extra day off after his wedding on Saturday.

Robbie Keane, meanwhile, will arrive today after a scan on a hamstring pull revealed that management have nothing to worry about.

He will be assessed throughout the week in the build-up to Saturday's friendly meeting with Bosnia at the Aviva stadium. Now, Trapattoni must look towards that game.

While he is keen to practice for the challenges that lie ahead, there is a need to find the balance when it comes to giving his players game-time.

Avoiding injuries is the priority. Trapattoni made special reference to Damien Duff yesterday. The winger has suffered an unlucky run around international matches in recent years, and has arrived in flying form.

"He's ready for the tournament now," said the Irish boss. "But we have to keep him calm."


He followed up with a strong hint that there would rotation in the wide department for the Bosnian encounter.

Trapattoni suggested that Duff and Aiden McGeady would each play for a half, although he didn't quite confirm if one would be replaced by the other at the interval or if they would both start. What he did make clear, however, is that James McClean and Stephen Hunt will get an extended chance to make an impression.

"Duff and McGeady are already fit and in good shape. It's better that they save their energy," he explained.

McClean has impressed Trapattoni in training. "He is like one of the senior players," said Trapattoni, offering a strong endorsement. The Sunderland star will certainly appear for longer than his cameo showing in the dying stages of the Czech Republic match. But it doesn't necessarily mean he will start the game. Hunt is desperate to prove that he is still the man to push the first-choice duo for a place in the starting XI.

For injured pair Kevin Foley and Keith Fahey, the fixture will have a different kind of significance. They trained together again yesterday, passing the ball to each other while away from the rest of the group. Trapattoni wants to test their fitness so he can be sure they are ready to travel and mentioned the Bosnia game as a possible stage for that examination. The team will fly to Italy for a training camp the following morning.

Generally, though, the Irish supremo is content with how the preparations are going. He has consistently stated during his tenure that his biggest fear is injuries to key players; due to a dearth of similar quality replacements.

"Before, in England, there was Shay Given with an injury, and then Richard Dunne needed his operation. The last two months, O'Shea also had a problem. I was really worried about these two or three as we don't have immediately other options if we lost them.

"In this campaign, we need the big players. And checking the strength of the players is my duty. I have to look at the players who've had a tough season. That's why we will use seven subs for the Bosnia game."

The weather is also set to improve this week in the build-up to the Florence trip. Indeed, they're having a worse time of it in Italy; an earthquake struck the Bologna region over the weekend, with the epicentre near Modena (the city where Shamrock Rovers played Juventus in 2010), just over 50 miles from Ireland's base in Montecatini. "It is the other side of the mountain," stressed Trapattoni.

The force of the opposition is all he's concerned about now.

Irish Independent

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