Tuesday 22 May 2018

Foley shines bright for Trap's reserves

Republic of Ireland XI 2 Nott'm Forest 0

Ireland's Caleb Folan scores his side's first goal despite the attempts of Luke Chambers at Dalymount Park last night
Ireland's Caleb Folan scores his side's first goal despite the attempts of Luke Chambers at Dalymount Park last night

THIS game wouldn't have been included in the official statistics whatever happened but, nevertheless, Ireland remain unbeaten with Giovanni Trapattoni in the dugout.

Despite just two training sessions together, his de facto 'B' selection proved far too strong for an admittedly poor Nottingham Forest side at Dalymount Park last night.

Still, this exercise will give the Italian plenty of reasons to be optimistic with a view to the short and long term. A couple of those involved here will be summoned in to fill the gaps in the senior squad ahead of next Wednesday's crucial World Cup qualifier with Cyprus at Croke Park.

In terms of that mission, Kevin Foley, Caleb Folan and Keith Andrews did themselves no harm here with their performances. Darron Gibson is another who Trapattoni could certainly draft in should he decide he needs cover midfield. There were others who will be in the frame for future consideration as well, even if they might have to wait that little bit longer.


The Irish performance was impressive for its competence rather than any great extravagance. A feature, you might say, of most Trapattoni teams.

Forest had started with a strong enough side by their standards, with only a few reserve players comprising their first 11 and an ageing Andy Cole their most recognisable face. They were also missing their manager, Colin Calderwood, who is in China inspecting pre-season facilities for next July; optimistic enough considering they are bottom of the Championship and, on this evidence, hopeless.

Trapattoni made a few switches from the team he had named on Wednesday with Anthony Stokes and Gibson involved from the outset, as opposed to making just a second-half appearance. As planned, Shane Long did come on at the break but instead of Folan, while Gibson also stayed on for a few minutes longer than anticipated with the planned time-share with Darren Potter postponed by the gaffer.

The Irish XI had a number of impressive performers before the interval. In midfield, Keith Andrews and Gibson provided a combative presence, with the latter more offensively involved with the former doing a lot of the cleaning-up.

Wingers Andy Keogh and Wes Hoolahan looked dangerous although their distribution of the ball let them down at times, while Stokes floated around behind Folan, who led the line.

While Alex Bruce and Darren O'Dea weren't greatly tested at the back, with similar comments applying to Joe Murphy, left full Stephen Ward went about his business efficiently while right back Kevin Foley shone brightest.

It's puzzling that Foley is yet to win a senior cap but then Ireland have been reasonably well served in the right full department. Despite Paul McShane's accomplished performances for Hull this season, you could argue that Foley is just as worthy a contender for the game against Cyprus next Wednesday in the absence of Steve Finnan and Stephen Kelly but Trapattoni thinks otherwise for now.

With his clever overlapping and economy in possession, Foley was a busy presence down the right flank but the only goal of the first half came from the other wing in the 23rd minute with Hoolahan feeding Stokes, whose slide-rule pass released Folan to cleverly slot past Paul Smith.


The front pair had combined effectively. Shortly beforehand, the roles had been reversed with Folan's header sending Stokes clear but he fluffed his lines. Nevertheless, the Sunderland man showed glimpses of his ability while still making the odd frustrating error. It must bode reasonably well for him that Trapattoni chose to keep him on for the duration, although the fact that Folan carried a knock into this encounter must be considered.

After the break, the substitutions predictably came but it didn't knock the home side too much out of their rhythm. Seventeen minutes later they were two goals ahead. In his last contribution of the match Keogh started and finished the move, playing an elongated one-two with sub Long, whose cross was swept home by the Wolves man already assured of his place in the squad for Cyprus.

Trapattoni managed to use all of his eight substitutes with the talented Owen Garvan, like in the May training games in the Algarve, getting precious little time to show his capabilities, particularly when deployed out of position on the left wing.

It was only when Bruce succumbed to injury after Trap had played his full hand, thus leaving Ireland with 10 men for the final quarter-hour, that Forest applied any great pressure with sub keeper Kieran Westwood making one fine stop from Mark Byrne.

Aside from that, the Irish followers amongst the 4,040 paying punters had little reason to be anxious.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND XI -- Murphy (Westwood 45), Foley, Bruce, O'Dea (Nolan 59), Ward (Garvan 69); Keogh (Scannell 63), Andrews (Potter 55), Gibson (Rowlands 55), Hoolahan (Treacy 45); Stokes, Folan (Long 45).

Nottingham Forest -- Smith, Perch, Chambers, Breckin, Lynch (Reid 72); Davies, Byrne, Cohen (Newbold 63), Thornhill; Martin (Heath 72), Cole (Garner 45).

REF -- D Hancock

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