Giovanni Trapattoni's new generation handed their chance to shine for Ireland
THERE are no points on offer, but Ireland kick off their football year tonight with World Cup places on the line.
Giovanni Trapattoni welcomes Poland to the Aviva Stadium with a side that features just two players who started a game in Euro 2012 last June – Glenn Whelan and skipper John O'Shea.
And with next month's crunch qualifiers with Sweden and Austria drawing closer, the Italian is looking for his fresh faces to make a solid case for selection.
Goalkeeper David Forde starts in the knowledge that, at the age of 33, he can become Ireland's No 1, while another League of Ireland graduate, Conor Sammon, has a chance to show he is the big man for the road ahead on his debut. His strike partner Shane Long is also determined to nail down his place ahead of Jonathan Walters and Kevin Doyle.
O'Shea admits that Sammon's height could offer Ireland something different. At 6' 2" he is the tallest striker available to Trapattoni, although he is a different type of player to former target men Niall Quinn and Tony Cascarino.
"He's a bit more nimble than those two fantastic players," said O'Shea. "In terms of height, yes, he has an advantage, although strength-wise, Kevin and Jonathan Walters are fantastic. But to have options is very good."
Trapattoni plans to introduce Wes Hoolahan in the second half and hand first caps to subs Richard Keogh and Jeff Hendrick. However, his priority is avoiding a third successive home defeat.
"I have trust and I am optimistic," said Trapattoni. "I have told the players this is an opportunity for them to confirm their place in my squad and team."