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Nations Cup decider an unwelcome distraction for Trap ahead of key Skopje trip

THE last time that Ireland lifted any form of trophy was the Icelandic Triangular Tournament back in 1986, but you sense that collecting the Carling Nations Cup is less important than avoiding injuries in Giovanni Trapattoni's list of priorities this weekend.

Tomorrow's evening showdown with Scotland at the Aviva should actually be quite an entertaining affair and a draw would secure the silverware for the hosts.

However, with four members of his starting XI ruled out for next week's Euro 2012 qualifier in Macedonia and a number of potential replacements unavailable, the 72-year-old cannot avoid any last-minute hiccups.

Interestingly enough, Craig Levein is almost at full strength for his end-of-season gathering, despite the fact that the Scots have no competitive fixture to follow. Trapattoni would like to have that kind of attendance record.

He will be particularly careful of minding his skipper Robbie Keane, with striking options in short supply, while Darren O'Dea will audition to prove his fitness ahead of Skopje.

Glenn Whelan is out of the Scotland game, however, and has returned to Stoke for further treatment on his ankle problem. The Dubliner is expected back in the Irish camp on Monday.

Keith Fahey is available again and although the Birmingham man is understandably down in the dumps about the pain of 'Survival Sunday,' there is an opportunity here to stake his claim for a place in central midfield.

Kevin Foley and Keith Andrews linked up well in the engine-room against Northern Ireland, yet it's likely that Fahey will feature. Foley could revert to his favoured right-back role, where he started the home qualifier with Macedonia in March, although assistant manager Marco Tardelli hinted that Paul McShane is very much in the frame.

Trapattoni should confirm his team today and a key decision will be in the wide areas, where Stephen Hunt and Liam Lawrence are challenging Seamus Coleman and Keith Treacy, who both did well in Tuesday's destruction of Northern Ireland.

Treacy, relegated from the Championship with Preston, is keen to put himself in the shop window. It's understood that Burnley have already had an £800,000 bid rejected.

Tardelli is anticipating a stern challenge from the Scots. "They are a tough team with good players like Charlie Adam, but I think it's possible for us to win," said the Irish assistant.

Irish Independent