Time running out for fringe men to twist Trap’s arm
ON Friday morning at 10.45, Giovanni Trapattoni will assume the pedestal at the House of Waterford Crystal and shatter some Euro 2012 dreams.
The Ireland manager is travelling to the south-west to name his squad for the February 29 friendly against the Czech Republic at Lansdowne Road and, with no more international windows before the summer, this will be the last opportunity for fringe players to make an impression.
After the visit of the Czechs, there is a three-month gap until Ireland take on Bosnia and Herzegovina just four days before the squad is named for the finals, and it is unlikely there will any experimentation at that stage.
So, any bolters with ambitions of making the plane to Poland will need to be among the names read out in Waterford and, with the manager having already stated his intent to remain faithful to those who saw Ireland through the qualifiers, there are unlikely to be many surprises.
The Italian believes in strength in numbers when it comes to squad announcements – he usually names between 25 and 29 players.
However, he will be able to select only 23 players for Euro 2012, so the Czech match will represent the last chance saloon for some of the players.
James McClean looks likely to get a first call-up after his meteoric rise to prominence on the left side of the Sunderland midfield – as long as his international clearance is sorted out in time.
Trapattoni watched the former Derry City winger against Chelsea last month and, although he was initially dismissive of the 22-year-old’s claims, the Ireland manager has seen enough to have a closer look on the last day of this month.
McClean, however, would appear to be in the minority. February 29 may be a date for breaking with traditions but it is unlikely that the venerable 72-yearold will go in for much experimentation.
Trapattoni has options in almost all departments, with a growing number of Irishmen playing in the English top flight – there were nine involved in the Aston Villa v Stoke match last Saturday, something that would have been unthinkable a few seasons ago.
Competition for places is at an all-time high and Trapattoni’s loyalty means that the likes of Wes Hoolahan, Ciaran Clark, Shane Duffy and Anthony Pilkington may have to wait until the World Cup campaign for a chance.
Paul McShane appears to be the defender with most to lose. The Hull City right-back extended his loan at Crystal Palace in the hope of securing firstteam football but, with John O’Shea and Stephen Kelly ahead of him in the pecking order, he could be among those to miss out.
Clark’s recent resurgence at Aston Villa may have come too late, while Marc Wilson’s difficulties with the Stoke management seem certain to keep him out of the frame.
In midfield, Darron Gibson’s move to Everton last month clearly delighted Trapattoni, and his run of first-team games, combined with the confidence boost his winner against Manchester City last week gave him, could raise him above James McCarthy in the central midfield stakes.
On the wings, Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff are untouchable, but Liam Lawrence and Andy Keogh are in danger of losing out, while Stephen Hunt’s loss of form has come at an inconvenient time, although he still should make the plane.
Seamus Coleman’s injury woes at Everton will leave him sweating, especially with the emergence of McClean. Up front, Shane Long has been struggling for fitness, but West Brom expect him to return this weekend and he will be hopeful of making the 23.
However, with Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane, Jonathan Walters and Simon Cox now firm favourites, Long will be keeping his fingers crossed that the manager opts to include five strikers in his squad for Euro 2012.