Trap not ready to show hand
GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI is a superstitious man, so he probably allowed himself a birthday wish as he was presented with a cake to honour the fact that he turned 74 yesterday.
The Italian could have taken his pick from a long list of things which he needs to fall his way if his Ireland side are to get the result in Sweden on Friday that would keep their World Cup hopes alive and keep him in employment.
Encouragingly, the only sick notes he received ahead of the first training session in a crucial week came from the back-room staff, with Marco Tardelli and Alan Kelly laid low by illness. They will be present in Malahide today.
Still, while he anticipates a full show of players, question marks linger over a number of those who he would like to include in the team for Stockholm. Generally, the manager is quite certain about his plans from day one of a week-long gathering.
There is a different vibe this time, with Trapattoni asserting on a number of occasions that he would have to see how certain players were before formulating a final plan for the trip.
The main fitness concerns revolve around the well-being of Shane Long and Sean St Ledger.
When he named his squad on March 8, Trapattoni was sceptical about the latter's prospects of featuring because he had yet to prove his fitness in Leicester colours at that juncture.
Two full Championship games later, the apparent availability of his first-choice centre-half has prompted a rethink, which means that Ciaran Clark may lose out in the race to partner John O'Shea.
"We have to evaluate his fitness," he said with regard to St Ledger, who has spent the majority of this season on the sidelines with a hamstring issue. "I couldn't say today if he will start."
Trapattoni (below) did make it clear that Long would line up for the anthems if he overcomes an ankle injury, outlining that he favours the West Bromwich Albion star ahead of Conor Sammon, Jon Walters and Simon Cox because he is the paciest player at his disposal.
Robbie Keane will definitely wear the armband because of his valuable experience.
"His ankle is swollen," said Trapattoni of 26-year-old Long, who has been dogged by ankle trouble over the last month, although he made a 10-minute comeback from the bench for West Brom on Saturday.
"On form he is ready to play 90 minutes, but I cannot say if he is 100pc fit. In a few days we will know."
While David Forde's match sharpness with Millwall has convinced the boss that the Galwegian is ready for his competitive debut, the loss of Aiden McGeady following on from Anthony Pilkington's misfortune has left both wide spots up for grabs.
Andy Keogh has been brought in to provide cover and he joins James McClean, Robbie Brady, Cox, Walters and even Long on the list of candidates.
McClean and Brady offer natural comfort in the role in addition to possessing set-piece skills, yet concerns about their youth and inexperience mean that, at most, one will figure from the outset.