Sport Soccer

Sunday 18 February 2018

Trap ready to end Kilbane's run

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

WITH three simple words, Giovanni Trapattoni has indicated that he is ready to bring an end to Kevin Kilbane's remarkable 12-year run of consecutive competitive appearances for Ireland.

"Life goes on," said the Italian, who confirmed that he is mulling over the prospect of throwing in Stephen Ward or relocating John O'Shea to left-back for next month's crunch ties with Slovakia and Russia.

Veteran Kilbane, who has started the last 66 meaningful Irish games in a run stretching back to 1999, has been named in the provisional squad and is still not out of the reckoning.

However, Trapattoni appears to be gearing up for a change, comparing Ward's emergence to that of Sean St Ledger at this juncture two years ago. He praised the contribution of the Wolves man in Wednesday's scoreless draw with Croatia.

"Every season, we have changed when it's possible to change," said the 72-year-old.

"Ward played well, and maybe we need to see him two or three more times with his club in the next 20 days before I decide yes or no.

"I must pay attention because it's a qualifier. I hope in this position we can also have O'Shea, for example. Maybe O'Shea plays left, and Stephen Kelly or Paul McShane on the right. But I think Ward can be ready."

And what of Kilbane? When asked why the 34-year-old's name hadn't cropped up in the discussion of full-back permutations, Trapattoni made an ominous statement by mentioning the Derby loan acquisition in the same sentence as the long-exiled Lee Carsley.

"I can't answer on Kilbane or we speak again about Carsley," said the Italian. "I said to Kevin, before the Croatia game, that I will follow him always but for this week we wanted to look at others.

"I also have an idea about Marc Wilson at left-back. I have seen him there many times for his club, and he plays well."

That club is Stoke, whose manager Tony Pulis was critical of Trapattoni for making Wilson and Jonathan Walters report to have injuries assessed before they were cleared to miss the Croatian exercise.

Trapattoni brought in the policy after the controversial absences of several players at the end-of-season gathering. He revealed that Wilson explained his lack of communication then by claiming that his phone was switched off. Regardless of that, he brushed off the comments from Pulis, stressing that the FAI are within their rights to ask players to come in.

"We are correct professionally," he said. "These are important FIFA and UEFA rules. When the country calls the players, they must go with their country. But it's not like they belong to the club. They are paid by the clubs, but they are not their property.

"The players wanted to come in. Wilson said he was sorry for what happened the last time."

Trapattoni will cut his 32-man squad down in size closer to the Slovakian encounter, and is hoping that he will have a decision to make rather than injuries making the choice for him.

Kevin Doyle is the major worry, with niggling concerns about Aiden McGeady and Keith Andrews. They will need to prove their fitness in the next three weeks, although McGeady is another fortnight away from a return.

Irish Independent

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