Saturday 17 March 2018

Trapattoni hopeful new faces will energise Ireland camp

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI says there is point crying over Ireland's misfortune in missing out on this summer's World Cup finals.

"I am not poor, and we are not ill," said the Italian, who is keen for the enthusiasm levels in his camp to remain high even when this summer could have been oh so different.

This week, he's working with a small group of players who have no reason not to be switched on. They are the fringe members of the senior set-up and tonight they get the opportunity to make a point to their manager in a behind-closed-doors friendly match in Malahide with Paul Doolin's Irish U-23 side, which is made up entirely of League of Ireland players.

Trapattoni named his starting XI yesterday, save for confirming the identity of his left-back, with Eddie Nolan and rising Manchester City prospect Greg Cunningham set to play a half each.

While there are three survivors from Paris, with Liam Lawrence on the right wing, skipper for the night Paul McShane at right-back, and Leon Best up front, the rest have a point to prove.

Of particular interest will be the displays of Everton teenager Shane Duffy, the recent convert from Northern Ireland, who lacks the necessary paperwork to play against Algeria or Paraguay next week but figures here at centre-half alongside Darren O'Dea.

Keith Fahey gets the chance to impress as a holding midfielder alongside relative unknown Paul Green of Derby, although Trapattoni accepts that ex-St Pat's star Fahey can operate in a variety of midfield roles.

Meanwhile, late call-up Cillian Sheridan partners Best. Trapattoni confirmed that a second friendly match will take place on Friday, against either Charlton or Gerry Smith's Irish amateur side.

It will wrap up an exercise which has lost a bit of significance in the absence of other relative newcomers to the scene in the shape of James McCarthy, Marc Wilson, Stephen Ward and David Meyler.

"I hope the new players here can give us energy," Trapattoni said. "I came in the last two days and I see they have habits from their clubs. They cannot change immediately."

Keiren Westwood will also be under scrutiny this week, with a view to his likely involvement in the Algerian and Paraguay games and possibly beyond. It's possible that if Shay Given's shoulder problem takes a while to heal, the Coventry netminder will be under the spotlight for the beginning of the Euro 2012 campaign in September.

However, Trapattoni has exchanged text messages with Given and believes that the Donegal man will return in time.

"He wishes to be ready for the new season in August," Trap said. "It will be important that he undergoes physiotherapy, but his character gives me no doubt. His mentality is also strong and it's important if a player wants to come back."

Meanwhile, McShane, a senior figure in this group, is keen to leave talk about the World Cup play-off with France in the past. His part in the lead-up to Thierry Henry's handball was highlighted by his ex-boss Roy Keane, but the Wicklow lad shrugged off the criticism.

"Well, that's Roy Keane isn't it?" McShane said. "He's got an opinion on everything. But I just play by the rules. People have got their opinions and he's not slow to let his be known."

Trapattoni, who made a confusing reference to Keane and didn't seem to quite grasp a question on the controversy surrounding the visits of Barcelona and Manchester United, did have a more coherent view on this weekend's Champions League final which features two of his former clubs.

"My opinion is that Inter have 5pc more creativity," he said, "and Bayern will miss Ribery. But the final is the final. It's about mentality, about attitude and also being a little bit lucky."

Ireland XI (v Ireland U-23): Westwood (Coventry), McShane (Hull), O'Dea (Celtic), Duffy (Everton), Nolan (Preston)/Cunningham (Man City); Lawrence (Stoke), Fahey (Birmingham), Green (Derby), Long (Reading); Best (Newcastle), Sheridan (Celtic).

Kick-off: 6.30

Irish Independent

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