Friday 23 February 2018

Trapattoni issues Cunningham challenge

Greg Cunningham. Photo: PA
Greg Cunningham. Photo: PA

Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni has challenged teenager Greg Cunningham to prove he can be the long-term successor to Kevin Kilbane.

The 19-year-old Manchester City full-back, currently on loan at Leicester, will win his third cap in tomorrow night's friendly against Norway with 33-year-old Kilbane laid up with a back injury.

Kilbane admitted he did consider retiring from international football in the wake of Ireland's heartbreaking World Cup play-off exit in France a year ago, but stayed on to fight another campaign.

However, he knows the time will come when his days are over, and Cunningham is well placed to stake his claim for a future in the national team.

Trapattoni, who has spoken to Leicester boss Sven-Goran Eriksson about the youngster, said: "I tried him against Paraguay and he played well, and I like his personality.

"He is a good footballer. When he has the ball, he immediately sees the pass, and he has good personality.

"Sure, we are missing Kilbane, but slowly, slowly, we have to look at other players and their strengths and I am sure he can play well because he has good character."

Trapattoni was tempted also to give Everton's Seamus Coleman a chance tomorrow, but opted not to start with too many inexperienced players.

He said: "I cannot put three or four young players in together, I need to mix them with the senior players.

"But Seamus can play good football and he is not frightened of the ball. Some players when they have the ball are afraid, but he is not. He has a lot of character."

Goalkeeper Shay Given too has been impressed by both club-mate Cunningham and Coleman, who like Jon Walters and Marc Wilson could taste action as a substitute.

He said: "I have been impressed with Greg since I have been at Manchester City. He has been training with the first team and didn't look out of place.

"Now it's important that he is out at Leicester and he's playing games.

"I am sure come tomorrow night, he won't look out of place at all. He is very composed on the ball, he is good going forward as well and he is a good defender, so he has got all the attributes to be around the Irish team for a long number of years.

"Seamus has got a huge future ahead of him too. He has shown in his displays for Everton how good a player he is both defensively and going forward.

"He is a very exciting player. Not too long ago, he was playing for Sligo Rovers, so it's a huge rise for Seamus in a short space of time and it's fantastic he is in the Irish squad now.

"I do believe he will be around for a long time. He is a very exciting player."

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