Thursday 22 February 2018

Trap's future stars grab chance

Stephen O'Donnell of the Republic of Ireland U23s in action against Shane Long as referee Dave McKeon falls to the ground during the friendly match in Malahide last night. DAVID MAHER/ SPORTSFILE
Stephen O'Donnell of the Republic of Ireland U23s in action against Shane Long as referee Dave McKeon falls to the ground during the friendly match in Malahide last night. DAVID MAHER/ SPORTSFILE

A long way from South Africa this. A long way from Portugal, too.

Giovanni Trapattoni acknowledged the contrast in intensity and temperature between adventures to foreign fields, and the low-key nature of a behind-closed-doors game with Paul Doolin's Ireland U-23 team in Malahide.

Nevertheless, he enjoyed the tempo of the game, the mentality of the respective sides, and offered the opinion that he learned more about players from either panel.

The game was settled by a first-half strike from Anthony Stokes, who started proceedings on the right side of midfield, but moved to a striking role in the second half.

It was competitive fare, with Doolin's team, comprised entirely of League of Ireland players and preparing for a Challenge Trophy game with an England selection next week, keen to acquit themselves well. Consequently there was a good pace to the encounter, and a few strong challenges.


They did have a larger squad, and therefore were able to freshen up after the interval and finish strongly. Bohs striker Paddy Madden had a goal ruled out for offside, and there was a frantic scramble in the dying stages which could have resulted in an equaliser.

Overall, though, it was a general getting-to-know-you exercise for all concerned. Doolin's team had only met up for the first time that morning, while Trapattoni's charges have a couple of sessions together under their belt.

The Italian was keen to assess the newcomers to the squad, with Paul Green and Keith Fahey alongside each other in the centre of midfield. Centre- half Shane Duffy, a recent convert from Northern Ireland, was of particular interest. He lacks the necessary paperwork from the changeover to be allowed figure against Algeria and Paraguay next week, so the Irish management were keen to assess his capabilities.

Certainly, the 19-year-old did his prospects no harm, slotting in confidently alongside Darren O'Dea with neither afraid to make their voice heard. Indeed, at one point O'Dea had to instruct his younger partner to calm down when he challenged for a ball that the Celtic man had covered.

Green and Fahey provide a bit of a contrast with the former, a Derby County midfielder relatively unknown to an Irish audience, more of a workhorse while the latter is a technically assured performer. Trapattoni has only ever watched Fahey play in a wide role for Birmingham, so he was interested to see how he coped in a central position.

Trapattoni was impressed by Galway's Stephen O'Donnell, the stand-out player on Doolin's U-23 and believed his midfield 'suffered' at times with Doolin's 4-5-1 combative in the exchanges. Shamrock Rovers' Billy Dennehy, deployed on the left, also got a positive mention.

Fahey enjoyed his best spell in the game early in the second half with some crisp passes and advances forward but you sense that the 71-year-old will spend the rest of the week trying to coach him into the ways of his preferred system. He also experimented somewhat, by starting Stokes and Shane Long in wide roles rather than their preferred striking brief.

"It's my opinion that I saw a beautiful game for mentality and tempo," he said, "I thought before it was not going to be easy because I know the U-23 team have a condition because they have been playing in their league while some of our players have had a break.

"I said to Paul Doolin afterwards that they have two or three very interesting players in the U-23 team. For us, I saw for example that Paul Green, he played well. (Greg) Cunningham also for me, and Shane Long. Cillian Sheridan was a nice surprise as well."

Doolin joined Trapattoni for the post-match briefing and was happy with how his lads got on, querying whether sub Madden's strike after a fine team move should have been disallowed.

"I think we did well for a bunch of lads who only trained together once," he stated, "We couldn't get all the information we wanted to the players in one day. Physically we were decent but condition wise, when you look at the senior players, they are still very strong."

Trapattoni's senior troops will train together today and tomorrow before another game on Friday against Gerry Smith's Irish amateur side -- with Gannon Park the venue yet again.

After that, there was supposed to be a cut off point where some hopefuls were sent on their summer holidays, and others stayed around for the arrival of the established pros ahead of the recognised friendly matches.

However, Trapattoni is now ready to deliver good news to everybody, with the list of his regulars dropping like flies. Kevin Kilbane and Richard Dunne were confirmed as absentees after this game, with Dunne struck down by an achilles tendon problem. "I think they all deserved to remain, all of them, because we only have eight players to come in," he said, "They can learn from the other senior players. Duffy maybe won't stay with, because he needs to get the documents. But the others can stay with us."

In addition, both Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli have spoken with Wigan boss Roberto Martinez who says that teenage star James McCarthy is feeling the effects of a long season. The presence of the prodigious talent would have added some interest to the uninspiring RDS occasions next week. Alas, it appears as though we'll have to wait for his next step on the international ladder after his cameo against Brazil in February.

Come August, he may have Jamie O'Hara for competition, with the Spurs star issuing another missive yesterday where he confirmed that the Republic of Ireland are firmly in his thoughts, without fully coming down in one camp.

Time will tell, however, whether many of the options tried out here will be still on the radar when the August dalliance with Argentina comes around.

Ireland XI -- Westwood 6; McShane 6 , Duffy 7, O'Dea 7, Cunningham 7 Stokes 7 Fahey 6 Green 6 (Derby), Long 6; Best 5 Sheridan 5 . Subs: J Murphy 5 (Scunthorpe) for Westwood (h/t). Lawrence 6 (Stoke C) for Sheridan (58) Foley 6 for Fahey (66).

Ireland U23 XI -- Quigley (Sp Fingal); S Kelly (Dundalk), Browne (Sp Fingal), Mulcahy (Cork), Powell (Bohs); Sheppard (Galway), Finn (Sp Fingal),O'Donnell (Galway), Williams (Sp Fingal), Dennehy (Shamrock R); Faherty (St Pat's). Subs: Duggan (Shamrock R) for Quigley, Bermingham (St Pat's) for Powell; Gaynor (Dundalk) for Sheppard, Chambers (Shamrock R) for Finn, Bolger (UCD) for Williams, McCabe (Sligo) for Dennehy, all h/t; Amond (Sligo) for Kelly (60), Madden (Bohs) for Faherty (60), Finn for O'Donnell (75).

Ref -- D McKeon (Dublin).

Irish Independent

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