Sunday 25 February 2018

Trap's unlikely lads

David Forde
David Forde
James McCarthy
Conor Sammon
Seamus Coleman
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

A year has passed since Ireland travelled to the finals of Euro 2012 with a settled team built on the core of old reliables.

A year has passed since Ireland travelled to the finals of Euro 2012 with a settled team built on the core of old reliables.

The majority had soldiered together through the four years of Giovanni Trapattoni's tenure to that point, with Stephen Ward and Simon Cox the only players to start a game in Poland who had not been involved in the World Cup play-off with France back in 2009.

Twelve months on, and the Irish side has undergone a serious personnel transformation, even if the style broadly remains the same.

This international window has highlighted the rise to prominence of seven players who were no closer than the periphery in the Euros campaign.

Six didn't make the plane and a handful of those weren't even on the radar.

The player who did, David Forde, the third-choice 'keeper behind Shay Given and Keiren Westwood at that juncture, was a face in the crowd in Sopot as opposed to a recognised member of the panel.

What brings this septet together is the circuitous nature of their journey to this level, an ascension which highlights the difficulties faced by Ireland in a more globalised English market.

The key figures of the last decade – Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Shay Given, Richard Dunne and John O'Shea – all more or less started at the top or made their way there very quickly, finding their way to established Premier League outfits.

The newer faces jostling for inclusion in Friday's clash with the Faroe Islands are a mix of late developers from the League of Ireland and players who have spent the entirety of their careers in the lower divisions of English football, with no guarantee of making it any further.

In many respects, they are unlikely lads.

JAMES MCCARTHY

(Age: 22. Club: Wigan)

Background: A Glaswegian-born midfielder who was overlooked by Celtic as a teenager and opted for unfashionable Hamilton Academicals, where it quickly became apparent he was a special talent. The Irish underage set-up secured him early as the Scottish dawdled, and he chose Wigan as his entry point to England when there were more glamorous options on the table.

Where did he stand during Euro 2012?

After a year where Trapattoni seemed desperately unsure about his obvious merits, McCarthy was in danger of missing the squad.

Family illness then took him from the equation completely, with the Italian stating he would have travelled otherwise. But Trap has admitted he'd have stuck with Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews as starters.

Club situation: A strange time, with cup joy at Wembley followed by relegation and the departure of Roberto Martinez. Linked with all of the Premier League's big players at various junctures. Will pick carefully.

SEAMUS COLEMAN

(Age: 24. Club: Everton)

Background: Sligo Rovers discovered him by chance, uncovering the gem in a friendly with Killybegs side St Catherine's.

Otherwise, he might have been lost to the game. Blistering form for Sligo earned a move to Everton, where a loan spell at Blackpool paved the way for first-team promotion, initially at right wing and then right-back.

Where did he stand during Euro 2012?

With his mates in a pub in Donegal, to be precise. Coleman had perhaps suffered a rocky season at Everton but despite being a member of Trapattoni's squad for more than a year, the Italian didn't see enough to warrant bringing him. Now, he's irreplaceable.

Club situation: The departure of David Moyes led to inevitable speculation he might follow him to Manchester United, but the arrival of Roberto Martinez should facilitate his continued improvement at Everton.

JEFF HENDRICK

(Age: 21. Club: Derby County)

Background: Highly rated youth in the same team as Robbie Brady at St Kevin's Boys, who spurned Premier League options to join Derby and became a first-team regular in 2011, the same year that he starred for Paul Doolin's U-19s at the European Championships.

Where did he stand during Euro 2012?

He only broke into Noel King's U-21 squad the previous September, so it came far too early in the 21-year-old's development.

Club situation: Aston Villa have been mentioned as admirers and it's only a matter of time before he ascends to the Premier League, but he is content with Derby for now.

WES HOOLAHAN

(Age: 31. Club: Norwich)

Background: A gifted schoolboy with Belvedere who was overlooked because of his size, and that continued as he shone for Shelbourne. Unremarkable spells with SPL side Livingston followed, and then a stint with Blackpool that opened door for move to Norwich and two promotions to finally reach the top flight.

Where did he stand during Euro 2012?

Hoolahan was part of Trap's first squad back in 2008, but disappeared from the picture completely after that. In truth, management were quite dismissive of the Dubliner when he was mentioned as a possible wild card.

Club situation: Chris Hughton appeared to have reservations about Hoolahan at first and prefers to go with two strikers at times, and there have been suggestions that he might angle for a move this summer if a suitable offer materialised.

DAVID FORDE

(Age: 33. Club: Millwall)

Background: A late bloomer who had already been across the water and back when good form at Derry earned switch to Cardiff in 2006. Millwall eventually offered guaranteed first-team football, and he has been on an upward curve since then.

Where did he stand during Euro 2012?

He was in Poland, but never had a chance of figuring ahead of Given and Westwood, even though the former carried an injury into the competition.

Club situation: Had an excellent campaign this year after some struggles in the previous term. International performances and a starring show at Wembley could bring the 33-year-old to the attention of sides at a higher level.

RICHARD KEOGH

(Age 26. Club: Derby County)

Background: The Essex-born son of a Carlow man was in the youth set-up at Ipswich and Stoke without playing; Bristol City got him on the map, and stints at Carlisle and Coventry followed, operating at Championship level for the latter. Made eight appearances for Ireland's U-21s between 2005 and 2009.

Where did he stand during Euro 2012?

Although he was the club's player of the year, Keogh had just tasted relegation with Coventry. He was never a contender.

Club situation: Opted for Derby last summer and the centre-half was awarded the captaincy and three-year contract. Collected their player of the year gong as well.

CONOR SAMMON

(Age:26. Club: Derby County)

Background: At 20, he was a bank official on Dublin's Camden St who also played for UCD. He failed to set the world alight at Derry City but did enough to earn the attention of SPL side Kilmarnock, where a couple of average seasons were followed by an improved fitness regime and an inspired run of form that brought him to England.

Where did he stand during Euro 2012?

After a season at Wigan where he failed to score and was used only as an impact sub, Sammon's name barely entered the discussion.

Club situation: Joined Derby County in August after a long pursuit by Nigel Clough, and while the switch did deliver regular football, his form has been mixed, with barren spells merged with impressive spurts. However, he did enough to catch Trap's attentions.

Irish Independent

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