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The Boys in Green were exposed at Euro 2012 in terms of personnel and strategy, and the manager faces some tough decisions ahead of the long road to the next tournament in Brazil

 Peter Staunton
 Ireland expert
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ANALYSIS

There's no way to sugarcoat it. Ireland's Euro 2012 campaign was an unmitigated disaster. Harshly, in front of the world, the limitations of the personnel and the system were exposed as the Boys in Green crashed out with three consecutive defeats ... to Croatia, Spain and Italy.

Senior players, to whom Giovanni Trapattoni remained loyal following qualification, did not perform anywhere close to the standards of recent years while the manager's rigid 4-4-2 formation and basic tactics left Ireland playing at a significantly inferior level to their opponents.

Despite the shambles, Ireland have good players available to them and the manager is capable of restoring the team to a higher standard, but not without changes to the playing composition of the team and alterations to the strategy implemented by Trapattoni.

He has patronised his players by suggesting that they are incapable of playing expressive football in a different formation. But that intransigence needs to go. Trapattoni has no choice but to change things. What is the point of qualifying for a tournament if it results in the worst-ever performance in European Championship history?

With the expected retirement of some senior figures and the emergence of talent throughout the under-age groups, Ireland need to overhaul the squad before September's World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan.

In must come a formation more suitable for international football than 4-4-2. Out must go the myth that Ireland's players cannot pass the ball.

A system whereby Shane Long is deployed as a lone striker must be contrived and the pace and energy of Aiden McGeady and James McClean exploited on the flanks.

Keith Andrews must be retained and promoted as captain due to his responsibility, bravery, aptitude, application and example. Alongside him, a player with a better range of passing and more courage must be sourced.

There will be changes in defence too with the expected retirement of Richard Dunne. Ireland are relatively well-stocked with young centre backs but the problem is that none of them have requisite international experience. The time has come to let youth flourish in that area.

CALLING TIME
SHAY GIVEN

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 36
CAPS 125
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING
THE HIGH Too many to single one out
THE LOW Euro 2012 debacle
WHY HE HAS TO GO Not the presence he was

Given did not look as sharp and effective as he has in the past and, most worryingly for a goalkeeper, he has not had a good run of form fitness-wise. At 36, his best years are behind him. Judgement and reflexes have been irreparably damaged.

JOHN O'SHEA

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 31
CAPS (GOALS) 79 (1)
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING
THE HIGH Consistency in 2010 qualifiers
THE LOW Paris playoff
WHY HE HAS TO GO Has never excelled in green

John O'Shea has never excelled for Ireland. He has been a competent performer at best and a liability at worst. Despite his years at Manchester United, his caps total for the Republic and his status as a veteran within the set-up, he has never taken on a senior player's responsibility.

RICHARD DUNNE
INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 32
CAPS (GOALS) 76 (8)
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING
THE HIGH Performance v Russia Oct 2011
THE LOW Paris playoff
WHY HE HAS TO GO Will likely retire

Veteran defender has hinted strongly that Euro 2012 will be the end of the road, internationally speaking. If so, he will be missed. But at 32 and with a place in the Aston Villa team to maintain, he will probably decide to prolong his Premier League career at the expense of Ireland. On his day, irreplaceable.

STEPHEN WARD

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 26
CAPS (GOALS) 15 (2)
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING
THE HIGH Scoring against Estonia
THE LOW Euro 2012 campaign
WHY HE HAS TO GO Square peg in round hole

Stephen Ward is not cut out for top level football in an alien position. Only five years ago he was playing as a striker in the League of Ireland. Simply put, Ward is a makeshift left back and should not be the permanent solution.

GLENN WHELAN

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 28
CAPS (GOALS) 42 (2)
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING  
THE HIGH Goal against Italy
THE LOW v Russia, October 2010
WHY HE HAS TO GO Does not have the technique

Glenn Whelan has taken more that his fair share of flak during his time in the Ireland set-up and, in truth, he has rarely done anything other than the job Trapattoni has asked of him. But his limitations have been exposed time and again against top class opposition like Russia and Spain.

DAMIEN DUFF

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 33
CAPS (GOALS) 100 (8)
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING  
THE HIGH World Cup 2002
THE LOW 5-2 v Cyprus, Sept 2006
WHY HE HAS TO GO Should make way for McClean

Duff has been consistency personified with the Ireland team for 14 years and, like Keane, still has a part to play. Maybe not as a sure starter, but Duff should not be removed entirely from the reckoning unless he does so of his own initiative.

KEVIN DOYLE

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 28
CAPS (GOALS) 50 (10)
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING  
THE HIGH Goal v Slovakia, March 2007
THE LOW Dismissal v Armenia, Oct 2011
WHY HE HAS TO GO Not a goal threat

Doyle has been in and out of the team in recent times under Trapattoni and his status as a starter has never been more doubtful. Now is the time to cut Doyle and proceed with Shane Long as the focal point of attack. He is quicker, stronger and, put bluntly, better.

ROBBIE KEANE

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 31
CAPS (GOALS) 120 (53)
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING
THE HIGH 53 goals, take your pick
THE LOW Euro 2012 campaign
WHY HE HAS TO GO Unsuitable as lone frontman

In the case of Keane it is more a case of the player being unable to adapt to a different system of play. He is the type of forward that thrives on the presence of a partner but Ireland simply cannot afford to lose momentum in midfield by including a second forward. Keane should by all means remain with the squad into the foreseeable future but not as a starter.

PROMOTED FROM WITHIN
KEIREN WESTWOOD

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 28
CAPS 10
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING N/A
THE HIGH Competitive debut
THE LOW Long apprenticeship
WHY HE MUST BE INCLUDED Only viable alternative

Goalkeeping options are thin on the ground with Keiren Westwood and Darren Randolph providing the current realistic long-term options. Of the two, Westwood is the most experienced and has generally played solidly between the posts for Ireland when called upon. He does, however, need some regular game time at club level.

STEPHEN KELLY

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 28
CAPS (GOALS) 30 (0)
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING N/A 
THE HIGH Captain v Uruguay
THE LOW Constantly overlooked
WHY HE MUST BE INCLUDED Best right back in reckoning

Stephen Kelly has been around the international scene for a long time now and has earned a degree of trust from Trapattoni without ever imposing himself on the Italian's first-time selections. However, with regular Premier League football and a mature, understated style of play, the one-time stand-in Ireland captain is now the best option at right back. Should be able to hold off Seamus Coleman for the slot in the team due to his superior defensive capabilities.

JAMES McCLEAN

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 23
CAPS (GOALS) 3 (0)
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING  
THE HIGH Electrifying debut
THE LOW Exposure v Spain
WHY HE MUST BE INCLUDED Most exciting player we have

With the probable international retirement of Damien Duff on the horizon, Ireland are blessed to have a left winger of growing repute ready to step into the limelight. One of the Premier League's best wide men last season, James McClean has already shown his suitability for the Trap template. Must start the qualification campaign in tandem with Aiden McGeady.

SHANE LONG

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 25
CAPS (GOALS) 27 (7)
EURO 2012 PLAYER RATING
THE HIGH Double against Denmark
THE LOW Debut v San Marino
WHY HE MUST BE INCLUDED Well-equipped for modern role

Shane Long is an entirely superior option to Kevin Doyle as the lone frontman for Ireland. He is quick, strong and has a knack for scoring goals at both Premier League and international level. His all-round play has come on leaps and bounds and the Tipperary man is clever and astute. Could lead the line for a decade.

NEW BLOOD FOR WORLD CUP 2014
GREG CUNNINGHAM
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INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 21
CAPS (GOALS) 3 (0)
CLUB SCENE Learning trade with Man City
THE HIGH Premier League debut
THE LOW Broken leg
WHY HE MUST BE INCLUDED Best option at left back

Greg Cunningham is a natural fit at left back and would probably have been first-choice at Euro 2012 had it not been for a serious injury suffered last year. He is fighting fit now, however, and has impressed recently for the under-21s.

ROB KIERNAN

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 21
CAPS (GOALS) 0 (0)
CLUB SCENE Rated by Martinez at Wigan
THE HIGH Signing for EPL club
THE LOW Bad luck with injuries
WHY HE MUST BE INCLUDED Natural leader

Rob Kiernan would provide useful cover for Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger in the event of Dunne's retirement or injuries and suspensions. Could make the breakthrough at Wigan this coming season.

SHANE DUFFY

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 20
CAPS (GOALS) 0 (0)
CLUB SCENE Emerging talent at Everton
THE HIGH First EPL start v Aston Villa
THE LOW Career-threatening injury
WHY HE MUST BE INCLUDED Raw ability

Like Kiernan, Shane Duffy is on the cusp of first-team action with Everton and has already spent some time with Trapattoni's seniors.

STEPHEN IRELAND

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 25
CAPS (GOALS) 6 (4)
CLUB SCENE Aston Villa Player of the Year
THE HIGH Scoring first goal at Croke Park
THE LOW Grannygate
WHY HE MUST BE INCLUDED Passing ability, vision

It's time to bite the bullet. There seems to have been a thaw in the icy attitude conveyed by Stephen Ireland towards those in the Ireland set-up of late. A player of his ability should have 10 times the number of caps he has earned in his regrettably brief international career. If a detente can be sustained, Ireland is a must due to his stamina, passing ability and suitability for tactical and formation tweaks. A better option than Wes Hoolahan due to his age.

JAMES McCARTHY

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 21
CAPS (GOALS) 3 (0)
CLUB SCENE Key man at Wigan
THE HIGH Competitive debut
THE LOW Fall out of of favour with Trap
WHY HE MUST BE INCLUDED Future captain

James McCarthy's Euro 2012 ended before it began due to the tragic family news he received just prior to the squad announcement. That said, Trapattoni would probably not had played the young Wigan man in any case. But the 21-year-old now demands inclusion and demands to start. He is playing regular Premier League football under a progressive manager and seems to grow in stature by the game. A future Ireland captain.

ROBBIE BRADY

INTERNATIONAL CAREER
AGE 20
CAPS (GOALS) 0 (0)
CLUB SCENE Spent last season with Hull
THE HIGH Current U21 player of the year
THE LOW Fall-out with Paul Doolin
WHY HE MUST BE INCLUDED Pace and pedigree

Pace and trickery are not assets Ireland have in abundance but there is potential for both in Robbie Brady. An outstanding youth international, Brady has been on the books of Manchester United since his days as a teenager. Could make a Tom Cleverly-esque bust for the first team this coming season at Old Trafford following a productive season on loan at Hull City. Then again, he could be farmed out. Nonetheless, an attacker of his promise should be fast-tracked to the seniors.

POTENTIAL IRELAND XI FOR THE 2014 QUALIFIERS

GOALKEEPER

Westwood

RIGHT BACK
CENTRE BACK
CENTRE BACK
LEFT BACK

Kelly

Duffy

St Ledger

Cunningham

CENTRE MIDFIELD
CENTRE MIDFIELD

McCarthy

Andrews (C)

RIGHT WING
ATTACKING MIDFIELD
LEFT WING

McGeady

Ireland

McClean


STRIKER




Long


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