An eventful 12 months for the Republic of Ireland culminates with a friendly fixture against Greece on Wednesday and manager Giovanni Trapattoni knows the stakes are high as he attempts to steady the ship following a disastrous Euro 2012 and all that has followed since. The game at the Aviva Stadium is the first since the Boys in Green suffered a 6-1 hammering by Germany in World Cup 2014 qualification.
Just a year ago Ireland were preparing to book their place in Euro 2012 with a comfortable play-off victory over Estonia but despite the disappointing performances in Poland and increasing criticism of the manager, Trapattoni's assistant Marco Tardelli believes it’s been a 'fantastic' year.
The Italian said: "For me, it's been a fantastic year. We went to play in the European Championships, that was very important for us - it had been nearly 25 years since the Irish team had qualified.
"For me, it was a very good year. We discovered many players, many young players who are here with us, and when you have big change, then it's important to have patience."
Trapattoni may yet be without Paul McShane for the Greece game after he, and Jonathan Walters, sat out Monday’s training session in Malahide with calf and knee injuries respectively. Tardelli is optimistic McShane will recover in time to feature against the Greeks but Walters has been ruled out and will shortly return to Stoke City.
McShane played an hour for Hull on Saturday but picked up 'a little problem in the calf', the former Juventus midfielder declared pitchside following Ireland's training session on Monday.
With Robbie Keane being spared the gruelling round-trip from Los Angeles due to MLS play-off commitments, John O’Shea will captain the Boys in Green on Wednesday. The Sunderland defender partnered Ciaran Clark at the back in the training game on Monday morning after recovering from a slight knock.
Both Wes Hoolahan and Shane Long are expected to be given a chance to impress but Tardelli revealed very little about the plans for the match during his post-training media briefing. “We’ll wait until Wednesday, or tomorrow after the last training," he said.
“I think we will change some players because we want to understand if the new players are good or not. We think they are good but we must show ourselves that they can stay with us.”
Of Long, Tardelli said: "Maybe it's possible he starts the first half, maybe. We know he is playing very well because we were there on Saturday and he played well. But also, the other players are playing very well."
Sunderland's James McClean was at the centre of controversy at the weekend but the former Derry City winger is likely to be handed a rare start in a green jersey while Robbie Brady is being tipped to take the injured Aiden McGeady’s position.
Giovanni Trapattoni is expected to name his side to take on Greece on Tuesday afternoon.