Shane Long, despite not being named in the original squad, starts for Ireland on Wednesday while James McClean and Ciaran Clark are also in from the start
What a difference a year makes; this time twelve months ago, Giovanni Trapattoni and his side were about to book their place in the nation’s first major tournament since the 2002 World Cup. However, a disastrous European Championship campaign has been closely followed by stories of player discontent leaking every time the squad meet up and the horror show against Germany.
The inescapable feeling from Irish fans is that the Italian’s race is run but he’s limped on with the backing of the FAI and even if the five games since the Euros have brought three wins, a draw and just one defeat, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Without the majority of the side that failed in Poland/Ukraine for various reasons, Trapattoni has named a youthful side for the visit of Greece to Dublin on Wednesday evening. As expected, Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark will partner captain John O’Shea at the heart of the Irish defence while Robbie Brady and James McClean have been given the chance to impress on the flanks.
Shane Long has been rewarded for his recent good form with a place up front beside Nottingham Forest's Simon Cox but there is no place for Wes Hoolahan, who has to settle for a seat on the bench. However, Trapattoni indicated that the Norwich playmaker will feature at some point.
“In the second half we can see him, sure, for 45 minutes,” the Irish boss said. “I need to give him the opportunity to show us … but we know him very well and he deserves to play.”
The side shows six changes from the victory in Torshavn just three weeks ago but on-loan Hull City winger Robbie Brady retains his place on the right wing. The 20-year-old scored on his senior debut against Oman and Trapattoni feels he can be a real star in a green jersey.
“Robbie is one of the best, he is one of the players with creative fantasia. Until this we did not have players with this creative situation. We have others with good technique, we have balance but Brady showed us (his potential) against Oman, even if he was a little bit strange because it was his first game.
“He can do better in this position because he has the quality to do it - with more confidence.”
Asked if defeat by the Greeks, would add more fuel to the calls for the Italian to step down, Trapattoni replied: “I don’t think so."
“Our job always so. People forget the victories. In my life, what I have done until now, and now also with this team, is improve teams. That is the life of the manager.
“You can lose because of a referee’s mistake or because of another mistake.
“For us, it’s not a great problem. For me, it’s no great problem.”
Ireland take on Greece at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday, kick off 7.45pm.
Rep of Ireland XI v Greece: Keiren Westwood; Séamus Coleman, John O’Shea, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Ward; Robbie Brady, James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, James McClean; Simon Cox, Shane Long.
Substitutes: Darren O’Dea, Stephen Kelly, Keith Andrews, Andy Keogh, David Meyler, Wes Hoolahan, Conor Clifford, Kevin Doyle, David Forde, Darron Randolph