By Ronan Murphy
Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli will be glad to have put 2012 behind them. A dismal performance at Euro 2012, an uneven start to World Cup 2014 qualifying, as well as a huge drop in the Fifa ranking, marked the worst 12 months of the Italian's tenure as Ireland boss.
Just a year earlier everybody was singing Trap's praises after he guided Ireland to a first major tournament in a decade, but 2012 saw Trapattoni's position come under fierce pressure, with FAI insiders even hinting that the decorated manager was perilously close to the sack.
However, after surviving a hastily convened meeting on his future, Trapattoni has a chance to redeem himself in 2013. Here are 13 things the Ireland manager should do over the next 12 months.
|Start Ciaran Clark
With Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger both far from match fitness, as well as Dunne's inevitable retirement, Giovanni Trapattoni must use the Poland friendly as a way of further integrating Ciaran Clark into the Irish setup.
The 23-year-old is highly thought of by Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert, who has given the centre-back the captain's armband at Villa Park.
Clark must be allowed to form a central pairing with John O'Shea with the intentions of starting both against Sweden and Austria. Trapattoni has preferred Darren O'Dea at centre-back in the past, but with the MLS season not starting until March, the experienced Toronto FC defender won't be as match sharp as the Villa youngster.
|Give Wes Hoolahan more than a cameo role
Norwich City playmaker Wes Hoolahan returned to the Ireland setup for November's friendly with Greece, but was only given 45 minutes to impress against the Mediterranean side.
Hoolahan showed glimpses of his club form in that appearance, but was greatly hindered by the nature of the half, with both managers repeatedly shuffling their packs with substitutions, halting any momentum from either side.
Trapattoni should play Hoolahan from the start against Poland, in order to adequately see if he is capable of fitting into the system.
|Persist with the 4-3-3 experiment
Trapattoni's tactical alteration failed miserably against Germany in October, but had only been given a simple dress-rehearsal in London's triumph over Oman.
That victory showed that Ireland have the players and the ability to play a more attractive passing game, which could be greatly helped by the addition of Hoolahan in midfield.
|Look forward, not back
The 6-1 defeat to Germany is behind us now, and Ireland must look to the future. Similarly, Trapattoni should forget about retirees Damien Duff and Shay Given.
The possible Duff recall proved a distraction to the players last year, while Given's u-turn offers us no major benefits due to the fact the veteran goalkeeper is warming the bench at a struggling Aston Villa side.
|Move Robbie Keane down the pecking order
The Ireland captain still has plenty to offer the team, but the aging process saw him make less of an impact in 2012.
Keane is still a proven goalscorer - evidenced by his brilliant club form as LA Galaxy lifted the MLS Cup for the second year in a row - but should be made fight for a place in the starting lineup.
|Give Shane Long a chance
The only striker in the Ireland squad that comes close to Keane's peak is West Bromwich Albion forward Shane Long.
The 25-year-old has been impressive for the Baggies this season and has the potential to become the second Irishman to surpass 100 Premier League goals.
His ability to lead the line would work extremely well as the spearhead of Trapattoni's 4-3-3.
|Settle on wingers
No player played more games for Ireland in 2012 than Aiden McGeady, but the retirement of Damien Duff has left a void on the opposite wing. Simon Cox and Andy Keogh are not natural wingers and should not be tried in the position any longer.
Instead Trapattoni must weigh up the options between James McClean and Robbie Brady as to who should start out wide. Brady offers an attacking threat with his set-pieces, while McClean can cause problems for defences like Stephen Hunt has done so often for Ireland.
|Stick with Seamus Coleman and Marc Wilson
Wolverhampton Wanderers full back Stephen Ward often comes in for scorn from Irish fans, but the forward-turned-defender always gives 100 per cent for his country.
However, Stoke City left-back Marc Wilson is a much more talented player and should be retained. Similarly, John O'Shea's move across to the centre allows Seamus Coleman to play right back, where he has shown supreme confidence, even in the 6-1 defeat to Germany.
|Cap Norwich City trio
Fans and the media will always champion a player who is not in the squad. There will always be a clamour for the inclusion of some in-form player.
The latest one for Ireland is Anthony Pilkington, now that clubmate Wes Hoolahan is in the squad.
However, Trapattoni should also look to Norwich City goalkeeper Mark Bunn and defender Marc Tierney, and give the four Canaries players chances in the next 12 months.
|Offer more chances to the fringe men
It's over two years since his first call-up, and Ciaran Clark still has not played a minute of competitive action for Ireland. In theory, he could still play for England, but the defender admits to being focused on a career in the green jersey. Trapattoni is renowned for sticking with his preferred players, which can sometimes alienate the fringe squad members. Further games must be given to the likes of Alex Pearce, Joey O'Brien and David Meyler to see can they cut it at international level.
|Bring back Darron Gibson|
One of the players Trapattoni alienated has been one of the most consistent players in the Premier League over the last 12 months. Everton are a hugely improved team with Darron Gibson in the side, with the 19-time international providing the engine for the Toffees midfield.
Trapattoni must tell and show Gibson he is needed in a green jersey, as he can offer a lot for the next three or four international campaigns.
|Look at more new players
Although only two friendlies have been arranged so far for 2013, there could be as many as six in the calendar year. Trapattoni should use these games to look at players that can add to the Ireland set-up now and in the future.
Derby County duo Mark O'Brien and Jeff Hendrick are definitely worth a look, as the 20-year-olds have both been in fine form under Nigel Clough this season.
Noel King's under-21 squad has many players that can make the jump to the senior squad like Robbie Brady, with John Egan, Aaron Doran and Aidy White similarly impressing during last year's underage internationals.
A lot of these players are already playing at the same level as our current fringe players, and it would be a good idea to integrate them sooner rather than later in order to help them reach their maximum potential.
|Build the team around James McCarthy
Wigan Athletic midfielder James McCarthy has been the next big thing in Irish football since making his Hamilton debut at the age of 15.
The Scottish-born player has made midfield his own since the start of World Cup 2014 qualifying, and has attracted the attention of many top-half Premier League sides.
Already vastly experienced a 22, with over 200 club games under his belt, McCarthy is sure to join a big club in the next couple of years. A tremendously intelligent midfielder, he is excellent on the ball, and should be the hub of the Irish team for the next decade.
Trapattoni would be wise to start that process now.