Trapattoni continues to construct an Ireland squad for a new era

After facing criticism for sticking with the same old faces, the Italian veteran is now altering the structure of his squad
By Ronan Murphy




Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has been a long admirer of international friendlies, using them to hone his tactics and test out new players. The Italian uses friendlies to inculcate his system, as well as bedding in new arrivals before giving them a chance in competitive fixtures. Monday's squad announcement saw Anthony Pilkington grab all the headlines, but February's friendly with Poland could also allow other newcomers to carve their way into the setup.

Pilkington's call-up was a neccessary one for Trapattoni, with the Boys in Green lacking options on the wing due to the retirement of Damien Duff and the decline of Stephen Hunt.

The Norwich City attacking midfielder can provide another attacking threat out wide, and will battle it out against James McClean and Robbie Brady for competitive starts.




While Pilkington's call-up was getting all the attention, the repeated inclusion of Canaries teammate Wes Hoolahan slipped under the radar. After a decent second-half cameo against Greece, Trapattoni may give the veteran midfielder another chance to impress against Poland, and maybe earn himself a regular place in midfield - much like Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews did after impressing in friendlies during Trapattoni's early days as Ireland boss.

Derby County central midfielder and Ireland under-21 international Jeff Hendrick is another strong inclusion, with the ball-playing midfielder adding another option alongside the likes of Aiden McGeady, Hoolahan, Brady, Pilkington, and James McCarthy as players who are comfortable in possession - hopefully negating the long-ball tactics often employed by Trapattoni. At the moment, Hendrick is also a much better option than Conor Clifford, who has sadly not yet lived up to his potential as loan moves away from Chelsea failed to deliver.




Ciaran Clark has been retained in the squad after a tough-tackling performance against Greece, while Greg Cunningham has returned from injury to battle it out for a left-back spot with Stephen Ward in the absence of Marc Wilson.

Both of these young, gifted backs can add some depth to the squad, and look likely to be Ireland internationals for the next decade or so.

With Sean St. Ledger and Richard Dunne sidelined, Derby County defender Richard Keogh also looks like a solid alternative, providing cover at centre-back.

However, despite the positives, Trapattoni has made a few missteps with his latest squad selection. He has overlooked Reading'sAlex Pearce in favour of Paul McShane and Darren O'Dea in defence.




While McShane has been consistent for Hull City this season, O'Dea will not be match fit by the time the Poland friendly comes around as the MLS season is still a couple of months away. Furthermore, the inclusion of Conor Sammon is also a strange one, as the Derby County striker has not been prolific since moving to England from Kilmarnock in 2011.

With Jonathan Walters already offering strength in attack, and the Boys in Green having plenty of depth up front, Sammon's call-up seems a case of Trapattoni answering his critics by choosing players he has seen up close rather than on DVD. The former UCD forward also seems more suited to Trapattoni's long-ball approach of bypassing midfield, playing as a target man up front, which could be detrimental to any progress made during recent friendlies

The other uncapped player in the squad, goalkeeper Stephen Henderson, is unlikely to make his debut, but by not calling up Shay Given, Trapattoni has shown that he does intend to make progress with the side over the coming months, echoed by some of the bold selections in his latest squad.