Republic of Ireland stand-in captain John O’Shea has welcomed the inclusion of debut-making Conor Sammon in the team for the friendly against Poland.
Ireland’s most successful period came when six-footers Niall Quinn and Tony Cascarino led the lines, helping them to qualify for four major tournaments over a 14-year period.
And while O’Shea cited the physical strength of Kevin Doyle and Jon Walters, he said that the 6ft 2inch Derby County front man’s height adds to the team’s attacking options.
Asked if it’s something that can make a difference to the side, O’Shea said: “I’d have to agree with that. Height-wise, Conor has that advantage. And I think he’d be a little bit more nimble than two fantastic players in Cascarino and Quinn.
“Fingers crossed it works tomorrow but with the back-up we have, with Shane Long starting, with Wes Hoolahan to come on, Kevin Doyle, Andy Keogh as well, there are good options for the manager.”
Giovanni Trapattoni will deploy Sammon, 26, alongside Shane Long, a striker that has been in and out of the team over the last six months, and the Italian said he thinks that the duo can form a distinct partnership.
“We saw Sammon lots of times and I thought, he’s big, fast, moves quickly, usually big players are not so agile, he’s sensible, I think he can hold up the ball very well. Shane is very fast, when we are defending we need the support of the forwards, that’s one of his characteristics,” the 73-year-old told reporters in Dublin.
In the injury-enforced absence of Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger, Aston Villa’s Ciaran Clark partners O’Shea in central defence, while Paul McShane fills in at right-back.
Bristol City’s Greg Cunningham makes a welcome return, especially on the day that another international left-back, Reading’s Ian Harte, labelled Trapattoni a “clown” for ignoring his club performances.
Trapattoni refused to be drawn on that comment saying: “I don’t answer him”.
Cunningham won three Ireland caps in 2010 but injuries, including a broken leg, stalled his international career. He starts ahead of Wolves’ Stephen Ward and Il Trap said he had been monitoring the ex-Manchester City player’s progress for the last three years.
The manager said: “He would have played more if not for his injuries, he had a bad injury, but we were in touch with him. When he changed clubs, he told us he was 100%. He is good, we need his pace.”
James McCarthy will win his tenth cap in midfield alongside Glenn Whelan, while Hull’s Robbie Brady and Sunderland’s James McClean start on the wings.
Wigan’s McCarthy is now establishing himself as a first choice midfielder and Trapattoni was full of praise for the 22-year-old.
“I saw him for Wigan, his manger [Roberto Martinez] tells him to stay in position, he will wait for the ball, he can shoot, finish, he has good qualities, he plays simple, he can see the pass before the crowd, he can grow more, obviously, he needs to play but he can better in the next two years,” he added.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, who was injured for the Greece match, pays the price for his lack of game-time at Sunderland and Millwall’s David Forde is preferred.
The Republic of Ireland host Poland in a friendly international at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night.