No squad place is by any means guaranteed and, with much of the 'old guard' unavailable, new faces have the chance to force their way into Trapattoni's plans
By Ronan Murphy
Just over four years ago at Croke Park in a friendly against Poland, Keith Andrews came off the bench to make his debut for the Republic of Ireland, bagging a goal in the process. That match saw three players pick up their first international caps, and set Trapattoni's squad on the road to World Cup 2010 qualifying.
Fast forward a few years, and Trapattoni is once again rebuilding his squad with a friendly against Poland. Euro 2012 was a disappointment for the Boys in Green, and the retirements of senior players Shay Given and Damien Duff after the tournament has left a void in the Irish camp. Similarly, Richard Dunne has been sidelined since European Championships, leaving Trapattoni without valuable experience in his backline.
Injuries have also played a part in further reshuffling, with Trapattoni forced to bring more new faces into the mix. Anthony Pilkington was set to be the big winner from Wednesday's friendly, but a knock with Norwich City has also ruled him out, allowing James McClean another chance to prove his international class.
Caleb Folan and Noel Hunt were the two other debutants back in November 2008, and while neither have featured much since, Hunt is still a contender for a backup spot in the squad. Conor Sammon, Richard Keogh, and Jeff Hendrick are the newcomers this time around, and all three could easily follow Andrews' lead and carve their way into the manager's plans with a good performance.
Debut Delight | Keith Andrews scored on his debut against Poland in 2008
Almost every position on the pitch is up for grabs. David Forde has been awarded the number one jersey ahead of Keiren Westwood, while John O'Shea and Glenn Whelan are the only starters for Wednesday's friendly who were first choice at Euro 2012.
This is probably the best chance for many players to impress the management team, with Ciaran Clark once again partnering O'Shea at centre back. The Aston Villa defender is having a difficult season at club level, and may welcome the international break, where he will have an experienced head to work alongside.
Greg Cunningham is preferred to Stephen Ward at left-back, and with Marc Wilson injured, the Bristol City defender could make the position his own. Aiden McGeady is undeniably one of the first names on Trapattoni's teamsheet, having played more international games than any other Irish player last year, but the other wing position is still undecided. Duff's retirement has left Ireland without a creative outlet in attack, and Robbie Brady's ability from set-pieces will hopefully shine through against Poland.
Many questioned the inclusion of former UCD forward Conor Sammon in the squad, but Trapattoni likes what he saw of the strong striker during trips to Pride Park, and the Derby man offers something different in attack. His partnership with Shane Long up front could see Ireland take a different approach than the direct tactic employed when Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle are paired in attack.
The Poland friendly is a fantastic opportunity for many new faces and fringe players, and could be the game that shapes the Irish team for the next couple of years. Ireland lost 3-2 to Poland back in 2008, showing that the result is not the most important thing. If Trapattoni can unearth another consistent performer like Keith Andrews, then this friendly will be a success regardless of the scoreline.