By Ryan Bailey
It was the send-off which Giovanni Trapattoni would have wished for as Ireland began their Euro 2012 odyssey with a deserved win over Bosnia-Herzegovina at a sun bathed Aviva Stadium, but it wasn’t the scorching temperatures which sent the fans home happy. Shane Long’s second-half header means the Boys in Green head into their week-long Italian training camp with plenty of positives to work with.
When asked about these warm-up games during the week, many of Ireland’s players admitted the performance was just as important as the result in these situations. Despite coming out on top, Trapattoni would have been most pleased with the work out which his squad received.
|LONG NICKS IT LATE ON
|FROM OUR LIVE COMMENTARY|
|78'||GOALLL!!!! At last we have a goal and it's well taken by Shane Long who comes in unmarked at the back-post to head McGeady's pinpoint cross past Begovic. It's very similar to the effort Walters had just five minutes ago the difference Long managed to keep his header down and he's reaped the reward.|
One trait of the Italian’s reign has been the water tightness in defence and despite the absence of regulars Shay Given, John O’Shea and Sean St. Ledger, another clean sheet maintained Ireland’s now thirteen game unbeaten run and showed that the replacements are more than capable of filling in. Kieran Westwood in particular once again showed his ability between the sticks while Jon Walters and Stephen Kelly also enjoyed cameos.
We all know the 73-year old tactician likes to stick to his tried and trusted but the competitive nature within the squad was there for all to see. Aiden McGeady’s man of the match second-half performance silenced some of his critics and may have just booked him a starting berth. Meanwhile, James McClean provided energy and a direct style from the left in his first senior start.
Not forgetting about the match winner Shane Long who must fancy his chances of displacing Kevin Doyle in that role alongside Robbie Keane up front.
If Saturday’s game showed us anything it was the fact that Ireland’s squad is in fact a lot stronger and competitive then many imagined. The final warm-up match against Hungary might reveal Trapattoni’s exact plans in terms of personnel but we all know whoever plays, the system and style will remain the same.