Ireland Squad Announced – and Dissected

Trapattoni has announced the squad he has chosen to represent Ireland in the upcoming fixtures against Macedonia and Uruguay. The 29 man squad will face Macedonia in a Euro 2012 qualifying game on March 26th and World Cup ’10 semi-finalists Uruguay three days later. Both games are at home for the Boys in Green, in the Lansdowne Road stadium.

There are a number of interesting points to this squad worth looking at. Some controversial and some which plenty of Irish fans have been waiting a long time for. All in all I think the announcement made has left Trapattoni with some serious questions to answer. However we’re not even going to bother discussing Stephen Ireland here…

Kilbane, who now plays for Huddersfield Town

Kevin “Zinedine” Kilbane has once again been included in the squad. Although it is a big squad and there’s no guarantee that he’ll play, Trapattoni does seem to like him and pick him in the starting XI regularly. This is something that I simply can’t understand. Alright, he used to be good and has been a good servant to the Irish team over the years. But the key words there are “used to be” and “has been.” In the recent qualifier against Russia he really managed to show his age and his current worth to the Irish (or any) team. Countless times he was caught cluelessly out of position and left for dead by wingers easily side-stepping him. Kilbane was unable to nail down a starting spot at Hull as well, and has moved on to League One side Huddersfield Town.

Surely at this stage Stephen Ward deserves an opportunity. I’d even prefer an out of position Kevin Foley, who, like Ward, is also at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Both players have been playing regular Premier League football all year, whereas Kilbane hasn’t even been deemed good enough to play regular Championship football. Come on Trap, you should know better than this. Kevin Foley has been named in the squad, but has only three caps to his name in all of his 26 years. It’s time he’s given more chances as well, in competitive games.

Some good news, however. Paul McShane has been dropped. On his international debut he won the hearts of every fan and pundit watching him for the first time in a man of the match performance against the mighty Czech Republic that ended in a 1-1 home draw following injuries to Richard Dunne and Andy O’Brien. Oh, how things have changed. Now plying his trade for Barnsley FC, most of McShane’s games in the green shirt have been awkward moments after mistimed tackles after striker-losing. It’s just best that he isn’t involved in the Ireland set up any longer.

Another great inclusion in the 29 is young midfielder James McCarthy. There was speculation a-plenty about the Scottish born Wigan whizz-kid last month, but he had a meeting with Il Trap and assistant manager Marco Tardelli recently to clear some things up. “There were no issues with James McCarthy, he was injured. He smiled and insisted he’d stay with Ireland” is what the Ireland head coach said about the matter. Despite him being named in the squad, Treacy, Whelan, Green and Gibson are also in the set up and we’ve seen before that Trapattoni likes these players and often picks them. Gibson and Whelan don’t get much match time these days and Treacy only has Championship experience with Preston, whereas James McCarthy gets plenty of action with Wigan, impressing many with his intelligent and skillful style of play.

Shay Given is still out injured and his replacement will be Kieren Westwood. The backup keepers are former Derry City netminder David Forde and Motherwell’s Darren Randolph, both uncapped. Paddy Kenny, the keeper for current Championship leaders, has been overlooked for some reason. Plenty are saying it’s because he wouldn’t want to go to the games and be the second choice, but as his side are currently top of the table that Westwood’s side currently occupy 19th in, I’d argue that choosing Westwood over Kenny for the number 1 jersey is a bad decision. League form brings confidence and that speaks a lot in the game.

Another dismissal goes to former Shelbourne player Wes Hoolahan, who’s having an excellent season with Norwich City. Already on ten goals from midfield, Hoolahan has helped his side to their current 3rd place position. He has been capped once before, but only in a friendly and surely deserves another chance. Creativity is seriously lacking in the Irish team and Hoolahan is another player who can add just that.

For some reason that I don’t quite fully understand, Robbie Keane is the Ireland captain. Although he has scored more than anyone else in an Ireland jersey, watching Ireland over the years I’ve always felt that Richard Dunne was a far more inspirational voice in the team and equally, if not more, important and is more deserving of the captaincy. Shay Given is also more meriting of the honour in my eyes.

Keane has been named in the squad despite an injury worry, and has only played a total of nine club games so far this season. He’s hardly match-fit or in form. And yet – I still expect him to start these games provided he’s not injured.

Shane Long in fine form for Reading

For me it has to be a Kevin Doyle – Shane Long partnership up front for Ireland at the moment. Kevin Doyle is performing well and scoring in the Premier League, and we all know how useful he is in the green jersey with his arial ability and fighting spirit. Shane Long is right now in scintillating form for Reading, who have recently reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup before being beaten by Manchester City in said round of the competition. Long has 18 league goals to his name this campaign so far and is the second highest scorer in this season’s N-Power Championship.

Although it’s the partnership many would prefer to see starting, I still doubt that will be the case. And I’m not certain that McCarthy will start, or even get much game time too for that matter. It appears that Trapattoni has his system of solid, holding, defensive midfielders in place in the team. Hopefully his inclusion is the first step to McCarthy becoming a first teamer in the Irish side though.

I live in hope.

Ireland Squad in full:

Keiren Westwood (Coventry), David Forde (Millwall), Darren Randolph (Motherwell)

Kevin Foley (Wolves), John O’Shea (Man Utd), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Sean St. Ledger (Preston), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Darren O’Dea (Celtic), Kevin Kilbane (Huddersfield), Marc Wilson (Stoke)

Seamus Coleman (Everton), Damien Duff (Fulham), James McCarthy (Wigan), Keith Andrews (Blackburn), Glen Whelan (Stoke), Darron Gibson (Man Utd), Liam Lawrence (Portsmouth), Paul Green (Derby), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Keith Treacy (Preston), Keith Fahey (Birmingham)

Robbie Keane (West Ham), Leon Best (Newcastle), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Shane Long (Reading), Jon Walters (Stoke), Andy Keogh (Bristol City)


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