With Giovanni Trapattoni set to name his 23-man squad for the European Champions on Monday, this article intends to uncover who is set to board the plane to Poland early next month.
With Trapattoni himself having stated that it would be “The players who got us to Poland are most likely to play in Poland” – we have also highlighted the number of appearances made in Euro qualifiers by each player. Of course Trap’s statement has not been 100% adhered to, with the 73 year-old bowing to public pressure to include exciting winger James McClean recently.
Players are ranked in order of certainty of a place on the plane to Poland:
1 Richard Dunne – Aged: 31 Caps: 71 Goals: 8 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 10
If Giovanni Trapattoni knew only two words of English (no laughing down the back) they would surely be “Richard Dunne.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that, such is the difficulty of Ireland’s group fixtures, almost the entire campaign depends on the fitness of the Aston Villa center half. Having missed eight weeks of football because of a collarbone, only returning to action last weekend, Dunne is returning at just the right time and could well head into the Euros fit and rested. Don’t. Get. Injured. Richard. (Again).
2 Shay Given – Aged: 36 Caps: 121 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 11
Hardly surprising that a side managed by an Italian builds from the back and goalkeeper Shay Given continues that trend and is a vital cog of this Irish set-up, having conceded just eight goals throughout the 12 game qualification campaign (including the play-offs).
3 James McClean – Aged: 22 Caps: 1 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 0
Having not played one minute of the Euro 2012 qualifiers, it looked very unlikely that the young Derry man would be on the plane to Poland until a few months ago. Having burst onto the Premier League scene with Sunderland however, making 21 appearances and scoring five goals from his left wing berth, McClean has been a breath of fresh air to what has been very often a very one dimensional Ireland set-up. One thing Ireland have lacked under Trapattoni is a plan B. McClean will certainly bring a plan B.
4 Robbie Keane – Aged: 31 Caps: 114 Goals: 53 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 11
While many will think it odd to put the inexperienced McClean ahead of Ireland’s all-time leading goalscorer, without some sort of service, there is very little Keane can do. Against the talents of the likes of Spain and of course the defensive talents of Italy, it’ll take something special to pick those locks. McClean is the very boy to produce that “something special.” Should he do so; you’d fancy Robbie to stick one (or two) in the net. Those one or two could prove crucial to getting Ireland out of a very difficult group phase, but it’s impossible to avoid the feeling that Robbie needs the talents of the likes of a McClean up there pinging balls into the box to him.
5 Damien Duff – Aged: 33 Caps: 95 Goals: 8 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 6
A career blighted by injury for the Balyboden native, but he remains one of the pivotal members of the “old guard” of this Irish set-up. He is one of only four players (along with Keane, Given and Dunne) to have gone to Ireland’s last major tournament; the 2002 World Cup. Should he stay fit, ‘Duffer’ is capable of absolute magic and, fitness permitting, a guaranteed starter for a manager who is much enamored by him. The fact he can play on both left and right wings – or even at full back – highlights his importance to this Ireland team.
6 Glenn Whelan – Aged: 28 Caps: 37 Goals: 2 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 12 (Subbed 5 times)
Has won all 37 of his international caps under Giovanni Trapattoni (a reign that has lasted 43 games so far) and is very much a favorite of the Italian. The Dubliner is one of only two players (along with Aiden McGeady) to play in all 12 of Ireland’s qualifiers for Euro 2012 and is a certainty to be on the plane to Poland. He will provide important protection in front of a back four which looks set to need all the protection it can possibly get.
7 Aiden McGeady – Aged: 26 Caps: 47 Goals: 2 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 12 (Subbed 3 times and one appearance as a sub)
If McClean and Duff provide the magic on the left wing, then McGeady is the man on the right. Accused sometimes of being more style than substance, the Glaswegian is still a major part of Trapattoni’s plans and a certain starter in Poland.
8 John O’Shea – Aged 31 Caps: 75 Goals: 1 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 9
Another important, experienced player at the heart of what is sure to be a busy Irish defense; O’Shea’s composure is likely to be essential to Irish prospects of hoping to advance beyond the group stages. A certainty to be in the starting line-up.
9 Seán St. Ledger – Aged 27 Caps: 24 Goals: 2 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 9
Another late bloomer in this Ireland set-up, but has been an ever present (injury aside) since making his debut for Ireland in a World Cup qualifier away to Bulgaria back in June 2009. Scored what was almost an iconic winning goal against Italy in that World Cup qualifying campaign, but the Italians equalized in the dying minutes. Another certain starter who has gone on record as saying he would like to “repay the faith” Giovanni Trapattoni has shown in him.
10 Keith Andrews – Aged: 31 Caps: 27 Goals: 3 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 6
Yet another late developer in this Ireland set-up; Andrews did not make his debut for Ireland until well past his 28th birthday. The Dubliner has become a mainstay in the Ireland set-up since, having featured in all of Ireland’s World Cup 2010 qualifiers. He missed the first half of the Euro 2012 qualifiers due to injury, but is sure of his place in the starting line-up in June.
11 Stephen Kelly – Aged: 28 Caps: 26 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 5
Having captained the Boys in Green (in the absence of Keane, Given and Dunne), Kelly is certain to be on the plane. His appearances towards the end of this season and some of last have been curtailed by injury, but the tough right back has a good chance of starting in Poland.
12 Stephen Ward – Aged: 26 Caps: 9 Goals: 2 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 4
Ward faces an uncertain club future with his Wolves side relegated from the Premier League. As the only player to play every moment of Wolves’ campaign, he is one of few players at the club to come out of the season with an enhanced reputation. Certain to be on the plane to Poland having established himself in the Ireland line-up towards the end of the campaign and will be on the fringes of a starting berth at left-back. His versatility will likely improve his chances of game time as he can also play in midfield, left wing or even up front.
13 Kevin Doyle – Aged: 28 Caps: 46 Goals: 10 Appearance in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 9 (Subbed 3 times)
Doyle is coming off the back of a disappointing season with long since relegated Wolves. He had featured in all of Ireland’s opening five qualifying games before a knee injury against Macedonia at Lansdowne forced to him to miss a few of the qualifiers, he then missed the play-offs having been sent off at the end of the pivotal 2-1 home win over Armenia. A certainty to be on the plane. Not a certainty to start but certainly knocking on the door for a place in the starting XI against Croatia on 10th June.
14 Stephen Hunt Aged: 30 Caps: 38 Goals: 1 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 7 (5 as sub; once subbed)
Another of the Wolves’ brigade who faces an uncertain future, Hunt’s career has been blighted by injury. Trapattoni will want to have the Waterford man in the squad as he is a real live wire bombing up and down the left flank. A player who makes up in graft for what he lacks in talent and very much Trapattoni’s kind of player. Barring injuries to others – Hunt is unlikely to start but is almost certain to see game time.
15 Keith Fahey Aged: 29 Caps: 15 Goals: 3 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 7 (6 as sub)
Having scored what turned out to be the crucial only goal on his competitive debut against Armenia at the start of the qualification campaign (having started on the bench in that game); Fahey has played a cameo role as a substitute throughout the campaign. The former St. Patrick’s Athletic and Drogheda man, who was playing in the League of Ireland until the age of 26 is all but certain to be on the plane to Poland and will likely take up his position on the substitute’s bench during the tournament, with the attacking midfielder hoping to fill the role of ‘impact sub.’
16 Darren O’Dea Aged: 25 Caps: 13 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 4
Came into the Irish set-up towards the end of the Euro 2012 qualification campaign and looks likely to be in the squad as cover at center-half or left back. After his form for both club (Leeds United) and country, O’Dea was nominated for Young International player of the year at the FAI International Football Awards 2012.
17 Keiren Westwood Aged: 27 Caps: 9 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 1
Established now as the Republic’s second choice goalkeeper, Westwood was called into action for the qualifier against Macedonia in March 2011 when Shay Given was ruled out with an injury. Produced a composed performance and a vital late save from a one-on-one earned Ireland a 2-1 win.
18 Shane Long Aged: 25 Caps: 24 Goals: 6 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 4 (3 as sub)
Having scored 27 goals from 53 appearances in last season’s Championship, Long joined Premier League West Brom for £6.5million and made an immediate impact, scoring goals against Manchester United and Chelsea. He has scored six goals from 24 appearances this season and his aerial prowess could well be utilized by an Irish side which (aside from Doyle or Dunne from set-pieces) isn’t particularly strong in the air going forward. Likely to be on the plane but not to start.
19 Simon Cox Aged: 25 Caps: 11 Goals: 3 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 6 (4 as sub)
Has made a late push for inclusion in the squad following appearances in half of Ireland’s qualfiers; Cox also scored a quality late equalizer in the last few minutes of Ireland’s end of February 1-1 friendly draw with the Czech Republic.
20 Darron Gibson Aged: 24 Caps: 17 Goals: 1 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 3 (2 as sub; subbed once)
Having endured a difficult seven year stay at Manchester United where he made only a handful of appearances per season, the Derry man has gotten first team Premier League football since January having joined Everton. Likely to be on the plane but not to start.
21 David Forde Aged: 32 Caps: 2 Goals: 0 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 0
Established as Ireland’s third choice goalkeeper. Will be on the plane to Poland but won’t see any game time; no third choice Irish goalkeeper ever has at a major tournament.
22 Liam Lawrence Aged: 30 Caps: 15 Goals: 2 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 3 (subbed once)
Having made his competitive debut for Ireland towards the end of the 2010 World Cup qualification campaign, Lawrence has slipped down the pecking order and will have his fingers crossed that he gets on the plane to Poland, because his place is by no means certain despite playing a part in Cardiff’s run to the Championship play-offs at the end of this season.
23 Paul Green Aged: 29 Caps: 10 Goals: 1 Appearances in Euro 2012 qualifiers: 4 (subbed once)
Green is a player who, I believe, should not go to Poland, but such has been Trapattoni’s refusal to entertain the claims of fringe players who have done well at their clubs in the months leading up to the tournament (aside from yielding to the public outcry for James McClean’s inclusion) that Green has a better than 50/50 shot of being on the plane to Poland. His versatility (he can also play at right-back) could be what seals his place on the plane.
Those on the outside:
Andy Keogh has ended the season very well having scored four goals in his last four games of the season for Millwall. Keogh is an out-and-out striker however and while in good form, his lack of versatility means that he is likely to miss out on a spot on the plane. Just.
Ian Harte was voted onto the Championship Team of the Season and has had a terrific few years at Reading, but is unlikely to get in the Irish squad headed to Poland because Giovanni Trapattoni “doesn’t know he’s Irish” even though the Drogheda native has 63 caps for his country and has played at a World Cup!!
Wolves midfielder Kevin Foley and Stoke striker Jon Walters look to have just missed out on a place on the plane, but Trap could spring a surprise. Stephen Hunt’s brother, Noel, has also had a good season, but has always been on the fringes of the Ireland set-up and is likely to miss out.
Having made his Ireland debut last year; right back/winger Séamus Coleman has won five caps but this looks to be one campaign too early for him. Similarly for Coleman’s 20 year-old Everton center half team mate Shane Duffy.
Wes Hoolahan has had a fine season at Premier League new boys Norwich City. Voted into the Canaries Hall of Fame recently, Hoolahan is on the fringes of the Ireland set-up and management are aware of him, but he remains on the ‘unlikely’ list.
Such has been Trapattoni’s insistence to stick with the “tried and trusted” that there are unlikely to be any other names coming close to inclusion in the 23 man squad.