With qualification now secure, The Trap Door, SportsNewsIreland’s weekly column focusing on the performances of the players in, and on the fringes, of the Irish squad takes a look at which 23 players can start packing their suitcases for Poland/Ukraine.
Barring injury, you can expected that the now always loyal Trapattoni will stick with the same players and system that got us to our first European Championship’s in 24 years – meaning that those on the fringes will have to really impress if they are to force their way in.
Goalkeeper: Unlike in Italia 90 when Niall Quinn had to double up as third choice keeper, the three goalkeeping positions are in safe hands with undisputed number one Shay Given backed up by Kieren Westwood and Millwall’s David Ford.
Who would benefit from an injury: Darren Randolph , the Motherwell keeper has impressed since he moved north of the border from Charlton.
Right back: John O’Shea has made himself first choice here although an injury-racked start to life in Sunderland could mean that this is a position that could be worth keeping an eye on. Stephen Kelly and Paul McShane, both in and out of the picture at their clubs are the established back ups
Who would benefit from an injury: Seamus Coleman – should make the squad anyway although he has yet to be given the chance to stake a claim for a place. A right back turned midfielder, Coleman would be a good prospect to have at full back and could push McShane out while Stoke’s Marc Wilson could also impress if given a chance
Left back: The passing of the guard from Kevin Kilbane to Stephen Ward has gone very smoothly, aided by Kilbane’s injury and Ward’s fine showings. Kilbane, a loyal servant, looks likely to miss out on the plane to Poland/Ukraine with Darren O’Dea, like McShane and Kelly, offering the versatility to cover at left back or centre back.
Who would benefit from an injury: Greg Cunningham, the Manchester City left back is highly rated and currently on loan at Nottingham Forest while Aston Villa’s new signing Enda Stevens’ would really need to hit the ground running at Villa Park to force his way in
Centre backs: Richard “5uperman” Dunne and Sean St. Ledger like Given are established first teamers and with O’Shea, McShane, Kelly and O’Dea all able to provide cover Trap is well stocked in this department.
Who would benefit from an injury: Shane Duffy – promising Everton defender on loan at Scunthorpe looks a good prospect although age and inexperience at a higher level might go against him
The Flanks: Damien Duff, who impressed during the qualifiers and Aiden McGeady are the first choices when fit with Stephen Hunt proving on his start last night that he is no more than an impact player. Liam Lawrence and Andy Keogh, despite being a forward, are both next on the lists for Trap when he seeks that bit of touchline spark although Keogh may not make the plane especially if Wes Hoolahan can continue his form.
Who would benefit from an injury: Norwich duo Anthony Pilkington and Hoolahan, who can also play through the middle, have made impressive starts to life in the Premiership and there has been a growing clamour for them to be given an opportunity, which should happen in the spring friendlies. Robbie Brady, on loan at Hull, has impressed for the U21s and could be an older Irish Theo Walcott
Centre midfield: With Keith Andrews claiming the man of the match award in the first leg of the win over Estonia and his partner Glenn Whelan taking the honours in the second leg, the middle of the park, for long a bone of contention for fans and pundits, has been put to bed. Back up will come from the patient James McCarthy and the calming Keith Fahey.
Who would benefit from an injury: If David Meyler can stay fit then the tough tackling Sunderland midfielder has a chance and would offer a viable defensive midfield option as does Darron Gibson, whose decision last summer to reportedly put money over football looks to have cost him his Irish place, he needs a january move if he’s to force his way back in.
Forwards: The famous five are now all assured of their place with the hardest decision for Trap being who to pick from Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Simon Cox and Jon Walters as his final two.
Who would benefit from an injury: Anthony Stokes and Leon Best, two good strikers waiting in the wings should anything happen to the above quintet. Noel Hunt at Reading and Conor Sammon at Wigan would need a lot to happen to force their way in.
SportsNewsIreland’s final 23