THE FIRST WEEK of Ireland’s final pre-Euro 2012 preparations may have been spent worrying over the fitness of several of the team’s most influential players, but today, Giovanni Trapattoni came across as a man completely at ease.
On the injury front, concerns over the availability of centre-half pairing Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger were calmed by news that both will start against Bosnia Herzegovina tomorrow. John O’Shea is also back in training and, despite not being risked tomorrow, will be ready by next week.
“In fourteen days, we have four very important games,” Trapattoni told the media at Airside Ford earlier today. “It’s important to have all 23 players in good shape.
“Today I was happy after training. Beforehand, I said to them (those carrying knocks) ‘you must be very responsible’. I had a doubt about whether they could play. After training, I spoke with them about the situation and they confirmed they were available.
I am happy now because I saw all the team in good condition, good shape and good attitude. I was happy, we did the training with joking and very happy. I think now we are ready start.”
With record caps holder Shay Given receiving good news from a specialist in London yesterday and likely to be back in action in two or three days’ time, the outlook is a much brighter one.
In naming his starting line-up, the Italian revealed that Keiren Westwood was getting a rare opportunity between the sticks in place of Given, late call-up Paul McShane will be looked at at full-back, Darron Gibson is set to partner Glenn Whelan in midfield and James McClean has also been given the nod.
Today’s press conference. Credit: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
On the Sunderland winger, he assured Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady that they are his first picks for the flanks but again hinted that there will be chances for McClean at the upcoming tournament if he continues to impress.
“I expect from him what I know he can do,” he said. “When the first group came to training, I clarified what I wish from him. In his club he has a system and I said also he can help us in midfield. Yesterday, he showed me he can do well.
“I give him trust, it is the first time he will play with Robbie (Keane) and (Kevin) Doyle. It’s important he can take confidence with the team.
“On the first day he was a little bit shy but this is usual with young players. I saw many times with his club and I know he can do well. In the future, with more confidence he can give us another important option.”
Doyle arrives into the team off the back of a forgettable 2011/12 campaign with Wolves and it was thought that his spot alongside skipper Robbie Keane has come under threat by the other three front men.
The Wexford native will no doubt take being picked as a vote of confidence but must reproduce the performances of old in order to stave off the competition with the Croatia game just over two weeks away.
For those left out of the first XI, there will be opportunities as Trapattoni emphasised the importance of reaching a good balance and “bringing everyone to the same level”, before confirming that he would be using all seven substitutes and adding that Aiden McGeady would be one of them.
This is the last game which will allow us to see the physical condition of the players. Players must not be disappointed playing just the first or second half.
“It is my duty to get a good balance. I’m sure they understood me very well.”