ANTHONY PILKINGTON HAS been handed his first senior international call-up as Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni blends youth and experience for next month’s friendly against Poland.
The Norwich midfielder, 24, is one of five uncapped players named in Trapattoni’s squad for the Dublin friendly on 6 February.
West Ham United goalkeeper Stephen Henderson joins Derby County trio Richard Keogh, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon in the Italian’s 27-man panel.
Pilkington’s Carrow Road team-mate Wes Hoolahan is included again following his second-half cameo in the November friendly against Greece while Bristol City defender Greg Cunningham could win his first cap since November 2010.
Captain Robbie Keane and the out-of-favour Stephen Kelly are among those senior players who have been given “a break,” Trapattoni said today. Kelly made his first start for his new club Reading in Saturday’s win against Newcastle but has not played a competitive international since November 2011.
With one eye on the upcoming World Cup qualifier in Sweden, Trapattoni has been given a boost with the news that Richard Dunne is fit enough for inclusion on the “standby list”. The veteran defender returned to training with Aston Villa last week and his progress will be monitored over the coming fortnight.
Shay Given and Damien Duff, both of whom have been linked with international comebacks in recent weeks, do not feature but both players could yet come into the reckoning for the trip to Stockholm on 22 March.
“I have decided to use this friendly game as an opportunity to work with younger players to see their potential,” Trapattoni said in a statement. “As a result, I have given senior players like Robbie Keane and Stephen Kelly a break for this fixture.
We saw a number of strong performances from our younger players in the second half of last year and we intend to build from those strong foundations, using this friendly match to introduce more new talent like Pilkington, Hendrick, Sammon and [Richard] Keogh. I look forward to working with these players, and seeing what they have to offer.
Trapattoni was due to speak to the media at a press conference in Dublin this afternoon but cancelled the engagement following the death of his sister, Sister Romilde Trapattoni, in the early hours of Monday morning.
Republic of Ireland (squad to face Poland): Kieren Westwood, David Forde, Stephen Henderson, John O’Shea, Ciaran Clark, Darren O’Dea, Paul McShane, Seamus Coleman, Richard Keogh, Greg Cunningham, Stephen Ward, Anthony Pilkington, James McClean, Robbie Brady, Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick, David Meyler, Wes Hoolahan, Simon Cox, Shane Long, Jon Walters, Conor Sammon, Andy Keogh, Kevin Doyle.