Time to change tack, Trap
The word “crisis” should not appear near any mention of the lengthening list of absentees from Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad ahead of the Norway friendly on Wednesday.
So far, Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne, Kevin Kilbane, Paul McShane, Caleb Folan, Ciaran Clark and Darron Gibson are out of the game.
Doubts remain over Kevin Doyle, Seán St Ledger and Paul Green.
This isn’t a crisis. This is an opportunity.
Of the 10 players mentioned, which ones do we really need to see?
It would be nice for Aston Villa defender Clark to get his senior international career underway after he committed to Ireland recently, but were he fit he would have still needed Fifa clearance to play and that looked like being a close run thing.
Gibson, some may feel, is due a start in midfield against decent opposition.
Anyone else? Nope.
Now is the time to throw in Seamus Coleman, Greg Cunningham, Anthony Stokes, Keith Treacy, Darren O’Dea, Marc Wilson, Shane Long and, to a lesser extent, Jon Walters.
One of those definitely won’t feature. The Italian has left Stokes out of the squad, preferring instead to include Walters. Even if Walters had done something of note with Stoke City in the Premier League this season, he is already 27 and is never likely to be a first choice starter for Ireland.
Fair enough, he’s not over the hill, but where has he been? He has been at Ipswich Town scoring one goal in 5.5 games last year, and one in seven the year before.
Trapattoni has only seemed to target Walters since it became obvious Folan is anything but the battering ram he thought he was. His latest ailment is a “leg injury”, according to the boffins at Hull City.
Stokes is far from the ‘new hope’ Ireland need but his form for Celtic of late and his recent performances for the under-21s should have seen him included, especially in the absence of Keane and, maybe, Doyle.
It looks like Coleman and Cunningham will start. And it’s about time.
The latter, a Manchester City defender on loan at Leicester, debuted against Algeria before the World Cup and looked very comfortable at the level, before getting half an hour against Argentina. That he didn’t get a chance to build on that experience since, perhaps in the Euro 2012 qualifier against the Andorra in September, is disappointing. As loyal a servant as Kevin Kilbane has been, he needs to be replaced quick.
Coleman’s omission from previous squads was also a concern, considering he has been one of the best Irish performers in the Premier League this season and was a key player in Blackpool’s ascent to the top flight while on loan last year.
Trapattoni’s responsibility as manager should not only be to achieve qualification for the World Cup or Euros, but also to prepare the squad for future campaigns whether he is leading them or not.
He might point to players he has brought in who have done well – people like Liam Lawrence (29 next month), Keith Fahey (28 in January) and Keith Andrews (30) – but the age profile is all wrong.
He needs to show more confidence in the young players at his disposal and it should not take a rash of injuries for him to do so.
Granted, with this many senior absentees, he runs the risk of not getting back to winning ways, but if change doesn’t come about soon we all run the risk of dying of boredom and/or embarrassment as we watch this side age very ungracefully.
We also risk alienating the talented young players who are, for now at least, turning in performances at club level and committed to playing for their country.