In a numbers game, Hoolahan simply makes us a better team
SOCCER ANALYST:The best thing about last night's Polish experience was its value as a dress rehearsal for Stockholm. The Poles, like Sweden, have big defenders and a clever creator, Ludovic Obraniak, playing off a lone striker.
The difference is next month we will be facing the great Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Sweden are far from world beaters but they do score goals. Just ask the Germans.
The Ireland back four survived last night. That's not enough but it sufficed last night. At least the manager now knows the John O'Shea-Ciarán Clark partnership has some potential.
However, there is a good chance an entirely different back four will be in place for our next outing. O'Shea will probably be retained if Séamus Coleman, Marc Wilson and Seán St Ledger regain fitness.
The return to Paul McShane at right back last night ahead of the "rested" Stephen Kelly didn't make any sense. Both McShane and Greg Cunningham at least improved after half-time.
The goalkeeping problem remains a live issue. When your number one choice is bobbling clearances to opposition attackers, a wave of doubt washes over the entire team and supporters. David Forde did do well to deny Robert Lewandowski on two occasions, but this is my biggest concern.
The usual problem manifested itself again. Midfield. Did we learn nothing in Poland last year? How does our Italian coach not recognise the out-dated nature of our version of playing with two holding midfielders and two strikers against European opposition?
James McCarthy is developing into a fine international and Premiers League standard footballer but Trapattoni is putting far too many barriers in his way. Glenn Whelan continues to be a decent holding player, but combined, they will always be overrun by modern formations. Whelan's lack of mobility will always demand a third midfielder.
It's a numbers game. The fear beforehand was that Conor Sammon was an unnecessary experiment. And so it proved. I think the manager got the wrong end of the stick from what he saw in Derby recently.
Yes, he is a big man, but he's not a striker in the Niall Quinn or Tony Cascarino mould. That's never been his game with UCD, Derry City, Kilmarnock or Wigan. And never will be. But that's how he was employed last night.
Sammon looked lost at times and it hurt the midfield duo as well. Imagine the sight of Wes Hoolahan playing off Long with McCarthy and Keith Andrews, or even Paul Green, in behind? That's the ideal system for me, but it takes time and Trap is not willing to allow it to develop.
Without a play-maker, or at the very least an extra man grafting around the middle, the wingers had little chance to shine.
At half-time Trapattoni changed like with like, but it in fairness it worked. Green's energy around the middle third nullified Poland's dominance. He used the ball intelligently and somehow managed to give us our first real foothold in the game. Green's presence meant Robbie Brady and James McClean came alive in attack.
But, just like against Greece, it was the arrival of Hoolahan that made us a better team and won us the game. His ability to retain possession and link the play, compared to the first half, allowed our reasonably competent back four to get away from their own goal. It lifted the siege.
The shame was when Hoolahan arrived it was to play off Sammon, not Shane Long. Sammon's less than delicate touch in the penalty area was his big chance.
In contrast, why keep a man like Hoolahan in reserve? His finish was in stark contrast to the chances missed earlier. Jeff Hendrick also deserves huge credit for the excellent composure and awareness to find Hoolahan.
Besides the result, it was a depressing night to be Irish in the Aviva Stadium. The sight of the Polish fans turning our patch into their home for the night was embarrassing. Those present last night now know what it felt like to be Englishman on that famous night at Wembley in 1991 (when Niall Quinn stooped low to cancel out Steve Staunton's og).
We would have been the butt of the joke if we'd lost. But we didn't. We got a valuable 2-0 victory and some other positives, like the performance of Clark, the industry of McClean and most surprising of all, Green's influence.
There was also glimpses of Brady's skill which, all told, expands the manager's options and shows the value of attending club games. It brings the squad into next month with renewed confidence. No Irish team should fear a trip to Sweden.