Trapattoni defends Doyle omission
Ireland manager has been assured of St Ledger’s fitness ahead of Sweden game
Birthday boy Giovanni Trapattoni at a press conference in Malahide today. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Giovanni Trapattoni was in decidely chirpy form on his birthday as he and his players gathered in Malahide this afternoon ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria.
The Italian, who turned 74 today, was treated to a cake by those members of his squad who turned up early, but was soon asked to explain why one player, in particular, would not be arriving at all.
Wolves striker Kevin Doyle, a stalwart of Ireland for many a year, was yesterday omitted from the 23-man finalised squad for the upcoming double-header and replaced by Derby County striker Conor sammon.
Doyle scored his first goal for his club since the start of December in Wolves’ 2-1 victory over Bristol City yesterday. It was only his eighth of the season and his international manager explained today that the winner at Molineux was not enough to reverse the effects of his recent barren spell, though he has been placed on standby.
"I sent him an SMS, I told him I wanted to try two or three other players," said Trapattoni today. "Up to a little while ago he wasn't so fit and maybe he was a little disappointed, too, with this situation. But I said to him if I need him I know he'll be ready."
Otherwise, every member of the squad expected today turned up, leaving just 13 to partake in a light training session at Gannon Park.
The 10 absentees are due to start trickling in this evening, while the two based across the Atlantic - captain Robbie Keane and Toronto's Darren O'Dea - are due in tomorrow.
Asked whether the skipper still warranted inclusion in the squad, the manager was forthright in his assertion that Keane is "not just a name, he scores goals".
Wes Hoolahan is another who offers a goal threat and proved as much again today with the opener for Norwich City in their 1-1 draw against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. The absence of Aiden McGeady, however, is unlikely to to prompt Trapattoni into a promoting the former Shelbourne man to the wing.
"Not in that position," replied the manager when asked if Hoolahan was an option out wide. "He plays behind the striker, not left or right, and we won't change our system away to Sweden. It's a very important game, but we can change during it depending on what happens."
Trapattoni has been assured by defender Seán St Ledger that he is "fit and ready" to return to the fray after last featuring in the September friendly against Oman before succumbing to a long-term hamstring injury.
"I spoke with him and he told me he was ready. I was worried about his injury but he told me 'I'm fit and ready'. The manager added: "I told him to 'be careful, because we might need you'. They (Sweden) have fast strikers. But again today he has said he was okay."
Ireland face Group C opponents Sweden in Stockholm on Friday, before hosting Austria in Dublin four days later. Trapattoni's side, who are four points adrift of table-toppers Germany, trail the Swedes by one point after three games and hold a two-point lead over the Austrians.