Youth given a chance by Trapattoni
Soccer:Giovanni Trapattoni has opted to start West Brom striker Shane Long in attack alongside his former clubmate Simon Cox for the international friendly against Greece at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow (7.45pm). In a youthful starting XI, there are places for Robbie Brady, James McClean, James McCarthy and Séamus Coleman.
As expected, Aston Villa's Ciaran Clark will join captain John O'Shea in the centre of defence, with Stephen Ward on the left and Everton's Coleman on the right.
McCarthy will continue in the centre of midfield alongside the experience of Glenn Whelan, with the flanks manned by Brady (right) and McClean (left).
Long's inclusion up front will come as a relief to many who have watched him develop into Ireland's most potent strike threat with the Baggies in the Premier League this season. Cox, who struggled to get into the West Brom side ahead of Long last season, has benefitted from a move to Nottingham Forest.
The selection, of course, means Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City will not start, but he is expected to feature for around 45 minutes tomorrow night and perhaps prompt the much sought after formation change.
“In the second half we can see him, sure, for 45 minutes,” said Trapattoni, in what was a particularly animated performance from the Italian. “I need to give him the opportunity to show us … but we know him very well and he deserves to play.”
Hoolahan, the theory goes, is the link man Ireland have been missing between midfield and attack, but Trapattoni clearly feels Brady is the future in this regard.
“Robbie is one of the best, he is one of the players with creative fantasia. Until this we did not have players with this creative situation. We have others with good technique, we have balance but Brady showed us (his potential) against Oman, even if he was a little bit strange because it was his first game.
“He can do better in this position because he has the quality to do it - with more confidence.”
The Italian again reiterated his wish for Long to drop a little deeper and contribute more in build-up play, insisting the striker cannot wait alone up top to try and do it all himself.
It’s not a criticism levelled at the Tipperary very often, but the manager is adamant he needs to improve.
“He knows what he can do but he cannot wait for the long ball, he must also participate with us, but he can do well because he has technical ability. We ask him to participate more because it is not the system that he plays at his club.
“Of all the strikers there is only Ronaldo, Messi and in the past Maradona, they can score goals alone - also Cruyff - but the rest need the team because it is the team that gives them the ball.”
Alongside him at the top table, O’Shea said he was looking forward to playing with the “fantastic potential” of Clark.
“He has settled into Aston Villa's team this year,” said the Sunderland defender. “Obviously Richard (Dunne) has had his few injury problems, and Paul Lambert has shown a lot of faith in him (Clark). We played against Aston Villa a few weeks ago and he was outstanding. We put them under a loot of pressure in the second half and Clark stood up to a lot of the pressure.”
"He has shown an increased maturity and as the manager said there, he wants to see if he can rise to the occasion internationally as well, and I have no doubt he will. He is a fantastic talent.”
Tomorrow night’s game will bring back memories for O’Shea — he made his first senior start for Ireland against Greece a decade ago — but is also the first fixture back at the Aviva since the 6-1 drubbing by Germany last month.
Asked what will be expected by the fans, the Sunderland defender said: “The game directly after Germany was the Faroes, which was a qualification game.
“I think the fans, more importantly, wanted to see a reaction in that game, and we gave a reaction with a comfortable victory in a game we should have won, and we did win convincingly.
“It’s the final game of 2012, it’s a game at home and whether it’s against Greece, Brazil or the Faroe Islands, you want to win the game, and that’s what we want to do tomorrow night, not only for the fans, but for ourselves and for the management and everyone involved with Ireland.”
Rep of Ireland (v Greece): Keiren Westwood; Séamus Coleman, John O’Shea, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Ward; Robbie Brady, James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, James McClean; Simon Cox, Shane Long.
Substitutes: Darren O’Dea, Stephen Kelly, Keith Andrews, Andy Keogh, David Meyler, Wes Hoolahan, Conor Clifford, Kevin Doyle, David Forde, Darron Randolph