Glenn Whelan set to replace Paul Green as Robbie Keane is ruled out of Austria game

Conor Sammon appears likeliest replacement for Ireland’s captain for World Cup qualifier

Robbie Keane will miss tomorrow night’s game against Austria

Robbie Keane will miss tomorrow night’s game against Austria


Glenn Whelan is set to replace Paul Green in Ireland’s starting line up for the game against Austria tomorrow while Robbie Keane’s place is up for grabs after the LA Galaxy striker was force to pull out of the squad with a calf strain.

Giovanni Trapattoni suggested yesterday that the skipper’s place is most likely to go to either Simon Cox or Conor Sammon, with the 74-year-old appearing at one point to lean firmly towards the latter. The return of Robbie Brady to the right hand side of midfield might mean Jon Walters would be another option while the manager added another himself by recalling Kevin Doyle yesterday, apparently by means of an actual telephone conversation. Wes Hoolahan, just for the record, didn’t get a mention.

The situation is confused slightly by doubts about Walters’ fitness (back) but Trapattoni said that Ciarán Clark’s failure to train yesterday was merely a precaution and that his slight groin strain would not keep him out of the team. John O’Shea, James McCarthy and Marc Wilson, all of whom finished the session early, are said to be fine.

Three points
Keane’s departure formally removes the possibility that Trapattoni might stick with the side that did so well in Stockholm. In reality the Italian had indicated after training yesterday that his intention is to bring Whelan back in for Green. McCarthy will keep his place, he said, but whether Brady might be selected too for a home game that Ireland need to win, remains to be seen with the manager suggesting that he prefers to take these things one step at a time although he left very little doubt about his desire to see Ireland take all three points.

“Sure, we have to win,” he said. “It won’t be easy; they are fast in counter-attack, they were dangerous and deserved to win against Germany.

“But we will play all our cards on Tuesday and pay attention to changes during the game. It’s a pity not to use the other players – they can bring in new energy and we need to try everything to win. But we have a very good potential.”

Indeed, the former Juventus boss seemed genuinely enthused by the collective performance in Stockholm where the much coveted balance he talks about was there for all to see.

It was a dramatically different side to the one overrun in the European Championship with perhaps the greatest driver of change being the introduction of full-backs who are more comfortable pressing forward.

“If you remember, two years ago I said the (whole) team must be offensive, not only four midfielders,” he said. “Two overlapping fullbacks are very important. Eight players go offensive and go back. I always had this.”

He mentioned the likes of Antonio Cabrini, who, he said, always chipped in at Juventus with the odd goal then observed: “Paul McShane is strong but couldn’t score a goal. We need players who can score goals. It’s important to have this. They must be physically able to go 80 metres (forward), 80m (back), 80m (forward again). Sure, they can help defending but also go up. (James) McClean attacks but also defends; that is the way a team functions.”

The question now, of course, is whether his players can reproduce those positive aspects of Friday’s performance while also adding more of an attacking edge.

The ability of Séamus Coleman and Wilson to provide added width inside the Austrian half should certainly better equip Ireland to secure what would be a rare home win over even middle ranking opposition, but there is always the fear that the hosts will simply have another one of their off nights, a possibility Trapattoni seemed to acknowledge when he said that it is normal for teams at this stage of their development to “a be little up and down”.

The scale of Austria’s win on Friday against the Faroes means that they too head into the game with some wind in their sails and Trapattoni was being duly respectful to side, one or two of whom he coached.

The 74 year-old, meanwhile, took the rare step himself of taking journalists to task over the tone of some of the coverage of his handling of Robbie Brady in Stockholm with the manager taking exception, he suggested, to the way his comments about the players at the pre-match press conference were relayed.

“Reporters in the world are good at writing pieces,” he said, “but I never said he was confused. What I wanted to say was that I wanted to stimulate him psychologically; I wanted to see him stronger psychologically.

“But I never said – or I didn’t mean to say – that he was confused. The headlines then are a different story. There is no problem with Robbie. The player is ready, there is no problem. I know. I spoke with him."

That, funny enough, is actually the point at which the confusion usually tends to start setting in.