O'Shea backs new-look strikeforce


Soccer:Skipper John O’Shea is backing debutant Conor Sammon to give the Republic of Ireland the aerial threat they have been missing since the days of Tony Cascarino and Niall Quinn.

The Derby frontman will make his senior international debut in tomorrow night’s friendly against Poland at the Aviva Stadium as manager Giovanni Trapattoni takes a look some of the newer members of his squad.

Sammon will partner West Brom’s Shane Long in attack with the likes of Kevin Doyle and Jonathan Walters held in reserve.

While the Wolves striker and his Stoke counterpart have brought a physical presence to the Ireland side alongside Robbie Keane in recent years, 26-year-old Sammon’s height — he stands at 6’2“ — will give them a dimension they have not really had since the days of Quinn and before him, Cascarino.

O’Shea said: “Strength-wise, Kevin and Jon are fantastic, but I’d have to agree with you, height-wise Conor would have that advantage — and I’d think he would probably be a little bit more nimble than two fantastic players in Cascarino and Quinn.

“I have played against Conor once or twice, and he’s going to offer us a good physical presence up front and a threat in behind as well. He’s a big man who is quite agile and can get about pitch quite well. The Polish defence, especially with Shane and Conor starting up front tomorrow, hopefully will have a very tough start to the game because from what they have shown in training, they won’t let their defenders rest on the ball, the massive pressure they put on the defenders.

“Hopefully that will give us a chance to get up pitch and squeeze the game a bit more and we can take the game to Poland.”

Sammon may not be the only debutant — Derby club-mates Richard Keogh and Jeff Hendrick are likely to be named among the substitutes with Trapattoni using the friendly not only as preparation for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria, but to blood potential future squad members.

There will also, as expected, be a start for Millwall keeper David Forde, who will win is fifth senior cap ahead of Sunderland’s Keiren Westwood, whose lack of action on Wearside is becoming an increasing concern for his international manager.

O’Shea admits the situation is difficult for his fellow Black Cat, but revealed the competition between the two men, who are close friends, is intense.

He said: “Keiren has been training very well, training very hard at Sunderland, but Simon (Mignolet) has been doing excellently as well, so it’s a tough situation he has found himself in. He was obviously trying to sort a few things out in January and nothing was able to come of it, so he will have to train and do his stuff again as he has always done.

“He’s a fantastic professional. He has trained brilliantly over the last couple of days here as well. It’s one of those things. It’s a good situation for managers to have top quality keepers, but it’s frustrating for the individual himself. It’s a fantastic opportunity for David. He’s very experienced and he will do very well.”

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