Folan gives Trap food for thought

YOU know it is a night for the diehards when a soon-to-be 37-year-old Andrew Cole is the most famous face on show, but Giovanni Trapattoni’s ‘B’ boys did their best to raise their own profiles with a comfortable win over the English visitors.

Others have tread this path before them. After all, Denis Irwin, Terry Phelan and Niall Quinn all played on an Irish ‘B’ team that beat England in Turner’s Cross in 1990.

Of more interest to last night’s hopefuls will be the case of Glenn Whelan who featured for the ‘B’ side the last time they togged out, against Scotland in Airdrie 11 months ago.

The Italian started work this week with a shopping list that included cover for right back and central midfield where injuries to the Stephens Reid, Finnan and Kelly have left him short for next Wednesday’s World Cup tie against Cyprus.

As it was, his biggest discovery came up front. Seventeen months after first receiving the call-up to an Irish squad, Caleb Folan finally pulled on a green jersey and he looked well worth the wait.

With 27 minutes played the Hull City player hot-footed it onto a clever through ball from Anthony Stokes. One-on-one with goalkeeper Paul Smith, his finish was cool and accurate into the left corner.

It was not an isolated moment. Though a gangly 6’2” in height, the Yorkshireman showed a deftness of touch that belied his frame, albeit one he used to good effect on occasion in discomfiting the Nottingham defence.

Impressive as he was, Folan is a 25-year-old striker with a far from emphatic scoring record and he is currently earning his pay from the Hull bench. That says something but, for now, he has done all he can for his international career.

Thirteen minutes before his opener he switched roles with Stokes, heading a Darron Gibson long ball beyond the Forest defence only for the Sunderland striker to stub a poor left-footed effort at Smith. Currently struggling to get his game at the Stadium of Light, Stokes was given the full 90 minutes here and could have done with a goal but his role in both chances said it all about a performance that mixed the good with the bad.

Andy Keogh started off in similar style but the Wolves player, one of four from the Molineux club featuring for the home side, improved as the game went on and received his due reward just after the hour.

Running at the heart of the Forest defence he laid off a ball to Shane Long on the right wing, continued his run and met the Reading man’s cross with a first-time finish low and to Smith’s right that made it 2-0.

Though an unfamiliar Irish side, it was one that played with the same shape and style as Trapattoni’s first-choice XI. Even with eight changes after the break, they never lost their shape.

Let’s put it all into context before we go too far though. Forest are a Championship side and one that, after a run of seven defeats in their last eight games — the other was a draw — lies bottom of that particular tier.

This may have been a second, or even third string, Irish side but the starting XI contained seven players who ply their trade at top tier clubs in Britain and they gelled pretty well after only two days together in Malahide.

As for the talent search at right-back and midfield, Trap won’t have been blown away by anything he saw.

Though he used five players in the engine room, none stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Gibson’s 56 minutes were probably the most impressive. Two pot shots on goal in the first-half were close to securing him a place on the scoreboard while he did the fundamentals as well as the rest.

With Alex Bruce hobbling off injured after 75 minutes, and all Ireland’s replacements already in action, the home side finished the game with 10 men and Foley was one of the two to play the whole way through.

A regular at right-full for Wolves, Foley’s defensive skills weren’t exactly put to the test but he dovetailed well with his clubmate Keogh when coming forward and may well make the party next week.

Most of last night’s squad will be making their way back across the Irish Sea however, particularly most of those introduced after the interval when the game understandably lost some of its shape.

IRELAND: J Murphy; K Foley, D O’Dea, A Bruce, S Ward; A Keogh, D Gibson, K Andrews, W Hoolahan; C Folan, A Stokes.

Subs: K Westwood for Murphy 45, s Long for Folan 45, K Treacy for Hoolahan 45, M Rowlands for Gibson 56, D Potter for Andrews 56, E Nolan for O’Dea 59, S Scannell for Keogh 63, O Garvan for Ward 69.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST: P Smith; J Perch, J Lynch, L Chambers, I Breckin; M Byrne, C Cohen, M Thornhill; A Davies, A Cole, L Martin.

Subs: J Garner for Cole 45, A Newbold for Cohen 63, J Heath for Lynch 70, J Reid for Martin 17.

Referee: D Hancock.

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