Trap door about to shut

With the announcement in Waterford yesterday of a 24-man panel for the friendly against the Czech Republic later this month, Giovanni Trapattoni showed his hand and effectively named his squad for the European Championship finals.

Understandably, the absence of James McClean dominated the immediate headlines but the real significance of the squad is that, barring injury, 23 of those named are sure to be on the plane to Poland next summer.

Further, from everything the manager said, it seems reasonable to assume the player likely to lose out between now and then will be James McCarthy or Seamus Coleman. And the Wigan man appears closer to making the cut, with Trapattoni revealing he intends to look at him in a midfield role against the Czechs on February 29.

“The fact that they [Coleman and McCarthy] have been in squads before is an advantage,” he admitted.

“In the last two months McCarthy has always played for his club. McCarthy has to mature more, but he has energy and he can play now in the midfield. We can try him there against the Czech Republic. The others, we know.”

Trapattoni stoutly defended his decision not to blood new players, saying Irish preparation for the Euros begins with the Czech game and that, although nominally a friendly, its function as the last warm-up match before May means it is not the occasion to disrupt a settled squad. Even if that involves leaving the in-form James McClean to cool his international heels until autumn brings the World Cup into view — or unless injury to one of the mainstays opens up a vacancy.

Trapattoni said he had spoken to the Sunderland player to inform him he would not be selected for the Czech game and the former Derry City man had accepted the decision. “I have seen him many, many times,” said Trapattoni. “I spoke to him, I said ‘congratulations James’. He said ‘thank you’. I said, ‘you come with us but maybe not now’. I said, ‘100% you will be with us in the future’. But now I wish only consolidate the balance in the squad.

“After this match, Marco [Tardelli] and I will continue to follow our players to keep a close eye on their fitness. In May, we will need to choose 23 players and leave some players out of the squad. That will be difficult for us as we have so many good players who deserve to be with us for Euro 2012 but that is our job.

“We will continue to follow the new players who are for the future like McClean, [Anthony] Pilkington, [Shane] Duffy, [Robbie] Brady and others. But in the last analysis, this game is not the time. We begin the season for the Euros now.

“First, all of this squad deserves to come with us. That is very, very important because they believe us, they know us. Maybe if our injury situation is worse, then we would call someone in but only then.”

Trapattoni insisted he has no fears about complacency creeping into the established squad.

“No, we know their mentality,” he said. “And they know that in the future other players must come in and they must try to guarantee their position. They must guarantee me, you and the Irish people that they are proud to play for Ireland and always give 100%. That is important. I am not worried about complacency, because there is competition in the squad. We have double options in every position. I am not worried about this situation.”

And, speaking in the ‘The House of Waterford Crystal’ on Suirside, the Italian could not have been more crystal clear about his plans for Poland and Ukraine when he concluded: “The group is this, one more or one less. But it is this. If there are injuries we can change.”

All of which means several familiar faces who have not made the squad — among them Liam Lawrence, Paul McShane and Andy Keogh — must now be considered highly unlikely to force their way back into the manager’s thoughts before summer.

In the meantime, Trapattoni revealed yesterday that both Aiden McGeady (ankle) and Seamus Coleman (thigh) have confirmed they will be fit for selection for the Czech Republic game at the Aviva at the end of the month.

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