ONLY four players who featured in Nicosia on Saturday night – including substitute Caleb Folan – are retained in Giovanni Trapattoni’s experimental side for tonight’s international friendly game against South Africa at Thomond Park.
Having already released a number of the team’s regular starters after their exertions at the weekend, the manager yesterday lost two more big names when John O’Shea and Aiden McGeady were both forced to pull out with injuries.
The Celtic man picked up a knock in training on Sunday while the Manchester United defender’s bruised calf muscle problem has ruled him out of the clash in Limerick.
With Italy looming large on the horizon, Trapattoni was clearly anxious that O’Shea wouldn’t aggravate it.
“He had blood on the muscle and couldn’t run today,” said Trapattoni.
“To play would have been dangerous. He could have torn a muscle and been out for two months.
“So he has gone back to Manchester United to be seen by the club’s doctor. I said to him to be careful, not just for us but for his club.”
Crystal Palace’s Paddy McCarthy has been called up as extra defensive cover while Kevin Doyle has been named captain after the original first choice for the role, Damien Duff, volunteered to take a back seat.
“Damien said I am available to stay on the bench and I thanked him because this game is an opportunity for me to see the younger players and the ones who didn’t get a chance in Cyprus.
“When you are young, it’s not easy on the pitch and in this game I will look to players like Lawrence and Nolan to express their personalities. The opportunity is there to widen the squad because if an important player is missing it is important that someone else can play with personality in that position.
“The new players must grow and that is only possible if they play.”
Trapattoni also emphasised that all the available players – and any others he might bring on board over the coming months – would need to understand and be able to implement his system.
“Maybe in the future I will change my system, maybe if Stephen Ireland comes back,” he smiled.
“But not now. I look for consistency in the team. I don’t want to change positions, so that we can play without even having to think about it because all the players know the movement”.
Asked about Doyle’s comments that the manager had remained calm in the dressing room in Nicosia at half-time, Trapattoni said that he hadn’t wanted to “reproach” the Irish players because he knew how much effort they were putting in.
However, he admitted that, over the course of his career, he has not always been so slow to express his anger with teams who were under-performing under his watch.
“Many times I have had to throw a stone in the water because still water stinks,” was how he put it. “I look for a reaction. The players can hate me at that particular moment but all I want is a reaction and a result.”
And, by way of illustration, he gave an example of a game when he was managing Juventus and a team containing Platini, Boniek and no less than six World Cup winners were one down at lowly Cagliari coming in at the break.
“In the dressing room I ate them alive,” he remembered, “and, only for that, Cagliari would have won 1-0. Instead, we won 3-1.”
However, dealing with his Irish charges, Trapattoni clearly favours the carrot rather than the stick – and the carrot for the many fringe players on show against South Africa tonight could be a place in a squad travelling to that very country for the World Cup finals in nine months’ time.
As Fulham’s Stephen Kelly, enumerating his season’s ambitions, put it yesterday at the training base in Tipperary: “I want to cement my place in the Fulham team, hopefully finish as high up the table as we did last season and qualify for the World Cup. Not much at all! These are all things that are well within my grasp so it’s not where you’re shooting for the stars.
“These are things which are definitely achievable for all of us here and, for me in particular, it’s something I am more than capable of doing.
“I’ve proved it in the past and I definitely think I can do it again.”
For their part, the team they call ‘Bafana Bafana’, currently managed by Brazilian coach Joel Santana, have arrived in Limerick searching for their first win in five outings since they defeated New Zealand 2-0 in the Confederations Cup in June. The 2010 World Cup hosts also lost 2-0 to Germany in a friendly on Saturday.
IRELAND: Keiren Westwood; Stephen Kelly; Paul McShane; Sean St Ledger; Eddie Nolan; Liam Lawrence; Darron Gibson; Keith Andrews; Andy Keogh; Caleb Folan and Kevin Doyle.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved