MARCO TARDELLI yesterday made no attempt to disguise his disappointment at losing Kevin Doyle, who returned to Wolves today for treatment on a swollen knee, but Giovanni Trapattoni’s assistant manager insisted that Ireland have adequate striking options in Shane Long and Andy Keogh as they fly out to Slovakia this morning.
When it was put to him that having just one striker on the bench meant it would be prudent to call up Celtic’s Anthony Stokes Tardelli begged to differ.
“You want to call in Stokes, you speak about Stokes,” he said. “He plays well now but we have other players. Stokes is a good option for the future. It is possible he will play against Norway in the friendly next month but now we have the young players. If Keogh plays, we have Long. We need just one.”
Tardelli then went on to speak about the Reading man in terms which strongly suggested that he would get the nod to start in Zilina tomorrow night after his impressive supporting role late on against Russia.
“Shane Long always plays and is very important for his club,” he said. “I think he has confidence in himself now. Also physically he is growing, now he’s very strong. And he is very fast. If he takes care of the little details everything is possible.”
Richard Dunne yet again sat out training yesterday while Liam Lawrence finished the session with strapping on his upper leg but the word from the camp is that are both are expected to be available in Zilina tomorrow.
Said Tardelli: “Richard Dunne has had a knee problem for two or three months and sometimes it is better to rest. I think Richard Dunne will be the first player on the pitch.”
Asked for his reaction to the defender’s critical comments about Ireland’s style of play against Russia, Tardelli smiled as he replied: “Richard spoke after the match. Sometimes it is better to say nothing after the match. I think Richard knows we have some players who don’t play for their clubs and for us this is very important. Now we have many problems with injuries. It is possible sometimes to create play and sometimes not. Against France we played well and we created the play. You remember against France we played long balls but we took the ball in midfield because we had many experienced players. Now some of the team has changed, like Damien Duff is out, but I think this team is growing.”
Tardelli said Irish pride was hurt on Friday and he fully expects a reaction against Slovakia tomorrow night.
“I know the players are very proud to play for the Irish team and I am very proud to have these players,” he said. “I think there will be a reaction. I think their pride was hurt against Russia. I was very proud of the second half because the Irish team, they tried. I don’t know if we would have deserved it or not but it was possible to draw the match.
“On Friday, I saw the players were very sad because of the defeat. In football it’s nice because there is always the possibility to show a reaction. But Slovakia is a good team like us. Maybe (after losing 3-1 to Armenia) their pride will be hurt too. It will be a match of pride v pride.”
More than Slovak pride is hurting, as it happens. Through injury and suspension, their national team will be obliged to go into tomorrow’s game without all-time top scorer Robert Vittek, attacking midfielder Miroslav Stoch and key defender Martin Skrtel.
Meanwhile, Ipswich goalkeeper Brian Murphy was last night called up to the Ireland squad to replace Keiren Westwood. The Coventry ace has returned to his club after receiving a facial injury in training yesterday.
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