They’re the men who will fly the flag for Ireland at Euro 2012, our first major finals for ten years. Póg Mo Goal takes a look at the Boys in Green. Here’s the strike-force who could make it a tournament to remember.
He’s a striker off form with a poor season behind him but the hard-graft he puts in for Ireland cannot be underestimated. He’ll scarcely enjoy much better service from his international colleagues than he did at club level but the adrenaline of a major finals could kick-start Doyle. His style means he gets kicked from pillar to post and that in itself can add to his frustration but Doyle is backed by Trapattoni and for a striker, that faith is worth its weight in goals.
Keano has played an awful lot of football this season after a hugely successful loan-spell back in the Premier League with Aston Villa. He looked sluggish in LA Galaxy’s final league games but, in truth, that has much to do with the style of play in the MLS as signs of fatigue. Robbie has looked sharp in Ireland’s warm-up games and his leadership, not least his experience of playing in World Cup 2002, will be vital for Ireland. We won’t create buckets of chances in Poland but despite his ageing years, you still wouldn’t want anyone else but Keano in place when that one vital chance presents itself.
Long is knocking hard on the door. For a time he seemed to fall out of favour with Trap but his emerging partnership with Jon Walters has given the Irish management real food for thought. He is hitting the tournament with guns blazing netting the winner against Bosnia and scoring in the defeat of the Tuscany XI. The Tipp man plays a similar style to Kevin Doyle but unlike his former Cork and Reading team-mate, his confidence is sky high.
For a long time we asked what was was Trap’s Plan B if things were going against Ireland. Now we know the answer. The Walters and Long combo could be electrifying given its recent impact. Walters offers a strong physical presence but matches it with skill on the deck. What’s more, he has the hunger of a player who worked his way up the lower leagues and now finds himself at the top table of international football. In the past we had the likes of Quinn and Cascarino to bring on and pump long balls up to in the hope of a break. Walters offers so much more than that and he could have a massive say in Ireland’s fortunes in Poland.
Despite rare appearances at club-level, Cox has added something extra to Ireland’s attack. A favourite of the management team, at one stage he was ahead of Long in the striking pecking order. Cox and Keane have been tried together without much success but any other combination of our forwards has the potential to click. The Bosnian game was remarkable for the amount of chances and through-balls Ireland created and if we are finally providing service to our front-men, there’s every chance that Cox can be the one to make it count. It has been remarked how Ireland boasts more attacking options now than we’ve seen in years. Hopefully Trap’s decision to bring five strikers is a signal of intent from the Republic.