Preview: Hungary vs Republic of Ireland
Foley-gate may be no more with Giovanni Trapattoni firmly drawing a line under the subject but there are a few more faces in the Irish squad who could face tough conversations with the manager after Monday’s final warm-up game with Hungary. Players like Kevin Doyle and Stephen Hunt have some work to do in Budapest or they may find themselves down the pecking order come the showdown with Croatia just six days later.
Injury worries aside, there’s one or two players in the Irish squad who are no longer assured of a starting place. Aiden McGeady responded to the threat from James McClean by putting in a man-of the-match display against Bosnia & Herzegovina at Lansdowne Road. Monday’s match with Hungary is last chance saloon for other Euro hopefuls.
Kevin Doyle looked a frustrated figure on the bench when he was replaced in that game at the Aviva last week. The Wexican international endured a torrid season at Molinuex as Wolves dropped through the trap door. Strikers in teams that are relegated rarely shine and Doyle is too good a player not to bounce back but he needs a big showing in Poland. This time last year Arsenal and Juventus were being linked with the former Cork City star. Such illustrious names are unlikely to come calling unless Doyle makes a name for himself at Euro 2012. Monday’s match with Hungary is his final opportunity to convince Trapattoni that he still merits his status in the starting line-up on June 10th in Poznan.
Shane Long and Jonathan Walters did themselves no harm at all in the Bosnian game and there is a school of thought that Walters could be drafted into the first eleven to disrupt the Croatian defence in Ireland’s opening game at the Euros.
Both Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli have stressed that international duty can re-animate those who’ve had poor seasons in England. However, the players have been in camp for some time now and have had two outings against the Bosnians and the Tuscany selection. Both Long and Walters were on target in the second game and the likes of Doyle and Hunt are running out of time if they want to convince the management that they should start or even merit first place on the subs bench.
Stephen Hunt had his season disrupted through injury but he was below par during Wolves’ dismal campaign. His one saving grace is that he is well used to partnering Stephen Ward on the left wing and that defensive understanding could well ensure Hunt remains ahead of James McClean as Ireland’s foremost impact sub.
Monday’s opponent’s Hungary finished third in Euro 2012 qualifying behind Holland and Sweden. They recorded a 2-1 win at home to Sweden and an 8-0 victory over San Marino during the campaign with Panathinaikos’ Gergely Rudolf finishing top scorer with six goals.
The Boys in Green however take a quite a sensational run of form to Budapest. Trapattoni’s Ireland are unbeaten in their last 13 games. They’ve not lost in their last 15 away ties and have kept a clean sheet in the last five matches. Ireland have only lost once in their five previous visits to Hungary but will face a decent test before boarding the flight to Poland. The Hungarians suffered just one defeat in their last nine matches, winning six and drawing two. Tamas Priskin has scored three goals in the last three matches while his team have not conceded in their last eight games at home.
Hungary were in our qualifying group when Jack Charlton triumphantly led the Republic to our first World Cup at Italia ’90. A 0-0 draw in Budapest was followed by a 2-0 win at Lansdowne. In September 1991, Ireland won 2-1 in a friendly in Gyor while two years later the Hungarians were the visitors for David O’Leary’s testimonial in Dublin, one of four games when they were managed by a certain Mr. Ferenc Puskas.
The Mighty Magyars were the icons of Hungarian football. With Trap’s players about to follow in the footsteps of our own Euro ’88 history makers, this game represents a last chance to etch their names on the first Republic of Ireland European Championship team-sheet for 24 years.