Giovanni Trapattoni has named the Irish squad who will represent the nation at a first European Championships since 1988. There was heartbreak for James McCarthy who withdrew after his father was diagnosed with a serious illness but James McClean has continued his phenomenal rise to stardom by staking his place on the plane.
The web was alive all day with rumour and counter-rumour about the player who would have to pull out due to ‘personal reasons’. One dubious-looking site got the drop on the rest by reporting that Damien Duff was the man to miss out.
In the end, we were greeted with the heart-breaking news that James McCarthy’s father has been diagnosed with cancer and the young midfielder has been to forced to pull out of the Irish squad.
Giovanni Trapattoni said we have arrived at qualification through team spirit. It wasn’t easy for him to name the squad but James McCarthy also deserved to be there. The player had called the manager to inform him he would be staying at home.
Trapattoni broke the story as he announced the players who’ll follow him to Poland this summer.
The Italian came down from his mountain pilgrimage at Croagh Patrick last week telling us he knew the squad he will pick but the Irish players are already perfectly familiar with his commandments. And Trap, as he said he would, rewarded those who’ve led us back to the Promised Land, a major finals.
The 73-year-old had dropped the major hint that James McClean would be included and he confirmed the Sunderland star would be in Poland. Otherwise, it’s as we expected. In fact, the majority of Irish fans can probably pick the starting eleven for the first clash with Croatia.
This settled team and their familiarity with the much-discussed Trapattoni system means the Republic approach the tournament in confident form. Despite the travails of many of the squad who’ve endured tough campaigns at club level, like the relegated Wolves contingent, most know their international manager has put his faith in them. Some are assured of a starting berth regardless of their club form.
Contrast this with the plight of our near-neighbours. Managerless until recent days, the make-up of the England squad is peppered with gaps. The new man in charge, Roy Hodgson, could have a few surprises in store and there will be plenty of players sweating going into the final weekend of the English season.
Despite the prospect of facing Croatia, Italy, and the World and European champions Spain, there is a sense in the Irish camp of ‘Bring em on’. This Republic team, for all their frailties, don’t concede many goals. We are targeting the Croatia game to get us off to the best possible start while the Italians hold no fear for the Boys in Green.
Spain may possess the Fantastic Four in the midfield but the Thing comes in the shape of Richard Dunne. It may be the longest 90 minutes in history but if we stand firm, the Spanish Armada may perish on Irish rocks for a second time, and a result there may send the good ship Ireland sailing into the knock-out rounds.
Republic of Ireland Euro 2012 squad:
Given, Westwood, Forde, Dunne, O’Shea, St.Ledger, O’Dea, Ward, Kelly, Foley, Whelan, Gibson, Andrews, Fahey, Duff, McGeady, Hunt, McClean, Keane, Doyle, Cox, Long, Walters. STANDBY: Randolph, McShane, Green, Coleman, Keogh