James McClean-mania has reached fever pitch in some quarters but Giovanni Trapattoni is not going to drastically change tactics at this point. The amount of previews of the Czech game suggesting McClean would start on the left were scarcely credible and against everything we have learned from the Trap era. The Irish manager is admant that the preparations for the European Championships start here. Only a series of injuries will open the door for fringe players in the Irish set-up.
Trap has named as strong a team as was available to him. Both Keith Fahey and Kevin Doyle failed fitness tests and returned to their clubs. Shane Duffy and James McClean will start on the bench but despite what many think, it is unlikely that we will see either in action.
The purpose of calling them up, however, is in case we sustain injuries between now and the summer. We have already seen how fragile our first eleven can be. Richard Dunne is out for the rest of the season and could still be below 100% fitness by the time the finals roll around, presuming his recovery goes to plan.
It is imperative that Ireland have a Plan B. not just in terms of personnel, but in tactics too. We are set up to stop better opponents from playing. Trapattoni’s favoured squad is not equipped to come back when things are going against us.
Having said that, despite been given a lesson by Russia at the Aviva at the start of the Euro qualifying, we very nearly redeemed something from that game with a late fightback spear-headed by Shane Long who starts against the Czechs.
Yet, we need a creative spark when things are not working. Stephen Hunt is a game lad who can have an impact off the bench. If indeed the Euros start here, the Irish public need to see appetite to maintain the feel-good factor sweeping the nation. Form players like McClean could provide the little bit of magic needed.
Much of the cynicism directed at the national side over the last number of years has evaporated since the play-off in November and the football team is enjoying a welcome return to the people’s affections.
Ireland are set to enjoy one of the highest support bases at the European Championships and that optimism needs to be maintained with a strong showing on Wednesday. It should elevate the game above usual friendly-fare. If it doesn’t, we could easily see that air of hope punctured in Dublin this week. A lack-lustre, boring display, will do much to revive the negativity.
In many respects nothing hinges on this game but you would expect a zip in training as the Irish squad realise there is competition for places on the plane to Poland.
There have been very few cry-offs this time, something Trapattoni takes a dim view of at the best of times. Stephen Kelly and Kieron Westwood sustained injuries in training and have withdrawn.
Apart from the missing Doyle and Dunne, the team is as close to what we can expect for the opening game against Croatia on June 10.
The Czechs are without Tomas Rosicky who put in possibly his best performance for Arsenal in the North London derby last weekend.
The vistors to the Aviva have been drawn in a group with Poland, Russia, and Greece at Euro 2012.
Perhaps Trap will surprise us all by giving McClean a run at Lansdowne Road. If for no other reason than to wipe away any complacency that might linger over some squad members, it would be a worthwhile exercise. And McClean might leave the manager with even more to ponder.
Republic of Irelan: Given; O’Shea, St Ledger, O’Dea, Ward; Duff, Andrews, Whelan, McGeady; Keane; Long