Staunton promises attacking approach

March 28, 2007

Manager Steve Staunton has singled out Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady as the players to send the Republic of Ireland into the summer on a high.

After the defensive-minded line-up for Saturday's 1-0 victory over Wales, one for which under-fire boss Staunton was criticised, the 38-year-old has taken the bull by the horns for Wednesday night's clash with Slovakia.

It appears McGeady will take up his natural position on the right wing, with Duff on the left, while recent goalscoring hero Stephen Ireland will operate behind striker Kevin Doyle.

In another 'must-win' Euro 2008 qualifying showdown at Croke Park, Staunton knows he has to go for broke to keep his side in the hunt for a place in next summer's finals.

McGeady, who has played consistently well for Celtic this season, will win his ninth cap against the Slovaks, with Jonathan Douglas the player sacrificed.

'He is very tricky, has been excellent in training and has played in the Champions League this season,' explained Staunton.

'Aiden's been close to starting every game because he is a special talent.

'After analysing the Slovakians over the last few months, we feel Damien and Aiden are going to be the key to us winning the game.'

Duff produced one of his better Ireland performances of late against Wales, although he admits he has not had the best of seasons since his move to Newcastle from Chelsea last summer.

'Anything that could go wrong this season has,' assessed Duff.

'I've had all sorts of niggles, but I feel I'm definitely getting back into my stride.

'For the past three or four weeks, after coming back from a virus, I've been working hard at club level with Nigel Pearson.

'I've been getting back to basics, running at people and stuff like that. That's what my game is all about.

'I feel an awful lot stronger, and hopefully I can finish the season stronger.'

Staunton would love nothing more than for Ireland to finish their competitive campaign with a fourth successive Group D victory.

That would keep them firmly in the qualification picture ahead of their next games - a double-header against the Czech Republic and Slovakia in September.

'We got the three points that we needed at the weekend, and it's put us in a nice position,' added Staunton.

'If we win the game we're in a healthy position, with no competitive match then for six months.

'So that's all we can do and we will take it from there. We'll see what happens in the rest of the group.'

While Staunton knows the Slovaks are 'a strong, physical side,' he feels he has picked a team that can win the game.

'They're very athletic, with players that can break from midfield and will cause us problems,' said Staunton.

'They're quick down the left flank, but we've the right players in the right positions to cause them one or two problems.'

The backline is unchanged following the win over Wales, with Shay Given skippering the side in the absence of Robbie Keane who serves a one-match ban.

Newcastle goalkeeper Given also wins his 80th cap, equalling the record number for a Republic goalkeeper set by Packie Bonner.