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INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY

Aviva Stadium

Referee: Sébastien Delferière | Attendance: 43112

* Local time based on your geographic location.

Republic of Ireland

  • Ciaran Clark 35'
  • Wesley Hoolahan 76'

2 - 0

FT

Ireland v Poland: Preview

Gareth Maher
Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is finally ready to make some changes

When results were going well for the Republic of Ireland, the motto repeated by manager Giovanni Trapattoni, through his garbled English, was that it would be foolish to change a winning team.

Well, the veteran Italian clung to that logic even when everything fell apart during a disastrous Euro 2012 campaign and his failure to learn from that debacle led to the 6-1 thumping at home to Germany in a World Cup qualifier last October.

Now, though, with the supporters and media almost out of breath from repeatedly calling for change, Trapattoni has started to listen with plenty of new faces in his squad and talk of positive tactics being adopted ahead of Wednesday's friendly with Poland. Hallelujah!!

The 73-year-old has promised to give game time to the uncapped Derby County trio of Richard Keogh, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon, while Millwall keeper David Forde will be afforded an opportunity to prove that he is ready to take over as the new No 1.

It is through the post-Euro's retirement of Shay Given and Damien Duff (along with the long-term absence of stalwart Richard Dunne) that Trapattoni has finally budged from his stubborn ways. And he knows that qualification for the 2014 World Cup is in the balance with his old guard not as reliable as they once were.

So what exactly needs to change? Well, for starters, the formation. During the defeats to Croatia, Spain and Italy at the Euros, Ireland were completely steamrolled due to a lack of support in the midfield and the bizarre selection of Simon Cox, a striker, as a roaming centre midfielder. It wasn't just their 4-4-2 set-up, it was how they played it.

Not every team needs to mimic Spain's creative approach and start with a false No. 9 or try to force a group of players to suddenly adopt a possession game. But, Trapattoni has finally seen the light (at least the Irish public hope so) that the modern international game is much faster, more technical, and unforgiveably brutal.

Blaming his limited pool of players can no longer be an excuse when the likes of Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington are regularly standing out in the Barclays Premier League with Norwich City. Yes, they are the exceptions in this Irish squad, but they have yet to be truly accomodated.

A hamstring injury rules Pilkington out of this game with Poland, but Hoolahan - a classy playmaker with a delicate touch and superb close control - deserves more time than what he has been afforded thus far, with only two caps earned for the Dubliner.

Then again, Trapattoni takes longer than most to embrace gifted players - just ask Everton midfielder Darron Gibson, who turned down a call-up this week and has yet to make himself available after not being used at the Euros. And he is just one of many to vent their frustration about the Italian's ways.

Of those who are in the manager's favour, Sammon sticks out. A bustling, hard-working striker who has netted five goals in 30 games for Derby this season, he has come a long way from playing for UCD in the League of Ireland and working in a bank.

"I always had plenty of belief from a young age, even if not everyone else did. I worked in a bank on Camden Street (in Dublin), trying to juggle football with that," Sammon revealed."I always felt if I could keep playing week in, week out, scoring goals regularly, the chance might come. I'm thankful that I've got the opportunity to link up with the lads and try and stake a claim and show I can play at this level."

Sammon's leap (pun intended) to the senior team brings the number of former League of Ireland players in the current squad up to nine - not bad considering Trapattoni was once quoted as saying that there was no league in Ireland. But his new-found fascination of experimenting should be encouraged.

It means that Ireland could actually head towards the World Cup qualifying double header with Sweden and Austria in March with some new options and players in form at club level, see Forde, getting the nod to start over old favourites, see Keiren Westwood, with only two appearances for Sunderland this season.

How they play will ultimately be dictated by the personnel selected, although there is a feeling that Trapattoni will scribble a 4-2-3-1 formation on his tactics board ahead of kick-off against the Poles and that could be a system that suits his players best.

A new style of play, some fresh faces and renewed optimtism; this could be the beginning of a new era for Ireland. But, nobody is getting carried away yet because Trapattoni has let them down countless times before.

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