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GK: Shay Given, Kieran Westwood, David Forde
DEF: Sean St Ledger, Stephen Ward, John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, Stephen Kelly, Paul McShane, Darren O’Dea
MID: Glenn Whealan, Aiden McGeady, Keith Andrews, Damien Duff, Darron Gibson, Stephen Hunt, Paul Green, James McLean
ATT: Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane, Jon Walters, Shane Long, Simon Cox
This is the second time Ireland have qualified for the Euro Finals. The only other time was in Euro 1988 in Germany. On that occasion, the failed to make it past the group stages but did beat England 1-0 in their opening group game thanks to a goal from Ray Houghton.
The Manager: Giovanni Trapattoni
The Italilan has been in charge of the Republic of Ireland since 2008. In this time, he has been relatively successful in his time in charge. He took his team agonisingly close to qualification to South Aftica 2010. Only an extra time goal, assisted by the Hand of Thierry Henry prevented Ireland from qualifying for their first major tournament in nearly 10 years. Following a second place finish in the group, they faced Estonia in the playoffs. A superb 5-1 aggregate win ensured Trapattoni could put the ghosts of 2009 and Thierry Henry to bed. His training methods have been called into question by Aiden McGeady today after a newspaper article stated that the players are feeling fatigued before the tournament started.
Key Man: Shay Given
Ireland will have to draw upon the experience of players such as Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne and Damien Duff to stand any chance of progressing in the tournament, but Shay Given needs to be at his absolute best to give Ireland a solid defensive platform. He has been one of the best and most under rated goalkeepers in the Premiership for over a decade for Newcastle, Manchester City and Aston Villa. His 122 caps for his country is testament to how important he is to their fortunes. It’s a big boost that he’s been declared fit to play against Croatia.
One to Watch: James McLean
What a season its been for the youngster. Signing for Sunderland in August 2011 for £350,000 from Derry, he was tipped as a future star by then Black Cats Boss Steve Bruce. Since Martin O’Neill has taken over from Bruce, McLean has become a regular fixture in the Sunderland Line up. A tricky midfielder to defend against and has the ability to put a very good delivery into the box. He could prove a handful for defences unaware of his dangers, particulartly if Robbie Keane and co are clinical. Despite having played for Northern Ireland Under 21’s, he has chosen to represent his native Republic, a decision to which has seen him become the victim of Sectarian abuse on Twitter.
Prediction: Group Stages
Just being at the tournament is a great achievement for the Irish and I fear that in a group alongside Croatia, Italy and reigning champions Spain, they face an uphill struggle to qualify. They’re pre tournament form isn’t great either with a narrow win against Bosnia and being outplayed but scraping a 0-0 draw against Hungary. I fear that the Irish stay in Poland/Ukraine will ultimately be a short one.