6 October ~ Anyone glancing across the Premier League teamsheets last weekend could be forgiven for thinking that the Republic of Ireland was in trouble going into the upcoming Euro 2012 qualifying games against Russia and Slovakia. Only four of the Irish squad - John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, Kevin Doyle and Kevin Foley - managed to complete 90 minutes. Of the others who started, Damien Duff limped off injured, Seamus Coleman is uncapped and Keith Fahey was substituted after a disappointing display.

The Irish team’s two most important players - captain and record goalscorer Robbie Keane and vice-captain and joint record caps holder Shay Given – warmed the bench due to the stubbornness of Harry Redknapp and the form of Joe Hart. Glenn Whelan can’t get in the Stoke team, Aiden McGeady has featured intermittently so far for Spartak Moscow since his August move from Celtic, Keith Andrews has 25 Premier League minutes so far this season, Darron Gibson has three. No Irish squad member has scored a Premier League goal and it’s already October.

And yet, there is a feeling in Ireland that this lack of playing time for players doesn’t really matter. Under Giovanni Trapattoni, which individuals take to the field seems almost irrelevant. The defence against Russia on Friday evening will more than likely include Preston’s Sean St Ledger and Kevin Kilbane of Hull City’s bench. Derby County’s Paul Green and Portsmouth’s Liam Lawrence are set to start in midfield.

These players will undoubtedly line up in Trap’s preferred system, a ramrod rigid 4-4-2 with Green and Whelan as disciplined central midfielders who press, tackle, harry, get stuck in and keep their shape, but do not pass the ball particularly well. Discipline, for Trap, is the most important attribute for a player, especially a midfielder. Anyone who shows a lack of this discipline – such as James McCarthy who cried off an end-of-season training camp or Andy Reid who lead a late-night singsong at the team hotel – do not get a look in. Gibson will be on the bench, after Trap openly explained that the Manchester Utd midfielder hasn’t got enough experience tackling because his club team is too good. The less said about Steven Ireland in relation to discipline the better perhaps.

Those who like their midfielders to show a little more creativity and individuality – including RTE pundits John Giles and Eamon Dunphy – have criticised Trap’s systematic approach, but the results so far have been difficult to argue with. We were unbeaten through the qualifiers for the last World Cup, drawing home and away with Italy, only losing to Thierry Henry’s late handball in the play-offs. The current qualifying campaign began with solid but unspectacular wins against Armenia and Andorra. Russia at home and then Slovakia away on Tuesday are likely to be stiffer tests, but despite the concerns over the form and fitness of the squad, most Irish fans are not that worried. For Trap’s Ireland, it seems, you can’t beat the system. Dermot Corrigan

Comments (12)
Comment by diarmuidobrien 2010-10-06 11:14:25

Was always going to be how Trap rolled and with the overall technical standard of our players it's likely the best approach regardless of how nice it would be to pass and move.

Interestingly, Dunphy and Gilesy are well on side with the Trap programme now. They have embraced the reality of our situation and realise this is our best shot.

Let's hope there are more believers after the game on Friday night.

Comment by jameswba 2010-10-06 11:40:00

I live in Slovakia and, from what I know of the Slovak side and from what Russia produced against the Slovaks last month, I think Ireland could do well in these games.

Slovakia are going to miss Vittek, scorer of four World Cup goals in South Africa, and will be worried about McGeady, who had a great game for Spartak Moscow against Zilina in the CL last week.
For the little (nothing, in fact) that it's worth, I see Ireland leaving Zilina with a draw next Tuesday. As for Russia, they look beatable, especially if some atmosphere can be created in that new Dublin stadium...

Guess all Irish fans will know about the so-called 'beer train' being laid on next Tuesday to get them from Bratislava to Zilina and back again.

Comment by Duncan Gardner 2010-10-06 12:29:21

"We were unbeaten through the qualifiers for the last World Cup, drawing home and away with Italy, only losing to Thierry Henry’s late handball in the play-offs"

You lost at home to the French, not in Paris which was a draw. Gallas's goal didn't stop you winning after the second leg, as without it the tie would have gone to penalties, ie been drawn. You went into the second leg needing to score at least two goals in 90 or 120 minutes to win without a shoot-out and couldn't manage it. So maybe the Gallas goal wasn't quite the only reason for not making it.

"No Irish squad member has scored a Premier League goal and it’s already October"

Chris Brunt?

Comment by SwanVsDalton 2010-10-06 12:54:08

Duncan Gardner - You can't have it both ways. If ROI 'lost at home to the French' after 90 mins then ROI also beat the French in Paris after 90. If however we 'went into the second leg need to score at least two goals' then the French needed to go into the second leg not conceding at least two goals and the tie hadn't been won or lost at all. Make up your mind - either way it hardly argues against the writer's point ie Trap's system worked quite well in the qualifiers and playoffs (home leg against France excepted).

"Aiden McGeady has featured intermittently so far for Spartak Moscow since his August"

McGeady's been a constant presence in the Spartak side for the last 5-6 games, including two Champions League matches, and has been in sparkling form by all accounts.


Comment by Duncan Gardner 2010-10-06 13:04:16

"Duncan Gardner - You can't have it both ways"

I can actually, as some games last 90 minutes of open play, others 120.

"the tie hadn't been won or lost at all. Make up your mind"

Er, as I didn't say or suggest it had been won or lost, I don't need to "make up my mind". I was merely challenging Dermot's clear asumption that if Gallas hadn't scored you would have qualified. You MIGHT have in a shoot-out, but it's hardly a Seamus eh?

Comment by SwanVsDalton 2010-10-06 13:48:56

'Er, as I didn't say or suggest it had been won or lost...'

'You lost at home to the French.'

The same way we beat the French in Paris, over 90 minutes. Or perhaps we were merely drawing with them after 180 minutes, in which case we hadn't lost since it was 1-0 at 'half-time'. Hey you decide, I don't really mind either way.

Given the margins of that game were so tight, the writer isn't wrong to suggest Henry's handball was the difference. After all it did lead directly to the winning goal. You could say it was McShane's awful defending, or Keane's wastefulness in front of goal or the linesman forgetting to go for an eye check-up - it doesn't matter because it all boils down to the same. ROI were knocked out in unlucky circumstances and were very close to qualifying for a major tourney on the back of Trap's system. Just because he's saying ROI were unlucky NOT to qualify doesn't necessarily mean ROI definitely WOULD HAVE qualified.

As for penos given we'd beat the French off park, dominated from start to finish and the crowd were getting on their back so I think it's fair to say we'd have a great chance...but yeah hardly a Seamus (whatever that means)... ;)

Comment by paullwolves 2010-10-06 13:59:23

Not to get engaged in the discussion above, but I'm fairly certain Chris Brunt plays for Northern Ireland, not Eire. Sorry Duncan.

I'm also definitely not opening a political can of worms with definitions of Ireland etc :)

Comment by Duncan Gardner 2010-10-06 14:05:30

You lost the home tie. It didn't knock you out of the tournament, but still significant.

You DREW the away tie, because quite simply that was the result at the end of open play; the score at 90 minutes isn't enough in itself, it triggers whether there needs to be the extra half hour. You can;t consider first and second legs in exactly the same way for this reason.

Gallas's goal made a difference, your team's failure to score a second also made a difference. You didn't dominate throughout anyway, the French were the better side in extra time.

Seamus = Shay.

Comment by Duncan Gardner 2010-10-06 14:37:48

PS Paul: it's that big island near Britain with the two mediocre international football teams.

Comment by jameswba 2010-10-06 15:00:11

So what is Britain? The big island near Ireland with three mediocre international football teams?

Comment by Dalef65 2010-10-06 16:45:48

Robbie Keane warms the bench "due to the stubbornness of Harry Redknapp"..........???????

No mate,I make it due to the "stubbornness" of at least three better players....
Defoe,Crouch,Van Der Vaart and possibly even Pavlyuchenko....

Comment by Janik 2010-10-07 23:27:10

And Keane's legs having gone.

Whelan not getting a start at Stoke is more of a mystery to me. He is the best midfielder we have.

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