There were no surprises in the Irish squad that Giovanni Trapattoni announced on Friday for the play off clash with Estonia. The Italian, correctly it seems, included the recovering Robbie Keane not to mention the injured Shane Long overlooking Leon Best and Anthony Stokes in the process and of the 26 man squad named just 19 players started for their clubs at the weekend.
In the second of a new feature, “The Trap Door”, SportsNewsIreland will look at the form of those in the squad as well as those on the fringes with the crucial play-off looming.
In the goal keeping department, rivals Shay Given and Keiren Westwood came face to face at the Stadium of light. Despite the game ending 2-2, it was Given who conceded the most, Westwood coming on after 52 minutes to made his Premier League debut as with his side 1-0 down. There was little Given could do about either goal while Westwood, who made an immediate impression on the fans as he saved from Darren Bent, will have bemoaned the defending that led to Villa scoring with 5 minutes to go.
Third choice keeper David Forde also failed to keep a clean sheet however that didn’t stop Millwall from recording a 4-1 win over Ipswich for whom Keith Andrews started.
Richard Dunne, the record own goal scorer in Premier League history, managed to score in an opposition goal as he put Villa 2-1 up before Sunderland’s late equaliser.
John O’Shea also featured in that game however the Irish management team will be sweating on his fitness after the former Manchester United man went off after only 35 minutes with a hamstring injury and he could be a real worry ahead of the Estonia game.
Likely replacement Stephen Kelly was once again consigned to the bench as Fulham beat Wigan 2-0 while Stephen Ward, who looks to have nailed the left back spot of late, played the full 90 minutes as Wolves went down 3-1 to Manchester City.
Dropping down a division, Championship based trio Darren O’Dea, Sean St Ledger and Paul McShane all enjoyed indifferent weekends.
Leeds star O’Dea received the backing of his boss despite gifting Cardiff the opener in Leeds 1-1 with the Welsh side. O’Dea failed to clear the ball on 17 minutes allowing Joe Mason to nip in score.
The on-loan Celtic defender was then substituted after 30 minutes with his manager Simon Grayson saying “He (O’Dea) got a knock on the head in the last five minutes against Birmingham, suffered a bit of dizziness, declared himself fit yesterday after training, got a bang on it in the first part of the first half,”
“He had a lack of vision down one side and a bit of blurriness as well so he’s got concussion.
St Ledger meanwhile played the full 90 minutes as Leicester began life without Sven Goran Eriksson with a 3-2 defeat away to inform West Ham United, forgotten man Joey O’Brien also playing the full game for the Hammers.
Finally like Kelly, McShane continues to struggle to hold down a regular spot with Hull, the former Sunderland man once again on the bench as Hull beat Nottingham Forest 1-0.
In the midfield areas, with Glenn Whelan and forward cum winger Jon Walters’s not in action until Monday, it was a mixed weekend for the Irish with the squad members slightly outshining the regulars.
The clamour for Seamus Coleman will no doubt continue to increase after the Galway man put in a solid 90 minute shift as Everton went down to a Manchester United missing out of favour Darron Gibson.
However despite the form of Coleman it was Stephen Hunt who was the only Irish midfielder to score at the weekend as he netted from the spot as Wolves stuttering form continued with the loss to City.
James McCarthy was once again missing for Wigan as they fell to the bottom of the table; the Scottish born midfielder has been suffering from a hamstring injury in recent weeks and while he is in the squad he is unlikely to feature.
Damian Duff, will start against Estonia and should be fresh having struggled to get a regular start in recent weeks for Fulham, the former Chelsea man coming on in injury time against Wigan.
Birmingham’s Keith Fahey is unlikely to start in Tallinn however he has become a favourite off the bench for Trap and given the composure he brings to proceedings it’s good to see the former St Pats man playing the full 90 minutes for the Blues as they drew 0-0 with Brighton.
Another man unlikely to start is Liam Lawrence however he ensured that his fitness will be fine with a 90 minutes stint for Portsmouth
Finally, Aiden McGeady played the full game as Spartak Moscow beat Lokomotiv 3-0 to go level on points with their neighbours.
Up front there was some good news as Robbie Keane played 82 minutes for the LA Galaxy in their 1-0 win over the New York Bulls in the MLS play-off first leg.
While with Shane Long missing through injury, a result of some crude tackles the weekend before, Simon Cox got a rare chance to shine playing the final 20 minutes and one smart turn aside had little impact as West Brom lost to Liverpool, Doyle meanwhile claimed an assist, drawing a foul in the box and a red card for Vincent Kompany as Wolves went down to City.
Andy Keogh has been linked with a permanent move to Leeds United after impressing during his loan spell, forming an impressive partnership with Ross McCormack. The regular starts continued as Keogh lined up in the Cardiff game, playing 55 minutes before coming off as Leeds chased the game.
Good day for Richard Dunne – the Tallaght man might have been part of a backline that conceded two goals but he did put with a rare goal.
Welcome back – Robbie Keane looks to be over his injury woe as he started for the LA Galaxy.
Bad day for Darren O’Dea & John O’Shea – O’Dea went off with concussion but only after indecision, as a result of a knock to the head, saw Cardiff score while O’Shea was forced off with a hamstring injury
What do I need to do – Newcastle striker Leon Best, who is not in action until Monday, questioned his exclusion from the squad in an interview on Talksport.
The 7 times capped striker admitting he wasn’t sure what he needed to do to be named in a squad “Every time it’s mentioned it baffles me. I’ve seen what Trapattoni’s been saying in the papers about work rate but he only needs to ring up Newcastle and ask for my stats, it’s as simple as that.
“The Prozone will tell you that I’m doing nearly 10km a day. I don’t what it is. Obviously, if he’s saying I need to work harder then I need to work harder. He’s a man to learn off, he’s got the experience and he knows what he wants.”
Too late for Estonia but who knows in the future – David Meyler came on with 8 minutes to go in the Sunderland match. The 22 year old is finally injury free and that could spell good news for Ireland.