Ireland’s unbeaten run has now been extended to 13 games following Saturday’s victory at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Despite not having big name stars, Giovanni Trapattoni has instilled confidence in his players and has devised a system that brings success. Supporters sometimes argue that his team is boring to watch but ask them if they would prefer to be at Euro 2012 having played “boring football” or watch the tournament from the outside looking in having played entertaining football throughout the tournament – there isn’t a doubt but they would choose the former. Ireland has qualified for the European championships for the first time since 1988 in Germany. This shows the scale of the wily Italian’s achievement. The Ireland team of 1988 had players of the calibre of Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, Pat Bonner and John Aldridge. Trapattoni’s team of 2012 doesn’t have the luxury of players of that quality. But the Italian’s methods work and this unbeaten streak proves it.
For most of his Ireland International caps, Aiden McGeady has faced heavy criticism from certain sections of fans as well as sectors of the press. His natural talent, skill and ability, which were noticeable from an early age, are unquestionable. Notwithstanding this, following all the neat footwork and trickery, too often the 26-year-old fails to deliver a telling cross – the Spartak Moscow player tends to take on too many players, lose possession, and another opportunity is wasted. On Saturday, however, he played a key role in the outcome of the game. He delivered a decisive cross in the 79th minute and found Shane Long, who duly scored. He had executed an excellent cross for Jonathan Walters just a few minutes previously but Asmir Begovic was equal to the powerful header. Despite only coming on as a substitute for Damien Duff, McGeady, with these two pieces of action, showed why he deserves a place in the starting line-up for the Euro 2012 opener next month. He is an exciting and entertaining player and should make an impact at the Euros.
Richard Dunne has been long recognised as the marshal of the Irish defence. Against Bosnia-Hercegovina, he made a number of critical interceptions at crucial intervals in the game. He may not be the fastest defender around, but his doggedness and stubbornness make him ideal to control the back-line. This team too often loses possession in midfield, arguably this team’s weakest point. Time and time again, however, the Dubliner comes to the rescue and recovers the situation. There have been concerns about his fitness in recent times but at least he allayed many of those fears with his performance. Dunne’s display against Russia in Moscow during the qualifying campaign showed his influence on the Irish team. If Dunne isn’t fit for any of the matches in June, Ireland will suffer, and suffer badly.
A lot of negative economic news has come from Ireland in recent times. The unemployment rate has increased and the standard of living has decreased for people. In spite of this over 37,000 paying fans attended Saturday’s international. This shows the fans unwavering loyalty to the team. There are many other major sporting events in Ireland this weekend, including the Guineas Horseracing Festival at The Curragh, and GAA Championship matches throughout the country, to name but a few. These will attract large crowds but a friendly international match could still attract just fewer than 40,000 people. Many thousands of them will also head to Poland and Ukraine in the coming weeks to follow their heroes. Loyalty unquestionable.
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