Let’s hope Conor Sammon isn’t a Twitter fan. We should also hope he doesn’t listen to radio, read newspapers or listen to the voices of every second person on the street. Such is the depth of the belief that Wes Hoolahan should start against Austria in Ireland’s pivotal group C game on Tuesday night at Landsdowne Road, that a man making his competitive international debut, has been given an inadvertent kicking.
What irks people is what Sammon embodies. A long ball game after all the potential of Stockholm is what is believed will be reverted to. Not the glimpses of possession football we were treated to at times and could potentially, properly indulge in if James McCarthy and Hoolahan were to line out together. No what Tuesday night will now embody is long, aimless balls in line with the upper tiers of the West and East stands at Lansdowne Road towards an inadequate target man.
How Ireland will function when they take to the field remains to be seen. If McCarthy stamps his authority on the game along with some robust support from Glenn Whelan, a frenzy of lofted balls might not neccesarily be the outcome. If Marc Wilson starts, he and Seamus Coleman will look to double up with James McClean and Jonathan Walters respectively, stretching the Austrian’s in the corners and creating space.
But there will be occasions, probably several of them, whereby the long ball option will be taken. This will occur when countering Austrian attacks and inevitably periods of the game where a variance of approaches will be needed. What is worrying from an Irish perspective is whether Sammon will cope.
In his Debut last month against Poland, Sammon struggled with his first touch and his control let him down on a few occasions. That he was valiant in his efforts is not in question. But where Giovanni Trapattoni is being unfair is expecting too much of Sammon, too soon. If the occasion of the 26 year old making his debut in his home city does take its toll on the Derby County striker then his international carer could be over before it’s begun. What’s different between him and Hoolahan is that if Hoolahan where to start the momentum of the confidence of his polished cameo appearances against Poland and Sweden would be with him. That and a crowd who believe in his ability.
Once Sammon makes his first mistake tomorrow night there will be audible groans. A scapegoat, probably. But an unfair one at that. There is little willingness for Sammon to progress. It can’t be dismissed that there appears to be a palpable hope that the earlier he fails, the earlier we will see the introduction of Hoolahan. But this can’t be the most positive approach. Ot the fairest.
While Sammon is a Championship player, so are Kevin Doyle and Simon Cox. Cox and Doyle played in the Premier League last season, but so did Sammon at Wigan Athletic. Sammon has scored 8 times so far this season. Kevin Doyle 7 and Simon Cox 5. Yet it could be argued that Sammon is used more as a target man than Cox and on an equal level to Doyle. Doyle is unquestionably the strongest of the three and most capable of creating space. But Sammon has been picked ahead of him and he needs the chance to show he’s equally capable.
It’s a big night for everyone on Tuesday night. But for a young Dubliner who came to prominence only a short distance from Landsdowne road at UCD, it’s a huge night. And if it doesn’t go to plan the way his manager wishes it to, let’s not trample his international future to death in the stampede for a fall guy.