Republic of Ireland Gear Up For End Of Season Challenges

on May 20 2013 4:29 PM

Republic Of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni, suggested last week that the inclusion of Anthony Pilkington, in what seems like an excessive end of season cluster of matches, could see the utilization of the Norwich City wide man in a restructured midfield formation. 

The opportunity {or pressure} to try something different seems to have arisen and Trapattoni implied the type of midfielder Pilkington is would have allowed for a five man midfield with Wes Hoolahan sitting off a lone striker.  But then came today's news that Pilkington's ongoing knee issue meant that rest is to be the best medicine in close season. 

Trapattoni will have other options and the opportunity to tinker with the shape of his Irish team isn't lost by the withdrawal of a player who has yet to play for Ireland.  Whether his enthusiasm to wane from the norm though, ensues, remains to be seen. 

There seems to be a lot happening around this Irish team in a very short space of time.  A long awaited re-match against England.  Combat 18 managed to wipe David Kelly's opener at Landsdowne road 18 years ago from the archives.  Game abandoned.  No chance of a repeat next Wednesday.  As frantic as an opening to that game though would be quite welcome though.  But for all the history, the excitement and the impassioned roars that will hurtle about Wembley, the match is ultimately meaningless.  A victory would be great fun.  But not as much fun as beating the Faroe Islands in a World Cup Qualifier on the 7th of June; or the vital post summer qualifiers at home to Sweden and away to Austria in September.  Subsequent visits to Germany and of Kazakhstan might well be an irrelevance by the time they roll around.

And sandwiched between a sexy trip to London and a vital qualifier is the visit of Georgia on the Sunday between.  It's hard to imagine a less attractive and a more meaningless friendly.  But does that mean the visit to New York for a meeting with Spain on June 11th is of more significance?  Well no, it isn't.  It's a fine opportunity for promoters, admittedly a great day out for Irish-Americans and a potentially interesting spectacle.  But interesting doesn't necessarily mean meaningful.  And meaningful it isn't.

The only game of any real importance in the next few weeks is the visit of the Faroese in a match not only Ireland must win, but a match they really should win with considerable ease.  Cue an early goal from inspirational captain Fróði Benjaminsen or goalscorer against Ireland in October Arnbjørn Hansen.  Cue the pressure ratcheting around a soon to be derelict Landsdowne road only for a wayward corner to be caught by a misguided breeze from the Poolbeg peninsula, swooping in under the visitors crossbar.  Cue a deflated cheer and the extension of an Italians sojourn if not his contract.

Pilkington's withdrawal is not a loss as we don't yet know what he has to offer the Irish set up in the environs and the structure he would and could have been asked to play in against England.  His withdrawal will not be the last; the greatest flurry though should come after the business of the world cup qualifier.  The attraction of Spain will wane.  Like heavy eyes struggling to stay alert, the heart for a transatlantic exhibition match will feel attractive for some.  For others a rare break from football and family time will take precedence.  Plus the inevitability of at least one injury.

The side to face England will change substantially by the time Ireland face Spain.  But for all the history and drama of England, pre-qualifier importance of Georgia and allure of Spain; the only show in town is the visit of Lars Olsen's side, hungry for their first point in Group C.