Which Irish players have the most to benefit from Euro 2012?
17:42, 02 Jun 2012
Miguel Delaney goes through the Irish squad and spells out the - realistic - best-case scenario for each of the 23 players
Gary Breen knows the possibilities from a positive international tournament. A free agent before going to the 2002 World Cup, he courted genuine interest from some big continental clubs after it... before ending up at West Ham. But, hey, it was a Premier League job. As such, this isn’t just a big tournament for Ireland. It’s a potentially transformative one for the squad’s individual players. He will offer the realistic best-case scenarios for each player...
1. Shay Given
The one caveat to Given’s accomplished career is that the feeling remains his club achievements never seemed to quite match his quality. A more lavish connection was denied by loyalty and misfortune. First, when he stayed at Newcastle United so long. Second when he went to Manchester City at exactly the wrong time. And, when people look back in the future, that will possibly stand against him. As such, a fine performance in this summer’s championships could give him the reputation he truly deserves beyond Ireland. Look, after all, at how Packie Bonner is still praised for Euro 88 despite the fact Scottish clubs weren’t exactly making waves on the continent at that time. Given was good in 2002. To people beyond Ireland, this can make him great.
2. Sean St Ledger
Should St Ledger generally continue his quality of performance alongside Richard Dunne for Ireland then, on a higher stage, it may well secure him a move to a higher-level club. And, if he can even improve on them, all the better.
3. Stephen Ward
As the newest member of Giovanni Trapattoni’s backline, Ward doesn’t yet look fully on the same wavelength as the other four. That should develop over the course of this tournament, and might help him to put in the kind of dramatic tackles and blocks that finally deflect some of the minimal criticism he has received.
4. John O’Shea
As the most decorated member of the squad and now an influential player at Sunderland, O’Shea is arguably enjoying the best club career. He hasn’t enjoyed the greatest fitness over the last 18 months, however, and an injury-free run would be ideal. Of course, having just missed out in 2002 because of his age and development at that time, this will finally be a chance to play on one of the biggest international stages.
5. Richard Dunne
To a certain degree, Dunne suffers a similar problem to Given. His club career and international career haven’t quite been in synch. Indeed, many Aston Villa supporters have balked when they’ve seen Dunne’s brilliant performances for Ireland. A few more, over the next fortnight, and there may be no more question marks.
6. Glenn Whelan
Despite the fact that Glenn Whelan only ever does exactly what Trapattoni expects of him, he still receives an unfair amount of criticism. One key pass or one key goal – in amidst his general housekeeping role – may well kill it forever.
7. Aiden McGeady
Will Ireland finally see the real McGeady? Having been held back by the responsibilities of Trapattoni’s system for so long, the winger finally seemed to express himself – and flourish – in the recent friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina. If he can continue that, then not only can he similarly win over fans for good but he can also earn a move to a club of a similar status to Spartak.
8. Keith Andrews
As a free agent, Andrews couldn’t really have seen Darron Gibson suddenly coming to prominence at a worse time. And, although they linked up well against Bosnia in the second half, there’s now doubt over which two will start in the middle. In order to move to a club that generally befits his fine contribution for Ireland over the last two years, Andrews needs to be in that team. Because, when he’s there he’s hugely dependable.
9. Kevin Doyle
Arguably the player with the most to gain from the tournament. In the last two years, Doyle has only scored for Ireland against Andorra and that poor form carried into the Premier League with Wolves. He needs a big goal and a big move on the back of it.
10. Robbie Keane
Although it’s already exceptionally difficult to argue that Ireland have ever had a better forward in terms of pure effect than Robbie Keane, he can put that beyond doubt with even one big goal in the first three games. And, to be fair, he has form. Keane hit three in four in 2002 and has scored in virtually all of Ireland’s big games – from Paris to Estonia – under Giovanni Trapattoni.
11. Damien Duff
Duff is possibly the Irish player at the most stable point in his career. He’s performing well in an upwardly mobile Fulham team and is a respected fixture in Ireland’s. All he needs to do is continue that.
12. Stephen Kelly
Given that Trapattoni doesn’t trust him at centre-back and Paul McShane seems to have jumped ahead of him at right-back, even a few minutes would be a good tournament for Kelly.
13. Paul McShane
To an extent, he’s already had his good tournament. He’s there. Like a few others, though, he can permanently transform perceptions – and his club career – with even one effective appearance, be that from the start or the bench.
14. Jonathan Walters
Another member of the squad who is here having enjoyed his club season. Likely to be an impact sub, a good tournament would constitute either an effective cameo or – best of all – a big goal off the bench.
15. Darron Gibson
Gibson can cap a very sudden and very extensive transformation in his career by ousting either Keith Andrews or Glenn Whelan from central midfield and continuing the apparent evolution in Trapattoni’s system that we say against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
17. Stephen Hunt
With the form of James McClean, Hunt has dropped down the pecking order in terms of subs, let alone starters. One of the more revealing sights during the Bosnia game was the winger stripping off and attempting to force Trapattoni to bring him on to no avail. Will likely only get one of his 10-minute cameos in the tournament. Needs to make it count.
18. Darren O’Dea
Only likely to feature in the event of injury to St Ledger or Dunne. Needs to do what he has done in such circumstances: keep it steady.
19. Shane Long
There’s one clear target for Long beyond the opposition goal: taking Kevin Doyle’s place alongside Robbie Keane.
20. Simon Cox
Cox suffered a frustrating season with West Brom so could do with continuing his Irish form on such a platform: coming off the bench to great effect.
21. Paul Green
Like McShane, the fact he’s here is a positive enough. An effective few minutes, though, might also get him a good club move.
22. James McClean
Is there much that can go against him at the moment? McClean can cap a perfect year by even coming on and making life difficult for an opposition side. That seems eminently probable. Of course, a goal would send him into the stratosphere.