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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Madden Keane to make Ireland impact

Young striker showed a lot of promise with a performance which drew comparisons with captain

Republic of Ireland's Paddy Madden. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Paddy Madden. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile

IF there was one winner from Ireland's brief and sterile dalliance with the Welsh Dragon in Cardiff over the early part of the week, it was undoubtedly Paddy Madden.

When Trapattoni mused over Madden's short contribution to the friendly international against Wales at the Cardiff City Stadium after the game, he used the word "dangerous" and he wasn't minded to dilute his praise a day later in his post-match analysis.

Trapattoni saw something he liked in Madden and so did everyone else. This is a hungry footballer and one that is very clearly willing to learn on the hoof.

Whisper it quietly but he brought to mind a certain Robbie Keane and even if the comparison is tricky because of the age factor, it is still worth making.

Keane was on an upward curve in his mid-teens and was whacking them in for Wolves with barely any fuzz on his chin. Madden has worked his way to where he is the hard way.

Madden is more direct than Keane and has a yard extra pace than Ireland's record goalscorer ever had, but what he doesn't have is experience and Trapattoni was right when he pointed out that Ireland would have scored against Wales if Keane was on the pitch.

His logic was that Keane's quick mind and bible of experience would have made the difference for at least one of the chances which fell to Irish strikers during the game, and it was difficult to raise an argument against that.

But therein lies a tale of wider significance than the steep learning curve which faces Madden if he is to make it further up football's food chain to a position where he is named in every squad and won't be waiting for injuries.

Trapattoni's relationship with Keane is pragmatic and urgent. Without him in the team, Ireland struggle in front of goal and, again, this is a completely rational view.

But the price to be paid for his reliance on Keane for goals is the fact that Wes Hoolahan's potential as a playmaker and linkman between midfield and attack will never be properly explored while Trapattoni is manager.

Properly doesn't mean one 90-minute jaunt at the worst time to make a judgement. Hoolahan was not at his best but he was under a microscope and his legs were heavy from pre-season.

Reviewing Hoolahan's performance, Trapattoni smiled and explained a less than convincing 90 minutes by claiming he is not used to sprinting from box to box when playing for Norwich.

Why he was asked to do those 80-yard runs is anyone's guess. James McCarthy and Glenn Whelan were more than capable of coping with the hard yards in midfield and surely the whole point of Hoolahan's presence on the pitch was to explore possibilities as a creative force and not a defensive cog.

Put simply, Trapattoni has left it too late to do the work he needs to do with his players to accommodate a new direction sparked by Hoolahan.

So the rational approach to Sweden and Austria is to revert to type and bash the ball long towards Keane and hope that somehow, he can do enough to win three points against both sides.

Had Hoolahan turned it on and Ireland hammered Wales in Cardiff, Trapattoni would have had a problem. But his usual answer to this kind of dilemma is to plough on, make the press conferences even more confusing than they normally are and shrug his shoulders.

That's the way it has been from the start and he shows no signs of changing.

There was a moment in the last week which was worth noting and it came during an interview with Glenn Whelan, when he was asked for some highlights from his soon to be 50 caps.

He mentioned Paris and the play-off against France and said this was the only time during Trapattoni's era when the players had actually been encouraged to throw caution to the wind and take the shackles off.

In this case, nobody is suggesting that Trapattoni should abandon the four years of conditioning he has applied to his players but to win against Sweden and Austria – which Ireland must – will require something much better than anything produced in the two games against the same opposition to date.

And it will require an attitude from the manager which is more positive about his players and their ability than at any time in the past.

There were some passages of good passing football from Ireland against Wales but, as always, the underlying theme was always safety. Neither Seamus Coleman nor Marc Wilson ventured too far forward.

Trap wants goals from his wingers and he has a different idea of what constitutes a wide man than most of us. In his eyes, Jon Walters and Simon Cox are a better bet than James McClean and Robbie Brady.

It is probably pointless to say that neither Brady nor Walters has shot the lights out in front of goal since the experiment was first tried against Hungary in the run-up to Euro 2012 and failed so miserably at the finals in Poland.

He is a stubborn man, Trapattoni, and he won't budge. All we can do now is wait and hope. Anything less than six points from the next two games will leave qualification hanging by a frayed thread.

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