John Giles: Italian job a big positive
Trap’s men in form to achieve Euro mission
WHAT a fantastic way for Ireland to wrap up an endof- season international series which produced three crucial Euro 2012 points and a most unexpected, but very welcome, win over Italy.
Three weeks, four games and 10 goals scored with none conceded is an impressive run of statistics and Giovanni Trapattoni will be more than delighted.
It has been a difficult period for the manager and the players.
Trapattoni made a stand against what he saw as a lack of commitment from players who chose not to turn up and while there is still a debate to be had over the circumstances surrounding the ‘no shows', these wins give the manager the high ground.
There were some excellent individual performances, but the level of commitment and effort shown by Trapattoni's defence was striking.
It was remarkable that the first save of any consequence that David Forde had to make came in the 92nd minute and that reflected great credit on the players in front of him.
Lads such as Darren O'Dea and Sean St Ledger held the line brilliantly when the Italians poured on the pressure late in the game and I thought Stephen Hunt and Seamus Coleman were outstanding.
Hunt's passion and dogged refusal to let anyone get by him was inspirational for the rest of the team while Coleman looked like a player who will be hard to ignore from now on.
However, one player who cannot feel too happy about the past few weeks is Shane Long, who had to suffer the disappointment of losing the Premier League play-off and then suffered a further setback when he dropped down the pecking order as far as Trapattoni is concerned.
This was unfortunate, but once again Trapattoni's decisions worked against Macedonia and Long didn't do himself justice at all for the brief spell he played in Skopje and an hour against Italy.
The win over Macedonia was, in itself, the perfect way to end the season for Trapattoni and his players and it keeps alive the hope of Euro 2012 qualification until the autumn, when Group B will be decided.
I was worried about the game in the few days before it because I thought that the Macedonia we saw in Dublin in March would be a dangerous opponent on their own turf.
INJURIES I was worried that a stripped-down team reduced by injuries and Richard Dunne's suspension would find the going very hard in Skopje.
As it turned out, Trapattoni's back-up men were more than equipped to win the game, although I have to say there was a big element of good fortune in the victory.
Had Macedonia scored from their penalty kick, it might have been a very different game indeed. But Robbie Keane stepped up to the mark and duly broke Bobby Charlton's England scoring record; a fantastic achievement and one that should be celebrated.
At the other end, Shay Given once again showed why Ireland cannot afford to be without him and we must hope that he and the rest of Trapattoni's senior players are fit and ready when the qualifiers resume in September.