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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Tardelli -- Trap has faith in trio

THERE WAS no excess baggage in international strikers when the Ireland squad flew out to Slovakia this morning to prepare for tomorrow's Euro 2012 qualifier as the Irish contingent included just three recognised forwards in the panel.

But Ireland assistant manager Marco Tardelli says that boss Giovanni Trapattoni will resist calls to add more players to the panel.

The withdrawal of Kevin Doyle yesterday with a knee injury leaves Ireland with only three centre-forwards -- Robbie Keane, Shane Long and Andy Keogh -- on the plane to Zilina this morning.

That means no late summons for Cillian Sheridan, who had been on stand-by, or Scottish-based pair Anthony Stokes and Daryl Murphy, who were both playing for Celtic against Bohemians in Dublin yesterday just a few miles away from the Ireland training camp.

There was also no call-up for the in-form Stoke City man Jonathan Walters, while Noel Hunt -- fit again following injury -- was also left undisturbed.

The issue of Stokes seems to be a cause celebre for the Ireland management team, with Trapattoni and Tardelli both seemingly reluctant to acclaim the charms of the Celtic striker who has not won a senior cap in over three years.

Worryingly for Stokes, it appears that the more people (the media especially) talk about him as a potential Ireland international, the more determined Trapattoni is to leave him out, as previous outcasts like Andy Reid, Lee Carsley and, more recently, James McCarthy have found out to their cost.

Many Ireland fans would be concerned about travelling to Slovakia with such a lightweight strike-force of just three forwards, but Tardelli stood his ground yesterday when asked if more strikers were needed.

"Kevin Doyle is out but we have young players who can play," said Tardelli after yesterday's training session at a cloudy Malahide.

"You want to speak about Stokes? We know about Stokes, he plays well now but we have the other players like him.

"Stokes is a good option for the future, it's possible he will come in for the squad for the friendly match with Norway in November, but now we have the young players.

"If we play Keogh, we have Long on the bench, so we need just one (striker) on the bench," added Tardelli, hinting strongly that Long's cameo performance against Russia could see him start up front instead of Doyle.

"We have young players like Long and Keogh so Giovanni might decide on one of them, I don't know.

"They are young players without the same level of experience as Doyle plays well in the Premier League, but the young players are ready to play in this important match," he added.

"Long came on against Russia and scored a goal. He is difficult for defenders to handle because he is so fast and physical, he is very quick," added Tardelli, who expects key defender Richard Dunne to be fit despite fears over a recurrence of his knee injury, after he apparently took no part in training yesterday.

"Dunne has had a problem for two or three months and sometimes it's best to rest because it's a knee problem, but Richard will be the first person on the pitch," said Tardelli, who admitted that Irish pride was bruised by Friday's defeat.

"I believe in our team, I know the players and I am proud of them. They tried on Friday night.

"I don't know if we deserved something on Friday, and I think there will be a reaction.

"I saw the players, they were very sad about the defeat."

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