Three things to watch in Ireland v Poland
Lots of new and new-ish faces on show tonight as Ireland look to get 2013 off to a winning start against Poland.
A friendly in deepest, darkest February may not normally stir the blood but with the folks who played such excellent hosts to us last summer, Poland, coming over to play, the least we can do is return the favour.
That said, after giving them a warm welcome, we want to win too. Our last game was a 1-0 defeat to Greece and while we played well in that game, it ended a bad year on a bum note. This year will decide if we make it to World Cup 2014 and the fate of manager Giovanni Trapattoni depends on qualification. A big year then requires a good start, so here’s what we will be looking for tonight.
A David Forde clinic
At 33, it seems a bit late for someone to be staking a claim for a regular spot in an international team for the first time but a combo of Shay Given stepping down and Keiren Westwood warming the pine in Sunderland means that Millwall’s David Forde is the man between the sticks.
The word from Trap is that the No 1 shirt is his to lose so we want to see him have a commanding performance tonight against a fairly potent Polish strikeforce.
A look at the stats is a bit worrying, with Forde not keeping a clean sheet in any one of his last 10 games for the Lions. Still, fragility in goal was at least a contributory factor to our poor showing in Poland and the shellacking we took at the hands of Germany s a change may be no harm. A good start for Forde, in only his fifth international, would be a massive positive to carry into the qualifiers next month.
Wings and a few prayers
Considering the options available to him, it is a little surprising that Trap went with the same starting midfield that began against Greece. Anthony Pilkington would surely have gotten the nod if injury hadn’t intervened but the absence of Wes Hooloahan, at least from the start, is a disappointment.
That said, the Robbie Brady/ James McClean show should be exciting enough to warm the crowd in Aviva tonight. Brady has thrived in his brief appearances in green so far while McClean is enduring a difficult second season in the Premier League. A return to form by the Derry man would be welcome.
Greg Cunningham (left) and Robbie Brady will be looking to impress on the flanks
We hope to see Bristol City full back Greg Cunningham roam forward too, while Paul McShane is bound to do something of note, whether we like it or not. Add in the likely second-half stint from Hoolahan and the edges of the pitch should be where it is at tonight, though a run for Jeff Hendrick would be a bonus too.
Knowledge of Sammon
The Derby County striker is the only new cap in tonight’s starting XI and as such, the focus will be on him more than anyone else. We obviously wish the former UCD man well but he will have to do something exceptional to win a starting slot against Sweden.
With Robie Keane surely back for that crunch tie, Sammon will have to fight off Shane Long (his strike partner tonight), Kevin Doyle and Jon Walters for that spot. Simon Cox could have a case to be ahead of him in the pecking order too.
Trap cited Caleb Folan as an example of what Sammon can offer but that is damning with faint praise if we ever heard it. Fingers crossed Sammon goes out tonight and scores a hat-trick that Zlatan would be proud of but it would be hard to see this game as much more than fact finding mission by Trap into the 26-year-old. That’s what friendlies are for I suppose and with John O’Shea singing his praises in training, we hope to be pleasantly suprised by the big fella.