Pulpit rock

Darragh Moriarty looks at the domestic influence in Trapattoni’s Ireland squads

After a gritty, rx dogged and hard-working display in Stockholm all eyes were turned to Ireland’s next qualifier against Austria. The hard work was done, troche a well-deserved point had been earned against the Swedes and now it was time to get the World Cup dream back up and running after a horrendous start to the campaign. David Alaba’s last minute, gut-wrenching deflected effort ensured that this was not to be. Ireland now face an uphill task to secure second place with games away to Germany and Austria to come.

Failure to qualify for Brazil will surely to see the end of Trapattoni’s reign as Ireland manager. Time and again his squad selections and overall tactics have bemused fans and pundits alike. Whenever Trapattoni is let go, or walks out on his multi-million euro contract, perhaps one legacy he will leave behind is the League of Ireland feel to his squads.

Plenty of those named in his most recent squad were developed and rubber stamped in Ireland’s own domestic league before being exported across the water. His number one, David Forde for example began his career with (the now defunct) Galway United and also had success at Derry City before he found his way to League One Millwall in 2008. In 2011, now of England’s second tier, Forde gained his first cap in the Carling Nations Cup against Northern Ireland.  With Kieran Westwood warming the bench at struggling Sunderland, Forde looks set to be Trapattoni’s man to replace Shay Given as Ireland’s first choice.

There are many others who used to ply their trade in the League of Ireland that found themselves in Ireland’s most recent squad such as Séamus Coleman, manufactured by Sligo Rovers; James McClean, once of Derry City; Shane Long, nurtured by Cork City; Wes Hoolahan, formerly of Shelbourne and  UCD’s very own Conor Sammon.

The big front-man, Sammon, who also had a spell with Derry City was eventually snapped up by Scottish outfit Kilmarnock. A turn at Wigan Athletic of the Premier League followed but now Sammon seems to have found his level with Championship side Derby County. His inclusion in the starting line-up against Austria should have been a momentous occasion celebrated by Irish football supporters – after failing to attract the attention of scouts from the UK, Sammon fought his way from the UCD Bowl to the starting line-up in a crunch qualifier at the Aviva Stadium. Yet, his inclusion in the squad and the omission of another League of Ireland product Kevin Doyle was one of the main talking points before and after Irelands draw with the Austrians.

Another of the talking points from the Austria draw was Trapattoni’s decision not only not to start Wes Hoolahan but to not even bring him on in the hope of retaining some sort of possession in the dying minutes of the game. Hoolahan, who was an integral part of Shelbourne’s European adventures under Pat Fenlon when they squared up against the mighty Deportivo La Coruna at the old Landsdowne Road, is said to be one of Ireland’s most technically gifted players among the current crop. He is a permanent fixture in Chris Hughton’s Premier League side Norwich City, yet somehow cannot force his way past Paul Green in Trapattoni’s distorted pecking order.

The fact that Trapattoni has opted for a number of former League of Ireland stars suggests one of two things have occurred: either the calibre of player in Ireland’s domestic league has improved or clubs in the UK aren’t finding the same calibre of player that they used to. Only time will tell which of these has occurred and whether or not this will eventually lead to more talents from the Airtricity League forcing themselves into future Ireland squads under new managers.