Thursday, September 2, 2010

Boys out of Green

Ireland are all set to kick-off their European Championship 2012 campaign on Friday against Armenia, before bringing Andorra to the Aviva for the first competitive home game at the new stadium this Tuesday.

Here, I look at some of the higher-profile players who have not been included in the squad for one reason or another.

Jon Walters (Stoke City)

Walters has been generally excellent in the Championship for Ipswich over the past few years, winning Player of the Year once at the club during his spell there. Since his move to Stoke, Walters name has been whispered quite a lot in the build up to the latest squad selection, but the tough striker was left out.

Having played for the Ireland ‘B’ squad already he is certainly on the radar, with the Irish assistant coach Marco Tardelli noting that they had considered Walters for the double header.

“We will take another look at him when he plays for Stoke but now is not the time to bring him in,” said Tardelli recently, citing the winter friendlies as a better time to introduce new blood.

James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic)

The diminutive midfielder has had a pretty impressive career to date. Attracting rumoured interest from all over Britain when playing for Hamilton Academical, McCarthy made the rather sensible move to Wigan back in 2009.

After initially struggling to break into the team, McCarthy emerged as a central figure for the Latics – notably playing Steven Gerrard off the park when Wigan beat a travelling Liverpool side late last season.

McCarthy made his debut for Ireland against Brazil earlier this year. However, he missed out on the May friendlies, citing exhaustion as the reason, and has since been absent from the first-team set-up. Currently strutting his stuff for the Under-21s

Stephen Ireland (Aston Villa)

Ireland is considered as one of the most talented Irish around at the moment. His ability to create headlines has attracted the derision and bile of the Irish public, sold thousands of newspapers and isolated him from perhaps 75% of Irish fans.

With six caps and four goals, it is disappointing that such a talent is unavailable.

Yet not once called into question is the consistent, tiring, and generally demeaningly-excessive questioning on a subject which he rightly and perhaps reasonably considers as ‘closed’.

Ireland enjoyed a fine start to his career at Manchester City, notably winning the Senior Player of the Year Award in 2009. However, following the extravagant spending at Eastlands, Ireland saw his chances at the club disappear and has recently moved to Aston Villa.

Andy Reid (Sunderland)

Reid is another creative midfielder currently unavailable to the Irish selectors. A combination of injury and reputation has unfortunately put paid to his Irish career.

Reid has 27 caps for Ireland and has seen his career rise and fall on several occasions. After emerging, starring and being overpriced at Nottingham Forest, Reid eventually made the move to Tottenham Hotspur in 2005. From there he went to nearby Charlton Athletic before being signed by Sunderland.

Highly regarded in the Irish press – for close to a year heralded as the Great Irish Hope for reasons best explained as ‘selling papers’ – Reid’s career has certainly improved at Sunderland, even if his injuries have not.

Seamus Coleman (Everton)

A product of the League of Ireland, Coleman began his career with Sligo Rovers in 2006. Making the move to Everton, Coleman’s home debut saw him start on the bench yet finish as Man of the Match following his excellent performance – and his hand in both Toffees’ goals against Spurs.

Coleman spent a spell at Championship side Blackpool in the second half of last season, helping them to a promotion to the Premier League. Having signed a contract extension with Everton, and staying with the Merseyside club for this season, great things are expected of this full-back – and Ireland are lacking in that position. Along with McCarthy, Coleman is in the Under-21s

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