Trap's last chance for Irish old boys to bow out on a high against Italy
21:30 GMT, 16 June 2012
Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni will give his senior players the chance to end their international careers on a high in their final Euro 2012 group game against Italy on Sunday.
He will resist the temptation to blood youngsters following his team’s dismal early exit so that Damien Duff can win his 100th cap and other veterans — Shay Given, Robbie Keane, John O’Shea and Richard Dunne — can make up for Thursday’s 4-0 loss to Spain.
The five thirtysomethings, who have formed the core of Ireland’s team for a decade, will all consider their international futures before the qualifying campaign begins for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
End of the road: Some of Ireland's players are set to play their final game
Trapattoni, a legendary figure in his native Italy and their manager at Euro 2004, will not ditch his evergreens in Poznan. ‘I have to respect the players who have been with us so long and got us through to the finals,’ said the 73-year-old. ‘Afterwards, we can turn the page. But for now we have to play with honour for the country.’
Goalkeeper Given, who has a record number of caps with 124, was among those who appealed to Trapattoni that Duff should get the chance to reach his milestone.
‘He has been a great servant for Irish football,’ said Given.
Plenty to ponder: Damien Duff will win his 100th cap against Italy on Sunday
Ireland will also be mindful of UEFA’s reaction if they field a greatly changed team, given that the other teams in Group C, Spain and Croatia, are Italy’s rivals in qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Dunne, 32, has admitted that conceding seven goals in losing to Croatia and Spain has put a doubt in players’ minds about going through the chastening experience again. ‘I don’t think anyone has made their minds up about retiring yet, but this tournament has been very hard to take,’ he said.
Final chance: Ireland have struggled during the tournament so far
Skipper Keane refused to discuss his long-term future, yet he is unlikely to remain first choice after the tournament. But Ireland’s record scorer with 53 goals wants to finish on a high for the 30,000 Irish fans who have stayed loyal to their team despite the two defeats.
He said: ‘We’re desperate to give them something to cheer — we don’t want to go home with no points.’
Not even a win would guarantee Italian qualification — they would be denied if there is a high-scoring draw between Spain and Croatia.