Ireland Euro 2012 Squad Preview: Defenders
All this week, GreenScene will be looking at the possible candidates for Giovanni Trapattoni’s 23 man Republic of Ireland Euro 2012 squad. Part Two looks at Ireland’s defensive options.
The heroics of Richard Dunne are a major reason why Ireland are travelling to Poland this summer. His performance against Russia in Moscow is considered one of the best defensive displays of all time, and if Ireland are to get something from Euro 2012, they’ll need Dunne at his best. Now that he’s returned to full fitness after his shoulder injury, he’s a definite in Trapattoni’s squad.
A Trapattoni debutante, St Ledger only made his Irish arrival in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. Since then, he has formed a fantastic centre-back pairing with Richard Dunne, and should start all of Ireland’s games at the European Championships. Has been in and out of the Leicester City team this season, but looks to have patched things up with Foxes boss Paul Jewell.
Former Manchester United versatility man John O’Shea has flourished since moving to centre-back at Sunderland, but looks likely to be deployed on the right for Ireland. He has played in a number of positions for his country, and his experience should help strengthen the backline.
With Kevin Kilbane setting Irish records for consecutive competitive caps, it looked like the man the fans call Zinedine would be Ireland’s left-back for the entire Euro 2012 campaign. However, when the veteran was ruled out of the Slovakia game with a back injury, Ward slotted in at left-back and has since made the position his own. Had a disappointing season with Wolves, seeing his side relegated to the Championship, but was named as captain under new boss Terry Connor.
Was a member of Giovanni Trapattoni’s first squad in 2008, but did not make his debut until the following year against South Africa in a September friendly. Is Trapattoni’s third choice centre-back, and partnered Dunne in Moscow. Spent the season on loan at Leeds United, playing 35 league games, but will probably move clubs in the summer. Was awarded the FAI Young Player of the Year award in February.
The Fulham defender has had a great season in the Premier League, becoming the first choice right-back at Craven Cottage. He’s also been a mainstay in Ireland squads under Giovanni Trapattoni, starting four of the qualifiers, including the away playoff against Estonia. Kelly was handed the captain’s armband for last March’s friendly with Uruguay, and looks extremely likely to make it to Euro 2012.
Likely to be selected in the 23 man squad due to his versatility, Foley has been selected in defence and midfield for Wolves this season, and has been a regular in Trapattoni’s squads for the past two years. Started at right-back against Macedonia last March, his only competitive appearance to date. If any defender was likely to miss out, Foley would be the one, but should pip the others as he can cover a variety of positions.
Played two summer friendlies in 2008, but did not appear for Ireland again until 2011. Has yet to make a competitive appearance for Ireland, but the Ipswich Town defenders could be called on if one of Trapattoni’s preferred centre-halves is injured before the tournament.
Was named man of the match in his debut back in 2006, but many fans have turned on the centre-back in recent years. Played in seven of the 2010 qualifiers, but did not line out in any of the Euro 2012 games. However, he was included in the playoff squad for Estonia, so can never be ruled out. Impressed on loan at Crystal Palace in the latter half of the season.
The young centre-back was included in the squad to face Czech Republic in February thanks to Richard Dunne’s injury, but was left on the bench, and seems unlikely to travel to Poland. At that time he was in the Everton first team, but with more senior players returning from injury, he has gone back to playing reserve football with the Toffees.
Has just nine minutes experience at senior international level despite being a first choice in the Stoke City team. Could get his chance to shine in World Cup 2014 qualifying, but injuries curtailed his involvement in Euro 2012 qualifying, and Trapattoni is unlikely to name him in the squad.
Ciaran Clark is a dark-horse to make the squad due to his ability to play across the defence and in centre-midfield. Looked to break into the Ireland squad last season when he was impressing at Aston Villa, but injury has set him back at both club and international level this season.
Kevin Kilbane will probably be heading over to Euro 2012 as a pundit for RTÉ, but as his back injury ruled him out of most of the 2011-12 season, his international playing career definitely looks over. However, no-one can take away 110 international caps from an Irish legend.