Conor Sammon could give Irish air superiority
SKIPPER John O’Shea is backing debutant Conor Sammon to provide the Republic of Ireland with the aerial threat they have been missing since the days of Tony Cascarino and Niall Quinn.
The Derby frontman, formerly of Kilmarnock, will make his senior international debut in tonight’s friendly against Poland at the Aviva Stadium as manager Giovanni Trapattoni takes a look at some of the newer members of his squad. Sammon will partner West Bromwich Albion’s Shane Long in attack with the likes of Kevin Doyle and Jonathan Walters held in reserve.
While the Wolves striker and his Stoke counterpart have brought a physical presence to the Ireland side alongside Robbie Keane in recent years, 26-year-old Sammon’s height – he stands at 6’2” – will give them a dimension they have not really had since the days of Quinn and before him, Cascarino.
O’Shea said: “Strength-wise, Kevin and Jon are fantastic, but I’d have to agree with you, height-wise Conor would have that advantage – and I’d think he would probably be a little bit more nimble than two fantastic players in Cascarino and Quinn.
“I have played against Conor once or twice, and he’s going to offer us a good physical presence up front and a threat in behind as well. He’s a big man who is quite agile.
“The Polish defence, especially with Shane and Conor starting up front, hopefully will have a very tough start to the game because from what they have shown in training, they won’t let their defenders rest on the ball, the massive pressure they put on the defenders. Hopefully that will give us a chance to get up the pitch and squeeze the game a bit more.”
Sammon may not be the only debutant. Derby club-mates Richard Keogh and Jeff Hendrick are likely to be named among the substitutes, with Trapattoni using the friendly not only as preparation for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria, but to blood potential future squad members. Elsewhere tonight, Michael O’Neill is hoping Malta can provide another personal milestone as Northern Ireland prepare to take on the Mediterranean side in a friendly at Ta’qali National Stadium. Former Dundee United and Hibernian player O’Neill is looking for his first win as manager at the eighth attempt, and the side as a whole are overdue a victory having not won a game since a 4-0 victory over the Faroes in August 2011.
Malta has been a good venue for Northern Ireland, who have managed five wins and a draw from their six previous visits, and in 1989 it provided a notable first for O’Neill as he netted his maiden international goal.
O’Neill has come away with draws from four of his seven games, including in Portugal, and anything other than a first win tonight would be a disappointment. He said of the winless run: “It doesn’t keep me awake at night. The players know we have to get back to winning games.”
Wales manager Chris Coleman, meanwhile, believes that with Craig Bellamy back in the fold and Gareth Bale firing on all cylinders, his team should have enough to see off Austria at the Liberty Stadium tonight.
“We are missing a few players but it is the best squad I have had, even if that brings more pressure on me,” said Coleman. “We have to try and build some momentum before next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Scotland and Croatia.”
On a busy night of international friendlies, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque will take charge of his 68th match when his team take on Uruguay in Doha, equalling the record of one of his predecessors, Ladislao Kubala, who managed the Iberian nation 68 times between 1969 and 1980.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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