The nature of the European Football Championship is that the major footballing nations such as Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Holland and England are almost guaranteed a place in the four-yearly finals. Seeding ensures this. There is a second tier of nations (say Portugal or Sweden) who are also always likely to qualify. There is a middle group of nations who…….at their best……..can maybe qualify for Finals (Greece, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium). There is a group such as Estonia or Israel who can maybe gain a shock result and make it thru to Finals. And a final group such as Malta, Leichtenstein, San Marino, Andorra and Norn Ireland who are perenniel no-hopers.
Ireland will be one of sixteen nations in the Euro Finals, to be held in Poland and Ukraine next month. This will be the first time Ireland has competed at this level since 1988 but they have competed in three World Cups since then (1990, 1994 and 2002).
The squad was announced today. No surprises. Seamus Coleman (Everton) can consider himself unlucky and James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic) has asked not to be included because his father is gravely ill.
Squad: Shay Given (Aston Villa) Keiron Westwood (Sunderland) David Forde (Millwall) Richard Dunne (Aston Villa) John O’Shea (Sunderland) Sean St Ledger (leicester City) Darren O’Dea (Leeds United) Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers) Kevin Foley (Wolverhampton Wanderers) Stephen Kelly (Fulham) Darron Gibson (Everton) Keith Andrews (West Bromwich Albion) Glenn Whelan (Stoke City) Keith Fahey (Birmingham City) Aiden McGeady (Moscow Spartak) Robbie Keane (Los Angeles Galaxy) Stephen Hunt (Wolverhampton Wanderers) Damien Duff (Fulham) Shane Long (West Bromwich Albion) Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion) Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers) Jon Walters (Stoke City) and James McClean (Sunderland).
Clearly the team were good enough to qualify but this is a reality check. Some genuine international standard players (Given, Duff, Keane, O’Shea and Dunne) but all in the final years of their careers……supplemented by journeymen professionals from (mostly) the middle and lower reaches of the English Premiership. A chance certainly fora young star to emerge……James McClean is certainly a major prospect and probably the brightest young star in Irish football at the moment.
This is the first tournament where players from the Six Counties (McClean and Gibson) have been selected fora tournament. Actually Shay Given was also born in Derry.