Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ireland fail to get the best out of McCarthy

After 65 minutes of Tuesdays international friendly against World Cup semi –finalists Uruguay at the Aviva Stadium James McCarthy was withdrawn from the action. It had been a frustrating night for McCarthy who was deployed as an advanced midfielder playing behind front man Shane Long.
All too often McCarthy dropped into space showing for the ball, palms open and pointing to his feet. McCarthy wasn’t in the mood to hide, he wanted to get on the ball. Unfortunately his showing for the ball was usually in vain, as more often than not the ball was launched long towards Long. McCarthy had to spin without the ball and play the lottery of trying to guess where the knock down would drop, that’s if the defender didn’t win the challenge with the Reading front man. Instead of linking the defence with attack or wide men with the distribution that he is well capable of, McCarthy had to chase lost causes or hope for the scraps that may drop from Long’s tussles with the Uruguayan defence.
When the Wigan midfielder did get on the ball he had a positive impact on proceedings. Epitomised with winning a penalty on 48 minutes. This followed some great work by Shane Long to get to the by line and feed the ball across the area to the on rushing McCarthy. Fahey dispatched the penalty beyond the Uruguayan goal keeper Muslera. This pulled one back for the hosts to make it 3-2 to Uruguay and would prove to be the last goal of the game. Although how Andy Keogh missed with a header from two yards with the goal at his mercy on 80 minutes is anyone’s guess. This would have given Ireland a draw that they would have probably been fortunate to get.
The scoring was opened on 12 minutes when Lugano slotted the ball home from close range for the South Americans. Westwood would have expected his defence to be sharper to clear the ball on this occasion when they all appeared to stand waiting for an invitation to clear their lines. Three minutes later Ireland responded when the superb Long finished with his head from a fine cross by Liam Lawrence. Twice more before half time the Irish defence would be culpable of failing to protect Westwood, the beneficiaries were Cavani on 22 minutes and Hernandez on 44 minutes. Giovanni Trapattoni and Westwood can’t have been pleased with the Irish defending over the 90 minutes tonight. The Coventry keeper could hardly have been blamed when he vented his spleen at any one in a green shirt within ear shot after Hernandez found the net. Despite conceding four goals in two games Westwood surely has enhanced his reputation tonight and against the Macedonians on Saturday. His fine double save on 69 minutes from Cavani and Hernandez illustrating Westwood’s pedigree.
McCarthy’s withdrawal on 65 minutes for Keith Treacy was coupled with Fahey been withdrawn for Darron Gibson. These withdrawals produced a few groans of frustration from the meagre crowd in the Aviva. McCarthy may not have set the world alight while he was on the pitch but in this player there is always the potential to open a defence and any good passing movements the hosts produced were usually strung together by Fahey. This left Paul Green was the surviving starter left in the middle of midfield. Green again did not have his finest match for Ireland. He battled manfully to cover ground and close down opponents. This was rarely effective and his mistakes left his team mates on the wrong foot on more than one occasion. Green’s distribution again looked short of the standard required at this level.
Aside from his part in Cavani’s goal Fahey was impressive on the night and he will have hoped that he did enough to edge himself closer to a starting berth for the trip to Skopje in June.
Before then Ireland have two Carling Nations Cup games against Northern Ireland on the 24th May and Scotland five days later. Hopefully James McCarthy will get an opportunity in these two games to prove what he can offer to Trapattoni. Playing behind a front may not have worked as hoped tonight, but the project should not be abandoned altogether. There would appear to be little point in playing a link man between midfield and attack if he is ignored when showing for the pass. McCarthy has proved at club level he can also play in a midfield two, but given Trapattoni’s strict pecking order for positions it appears unlikely he will dislodge others given the nod in this position to date. The upcoming Nations Cup games seem ideally scheduled to see McCarthy perform in either of these positions. If he is given this opportunity it will offer a better picture of what this undoubtedly talented player can offer Giovanni Trapattoni in his quest to get Ireland over the line in the battle for qualification for Euro 2012.


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