Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Brady a believer as Republic prepare for Bulgaria

There's no way of dressing it up. The team Giovanni Trapattoni sends into the Sofia heat tomorrow evening will reflect the troubled nature of the preparation.

In an ideal world, the Italian would not be pitching two players in for their first competitive international start in a game of such importance.

Sure, Caleb Folan has the experience of Bari, but he spent the rest of the season on the substitutes bench at Hull.

Sean St Ledger was not even considered for the match against Italy. For all his consistent displays with Preston this season, he is still remembered in Ireland for the panicked call to duty he received three years ago.

These are the cards that Trapattoni will almost certainly play against Bulgaria. An, when you throw in the impact of Dean Kiely’s walkout and the musings over contract discussions in the backdrop of uncertainty over the FAI's financial wellbeing, it's hardly been a smooth preparation.

Liam Brady reflected yesterday that, in the past, matches in Bulgaria were a journey into the unknown for a variety of reasons, but that feeling no longer exists and the Irish camp are well aware about the star performers at Stanimir Stoilov's disposal.

The irony is that the Irish management may be less sure about the capabilities of their own starting XI.

The reliance on rookies in important positions is lessened somewhat by the quality of their respective partners. St Ledger will have Richard Dunne beside him, while Folan will surely benefit from having the sprightly Robbie Keane by his side.

The key word here is character. It's no coincidence that the novices favoured by the Italian are all regarded as strong-willed individuals. Andrews has been captain at a few of his former clubs, Whelan agitated for a move from Manchester City as a youth when he grew frustrated and is a strong dressing room voice, while St Ledger's character has made an impression.

“It's important to have somebody like St Ledger because he looks as if he's a player who is not frightened of international football,” said Brady.

“He's a leader, he's a talker and he's fitted in fine since he's been here. He showed against Nigeria that he can do a very good job for us.”

Brady insists he is not worried about throwing the newcomers into the fray here, because there is a wealth of seasoned bodies around them.

“The manager has tried to bring people in, which we have done not only with St Ledger and Folan, but with Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews and Darron Gibson, but we've got a lot of experience in the side as well,” said Brady.

“We've got Shay Given, Kevin Kilbane, Richard Dunne, John O'Shea, Robbie Keane, Damien Duff. There's a lot of experience there.

“So, while we know it will be a difficult match in Bulgaria, with the manager we've got and with the experience we've got, well, it's a bit like going to Italy — we're confident.”