Belfast Telegraph

Glenn Whelan keen to return to action for Republic

Republic of Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan says he cannot wait to put his World Cup misery behind him as he targets European success.

The 26-year-old Stoke player, like the rest of his team-mates, was shattered by the Republic's controversial play-off exit in Paris as France squeezed through to what turned out to be a disastrous campaign in South Africa with a helping hand from Thierry Henry.

Ireland will return to competitive action for the first time since that infamous night on Friday as they attempt to launch their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with victory over Armenia in Yerevan.

Andorra head for Dublin's Aviva Stadium four days later, and a maximum points haul would give Giovanni Trapattoni's men just the start they desire, and send a message to Group B rivals Russia and Slovakia.

Whelan said: "Because of what happened in the last campaign, everyone was just hoping for this to come around as soon as possible.

"Hopefully with this campaign here, everyone can forget about what happened in Paris.

"We are not going into any campaign thinking, 'Let's go for second'.

"We are definitely going for top and hopefully that's the case.

"We know we have some tough places to go to and we are going to have some hard games, but we can just worry about ourselves. That's what we are going to do and hopefully qualify.

"It doesn't matter if we are playing Armenia or Russia, we will worry about ourselves."

Whelan emerged from the ranks to become a key member of Trapattoni's team during the last campaign after the veteran Italian enough during his first few months in the job to believe he could help to provide the solidity he wanted in the middle of the field.

Two years on, he has 20 caps and two goals to his name, and with the midfield pool having been dramatically reduced by injuries to Damien Duff, Keith Andrews and Keith Treacy, he will be a senior figure in that area of the pitch.

However, the experience he has gained will prove invaluable in that respect.

Whelan said: "If you look at two years ago, there were a few players coming on the scene that had not had that many games internationally.

"But now, quite a lot of us have picked up a fair few caps and we have been through a campaign already. Hopefully, that will help us and we can get through.

"We have been away and got some big results, especially the Italian game and how we got a late result out there. It is just little things like that you remember."

Trapattoni also has problems at the back, where Paul McShane withdrew with a hamstring injury yesterday, while Darren O'Dea's sprained knee was being assessed this morning ahead of the squad's departure for Yerevan.

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