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Trapattoni given plenty of food for thought as rookies beef up Republic squad

Giovanni Trapattoni spent Saturday fulfilling his last official engagement as Republic of Ireland manager until July.

Save for the drama involving Shane Duffy which, thankfully, had a happy ending, it's been a good fortnight for the Italian with two confidence boosting wins against Algeria and Paraguay featuring some new players who emerged from the low key training camp in Malahide.

The frustration of missing out on the World Cup lingers, and he expressed the opinion that his team would have progressed beyond the group stages if they made it to South Africa.

While Trapattoni repeated that he had been approached by various clubs and countries over the past year, including a third party — a former player — who sounded him out in relation to a role with Celtic, he clearly stated his intention to stick around for the next two years with the ultimate aim of qualification for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and the Ukraine.

Just as the Algarve gathering two years ago was central to deciding his strategy for the World Cup qualifiers, the information he gleaned from this end-of-season soiree should influence his selections for the road ahead.

So, who were the winners and losers from the last fortnight?

Paul Green (Derby County):

There was a resounding chorus of 'Paul Who?' after the 27-year-old was called up by Trapattoni. After progressing from the lower leagues to Championship level, his qualification only emerged in the past year. The midfielder says he was too embarrassed to reveal his availability, considering his low profile in the game.

Trapattoni instantly took to Green, who quickly learned the responsibilities of a holding midfielder in the Italian's system.

Solid shows in the training games were followed by a cameo against Paraguay and a starring role, including a brave goal, against Algeria. On Saturday, Trap spoke of his midfield options and name-checked Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Green (pictured right) and Darron Gibson.

Greg Cunningham: (Man City):

Is he ready? That was the big question hanging over the inexperienced teenager who was initially meant to spend last week with the Irish U-19s.

Instead, he was making his senior debut against Algeria where he produced a calm display. Considering he has only made three appearances at first team level for Man City — two as a late sub — he impressed and Trapattoni and Robbie Keane have spoken of how a shy lad off the pitch is a confident presence on it.

The Republic need a long-term option at left back, and Cunningham has jumped to the front of the queue although there's a suspicion Trap may start the Euro qualifiers with John O'Shea or Kevin Kilbane in that berth.

Cillian Sheridan (Celtic):

Another late call-up to the squad who made an impression on the training ground as he skipped ahead of some regular back-up players to gain two senior camps. Considering he endured a mixed club campaign with a poor stint at Plymouth followed by a positive spell with St Johnstone, his long-term prospects will be aided with Trapattoni a supporter.

Sheridan is a raw talent, yet the Italian has tried a variety of big men in the forward role so the Cavan man is now in the mix to nail down the understudy post.

Keiren Westwood (Coventry):

While the 25-year-old was already established enough as Shay Given's understudy, the last fortnight confirmed it with a few nervy moments against Paraguay eradicated by a commanding display in the dismissal of the Algerians. Given should be fit for September, but Westwood will capitalise if the Donegal man's shoulder problem fails to heal. Pertinently, he showed why so many Premier League clubs are keeping tabs.

Leon Best (Newcastle):

It's been a strange 2010 for Best, who secured a big move to Newcastle and then lost the form which earned him that chance. He jumped into Trapattoni's thoughts with a notable performance in the friendly win over South Africa last September, and was involved in the marquee games with Italy and France.

This was the natural chance to gain a bit more experience in the international fold but he rowed with Paul McShane and looked out of sorts in the training games, and was then overlooked as Sheridan came into the fray against Paraguay at the RDS.

Anthony Stokes (Hibernian):

Stokes was deployed in a wide role for the majority of the training games, although he did score the only goal against the Irish U-23 team. However, when the seniors arrived, it was others who were chosen to audition. Keith Fahey has overtaken him out wide, while Sheridan was preferred when Kevin Doyle was withdrawn.

Belfast Telegraph