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Ireland must find calm amid recent chaos

As much as the point claimed away to Sweden has lifted the mood in the Republic of Ireland camp, there is a herd of elephants in the room that they have yet to budge.

From manager Giovanni Trapattoni's public questioning of both James McCarthy and Robbie Brady, to the recall of striker Kevin Doyle, who was cut by text message last week, and the absence of captain and top scorer Robbie Keane, there are more plotlines to unravel than in a Danny Boyle movie.

Trapattoni is trying to switch the focus towards picking up three points against Austria on Tuesday night. That should be the only thing that matters this week as both teams are level in Group C and victory at home in Dublin is expected against a team who are 37 places behind them in the FIFA world rankings.

The only problem is that too much stuff has already been swept under the carpet during the Italian's eventful five-year reign that there is no room to squeeze in the latest incidents - ones which are all of the manager's making, And using his limited command of the English language is no longer an excuse.

Meeting the media this week, defender John O'Shea attempted to support his manager by claiming that his supposed questioning of Brady's mentality ahead of the Sweden game, where he was originally selected, then dropped, was nothing more than a change of tactics.

Unfortunately, for O'Shea, his manager more-or-less revealed that he was indeed playing mind games with his own player - a 21-year-old with five senior caps - ahead of such a crucial World Cup qualifier.

"What I wanted to say was that I wanted to stimulate him psychologically, I want to see him stronger psychologically," said Trapattoni in a bizarre explanation of why the Hull City winger was left out.

The Italian also tried to backtrack on McCarthy. Ahead of the Sweden game, he chose not to play the Wigan midfielder and stated that he wasn't creative enough. But when Glenn Whelan picked up an injury, McCarthy came in and was one of the best players in the scoreless draw.

"James is shy and I ask him to command on the pitch and he did that on Friday. Technically he has good vision on the ball, but he must also improve this," said Trapattoni, who has opted to start him alongside Whelan against Austria.

With the off-field madness put to one side for now - thankfully for the manager Doyle didn't refuse his late call-up - the focus is turning towards beating Austria. And that is a task that the 74-year-old believes his team can complete despite some key players missing.

Central defensive rock Richard Dunne remains absent and Norwich City winger Anthony Pilkington may have been involved but for a hamstring injury, but it is the loss of Keane that could hurt Ireland the most. The 32-year-old has withdrawn from the squad due to a calf injury (amongst other little niggles).

Often criticised for his displays in an Ireland shirt, Keane's record nevertheless speaks for itself - 54 goals in 122 games - and his importance throughout Trapattoni's era should not be underestimated as he has scored 16 of the 40 competitive goals that Ireland have managed in those five years.

Keane may have done little in the away draw to Sweden, where he was charged with providing cover to the midfield, but at home, when Ireland need to win, there is no better man to turn to. So it could be a big issue for Trapattoni despite having five other strikers to choose from.

West Brom's Shane Long is the obvious candidate to fulfill the role as chief goalgetter, while Derby County's Conor Sammon starts alongside him. Although, starting playmaker Wes Hoolahan behind a lone frontman (Long) would have made more sense than simply loading the team with as many strikers as possible.

The other issue to be aware of is Ireland's poor record at the Aviva Stadium (the redeveloped Lansdowne Road venue), where they have only won eight times in 18 appearances on home soil. It is something that only being clinical in front of goal will solve, according to O'Shea.

"It's down to ourselves and if we can transfer the performances away from home into the Aviva games, we will be in a very strong position," O'Shea said. "I suppose we have to be a bit more clinical. Our final pass on Friday [wasn't great]… we got ourselves into a couple of great positions, whether it was a pass over-hit or a player not picked out, that's something we'll have to do better."

The draw away to Sweden showcased Ireland's ability to shut their opponents down, but also their inability to create chances with not a single shot on target registered in Stockholm. It was a positive display weighed down by some harsh stats.

On Tuesday night, they must find the right balance between defence and attack to collect their third win of the group. If they don't, then qualification for the 2014 World Cup becomes nothing more than a pipe dream.


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