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Richard Dunne is the White Paul McGrath

Richard Dunne put in a towering performance during Ireland's victory over Cyprus, but greater challenges lie ahead, particularly the formidable Azzurri.

Tony Cascarino, 03 Nov 2008

It speaks volumes about how far we’ve come under Giovanni Trapattoni that, unlike during the European qualifiers, Shay Given wasn’t the default choice for Man of the Match against Cyprus!

Keeping another clean sheet will give Shay and the other lads at the back enormous confidence going into the next round of matches, which starts with a very winnable fixture at home against Georgia, who we totally outclassed in Mainz.

However, Richard Dunne was my Man of the Match. He had an outstanding game: I don’t think it’s premature to say that he’s become the white Paul McGrath. The Cypriots are no mugs up front, and his tackling and blocking in situations when they might have grabbed an equaliser was crucial to us getting the three points.

It was also great to see Damien Duff skipping past people again: he laid on a lovely ball for Robbie Keane’s goal, but he’s still a little bereft of confidence around the box, which is probably down to the nightmare season Newcastle have been having. We need him back scoring goals.

Robbie and Kevin Doyle both lost their usual four lbs in sweat covering every blade of grass, but there wasn’t enough link up between them for my liking. Robbie’s so fond of working the left channel and Kevin the right that rarely do you find them combining in the middle. It’s a problem. One of the keys to England’s resurgence has been the interplay between Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey who ran both Kazakhstan and Belarus ragged. It’s something Trapattoni will have to address before we play Italy because they’ll have watched the videos and know exactly what to expect from the lads when they get the ball.

It was nice to see Paul McShane putting last season’s woes behind him and having a decent game, although there were a couple of little errors that a better team might have punished. But he is a player with long-term potential.

I was surprised that Trapattoni didn’t make a substitution until deep into injury time, because Duffer, Robbie and Aiden McGeady looked all out after 70 minutes, and we could have done with Shane Long or Stephen Hunt perhaps coming on and freshening things up. Looking at the bench though, it does worry me that if we lose key players through injury, we don’t have many natural replacements.

Talking of which, Stephen Reid being out for the rest of the season is a huge blow. Daren Gibson’s a game lad but looked totally out of his depth against Cyprus – hardly surprising when he’s more often than not turning out for Manchester United reserves. We let Cyprus ping it around too much, which I suspect wouldn’t have happened under Lee Carsley’s watch.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to what did or didn’t transpire between Trapattoni and Andy Reid during the last get together, but the bottom line for me is that Andy’s not good enough at defending to command a regular place. He’s fine on the ball, but I’d worry about him starting against Italy when it’s going to be all hands to the pump in the final third.

Going back to the games against Italy – I hope Trapattoni doesn’t do what I think he will and switch from 4-4-2 to having a five man midfield, which would be play right into their hands. I’d like us to be brave and have a right go at them.

As for Bulgaria, I made a point of watching their two draws against Italy and Georgia and didn’t see anything that we can’t cope with. Their manager hinted afterwards that he might strip Berbatov of the captaincy or drop him altogether, so there’s obviously unrest in the camp. That’s great news for us but we’ll have to make sure to capitalise on it.

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