Trapattoni praises Ireland duo after draw

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The Independent Football

Giovanni Trapattoni hailed the performances of replacements Shane Long and Keith Fahey as the Republic of Ireland picked up a vital point in Zilina from last night's Euro 2012 qualifier against Slovakia.

Long was given his chance up front because of Kevin Doyle's knee injury, while Birmingham midfielder Fahey came in for his first competitive start after Liam Lawrence failed a fitness test.

And both played their part in the 1-1 draw, with Fahey sending over the free-kick which resulted in Sean St Ledger giving the visitors the lead, while Reading forward Long was a constant menace to the Slovakia defence.

Trapattoni cast doubt over Robbie Keane's international future while he continues to be a bit-part player at Tottenham, and a number of the Republic's other key men are nearing the end of their careers.

So the emergence of new talent is particularly welcome for the Italian as he looks ahead to the resumption of the campaign next year.

Trapattoni said: "I thought Shane Long and Keith Fahey played great games. For the future we can have confidence in them knowing the options we have in the squad.

"We have time in the future, our next game is a friendly. I can maybe play one or two other young players and we can start the qualification again with more confidence."

Last night's display capped a superb international break for Long, who scored his first competitive goal in Friday's 3-2 defeat to Russia.

Trapattoni believes there is plenty the 23-year-old still has to learn about the tactical side of the game, but he is confident the raw ingredients are there.

"We thought about it in training because he's young," Trapattoni added. "We played a tactical game in training.

"He can show us pace but he is still young to master the tactical side of the game. He has technical quality and in the future he will understand."

The Republic fully deserved their lead, which they held for 20 minutes until Jan Durica headed in the equaliser from the first corner of the game, and Trapattoni admitted he was concerned Slovakia would get opportunities from set-pieces.

He said: "I had fear about corners and free-kicks and we conceded a goal from this situation. I had no other worries about our defence because they played very, very well."

Group B looks set to be one of the tightest in qualifying, with Russia now two points ahead of the Republic, Slovakia and Armenia courtesy of their 1-0 victory in Macedonia.

Defeat to Slovakia would have left the Republic with an uphill battle but Trapattoni believes the reverse fixtures next year, when they play away in Russia then at home to Slovakia, are likely to prove decisive.

"We have again this combination of games," he said. "Our group is very balanced. Russia won but only 1-0 and Macedonia missed a penalty.

"There are many situations that can happen. It's not about today or tomorrow, there are many games. It's important we believe in our performance, our attitude and our system."

Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss agreed, adding: "The group is very even and Ireland, Armenia and Russia all have great teams so it all depends on the next games."