Date: 30th May 2011 at 4:01pm
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The season might be over but plenty of Ipswich Town players are still in action with their national teams. In the first of several reviews covering our Blues on international duty, Vital Ipswich looks at Town’s participants in the Carling Nations Cup.

Two current Ipswich Town players were involved in the concluding matches of the inaugural Nations Cup, which this year was contested at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium between Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Midfielder Josh Carson was chosen to represent the senior Northern Ireland side for the first time despite also being called up for the U21s, whilst defender Damien Delaney was included in the Republic of Ireland side. Also involved were recently departed defenders Gareth McAuley and Darren O’Dea representing Northern Ireland and Ireland respectively.

Having played the first round of fixtures back in February, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland then met last Tuesday for their second game of the competition, with the Town contingent squaring up against each other. Damien Delaney started in defence for the tournament hosts, while Josh Carson won his first-ever senior start for the Northern Ireland team which was being skippered by Gareth McAuley following his recent move to West Bromwich Albion. Carson started the match brightly with the same confidence and energy as he has frequently displayed for Town, but the 17-year-old could do little to prevent his team facing a mountain to climb at half time as a series of errors allowed Ireland to race to a 3-0 lead. McAuley was left helpless as goalkeeper Alan Blayney parried poorly for Stephen Ward to tap home and a dreadful backpass by Lee Hodson gifted Robbie Keane a second before Craig Cathcart diverted a third into his own net.

Ex-Town defender McAuley was at some fault early in the second half however, playing Keane onside to allow him to run clear before he was brought down by Adam Thompson for a penalty, which Keane duly converted. Delaney and the Irish defence coped comfortably with anything sent their way as Northern Ireland continued to struggle, Carson also fading before he was replaced by Niall McGinn on 73 minutes. There was still time for potential Town target Simon Cox to slip through the visitors’ defence to make it 5-0 by the finish, with McAuley no doubt somewhat envious of his former team-mate Delaney claiming a clean sheet!

Following that awful result, Northern Ireland were rock bottom of the Nations Cup table as they went into their final match against 3rd-placed Wales on Friday evening. Carson was again given a starting berth by Nigel Worthington and this time played the full 90 minutes along with McAuley, but his side offered little threat going forward as Aaron Ramsey and Robert Earnshaw helped the Welsh to a simple 2-0 victory. Despite Northern Ireland claiming the ‘Wooden Spoon’, Carson should not be too disappointed with his performances and looks likely to win plenty more caps in future.

Meanwhile thanks to their hammering of Northern Ireland, Delaney’s Republic of Ireland went into their final match against 2nd placed Scotland knowing that a draw would be enough to seal the Nations Cup title. However, this time the 29-year-old was given no part by Giovanni Trappatoni, with recent Town loanee Darren O’Dea preferred in defence. As the match unfolded, Keane gave Ireland the lead after 23 minutes before he was replaced by another reported Town target, Preston midfielder Keith Treacy, whilst O’Dea and the Irish defence were able to withstand Scotland’s second half pressure to claim a 1-0 win. Delaney then joined in with the celebrations as Trappatoni’s side became the first team to lift the new Nations Cup trophy.

The Nations Cup was merely one of a number of competitions and matches that Town’s various international players will be involved in this summer. Ipswich academy goalkeeper Cody Cropper has already been in action with the USA U20s for a training camp in Vichy, featuring in a 3-3 friendly draw against France U20s before sitting out a rematch which ended 2-1 to the hosts. Elsewhere, Carson will get another chance to impress on the international stage when the Northern Ireland U21s face the Faroe Islands in European Championship qualifying action on Tuesday, whilst Delaney could be involved when Republic of Ireland face a crucial Euro 2012 qualifier away to Macedonia next Saturday. Striker Connor Wickham will travel with the England U21s for the European Championships in Denmark next month, while Jaime Peters will be with the Canada squad for their Gold Cup campaign in the USA. Goalkeeper Marton Fulop and defender Tommy Smith will also be on international duty with Hungary and New Zealand respectively.

Vital Ipswich will continue to bring you all the details of how Town’s players get on with their countries this summer, so stay tuned, and wish our lads good luck!

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