Whilst some of the Ipswich Town team have been taking a break from the hectic club schedule, a select few Blues have been jetting off to warmer (or, for some, colder) climes to meet up with their compatriots on international duty.
Ipswich sent away a total of ten players to join up with their international squads in the past fortnight. Gareth McAuley linked up with former Town team-mate David Healy in the Northern Ireland lineup for their Euro 2012 qualifiers, while Tamas Priskin and Marton Fulop were both named in the Hungary squad. Republic of Ireland’s Darren O’Dea and New Zealand’s Tommy Smith were both picked for their international sides but had to withdraw with injuries, while Brian Murphy was a late inclusion in Giovanni Trapattoni’s Irish squad. Meanwhile at youth level, Connor Wickham made the step up from the England U17 squad – where he made his mark in their European Championship victory this summer – to line up with the England U19s, and Northern Irish academy youngsters Josh Carson, Caolan Lavery and Rory McKeown also travelled to link up with their national U19s.
Gareth McAuley experienced mixed fortunes with the senior Northern Ireland squad, playing all 180 minutes of their two Euro 2012 Group C qualifiers. Despite excellent performances in the centre of defence for Town so far this season, the Blues skipper was instead employed as a right-back by boss Nigel Worthington. McAuley did play his part in a significant result for his country on Friday night, working tirelessly alongside Jonny Evans, Stephen Craigan and Aaron Hughes in the backline as Northern Ireland held Italy to a goalless draw. However, McAuley and his team as a whole were far less effective on Tuesday as they were quickly brought back down to Earth with an embarrassing 1-1 draw away to the Faroe Islands – Europe’s international equivalent to a non-league team. The result leaves them 4th in their group, 2pts behind leaders Italy.
Town’s other senior players had far less eventful trips. Tamas Priskin came on after 64 minutes in Hungary’s 8-0 thumping of minnows San Marino but did not feature in their second Euro 2012 Group E qualifier in Finland, where they won 2-1 to move 2nd behind the Netherlands. Priskin’s compatriot Marton Fulop saw no action at all for the national side, with former Crystal Palace goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly keeping him on the bench. Similarly his rival for Town’s Number 1 shirt, Brian Murphy, played no part in the Republic of Ireland’s 1-1 draw in Slovenia as Shay Given played the full 90 minutes. The ex-Bohemians glovesman had not been named in Trapattoni’s squad for their previous Euro 2012 Group B clash against Russia which they lost 3-2 – a result which puts them 2pts behind the Russians in 2nd place.
There was much more action for the youth players however. Connor Wickham, tipped to make the senior squad one day, made his debut for the England U19s after graduating from the U17 team in which he starred during the summer. The 17-year-old made his appearance count too, scoring the third goal for his side just before half time before being replaced after 70 minutes as England hammered Albania 6-1 in their U19 European Championship qualifier on Friday. Wickham also played the last quarter of an hour in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Cyprus – a result which secured the team’s progression through to the Elite Round of the competition next year – before earning his side a penalty (which Jonjo Shelvey missed) as the Ipswich striker played the full 90 minutes of a 2-1 defeat to England’s final mini-group opponents Belgium on Wednesday afternoon. Overall, Town’s teenage star should be very pleased with his performances having taken what could hopefully be the next step towards a glittering international career in the future.
Finally, Town’s Northern Ireland U19 trio Josh Carson, Caolan Lavery and Rory McKeown also made appearances for their national side in their three European Championship qualifiers. Carson played the full 90 minutes of both their 0-0 draw against Switzerland on Friday and the 2-1 defeat to Germany on Sunday, before coming on to replace Lavery as a 38th minute substitute in their final 2-1 win over Andorra on Wednesday. Aside from his first half appearance against Andorra, Lavery played 59 minutes against the Swiss and 79 minutes against the Germans. Rory McKeown was unused in both of the first two matches but enjoyed a full 90 minutes in the win over Andorra. Sadly however the victory was not enough to see them through with England to the Elite Round.
Plenty therefore for Ipswich manager Roy Keane to reflect upon when his players return for the resumption of Championship action at home to Coventry City on Saturday. Thankfully, none of those who did feature have picked up injuries whilst on duty and hopefully the break will have served as useful experience for all of them. Well done, boys!
Did you see any of our players in action for their countries during the break? Are you pleased that Town have a growing number of international players in the squad, or is it just a nuisance if they keep coming back unfit or injured? Share your views by joining Vital Ipswich: