This year's European Championship will give Ireland a chance to erase the bitter memory of Thierry Henry's handball.

Although the team's chances of reaching the Euro 2012 quarterfinals in a group that includes Spain and Italy appear to be slim, Ireland coach Giovanni Trappatoni will be bringing and experienced squad to Poland and Ukraine. The backbone of that group - Los Angeles Galaxy striker Robbie Keane, goalkeeper Shay Given, and winger Damien Duff - will be making a last bid for international glory.

''The squad is very important to me and they deserve to come with us, they helped us achieve qualification,'' Trappatoni said.

Given, whose 121 appearances puts him at No. 10 on the all-time list of appearances for goalkeepers, said the European Championship was vindication for missing the last World Cup, when Henry's handball helped France to an extra-time playoff win.

There was no such controversy about Ireland's progression this time. Following a respectable campaign that fell just short of automatic qualification, Ireland defeated Estonia in the playoffs.

''We had a good team and a good squad and now we have proven that,'' Given said. ''Now we just want to go out and do the country proud.''

Given, Keane, Duff and center back Richard Dunne are all the other side of 30, but they enjoy Trappatoni's full trust.

''This is not the campaign for too many young players,'' the Italian has said.

Nonetheless, a place in the squad is expected to be found for James McClean, the 23-year-old Sunderland winger whose emergence in the second half of the Premier League season has catapulted him into the ranks of the best young European talent. McClean, who was born in Northern Ireland, was a late inclusion for the 1-1 friendly draw against Czech Republic in February.

Although short of truly world-class stars, most of the rest of Ireland's squad are established Premier League players.

''It's the first time I can think of that we've got so many quality players,'' said John O'Shea, the 30-year-old former Manchester United defender who now plays alongside McClean at Sunderland. ''The excitement is starting to build now for everyone involved and I hope we can go to Poland and make the fans proud.

''People are saying that the first game against Croatia is the acid test but we've still got to play Spain and Italy then.''

With experience on the field matched by experience among the coaching staff, Ireland is unlikely to be a pushover for the more fancied teams in the group.

Trappatoni, now 73, is among the most successful coaches in European club football, with seven Italian championships, a European Cup title with Juventus, and titles in Germany, Portugal and Austria. He also coached Italy at the 2002 World Cup, while assistant Marco Tardelli is famous for his screaming celebration after scoring in the final when Italy won the World Cup in 1982.

Trappatoni attracted criticism for an approach during qualification that some saw as outdated and focused on defense, though progression to the final tournament has vindicated his philosophy - the Irish conceding only seven goals in 10 qualifying group matches.

''We're very strong defensively and that leads to frustration within the opposition. We've shown in the past that we can hit teams on the counterattack as well as from set pieces,'' O'Shea said. ''I feel that we can achieve a lot because the way our manager has developed the team.''