Paul Hyland: Darron Gibson's career is now on the line
Darron Gibson has enough on his plate now not to care too much about Martin O'Neill's ruminations on the striking revelation that he was out and about in Manchester in a fast car with no shoes on at a time when the rest of the world had long since begun the daily grind.
His brief and potentially catastrophic relationship with three cyclists and their carbon fibre steeds and a petrol station caused the Ireland boss to raise one of his expressive eyebrows in a manner best described as incredulous when he heard that community service was the sentence after a guilty plea.
"Community service, is it? Yes, maybe I'll join him up there in the community service. Does that mean service in church? I'm only joking!"
When asked whether the incident would impact negatively on Gibson's chances of being picked for Ireland, O'Neill laughed: "Yeah, if he goes to prison."
"I just don't want to be going to Wormwood Scrubs and picking him up. Can he just have a day out here, 'cos we have a game. Wormwood Scrubs, I suppose it would be quite handy to Heathrow Airport. Unless they stick him into Strangeways or something. You could get a flight from Manchester, I suppose," he said to much laughter.
Gibson is in a bad place and his international future is probably not a priority. It would seem that it never has been.
His career is on the line now and with the tide rapidly ebbing on his chance of ever delivering on the rich promise he showed as a young kid at Old Trafford, he needs a dramatic change of direction.
There is a great sadness about this story and no good ending in sight. Gibson is not a character who attracts sympathy. Ireland fans have only ever seen fitful examples of his ability and his club career has been similarly unsatisfactory.
For that reason, O'Neill is entitled to feel no urgency about launching a rescue plan. He is loaded with enough pressure of his own to invest time in a player who walks his own road. He has not spoken to Gibson but will try to.
"I certainly would, yes. I think that, first things first, the club would have a chat with him. I'm sure they are not too happy with the situation. For us, he has not been around the scene too much some quite considerable time."
"So if he wants me to have a word with him. I'm sure he's not that bothered whether I have had a word with him or not. He has more issues on his mind than an international manager phoning him to find out how many hours he is doing."
"On a serious note, the number of games that he has not played in the last couple of years is kind of worrying. You get to that stage when you are never properly fit.
"That's something that he would have to address on his own at club level. We are unable to do anything about that. He has had very little football probably close on two years.
"If there are genuine reasons for the injuries then that is fine. if is something that you are not doing well enough yourself then that is something he would have to address himself."
O'Neill concedes that Gibson has had a hard time with injury and that long periods of inactivity are a curse for professional footballers.
"It definitely saps away at your enthusiasm. There is nothing worse, I think, for players - I know this myself - than having injuries that are lingering and it looks that you cannot shake them off at all.
Clearly, Gibson needs help. When it was put to O'Neill that maybe his community service could be playing football for Ireland, he smiled: "Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. That could be the biggest punishment of all. Thank you, lads."