IF Martin O’Neill has learned one thing since he took over as Ireland manager, it’s the true meaning of the word langer. He could have asked for a primer from Roy but he doesn’t need it now.
It’s a word which beautifully describes a person of unbridled foolishness which resonates best in the larynx of a Corkman in full flow. But, in this case, O’Neill’s lilting Derry tones should be able to do it justice if he is minded to put it at the end of a sentence which begins with Stephen Ireland.
He could even put it in a song and there is one available for the job. Ireland’s Call, an awful mess of a tune, barely rescued by a beery chorus and one which most of us would be happy to see consigned to history, carries the correct sentiment but on this occasion, nobody should answer it.
So instead of a lazy day beside the pool in a nice place with nice food, beer and in the case of single men, girls, they are running around a field beside the Irish Sea doing the things they have done since early July last year because they want to play for Ireland.
Those with families have given up the chance to be with their very young kids and finally ease their bones after a tough, tough season which for someone like John O’Shea, dragged him through every imaginable emotion and then spat him out the other end with a grin on his face.
But he showed up. This is a footballer who has won just about everything and can now add the cold sweat intensity of a relegation battle to his CV, perhaps as big an achievement as any of the medals he won at Old Trafford.
He won’t be in America and that’s fair enough. He’s been given a pass but he has earned it. The same could be said of Richard Dunne, who has a big game to play at the weekend and will need a long rest after it.
Stephen Ireland hasn’t turned up. It shouldn’t matter how many phone calls went astray or who spoke to whom or didn’t speak. This man does not live in a yurt on the Mongolian steppe. He lives near Manchester. The onus is on him to make contact - to show willingness.
O’Neill kept a door open for Ireland but he should have just slammed it shut with a clang. Those who still make a case for him are now trading on memories of a player which are six years old. That and a handful of effective performances for Stoke at the scrag end of the season. What is all the fuss about? Forget him. Move on.
One man we can’t afford to forget is James McCarthy and he won’t be involved in any of the four summer friendlies, which is a great disappointment. Those with a cynical mind would point out that he has missed his share of games at this time of the year and often in controversial circumstances.
Back in 2011, Giovanni Trapattoni, Roberto Martinez and McCarthy dragged us into a Bermuda Triangle of claim, counter-claim and confusion from which nothing coherent emerged other than the fact McCarthy wouldn’t play in some friendly internationals but that he wanted to play for Ireland.
Since then, he has turned up for almost every game and this time last year was happy enough to fly to New York for a showcase friendly against Spain. He was our best player in Yankee Stadium.
No doubt, O’Neill would have wanted him to play in the first two games against Turkey and Italy and like Seamus Coleman, allow him to give the USA a miss. McCarthy’s absence does leave a gap for Glenn Whelan, David Meyler, Jeff Hendrick and Wes Hoolahan to work in, although few expect Ireland to kick off the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign without the Everton midfielder. Likely as not, they are fighting to play alongside him.
It would be interesting to know what Roy Keane thinks about all of these comings and goings. At this time of the year back in the day, he was known to turn up at cricket matches when he was supposed to be running around the AUL in Clonshaugh.
His role as assistant boss gives him a perspective he never had as a player and perhaps a wry smile has creased his face over the last few weeks while he and O’Neill compiled their list for the four games.
It would be even more interesting to know what he thinks about Stephen Ireland now. Would he feel the need to use the best word his county has given to the English language? Hard not to, really.