DAMIEN DUFF says there's no doubt in his mind that Giovanni Trapattoni will be in the dugout when Ireland kick off their European Championship qualifying campaign in three weeks' time.
The 71-year-old missed out on the opening night at the newly rebuilt Lansdowne Road as Trapattoni was of course in hospital on the other side of the city, recovering from surgery. That led to fears that the Ireland manager would not be fit enough for the arduous journey to Yerevan for the September 3 game which opens the Euro 2012 campaign for Ireland.
That week will be a punishing one for anybody, especially a 71-year-old who has just undergone an operation. It's a long flight to Armenia. The squad will arrive into Yerevan close to midnight on the Wednesday before the game, then it's another long flight back to Dublin in the small hours of the morning. And then it starts all over again as Trapattoni prepares for the second game of the qualifiers a few days later, at home to Armenia.
Many 71-year-olds feel tested by a flight to the Canaries so it is a lot to ask of Trap, but Duff has no fears about Ireland being effectively manager-less for that game away to Armenia, a side who are themselves feeling down today after last night's disappointing 3-1 defeat to Iran in a friendly.
"Of course we missed Giovanni. He's such a big part of what we are with this Irish team. We would always miss him if he wasn't there," Duff told the Herald.
"But he will be back in a couple of weeks, I have no doubt about that.
"It's not even an issue for me. I think it's a million per cent that Giovanni will be on that plane to Armenia and will be in the dugout shouting instructions at us.
"I know he was devastated to miss last night but he will be back. Marco did a great job last night but there wasn't a whole lot he could do as our sharpness just wasn't there as it was pre-season for us. Marco did a great job for the game but I have no doubt that Trap will be back very soon."
Duff is one of the longest-serving players in the Irish squad, winning his 84th cap last night as he prepares for what will be his seventh qualifying campaign, so he has told Irish fans not to get too depressed about the defeat to Argentina.
"I don't think you can read too much into the game. From our point of view it was still pre-season for us and you could see that in our sharpness. We have three weeks to go before the qualifiers start and that's the important stuff," said Duff.
"The first half wasn't great, the second half was a lot better from us but the main thing is that we are fitter and sharper for that game in Armenia. We just wanted to get the game done and work on our fitness, as the real business starts in Armenia in a few weeks.
"But there were positives in the game. The subs all did well when they came on and Paul Green was impressive again. He's done really well since he came into the squad in the summer. Keith Treacy did well when he came on as a sub. I think he will really add to the squad," added Duff.