Tuesday 19 March 2019

Ireland finds door shut

Results will dictate how long shadow of Manchester City ace lingersWITH a few sentences, Giovanni Trapattoni closed the door on Stephen Ireland and even if it is impossible to cast a backward glance at idiotic circumstances without regret, it is time to reduce his existence to that of any other Premier League footballer.

"Myself? I thought he would not come back," said Trapattoni. "When I met him, he was always looking down, you know. He never looked me in the eyes ... he is not my son."

It will be hard to blank him. He gets better and better and is now a player who can turn a well-organised and defensively sound team like Trapattoni's Ireland into something altogether more interesting.

But it's what he wants. Irish fans should really ignore him now and let him off on whatever path he chooses to take for himself. He will regret it, especially if Trapattoni manages to lead the Irish team to South Africa. All he has to do is to behave like an adult.

"We were very clear about Stephen. It is the last time I will speak about this, because now we have to speak about Bulgaria and Italy.

"Stephen is not my son, I cannot force him. I said the last time, my feeling was that he would not come back, he's not my son. I said also that it's up to him now, is that clear?"

Perhaps if Trapattoni had said that from the start he might have saved himself a lot of grief. Ireland represents great promise and for that reason, his initial and mostly venial sins would have been forgiven in a heartbeat if he had simply looked sheepish enough and apologised.

But once he refused the initial offer presented by Trapattoni and Liam Brady, however stern a meeting that was, ordinary Irish fans began to view him with some distaste.

It must be said that Ireland is getting some woeful advice. No doubt someone thought it would be a smart idea to take some sepia toned mood shots against stained glass in a children's hospice to illustrate an article praising his new found maturity.


Apparently, he only agreed to do the piece with an English tabloid if they made a donation to his hospice foundation -- a transaction which is always better left unmentioned.

Even the best intentions in the world can look mercenary when spin doctors are at work and particularly when they're using an English newspaper with a limited knowledge of the Irish idiom as a platform.

No doubt Ireland is doing great work with these unfortunate kids but personally, I'd prefer not to hear about it and certainly not a week before the two biggest games of the Trapattoni's era to date.

Shortly before or after every World Cup qualifier so far, there's been another attempt by Ireland to explain his actions and this one was the most accurate and honest to date. But no follow-up -- despite the apparent choreography.

Nobody in the Trapattoni camp will admit that there was some slight hope that Ireland might join the train at the weekend and if there was, it's gone now.

Perhaps Trapattoni could have done more. Perhaps Liam Brady was the wrong man to send to talk to the kid. None of that really matters. Ireland doesn't want to play for his country.

Results, of course, will dictate how long Ireland's shadow lingers. The Trapattoni era has been reduced to three questions moving in a perpetual loop. Why won't he pick Andy Reid? Why won't Ireland play for Ireland? And when do we bring back the inflatable bananas to mark the complete assimilation of Wor Jack's fondness for aerial combat.

Reid is having an ordinary season for Sunderland, playing every week wide on the left and nobody even mentioned him yesterday -- other than Trapattoni himself.

The Ireland question has now been answered. Short of a spectacular expression of remorse, he won't be around anytime soon.


That leaves us with football and let's face it, there isn't a whole lot to talk about there either; certainly not until Bulgaria and Italy put Trapattoni's team to the test in a way that hasn't happened so far.

Maybe that's why the assembled hacks struggled to find anything interesting to talk about after he named his squad for the Group 8 double-header.

Once the Ireland subject had been aired and it must be said, with a great weariness by all concerned, it was down to the more practical matters of Trapattoni's squad.

Darren O'Dea's elevation to the senior squad for a competitive game completes a fantastic week for the Celtic youngster and delivers some extra defensive options for Trapattoni.

But O'Dea was the only deviation from the Trapattoni line. Same names, same faces and in all likelihood, same team as the one that beat Georgia if everyone is fit -- for Bulgaria and Italy.

Get used to this. Nothing much will change as the campaign progresses and it is now obvious that enjoyment during the Trapattoni era will centre mostly on results and certainly not on the swashbuckle quotient.

For all the trumpetry issuing forth from the FAI whenever possible and eircom yesterday, there has been no real engagement between Trapattoni and the Irish public yet.


The current eircom publicity has him kitted out with mitre and hat and that's only a step away from the infamous Roy Keane leprechaun outfit.

It's about right though. So far, he's been something of a cartoon character, making all the right noises about heart and passion and unusually for the Republic of Ireland senior team, actually helping players to deliver such performances but at a distance removed from his public.

He has been packaged by the FAI and doled out in small portions. For that reason, he remains a remote figure and no amount of birthday cake will change that -- never mind the shared celebration with St Patrick.

It should be said here that in many European and Mediterranean cultures, it is bad luck to wish someone a happy birthday on the day before their birthday.

Eircom will have a lot to answer for if things go pear-shaped. Things are bad enough in the world without messing with piseogs.

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