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Meyler proves he has eye of a Tiger

DAVID MEYLER'S pragmatic decision to cut his ties with Sunderland is typical of a player who has already had to cope with more soul-searching challenges than most professional footballers deal with in a career.

Just weeks ago, Martin O'Neill was talking about bringing Meyler back from his loan spell at Hull to cover big holes in his own midfield over the busy holiday programme.

A badly timed yellow card meant that Meyler was suspended for the St Stephen's Day fixture list and O'Neill chose to leave him at Hull.

It can only be assumed that events have overtaken both men and that O'Neill now sees a greater value in cashing in an asset for £1.5million than giving Meyler another chance to prove he has come back as good and as strong as he was when he first began to make headway at the Stadium of Light under Steve Bruce.

Two cruciate problems in quick succession would not have been survivable a few decades back and even vastly improved surgical techniques cannot remove an element of chance when a player goes under the knife.

The rehab alone can only be undertaken by someone possessing iron will and it can only be imagined how hard the work was to retrain muscles and joints for a second time when the unimaginable happened exactly two years ago tomorrow and he pulled up with a torn medial ligament at Villa Park in the same knee he injured in May 2010 against Manchester United.

Some felt that Meyler could never regain the momentum he had built up but his performances on loan with Hull have been attracting rave reviews and Bruce is clearly delighted with his capture.


For Meyler, it means football at a decent level at the top of the Championship and the prospect of a swift return to the Premier League if he can help Hull win promotion.

For Giovanni Trapattoni, if he survives beyond the March double-header against Sweden and Austria, Meyler is a slow-burner but there is no more committed player in the Ireland squad.

When he first appeared as a real prospect, a good judge of talent offered the opinion that the last Irish player he saw displaying the kind of obsessive drive to win Meyler exhibits was Roy Keane.

He is convinced that if Meyler had avoided the potholes and lined out at the start of the 2010/11 Premier League season fit and healthy, he would by now be a fixture in the senior international team and set fair for a long stint in Ireland's midfield.


Now, at the very least, he is a new option for Trapattoni who needs all the help he can get. Next month's friendly against Poland would be a good time for Meyler to lay down another marker.

It has been a mixed Christmas for Trapattoni or at least the compartment of his life set aside to deal with Ireland. He hasn't been to England much.

Last week, he dropped a little hand grenade which went largely unnoticed when he admitted disappointment that the talks he had with Roma about becoming their manager at some point 18 months ago didn't work out.

If they had, Ireland would have been looking for a new manager in June 2010 with much of the heavy-lifting in the Euro 2012 qualifying group still ahead.

Just before Christmas came the news that Richard Dunne had to have a third operation and, in the last week, the worrying news that he is being stalked by the New York Red Bulls.

If that move were to take place, he would almost certainly retire from international football.

Then Shay Given popped up with an offer Trapattoni seems likely to accept although it has to be a big worry that Ireland's top two goalkeepers can't get a game.

But at least Meyler has sorted himself out and can push ahead with his ambitions.

This could be a year of dramatic change in and around Ireland's senior team and he needs regular first-team football to be well-placed to take advantage of a generational shift.