herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Scary times for Trap

Irish manager desperate to ensure his key men make it to Poland in one piece

MUSCLES, tendons, ligaments, lacerations and all the other enemies of Ireland's Euro 2012 aspirations are Giovanni Trapattoni's major preoccupation at the moment.

So much so that he told us he wrapped Keith Andrews in some cotton wool with talk of a groin strain after training yesterday and had to change his story when the player himself said: "What groin strain?"

These are nervous times for international managers and players alike when every day traversed is one less to worry about.

Hence Andrews' dismissal of an injury which might, on another occasion, have provided an opportunity for some early sunshine on his back just when the season's grind is biting hard.

The international break at this time of the year is rarely welcomed and even the most committed find it hard to raise enthusiasm.

That's in an ordinary year when the transition from winter into spring brings the greatest demands on bodies already flogged by a relentless spin of matches over six months.

But this is no ordinary year and no Irish players within touching distance of Trapattoni's squad want to be anywhere other than Dublin on a February evening.

"I see the players are very well," said Trap, kicking off his media duties with his traditional assessment of the squad.

"Always when they come here I see them very happy. We have only two, (Keith) Fahey and Andrews, who have a little bit of groin strain.

"Andrews will have a scan and we will decide if they go back to their clubs. We have a big squad. But probably I think they go back to their clubs.

"Because the groin injury is muscular, it's better if the club decides what they can do. An injury now is very dangerous for May."

There it was. The unspoken fear which causes Trap his most sleepless nights is that the men who got him to Poland won't be there with him when he needs them.

So it was good to hear Trapattoni deny the line which surfaced at the end of the week suggesting that Richard Dunne is out for the rest of the season and will only return to action in time to play in Poland.

"I'm not worried," said Trap. "He told me that he will be ready again in three or four weeks and that he can do other work before then. He will be with us. He said he will play one or two games before the end of the season."

Trapattoni has been forced by circumstances to consider anything up to a half dozen changes for the friendly against the Czech Republic and three of the most welcome will mean game time for James McCarthy, James McClean and Shane Duffy.

McClean could be in for some personal attention from his international manager.

"Maybe after tomorrow, I will make one or two exercises with him because I saw him in two or three games, he plays well, but for me he has one or two naiveties. There are one or two things I can say to him," said Trap.

"We called a few more because we wish to give the new players like Duffy, McClean, and (Paul) Green the smell for the dressing room, for the mentality, so that they understand why we achieve these results.

"It's good that we have these difficult choices to make. Now we have 30 players, 33, 35 and it's better. Now it is difficult to choose between them. A few years ago we had only eight or nine to choose."

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