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Trap right to urge caution

IT'S always difficult to get up a head of steam when the opposition is of the butcher, baker and candlestick-maker variety, but fair play to Giovanni Trapattoni. He almost made Andorra sound formidable.

He bounced into the room for his first round of media of the week bubbling with energy, much more like the man who took his first bow in the RDS over three years ago.

He took a spin through the usual topics and managed to talk himself into a row with Mick McCarthy over Kevin Doyle.

Trapattoni urged caution for the task ahead and painted Andorra as a bear pit. He mentioned a time when he went to the Pyrenean principality with "another international team, an important team", (by which, we assume, he meant Italy) and found the locals hostile.

"It was war," he said.

The only problem with that is the fact that Italy have never played Andorra, so Trap must have taken a wrong turn while rambling down memory lane. It's those little details that catch you out, although, it must be said, this was a big one.

Never mind. Trapattoni's attempt to talk up Andorra as an imminent threat to Ireland's chances of breaking a nine-year qualification drought was about as realistic as his tale of raw passion in Andorra la Vella.

He did have a point in urging caution though. This Ireland team is a different beast altogether than the callow unit that offered itself up for international ridicule in Cyprus and San Marino during Steve Staunton's term.

Nor is it the group of top, top players from the best teams in England which Jack Charlton took to Vaduz in his pomp and left with a point and a chicken coop full of egg on his face.

No team batters Andorra anymore and Slovakia could only manage a goal in each game home and away. In the Aviva, they gave a more than decent account of themselves and, no doubt, they will do the same on Friday.

But they haven't won or even drawn a game at any of the levels UEFA organise in 2011. That's a blank at Under 17, 21 and senior level and, without the need for an exhaustive trek through the archives, it is safe to say that this has been a typical year for them.

But there are other variables at work here which make the trip to Andorra via Barcelona tricky, not the least of them the altitude the game will be played at -- over 1,000m.

The problem for Trapattoni is not so much the way his players will react on the night but in the following days and, most importantly, against Armenia at the Aviva in a week's time.

The other worry is Trapattoni himself and how he will set his team out against one of the weakest in European football.

There shouldn't be a huge amount of defending to do and while it is foolish to hope that Trapattoni will lean on James McCarthy, there is some indication Trapattoni is at least considering him for some role.

If there is a danger of slow recovery after altitude, why not give young legs a run and save his best until last at the Aviva next Tuesday night?

That would be a happy ending to one of the most unedifying aspects of Trapattoni's time among us, especially if McCarthy gets a chance and takes it.

Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews have mostly done what they've been told by Trapattoni and earned his trust. Both men have more to their game than we see when they play for Ireland but they have no real competition.

Keith Fahey grows an inch or two when he plays for Ireland and he's been involved in some of the best football played under Trapattoni, but he's only just back from injury and needs time before he can make an impact again.

Darren Gibson has been a huge disappointment and his current situation at Old Trafford is hardly ideal. There's no serious threat to Whelan or Andrews from that quarter for some time to come either.

At the very least, McCarthy can keep them on their toes. No doubt Andrews and Whelan have noted that he is back in the Wigan team and according to himself, occupying the holding position in midfield.

Nobody expects him to make a career in that position, though he has the strength to do it.

His instinct to attack remains his strongest suit but it would be no harm at all if he put together an extended run for Wigan while learning a new role and one which Trapattoni values above all else.

Of course there is more than a chance that Trapattoni won't be around to see the best of McCarthy and, for that reason, Andorra will be treated with kid gloves.

A new contract would be the very last thing on Trapattoni's mind if he had to fly back into Dublin in the early hours of Saturday morning with anything less than three points.