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TRAP'S BACK! 'Doctor told me I can work until I'm 90'

CONSIDER how your average 71-year-old recovers in hospital after an operation.

A flick through Ireland's Own and a stab at the crossword in the paper, perhaps. A glance at the news on telly but waiting, of course, for the weather at the end having paused for the Angelus at the start.

Watching a DVD of a clash in a football match between Agvan Mkrtchyan and Khosro Heydari (great words, if you have Scrabble with you in that hospital ward) would hardly sit high on the list of priorities, but that's how Ireland's manager Giovanni Trapattoni has spent some of his time since he was hospitalised last week before Ireland's friendly with Argentina.

And it is comforting to know, for Ireland's fans and players alike, that Trapattoni's mind is still sharp as a tack after his eight-day stay in a Dublin hospital, his time spent catching up on essential bedside reading and viewing like the tape of Armenia's friendly with Iran last week.

Ireland's display against Argentina - defensive frailty, especially in the troublesome right back slot, ineffective central midfield play and a lack of cutting edge up front - may be some cause for concern as Ireland prepare to start out on the road to Poland and Ukraine in just 16 days' time. But the good news is not only that Trap is back in charge but he's seen the Argentina game, has watched Armenia and is also clued in to the recent travails of his players.

All proving once again that, if Ireland are to make it to the finals of Euro 2012 it will be under the guidance and direction of the 71-year-old, or not at all.

"I think this last time was not useless for me because I used this time at home also having many possibilities to look at DVDs of Armenia. I am sure we are ready for this very, very important game. I have a lot of material, a lot of information. It will be very difficult in this match, it is not only away but Armenia is a very hard game," Trapattoni said as he met members of the media in Dublin yesterday, just hours after his release from hospital.

From that came the first piece of very good news about his future plans - Trap will be on board the plane when Ireland leave for Yerevan, despite fears that his 71-year-old frame may struggle with an arduous flight so soon after his operation.

"Yes, it is only four or five hours flight. With today's medicine, people are operated on in New York and after a week, they fly to Europe. I can start my jobs immediately no problem," he said.

"I run in the country, I work in a gym at home, 30 minutes or 20 minutes running. The doctor said 'you can work until you are 90 years old.' I think without the little situation, we could go without problems. I have no problem until now."


And he is up to speed with what's been going on in his absence. It wasn't all good news, as the Argentina game caused Trap to ponder a rather limp Irish display, especially in the first half when the boys in green treated the Argentina goal with so much reverence that they seemed scared to trouble the away team's keeper.

"I think the first half, we give them too much initiative. We could maybe change a little bit the situation. In the first half, they shoot one time. We were missing five players, four important players. The team in the second half played well but we missed the personality of Doyle, the personality of Whelan, the personality of St Ledger, Lawrence, McGeady also, Hunt," added Trapattoni.

Since he went into hospital, two of his players have moved clubs (McGeady, Sheridan), one of his possible players (Stephen Ireland) is about to swap employers, while key men (Keane, Given) have started the season out of favour. That's before he can think about injuries which have kept other important men (Doyle, St Ledger, Whelan, Stephen Hunt) off the pitch, but Given's demotion to second choice at City is a concern.

"I spoke with him," said Trap, in relation to Given's difficulty on the Manchester City bench. "He has a good mentality, he is a strong man. I look for him, there are teams not only in England but also Italy who Shay could play for. I assured him I think he can play again in Manchester. It is better he stay because I think he can play.

"But we have other players who are not playing for their clubs. We had Whelan not playing for his club, Andrews not playing for his club, Lawrence the same, Folan the same. We had only McGeady, Keane, O'Shea, McShane, Dunne, we had six players not playing for their club but did well for the national team. They gained a place in their clubs by playing for Ireland.

"For us it's important not to have injuries. I do know in the last two years, we discovered new players. At the moment, I trust them even when we are missing one or two. It's important to continue to discover more players, especially, in the strikers because we have Keane and Doyle who are important and Folan is sometimes injured. Long is growing, and young. It's important to discover one or two strikers. On the wings we have enough good players," the Irish boss added, coming back, as always, to his stance on the "little details".

"I remember our first game like Montenegro," he said, in relation to the opening bouts of the World Cup qualifies, "and we must remember when we start the last qualification about our red card and yellow card because they will again be very important. Every yellow card, every red card will be not only negative but important because in this country, they start the season different. We have to remember our attitude and performance and discipline, not only on the pitch but off it. We cannot react to provocation."

We may have the Irish manager in Ireland for longer than planned - after talks with his own boss, Mrs Paola Trapattoni, he may decide to stick around for a few more days before heading home to Italy. Sure, I didn't want my wife to come here," he said. "I said I only need two or three days, she show me her love for me. Okay my wife is happy, she is happy to be here. She's happy because I'm okay." A feeling shared by his employers and players.