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Wednesday 13 December 2017

True test of Trap U-turn lies in wait

Restful run-in to Croatia clash is unnerving

THE shift has been dramatic and obvious. Giovanni Trapattoni has taken his foot off the pedal and it is anybody's guess what the consequences will be for Ireland's Euro 2012 adventure.

Yesterday in Gdynia, Trap's senior men put their feet up for the third day in a row and if Aiden McGeady's plea for less intensity on the training ground was only a minor hitch in the always on-message relationship between the manager and the players, it has had an exponential impact.

We're now just 48 hours from Slaven Bilic and Croatia and Shay Given's calf is not right.

John O'Shea continues to saunter through training sessions which amounted to a frolic for the cameras and 10,000 locals on Tuesday, nothing at all on Wednesday and another walk in the park for Trapattoni's first XI yesterday.

Contrast that with the two a day hard yards the players put in in Montecatini. Stark and worrying.



Overcooked

There are two parallel possibilities here, one bad, one good. Either Trapattoni overcooked the egg in Italy and it took a player to speak to the media for that realisation to crystallise or he worked them at high tempo last week and always intended a much more benign regime in Poland.

The first suggests that there is major lack of communication between Trapattoni and his players and after four years that possibility is disturbing.

Convincing evidence for the prosecution is the fact that he blew his top in Budapest and quite unequivocally said that Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle needed to make a greater commitment to his system even at the expense of their natural game.

Sacrifice is no stranger to Kevin Doyle who has been beaten down by the experience he has endured at Wolves in the last six months. For much of his time at Molineux, he slogged for Mick McCarthy.

So there is no reason why he wouldn't do what he was asked to do unless he didn't have the ability or had a different idea of the team shape than his manager.

Keane took a whack in the back of his legs early on against Hungary and, quite understandably, resisted the urge to throw himself into a battle a week before Ireland's opening game of the European Championships.

Surely Trapattoni must understand and agree with such a rational choice, so why did he have the hump with his captain -- even temporarily.

When McGeady explained that several players mentioned that their legs were like logs at half-time in Budapest, an easier explanation for the performance offered itself but Trap stuck with his theme after the big arrival in Gdynia on Tuesday.

He did dilute his hard line when he used mature reflection to explain that the result and effort against Hungary wasn't so bad after all. But he still wants more from his captain and from Doyle. It can't be a good thing when he's using the foghorn to tell them that.

That's a decent rap-sheet and there is less available to make the argument for Trapattoni as a mystical genius who is adding and removing seasoning from the pot he has been standing over for four years until he serves up the perfect blend in Poznan on Sunday.

To be fair, he has been entirely consistent on the Shay Given story. Very early in this process, he told us that Given could yet play in the three group games and rest in between. It now looks like that's the best we can hope for.

Trapattoni has remained true to his stated belief that the player is the best judge of his body and has allowed O'Shea to make the call on what he does and what he doesn't do.

In an ideal world, Trapattoni would prefer O'Shea to have 10 competitive league games in his legs but he will start on Sunday with 90 minutes against Hungary, a half dozen training sessions done and only three worth a decent sweat.

This is nobody's fault. O'Shea wanted to play against Manchester United on the last day of the season, a commitment Trapattoni must understand even if he described the decision as silly.

O'Shea gambled, lasted 43 minutes and has been remarkably patient while trying to fix the damage ever since but it will take a truly epic effort on his behalf to perform at his best for three games from an almost standing start and with his calf injury at a point where if it was a burn, it would still be pink.



inconsistencies

We've become hung-up on these three topics for the last three weeks now -- Given, O'Shea and Trapattoni's inconsistencies -- and, of course, all will be so much chip paper come Sunday and the moment when our brain stem vibrates at that unique pitch which championship football generates for the devoted.

We have largely ignored Slaven Bilic, who has his own problems (the biggest the very wounding loss of Ivica Olic) and worried instead about the possibility that the system which has trumped Trapattoni's almost every time Ireland has confronted it will once again unhinge players who the manager has given a guarantee "will play with their eyes shut".

Of course he meant 'can play with their eyes shut' but Hungary told us that there's a lot of squinting going on among the players and Luka Modric looms large.

Bilic is a great fella, buzzy, friendly, media savvy and smart. He also knows how to beat Ireland and he was having a great laugh to himself in the VIP seats in the Ferenc Puskas stadium.

He's no fool though and it can be taken as a certainty that he has worn out his DVDs of the play-off in Paris.

That game in no way represents the way Ireland normally play under Trapattoni but it did show what this group of players can do when they have nothing to lose.

Bilic will also have watched the Bosnia performance in Lansdowne Road with a keen eye for detail.

As Richard Dunne observed, that's what they were able to do after a week's intensive preparation as opposed to the customary snatched few days.

Whether Trapattoni has made some serious mistakes in his preparation schedule since then and worked his players too hard or not, Bilic must break through an Ireland defence which is very, very mean and on that fact rests our hope and expectation.

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