Saturday 21 October 2017

Eamonn Sweeney: Let’s not gloss over it, Trap’s final campaign was a disaster

Giovanni Trapattoni has left his Ireland role by mutual consent
Giovanni Trapattoni has left his Ireland role by mutual consent

Eamonn Sweeney, NNI Sports Columnist of the Year

Giovanni Trapattoni has just presided over one of the great disasters in the history of Irish football. Our attempt to make the 2008 European Championships under Steve Staunton is held up as a laughable nadir. Whatever you said about Trapattoni, we believed, he wouldn't allow a repeat of something like that.

Yet Staunton's team did manage to take a total of six points out of a possible eighteen against their three main rivals in the group, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Trap's men, on the other hand, have earned a pathetic two out of fifteen in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign against the slightly weaker trio of Germany, Sweden and Austria which will become two from eighteen when Germany put us to the sword in Cologne next month.

Even during the 1986 World Cup qualifying campaign, a legendarily disastrous expedition which led to the appointment of Jack Charlton, Eoghan Hand's team managed to take the equivalent of seven points from eighteen against the top three teams in the group.

It's not exaggerating to say that we have witnessed the worst effort by an Irish team to qualify for a major competition since we took one point from six games when trying to qualify for the 1970 World Cup, back in the antediluvian days of part-time managers and players not being released by their clubs in England.

The past two years have been a disgrace. And if only to show that they believe the Irish football public deserves better, the FAI had to give Giovanni Trapattoni the road as quickly as possible. The bell had to be put on the cat. There was no point handing the man a glass of whiskey and a revolver and expecting him to do the decent thing. John Delaney and his minions had to get their hands dirty.

Time was of the essence not merely for reasons of pride but because for once there is an outstanding candidate available. Martin O'Neill's outstanding achievement in bringing an very average Celtic side to the 2003 UEFA Cup final where they were edged out by an FC Porto side good enough to win the following season's Champions League showed he understands the game beyond the confines of these islands. His managerial career in both England and Scotland has been an object lesson in getting the most of relatively limited players. As an international player, he played on a Northern Ireland team which punched above its weight like no other Irish team in history. And, importantly, fans will believe that he has the best interests of Irish football at heart.

Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli, on the other hand, gradually came to seem like two men who had little respect for not just Irish football but the country itself. The buffoonish Tardelli, Leporello to his boss's Don Giovanni, was especially guilty of this but Trapattoni too seemed increasingly impatient with the country which had brought him back into international management.

It was notable that the most of the players who were shabbily treated by the manager, Andy Reid, Steven Kelly, Darron Gibson, James McClean and Wes Hoolahan were Irish born.

His dwindling band of apologists liked to say that Trap didn't have players as good as those available to Jack Charlton. But this was a nonsensical argument. Ireland weren't playing against Jack Charlton's Irish team. Right now, with two rounds of games left, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iceland, Hungary, Albania, Austria and Montenegro are all in with a chance of making the 2014 finals. It's the likes of those teams we are competing against. And right now we find ourselves behind Iceland, Albania and Montenegro in the international pecking order. Trapattoni should be ashamed of himself.

The man was paid a huge wage to qualify the Irish team for major tournaments. He did it once in three attempts.

So don't be sad because one out of three ain't good.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport