Daniel McDonnell: McCarthy snub proves Trap never forgets
THE decision to omit James McCarthy from the Ireland squad for next month's crunch Euro 2012 qualifiers against Slovakia and Russia may have been greeted with shock in some quarters but, in reality, it shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise.
Giovanni Trapattoni has a subtle way of reminding people who is boss. Cutting McCarthy from his final selection for the qualifiers is punishment for failing to show up for the international gatherings in May and August, regardless of the validity of the reasons offered.
Marc Wilson, Jonathan Walters and Ciaran Clark have also suffered for missing the summer gathering, but Trapattoni is well stocked in their favoured positions with his final 25-man selection.
McCarthy offers something different, however, and was brought off the bench in the March qualifier against Macedonia -- an act which secured his Irish status.
Now, he is deemed surplus to requirements for the pivotal week of the Euro 2012 campaign. It's a pointed snub, no matter what way you look at it.
After all, Trapattoni was keen to stress in March that the Wigan starlet was ready for the step-up to the next level. Now, a highly rated Premier League prospect is down the pecking order behind players with an inferior club standing.
Glenn Whelan is the only regular top-flight central midfielder in the squad. Darron Gibson is out in the cold at Manchester United, while Keith Andrews has been sent on loan from Blackburn to Ipswich.
Keith Fahey, who is next in line, has dropped a division with Birmingham to finally get a run in the position where he is best suited.
McCarthy will be wondering why there is no place for him -- either as a midfielder or as additional cover for the wide positions, with Burnley's Keith Treacy and Leeds loan attacker Andy Keogh back-up to the preferred wingers.
The answer is that Treacy and Keogh were present for the Carling Nations Cup, the trip to Macedonia and the unlikely friendly win over Italy in Belgium. McCarthy was absent, and is now seemingly in the doghouse alongside Walters and Wilson.
This exclusion is harsh on Walters, who was lumped in with the 'disappeared' Wilson and McCarthy in May when he had a long-standing shoulder problem that required treatment.
Significantly, Stoke manager Tony Pulis weighed in on the striker's behalf -- and not Wilson's -- when they were criticised by Trapattoni.
The Italian extended the olive branch by inviting Walters, Wilson and McCarthy into the panel for the recent friendly with Croatia. He was happy with Walters and Wilson when they reported to Dublin to have injuries assessed, even if that process managed to rile Pulis.
The emergence of Stephen Ward as an alternative to Kevin Kilbane is the main reason for Wilson's omission from the squad for the Euro double-header, while Simon Cox has taken his chance to move in front of Walters and join Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle and Shane Long in the striking ranks. In other words, the Stoke pair had no chance of being involved anyway.
McCarthy, who missed the Croatia game with an ankle problem sustained 24 hours before he was due to report to the Ireland camp, had claims to be included on the bench as a potential wildcard option.
Instead, he is told to expect a call from U-21 manager Noel King.
Like Andy Reid -- who missed Trapattoni's first summer get-together and never recovered -- the Glaswegian is learning that it's difficult to regain trust when it is lost.
Trapattoni may forgive, but it doesn't mean that he forgets.