Foley call a sign of Trap's firm resolve
NO TIME FOR SENTIMENT: THE Euro 2012 preparations are two weeks old and, already, it's been a busy time for the Irish management team. Giovanni Trapattoni has been earning his money with a series of tough calls as the most important event in recent Irish football history looms over the horizon.
"It is my duty to make decisions, for the sake of the team and for the sake of the country," said Trapattoni on Tuesday night, explaining the reasoning behind omitting Kevin Foley from his squad and including Paul McShane. "It is a sensitive time, but I must disregard personal feelings."
Certainly, Ireland's manager is in the zone when it comes to the difficult decisions. This is no time for sentiment.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CALL?
Unquestionably, calling Foley for a meeting on Tuesday and telling him he wouldn't be going to Poland was the toughest moment for the Irish boss.
But he still went ahead and did it, reasoning that McShane would provide back-up for centre-halves Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger and Darren O'Dea -- all of whom are short of 100pc fitness. With Paul Green covering the defensive midfield berth that Foley also serviced, the Wolves man suddenly became expendable.
WHY DID FOLEY FEEL BETRAYED?
First of all, this is a man who has spent six years around the squad and earned just eight caps, but continues to report for duty and has never kicked up a fuss about his persistent exclusion.
His outburst post-match on Tuesday was therefore a surprise, but perfectly understandable. Foley arrived on the first day a fortnight ago, determined to work on his fitness, and his hamstring recuperation went to plan. He wanted to play in last Saturday's game with Bosnia, but Trapattoni told him to rest up.
McShane played at right-back in the Bosnian game instead, and then Foley is sent home before getting a chance to make an impression in a match of substance. It wouldn't have solved his lack of centre-half experience, so he would probably have missed out anyway, but he would have preferred if the manager was straight with him.
WILL THIS CAUSE PROBLEMS IN THE CAMP?
Foley's mates in the squad were down about his exclusion, but then McShane is one of that number -- they have come up through the ranks together -- so there are two sides to the tale.
After the meeting with the Tuscans, staff members and other players came up to give Foley a hug and a special pat on the back. But footballers can't afford to be too emotional.
They tend to just get on with things, working in a business where dressing-rooms can have revolving doors. For those who remain, a career highlight beckons. Once they land in Poland, excitement will take over.
WHAT IS TRAPATTONI'S MOOD?
While he remains a smiling, genial figure in the company of the media and strangers, he's been in intense form around the camp. Although he was said to be quite emotional when it came to the Foley situation, that was a surprise compared to his normal attitude.
He didn't consistently win trophies throughout his career by being Mr Nice Guy. Right now, his priority is getting the best 11 on the pitch for Croatia. John O'Shea was admonished for playing in Sunderland's final game of the season, while he added Shay Given would be an idiot to play against Bosnia. Given knew that wouldn't be possible after a trip to see his preferred knee specialist.
WHERE DO IRELAND STAND NOW?
The main thing for Trapattoni is that he hasn't lost any of his marquee names. In the positive category, Dunne and Robbie Keane were a worry, but they have both come through the Saturday and Tuesday games without any apparent difficulty.
Given and O'Shea are now stepping up their training with a view to the game with Hungary on Monday. Keith Fahey's groin injury has weakened the quality of his midfield reserves; Green is defensive cover, but if Ireland are behind and need invention, then Darron Gibson is the only option.
On the plus side, however, James McClean is growing into the squad, while Shane Long and Jonathan Walters are other men on form who have shown they are capable of functioning effectively as impact subs.