Given woe opens door for Kenny
Published 22/02/2011 | 05:00
When Giovanni Trapattoni ever so politely suggests that the Irish team he inherited was a shambles, his main reference point is the infamous 2006 drubbing at the hands of Cyprus.
In his own hybrid version of English, the veteran gaffer is prone to using a mixture of words and sound effects to describe his observations of the video nasty. "Toom, toom, toom, toom, toom," he gestured on one occasion, a noise for each time the Cypriots successfully breached the Irish rearguard.
The Italian could hardly have imagined facing calls for the inclusion of the man who picked the ball out of the net five times on that dark Nicosia evening, but the news that Shay Given will miss next month's Euro 2012 qualifier with Macedonia surely pushes open the door to a return from the international wilderness for Paddy Kenny.
He is, after all, the form Irish 'keeper across the water, riding high at the top of the Championship table in a QPR team led by his biggest fan, Neil Warnock. This season, the 32-year-old has kept 17 clean sheets, and a second crack at the Premier League now appears inevitable.
It may well be the time for his second attempt at a meaningful international career, with his first, unremarkable, stint effectively ending in Cyprus, with subsequent personal problems leading to Kenny taking the decision to make himself unavailable for selection.
Now, a slimmer, reformed character has declared his desire for a comeback. Alas, he is yet to figure under Trapattoni. The Irish boss made a reference to 'Paddy' in the summer of 2009 when Dean Kiely's shock retirement left him a body short when all the alternatives were on holiday, but it was Colin Doyle who stepped forward on that occasion.
This time, the situation is more pressing after an FAI statement yesterday confirmed that Given is out of the March 26 encounter with the Macedonians. In response, Trapattoni said that, despite the disappointing news he had "good options in Keiren Westwood and Joe Murphy".
He was hardly going to say otherwise, yet it's hard to make a truly convincing case for either on the evidence of this season. Certainly, 26-year-old Westwood is the likely long-term successor to Given, regarded as a fine prospect who is destined to ply his trade in the Premier League.
The problem is that, this term, his complicated club situation has hindered his progress. His desire to leave Coventry is clear, but after a spate of 'will he, won't he' sagas, he didn't leave the club in either transfer window despite being in the last year of his contract. This summer, he will move to higher planes when his deal runs out, a positive step for the long run.
However, his performance levels have dropped during the period of uncertainty. It is not exactly a confident preparation for a competitive debut, although he has been given ample warning. Either way, he would benefit from genuine competition.
Alas, Joe Murphy has spent this season battling with a Scunthorpe team that are slipping towards League One. They have conceded plenty of goals, a situation that is more to do with the players ahead of the Dubliner rather than his own issues. His most pressing concern at the moment is injury problems that have curtailed his involvement since Christmas.
Similarly, the next in line for a call is Brian Murphy, who is out with a broken ankle after a difficult year at Ipswich, where he lost his regular berth in the team to new signing Martin Fulop.
The Murphys have endured inferior campaigns to Kenny, and it is also worth mentioning Millwall netminder David Forde, who has been watched by Irish goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly and is a regular for the Londoners.
Of course, a consistent feature of the Trapattoni era is that club form rarely has a seismic impact on his personnel decisions, a particularly enervating policy at times. However, with Given's woe opening up a place in the squad, Kenny's resurgence cannot be ignored for any longer.