Giovanni Trapattonihad plenty to reflect on yesterday after an eventful couple of days in Dublin, with a competent performance against Wales and a baffling public relations display in handling the international status of James McCarthy. The Carling Nations Cup may not have stirred the Dublin punters into life, but this international window has succeeded in throwing up a variety of talking points. Daniel McDonnell picks outfive lessons we have learned from the first gathering of a significant year for Irish football
Published 10/02/2011 | 05:00
1 Trapattoni will not change his ways even for McCarthy
Every time the Ireland manager speaks about the James McCarthy situation, he digs himself into a further hole. Large parts of his morning debrief revolved around the Wigan starlet.
The only, significant, difference from the pre-match discussion is that the manager confirmed that the 20-year-old will be included in the squad for next month's Euro 2012 qualifier with Macedonia. Good.
"He will be called up," said Trapattoni, "If he is ok, then we will call him into the squad, sure. Then, it's his decision."
Trapattoni delivered that news as something of an ultimatum, stating that it is now up to McCarthy to turn up after he pulled out of last summer's training camp and this week's gathering, although there remains a remarkable layer of public confusion about the reason for the latter withdrawal.
"I have to believe the manager," he said, an interesting line related to his discussion with Wigan boss Roberto Martinez. Trapattoni has taken enough from this chat to hint that the player made the decision to skip this week, but the Irish Independent understands that the McCarthy camp are perplexed by this as the 20-year-old was told to rest by his employers, given that he is suffering pain in the ankle that kept him out of football for three months.
Of course, it would be easily solved if the Irish manager picked up the phone and spoke to the player, but he insists he won't be doing that, again drawing a regrettable comparison with his disastrous attempts to speak with Stephen Ireland. His insistence on keeping his distance leaves enough uncertainty for conspiracy theorists to reason that McCarthy is on the way back to Scotland, when this is simply not the case.
The frenzy created by Trapattoni's stubbornness, which has been accelerated by scaremongering from Montrose, will only cease when McCarthy spends time on the pitch in a competitive international.
The sooner it happens, the better, for we could do without alienating one of the Premier League's most promising talents.
2 Kevin Kilbane still has a future with Ireland
There was a school of thought which suggested that Kilbane's absence from the final squad for the Wales game was a gentle way of pushing the veteran out the door, although the fact that the player learned of the decision via fax suggested that it wasn't quite the end -- surely that would be too callous -- even if it managed to annoy Kilbane in the process.
Ciaran Clark stepped in at left back on Tuesday and performed quite well.
It would be inaccurate to suggest that Clark is the future in this position, for it is likely that he will move inside in time, perhaps when Richard Dunne's international career draws to a close.
Greg Cunningham, currently sidelined with a broken leg, is the long- term option.
In the short term, however, Clark is filling the role at Aston Villa and, with Kilbane at centre-midfield with Huddersfield in League One, it's natural that there will be a lobby for the newcomer to figure against Macedonia next month.
However, Trapattoni was reluctant to commit to such a scenario, and confirmed that Kilbane will be in his squad for the March 26 qualifier. His language suggested that the veteran remains in pole position, while acknowledging there is now a proper alternative.
"I like Clark," said Trapatttoni, "He plays like a senior player. I don't forget Kilbane, it was a friendly game and I needed to try other players.
"We have time to decide and I'm not going to change things around drastically, that's for sure. Kevin usually plays, and both players will be in the squad if they avoid injuries."
3 Trapattoni is still frustrated by Darron Gibson
The 71-year-old waded back into choppy waters yesterday by indicating that Gibson would benefit from a move away from Manchester United, a point of view that angered the Derry lad in the autumn.
He feels, like many, that Gibson has immense ability, but needs to improve his application during games. Regular football would bring those improvements, Trapattoni believes.
"He scored a great goal, but he can do more," said Trapattoni.
"He has big potential. If I was Gibson, I would go to another club where I play always.
"Sometimes, when Darron has the ball he is fantastic. But there are two situations. When you have the ball, and when you let the ball go.
He can run a couple of kilometres more during a game. I think that young players fulfil their best potential when they play continuously."
Gibson argues that he would be crazy to leave a club like Manchester United, and his boss does appreciate the argument. "Sure, Manchester United is Manchester United," he says. "And maybe, next year, if Scholes goes away, he could always play."
Either way, it's unclear who will partner Glenn Whelan in the centre of the park next month. Paul Green remains in the frame and Keith Andrews will be considered if he returns from injury. Keith Fahey, however, appears to be viewed as a wide option rather than a central contender.
4 Sean St Ledger is safe despite his club form
He may be playing for the worst team in the Championship, with Preston sliding towards League One, but Trapattoni is a staunch St Ledger fan and is not contemplating moving either John O'Shea or Clark inside to partner Richard Dunne.
Indeed, he showered praise upon St Ledger yesterday, going beyond the usual platitudes of strength and personality and offering a slightly more detailed assessment of why he regards the 26-year-old so highly.
"For me, he's a super defender," said Trapattoni. "He's intuitive, he is fast and he has the ability to play against any striker, he can mark any type of striker.
"Yes, he has the problem with his club, but I think he is in a bad team. That is a problem for him. St Ledger, he is not Jesus Christ. On Tuesday, our defenders only allowed one shot on goal."
5 Seamus Coleman is human
Given his outstanding performances for Everton this term, the expectations ahead of Coleman's senior debut were perhaps quite unrealistic. It was anticipated that he would take the game by the scruff of the neck and go on a series of blistering runs into opposition territory.
The Donegal lad thrives in the high- tempo Premier League, but this Carling Nations Cup tie lacked intensity. Coleman also had to prove that he could slot into his manager's favoured system, so he played a lot more narrow than he usually would for his club.
Trapattoni was satisfied with his contribution, but it is safe to assume that Coleman will be consigned to the bench when Aiden McGeady returns for the Macedonian encounter.
Liam Lawrence is also prominent in the queue, and don't forget Stephen Hunt either. At least the manager has options.
"His performance was good, but he was also a little bit tense and a little bit tired because he has played every game with 100pc running, but I am very happy," said Trapattoni.
"The condition of the players next month is important. When I came we had a small squad, just 11 players, but now we have discovered others.
"We have more options."