Trapattoni takes the positives ahead of vital September clashes
EVEN in the aftermath of a friendly, old suspicions linger. Outside the Irish dressing-room in Yankee Stadium, less than an hour after the loss to the world champions, Giovanni Trapattoni was talking about the Sean St Ledger goal that was correctly disallowed for offside when Marco Tardelli interjected.
"If Spain score the same goal?" he said, asking a question while seemingly answering it at the same time, the inference being that if the roles were reversed, the officials would have allowed the equaliser to stand.
Of course, any management team that suffered the heartbreak in Paris four years ago is always going to be a little paranoid and the Italian duo have often given the impression that dark forces are conspiring against them.
The bottom line, however, is that they need to get their plans straight before September, so Ireland can get another opportunity to right the wrong of 2009 and enter another World Cup play-off.
Six points is the target from the key showdowns with Sweden and Austria, although results in other groups mean that a return of four might be enough for second, provided that the victory comes from the Swedish encounter and results elsewhere go their way.
Before considering the permutations, Trapattoni has to work on his own formula and, unsurprisingly, he gave the impression in the aftermath of the Spain match that little will change when everybody is available.
Stephen Quinn's second-half display provided food for thought, responding better to the occasion than Jeff Hendrick, who came off at the break, explaining to Trapattoni that he felt "a little bit heavy," which is Trapattoni's way of describing the tiredness of pressure. "It was warm," he said.
For the 21-year-old, the challenge of tracking the quick interchange of David Silva, Xavi and Andres Iniesta was like nothing he had experienced before.
Quinn responded well, managing to have more joy on the ball and contributing to Ireland's best spell of the game in the final quarter-hour, which was ended by the decisive second goal from Juan Mata. The Hull man was a late call-up into this squad but appears to have jumped up the ranks.
However, the diminutive Dubliner was described in the same terms as Wes Hoolahan, with Trapattoni saying they will be suitable only for certain games.
The manager made it clear that Glenn Whelan will remain in his team and that Hoolahan or Quinn will effectively be required if he opts for a three-man midfield, with James McCarthy partnering Whelan.
"We have two similar players," he said. "One is Hoolahan. Hoolahan is a little bit more creative and Quinn is quicker. I think they can be involved. It depends also on the opponent, but with this game we can have trust about him and not always McCarthy.
"There is Whelan with one of the two or three. We can have a new midfield and a different attitude."
With Robbie Keane certain to be selected and Shane Long the number one striker, the reality is that Hoolahan and Quinn will be impact subs barring fitness problems for others. Trapattoni has not forgotten Keith Andrews, either.
The manager was happy with the New York outing. "Spain was the better team," he said. "They deserved to win and can play blindfolded but with counter-attack, we had chances. Sammon, and the goal, and McClean.
"For players like Conor and Coleman and James McCarthy and also in the second half Simon Cox and Quinn, I think it was a good experience for them."
In general terms, he described the two-and-a-half week, four-game series as a step in the right direction.
"We play three very positive games, England, Georgia and the Faroes, and while we lost here, Spain is typically very technical and creative; we have other qualities. I hope that we can start again in August with more trust, with more confidence."
The August 14 friendly with Wales is the next game on the agenda, the warm-up for the serious business that lies ahead. September will determine if Trapattoni has another summer left in the hot seat.